February 20, 2017

Travel Tip #17 – Stay Home

Most staycations involve bag packing, hotels, and room service, or ventures out to local attractions, but what if you just stay home? Now before you start asking how that’s a vacation or staycation of any sort, let’s explore the idea.
house
For many of us who have young children, supervise or provide care for a parent or spouse, or have health issues that make travel difficult, the simplest of simple breaks may be what we need. My aunt Sally used to tell a story that seems fitting. When her 3 kids were 1, 6, and 7, she went back to college. Now, you probably need to know that Aunt Sally always cooked homemade meals. When we lived in the same town, I often showed up right around dinner time knowing that there would automatically be homemade bread and a delicious meal. Anyway, after endless months of very long days caring for the kids, going to school, doing homework, cleaning the house, and cooking meals, my uncle had a day off. He said he’d watch the kids while she took a bath.

Aunt Sally filled the bathtub, she put in her favorite bubbles, got in the tub and just relaxed. After what seemed like an eternity, she pulled herself out of the tub, got dressed, and put on her watch to realize that only 10 minutes had passed. She thought it had been at least an hour. She had to laugh. She was still laughing about it 20 years later.

The advantages to taking a break at home are numerous. You get to sleep in your own bed. You don’t have to worry about doing laundry in advance so that you will have the outfit you need. In fact, you don’t have to think about packing anything at all — no special food, no meds, no toothpaste, extra shoes, socks or phone charger.

The question is how to make staying home feel like a vacation. This can be done with planning over time or no planning at all. What will work best depends on your personality and circumstances.

My caregiving duties are two days per week keeping my 7-month-old grandson at my home and supervising the care of my 96-year-old cousin. That means I can carve out a long weekend at home without having to get a sitter, but if you can’t, then by all means GET A SITTER. This can be a family member, friend, professional caregiver, or a service. Sometimes insurance will cover the cost.

Hire someone to clean your house. The day before your vacation, use the money you’re saving by not going to a hotel to have your house cleaned.

Do not work. If that means turning off the phone, putting away the computer, or just refocusing your attention, then do it.

Do not use the time to catch up on chores. You can get a sitter another time to catch up on chores, but that’s not a vacation. Each time you think of your To Do list, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, envision something beautiful, and breathe until your breathing slows and you’re no longer thinking about anything besides your breath or that beautiful vision.

Sit still. If you rarely take a break, you’ll need some transition time to slow down your body and mind. Without stillness, you cannot reconnect with yourself in order to know what you need.
food
Feed yourself. Once you’re still, listen to yourself. If you’re hungry, feed yourself food. If you’re feeling uninspired, feed your mind and your soul. If you’re hungry for rest, sleep. Whatever you choose, do it with as little effort as possible.

My city has a food delivery service that picks up from the local restaurants I frequent. I can take time off without planning anything — even gluten-free food. All I have to do is place an online order, pay my bill & tip through the site, then crack open my door enough to pull the food inside when it’s delivered. If I were traveling, I would be eating out more so I don’t mind having food delivered for a few days.

If your town doesn’t have such a service, you may be able to order from individual restaurants that deliver or pay a teenager to pick up food for you. Another option is to plan in advance by freezing a few entrees, making a pot of chili, cooking a roast, or making a trip to the store and stocking up on salad components, deli items or frozen favorites. The idea is to have already prepared food ready to grab so that you don’t spend your rest time planning menus, preparing food, or cleaning the kitchen.

Yoga and weight lifting remain part of my day during a home vacation. It’s not that I feel as though I have to work out. I do these workouts because I like the way they make me feel. They do not deplete my energy. They renew me. Anything that makes you feel renewed is a great vacation activity even if it looks like work to other people.

I love to have time to read and binge watch without guilt. I like not having to put on clothes or even take a bath unless I want to. If I want to answer my phone, I do. If I don’t want to answer, I don’t. When I’m homecationing, I make choices as I go just like I would if I were deciding whether to sit on the beach or go snorkeling.

Of course you’re not locked into staying at home. If after sitting still you feel that going to a museum would inspire you in the moment, go ahead. The point is not to feel obligated to do anything or go anywhere. Another point is to stop filling time in a manner that keeps you from knowing how you feel.

A third point is to let it be okay NOT to do. If you miss a concert, there will probably be another one you want to see just as much. If you miss a movie, it will soon be available online. If you miss a family dinner, the world will not end. A little planning can most often prevent missing scheduled events like weddings, anniversaries, and holiday celebrations, but if you need a break from those as well, then take one.
slip
The whole family can have a vacation at home. It’s a great way to make time to reconnect. Put a moratorium on social media. Work on a scrapbook. Look at old photos & videos. Learn a new board game together. Work crossword puzzles. Have a video game tournament. Play chase. Do karaoke. Take lots of naps and laugh, laugh, laugh.

There has to be some balance to a life well lived. Too much hedonistic or selfish behavior will damage relationships and possibly the hedonist. Too much selfless behavior and the servant may burn out, leave without explanation, or become resentful.

A well executed home vacation can provide much needed relief with a minimum amount of effort and expense. I recommend taking them often!

February 14, 2017

Lunch, Dinner, and Snack Foods that Support a Healthy Lifestyle

Enough generalities, it’s time to talk about lunch, dinner, and snack foods that support a healthy lifestyle. It’s common to view healthy food as scanty, unsatisfying, and tasteless, but there’s no reason it can’t be rich, flavorful, and filling. The key is understanding what your body needs. As far as preparing the food, creativity can reign.

What does my body need from food?

Our bodies need a good balance of nutrients and water. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins. We also need some minerals like iron, copper, and salts. How much of each is needed will vary from person to person depending on age, height, health condition, and activity level.

Rather than attempt to analyze millions of packaged food items, this post will focus on types of nutrients and how much is needed each day. This information can help you compare labels on packaged food or determine how much fresh food to eat.
cucumber salad
Plan to include the following each day:

Protein
Examples of high protein foods: beef, pork, lamb, bison, chicken, eggs, fish, seafood.
Other foods with protein: milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, tofu, quinoa.

Protein is made up of amino acids that help your body build healthy cells. Without enough protein, you can suffer from fatigue, weakness, or muscle loss and your immune system may suffer.

A 3-ounce serving of meat contains about 21 grams of protein and each gram of protein provides 4 calories of energy. Meat also contains fat. In order to keep fat intake at a tolerable level, choose a variety of lean meat, poultry, and fish.

Minimum Protein Recommendation: 46 (women) – 56 (men & pregnant women) grams of protein per day.

Carbohydrates
Examples of healthy high carbohydrate foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes.

Fruits include apples, peaches, pears, bananas, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, cherries, grapefruit, kiwifruit, avocados, apricots, watermelon, pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, tomatoes, mangoes, dates, plums, figs, persimmons, pomegranate, cranberries, coconut, kumquat, tangerines, olives, nectarines, and papaya.
tomatoes
Vegetables include green beans, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, summer squash, zucchini, butternut squash, acorn squash, onion, carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, cauliflower, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, yams, chard, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, turnips, celery, cucumber, lettuce, arugula, okra, parsnips, rutabaga, corn, and potatoes.

Grains include those containing gluten that is harmful those with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance: wheat, rye, barley; and those that can be tolerated by those with celiac disease: rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, sorghum, corn* and oats**.

Legumes include English peas, sugar snap peas, black-eyed peas, purple hull peas, black beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, lima beans, kidney beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, soybeans, lentils, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts and tamarind.

Each gram of carbohydrate provides about 4 calories of energy. Carbohydrates can be broken into two categories — simple and complex. Simple carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest form of carbohydrates. They provide many essential vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber. Legumes, which can be either simple or complex, are also a source of protein. It is best for diabetics to limit starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, and some legumes like pinto beans.

If you have a calorie deficit after consuming the amount of protein and fats you need, then adding vegetables, legumes, or fruits for more energy is a healthy choice. Consume 60 – 80 grams of carbohydrates, plus more to meet calorie requirements. Most additional carbs should come from fresh vegetables, legumes, and fruit (240 – 320 calories minimum)

Fats
Examples of foods that contain fat: meat, some fish and seafood, poultry, eggs, bacon, cheese, lard, shortening, nuts, nut butters like peanut butter, avocados, whole milk, butter, cod liver oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and other vegetable oils.

The body needs to consume the fats that it cannot manufacture. These fats help proteins do their jobs. They help the body stockpile nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, and they begin chemical reactions used in growth, immune function, and reproduction. Naturally occurring fats may be saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature while unsaturated are not.

There’s a category of fats called trans fats that is produced in the gut of some animals. Small amounts of trans fats then appear in foods made from these animals. There are other artificial trans fatty acids created by an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. These trans fats will be listed on labels as partially hydrogenated oil which is no longer considered generally safe in human food and should be avoided.

Each gram of fat contains 9 calories or more than twice as many calories as there are in a gram of protein or carbohydrate. Consume 63 – 97 grams of fat per day (567 – 873 calories).

Minerals and Vitamins
There are recommended daily allowances for many vitamins and minerals and upper allowances for some. Minerals and vitamins are contained in most of the foods listed above. 

Vitamins and minerals are important for bone health, electrolyte balance, thyroid function, and many other body functions like blood clotting and heart rhythm.

Examples of vitamins that you need: A, B6, B12, Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin, C, E, K, and folate.

Examples of minerals that you need: Calcium, copper, sodium, iron, potassium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and iodine.

In order to get all of these vitamins and minerals, you will need to consume a wide variety of foods. If you have been advised to limit your salt intake, it is important to recognize that many packaged foods contain a significant amount of sodium even though they don’t taste salty. 

Water
Water needs are affected by weight, age, temperature, electrolyte balance, intake of caffeine, intake of sugar, physical activity, your surrounding environment, health conditions, and pregnancy or breast-feeding, so you may need more water than the amount listed here. You will also get water from fruits and vegetables, liquids like tea and coffee, juice, milk, and flavored drinks.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and contributes to the function of every body system. Lack of water can lead to dehydration that can drain your energy, give you a headache, cause weakness, dizziness, palpitations, confusion, fainting, sluggishness, and an inability to sweat. Severe dehydration over a period of time will cause body systems to shut down leading to life-threatening conditions.

Average adequate intake per day for a woman living in a temperate climate is 9 cups. Average adequate intake per day for a man living in a temperate climate is 13 cups. Plan to drink at least 9 – 13 cups water per day (0 calories).
pizza

Okay, but I like chili, mac & cheese, enchiladas, lasagna, pizza, bread, and cookies.

Of course you like these favorite foods. I do too! Chili contains meat, tomatoes, and sometimes beans. That’s some protein, some fat, some carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals all in one pot. The calories will vary depending on the meat you use. The nutrients will vary depending on the tomatoes and whether you add beans. You don’t have to know an exact measurement of each in order to have a healthy eating plan. It’s more about balance and consistency over time.

That means it’s okay to eat the foods you love. If your favorites are high in starch, sugar, or fat, your new plan may include them once a week rather than once a day. If you forget to eat leafy greens, you may want to add spinach to your eggs on the weekend. The specifics of your health plan can be tailored to suit your taste and the everyday demands of life.

If your plan involves weight loss and you feel it’s important to measure the calories of each and every thing you consume, there are many online calorie calculators to help you record your daily intake.

Now that I’ve given you an overwhelming amount of information, let’s get back to keeping things simple. Next time you go to the store, just let FLAVOR be your guide:
F resh food
L imited packaged, processed food and grain-based carbs
A nimal proteins with the least amount of fat and no additives
V egetable and fruit carbs in wide variety
O rganic from local sources when available & affordable
R epeat each day

Then put the following list in your phone so that you always have it available:
Protein 75 – 100 grams per day (300 – 400 calories)
Carbohydrates 60 – 80 grams + per day (240 – 320 calories minimum)
Fats 63 – 97 grams per day (567 – 873 calories)
Water 9 – 13 cups water minimum (0 calories)

I know it sounds complicated to learn what’s in your food and then choose based on what your body needs, but if you let curiosity be your guide you may soon find labels fascinating. And beginning with fresh ingredients can actually make cooking more simple. We’ll show you how this works when we launch the Cooking2Thrive cooking show that’s being shot and edited now.

To help you as you get started, I’ve listed additional resources below, but if you need help with a specific question, feel free to email support@cooking2thrive.com.

Now get out there and love you some healthy food! After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.

*Corn is a grain, fruit, and vegetable. http://articles.extension.org/pages/36971/please-settle-a-dispute-is-sweet-corn-a-vegetable-or-a-grain-what-is-the-difference-how-about-field-

**Oats are gluten-free, but often contaminated with wheat in the US. Those with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance should choose certified gluten free oats.

Want to know more? Check out these links:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/deenashanker/find-out-which-vegetables-are-the-best-for-you?utm_term=.nd0PPDV7DG#.uv2qqyv1ym

http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/how-much-protein

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults

http://www.doctoroz.com/article/protein-fact-sheet

http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/dietary-guidance

http://www.doctoroz.com/article/good-carbs-vs-bad-carbs?page=1

http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/carbs.html

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramid-full-story/

http://www.drperlmutter.com/learn/faq/how-much-carbohydrate-do-we-absolutely-require-in-the-diet/

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423102127.htm

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/vitamins-minerals-how-much-should-you-take?page=2

February 8, 2017

On Track For February

Let’s see if your eating plan is on track for February. If you made a resolution to eat healthier this year, are you on track? If you’re not sure, take a look at our January posts. We’ve been getting to know our food so that we can make a reasonable plan and stick to it. So far, we’ve covered the most commonly consumed breakfast foods.

Now it’s time to talk about the basics for lunch, dinner, and snacks. Before we get into specifics, it’s probably worth noting that some people need more protein and fewer carbs; some people need more carbs and less protein; some people need a perfect balance of protein and carbs. You may already know what works to keep you feeling your best. If not, keep a food journal for a few weeks and note how you feel each day. This can help you decide what your optimum combination should be.
tomatoes
Keep it fresh!

Fresh food prepared in interesting combinations is a great start for any meal. You don’t have to choose organic or grow it yourself. Just buy raw vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, and fish at your local grocery store and prepare them at home.

Starting fresh has several advantages. Fresh food tastes better! If you’ve ever eaten a perfectly ripened fresh peach at a roadside stand, you know I’m steering you straight. With fresh food that you prepare, there’s no need to look for hidden ingredients or allergens. Fresh food retains its nutrients without sodium and other preservatives. Because you’re getting fresh flavor and full nutrients, there’s no need for chemical additives.

If you’re concerned that starting fresh will take too long, look around the produce section of your local store. These days you can buy fresh and still avoid much of the prep. Many stores offer broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, celery, squash, and carrots that have been cleaned and and/or chopped. You can also find pineapple, honeydew, or cantaloupe that has been sliced or cubed for your convenience.

It rarely takes more than 20 minutes to bake fresh fish so it’s always a good choice when you’re in a time crunch. Steak, pork chops, and chicken breasts are also quick and easy. Larger cuts of meat like beef or pork roasts can be made in advance and eaten over several meals.

Recent research from Vanderbilt University shows that most of us believe healthy food means more expensive food. The research also seemed to assume we would choose packaged convenience foods rather than fresh food.

If you think you can’t afford fresh food, be sure to look closely at the shelves in your store. The produce section of the largest local grocery chain where I live has a $1 rack in each store. Whatever has been grouped in a net bag and placed on the rack is $1. I recently bought a bag filled with 3 orange bell peppers. They were still fresh looking a week later and they were 33¢ each.

I check this rack on each shopping trip. I’ve bought eggplant, potatoes, apples, summer squash and bananas there. It’s not unusual to find other fresh produce marked down. I always check for manager’s specials. There are manager’s specials in the meat department as well.

veggie sticks
Keep it simple!

Instead of breading, frying, or creating casseroles, keep it simple. Steam, sauté, boil, or oven roast vegetables that are better cooked than raw. Bake, broil, or grill meat, poultry, and fish. Eat raw or dried fruit (no sugar added). Serve dry beans, lentils, rice, or quinoa in place of dinner rolls. Eat raw nuts, plain Greek yogurt, fruit, veggie sticks, hummus, and guacamole as snacks.

Of course it’s okay to add some cheese, butter, or sour cream to a dish. It’s okay to serve pasta with a sauce or make enchiladas with tortillas, cheese and sauce. Just let the vegetables or meat be the star most of the time. This will accomplish two things. It will make prep time faster, and you’ll end up with a higher proportion of vegetables and protein to creamy, cheesy sauces more often than not.

Keep it delicious!

I love tasty food, so please don’t think I’m recommending a bland diet with no personality and no treats! I just know that homemade cookies taste better than those from a package and fresh food eliminates many worries. When you salt your food, you don’t have to worry about hidden sodium. When you use olive oil, you don’t have to worry about trans fats. When you season your chili with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin you don’t have to read a label to see if the seasoning is gluten-free.
green beans
Keep it real!

Let me repeat. If a health plan isn’t sustainable, it won’t work. Rather than adopting drastic changes, find some small ones that you can make consistently. If that means eliminating soft drinks, that’s a great start. If that means having a salad with your burger instead of fries, that’s great! If that means eating eggs for breakfast rather than boxed cereal, that’s good too. If that means cooking in advance and freezing your entrees, get that freezer ready.

Everything you do to create a lifestyle that will support the healthy changes you want to make is a step in the right direction. Change is always made one step at a time. Change is sustained through a supportive lifestyle structure.

With knowledge and a willingness to experiment, you can find a healthy balance that’s right for you. Next week, we’ll explore specific lunch and dinner options.

https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2016/12/01/251860/

January 30, 2017

Stop, Look, and Listen

Stop, look, and listen. You can reduce your calorie intake, lower your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease TODAY! Before we go any further getting to know our food, let’s take a moment to explore a simple change that can make a huge difference.

Whew. It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into the new year! How are you fairing with your plans to be healthier?

If you’ve been following this blog all month, you’ll recall that we’ve been learning about food so that we have the knowledge we need to slowly, but surely, build a lifestyle to support the changes we want to make. Building a framework to support change can take time. Seeing the results of changes can take time. As we’ve seen, learning about food can take time. But there are things you can do that will make you healthier right this minute!

That’s right. You can reduce your calorie intake, lower your blood sugar, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease TODAY! How?
tea
Stop, Look, and Listen.

STOP:
Drinking soda with high fructose corn syrup
Drinking soda with real sugar
Drinking diet soda
Giving soda to your children

The American Heart Association recommends children drink soda once a week or less. According to the Washington Post, two-thirds of children drink soda daily.

Soft drinks provide 0 nutrition. ZERO. For the 100 calories in an 8 ounce Dr. Pepper, you get more than a days worth of added sugar. It doesn’t matter if the sugar comes from cane sugar, beet sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, it is still added sugar and your body does not require it.

Yes, you’ll get a temporary boost from the sugar and caffeine in the drink, but if you do not combine it with protein or long lasting carbs, you will soon feel fatigued because of a swift drop in blood sugar. One way to combat that is to drink another soda. That can result in a cycle that’s hard to
break. And on some level it can be addicting.

My mother had such an addiction to Dr. Pepper for about 20 years. I found a handwritten health history in which she documented that she drank 12 Dr. Peppers per day. Each was a 20 oz bottle out of the vending machine at our business. Even if she only consumed half of each bottle, that’s 1500 calories per day.

While it was no secret that she subsisted on Dr. Pepper, saltine crackers, and the occasional piece of cherry pie, I don’t think any of us realized how many of her calories came from sugar. It was the bulk of them. You wouldn’t have guessed this. She was never overweight. In fact, she was quite thin. She was also fatigued and depressed. She ultimately died from kidney disease.

Diet soda removes the sugar and calories, but a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/01/30/ajcn.112.050997.full.pdf+html shows that diet soft drinks may also contribute to diabetes and be associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

STOP:
Drinking sweet tea

If you’ve grown accustomed to sweet tea, this may sound difficult. My grandmother had a good system for breaking the habit. She would only allow us to have a glass of sweet tea after we finished a glass of unsweet tea. It didn’t take long to lose our preference for the sweet version.

STOP:
Drinking flavored coffee drinks daily

Whether it comes from a barista, dispensing machine, or bottle, a caramel cappuccino is filled with sugar. If your daily morning coffee comes topped with syrup and whipped cream, there’s no question. It is filled with sugar.

STOP:
Serving lemonade, punch, or drink mixes with meals

Lemonade, punch, and drink mixes are all sweetened with something. Of course it’s okay to have a
lemonade stand sometimes or serve punch at a party. The problem arises when it’s served frequently.

STOP:
Giving the kids store bought juice or juice boxes

Juice is better than soda because it contains some vitamins, and nutrients. The box may say it’s 100% juice, but some brands have added sugar hidden in the fruit concentrate. Fresh squeezed juice or water are better options.

LOOK:
At the label before you buy

It’s not just soft drinks that deliver a large dose of sugar. Sports drinks and flavored water may do so as well. If you see the words: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or sucrose syrup — they mean sugar. If you see the words Sucralose and acesulfame potassium — they mean artificial sweetener.

Getting in the habit of reading labels will help you make healthier choices. You may discover that simply changing brands will make a big difference in the amount of fat, sugar, and calories you are consuming.

LISTEN:
To your body

Foods affect people differently. If I eat pancakes with syrup for breakfast, you’ll find me in the bathroom throwing up about 10 minutes later. This has been true my entire life. Even if they’re gluten-free, I can’t tolerate sugary carbs in the morning. This may not be true for you.

So, I’m not saying that you should never ever have a soda, or sweet tea, or a delicious coffee drink. I’m saying that if you begin to think of those things as treats to be consumed on rare occasions rather than as regular everyday fare, you’ll automatically make a huge step toward a healthier diet.

It really is that easy! And it can happen today.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

https://cspinet.org/resource/fact-sheet-sugar-drink-consumption

https://consumer.healthday.com/diabetes-information-10/sugar-health-news-644/1-in-3-americans-drinks-soda-other-sugary-drinks-daily-cdc-708447.html

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/