Over the Mountains and through the Woods

This year, I visited 7 state parks, 6 of which were parks that were new to me.  That means I can cross #126 – Visit 5 state parks that I haven’t been to before – off my list.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about my love of state parks and detailed my visits to Watkins Mill State Park (June 2016) and Lewis and Clark State Park (July 2016).  You can read more here.

In August, I went with my parents to Katy Trail State Park, which is different than a traditional park in that it is comprised of a 240 mile trail on the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.  I only walked a few miles of the park, but it is a really nice trail.

K and I went on our 3rd annual road trip to visit friends in North Dakota in September.  On our way back to Missouri, we stopped at Palisades State Park in South Dakota.  This park is absolutely beautiful.  I wish we could have spent all day there.  The only negative part was that we got a parking ticket because apparently parking is not free at South Dakota state parks.  Alas, it didn’t sour our experience too much.

In October, K and I spent a wonderful weekend in Southeast Missouri with my parents.  We went to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park and Elephant Rocks State Park.  Taum Sauk is the highest point in Missouri.  It was a great place to go hiking and there were some really pretty views.

But the highlight of the trip for me was Elephant Rocks.  I have never seen anything like it.  I was expecting just a few big boulders, but the park is covered with these elephant rocks.  Even better, it’s like a giant playground because you can climb and jump your way across the rocks.

I’m really glad I put this goal on my adventure list.  I would not have gone to any new parks this year if I hadn’t made this a goal.  It’s so much easier to do the same things every weekend, but it’s so much more fun to go to new places.

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When’s the last time you went somewhere for the first time?

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-A

Sugar we’re going down swinging

Time to cross another one off my list – Eat fresh vegetables or fruits once a day for 30 days (April 26th-May 26th).  Check.

I was inspired to start this goal after watching a documentary called Fed Up on Netflix.  I always knew that I had a sweet tooth and that I should eat less junk food.  However, what I did not know was how much sugar is hidden in ordinary foods like yogurt and pasta sauce.

6d2e51069d4819d95d6604902f0b7354I did a week long challenge in which I limited my added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons or less per day, which is the amount of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association for women.  My average was about 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar per day during my first week.  I tried to find foods that had the least amount of sugar.  The 2 to 3 teaspoons I did eat each day came from things like whole wheat bread (2 grams per slice), plain Greek yogurt (3 grams for 1/2 cup), and granola (3 grams for 1/4 cup).

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7c7a7b79f4c042e05420357bce9894fdThe first few days of limiting my added sugar was hard.  I found myself craving sweets.  However, eating some fresh fruit did satisfy my craving.  I noticed that after I cut down on sugar, my energy level was a lot better than it has been.  Fruits and vegetables started tasting really good.  Here are some awesome new recipes that we tried.

Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas

Tacos with homemade tortillas.  I had no idea how AMAZING homemade tortillas could be.  So delicious, and no sugar!

Whole grain pasta with homemade pasta sauce

I used to not like the taste of whole grain pasta, but my taste buds have changed because now I enjoy it.  And homemade pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and garlic…there is no comparison to the store bought stuff.

Shrimp Avocado Salad

Wow, this was yummy.  It made a wonderful, light summer dinner.

BLT Bowl

So good.  The feta cheese totally makes this recipe.

Chicken Asparagus Lemon Stir Fry

This was my favorite new dish that we tried.  The flavor was AMAZING.

I can say that this week long sugar challenge definitely changed my eating habits.  I started eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day.  I started actually reading nutrition labels, and felt shocked at what I found.  My favorite drink from Starbuck’s (tall cafe mocha) has 28 grams of sugar in it.  This one drink has more sugar in it that the AHA recommends for an entire day.  The pasta sauce I usually buy has 9 grams of sugar per serving.  The yogurt cups I buy have 32 grams of sugar per serving.  32 grams!  8 teaspoons of sugar in a small cup of yogurt?!  Mind.  Blowing.

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fed-up-comparisonI have been trying to maintain my healthy eating.  I think about my food choices during the day.  I eat fresh fruits or vegetables every day.  I switched from adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to my tea/coffee every morning to 1 teaspoon of honey.  If I do have something sweet like ice cream or cookies, I try to savor it rather than eating a huge amount.  I plan out our meals weekly so that we are prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients to cook with.

I aim to stay at 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.  There are some days where I am under this, and there are some days when I go over.  But on average, I would say that I am eating significantly less sugar and way more fruits/veggies.  I feel a whole lot better, too.

Eat-better.-Feel-better.Have you watched the Fed Up documentary?  I’d love to hear if you tried the no sugar challenge!  What keeps you on track when you’re trying to limit your sugar intake?

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