Posts tagged ‘gluten-free’

August 21, 2018

What Makes a Grocery Store Great?

This week I’ve been wondering what makes a grocery store great? When I travel, I like to visit grocery stores. Not only do I want to see the food itself, I want to observe and absorb the culture. Funny thing is, I do not enjoy the grocery stores in my town. Why? Well, that’s what I’m exploring. I know it feels better to shop in some stores than others. Let’s figure out what makes that so.
grocery
Yesterday, I needed a few things in addition to groceries — potting soil, toilet paper, marbles. Wal-Mart seemed like a good place to get everything at one time. I crossed the river to an adjoining town to shop at the nearest Wal-Mart. But as I drove into the parking lot, I realized I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to go in that store. Without even pulling into a parking space, I drove out the other side of the parking lot and to a Kroger nearby.

What pulled me toward the other store?

Both are larger than I prefer, but the second store is smaller. Wal-Mart supercenters average 178,000 sq ft. Kroger Marketplace stores average around 100,000. I really prefer the footprint of The Fresh Market, Whole Foods, or Natural Grocers stores that average under 50,000 sq ft. From this I must conclude that size matters to me…in grocery stores.

As grocery store space expands, it rarely means more fresh produce, meat, or specialty flours. The added space is typically stocked with items that are boxed, bottled, fully prepared, or not food related. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just prefer shopping where fresh food is the focus.

I also like small shopping carts. Believe me, I can fill them with plenty of food. As a short person, tall, deep carts make it annoyingly difficult to reach small items hiding in the bottom near the back of the basket. Most grocery stores have both, but the store closest to my home does not.

When I walk into a store, it’s a pleasure to be greeted with a beautiful variety of produce, but two of my favorite stores (unfortunately, not in this town) have the produce located where it’s not visible from the door. Obviously, seeing produce immediately is not a big factor in a store making my favorites list. And from a practical standpoint, I’d rather stack easily bruised fruit on top of the staples in my basket. If I begin in the produce section, it ends up on the bottom where it’s more likely to get damaged.

More important than location is the variety and freshness of the produce offered. I’m okay with seasonal variations in selection, but only if there is a moderately predictable seasonal rotation or an easily accessed online list of what is currently stocked in a given store. Because stores in different neighborhoods are stocked differently, it sometimes takes visiting 3 or 4 locations to gather the vegetables I need for a recipe.

Once I find the produce I’m looking for, I’d like for it to be fresh enough to last a couple of days. Every other week, I get home to discover that the raspberries I couldn’t see in the bottom of the container are fuzzy or the prewashed sugar snap peas smell foul even though it’s not past the use by date. This recurring issue makes me dread what I’ll find next time I put away groceries.
spices
This may not be true for everyone, but for me to think a store is great, it needs to offer a good selection of fresh meat, poultry, fish, and seafood that is unseasoned, unmarinated, and uninjected. I just want the raw ingredients, please. And I’d like a sell by date to give me an idea how long I have before it spoils.

Organic dairy products like plain yogurt with lots of active cultures and no gums or fillers, dairy alternatives without tons of sugar, high quality butter, and a wide selection of coffee improve my impression. Plenty of raw nuts, dried fruit without added sugar, and bulk spices make things even better.

Other than that, clear and accurate signs, efficient organization, and few empty spaces on the shelves go a long way toward a pleasant shopping experience. If I have to scour the health food section searching for gluten-free cereal amongst other whole grains, I will most likely skip it. I feel the same way about crackers, cookies, chips, and frozen food.
dried fruit
A final consideration is the ambience of the store. When I walk in, is it quiet and lit well but not garishly? Does it smell good? Are the aisles wide enough? Are there plenty of open checkout stations with friendly checkers? Does it feel more like a comfortable boutique than a herd-em-through warehouse? If so, I’ll enjoy being there.

If I could get a small, pleasant store with an adequate cold chain that offers a consistent variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and easy to find gluten-free items that I can put in a small cart within 5 miles of my house, I’d be so giddy I wouldn’t know what to do. All of that together would truly make a grocery store great!

In the meantime, I’ll keep going to multiple stores to get what I need.

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://retail-index.emarketer.com/company/data/5374f24d4d4afd2bb4446614/5374f2b24d4afd824cc15ebb/lfy/false/wal-mart-stores-inc-real-estate

https://www.walmart.com/

https://retail-index.emarketer.com/company/data/5374f24a4d4afd2bb4446582/5374f2834d4afd824cc15a0f/lfy/false/kroger-real-estate

https://retail-index.emarketer.com/company/data/5374f24d4d4afd2bb4446612/5374f29e4d4afd824cc15c99/lfy/false/natural-grocers-real-estate

https://retail-index.emarketer.com/company/data/5374f24e4d4afd2bb4446642/5374f2b34d4afd824cc15ed5/lfy/false/whole-foods-market-real-estate

https://retail-index.emarketer.com/company/data/5374f24e4d4afd2bb4446639/5374f2734d4afd824cc1587c/lfy/false/the-fresh-market-real-estate

April 17, 2018

Think Going Gluten-Free is Hard – Visualization Can Help

Think going gluten-free is hard – visualization can help! In spite of increased awareness and availability of gluten-free foods, many of us still find the idea of remaining totally gluten-free intimidating. We just can’t imagine actually having to walk past every croissant displayed in a bakery case in France. We find the thought of giving up our grandmother’s cherry pie with its perfectly flaky pie crust unfathomable. We don’t know what we’ll grab when we’re too hungry and dinner won’t be ready for an hour. Rethinking our habitual lunch spot feels like we’re losing our best friend.

Our mind may tell us there’s plenty of information available and the process won’t be difficult, but it feels monumentally hard. We just can’t see ourselves as bread free, pasta free, doughnut free, cake free, or fried chicken free for a week, much less a lifetime. When you think about it, if we can’t “see” it, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to accomplish it. In fact, if we can’t see it, we may not even be able to consistently take that first step toward making it happen. We’ll stick with what we can see in our mind’s eye.
visualize
When I was learning to slalom waterski, I kept falling at the same spot in the wake in the same way over and over again. I remember someone telling me the problem was that I’d learned to fall. Huh? But it was true. When I thought about crossing the wake, what I saw in my mind’s eye was me falling. I didn’t fear it, I just knew it would happen. I had learned to fall.

If we don’t change what we envision, we will subconsciously stick with what we’ve learned. We’re bad at math. We are weak. We are unreliable. We can’t cook. We’ll never amount to anything. We’re lazy. Are we? Do we have to be or have we adopted someone else’s vision of us? Can we see ourselves getting a tutor and excelling at math, lifting weights and becoming strong, only saying yes when we know we can deliver, practicing until cooking seems easy, excelling in life, or working energetically? Changing how we view ourselves can facilitate us changing everything!

Coaches know that visualization can improve athletic performance. In addition to time on the court, they may have a player envision him/herself making free throw after free throw. Scientific studies have shown that visualization does, in fact, improve athletic and academic performance. Pilots-in-training are encouraged to chair fly their airplanes, or, in other words, to visualize themselves flying. Life coaches may incorporate visualization to help a client conquer an obstacle.

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you can see yourself doing something, it’s no big deal to do it. It just feels natural. On the other hand, if you can’t see yourself doing something, it’s a challenge to make the first step toward getting started.

The type of visualization I’m describing isn’t daydreaming. It’s an engaged practice directed to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle and it can be practiced. For instance, let’s say my greatest difficulty going gluten-free is how I will explain to my elderly aunt that I can’t eat her beef stroganoff. I will create images of myself in which I am brave, strong, and kind when communicating this to her. I imagine myself engaging in some activity that comforts me before and after the communication. Obviously, I can’t control her response, so my visualization focuses on me practicing self-care while addressing my obstacle.

This can go further. I can mentally rehearse several possible responses to my aunt’s imagined reactions. In other words, I can visualize many options I can employ to keep myself feeling centered, supported, and strong. I can also give myself permission to remove myself from the communication if my aunt becomes hysterical, abusive, or unkind. Imagining the many options I have and seeing myself feeling okay no matter how she responds builds my emotional muscles in advance.

With better developed emotional muscles and a mental picture of my many options, I can go into an uncomfortable conversation feeling strong and prepared. Whatever the response, I am prepared to see myself as a person who deserves to be healthy. Remaining gluten-free is critical to my health, so I will remain gluten-free and I will be kind to those who don’t understand because they cannot make me feel bad about treating myself well.

Perhaps your greatest obstacle is financial. It is true that much of the gluten-free convenience food available is more expensive. Gluten-free flours are also more expensive than wheat flour. You can visualize yourself feeling satisfied and happy eating meat, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, fruit, rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, cornbread, corn tortillas, and homemade trail mix. As you imagine roasted chicken, chicken enchiladas, grilled chicken breasts, beef stew, beef roast, grilled steak, pork chops & rice, pork tenderloin, grilled tilapia, fresh green beans with new potatoes, black beans & rice, grapes, peaches, pears, bananas, baked sweet potatoes, sautéed squash & onions, steamed carrots or broccoli, you’ll soon recognize the options are plentiful even on a budget.

Visualizing will also make it easier to develop a pantry plan for your family, meal plans for busy weeks, travel plans so that you always have good gluten-free options, and plans for attending parties or events. As you see yourself successfully navigating these areas, a gluten-free lifestyle will seem less daunting.

Being able to see what can be rather than what will no longer be mitigates the feeling of loss we all experience when we give up something familiar. Visualizing yourself as the pain free, energetic self you used to be can help motivate you to stick with a gluten-free path in order to heal. Seeing yourself enjoying life without a foggy brain, constant itching, tummy pain and discomfort, weakness and fatigue, or achy muscles is great motivation for giving the lifestyle a try.

Can you be successful in maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle to be healthy? Yes, you can! I can see it now!

And when you struggle, we’re always here to help: support@cooking2thrive.com.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8b20/b4ff5ccdb04dee8f8928f8b7fc6ea5c9772f.pdf

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2190/X9BA-KJ68-07AN-QMJ8

http://www.marcandangel.com/2015/01/18/4-unconventional-steps-extremely-successful-people-take-in-life/#more-800

November 7, 2017

Make it Easier to Stick to Your Eating Plan

You can make it easier to stick to your eating plan by being aware of a phenomenon called ego depletion. Ego depletion results from an effort of will that is tiring. For instance, the effort it takes to stifle an emotional response or force yourself to do something you don’t want to do can cause this.
cognitive effort
If you’re like me, many days are filled with a significant number of these events! If it seems more difficult to stick to your eating plan on those days, it’s not your imagination. You are experiencing the results of ego depletion.

In the book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Dr. Daniel Kahneman describes scientific experiments which have shown that our physical endurance is reduced following performance of an activity that requires emotional effort. When we are emotionally depleted, we give up more quickly. This can affect our resolve to resist the temptation to eat a piece of cake.

In one experiment, participants were first asked to eat radishes and celery while resisting the temptation to indulge in chocolate and rich cookies. Later, these subjects proved more likely to give up sooner than normal when faced with a difficult task. The researchers established that there is a long and varied list of situations and tasks that are known to deplete self-control.

Actions that indicate ego depletion are also numerous. They include deviating from one’s diet and overspending on impulse purchases. And, take it from me, saying yes to a date with a man even though you know you’re not interested.

A few years ago, I surprised myself on a day when I had handled a customer conflict while fighting a cold. A potential date offered to come over and make me Theraflu laced hot tea and I let him, all the while wondering why I was doing it. I knew I didn’t want to date him. Looking back, I’ll chalk that up to ego depletion.

The mental load of working through the household budget at the same time that you’re resisting the urge to grab a bite of the kid’s pizza will make you more likely to eat the pizza even when you know you will suffer later from ingesting the gluten.

How does knowing any of this help me?

Armed with this knowledge, you can see the importance of putting in place life systems that support your goals. When you are in a weakened state of resistance, a system can provide the support you need to get past temptation. You can also stop punishing yourself for being weak when you manage to resist eating gluten, but still give in to the temptation to have an extra scoop of ice cream. You are not weak. You are normal.

You’ll also be happy to know that Dr. Kahneman and his colleagues note that mastery of a skill reduces the effort required to perform that skill. Once you are practiced at avoiding gluten, it will no longer require maximum effort to do so. Knowing it will get easier can help you follow your diet plan until you reach the point of mastery.

How does this feel?

You may have experienced ego depletion as a feeling of, “I just can’t do it” or dragging your feet. For instance, I do a lot of cooking and I hate doing dishes. Sometimes I’ll envision myself doing the dishes and I’ll feel unable to get up, go in the kitchen, and get started because the task seems so huge.

Now I know from experience that the actual work is never as bad as I imagine it will be. It just seems that way In my head because of the effort I am expending to force myself to do something I don’t like.

One way to get past that hurdle is to approach doing my dishes as if I’m doing a friend’s dishes. Why? Well, I know that when I help out a friend by washing their dishes, it never seems like a big deal because I don’t think about it. I just do it.

Working out can be like that too. When I just get out the gear and work out, it’s no big deal. It’s when I think about how much time it’s going to take out of an already busy day that I begin to feel an urge to skip the workout.

One way to get past that obstacle is to choose workouts that leave me feeling better than I feel without doing them. Then I can focus on the anticipated good feeling as motivation. That reduces my cognitive effort and thereby increases my physical stamina while reducing my temptation to make other bad choices.

What works for you may look totally different from what works for me. As long as you’re aware that success will be easier when you reduce ego depletion, you’ll be able to figure out a system that supports your goals. That will make it easier to stick to your eating plan.

https://us.macmillan.com/thinkingfastandslow/danielkahneman/9780374533557/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090224132915.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman

http://books.wwnorton.com/books/The-Undoing-Project/

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.”

September 12, 2017

Pare Your Kitchen Down to the Basics

You can pare your kitchen down to the basics and still prepare great food! I love looking at houses online. Of course I pay special attention to the kitchens. For me the primary considerations are a gas stove, functional cabinets, and countertop workspace followed by cuteness.

Cuteness includes what the countertop workspace is covered with, the flooring, paint, backsplash, hardware, and cabinet style. I hate the unimaginative gray that currently dominates new houses and many remodels. I love clean, classic subway tile, European style small refrigerators, hardwood floors, and interesting countertops like wood or recycled glass. With these items in place I’m ready to fill the cabinets with necessities and fun china, pottery, and serving pieces.

What is necessary for food prep?

Let’s be real. Most of us don’t need all of the gadgets that fill our cabinets or clutter our countertops. It’s fine if you want to have them, but if funds are limited or you don’t have much space you can forego the additional purchases and pare down to the basics.

Here’s a list of basic cooking tools:

Durable, sharp knives.
A set with a carving knife, chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated bread knife is sufficient. Keeping my knives sharp is a constant battle, so a handheld knife sharpener is also useful.

Cutting board.
Using a cutting board protects your countertop surface and keeps bacteria from meat, fish, and poultry contained. You may want to dedicate one cutting board to proteins and another to everything else. I like to use plastic for proteins because I can wash it in the dishwasher. I use wood or bamboo for vegetables, fruit, chocolate, cheese, bread, etc.

Measuring cups and spoons.
With adjustable or multiple quantity cups and spoons, you may only need one of each. I’d probably have two of each handy — one for wet ingredients and one for dry. Even though they take up more drawer space, I actually prefer separate measuring cups and spoons. Collapsible silicone sets minimize the space used, but hard plastic and metal also serve the purpose.

Mixing bowls.
Unless you do a lot of baking, a basic set of 3 bowls — large, medium, and small should be sufficient. Glass, metal, pottery and plastic choices are all readily available. If you rarely cook or need additional capacity, serving bowls can double as mixing bowls. You can use a cereal bowl to whisk an egg or dissolve yeast and a roasting pan to combine larger amounts of ingredients.

Baking pans.
The most commonly used baking pan is a 9 x 13 rectangular pan. It works for cakes, biscuits, casseroles, lasagne, oven fried chicken, chicken spaghetti, bar cookies, cobbler, bread pudding, and even your Thanksgiving dressing. It may be all you need, but you’ll probably want a cookie sheet or two, a loaf pan (with extra tall sides if you make gluten-free bread), a roasting pan with a lid, a muffin tin, a pie pan, and at least one casserole dish. A square glass baking dish can double as a casserole dish by using aluminum foil when you need a lid.

Stove top cookware.
Every kitchen needs at least one cast iron skillet. Okay, you can live without one, but you’ll have much better cornbread, pineapple upside down cake, seared steaks, country-fried potatoes, fried chicken, blackened Brussels sprouts, and stovetop burgers if you have one. Cast iron can be used for any dish you start on the stove top and finish in the oven.

Also essential are a large pot for cooking pasta, and at least one saucepan. Most kitchens will need an additional saucepan or two in order to cook multiple dishes at the same time. You may want to invest in a good skillet and a sauté pan.

Utensils.
A spatula, slotted spoon, large regular spoon, whisk, grater, can opener, colander, small and large funnel, and dough blender plus a hand crank beater will give you what you need to prepare a meal, bake a cake, and top it off with homemade whipped cream. You can add a basting brush or potato masher if you feel you need them.

Small appliances.
The only small appliances I would recommend are a food chopper, a slow cooker, and a waffle iron. I find a chopper sufficient for the chopping and puréeing I do, and a slow cooker comes in handy at parties. My antique cast iron waffle iron leaves something to be desired. A modern, electric version is definitely preferable.

On the other hand, I don’t need a coffee maker — a French press or pour over coffee maker can make an incredible cup of coffee. I don’t need a toaster — toast can be made in the oven. I can make whipped cream with my hand crank beater in less time than it takes to get out and set up a mixer. I don’t use juice in large enough quantity to justify a juicer. Two cast iron skillets will make a panini. A saucepan will heat water if I don’t buy an electric kettle. I can cook rice in a pan. Poached eggs don’t require a poacher. Popcorn is easy to pop on top of the stove. I don’t drink soda so I have no use for a soda maker. Pressure cookers scare me. I am happy buying dried fruit from Nuts.com and ice cream from the grocery store. And even though that orange nonstick skillet looked really tempting at 2am in a hotel room, I can’t think of any reason I’d need to fry hardware. That’s about a dozen kitchen specialty items I don’t need when I pare down to essentials.

If you love grapefruit and want a grapefruit knife, you should absolutely have one. If having a potato peeler makes you feel better about peeling potatoes, there’s nothing wrong with buying one. If you weigh ingredients when you bake, investing in a good quality scale makes sense.

The point is that you will not be limited to mediocre food when you choose to keep your kitchen simple! Knowing that can help you stay within budget and reduce clutter in your home. It feels good to me to know that I can prepare scrumptious meals and baked goods and still be mindful about kitchen purchases.

In this day of advertising bombardment, I think it bears repeating…you can pare your kitchen down to the basics and still prepare great food!

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.”