2013 Healthy Holidays Gift Guide

With all of the food and extravagance of the holidays, it can be difficult to stay healthy and make good choices. Many holiday gift guides I’ve seen have been for products that are grandiose splurges, and not necessarily mindful of a healthy lifestyle. In this post, I am highlighting gift ideas for a healthful life, both for weight loss surgery patients and their loved ones.

Crio Bru

crio bruI am personally not a coffee drinker, and I am no longer able to tolerate most hot cocoas because of the sugar content. I like having a warm chocolately drink, but not enough to take a ride into dumpsville. Last year I discovered Crio Bru, which is a brewed cocoa drink that is delicious, low calorie, and unique. It is a natural appetite suppressant and gives you energy without traditional caffeine. It can be prepared in a French Press or traditional coffee maker. My favorite blends are Cavalla (cinnamon and coconut) and Maya (spicy chocolate). Most products are between $10-15, and  are in the form of the Crio grounds, Crio Cocoa, and Crio espresso. And they have cocoa-coated cocoa beans. It’s available in many grocery and specialty stores across Utah, or online at criobru.com.

Tessara Tea

Awake-and-alive-tessara-teaAlong with the hot drink theme, I’ve also become hooked on herbal tea. I’ve recently discovered Tessara Tea, which offers natural herbal infusions to saturate the body with nutrients. Herbal infusions are made by steeping plants material in water, including roots, barks, leaves, berries and flowers. While steeping, the plant materials release their essential minerals and nutrients into the water, making it easy for the body to absorb and digest. They have 3 different blends: Awake and Alive, Nourish and Cleanse, and Rest and Repair. They are a local Michigan company that has just expanded out of the local market, and their teas can be purchased online at tessaratea.com.

Better’n Peanut Butter

better'n butter peanut butterPeanut butter is a great source of protein, but it’s high in fat and calories. With 85% less fat and 40% fewer calories than regular peanut butter, Better ‘n Peanut Butter is a tasty item for weight conscious people, and it tastes fantastic. I was introduced to Better’n Peanut Butter at the Obesity Action Coalition conference in Phoenix this year, where they had a booth. I sampled ALL of their flavors: original, chocolate, banana, cinnamon chocolate, coconut chocolate, hot pepper, maple bacon and more. It’s delicious, and feels like a splurge item without sacrificing too many calories. I’ve put it on sandwiches, crackers, pretzels,fruit, and mixed it into protein shakes. You can find Better’n Peanut Butter at select Target, Rite-Aid, and Trader Joe’s stores, or online at the Better’n Peanut Butter website.

Six Nutrition Vitamins for Men

six nutrition mens vitaminsGot a man in your life that needs quality vitamin supplements for an active lifestyle? Six Nutrition has a complete vitamin packet for men that  pinpoints 6 key areas of health: heart, joint, sex, muscles, mind, and energy. Each day’s pills are packaged in a stylish foil packet that make it easy to stash in your pocket, briefcase, suitcase, or desk. My husband recently did a review of Six Nutrition Vitamins on my other blog, if you’d like to read about his experience. You can purchase Six Nutrition Vitamins from their website.

Fit Frappe Protein Drink

fit frappe vanillaSince I had my gastric bypass surgery last year, I have been around the block and back on protein mixes. I seem to fixate on certain brands for a while, then get tired of the way they taste. Of any protein I’ve tried, I am happiest with Big Train Fit Frappe protein in vanilla. It is very versatile…you can flavor it with sugar-free syrups, add it into recipes and fancy drinks, serve it hot or cold, and get single-serve packets for when you are on the go. Another plus about this particular powder…you can add it into other protein mixes to make the more tolerable. I hate throwing away protein just because I don’t like the taste, and mixing in a little Fit Frappe seems to make everything taste better. Fit Frappe is also available in coffee, mocha, espresso, chocolate, chai, and vanilla latte flavors.

Blender Bottle

blender bottleNo matter how I plan my day, I tend to have a lot of meals on the go. I am good at packing some healthy high-protein snacks, but sometimes you need a meal replacement. My favorite product for taking a meal on the go is the classic 20 ounce Blender Bottle. It’s made of sturdy plastic, has a removable metal BlenderBall for easy cleaning, and the lid makes it easy to shake things up without leaking. I have several bottles in various sizes and colors, and I love stashing one in my suitcase with Ziploc baggies of protein powder for when I travel. They’re affordable, and can be found everywhere from GNC to Walmart to Amazon.

Healthy Holidays!

Pushing Myself on President’s Day

nicole bullock braids

Today is President’s Day, which meant that I postponed my return to work by a day for the Federal holiday. If nobody was going to be in the office, I surely wasn’t going to be. I spent a fair amount of time going through paperwork and crunching numbers though. I’m trying to figure out my flexible spending amounts for reimbursement and for tax purposes. It’s ridiculous how many medical expenses I had last year. Just in prescriptions with $5-15 copays each, I paid $585 out of pocket. I’m hoping with this surgery and my improving health that my medical expenses will drop dramatically.

Taylor and I went and did some shopping today. I wanted to get a new neoprene lunch bag for work that would fit ice packs. While I was out, I also got some cute little square bowls that hold less than 3 ounces…perfect for portioning out my meals. When I’m served food on a big plate, it’s really easy to overeat. And when I overeat, even just a bite or two, it makes me sick.

I also perused through the clothes racks, and found a shirt I really liked that was on sale for $5.99. Now, many people on the weight loss surgery forums tell me not to buy new clothes while I’m dropping weight rapidly, because it ends up being a big waste of money. For $6, I don’t mind shrinking out of it in a few weeks. I grabbed a 2X and a 3X sized shirt and went to try them on. The 3X was too baggy, and the 2X was only a tiny bit tight, so I went for the 2X. It was fun to buy a shirt in a size smaller than usual.

We did a little more shopping, had some lunch, and went back to the house for a while. I went back to working through all those medical receipts…what a hassle. I also had to call my insurance to reprocess a bunch of claims (including my $42K hospital bill). Cigna thinks I have other insurance, and they’re continually denying claims as “deficient” because they want another plan to pay first. It’s been happening over and over for dozens of claims over the last year. I wish Cigna would get their act together.

farberware resin knife set

While I was working though the piles of paperwork, I got a knock at the door. Taylor had ordered me a new set of resin knives as a Valentines Day gift. With all the portioning and food preparation, and nice new set of knives tickled my fancy more than flowers or other gifts. If you haven’t noticed from the knives, bowls, and lunch bag, I love bold and fun colored items. With all the years of weight loss attempts, I’ve worn a lot of black. I hope to get into more bold and fun colored clothes as I lose weight.

In the afternoon, we went back down to Lehi for family movie time. My husband, daughter, dad, and brother went to see Star Wars Episode I in 3D, and my mom and I saw The Vow. I can’t remember the last time I went out to see a movie with my mom, and it was nice to have time with her.

Between shopping and movie time, I was a very exhausted girl by the early evening. We had Del Taco for dinner, and I had the insides of a chicken soft taco (sauce, chicken bits, and cheese). I felt like it was an acceptable portion, but chicken is still hard for me to eat. I immediately felt like I overate, and was very uncomfortable for over an hour. I wretched a few times, but was able to keep down my dinner. It’s so hard to know what foods I’ll be able to tolerate. I need to get enough protein, but meat is tough to keep down.

Tomorrow I’m back to work, and my goal is to make it through a half day. With my FMLA orders, I’m allowed to work a few reduced hour days before going back to my normal schedule. Hopefully I’ll feel up to it….tonight I’m so tired that I’m probably going to be asleep by 9:30.

Food diary:

  • A few sips of a protein smoothie
  • 1 wedge light Laughing Cow cheese
  • meat and cheese from part of a cheeseburger
  • heaping tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 2oz of light chicken and veggie soup
  • insides of Del Taco chicken soft tacos
  • 4 oz Coco-peach drink (Silk Coconut milk with sugar-free Torani peach syrup)


Pre-Holiday Update

My body still feels out of whack. I felt like I bounced back a little on Monday in time to fly out to California. Grant and Hollie had a holiday party just before I left, and I was so proud of myself. I had half of a turkey-cheese sandwich, a few olives, three bites of jello, and some deviled eggs. And small cups of soy Nog and pomegranate 7-Up. The food didn’t even take up half of the plate. I didn’t touch the chips n’ dip, creamy soup, cheeseball, pumpkin yule log, sugar cookies, candy, pie, or other desserts.

In California on Tuesday, I went out to lunch with my old coworkers at Montclair and Chino hospitals. We ate at Rockin’ Baja Cantina, and it was the most food I’d eaten since I started getting sick. I had some chips with guacamole and salsa, surf-n-turf tacos, and all of us split a fried ice cream dessert. The surf-n-turf tacos had lean carne asada and juicy shrimp…delicious! It felt good to eat enough to actually feel full, but not totally overstuffed.

In the evening, we had the Bullock/Bluhm Christmas party. There was pizza and fried chicken for dinner, but I didn’t really like how either tasted. The frosted sugar cookies, on the other hand, called my name all evening. As the party progressed, I started getting some intense lower back pain. I’d had unusual back pain all day, but it hit me like a brick wall at the party. I started developing a little bit of a fever and general malaise, but it was so close to 9:00 pm that my favorite Urgent Care in Chino Hills was closed. It felt a lot like the pain associated with a kidney infection, and I didn’t want to mess around with an infection like that (espeically not knowing if I had C. Diff conclusively yet) I checked my ER copay ($25) and decided to go back over to Montclair Hospital’s ER. They’ve got a 2-hour ER guarantee, and I was in and out in 70 minutes. I didn’t have any infection in my urine, but was told that it was likely the after effects of all the GI symptoms over the last week. He said to rest, take it easy, and tank up on fluids.

I started today with 2 hours of last-minute shopping, but spent the rest of the day with family. I went to Trader Joes, and had the most successful shopping trip there ever! I didn’t touch all my TJ’s favorites (only bad because I can’t control my portions once I open the packages up):

Sweet Salty and Nutty Trek Mix
Chocolate-covered Edamame

Sweet, Savory, and Tart Trex Mix

Ritter Sport Corn Flake Bar
Pirate Booty

And for Christmas Eve dinner, Taylor had a micro-date to In-N-Out.