Fiber–A Simple Strategy

Making healthy choices can be difficult and confusing.  I talk with people each day about strategies for leading healthier lives.  Many are making a sincere effort to make positive changes, but they are not sure if the approach they are taking will work long term.  Whether someone is looking to lose weight, manage diabetes, lower cholesterol or simply stay healthy long term, I’ve found one simple strategy that can help.  I am not claiming that this will lead to a huge weight loss or guarantee blood glucose control or very low cholesterol, but there is substantial research to support the benefit of this substance.

What am I referring to? Fiber

Why Fiber?  It is elegant.  Fiber is found in food that comes from plants.  It is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest.  Hence, it does not get digested into glucose nor does it provide any calories.  But, it provides several other benefits.

There are actually two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble

Soluble fiber dissolves in water.  It helps slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream from the digestive tract (helping keep blood glucose down).  It also binds to LDL (bad) cholesterol, lowering its concentration in the body.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water.  But, it helps keep food and, eventually, waste moving through your digestive tract smoothly, which may help you lower risk of colon cancer long term.

Good sources of soluble fiber include: beans (legumes), whole grains (such as oats), lentils, apples, blueberries, and more.

Good sources of insoluble fiber include: whole wheat products, brown rice, legumes, vegetables, and more.

These foods also have many other nutrients, including: vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and antioxidants that have been shown to lower risk of disease.

Foods that contain little to no fiber, include meats, cheeses, most fast food, processed carbohydrates, juices, chips, and candies.   These are also the foods that we tend to recommend you limit.

Most experts recommend that we eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day.  Sadly, most Americans fall far short of that threshold, only eating about 14 grams of fiber a day.

But, if we aimed for reaching at least 25 grams of fiber a day, we would be consuming more fruits and vegetables, more legumes, more nuts and seeds, and more whole grains.  These higher fiber foods would displace more processed foods and foods that are higher in fat, particularly saturated fat.  We would eat more vitamins and minerals.  We would eat less calories.  We would get more antioxidants.  We would eat more sodium and less potassium.  We would get a lot more bang for our buck!

So, if you are looking for a simple way to better health, count your intake of fiber.  It is an uncomplicated approach to wellness.

agriculture, basket, beets

Cleaning Out and Inventory: Essential to Meal Planning

I spend a lot of time coaching people to help them make more healthy eating decisions on a regular basis.  Most people have a basic grasp on how to eat healthfully.  But, when I delve into their daily habits, I begin to understand the disconnect between their health knowledge and their actual behaviors.  Often, the problem lies in the lack of planning and limited time.  Many of us lead very busy lives: kids’ activities, tough work schedules, caring for others…you name it.  But, as I tell my clients, some simple small changes, done consistently, can really help transform your habits.

One of the most basic habits I recommend adopting in order to consistently plan and make healthy meals is to clean out and organize your fridge, pantry, and freezer on a regular basis.  The pantry and freezer do not necessitate a clean out as frequently as the refrigerator, but all must be inventoried regularly.  I recommend cleaning out the fridge weekly and cleaning out the freezer and pantry every 2-4 weeks.

Why is this step so essential?

  • It helps you see what foods/ingredients you already have
  • It helps you not to waste as much food
  • It helps keep everything clean and organized

When cleaning the fridge, you should purge anything that has gone bad.  I like to wipe the shelves with a clean, warm dish cloth, as I go.  I rearrange the items to make sure the maximum number of containers are visible.  I’ll place taller items towards the back and shorter ones toward the front. After the dirty work is done, I take note of items that need to be used in the near future.  I do my best to integrate those items into the meal plan or alert other family members to be sure to eat them that week.

The freezer is a little more involved.  I find it best to remove most items to assess what you have.  Obviously, you should move quickly to insure nothing melts.  But, this is the best way to see it all.  Once you know what you have, place the items back in your freezer in a logical manner.  For example, place all veggies in one area, stack boxes or containers with labels facing in the same direction, so you can easily read them.  Trash anything that has been in the freezer too long.  Again, take note of foods that should be integrated into meals in the near future.

The process of cleaning and organizing the pantry is similar to that for the freezer.  I recommend removing all items from the pantry to start.  I dump anything that has gone bad.  And, I make a note of foods that I have and ones that should be used soon.  Next, I organize based on category–for example, all canned beans in one section, breakfast cereals in another, and drinks (coffee, tea, etc.) in yet another.  Once the items are organized, they can be placed back into the pantry with taller, bulkier items in the back and smaller shorter items in the front.

A lot of this advice may seem logical, but the key is actually making it happen.  It is not the most exciting task, but it can really help you stay organized and on task with your health goals, as well as help you to save money!  So, start that Netflix show you love to binge watch, and dive in.

Cook-a-polooza Jan 2018

Patch and I held another cook-a-palooza a little over a week ago.  Essentially, we choose a bunch of recipes (focused on dinners), make a list, and shop.  Then, on cook day, we cook, prepare, assemble, and freeze a large number of meals.  We started doing this about a year-and-a-half ago, after our fifth child was born.  We have been consistently holding our cook-a-palooza days 3-4 times a year.  I think we are finally hitting our stride concerning which recipes work best.  We are definitely still a tad overambitious, but we accomplished a lot.  And, after 7 days of not having to cook a meal from scratch, yet still eating a home cooked meal, I’m loving it!

Let me take you through the process.  The planning began here:

While at our family lakehouse, we talked about which recipes we’d like to make.  We used cookbooks, other blogs, websites, and one recipe from memory.  Here is the list of recipes we used (including links if applicable):

Thai Chicken/Tofu Noodle Soup
Stuffed Shells (My own recipe–I need to write it down!)
Broccoli Garlic Quiche
Caramelized Shallot and Gruyere Quiche (we did not make the crust)
Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas                                                                                                   
Orange-Glazed Chicken (Williams-Sonoma One Pot of the Day book)                                     Japanese Turkey Meatballs – Instant Pot
Mahimahi with Onions Capers and Lemons (We substituted with Tilapia to save on cost)
                                                                                                                                                               Quinoa Black Bean Crockpot Stuffed Peppers
Bagel Bombs
Potato Leek Soup

For the first time we used a website/app called Pepperplate.  It has been wonderful! With this site, we were able to automatically upload or enter in the recipes depending on the source.  It then generated a shopping list for our planned recipes.  When we shopped, I was able to check off the items as we went.  The shopping list was organized by section.  It was very easy to follow and helped me feel a little less crazy.  After a marathon night of shopping at Costco and Meijer…

We woke up and began our day of marathon cooking and prepping.  The kids were involved in every step of the process.

We try to choose recipes with a variety of flavors that are relatively healthy, but that we hope will generally appeal to the kids.  So, far this round has proven to be most successful (the recipes taste great and have been given the thumbs up by most of the kids)!

The process takes the entire day and goes into the early hours of the next day (Patch was up until 3am!).  But, the time we save on our weeknights, is well worth that sacrifice.

Here’s the tilapia with garlic, lemons, and capers–before and after.  This one was a big hit with the kids.

                              

Maddie made her bagel bombs, which the kids have been fighting over, as she tries to ration them.

I don’t want to sugar coat things.  This is by no means a tidy process.  I almost had a heart attack when I came down to see my kitchen in this state the next morning. (It’s still painful to look at!) But, we cleaned it up, and now I’m having a glass of wine while our enchiladas cook in the slow cooker.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with freezing meals ahead!

This post contains affiliate links.  However, I was not compensated for any of the above information.

New Year’s Contemplations

As we wind down from the chaos that was Christmas 2017, my thoughts have begun to turn to the new year.  What would I like to accomplish in 2018?  How can I simplify things and try to savor the time I have with my kids (instead of flipping out about the tornado that hit our great room–for the fourth time this week)?  What can we do to budget better in order to enable our family to do more of the things we dream of doing together?  How can we give more and take less?  How can I be better at managing paper?  (I never imagined the mass quantity of paper that would enter my house on a daily basis–help!)  How can we meal plan and prep in order to eat healthy, while not spending too much time in the kitchen on weeknights?  I am positive and hopeful about what this year will hold.  What are your hopes and resolutions for 2018?