Posts tagged ‘fresh food’

March 29, 2017

Baby Knows Best

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes baby knows best. If you’re having trouble getting your baby to eat, try following his lead. Obviously, babies don’t know anything about nutrition, or electric outlets, or the dangers of drinking antifreeze. That means they don’t need to run the show, but it doesn’t mean their preferences should be ignored entirely.
DJ4
Babies come equipped to express their needs. If you’re a parent, you’re well aware of your baby’s ability to communicate hunger, discomfort, frustration, anger, and a preference for mommy and daddy. Each baby, like each adult, is slightly different. A one-size-fits-all approach to introducing solid food can result in frustrated babies and irritated parents. Eventually, all babies will learn to eat solid food, but why not make the process as painless as possible?

This is a frequent topic of discussion with my son who believes that hands and the floor should stay clean and whatever’s offered should be eaten…no matter what. Sometimes I wonder if he’s forgotten how he was raised. He was allowed to make a mess, get his hands dirty, and choose not to eat something as long as he was eating something else that was offered.

Mind you, I understand it’s not fun to clean up the mess my grandson DJ makes. The first day I decided to see if he was ready to scoop food out of a bowl by himself, I ended up with food all the way to the top of my refrigerator door. From this I determined he’s not ready to handle a bowl, but he knows how to have fun!

I prefer to keep meal time a lighthearted learning experience rather than a battle of wills. All this requires is a sense of humor, attentive observation, and a little preventative maintenance. I now cover the floor under the high chair with a sheet so that cleanup is quick and easy. If DJ wants to mash the banana on his tray rather than eat it, we make a game of it. After all, he’s learning what foods are called, how taste & textures vary, how to pick up small pieces of food, and depth perception. At 8 months, he’s not ready to learn table manners yet. That will come. Of course I set some limits. When DJ decides to spit peas, he gets one free pass. After that, the peas go away until another meal.
snarl
It can be easy to assume a baby wants to spit peas because she’s misbehaving or hates green vegetables, but it’s obvious that DJ is just having fun making noise, making a mess, and watching my response. He loves it when I think he’s funny. After we have a laugh, he usually goes right back to eating. He actually likes peas.

Food preferences can develop before a baby is born. A child who spits out spinach may gobble up asparagus or broccoli. When you offer a large variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, you’ll soon learn where your child’s preferences lie so that you can incorporate some of those foods into the family menu on a regular basis.

DJ’s parents feed him regular food that they prepare at home. That way he can eat the same foods they’re eating and they can know exactly what he’s consuming. While they have chosen not to use prepared baby food, they are creating traditional purées for him to eat from a spoon.

After a month or so of success introducing foods, DJ began to gag or shudder whenever the spoon approached his mouth. He no longer seemed to like foods that he loved the day before. He also seemed reluctant to touch his tray, and he clearly wasn’t enjoying himself at meal time.

I might not know how to solve that specific problem immediately, but I know how to make the experience more engaging. Once a baby is engaged, a little observation can lead to some possible solutions. Babies love to put things in their mouth. They enjoy touching new textures. DJ needed to get his hands dirty.
spoon
I bought him a silicone spoon that works as both a teether and a spoon. It’s easy to hold with no pointed end to endanger a baby’s eyes. Of course DJ wanted to grab it and chew on it. Then I added food — the same food that he gagged at when I tried to feed him. He grabbed the spoon, ate a big bite, looked at me and said, “Mmmmm!” He had fun for the rest of the meal. Weeks later, DJ is still having fun at meal time and he’s eating well. Sometimes he’s happy for me to feed him. Sometimes, he wants control of the spoon. I simply follow his lead.

The result of a little observation and willingness to experiment is a baby who has shown us that he prefers vegetables to fruits and eats a wide variety — spinach, green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, butternut squash, black eyed peas, potatoes, and carrots. He also likes chicken, avocado, cantaloupe, dates, and mango. He doesn’t like to eat bananas, but he loves to smash them into his tray.
DJ Eating
As his world expands, DJ’s preferences will continue to evolve. We plan to take note and include his new preferences in our meal plans. We will offer simple choices between A and B rather than open ended questions regarding what he wants to eat. This will give DJ control over his diet within the boundaries of the adults who know he will thrive with fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and eventually eggs, dairy, and whole grains. Our goal is to provide healthy food while keeping meal time peaceful and fun. My son and I can agree on this.

If you run into a problem getting your child to eat, keep offering a variety of fresh food, follow his lead whenever it makes sense, and remember to have fun! That may be all it takes to solve the problem.

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/

December 30, 2015

Navigating Medical Care

mazeNavigating medical care can be an exhausting process as any celiac, IBS, Crohn’s, diabetic, or cardiac patient knows. As this year draws to a close, I’m looking forward to the renewal a new year promises.

I spent the past few days with my mom in a rehab facility. She is a dialysis patient and last week had 3 small strokes. On the phone from the ambulance as she was transported to the hospital, she sounded ok, but said her right arm and hand wouldn’t work right. Five days later, she arrived at a facility where she could receive physical therapy multiple times per day. It was Christmas eve.

Of course holiday staffing varies from the norm. On Christmas day, our nurse was in charge of 60 patients. There are 480 minutes in an 8 hour shift. That means, she could spend 8 minutes per patient even if she didn’t take a single break. We used more than 8 minutes of her time when my mom passed out in the wheelchair from low blood pressure. Needless to say, there is no time for the staff to make sure Mom eats or gets enough fluids.

My mom is lucky because at least one of us has been able to be there for a portion of every day. In spite of that, it has been difficult to get enough information together to assess whether a bad day is just a bad day, or the beginning of a downward trend. It’s hard to know whether we need to quit worrying about the food on the cafeteria tray and just get some Power Yogurt down her. We know she’s not getting enough protein to fend off infection for long. Unfortunately, our experience is not unusual.

I learned long ago when I had a rare parasite that caused recurring pneumonia that when you’re weak and in pain, you must have an advocate with you every step of the way or you can quickly be dismissed and become lost in the system. My lawyer boyfriend was with me when I was trying to get a referral to a large diagnostic clinic. He could barely contain his laughter watching me bite my lip when my pulmonologist said, “If you didn’t have an intelligent boyfriend here with you, I’d say this is all in your head.” And he wasn’t the first physician to say that during my two year ordeal.

I was young, healthy, went to the doctor promptly and still almost died with the first pneumonia after having been diagnosed with a bladder infection. I actually had psittacosis from Chlamydia psittaci which had become encapsulated in a recently capped tooth. This experience made me acutely aware that navigating medical care is best played as a team sport.

During that two years, I read all of my medical charts. This was also an eye opening exercise. The history recorded in the charts often wasn’t even remotely related to the history I gave. I realize my symptom group was unusual. Well, actually it wasn’t for someone with psittacosis, but it was unusual enough for one nurse to determine that I was just a bad historian.

At some point, most of us will need the expertise of the medical system. Without it, we do not have the depth of knowledge, necessary labs, sophisticated testing equipment, or access to medication that may be necessary to get us through a crisis and put us on a path to improving health. Is there anything we can do as patients to make sure we have the best chance of getting optimum results from medical care?

While nothing will guarantee a certain health outcome, here are 5 things you can do to facilitate a more positive journey in the healthcare system:

1. Choose a friend or family member you trust to act as your advocate in any major medical event.
The best advocates care about your well-being, can remain calm in a crisis, are good listeners, can process and prioritize information, are unafraid to ask questions, and will tell you the truth in a kind manner.

Be sure to identify your advocate as someone who has your permission to view healthcare information so that your care providers will not worry about a HIPAA violation. http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html

journal2. Keep a daily journal of your condition.
Try to record facts without interpretation. For example, if you feel your energy level has significantly dropped, record how much sleep you get, when you get it, how many fluids you consume and what kind, what you are eating, how much and when, how much exercise you get, what kind, and when you get it, then note how tired you feel on a scale from 1 – 10.

Doing this every day will help you have a realistic picture of what is happening over time. It will also help identify areas in which a change in routine may help improve your symptoms. If you are too weak to do this, your advocate or caregivers can make notations for you and record their observations as well.

3. Be informed. Ask questions. Make decisions.
You are ultimately in charge of your healthcare. If you do not ask questions, you may be passively agreeing to treatment you would never actively choose. It can be helpful to think of yourself as pilot in command.

In an airplane, the pilot in command (PIC) is the person who makes the final decision about what will happen in an airplane. He can accept or refuse instructions from air traffic control and he is in responsible for all operations of the plane until he actively turns over command to another pilot by saying something like, “your plane or your aircraft”, and hearing “my plane” as a response. He then repeats, “your plane”. This is called a Positive Exchange of Controls.

If air traffic control says, “23 Charlie Tango cleared to land 22 left” it does not mean that the PIC must land the plane. He can request a different runway. If he is not cleared for the requested runway, he can initiate a go-around.

You are the pilot in command of your healthcare. You will receive lots of information from instruments and personnel. The more informed you are, the better the quality of questions you can ask and the better resulting decisions you can make. Your doctor is air traffic control. From his vantage point, he can see traffic and the runway better than you can, but he won’t know that you had a fuel leak and do not have enough glide distance to make the runway without input from you. You have the best odds of a safe landing when you work with your doctor as a team to identify alternative landing areas. Once determined, you decide the destination with which you feel most comfortable. You inform the doctor where you prefer to go from here, then you focus on the procedures that will result in your best chance to safely reach the landing area.

Just as it is common to think that air traffic control actually means the tower is in control, many patients do not recognize that they have the choice to request a plan that fits them. More typically, they defer to whatever initial plan the doctor proposes while they’re in her office and then fail to follow that plan once they get home and it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. This can be detrimental to any long-term progress.

4. Treat everyone kindly beginning with yourself.
When you have a chronic condition rather than a medical emergency, it can slowly eat away at your energy and attitude. A desire for relief may lead to impatience with medical staff. While you may feel justified in taking your frustration out on nurses, techs, or aides, doing so will not encourage them to treat you kindly.

The simplest way to prevent reaching the point at which you lash out is to recruit consistent, adequate social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual support. These needs are very individual, so a high level of self-awareness will be helpful in determining what and how much you need.

Incorporating a regular exercise, meditation, or yoga practice can strengthen your connection to internal resources. You may also find restoration in activities like gardening, cooking, writing, reading, fishing, walking, painting, woodworking, swimming, dancing, volunteering, or playing with your children or grandchildren.

flatbread5. Decrease the need for medical intervention.
You don’t have to worry about navigating the medical system when you’re healthy enough to only require routine check-ups or regular monitoring. In some cases, significant lifestyle changes can minimize the need for medical intervention. The effects of regularly eating a balanced diet of fresh foods, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate sleep and exercise, and filling our lives with passion and laughter should never be underestimated.

The new year is always a great time to wipe the slate clean and do things differently. I hope you’ll find these tips helpful the next time medical care is required.

As we approach the change to 2016, I wish you an abundance of health and hilarity!

Happy New Year!

August 12, 2013

The Benefits of Cooking – Part 1: The Food

One of my kids recently asked why we’re called Cooking2Thrive® rather than Eating2Thrive? Given how much all of us like to eat, it’s a valid question. Not only that, but say the word cook and lots of folks want to run for the hills ’cause it sounds time consuming and difficult so why would we want that in our name?

Since the question has been posed, I’m going to answer it with a series I’ll call The Benefits of Cooking.

So here goes – The Benefits of Cooking – Part 1

The Food

I like to focus on rewards, and one of the rewards of cooking is having great tasting food to eat. When I say cooking, I am referring to the act of preparing food using basic ingredients like meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, rice, polenta, honey, herbs, spices, milk, cheese, and yogurt. If you grew up eating home-cooked meals, your mouth may start watering just thinking about Sunday dinner. It’s hard to argue that food made from fresh ingredients does not taste better than food that has been processed to stay consistent in appearance through weeks or months of transportation and shelf-life.

I grew up helping my grandmother in the garden. Every time I see a pale, hard, overly trucked tomato in the grocery store, I cringe as my memory plays the contrasting picture of a soft, dark red, full flavored tomato just plucked from the vine. You know, the kind that sends juice running down your chin when you take a bite! It’s the sort of memory that has many of us attempting to grow tomatoes on the porch when we don’t have a yard. I still miss my grandmother’s tomato juice canned in glass and sitting on a shelf in the basement. That tomato juice started with those vine-ripened tomatoes and ended up as a critical ingredient in my grandmother’s chili or sometimes disappeared as I gulped it thick and sweet from a glass when it was chilled.

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The juiciness of a strawberry, the brightness of a sugar snap pea, the crispness of a golden delicious apple with tender skin – all are better when ripened before picking and prepared fresh. As a child, some of my favorite dishes were corn-on-the-cob, fried okra, baked sweet potatoes, green rice, and beef & noodles. Oh, and don’t forget the lemon meringue pie. I requested it for every birthday. My sister preferred cherry pie made with bing cherries from a tree in the yard. One year my mother discovered a fresh peach pie recipe. We bought local peaches in season, peeled them, sliced them, and placed them in a sweetened gelatin atop her flaky piecrust. Topped with whipped cream, this cold pie showcased the uncooked peaches perfectly.

These days I’m quite fond of boneless skinless chicken thighs seasoned with jerk spices, seared in coconut oil, and baked in a cast iron skillet with a little chicken broth, curried pork chops and polenta, mashed butternut squash, roasted cauliflower with a hint of crushed red pepper, steamed sugar snap peas, and my own version of my grandmother’s chili. Since cooking is the easiest way to consume my favorites often, I’m happy to spend some time in the kitchen.

Not only does freshly prepared food taste better, it makes it easier to avoid flavor enhancing chemicals, high sodium content, preservatives, and excess sugars. Even if you’re a great label reader, when you purchase processed food products, you may be consuming chemicals that are not required to be listed or specified on the label. Obviously, most of these won’t kill you on the spot or people would be dropping like flies, so there’s no need to be alarmist and say never ever buy prepared convenience foods from the store or eat what a friend is serving at a party, but it is naive to believe that these chemicals do not alter your body chemistry or affect your brain’s response to food.

And it may not take a large amount of an additive to change how you feel. A study cited in the April 2010 “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise” reported that runners who rinsed their mouths with a carbohydrate solution right before and every 15 minutes during an hour-long treadmill session ran faster and further than those who rinsed with a placebo. The brain senses incoming energy “which may lower the perceived effort,” says Ian Rollo, PH.D. one of the study’s authors.1 Since it appears that a little dab will do it, here in a nation with increasing amounts of chronic disease, more studies of the potential negative effects of chemicals in our diet on long-term health are direly needed. In the meantime, it is up to you to decide how much risk you’re willing to take.

Cooking from fresh ingredients is also the easiest way to avoid allergens, gluten, and lactose or limit sodium, sugar, and starchy carbs. Of course, just because you cook the food doesn’t mean these items will magically be absent, but it does mean you have control over what’s included and it can eliminate the effort of reading and rereading labels.

If the word cooking scares you, remember that many fresh ingredients require little or no enhancement. Zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, lettuce, arugula, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, bell peppers, avocados, radishes, and snow peas for instance can be eaten with just a tiny sprinkle of salt or nothing at all. Fruit may only require peeling.

Even if you purchase water-packed tuna or smoked brisket from a BBQ restaurant and only “cook” a salad to go with it, you can add a tremendous amount of fresh flavor and nutrients to your diet. If that leads you to explore new combinations of flavors and preparations, then you’ll have captured the essence of being a cook. A little curiosity, a bit of practice, and a willingness to sometimes throw the whole thing in the trash are where most great cooks start.

And we all have near disasters or major failures along the way. Most of us burn ourselves, catch a dishtowel on fire, cover the floor in flour, burn cookies, leave out the baking powder, or put too much salt in something from time to time. Often it is from those failures that we learn the most.

I’m going to let this conclude Part 1. As you can see, the benefits of cooking include: Great tasting food and easy elimination of chemicals, allergens, inflammatory foods and lots of label reading. But wait, there’s more! Next up: The Benefits of Cooking – Part 2: The Fun. If you think I’ve forgotten about baking, think again. This is a series, remember, we’ll get to that in a bit.

You’ll find the rest of the series right here at Cooking2Thrive. Look forward to having you back!

Do you experience benefits from cooking? We’d love to hear them!

Sincerely,
Cheri

1 Rollo, Ian, Matthew Cole, Richard Miller, and Clyde Williams. “Influence of Mouth Rinsing a Carbohydrate Solution on 1-h Running Performance.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2010 – Volume 42 – Issue 4 – Pp 798-804. American College of Sports Medicine, Apr. 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2012..