Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, physical health

Follow-up to the dinner post

Last week, I answered a reader question about dinner. Planning. Dealing with busy evenings. Dealing with low energy.

When I posted it to social media, I asked what others do for quick, easy meals. Here’s what people shared:

  • breakfast for dinner
  • We just had make your own taco night. Fry’s has great vegetarian already-seasoned meat crumbles you literally just put in a skillet and heat up for about 5-8 minutes. I cut up the black olives while it is heating and put out all the toppings and tacos/tortillas. The girls love this and it is so easy and quick! We also heat up black beans for those who may want them as well.
  • pizza on flour tortillas baked in the oven

Great ideas!

Posted in food, mindset, physical health

Tasty, healthy food

The Kid was helping me prepare dinner the other night. He was chopping tomatoes; I was chopping onions. We were talking about upcoming Thursday night’s dinner.

“Swiss chard is so good. And it’s healthy! Which makes it perfect!”

“Did you know there are people who think that healthy food can’t be tasty?”

“WHAT?! Well, they should try Swiss chard … And I bet they’ve never heard of tomatoes. Just hamburgers and carrots. I’m not really a fan of raw carrots.”

I had a good chuckle at many aspects of that, including anyone on a fast food-based diet being offered chard as an introduction to tasty, healthy food.

To switch the mindset to enjoying healthy food, there are a few potential considerations.

Part is finding foods or meals that are close enough to what you’re used to that you don’t reject them before you’ve tried them (or being open to “weird” foods … but most people find it easier to try familiar-ish foods first).

Part is letting your taste buds acclimate to the taste of unprocessed food. (Junk food—sweet or not—tastes different when you haven’t had it for a long time. Much of it will become undesirable over time.)

Part is not believing that any “healthy replacement” is actually going to taste like what it’s a substitute for. It’s not. It doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not good. I’ve had some amazing burgers made out of all sorts of not-meaty things. But they’re not burgers.

And part is believing that food can be healthy and tasty, that eating well is not a drag or a punishment. Occasionally, I really want crap and I eat well instead, and I’m not excited about it, but our daily meals? They’re tasty. I enjoy eating them, for the most part. And they’re healthy.

You can get there, too. Takes time, takes effort, but it’s possible.

Just ask The Kid.

Oh, and the chard recipe? It’s here. We add the equivalent of a can of chickpeas for bulk and protein and are more generous with the parm; we serve it over rice. For three of us, I double it. And it’s delicious.

And if you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you should make your chickpeas instead of buying canned. They’re substantially better. (You don’t need a pressure cooker, but you can make them with little notice in one.)

Posted in follow-up, food, tips

Answering follow-up—3

Question from a reader:

What are some of your go to meals when you don’t feel like or have time to make dinner? I assume you plan out your menu for the week in advance?

First, yes, we plan meals for the week, make a shopping list off of that plan, and shop from the list.

There are a few meals that the recipe makes way more than we’ll eat in a few days, so we’ll freeze half for later.

Others, we can double for the same purpose.

We have a few ready-made things from Trader Joe’s in the freezer for nights when it’s just not gonna happen for whatever reason, including “we tried a new recipe and it’s really not good at all.”

(New recipes are judged on the following four-point scale: Tasty! Make it again!; Don’t need to make it again, but will eat the meal and the leftovers; Don’t need to make it again, and will eat the meal but not the leftovers; What’s Plan B, ’cause we’re not eating the meal or the leftovers.)

When we plan meals, we also look at the calendar so we don’t plan something that needs to cook for an hour on a night when we have things going on until 7 and won’t get started until 7:15 or later.

Crock pot meals are good for those nights.

Meals with a lot of leftovers are better earlier in the week because: leftovers.

I’ve seen a lot of “prep 8 zillion meals in two hours!” types of pins on Pinterest, where a large grocery run, an afternoon of prep, and a box of Ziplock bags makes a couple of weeks’ worth of crock pot meals in the freezer. Most of them are meat-based which doesn’t work for me, so I haven’t tried them, but those might be worth looking at.

I started a spreadsheet of recipes we like a lot, divided by ingredients (produce, beans/nuts/grains, dairy, spices, etc.), so I can easily see what we need (instead of looking up each recipe). As time goes on, I’m adding other things to it. Streamlines the process a little. Also helps to find recipes that use up ingredients I have.

Readers, what are your go-to prep-at-home suggestions for nights that are busy, or the end of a day that’s exhausting?

Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, know better do better, tips

Answering follow-up—2

Question from a reader:

When I am angry or stressed, I usually give in to fast food, or chocolate. It is like a self-loathing thing. I don’t know how to explain it. I know you said to make a plan for each emotion, but what does that look like? When I feel happy, I will take the time to make a big salad. When I feel sad, I will write in my journal, rather than jump in my car and go through a drive-thru lane?

First, you don’t need to explain emotional eating. I get it. I’m not sure I can explain it, either, but I get it.

The goal, really, is to disconnect feeling from eating.

So when I’m happy, I’ll share it with friends, or do a happy dance, or write in my journal, or just go about my day feeling good.

Sad, for me, is much harder, because sad doesn’t feel good and we don’t like not feeling good, and we’re using food to try to fix it. (There are chemical reactions involved that make junk food a legitimate brain-chemical short-term fix, much the same as illicit drugs, which just complicates matters further.)

So writing in a journal is a good plan.

My go-to, if I can, is to move. Walk. Run. Lift. Climb. Whatever. Get out of the house or the office, get muscles engaged, get heart rate up, and burn it off. This also has physiological brain chemical effects that help you help yourself.

Some of my best climbing days have been when I’m angry. There have been days when I’ve run up and down bleachers in tears and just kept running until I burned it all off.

If I can’t do that, then writing works pretty well for me.

But I also know some people who do crafty things when they’re needing to work through emotions: play instruments, knit/sew/crochet, make pottery, draw.

Coloring is good sometimes. (I find a kid coloring book and crayons to be more effective in these cases than adults books and pencils. The adult books are so intricate that they require, for me, a little too much thinking for when I’m down. Good for relaxing, oddly, but not for emotional regulation.)

Meditation is good, from what I understand. I’m at the very beginning stages of learning how to do this, so I can’t speak from personal experience.

Maybe listening to music? Or reading? I don’t like to read in those times, because I can’t focus, but maybe you can. Watch TV? Or a TED talk? Or cat videos?

Laughing is good in those times, but it’s hard to come by.

Hopefully something in there resonates for you to try! Good luck!

Posted in food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

New year detox?

A Facebook friend asked her online universe why cleanses and detoxes are so popular.

My opinion?

They’re popular because people believe they can trash their bodies for days/weeks/months/years and then “detox” for 2-5 days and call it even. It’s justification, and it lets people do what they want without feeling guilty because they “fix it.”

The best way to keep your body in good working order is to fuel it well on a regular basis. Perfect every day? Nah. But mostly great stuff most days. Minimal not great stuff most days.

We have built-in systems for cleaning out crap. The problem is when we overload the systems on a regular basis.

The more problems your body has, the stricter you’ll need to be for it to be happy (or happier).

Allergies typically require a modified diet (though when eczema or something similar is the consequence, many will use creams instead of diet to manage it).

Autoimmune disorders (which I would argue are a more severe case of allergies) have low or no tolerance for added sugars, fried foods, processed foods, alcohol.

Diabetes (regardless of type) requires dietary maintenance, and if you don’t do it, you’re going to have severe problems (immediately, down the road, or both).

The list goes on and on, but illnesses that we weren’t born with have some link to diet; some can be blamed entirely on diet. (And some that develop in utero can be blamed on mom’s diet. And now, we’re learning, grandma’s diet.)

What we eat and drink is really important. REALLY important. But because the side effects are gradual, because we’re “all” tired and a little (or more) overweight, because we’re “all” a little achy, we assume that’s just how it goes, but it’s not.

A detox doesn’t fix it.

Eat well. Drink well. Your body will thank you. It’s the only one you get. Treat it well.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness

Accountability to self

Who are you doing it for?

Are you doing it to better yourself? (In what way? Why?)

Are you just trying to impress people?

When you eat junk hiding in the bathroom, or tell your people you went to the gym when you didn’t, or pretend you ran faster than you did… why?

There are a lot of things I’d like to do every day. Even with time off, I’m not doing all (or even most) of these things every day.

So I decided to make a chart. It’s on my dresser and tracks a week at a time. About me. For me.

On it, there are all of the self-care things that I need to do every day and all of the things that in theory I would do every day but realistically don’t have time for. But I could do all of them a couple of times per week.

Exercise. Stretch. Foam roll. Meditate. Work on my book. Spend time with friends. Eat produce every color of the rainbow. Sleep. (Enough.) Put stuff on the stupid plantar wart.

This just helps me to monitor, and to keep things a little more in the forefront of my mind.

There are a lot of things on there. I decided before I made it that it’s not a daily to-do list; that would just be stressful. More of a “how am I doing this week?” list.

Things change when you monitor them, and I believe this will spur change for the better. We’ll see.

I also have sweets and caffeine on there, just to keep track of my intake of those. Many (not all) of the teas I drink in the cold mornings are caffeinated, and I don’t have much issue with that. But if I have too much or drink it too consistently, then I get a withdrawal migraine when I stop. And I don’t want to drink enough caffeine to go into withdrawal.

Sweets is just to make sure that what I think I’m doing and what I’m actually doing match, and it includes all of ’em. Even if I just take a Peppermint Patty out of the candy jar at work. (Oddly, those have been tempting. No other candy is. Though I’m typically only at that school during my fasting period nowadays anyway, so it’s irrelevant.)

Nuts and bolts for copycats: I made the list, organized it, wrote it on a sheet of white-lined paper, and put it in a picture frame. You can write on/wipe off dry erase markers on glass. It’s so much nicer looking and uses less plastic.

Posted in food, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

Setting boundaries with eating

I am not the only one who has changed eating habits, only to be met with this specific piece of resistance from others:

“But it’s [a special occasion]!”

A few problems with this mindset.

First, there are so many special occasions. The bigger your celebrating circle, the more occasions there are.

(I framed it as a “celebrating circle” because you can have a big family or circle of friends but few or none in that circle who do much for various occasions, or a small but very reason-to-eat circle.)

There are holidays. There are birthdays. There are sporting events. There are weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, bat/bar mitzvahs. There are graduations, promotions, new jobs.

If you take a calendar and mark on it every one of these events that is going to include food, I bet you have dozens. And remember that some of these things linger. For example: how many Christmas-related events did you go to? How many nights of Hanukkah do you celebrate? How many birthday parties does each kid have? (A family party and a friends party?)

In my making resolutions post, I indicated that making your goals more like plans and less like hopes leads to better results.

“I am going to cut dessert down to once a month and go to the gym three times each week” instead of “I’m going to lose weight.”

Be on the lookout for “obligatory” special occasions. Have a plan. Decide ahead of time which ones are worth it in the long-term. If you can, and if your people are able to be supportive (we’re not all there yet…), let them know ahead of time what your plan is so they can help support you.

And if you take a bite of cake and it’s just not that good—you don’t have to eat it. No really, you don’t.

One more thing. If you’re at one of these events, and you decided ahead of time that you are not going to partake of the junk food, and there’s something there that looks amazing—DON’T TRY IT. Unless you’re a stronger person than I, and can taste it, learn that yes, it is indeed amazing, and then not eat any more. (That’s not in my skill set.)

 

Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, parenting, tips

Answering follow-up—1

I had an e-conversation in response to a few ideas I’ve put out here and, with permission, am sharing bits with you. (Also, as I’m revisiting our conversation, I’m thinking of other things, so there will be a little more here than there was privately.)

Hey Heather, I’ve been enjoying your blog…Pregnancy is kind of like my time to go overboard on sweets. Now that baby is home, the donuts everyday has chilled out. I’m working on getting back on track. However, cutting sugar from my family’s life is one of my priorities this next year. I feel I have really started/developed some bad habits for my oldest daughter. I’m going to try to do one little change a month. January – no more Starbucks (this often includes chocolate milk for my kid or a cake pop). February – no more soda when we eat out (we don’t keep soda in the house), etc… However, what I am struggling with is my daughter’s breakfast and snacks. Right now she has an eggo waffle in the morning with chocolate syrup on it. She won’t eat it unless it has the chocolate syrup. Plain yogurt, she sees my husband put honey on it, and she wants honey, too. How do I “gently” change the breakfast routine so 1) we do something healthier than a processed waffle, and 2) cut the syrup off? I know you had mentioned in a previous post that The Kid does some type of frozen fruit popsicle? How do you make that, freeze a smoothie in a popsicle tray?

First, the one change a month plan is awesome! It’s long enough for each thing to be able to become part of the routine. It’s specific—there’s no ambiguity. I also think that the “no Starbucks” plan is better than “no sweets at Starbucks” which could include plain tea or coffee for Mama but is going to eliminate everything for the child. That would get a lot more pushback than just skipping that stop altogether.

Something you could do is save money in a jar (if you typically pay in cash) or keep track of it (if you pay by card) and at the end of the month, do a fun little family thing with it. Depending on how often you go and how much you usually get, this may be a little thing or a big thing. But as the year continues on and they all compound, it would be more and more (until at some point, there is no more “we avoided Starbucks today” because it’s not on your radar any more).

Or use it to buy new healthy foods that you might not otherwise try. There are all sorts of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables available.

As far as breakfast … I hate breakfast. For me. For The Kid. It’s just a pain. This might be because we’re night people living in a morning person world.

For a while, his preferred breakfast was plain yogurt with added frozen fruit, usually blueberries. As the weather got cooler, he’d ask for the blueberries to be defrosted first. And then he just didn’t want yogurt any more at all.

He’s been eating toaster waffles for the last few months. For a few weeks, it was with maple syrup, but we switched that to blueberries. I defrost them, mash them a little (we learned quickly that unmashed blueberries roll off of waffles), and spread them on his waffles, and he’s happy.

With us on break, I took the time to make steel-cut oats. The texture of steel cut is superior to rolled. (There is no nutritional difference, assuming plain in both cases.) I added frozen fruit, and he’s happy. I will see if I can remember to start the water when I wake up (instead of when I’m actually ready to go in the kitchen), and then this will be breakfast once school starts again.

Yes, you can make steel cut in the slow cooker overnight but not just one serving. And reheated oatmeal is not delicious.

I really like frozen fruit in fresh oatmeal. The hot oatmeal thaws the fruit; the cold fruit cools the hot oatmeal. It’s ready to eat right away.

As for the honey…

Monkey see, monkey do. They could try plain yogurt with fruit together…

Popsicles: I have popsicle molds. We usually use banana and one other fruit (sometimes two), make a smoothie, and freeze it in the molds. No juice. No sweeteners. Just fruit, and a little water if needed to get it to blend. When it’s warmer out, he’s amenable to smoothies for breakfast as well, but it’s really more work than I want to do in the morning. (The oatmeal is going to push my limits.) But he loves breakfast popsicles.

Snacks: he has cherry tomatoes, apples, bananas, dried mango, plantain chips, almonds, cashews, peanuts all available and within reach. He can have any of them pretty much whenever he wants. There are other things that will be his Favorite Thing for a short time and they’ll rotate in and out. Occasionally he likes Babybel cheeses, or string cheese. Every now and then, we’ll mash an avocado, add salsa to it, and eat that with chips.

If you have questions, you can always contact me. I don’t post anyone else’s story or question or whatnot here without permission.

Posted in food, know better do better, motivation, thoughtfulness

Mindless snacking

I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (IF). That’s not what this post is about, but it’s directly relevant.

I eat all of my food for most days in a roughly 8-hour window, starting in the early afternoon.

I’m home on break.

I’m suddenly very aware of how often I wander into the kitchen looking for a snack. Or how much I pick on what I’m preparing. Because I “can’t” do it now. (More on “can’t” another day.)

I made oatmeal for the others for breakfast today. I didn’t pick off a few of any of the toppings I was adding to either. (Diced frozen mango for The Kid; dates, raisins, slivered almonds for The Climbing Daddy.)

When The Kid didn’t finish his, I didn’t finish it.

When I was chopping apple rings for another recipe for later today, I didn’t eat any of them.

Without IF, I would have eaten all of those things.

If you’re spending time in your house, make note of how much you’re wandering into the kitchen because you’re bored. Or procrastinating. Or any other reason that isn’t “hungry.”

Posted in food, mindset, physical health, tips

Throw it away—it’s not really food

(If you haven’t read The disclaimer post, or need a refresher, please read it here before proceeding. Thanks!)

We went to a cookie decorating party.

We hosted a Christmas Eve Eve party with sweets provided and sweets brought by guests.

We had family dinner and dessert with both daddies on Christmas Eve.

We had family brunch and dessert with the three of us Christmas Day.

The day after Christmas was wonky and we weren’t home much, and when we were home, we weren’t eating. *whew*

By today, December 27, we’re getting back into more normal health habits.

This morning, this conversation happened:

Kid: Can I have a cookie when I’m done my breakfast?

Me: No. There aren’t any.

Kid: Who ate them all?

Me: No one. I threw them away. We’ve had enough cookies.

Kid: OK.

Now, because we have a culture of healthy food in our house, it wasn’t a big deal when there weren’t any more cookies.

The holiday is over. The sweets were fun. We enjoyed making them. We enjoyed sharing them. We enjoyed eating them. But we don’t need to eat all of them. Last night, I threw the rest of the leftovers away.

It’s not wasting food, because it’s not really food.

If you’re worried about wasting food, dig the fruit and veggies out of the fridge and eat them before they rot. Or the leftovers from recent dinners gone by. Or the unmarked parcels in your freezer.

Cookies? Cake? Ice cream? Brownies? Pie? Whipped cream? Carmel corn? Chocolate? Candy?

Pitch it.

(The best stuff got eaten already anyway…)