If you've read anything I've written at Sauk Valley Media for the past few years having to do with food or fitness, you might have heard some of this before – but stay with me.
My weight has gone up and down a few times through my first (almost) 30 years on this planet.
In January 2014, I decided to make a change. I lost a substantial amount of weight that year.
For the most part, it's been a pretty steady ride since then. Gain 10 pounds here, lose 10 pounds there. Not perfect, but OK.
In the past few months, however – after getting married in September and adjusting to a new schedule – I slipped a little more than I'd like. Especially during the holidays.
You could say I "went ham" on that Christmas ham. I couldn't quit that cold turkey or that warm turkey ... or those barbecue meatballs, the nacho cheese dip, the bread. I might have drank some beers.
It's 2017, and I'm recommitting to clean eating, far fewer "cheat meals" and working out 5 times a week.
When it gets tough, I promise to close my eyes, rub my temples and slowly recite "I have a gym membership" over and over and over.
When the weather gets nicer, I must remember how lucky I am to live in Oregon and the Sauk Valley – an area which provides so many opportunities to get outside and get fit.
I'm proud of maintaining my weight loss for the most part these past 2 years, but I'm eyeing another significant shreddage of poundage.
I'm making it a goal to either visit the gym or exercise outside 260 days this year. That's the number of weekdays in a year.
That should be easy enough, right?
When it comes to the healthy eating, I'm looking forward to trying new recipes. I love cooking.
I'll never stop making the stick-to-your-ribs-type fare. For better or worse, my chili, pulled pork and Italian beef recipes – just to name a few – are close to my heart. Nonetheless, let's save those for special occasions in 2017.
I'm looking forward to creating and trying new healthy recipes this year. Clean eating can be fun.
For some inspiration, here are some recipes I've shared over the past few years in our Food section.
Note: Not all of these recipes are perfect when it comes to clean eating, but they're healthier than the alternatives, and a good place to start.
AVOCADO TOAST WITH EGGS
Takes: 15 minutes
Makes: 1 serving
2 pieces of whole-wheat bread
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 of an avocado
5 mini peppers, chopped
1/2 of a jalapeno
1/8 cup white onion, chopped
Handful of spinach, chopped
Seasonings: Salt, pepper and garlic powder
1. While you hard-boil two eggs, cut avocado in half and scoop the flesh out of the skin on one side into a mixing bowl. Put lemon juice on the other side and place it in a container in the refrigerator; it will last longer that way.
2. Chop peppers and onion, mix with avocado. Add seasonings to mixture.
3. When your eggs are ready and peeled, pop your bread in the toaster.
4. While your bread is being toasted, chop up some spinach.
5. Once the toast is done, spread the avocado mixture onto both pieces. Cut your hard-boiled eggs into thin slices and layer them on the avocado spread.
6. Sprinkle with spinach grab a fruit, such as some grapes or raspberries, and enjoy.
GRILLED SOUTHWEST CHICKEN SALAD WITH BACON
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Makes: 1 salad
1/3 head of lettuce, chopped
6 oz. chicken breast
2 strips of bacon
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 black beans
1/4 canned corn, seasoned with lime juice and cilantro
6 (give or take) cherry tomatoes
1 hard-boiled egg
Seasoning for chicken: Salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, and garlic salt
1. Place seasoned chicken on a grill that's been preheated to 400 degrees. You will want to cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
2. Boil egg while chicken is on the grill.
3. Cook the bacon.
4. Try and juggle one more thing, and chop and prepare your other ingredients. You could also do this ahead of time to save yourself some running around.
5. Mix corn with lime juice, salt and chopped cilantro.
6. Layer lettuce in large bowl.
7. Take chicken off of grill, and let it sit for 5 minutes before cutting into smaller portions.
8. Chop bacon into smaller pieces. Peel shell off of hard-boiled egg and chop into smaller pieces and let cool.
8. Top salad with ingredients and enjoy.
Note: There are many other great ingredients you could include in this salad. Also, if you don't mind adding a few more calories, you can add cheese, avocado or even dressing.
CHICKEN, CABBAGE AND SWEET POTATO SOUP
Prep and cook: 1 hour
Makes: 8 to 10 servings
2 tablespoons margarine
1 onion, chopped
3 gloves garlic, chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 lbs. chicken breast
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
32 oz. chicken broth
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, parsley, and chili powder
1. Place onion, garlic, carrot and celery into deep soup pot with margarine on stove at medium to high heat.
2. Once onion turns clear, add chicken to pot and stir.
3. Once chicken is cooked, add broth, water, sweet potatoes, and cabbage.
4. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Enjoy.
LOADED SWEET POTATO
Prep and cook: 10-15 minutes
Makes: 1 loaded sweet potato
Note: This recipe calls for leftover ground turkey cooked with chopped onions, minced garlic and taco seasoning. If you don't have that, you'll have to cook these right before you make your sweet potato.
1 sweet potato
6 oz. ground turkey (cooked with onions, garlic and taco seasoning)
1/4 cup of red beans
1/8 cup of cheese
1/2 of a jalapeno, diced
2 tablespoons of salsa
1/4 of an avocado
Seasoning: Chipolte sea salt, pepper and garlic powder
1. Scrub sweet potato under cold water and poke some holes into it with a fork. Cover the sweet potato and throw it in the microwave for about 3 1/2 minutes.
2. While the potato cooks on one side, dice up your jalapeno and get your other ingredients ready.
3. After the potato has cooked for 3 1/2 minutes, flip it onto other side and cook for 3 1/2 more minutes.
4. While the potato cools off a bit, re-heat turkey and beans in microwave. I also cooked the cheese in the microwave with the turkey.
5. Cut open your sweet potato, layer on the toppings and enjoy!