A Life Full Of Color

Gestational Diabetes-Friendly Meals and Snacks

personal, food + recipesShannon SorensenComment

"You failed the 3-hour glucose test, so you are now diagnosed with gestational diabetes. You will need to meet with a nutritionist and get set up to take your blood sugars four times a day."

I dreaded this diagnosis. It felt like being sentenced to a miserable prison for the final 2 months of my pregnancy. I wanted to be able to eat ice cream and a really satisfying cheeseburger and french fries, without a worry in the world. I was worried about having to deal with even more food restrictions in our already gluten free home. And I really didn't want to prick my finger 4 times a day. Someone else needs to draw vials of blood from my arm? No problem. I need to do the needle? Nooooooo I don't wanna!

Here's the bright side: I've been following a pretty strict diet the past couples weeks and am feeling healthier than I have in a long time, and now I see it as a blessing in disguise. I am making good, healthy food choices not just for myself but also for the baby. And although I see a picture of a donut and my insides start screaming to just eat one, it is just not worth the feeling of dizziness and lethargy that will come with it, not to mention an awful blood sugar reading. 

If you've followed my various blogs over the years, you know that we're a gluten free family. Sean was diagnosed with Celiac almost 10 years ago, so food restrictions are not new to us. But I have also had the ability to eat non-gluten free foods as I wish. And now, living with food restrictions, I finally have an understanding of how he has felt for so long. I wander the grocery aisles seeing food after food after food that are simply not an option for me. I look at a restaurant menu and it suddenly feels like there is nothing I can eat without worry or adjustment. 

The good news is, it is science and numbers based, so it's not too much of a guessing game as to how to figure out of something is off limits or not. You have to read your labels, check carbohydrates, analyze portion sizes, and then decide if you can eat it. Some lower carb foods are fine in a small amount paired with a good portion of protein and veggies. In many cases, I just cannot eat something, which is why I have come up with a list of meal and snack ideas to work from over the next few weeks to keep things simple and clear. I thought I would share them here in case you are in search of diabetes friendly foods for yourself or a loved one. These are also, simply put, healthy meal ideas for anyone. 

The biggest adjustment for me has been portions, and understanding that I can have a small portion of things that I love, but it must be a small portion paired with other healthier choices. More often than not, it's easier to just avoid it altogether. And eat a salad. 

Hey, 31 week baby belly...

Hey, 31 week baby belly...

I would also invite you to add your favorite healthy meals and snacks in the comments. I am pretty good with eating mostly the same foods day to day, but I do get the yearning to mix it up and try something new every now and then. 

Breakfast

  • egg whites (scrambled) with cheddar cheese and veggies (I like the Trader Joe's frozen peppers and onions), side of turkey sausage
  • plain greek yogurt - I mix in a little vanilla extract and cinnamon, or peanut butter powder, berries
  • plain oatmeal, add in blueberries and cinnamon
  • small apple, sliced, with peanut butter
  • egg white omelette with veggies, turkey bacon, 1 small english muffin
  • low-carb toast (my mother-in-law found a gluten free cinnamon raisin swirl that is fairly low carb compared to most breads) with peanut butter
  • cottage cheese and a small apple/bowl of fruit
  • egg cups with chopped veggies, topped with melted cheddar cheese
  • avocado with baked egg

Breakfast habits to break: cereal every day, giant piles of pancakes, Dunkin Donuts drive-thru, large muffins and bagels, sugary coffee drinks, not eating breakfast at all. 

Lunch

  • dinner leftovers
  • salad with lots of veggies, topped with grilled chicken
  • salad with lots of veggies, small cup of cottage cheese on the side
  • celery sticks with peanut butter, cup of plain greek yogurt
  • veggie sticks with hummus, small portion of multigrain crackers
  • half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, side of sliced veggies
  • homemade chicken soup (no rice or noodles)

Lunch habits to break: sandwich with chips every day, any fast food, forgetting to eat or eating too late into the afternoon.

Dinner

  • Homemade chicken soup with brown rice or no rice, side salad
  • Homemade pizza (1 slice) with large salad topped with grilled chicken
  • taco lettuce wraps, topped with cheddar, avocado and diced tomatoes
  • Baked chicken with roasted veggies
  • Bunless turkey burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato
  • Spiraled veggie pasta with chicken sausages, peppers and onions, marinara sauce
  • Spaghetti squash buffalo chicken casserole
  • Large salad topped with grilled chicken, veggies, hardboiled egg and crumbled bacon

Snacks

  • cottage cheese
  • greek yogurt
  • veggies (bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, celery) with ranch
  • small apple with peanut butter
  • celery and peanut butter
  • one slice of peanut butter toast

You'll notice a recurring theme is lots of veggies, lean protein, some dairy, and limited bread/pasta/potato. This is not a bad way to live. It's how we should be eating, but somewhere along the line we got consumed by Sugar and Processed Food USA. We stopped thinking about the food we put in our bodies and more and more went for options that taste satisfying and comforting and sweet and fatty in the moment, but do next to nothing for our health. 

Now I do not claim to be a health nut. But that doesn't mean I can't care. And the past couple weeks has been a huge wakeup call to me and my health. HUGE. And I wish I cared more over the past few years instead of losing myself in day after day of garbage eating (not literal garbage, hopefully that goes without saying). 

Do you struggle with food? Are you settled into a good, healthy routine? What are some healthy meals and snacks you enjoy? What keeps you motivated? 

Letters From Santa Are Back!

art print, creativity, etsy shopShannon SorensenComment

I'm so excited to announce the return of "Letters From Santa"! This was a new offer last year and it was so much fun putting together these packages, imagining the wonder (or maybe confusion?) the kiddos would have upon hearing or reading these words Christmas morning. 

Letters From Santa are customized letters with messaging that you and I work together to write. I give you some simple guidance and you simply "fill in the blanks" with what pertains to your child, the year they had, accomplishments, and maybe a couple little special things to recognize. You receive the letter with an envelope embossed with and "S", as well as a ribbon, if you prefer to tie it up in a scroll and tuck it in the top of a stocking. 

To order your Santa Letter, click here and follow the directions to include your custom wording. 

To receive by December 22nd at the latest, orders will only be taken until December 10.

You can also order blank Santa Stationery here.

I look forward to making a little magic with your family!

How Music Heals and We Need A Little Hygge Right Now

personalShannon SorensenComment

I'll start by saying that this is not a sponsored post. Remember the days when bloggers just raved about things they liked/loved/obsessed over, solely because they liked/loved/obsessed over it?

I'm about to do that. 

You see, yesterday, an album was released. No, not a cd, not a hot track. An album consisting of eight musical tracks, when listened in succession, can heal and uplift a broken heart. Can give your soul a hug. Can lift you out of a fog and make you smile and cry happy tears. 

I have tried so hard as an adult to be that person who waits until after Thanksgiving to allow Christmas to explode into my every day life. I turn a blind eye to the shelves in the stores. I ignore the twitch to start moving furniture and decor around to prepare for the bins of stuff I keep in storage to deck my halls. 

But this week has been different. 

This week, I've had a hard time laughing or smiling. I've had a hard time allowing myself to enjoy simple things, because little things seem insignificant compared to the deeply upsetting and horrific things happening in our country. 

So yesterday, I made a decision to do something to take care of myself. I lit a warm, delicious smelling candle on my desk. I put on my cozy warm slippers and wrapped a blanket that my grandmother knitted for me around my legs. I hung a couple pictures of Sean and Lily on my bulletin board next to my desk, and I sat down to work. I made myself a fresh cup of hazelnut creme coffee.

And here's the important part: I went to iTunes, dropped 7.99 on Leslie Odom Jr.'s new album, Simply Christmas, pressed play, and let the warmth and coziness of my little office nook and music wrap me up in a hug full of hygge.

Huh? Hygge? What's that?

Hygge (pronounced 'hooga'), essentially means a feeling of coziness. The Danish practice 'hygge' by creating an atmosphere of comfort, warmth and love amid an otherwise chilly, bleak season. Hygge is good for the mind, body and soul and typically entails surrounding oneself with the warmth of candlelight and cozy blankets, good food, and the love of friends and family in the home. There are things that you can do to help practice hygge, but the important thing to remember is that hygge is a feeling. It's peace, and goodness. It's nostalgia of childhood. 

It's happiness.

(More info on hygge here and here.)

So why is a new Christmas album so important? I needed some comfort, and for me, music heals my soul. It helps me feel less broken. And this album? It is comfort, healing, soulful music that let's me sit and listen and feel all the feels, including happiness. 

I imagine what it must've been like to be of the generation to hear Nat King Cole sing for the first time. The smoothness of his voice, the ease at which he sung a melody or phrase, so beautifully, so simply, so elegant and classic. It moves you. It embeds itself into your heart.

Photo Credit: Susan Stripling

Photo Credit: Susan Stripling

The same can be said for Simply Christmas. Familiar songs you know all the words to, with a smooth jazz style, with LOJ's vocalizations, brings a feeling of warmth a comfort. It's not just one or two tracks. It's listening to the album from start to finish that unleashes good feelings. 

Whether you're an avid Hamilton fan or have never heard of Leslie Odom Jr, now is the time. If you buy one thing for yourself this season, treat yo'self to some musical chicken noodle soup for the soul. 

As Dumbledore said, "Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here!"

Simply Christmas will be in regular rotation for me this season and probably for the rest of my life. Here's the track list:

  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  2. First Noel
  3. My Favorite Things
  4. I'll Be Home For Christmas
  5. The Christmas Song
  6. Merry Christmas Darling
  7. Winter Song
  8. Ave Maria

My personal favorite? Winter Song. I didn't expect to feel so moved, but by the time I reached the 7th track, my heart was ready to emerge from my chest, get a bear hug from this melody, and be safely tucked back into my chest as a lump slowly rose in my throat. 

To my husband, I'm sorry, Christmas come early this year. And it's not a bad thing. 

To Mr. Odom Jr, thank you for this beautiful gift and sharing your talent with the world. If you make another holiday album (is next year too soon?), please consider River, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (duet with Chris Jackson?), and White Christmas.

So if that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will, but if you come to my home this holiday season, you'll likely be listening to this album. I'll give you cocoa and a warm blanket and we'll soak up some happiness together. 

Happy hygge.