live well now | 5 things we've learned

Having tried about every fad, and having experienced just about every up and down, we can both attest to the importance of balance. But finding a balance, isn't ever perfect and isn't always as simple as it sounds. Luckily, we've found a few things along the way that have made all the difference. Some are personal and some we've had to learn the hard way, the good news is we came out the other side and we can't wait to share them with you.

5 things we've learned | swell mama

1 | Finding healthy food that you enjoy and can look forward to is everything. It may take a little effort, maybe a new cookbook or trying a new grocery store, but it changes things from thinking about what you can't eat and your strict diet to simple, joyful eating. Food should be enjoyed. It's meant to be delicious. And there are so many wonderful, naturally delicious foods that do good things for your body.

2 | Educate yourself and jump off the bandwagon. There is always a new trend. It's easy to get swept along. Remember when we were gorging on all-things protein and running from carbs? Before that everything was low-fat. And now we're eating like a caveman and are afraid of gluten. The trick is to weed out the good bits of wisdom that can come from trends, and throw out the rest. There are so many nutrients and benefits to so many foods. In an age when everything seems to be sensationalized, it's not always easy to temper the temptation to go for the latest cure-all. 

3 | Before you can eat well you have to think well. It can't be forced or superficial. And it may not happen overnight. It's learning to turn off the switch that says to feel guilty and to label foods as "no-no's". It's learning to love your body. It's starting where you are, everyday to make better choices, as small it they may be. It's practicing healthy thinking when we want to belittle ourselves and tear ourselves down. 

4 | Learn to be okay with some unhealthy moments or days along the way. We've had too many days where we get frustrated with not meeting our goals, so we just feel like giving up. Then that day turns into a week, then a month, and the months start speeding by. We've learned to not let one rough day lead to months of unhealthy habits. As we accept that living healthy isn't about being perfect, it feels more realistic to strive to have more of those healthy days and choices. And when things don't go as planned, it's really okay. Tomorrow is a new day. 

5 | It's time to throw out the numbers. Worrying about a certain weight we want to be, counting every little calorie or gram of protein can just make a girl crazy!  We've all been there, right?  Simply becoming more mindful of the foods we're fueling our body with, the exercises our bodies crave, and how we feel physically and mentally proves to be a much more valid measure of our health. 

snack well | 4 ingredient bites

We're big fans of healthy on the go snacks!  But how often do you grab a "healthy" granola bar only to find loads of added sugar and tons of ingredients (most of which won't benefit us or fill us up).  So here's a 4 ingredient recipe to make a quick and delicious snack (think homemade Lara bars).  Mmm mmm. 

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1 cup almonds

1 cup dates

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup raisins

You'll need a blender or food processor that can blend nuts.  Combine all ingredients and blend!  The mix will start to stick together on it's own.  Place the entire mix on plastic wrap and press together with hands.  You can flatten it out and cut into bars or roll into round bites like we did in the picture above.  Enjoy!

eat well | 7 ways to dress up your brown rice

Brown rice is easy, whole grain, gluten-free goodness. It's loaded with antioxidants and fiber and hasn't been stripped of all of it's nutrients (like white rice in the refining process). And because it's less processed, you won't get the blood sugar spike you get with refined grains. It is for sure our number one staple, served with a protein and veggie. But we'd be lying if we didn't say plain brown rice can be so boring. The good news is, it doesn't have to be. There are so many delicious ways to dress it up. It can be as simple as adding a little chicken broth and your favorite salsa. There are so many simple fixes that keep it just as healthy and effortless (although you can certainly elaborate). We've collected a handful of our favorites just for you.

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1 | fresh squeezed lemon juice + a bit of parmesan + parsley

2 | low sodium soy sauce + pineapple + green onions

3 | fresh squeezed lime juice + cilantro + chopped bell pepper

4 | chicken broth + garlic + black pepper

5 | vegetable broth + basil + cherry tomatoes

6 | low sodium soy sauce + freshly grated ginger + caramelized onions

7 | fresh squeezed lemon juice + lemon zest + chopped arugula

eat well | whole wheat + oat waffles

Let us introduce you to the perfect breakfast for your holiday guests (we also keep an extra stash in our freezer for busy weekdays). We may even suggest they are our favorite waffles, period. ever. They are light and moist on the inside, crispy on the outside. It may take some convincing that they are whole wheat. Adapted from Grampy Geoff Haven's Whole Wheat Waffles. Martha Stewart does it again.

light as air whole wheat + oat waffles | swellmama.co

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour

1 C oats, ground

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1 T baking powder

1/4 t salt

4 eggs

2 C milk

1/4 C olive oil

1 t vanilla

3 T honey

1 | Preheat waffle iron. Whisk together together flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

2 | In a large bowl, whisk together oil and honey. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla; whisk well to combine. Add flour mixture and stir to combine; it should be easily pourable, so add a little more milk if it seems too thick.

3 | Spray waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour 1/4-1/2 cup batter into the center of iron. Cook until golden brown. Repeat. Serve immediately with pure maple syrup and fresh blueberries. Enjoy. Repeat. 

a tip a day | make ahead meals + black bean chili

As you know, we're all about simple, healthy, delicious and quick when it comes to food.  With everything there is to do during the holiday season, weeknight meals sometimes get pushed to the bottom of the list... And then 6 o'clock comes around we're once again trying to figure out what's for dinner (cue: kids whining and a drive through).  So allow us to suggest an alternative. We're all about a big, easy one-pot meal, made ahead of time to enjoy throughout the week. We love love love our black beans. Cooking healthy doesn't have to be expensive, and beans (or legumes) are one of the best, inexpensive options. They're packed with protein, fiber, nutrients and tons of antioxidants. This hearty recipe is Mama, Daddy, and 18 month old baby boy approved!

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4 cans of black beans (rinsed and drained)

2 sixteen oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes

1 medium onion (chopped)

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups water

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and mix together.  Cook for 4-5 hours on low or 3 hrs on high.  Stir occasionally.  Let cool a bit before serving. 

*Must-have toppings to add just before serving: chopped fresh cilantro and avocado.

*Optional additional toppings: Broken up blue corn tortilla chips (to add a little crunch), a bit of shredded cheddar cheese or some sour cream.