Work has been crazy stressful the last few weeks. Like, tears on the drive home stressful. It’s times like these that it is soooo tempting and soooo easy to let my nutrition take a back seat.
“Today was rough. I totally deserve a milkshake on the way home.”
“Ugh…I haven’t had time to pee today, let alone think about dinner. Maybe we’ll just order take out.”
But I’ll let you in on a secret: When I eat better, I feel better. Truth. While takeout and milkshakes are easy and comforting in the moment, I usually end up feeling bloated, headache-y, and just blech afterward. Not to mention a dose of “why-did-I-do-that” on top of the stress of the day.
I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: There is nothing wrong with a treat now and then. And sometimes pizza delivery seems like a miracle sent from God him/herself. But….
When I eat better, I feel better.
This is where the preparation that makes you all think I’m crazy really pays off.
Over the summer, I canned (among other things) apple butter and cherry jelly.
I have a canister of the dry ingredient mix for my bread ready to go.
And making yogurt is easy enough it can be done on a school night.
I present to you….Today’s Lunch: a peanut butter and homemade apple butter sandwich on homemade bread. Homemade yogurt sweetened with homemade cherry jelly. Organic roasted cauliflower.
Not only did I have the energy to get through the rest of my day, I felt so incredibly accomplished looking at that humble lunch sitting on my desk. It wasn’t fancy, but I did that! And that feeling is ten times better than the hollow comfort of leftover pizza.
….Someone remind me of that on my drive home next week…
Tonight’s dinner brought to you by two more days of school before Christmas break, a cold, and nostalgia.
‘Tis the week before Christmas break, and all through the school…teachers were just trying to stumble across the finish line with their dignity intact.
This time of year, I also always seem to develop a cold. This year it’s ONLY in my ears. So weird. No other cold symptoms, except the world sounds like I’m listening through cotton balls.
It’s times like this that one starts to crave the familiar and the nostalgic. Tonight, that’s chicken nuggets and french fries.
But have you ever looked at the label of frozen french fries and chicken nuggets? More sodium than you will ever need in one meal…hard to pronounce ingredients…and mystery meat.
(Not that I’m above a bag of frozen french fries when the occasion calls for it. I usually look for this brand. Organic, fewer ingredients, and mostly pronounceable.)
Tonight I adapted this recipe from Skinnytaste for the chicken nuggets. (If you haven’t checked out her site, DO IT NOW! She’s a mom and a nutritionist, so her recipes are kid friendly and actually doable.) The nuggets were a total hit with the four year old and didn’t really take that long or that much effort to make. More effort than opening a bag, but less than a hospital stay due to high blood pressure from excessive sodium.
The fries are something that we’ve been working on for years with varying levels of success. Honestly, my husband is better at them than I am…but he wasn’t home to make them tonight. Mine usually get soggy while his are a little crispier. The basic process is slice potatoes, drizzle in olive oil, season with pepper and garlic powder, bake. And honestly, I’m not willing to put much more effort into oven fries than that…so they are what they are.
(I really need to work on my food photography skills. The “finished product” picture did not look appetizing at all…so I’ll spare you. Also, anyone got a better system for oven fries? Why do mine always turn out soggy when my husband’s, who does the same thing, are crispier?)
Happy Thanksgiving! I know I’m a little late to the game, but *phew* Thanksgiving was a whirlwind around here!
Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving are always parent teacher conferences, which means late nights at school– legit 12 hour days. On top of that, this year I missed both my classes because, yep, I have class on Monday and Tuesday nights. So I had to take a makeup test on Wednesday before we left town for the holiday! We traveled a little farther than normal this year and got to see more family than we usually do. Then it was home to get our real life back on track before it was back to the grind this week.
Reliving that makes me exhausted all over again!
Anywho….the holidays can be a stressful time for those of us who are trying to eat clean and healthy. It seems that everywhere you turn is another high fat, high sugar treat calling your name. So with that: here are five tips to not just survive, but actually enjoy the holidays.
1. Enjoy it— remember that what happens between Christmas and Thanksgiving will have a much larger effect on your health than what happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So my first tip for the holidays is to enjoy that piece of pumpkin pie, have an extra cookie, and drink that eggnog. It only comes once a year.
2. Don’t get hangry– If you are anything like me, when you go too long without eating you get cranky and short tempered. And then when you finally get food in front of you, you overeat to compensate. During the holidays, meal schedules can fly out the window. Cocktails, finger foods, and one gigantic meal in the middle of the day can wreak havoc with your blood sugar. Keep a handy stash of healthy snacks at home or in your car so that you can keep your blood sugar stable and prevent bingeing when you finally get to the party.
3. Choose wisely– What’s your favorite holiday treat? What could you take or leave? If it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without your mom’s sticky buns, have a sticky bun. If you don’t love stuffing (dressing? filling?) but you eat it because it’s tradition- skip it this year. Take an extra serving of the roasted vegetables and just a taste of jello salad. The key here is to pick and choose so that you are making the best choice available at the time but aren’t feeling deprived (see tip 1).
4. Work in a work out– You don’t have to run the turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning. What about starting a new tradition this year: Go ice skating with your family, have a ping pong tournament, or play backyard football. If the family time is getting overwhelming, it’s also a good excuse to go for a solo run to get some alone time.
5. Stress less– Stress does weird things to our bodies. That’s another post for another time, but for now know that it is important to keep holiday stress in check. Online shopping, scheduling down time, not beating yourself up over the store bought pie that you brought to Aunt Millie’s: all these things will help keep your holiday stress down and will help you enjoy the holidays more.
My favorite holiday food is Christmas cookies. I don’t eat cookies for the majority of the rest of the year, but it just wouldn’t feel like the holidays with some Rudolph cutouts with a red-hot for his nose. So this year, I am determined to enjoy the holidays by eating Rudolph’s nose. And now you go enjoy that pumpkin pie.
In theory, October is one of my favorite months of the year. I love the leaves turning (they’ve been particularly spectacular this year), the cooler temperatures, and gearing up for the holidays.
In practice, October kicks my butt. Every.Single.Year. We are usually passing some sort of illness around the family (this year it was LICE. Gag). School is in full swing without a break in sight…just day after day after day. The days are getting shorter, so it doesn’t seem like we have as much time to get stuff done when we get home. And did I mention that, to add insult to injury, October has the nerve to have 31 days? I think we should all petition to have October and February switch places.
So here’s a recap of how my diet survives when life gets busy:
Prepping: Thank God I canned some soups over the summer. When it’s late; or I’m busy; or I haven’t had time to go to the bathroom that day, let alone think about dinner, I can go down to the basement and pull out a jar of my hard work. The Italian sausage is awesome and I have to keep myself from just pulling a jar off the shelf every night. The chicken enchilada…not so much. But it is healthy and nourishing, and like Mom always said: if you’re hungry, you’ll eat it. Right? (But I’m not making it again next year)
Give myself some grace: The world is not going to end if we eat store bought bread for a month. And, for the month of October, I will be better person for it.
Arrange my environment: I try my hardest to only have healthy snacks on hand. When emotions and stress are running high, it would be entirely too easy to reach for a handful of cookies instead of an apple. So by eliminating that choice, I set myself up for success instead of failure.
Disposable is my friend: Crockpot liners. Throw away casserole dishes. Paper plates. The only thing I have to wash is the pan I cooked dinner in. This isn’t a permanent solution…but for the month of October, it will have to do.
*Breathe,* my friends. October is over. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Soon, we will be able to hunker down under our blankets and hibernate the winter away.
Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) lost 100 pounds eating only potatoes.
And not exercising.
And then wrote a book about it.
I read it. I wanted to hate it. I really, really did. And, I did….as an English teacher. Jillette’s writing style is rambly, liberally seasoned with profanity, and aggressive. The book could be about half the length if he stuck to the point but instead he waxes “philosophical” for whole chapters about B list celebrities he knows, stupid stunts he’s pulled in the past, and loosely bound extended metaphors. Eventually at the end of each chapter he tries unsuccessfully to wrap it back around to a point about weight loss and diet. As a memoir, the book has too much of an agenda, as a diet book there is too much memoir. It fails on both fronts.
But about his diet…
To be clear, what Penn Jillette did was NOT eat only potatoes and no exercise. That’s the media bite that will be used to sell the book. Jillette ate nothing but plain potatoes for two weeks and then slowly added back into his diet whole, natural, unprocessed foods.
While I would NEVER advocate that someone only eat plain potatoes for two weeks, I have to admit that I applaud much of what Jillette says it did for him. Primarily, it broke his addiction to sugar, salt, and fat and altered many of his unhealthy eating habits that were just that: habit. Jillette talks about finally being able to taste the real taste of food again at the end of his two week potato fast. He tells an anecdote wherein he talks about the candy like qualities of un-buttered, un-salted corn on the cob (corn is primarily sugar).
My favorite point that Jillette makes is that we have forgotten that sometimes not eating is an option. As an entertainer, Jillette eats out A LOT. So when he radically changed his diet (even after the potatoes) to something that did not resemble the Standard American Diet he faced a conundrum. Compromise and get something close to ok, or don’t eat? Our culture has a spiderweb of unwritten rules and norms surrounding meal times. But we have forgotten that sometimes not eating is a choice.
And about the no exercise thing: While Jillette was on his radically restricted diet, his “guru” told him no exercise. But all the meant was he wasn’t allowed to go to the gym for an hour, or put in a 30 minute workout DVD. He WAS allowed, and even encouraged, to be more active in his daily life. Playing with his kids or going for a walk with his wife were all on the menu, so to speak.
Jillette starts out the book by saying he is a juggler whose only higher education is clown college. He says the book is his story only, and not to be taken as gospel. While I, surprisingly, agree with Jillette’s diet’s main tenants (Get off the Sugar, Salt, Fat and Processed Foods; don’t just exercise but arrange your life to be more active) Jillette admits that he has an extreme personality and needed an extreme diet to help him lose weight. The so called potato diet isn’t for everyone. My main concern is that the sound bite of “Celebrity eats only potatoes, doesn’t exercise, looses 100 pounds” will be all that Joe Public hears and we will soon be seeing a shortage of french fries.
Today was the first day of school. I survived but I.Am.Exhausted. I have to make dinner tonight? I can’t even process that…
Life brings transitions. For many of us, whether we are teachers or simply have school aged kids, it’s the change from the relaxed pace of summer into the busy schedule of a new school year. For other people, it might be a new job, a new home, or new family obligations. It’s easy and tempting to rely on fast food, take out, and high sugar snacks to get us through these times. But in the end, these high fat/calorie/sodium options just leave us feeling more tired, sluggish, and oftentimes guilty. So how do you keep your diet healthy through a busy transition? Here’s my top 6 tips for staying healthy through a time of change:
Plan ahead: If you know the transition is coming (the end of the summer, a start date for a new job) you can make some preparation. The last few weeks of the summer I start making meals that I can easily double. Some casseroles and some soup don’t take much extra time or effort to prepare in larger quantities and freeze beautifully. We’ll eat half of the casserole/soup for dinner and the other half will be saved for a night when I just need to be able to pull something out of the freezer.
Cut down on cleanup: Line casserole dishes with foil. Use paper plates and cups. Buy disposable pans. If you know that most of the mess can be thrown in the trash after dinner is over, the prep work of dinner won’t seem so daunting after a busy day. I’m not advocating this as a permanent solution (think of the polar bears, people!!) but as a temporary fix there’s noting wrong with a little convenience.
Make eating healthy as easy as possible: By setting up your environment to be as healthy as possible, you will have to go out of your way to find unhealthy options (hint: this also is a great all-the-time strategy, not just when life gets busy). Keep a bowl of apples on your counter instead of cookies. Cut up a lemon into wedges and keep it in a bowl in the fridge, then throw the lemons in a glass of water instead of drinking juice or soda. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are more expensive and most of the time cost prohibitive for people on a long term basis, but if you are short on time they can mean the difference between a healthy meal/snack and take out.
Over pack your lunch: If you will be packing your lunch for work, pack more food than you think you will eat. Then, if you get a craving for a snack in the morning or afternoon, you can dip into your lunchbox instead of the vending machine.
Create a system: Speaking of lunches– if you are going to pack, create a system. Have some healthy options to throw in the lunchbox and everyone gets a variation on the theme. Mine goes like this: Sandwich (or leftover dinner from last night, pre portioned as I’m putting away the extra), whole fruit (not fruit in syrup), cheese stick, crackers, veggie (baby carrots, cucumber slices, or celery- usually with hummus). Every night– no thought necessary.
Give yourself some grace: Transitional times are tough but, by nature, they don’t last forever. You will eventually find your new normal. So set yourself up for success, but also give yourself some grace if dinner ends up being oatmeal one night. There are worse things in the world.
So there you have it. Best of luck to all of us in this transitional period.
And what do you think? Is there anything I missed? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.
That’s right. I made cheese at home. Mozzarella, to be exact. We already make our own pizza crust and grow our own herbs and tomatoes, so I was having visions of delicious garden pizzas dancing in my head.
I decided to try my hand at cheese making because THEY said all of the above……. and also because I would be able to control the quality of the milk used in the finished product. If you buy anything organic, you are really supposed to eat organic meat and dairy. The way we go through milk around here, though, organic milk is cost prohibitive for us to drink. I do buy organic milk to make my yogurt, though, and figured I could do the same with the cheese.
I started out by buying these cultures online. The product came with plenty of supplies to make more than one batch of cheese.
I also bought milk from this dairy, which is local to us and sooooo good. But, as all good quality milk is, sooooo expensive.
I found a ceramic pot at the thrift store that I picked up for 2.99. Apparently, anything other than ceramic can interfere with the cheese curdling or give an off flavor to the cheese.
$36 later…I was ready to make mozzarella. This had better be some damn good cheese.
I read through the directions carefully. I heated my milk to the appropriate temperature and added my culture to it. And let it sit. When the timer went off, I cracked the lid to take a peek….and my heart sank. It looked exactly the same as it did ten minutes before. Nothing had changed.
According to the directions, the whey was supposed to rise to the top and the curds sink to the bottom. That was not what mine looked like (should have taken a picture…but it would have just looked like a pot of milk. You can imagine it, I’m sure).
I poked it.
Wait…the the top was solid? The curds were on top and the whey on the bottom? That’s not right…but I guess I’ll go with it.
I cut the curds so they could…curd…some more.
Into the water bath it went to cool for a bit before adding the salt. Hmm…my curds had already set…and the salt wasn’t getting mixed in.
Into the microwave then to relax the curds so I could stretch them to make shiny, glossy mozzarella. But the curds were way too hot to handle and by the time they’d cooled enough to touch, they wouldn’t stretch.
What I ended up with was slightly grainy, slightly bland mozzarella. Whomp Whomp. Since I have all the supplies now (except for milk), I’ll probably give it another go at some point. But I don’t think cheese is going on the regular list. I’ll probably just buy it at the grocery store and save myself $33 next time I want a pizza.
Over the years, I have found myself asking more and more questions like “Who was the first person to…”
“….decide it sounded like a good idea to eat that thing that comes out of a chicken?”
“….see what it would be like if they threw their raw Mastadon steak on the fire?”
“….be brave enough to pick that unknown plant and put it in their mouth?” (For a more comprehensive take on this one, see The Omnivore’s Dilemma)
So in my quest to live and eat a more natural and sustainable life, I have danced around the idea of foraging. The idea makes me nervous (to say the least) though and I haven’t gone anywhere with it.
Enter: our new house and garden. This summer, I have discovered the therapeutic value of weeding. Most prevalent in our garden is this:
I didn’t know what it was, but I did know that it wasn’t in a neat and tidy row planted by the previous owner. Therefore, it must be a weed. Out it comes.
But there was So.Much.Of.It. Every time I turned around, there was another patch. So I started wondering if it could be eaten. No lie, earlier in the summer I remarked to my husband (who was standing outside the garden WATCHING me weed) “I wonder what this is, and I wonder if it is edible?”
This past week, I ran across twoarticles in the same day about this mysterious weed. It was a sign, and now, I had a name for it: Purslane. And apparently, not only is it edible but it is incredibly good for you.
So tonight, I crossed what some would consider a line in the sand. I fed my family a weed.
What is a weed, really, except a plant growing where you don’t want it to grow? Wild rose bushes could be considered weeds if they end up taking over your tomato patch…right? Right??!?
I picked the purslane and trimmed off the stems and leaves that seemed more tender. Since it spreads out across the ground, I washed it really really well. Then I tossed it with some other garden fresh veggies (tomatoes and carrots) and a homemade honey mustard vinaigrette and served it a la side salad with our hamburgers.
Verdict? Delicious. So tender. A great peppery bite to it. Even the three year old picked it out of her salad and ate it….and ignored everything else, as a three year old will do at the dinner table.
I don’t know that I would go foraging for it out of sidewalk cracks where strange dogs may have peed on it. But I will definitely not be throwing it into the compost pile with the rest of the weeds from now on.
It all started with baked oatmeal muffins. Four years ago, I pinned a link to this blog post on one of my very first Pinterest boards (disclaimer, I have since tweaked the recipe for myself and she has since updated the recipe on her site…so they aren’t exactly the same anymore). Then my mom let me borrow her yogurt maker. She eventually bought me one of my VERY, VERY own…so she could have hers back.
Baked Oatmeal Muffins
“Wheat Thin” Crackers
Cheese (yes, cheese…post about that coming soon)
Here are four reasons I spend my free time in the kitchen:
It’s fun– first of all, it’s become my hobby. Some people scrapbook. Some people fish. Some people do…other things (I don’t know, what do people do if they’re not making stuff in the kitchen??) I enjoy discovering new recipes for things that I would normally buy in the store and then tweaking them to fit my family’s tastes. Usually, they end up better than the store bought versions…if I do say so myself.
It’s cheaper– Now, I will admit that this means dollar wise. If you assign a cost to your time, you may not decide the cost is worth it… unless you discover the truth in reason number one. But it really, really is easier on the wallet. A bag of whole wheat flour costs $3.98 at the grocery store. A GOOD loaf of whole wheat bread that doesn’t have a bunch of crap in it costs $3.75. The bag of flour will make six loaves of bread. Even after factoring in the cost of other ingredients, that’s hands down a cost saver. I’m able to spend the savings on more fresh fruits and vegetables…and ice cream.
I got tired of putting things back on the shelf– When I really started reading the ingredient labels on packaged foods at the grocery store, my arm got tired. I was in danger of getting a repetitive motion injury: Pick up the package. Turn it over. Read label. Put it back. Repeat. 95% of the packaged foods that I picked up I would reject because of the length of the ingredient label, or the amount of sugar and sodium, or the number of mystery chemicals. Really and truly, it just eventually became easier to make it myself. The other options were give up on my family’s health or starve.
I’m a control freak– No surprise to those of you who know me in real life, I like to be in control. When a friend asked me why in the world I was going to make my own cheese, my response sounded something like “Because I can control the quality of milk, and I can control where the milk comes from, and I can control the number of additives and, you know…I can CONTROL.” In all seriousness, though, the amount of control over their daily bread that most Americans have given up is scary. This is evidenced in the ever growing list of food recalls (I tried to count the number of food recalls in 2015, but gave up eventually…you can find the list here). I can go visit the cows who produce the milk from which my cheese is made. I can see the conditions they are kept in. I know exactly what is going in my, and my family’s, mouth. I can’t say the same about cheese that comes in plastic wrappers.
So while I know making your own food isn’t for everyone, that’s why I do it…in a nutshell. (Hmmm…I wonder how hard it is to make your own nutbutter?)
Pinvaluate is a feature in which I test out Pinterest health and fitness pins that seem to good to be true. Maybe one of these days I’ll find one that works. Until then…
After a weekend of delicious, delicious camping over the Fourth of July holiday (Hot dogs, and s’mores, and cookies, and candy, and alcohol…oh my), it was time to return to the real world. If I was ever going to do a detox drink, now was the time to do it.
As a disclaimer, I am skeptical of detox drinks in general. They all just seem to fall into the category of “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.” If you have ever had success with a detox drink, please contact me. I’d love to hear your story.
At the end of this post, I’ll give my take on why I think people think they work…but first, my experience:
I first pinned this because it was just too click-baity to pass up. It was only three days. There was nothing in it that was going to kill me…nothing extreme; just apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice.
Apple Cider Vinegar is actually one of the only vinegars that is alkaline in the body instead of acidic. This is one of the purported benefits by those that choke down a tablespoon of it every morning–that it restores the alkalinity of the body. But you know what else helps to restore the alkalinity of your body? Raw leafy greens…go eat some kale. Or collards. Or swiss chard. AND you’ll get the vitamins and minerals that ACV lacks. So while ACV isn’t going to harm you, and may even help you, it falls into the category of “there are better things out there.”
Cayenne pepper is often included in detox drinks because it causes the body to sweat, which some believe leads to detoxification (the same idea behind a sauna). Maybe? I do know that cayenne has other health benefits such as aiding in digestion and being anti-viral.
Lemon is a great source of Vitamin C. So there’s that. It also has some research backing up the idea that it helps slow the digestion of certain foods, leading to better nutrient absorption, which in turn leads to less bloating. But as most people know, lemon juice is very acidic so it can also erode the enamel on your teeth if you drink it regularly.
So while the ingredients don’t fall exactly into the realm of “junk science,” I’m still skeptical about anything advertised as a magic potion.
The process is to drink the concoction 3 times a day for 3 days, preferably before meals. The claim is that the drinker will consume less food over the day while the brew magically whisks away toxins already in the body.
I went into it expecting to gag at the first taste. Honestly, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. A little sour, and it smells like an Easter egg, but definitely palatable.
By halfway through the glass I was sweating from the cayenne. By the end of the glass I was having to plug my nose to get past the vinegar smell. But I did it. The first glass down.
I managed a second glass that evening before dinner.
And then I hit a wall. That evening I felt MORE bloated than normal and my stomach hurt (probably because I drink a lot of water on the regular, so I was adding more liquid to that. Also, I don’t like spicy food so my digestive tract was dealing with an onslaught of cayenne pepper that it’s not used to as well). The next morning, I couldn’t do it. I could not force myself to choke down another glass first thing in the morning.
So I quit…I’m a detox drink quitter.
I can’t really say if THIS detox drink works or not…because I didn’t follow the process through. But here’s why I think people THINK they work:
First, detox drinks are generally pretty low calorie and you are filling your stomach with it multiple times a day. Your stomach muscles have what are called “stretch receptors” in them that send “full” signals to your brain when they are stretched. So if you are stretching it with a low calorie drink, you are consuming less calories over the course of the day, leading to weight loss.
Second, detox drinks usually require you to drink A LOT of liquid over the course of the day which causes you to pee…a lot. Most people are chronically dehydrated and so the body isn’t used to the sudden increase in fluid, leading it to discharge most of it and then some. This leads to water weight loss and a feeling of less bloat.
The danger I see in detox drinks is when the drink supplants the nutrient dense foods you should be eating over the course of the day. This can lead to a whole host of problems. Additionally, if you already drink enough water and add MORE liquid on top of that, you run the risk of a condition called hyponatremia– basically your body has diluted and peed out all the salt in your cells. Sodium is important for cellular function, so hyponatremia can lead to cell shut down.
Bottom line: IF you are going to detox–this one is only three days and doesn’t contain anything crazy. But I still don’t see the point…
(Remember…if you have had success with detoxes, get in contact with me firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your story!!)