*This post is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, but all stories and opinions expressed are 100% honest and true.

Summer Bod Gone Wrong

This summer I gained 15 pounds.  While the rest of the country headed outdoors to play in the summer sun, we here on the Ranchito hunkered down indoors because of 115F degree days.  It’s like reverse hibernation in Arizona.  We stay inside, safe in the air conditioned house, only venturing out once the sun has gone down and the temp dips below 100F.  As a result, my daily physical activity went down.  Too, because we were indoors all day, I was snacking more frequently, snagging a handful of the kids’ goldfish crackers, munching on fruit snacks, mindlessly eating.

By the end of August, I was ready to ditch the extra weight so I made a focused effort to eat more consciously and increase activity.  I’m happy to report that seven weeks later, I’m down 12 pounds.

Too, all summer, I felt super tired in the afternoons.  By 2pm I was wiped out and needed a nap.  Now that I’ve changed a few habits, I can power through an afternoon without skipping a beat.

The Change Maker

What was the main change in my diet?  I started paying attention.  I started adding three servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables per day and cut out refined sugars.  For one, it was a major effort to get four servings of veggies.  When I stopped and thought about it, I was typically only eating one serving a day as a side at dinner.  But, now my average lunch is chicken or fish with 2 cups of salad or steamed veggies and another two servings of veggies at dinner.  I keep track of the fruits and veggies in a simple checklist on the homescreen of my phone.  I just tick off the servings as I have them and make sure I’ve fulfilled my healthy obligations by dinner time.  I’m also foregoing the pastas and breads that I was relying on for dinners in the summer.

My Sweet Tooth

But, the real challenge was cutting out the sugars.  I have a major sweet tooth, especially in the evenings.  But, I started making after-dinner “smoothies” made with 1 cup of frozen fruit, 1/2 cup non-fat milk, 1 cup of ice cubes and as much water as is required to get it all to blend.  Sometimes I also sprinkle a little stevia in there.  This helped get me through the rough transition of giving up my nightly chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream ritual.

Of course, being that I am around food, lots of decadent food, on a daily basis, I’ve worked to be more conscious about what I do eat.  I’m not striving for perfection in my diet, allowing a slice of cake at a birthday party and a serving of pizza when dining out at a new restaurant.  But, simply focusing more on my health and being conscious of what I’m eating has made a big difference for me.

Homegrown Healthy

That’s why I’m excited to partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona for their Nourishing Arizona Homegrown Healthy Campaign.  As the state’s largest locally owned health insurer, they see the health problems that result from poor nutrition and they’re dedicated to educating and empowering people toward better nutrition.  You can read about all of the unique programs and resources they offer at NourishingArizona.com and learn how you can get involved.

One of the events that they’re sponsoring that I’m most excited about is the Sugar Swap.  On November 4th at Uptown Farmers Market from 9am to 1pm, you can bring your sugary foods (7 grams or more per serving) and swap them for $5 in Homegrown Healthy bucks, good for $5 worth of fruits and veggies at the Farmers Market.  But, sugary foods aren’t just candy, cookies and treats.  Everyday foods that you wouldn’t suspect can contain tons of hidden sugar.  Think you know where the sugar is hiding?  Take the Sugar Quiz with Ryan and the boys in the video at the top of this post.

What’s in Season?

Something that’s really helpful to know about fruit and veggies is their seasonality.  When you head to your local farmers market in Arizona, here’s what you can expect to find based on the seasons.

So, am I still making decadent holiday recipes and enjoying a cinnamon roll on Christmas morning?  You better believe it!  But, I’m also choosing to grab an apple as a snack instead of chips, serve riced cauliflower as a side for dinner at home instead of mac n cheese and making homemade dressing for my dinner salad.

I hope you have a happy, healthy holiday season, and I look forward to sharing more strategies for healthier eating as the Nourishing Arizona Homegrown Healthy Campaign continues.  Do you have special tips to share on ways to get more fruits and veggies into your everyday?  Leave a comment and let us all know!