Make your own breadcrumbs- It’s healthier!

Breadcrumbs or panko are a staple in my kitchen. I should point out that the two aren’t exactly the same. Panko is a Japanese style of bread crumbs, made from crustless bread. But I use both panko and regular breadcrumbs for the same purposes, so I’m going to talk about them interchangeably in this post.

How do I use them in my kitchen? Well, tiny breadcrumbs are great as a binding agent for veggie burgers, quinoa burgers, sweet potato burgers, meatballs, and so on. They also work well as a breading for fish or chicken. In the past, I just kept a shelf-stable container in my pantry and would reach for it as needed.

This last October, I participated in an Unprocessed Food Challenge. Since I already eat mostly unprocessed* foods, I initially didn’t believe it would be much of a challenge for me. I went about my daily cooking, without giving the challenge much thought (I know; I was being cocky).

But then one day, I was cooking dinner and decided to peek out of curiosity at the back label on my Progresso Plain Bread Crumbs before using. I figured it couldn’t be that bad…it’s just breadcrumbs…but I had better check just in case, since I was participating in the challenge.

I was shocked!

In my mind, breadcrumbs shouldn’t have over 30 ingredients (many of which I can’t pronounce), including high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup and honey and molasses and sugar. I get that preservatives are used for shelf-life. I understand that we need to have foods that are shelf-stable for a number of serious reasons (like natural disasters). I also realize that some of the “chemical-sounding” words in the ingredient list are actually (synthetic) vitamins that have been added back into the flour to enrich it. But really? That’s the best they could do for breadcrumb ingredients?

Before buying a container of food that logically should contain minimal ingredients, check the back. In most circumstances, fewer ingredients is better, so how many are there? What are they?

Another option is to make your own breadcrumbs. If you have bread that’s going stale, use your food processor to grind the bread up into breadcrumbs (and homemade bread is the best choice in this case, otherwise you run the risk of your breadcrumbs still being full of junk). Just tear up your bread into chunks, toss into the food processor, and pulse for about a minute, until they all have a fine consistency.

These homemade bread crumbs can be frozen in a sealed container. Just reach right in and dig out what you need, when you need it. Making your own breadcrumbs is also a great way to use up stale bread and save some money!

My bread crumb experience was a wakeup call to me, that I hadn’t been eating as well as I’d thought. I do occasionally use a can of soup, gravy mix packet, pre-made pie crust, etc., in my cooking, but when I do so, I know that I’m using processed foods. The shock was realizing that unhealthy foods could be hiding in my kitchen. What do I reach for, thinking it’s a healthy choice for my family, when it’s really not?

This year I challenge you to read those labels more often. Don’t assume something must be healthy. Check and know for sure!

Have you ever been surprised after reading ingredient labels? What foods do you try to make from scratch rather than buy prepackaged and processed?

*When I’m talking about “processed” foods being unhealthy, I don’t include foods like nuts, milk, oats, olive oil, cheese, etc. All of these foods are processed to some extent, but are still healthy, at least in moderate quantities. When I say “processed” foods, I’m generally talking about your prepackaged meals like Hamburger Helper, sugary cereals, hot dogs, pre-formed burgers, french fries, etc. These foods are heavily processed, and the ingredient lists are usually a little scary.

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Two-Ingredient Fruit and Nut Balls (Fitness Friday)

I previously blogged about making fruit and nut bars (homemade Larabars), and today’s post is a variation of that recipe. If you don’t have a food processor, you may want to check out the original post, as that gives you an alternative to make them with a pastry cutter and an immersion blender.

With just two ingredients -dates and peanuts- you can make inexpensive fruit and nut balls that are packed with minerals, protein, fiber, and carbs. Store them in the fridge or the freezer, and grab one when you need it. They’re great for a post-workout snack or to keep your energy levels up during a run. My toddler won’t eat peanuts or dates by themselves, but together… he can’t get enough of them!

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Homemade Fruit & Nut Balls


  • 1 cup halved peanuts
  • 15 medjool dates


Remove the pits from the dates. I like to slice them lengthwise, until I feel resistance from the pits. Then I stop, open the date, and just pop the pit out.

Soak the dates in a cup of water for about 5 minutes, to soften them (optional step). In the meantime, put your peanuts into the food processor and grind them until they’re finely chopped (about 10 seconds). They should look like the second photo below.

Remove the nuts from the food processor and place them into a bowl. Now put your dates into the food processor and pulse them for 15 t0 20 seconds. Add them into your bowl with the nuts.

(Sometimes I put the dates through the food processor first and then the nuts second. It doesn’t really matter, but if you’re soaking the dates, it saves time to chop the peanuts during that time).

Use your hands to mix the peanuts completely with the dates. Make sure it’s mixed really well and there aren’t any loose peanuts on the bottom of the bowl.

Then separate and roll your mixture into little balls. I make mine about the size of Swedish meatballs (1-1.5″ diameter). This mixture will make 14 balls that size. You’ll want to refrigerate (or freeze) them as soon as possible. They’re easy to wrap individually with plastic wrap, place in baggies, or just line them up inside a Tupperware-type container. (That’s what I do.)

If I make 14 balls from this mixture, then each one has about 128 calories along with protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Both dates and peanuts naturally contain calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium. Peanuts also contain magnesium.

(I was going to list the exact number of grams of each vitamin and mineral, but my brain was starting to hurt, and I was afraid I was just going to type the wrong thing! I’m horrible at math.)

If you can’t find dates at your regular grocery store, try a Middle Eastern grocery store. I’ve found dates at both a nearby military commissary and a Lebanese cafe/store. Another option would be to use raisins or dried cranberries. In that case, I’d use 1 cup of either to 1 cup of peanuts. Have a peanut allergy? You can use cashews, walnuts, or whatever suits your fancy. If you’re allergic to tree nuts too, then I’m sorry. 🙁

Fitness Friday Details:

Each Friday, I’m linking up with some awesome bloggers at and to motivate each other on our fitness and/or weight loss journeys. We’d love for you to join! Don’t have a blog? Leave a comment and tell us what your goals are and how you did this week.


This week I finally decided that my goal to build muscle probably won’t happen unless I eat more, especially protein. Once I came to that conclusion, I upped my limit on MyFitnessPal. But the limit wasn’t the problem; the issue was I just wasn’t hungry and eating enough. The first day, I forced myself to eat about 700 calories more than I wanted to. My stomach hurt that evening.

The next day… Oh wow! I was ravenous almost all day! It was like my body went crazy over the extra food and just wanted more. And I realize that’s what happened to me last week after my cheat day. I had trouble reigning my appetite in. I think I just haven’t been eating enough to sustain my current lifestyle.

Now that I know I need to eat more, I have to find the balance of exactly how much protein I need and how many carbs. I’ll probably switch it up a bit…heavy on the protein on lifting days and carb load if I have a big run.

I did do better at eating even more veggies and fruit this week, so that’s a win.


Still right at 152 lbs. It hasn’t changed in two weeks, and I think that’s a combination of not eating enough (plateauing) and building muscle. I think I look more toned though, and that has me excited. Next week I’ll post my measurements, and we’ll see if I’ve made a difference in the last month.


Wow, this week was a difficult one. Like many people, the Polar Vortex has kept me and my toddler inside. We had almost a foot of snow here in Southern Virginia, which is not normal at all. Everything shut down for several days. I think schools are still closed today, actually. I can’t run outside with the jogging stroller, and even if the base gym were open (it’s probably not), Baby J has a bad cough, so I can’t take him there to infect other little ones.

If you want, you can read more about my internal struggle to LET GO over on my other blog. Home workouts have been the way to go this week!

Monday– Ran outside since the weather was decent. Got 5.4 miles in, then walked around the playground while Baby J played for 45 minutes or so.

Tuesday– Visited the base gym with the family workout room. Ran 1.2 miles on the treadmill (varied pace) as a warm-up before lifting weights. I only lifted about 10 or 15 minutes before Baby J started fussing because he was tired. I would’ve let him just cry and lay on my jacket to rest, but there were other moms in there, and I didn’t want any judgment for being “that mom.” So we headed home, and I lifted a bit at home with my adjustable Bowflex weights.

Wednesday– Did 40 minutes of a Brazil Butt Lift workout and lifted for about 20 minutes. By Wednesday night I really wasn’t sore at all and felt like I hadn’t been doing enough on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thursday– I was able to get in a pretty intense ab workout once Baby J was in bed. I also did lunges, squats, and lifted with the Bowflex weights.

Friday– The forecast is supposed to be in the upper 40s today, so if this snow melts quickly enough, I’m going to try to run outside this afternoon. It’s supposed to be in the upper 50s tomorrow, so you can bet I will be outside running then! If I’m able to get in 5 miles between today and tomorrow, I’ll have met my Winter Miles Challenge for this week. I’ve really wanted to up my challenge from 10 miles to 20, but that hasn’t been possible with the weather and illness. Maybe next week!


So all things considered, it was an okay week! No, it did not at all go as planned, and I probably didn’t push myself as hard as I could have. But I did stay active even though I was cooped up alone with a sick toddler for almost 3 days!

Did you meet your goals this week? What are your goals for next week? What do you have planned this weekend?
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Fitness Friday: 1/10/14

*Please join me for weekly Fitness Friday! You don’t have to be a blogger. Let’s motivate each other to be healthier and stronger in this new year!*

It just hit me that it’s 2014- wow! Time flies. The last time I blogged a Fitness Friday post was June 28, 2013. At that time, I’d met my weight loss goals, so I’d decided to stop doing a dedicated “Fitness Friday” series. But now I have actual fitness goals, so it’s time to start again. The original series probably should’ve been “Weight-loss Wednesday” or some such thing, since postpartum weight loss was the goal. If you’re interested, check out my last Fitness Friday post as well as before and after photos. I lost 17 lbs during that series.

So now I’m back.

The numbers on the scale don’t really matter at this point. Last June, I weighed in at 156 lbs (for reference, I’m 5’10”). This morning I weighed 154 lbs, but I can tell you for a fact that I look much smaller than I did in June, even though there’s only a 2 lb difference. And that’s simply because I’ve been losing fat but building muscle. So I don’t expect the numbers on the scale to change that much.

Of course there needs to be photos, to mark where I’m starting! These photos were taken this morning:

Postpartum weight loss and Fitness Friday on My Life: A Work in Progress

Postpartum weight loss and Fitness Friday on My Life: A Work in Progress
My workout buddy =D
Postpartum weight loss and Fitness Friday on My Life: A Work in Progress
Definitely NOT my favorite view of myself!

Measurements: (taken according to Weight Watchers guidelines)

  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 154lbs.
  • Upper Arm: 12″
  • Abdomen: 34.5″
  • Waist: 31″
  • Hips: 38″
  • Thighs: 23.5″


I wish I had hard and fast numbers I could spout out, but I really don’t know, other than my waist. I’d like to tone my abs; my stomach is still a bit soft from pregnancy. I was surprised that my waist was at 31,” since I’ve been wearing jeans with a 29-30″ waist. I would like to lose a couple inches, to approximately 27-28″ waist. There are jeans in my closet that I haven’t worn in years. I’d love to pull them out!

I want to build more muscle on my arms and rear. At this point, I want to do push-ups, ab and leg exercises every day. I don’t care how many sets yet. It’s just a matter of getting into a habit of doing them. Run 4-5 days a week, and increase my distance and speed as I get closer to my April half marathon. If you’re curious, I keep track of my running times on my personal fitness blog, This Mama Runs.

I’ve been doing great with my diet, but I probably need to start eating more. Since I had my son, I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to track my intake, and I aim for around 1500 calories a day. That has served me well to this point, but as I’m working out more and definitely as I’m running more, I’m going to need to eat more. My goal this week will be to determine what my optimum caloric intake would be, as well as what type of calories (protein vs. carbs, etc).

From now on, I’ll be linking up on Fridays with Jill Conyers at Fitness, Health, and Happiness. Jill is a wife, mom, fitness blogger, and ultra runner. Following her blog is keeping me motivated!

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So now it’s your turn. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’d love to have you join in, whether you blog or not. You don’t have to have any crazy goals like run a triathlon (but if you do, that’s very cool!). Your goal can be something as simple as determining to walk an extra 30 minutes a week throughout January. Start with a small, quickly-attainable goal. That will help you give you confidence and motivation to meet the next!

Did you meet your fitness goals this week? What are your goals? What areas of your body or life would you like to improve?
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