What the heck do I eat?!

Like many I am on a continuous journey seeking overall health and wellness. For a “foodie” such as myself that can sometimes be difficult. I love food-especially good food. I love to grocery shop (weird I know), I love to cook and I love to share food and fellowship with others. But I also want to be healthy. So how do I balance that?

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what constitutes good nutrition. Low carb, low fat, juicing, calorie restriction, calorie loading…..it’s enough to make even the best fitness buff question what’s best. But the longer I’m on this journey and try to educate myself, a few common guidelines have emerged to me:

1. Simple is best. Think “closest to natural state,” as in whole fruit, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables and lean meat (if you eat meat). This is a HUGE thing to grasp and fully implement into your daily life, but if you can master it, I truly believe you won’t have to worry about the food/nutritional aspect of wellness. How is that possible? By eating mainly natural foods you will have essentially eliminated processed foods from your diet-aka excess sugar, salt and chemicals. If you are not sure what constitutes a processed food, think in terms of this – any food that has been changed from its original state. That, of course, can vary greatly in terms of how processed a food is. What I suggest is try to keep your food choices to as least processed as possible. Look for few ingredients and be able to understand what they are.

To take it a step further, certified organic is best when considering whole foods. However, not everyone can afford that. So however you shop, always try to keep the concept of, “closest to natural state,” in mind and you will be headed in the right direction.

2. You need variety. There are some people who can live eating the exact same thing all the time. I am not one. I don’t do well on restriction diets and get quite cranky when I’ve tried to sustain myself with just protein shakes, grilled chicken and salad. It’s not pretty. So needless to say my family and I have learned the importance of variety.

I know how easy it is to get into a food rut so let me encourage you to use available resources. I always turn to the internet and my cookbooks when meal planning. Did you hear that? USE those cookbooks you have collected! If you take the time to meal plan as I’ve suggested in earlier posts adding variety won’t be too difficult. Your body and your family will thank you for it.

I realize that all this is a lot easier said than done. We all have our food weaknesses including me. To this day it’s still hard for me to go to the grocery or even a gas station and not walk out with a bag of hot fries or jalapeño chips. As well, life is busy and you think, “I barely have time to cook now so how am I going to take the time to meal plan?” The answer is….practice and persistence.

What we have discussed today is a change in behavior and that rarely comes quickly or easily. But each day at each meal and every time we grocery shop, we have the opportunity to make a healthy choice. Keep these principles in mind and be patient with yourself. Don’t give up completely when you make a mistake, because you WILL make mistakes along the way. Keep making better food choices and you will find the more good food decisions you make, the easier it becomes. I’m right there with you, still learning and struggling so don’t think you are alone. I’ll keep you posted with my progress and what I learn along the way and we can continue to help each other out. I’d love to hear about your journey as well.

Have a great week!

The Mystery that is Food Prep

A lot of people seem to be daunted by the task of food prep. They don’t know where to start or think it’s something only body builders do. I am a firm believer that “food prep” can be defined in many ways and be useful for anyone, whether you be a single person or a busy family.

Any kind of preparation done ahead of time on a weekend will save you time during the week. In my home, this starts with menu planning. In a previous post series (Preparation H..as in Home) I posted the weekly menu planner document I use each week. Not only does this help me pre-plan healthy meals but I also build my grocery list from it. That helps me purchase only what I need for the week. I save money and am less wasteful, which are two things I find very important.

Once home from the grocery, my food prep begins. Depending on what I’ve chosen for the week, this could mean marinating meat for later use, making soup or chili, prepping vegetables by cleaning and chopping, etc. I also pre-pack lunches as much as possible so they are ready to grab and go. The same is true for snacks.

The photo below was taken from food prep last week. I fully assembled lunches, made chili and portioned it out and also made homemade salsa and guacamole to use throughout the week.  I also marinated chicken for different dinner items for use later in the week at dinner time.  Taking time to do these things during the weekend saved me tons of time throughout the week to not only enjoy  my lunch break, but have healthy dinners in 30 minutes or less throughout the week.

Give food prep a try and let me know how it helps you this week.  I’m here if you have any questions or need more tips.  🙂

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Preparation H… as in Home (part 2)

Last week I talked about preparation and how it (or the lack thereof) affects our lives.  I challenged myself and you on the notion of getting up earlier.  I have to admit that it hasn’t gone so well.  This is a real area of struggle for me.  And while I haven’t make the 5:30am club, I haven’t given up.  I will try to do better this week and hope that progression keeps me moving forward in the weeks to come.

I did, however,  manage to at least do well in a few other areas of preparation and that is what I’d like to focus on this week.  One of the biggest time savers during the week for me is meal planning.   There are so many good things about taking the time to meal plan.  I’ve highlighted the main ideas:

1. It can save you money.  Seriously.  By planning out what you are going to have for dinner and even breakfast and lunch each day, you are able to create your grocery shopping list with only what you need.  I have a family of 3 and this works great for us.  I do take special requests of course, but going to the grocery prepared helps me stay on track.  Also, depending on your dietary needs you can also meal plan around what’s on sale each week, which can also be an extra savings boost.

2. It can help you be healthier.  I will probably create an entire post(s) on healthy meal planning because healthy food is one of my passions.  But to start, let me just say that if you take the time to plan healthy meals and have that food readily available, you are typically less likely to cheat or make bad food choices.  It is MUCH easier to stay on track with healthy eating when you are prepared.

3.  It saves you time.  Yes, it takes time up front.  But a few hours or less of meal planning and some food prep will save you tons of time and sanity throughout the week.  How nice would it be to know what you are going to fix for dinner tonight and have the groceries at home ready to go?   There are varying degrees of food prep which I will discuss more at length later, but knowing what you are going to fix for dinner and having everything readily available is a great first step.

This week I challenge you to try meal planning for the next week.  I’ve even attached a handy sheet I created to help you along.  This is a modified meal planning sheet for someone who eats 5-6 small meals a day, but you don’t have to jump all in to start.  Begin with dinner.  Plan your grocery shopping accordingly and go from there.  You’ll enjoy how this small task of preparation pays off in a big way though the week.  Happy planning!

Preparation H…as in Home.

The last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about planning/preparation and how it affects my life.  Too much planning can be not only annoying, but downright unrealistic to achieve.  Too little planning and you’re living in varying degrees of chaos.  If you’re like me, you are constantly looking for that right balance of preparation and the time to execute.  For example, I hate rushing in the mornings.  I hate projecting that rushed feeling on to my family in the mornings too.  I want to start my day with peace and calmness.  Snow White’s animal friends will help me with the morning chores as I glide around being productive before I, my prince, and little one will happily sing and twirl our way out of the house to face the world.  Ok, so maybe that’s too much to ask, but I think it’s realistic to want a smooth, calm morning (or lifestyle for that matter).  So my next few posts will be dedicated to a few ideas that can help make my and your life a little easier. 

Preparation 1 – Get up earlier.   Seems obvious right?  But I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this.  If you are one of those people who can easily wake up at 5 am, all perky and ready to start the day, I hate you.  You’re like those people who can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce.  I want to feed you biscuits.  Your caffeine independence for functional mornings is just not fair.  Clearly, this is an area I need to work on.  I am NOT an early morning person and 6 am is still a struggle for me.  But as much as I hate it, I know getting up earlier would make my morning routine easier. 

What could I do with an extra hour?  Write? Meditate? Work out?  An extra load of laundry?  How would it feel to leave on time, with everything done and in no extra hurry at all?  The times it happens is magical.   

The point is I could do a lot of things if I just do it.  Action.  This is my goal for next week – another small step.