Tag Archives: Feed Your Family Well

Build a Healthy Nutritious Diet

As I mentioned before, changing your eating habits and learning how to build a healthy nutritious diet are really quite simple. I did not say it is easy because the percentage of your diet that falls into “unhealthy foods,” will determine the difficulty you will have in changing. However, once you begin to make the change – a little at a time – you will begin to adjust.

Once you get used to avoiding additive-ladened, processed food, excessive amounts of white flour and processed sugar products, etc., you will feel so good (usually within 30 days) that you will wonder why you waited so long. Having said that, I must warn you that the first 30 days can be challenging.

There is research that supports the theory that processed foods can be addictive due to the additional flavonoids and combination of fat, sugar and salt they contain. As with any addiction, when you stop ingesting the addictive elements, there is withdrawal and you may feel slightly worse before you start to feel better, but not for long.

There will be an improvement in your digestive process, energy level, and weight as a result of eating a properly balanced diet of healthy food. The habit of eating nutritious foods that are as close to nature as possible will soon feel completely normal and become second nature.

Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”18″ size_format=”px” color=”#cc0213″]9 Tips to Help Make and Sustain a Change in Eating Habits[/typography]

  • Take Your Time – Take it slow. Do not get caught in the trap of thinking that you have to change overnight. The only exception to this is if you are ill or have a serious health condition right now. if you have heart disease, diabetes, or any other major illnesses, you may want to consider “going cold turkey” – with approval of your doctor, of course. But, if you are not in imminent danger, you can take it more slowly. A good approach is to focus on changing one bad habit a week, which makes the change more manageable and tolerable. You will slowly begin to feel better as the weeks pass by. Be patient. You developed the bad habits over a lifetime, it will take some time to build new habits and reap the rewards.
  • Keep the Process Simple – Do not make food preparation complicated.  Anyone can learn to make healthy, delicious meals. You do not have to be a trained chef. The only requirement is the desire and commitment to eating well. Keep in mind that most family cooks typically rotate 12 to 14 meals throughout the year, which makes your job easy. All you need are recipes for 12 to 14 nutritious meals that you and your family enjoy (with a few variations) and you are set.
  • Eat Nature’s Rainbow of Food – Green and yellow vegetables and fruits. When these are eaten in abundance on a daily basis, you will consume more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than when eating any other food group – AND – you will have more energy. In fact, when you eat them fresh (preferably organic), raw or cooked, you can eat unlimited amounts – especially vegetables. You have to be a little more careful with fruits because of the high sugar content.
  • Eat Healthy Carbs and Whole Grains –These should be incorporated into your diet every single day. Avoid white flour products all together. Breakfast is perfect for implementing this tip. A big bowl of steel cut oats with fruit, nuts, and some almond milk is super nutritious and healthy. You’ll feel better all day long. Your digestion will improve, it will get your metabolism hopping, and junk food cravings will begin to diminish.
  • Eat Nuts – These should be eaten every day. Put them in everything from breakfast cereal, to salads, entrees, and desserts – or use them as a delicious, nutritious snack. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study that showed people who ate a handful of mixed nuts on a daily basis were 20% less likely to die from heart disease, cancer or other ailments. Certified nutritionist and dietician Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., agrees that nuts are crucial for a healthy diet, especially for people over 50. They are a great natural source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. The consensus seems to be that both almonds and walnuts are right at the top of the list as the healthiest nuts, but they are all good. So along with the top two, eat any nut that you enjoy and live longer. Raw is the best choice, but if you do not like the taste, go for dry roasted and unsalted – but the bottom line is – any kind, any style is better than no nuts at all.
  • Eat When Hungry and ONLY When Hungry – If you eat when your body tells you to eat (in moderation) – and stop when you are full, you will be much healthier. One of the biggest challenges for people who are trying to lose weight is that they starve themselves and then binge eat on the highest calorie foods within their reach – which usually means some combination of fat, sugar, and salt.  So, even when dieting – EAT when you get hungry, stay with natural foods, in moderation, and stop when you are full.
  • Plan Your Meals Ahead – When you plan your meals (and snacks) ahead of time, you will eat better. It is best to plan for a week at a time so that you buy only the foods you want (and should) eat to get the necessary nutrients to stay healthy. AND . . . always shop with a list that guides your purchases – no impulse buying allowed! If you don’t plan and shop well, I promise you will end up with a basketful of unhealthy food and/or in the drive-through very quickly. Hunger and exhaustion trigger a natural instinct to “stuff your face” with empty-calorie convenience foods. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. The reality is that you must eat, so be prepared to eat well and be healthy. There are studies that support the theory that the high-calorie count of fast food alone is only part of the problem. The hunger that often appears rather quickly (within an hour or two) after a 2000-calorie fast food dinner is the result of eating empty calories – in other words, there is a lack of nutrients to feed your body.
  • Drink Fresh Filtered Tap Water – In addition to being more environmentally friendly, tap water is a better choice than bottled water. It is always available, can be easily filtered for contaminants, and will save you a lot of money. Unless it has been determined that there is something wrong with your water supply, there is no guarantee that bottled water is cleaner or healthier than tap water. In some cases tap water tests better than bottled water. (Unfortunately, the bottled water industry is not as regulated as you may think.) If you choose to make this switch, be sure to invest in a charcoal filter for your tap. This will ensure the elimination of any contaminants that may get into the system and it will also improve the taste – especially if you live in a large metropolitan area like Phoenix, AZ, where the taste is not pleasant.
  • MOVE Your Body – Obviously this has nothing to do with nutrition, but it has everything to do with health and well-being. You will find that as you begin eating better, your energy level will rise – and incorporating some type of exercise regimen into your life will become easier. Regular exercise not only burns energy, it increases your metabolism, which, in turn, helps with weight control. High-intensity exercise will deliver a bigger, longer increase in resting metabolic rate than low- or moderate-intensity workouts. To get the benefits, try a more intense class at the gym or include short bursts of jogging during your regular walk (If your health allows). Do what you can do and find a way to MOVE your body each day. Set a goal to exercise (or move) for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single 30-minute walk, or three 10-minute walks – just do it.

Making the necessary changes to create a new lifestyle can be overwhelming, but using these tips can help jump-start the process. The goal is to slowly build new habits so they can take root and be sustained over the long haul.

A good place to start may be with breakfast. Let go of destructive habits like gobbling down a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast – or skipping breakfast all together and grabbing a sugar and fat-ladened latte on your way to work.  Focus on making different, more nutritious choices for breakfast that will lead to better health. Once you have breakfast under control – move on to your morning snack and lunch – and finally dinner. Take it one step at a time.

Join us again for the next post in the series to learn more about the relationship between nutrition and your health. 

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A Healthy Pantry

 A healthy pantry is a necessity for good health.  As one of my favorite children’s book characters, Fancy Nancy says, “Pantry is a fancy word for cupboard.” Regardless of what you call it, it should always be well-stocked with tasty, healthy foods.

Image by shaiith

Below is my personal list of what should be in a healthy pantry (cupboard)

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – This is one of the best sources of healthy fat. Always buy high quality oil – do not cut corners on this.
  • Coconut Oil Even though this is a saturated fat, it is a type of saturated fat call lauric acid which can help improve your HDL “good” cholesterol. It is my second favorite oil and especially good with vegetables. It can be used in baking cakes and cookies, as well, (unlike olive oil).
  • Vinegars – Many people do not realize the value of vinegar as a flavor enhancer – and adds NO calories. You should have a nice variety of vinegars in your pantry. I have regular white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, and white wine vinegar in my cupboard.

A little cooking trick – try sprinkling a teaspoon of white vinegar over the apples in your next apple pie – delicious!

  • Avocados I call this the wonder fruit (yes, it is a fruit). If you eat them every day you can keep them on the counter – they do not have to be refrigerated. I use them in everything – especially salads and on sandwiches; and I throw them in smoothies. Of course, there is the ever-popular guacamole that can be used as a topping for so many dishes –  enchiladas, tacos, nachos, baked potatoes, etc.

The health benefits go on and on. In fact, studies have shown that certain nutrients are absorbed better when eaten with avocado. For example – eating a salad with avocados will increase the amount of carotenoids absorbed 5 X’s more than those absorbed when the salads do not include avocados.

  • Tomatoes Tomatoes are a staple food in a well-stocked healthy kitchen. I recommend the vine-ripened which are much more flavorful than the standard grocery store variety. Organic tomatoes are preferred if you can find them.
  • Onions and Garlic – Two other staples that I cannot live without. They go well with nearly every type of meat and vegetable dish.
  • Flour – Use 100% whole wheat flour as your primary flour, but suggest ½ and ½ for cookies and cakes.
  • Lemons and Limes Two more low-calorie flavor enhancers. You can use both the juice and the zest (grated peeling – just be sure to scrub well before zesting).
  • Cocoa Powder – One of the healthiest dessert ingredients available is organic, raw cocoa powder. It is loaded with antioxidants and high in fiber – great for baking and dessert making.  My recommendation is Navitas Naturals.
  • Legumes – Legumes is a class of vegetables that includes beans, black-eyed peas and lentils. Legumes are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Beans in particular are also one of the least expensive sources of high-quality protein. Learn to cook with all kinds and keep your pantry well-stocked with this important food group.  For quick use, buy salt-free canned versions.
  • Nuts and Seeds – Munching a handful of nuts a day is a good step toward better health and staying fit. It is highly likely that you have seen numerous articles about the value of nuts in your diet, and they are all true. They are energy-rich, packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Raw nuts are best. If you do not like the flavor of raw nuts, the next best choice is dry-roasted and unsalted; but, any kind of nut will do. BTW – don’t forget seeds, coconut and quinoa (which I just recently discovered – it is wonderful).

Nuts are the perfect snack food; they are tasty in salads, and they add texture and flavor to homemade cookies and muffins.

It is time to begin. Commit to a healthier diet for you and your family. Take the first step right now (if you haven’t already taken it) and clean out your kitchen. Start fresh. Good health is well-worth the effort!

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”12″ size_format=”px”]Copyright © 2014 Blurtigo Holdings, LLC All Rights Reserved.[/typography]

Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Foods

Healthy FoodsIt is vitally important to stock your kitchen with healthy foods. When your kitchen is filled with pre-packaged mixes and meals, unhealthy snacks and an unlimited supply of foods filled with empty calories, you are basically sabotaging any attempts you may make at healthier eating.

Unhealthy Foods
Image by HoneyBunnhy

In order to develop and sustain better eating habits, you must have a kitchen stocked with good quality, healthy food. So, the first step may be to take inventory of your food supply and eliminate all the foods that contribute to poor eating habits. OUCH!

Step One

That could be a scary process for some – depending on the amount of unhealthy food that has collected on your pantry shelves and in your refrigerator.  BUT . . . you have to start somewhere. So, removing all the foods that take you down the path of poor eating habits is the first step.

When you are hungry and look through the cabinets for something to eat, if are like me, you eat whatever is available. Keeping cookies in the pantry or ice cream in the freezer is simply too tempting, I can almost guarantee that you will eat them – eventually. If you want to stop eating unhealthy foods, you simply must not keep them around. If they are not readily available in your kitchen, you no longer have to make the choice of eating them, or not.

Step Two

Once your pantry and refrigerator are clean, the next step is to pay attention to how you shop. The act of resisting temptation starts when you are in the grocery store. Avoiding the temptation to buy foods that you know you don’t want to eat (or should not eat) is the first step toward changing your eating habits.

Before we discuss how to stock a healthier kitchen, let’s deal with some of the false beliefs, which may be preventing you from eating better.

  • “I can’t throw away all that food. I will use what I have first and then replace it with better choices.” 

    This is a ridiculous statement! As long as you tell yourself such hogwash, you will NOT change your eating habits for the better.  There are alternative choices to eating or throwing away the unwanted (bad) food in your kitchen.

You can donate canned goods, boxes of pasta, and other packaged goods to the local food bank. There is no reason to throw away usable foods when someone else can use them. Check the dates and make sure the packaging is sealed. The only things you should throw away are items like a half eaten carton of ice cream or open packages of cookies – simply drop them in the garbage, forget them, and don’t buy any more.

  • “Eating healthy is too expensive”

    If you plan well and shop wisely, you will actually save money. Become a smart shopper, use a list, and buy only what you know you will use so that you do not end up throwing away spoiled food.  Frozen fruits and vegetables are viable options to use in place of fresh produce on occasion (but do not do this all the time).

When whole grain bread is on sale, buy several loaves and freeze them immediately until needed. When thawed, you will never know the difference.

Start buying lean meats, chicken, and pork from a good butcher shop that sells quality, fresh meat (preferably grain-fed beef).  Buy in quantities when on sale, divide it into appropriate serving portions for your family and freeze immediately until needed.

Word of caution – always date foods you put in your freezer, rotate them, and use them within three months.

Learn to “Cook Ahead” and freeze meals so that you know the foods you are serving are made with healthy ingredients and are better for your family’s health. (Check out my book, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table for more information on freezing foods and meals.)

  • “My kids won’t eat healthy foods”

    If you have been serving high-fat foods filled with empty calories, the change will take some effort. Long-term eating habits can be difficult to change, but not impossible.

It will take some focused effort (and persistence) on your part, but you can do it if you believe it is important enough. The natural sweetness of nuts, fruits, and some vegetables as discussed in a previous post can lower the desire for high calorie sugary snacks. You can also begin to lower the calorie content by making their favorite meals with low fat milk and other substitutions – the change in taste will probably go unnoticed.

If you have never introduced healthy foods to them, they have never had the chance to develop a taste for them. It is never too late to help them (and you) discover the natural flavors of really good food.

Your family will snack on whatever is available – especially after school or a hard day at work.  What’s in your kitchen?