Newsflash: You’re an adult.

Can we get real here for a minute? You are an adult. (Really. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.) Part of being a grown up human being with a body is taking care of said body.

“I don’t like exercise.”

“Working out is boring.”

“I don’t have time to cook.”

“I don’t like the gym.”

“Meal planning? Ugh. I hate grocery shopping. I hate prepping food.”

“I don’t like water. Unless it’s coffee flavored.”

Ha. ha. ha.

Grow up. Do you find brushing your teeth exciting? Probably not. But you do it, right? It’s called hygiene. It’s taking care of your body. (My dentist says that you only have to floss the teeth you wish to keep.) Who wants to kiss you with your nasty horrid breath? So, as human beings with a body, we bathe, we brush our teeth, we wash our hair, etc. You wouldn’t drive a car without maintenance, right? No oil changes, no new tires, no washing, no tune ups – no problem, right?

Wrong.

Take care of a vehicle, it takes you where you need to go.

Guess what? Eating nutritious foods and moving around and lifting heavy things is part of maintaining a body. It’s REQUIRED if we want it to operate as desired and for a long time.

I get it. Crap like this gives many undo anxiety and just feels overwhelming. (Unless you are super nerdy and love food prep. Yes, there are a few):

If you hate cooking, hate food prep, etc. – these kinds of posts and pictures do nothing for you but make you feel inadequate, uninspired, and like you can’t adult. It becomes a big ‘ole shame fest. But that doesn’t give you a pass on taking care of your body. You don’t have to be a polished food prep pro. If your goal is to eat healthfully, develop a strategy. It doesn’t need to be uber complicated.

It does require being an adult and making choices that benefit you long term.

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Now that you have your big girl or boy pants on, here’s a couple of my weekly adulting food tasks that take zero time. (Okay, not zero time, but definitely not as much time as the crazies with 52 containers of Tupperware that are simultaneously cooking 7 different meals.)

Make a big salad for the week

It’s not that hard. Grab some lettuces you like. Romaine is nice and crunchy, green and red leaf are great, too. Don’t like kale? Don’t eat it. It’s fine. Just because some one wrote an article claiming the wonders of a food doesn’t mean you have to like it. Find what you do like. Super lazy and have some extra cash? They have prewashed and trimmed spring mix, spinach, and every other lettuce you can think of. Get over boring iceberg and change it up! Add some shredded carrot and some cabbage, throw it in a big bowl with a lid and you’ve got a greens base to be used through the week. Taco salad, sandwich/wrap ingredient, Buddha bowl – grab your greens and go!

Tip: If you buy the plastic containers of pre-washed greens, take them out of the container to extend shelf life. They get pretty slimy in the original container. Conversely, if you buy actual heads of lettuces and bunches of greens and chop and rinse yourself, you not only save money, but the produce lasts longer.

Portion out food as you go, rough meal planning

I don’t portion/prep and spend hours on a Sunday mapping out every breakfast lunch and dinner. I just don’t. (If that is your thing – cool. Do you.) Instead, I have a rough idea of what meals we’re going to eat that week, and shop for those ingredients. If we don’t feel like tacos on Tuesday, that’s cool. Just switch it around and have them on Friday because all ingredients needed are there.

For things like mushrooms, bell peppers, or onions etc. that will be used each week for more than one dish, prep those. Being able to quickly grab that diced onion for a recipe makes cooking time go much easier. Younger kids can pack their own lunches with ease when all they have to do is open a container and grab some slices of bell peppers or carrot sticks. Older kids? Cool – make them your food prep labor force! Why we do not teach our kids to cook and properly feed themselves is crazy to me. Life skills, people. Teach them how to take care of their bodies by modeling it yourself.

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Make fruit ‘grab and go’ ready

When buying apples, pears, peaches, grapes, etc., I throw them all in the sink with some water and a 1/2 cup or so of vinegar. Let them soak while prepping a big bowl o’ greens. It makes packing lunches that much easier in the morning, and only takes a few minutes.

Grocery plastic produce bags

Grocery shopping done, check. Produce purchased, check. Turning over a new leaf, check. Proud of yourself for avoiding the junk food aisle, check. Flash forward a week and you’ve got a veggie drawer filled with slimy, rotting veggies in individual plastic produce bags. Sound familiar? Ditch those thin plastic sacks pronto. Like as soon as you get home from the store. (Better yet, try these reusable drawstring bags for produce! No, I don’t get paid for that link, but I DO love and use them every tine I shop!) Those plastic sacks from the store will make your produce wilt faster. Unwrap and unband any fruits and veg and place them in drawers or in prepped in reusable containers.

You don’t have to be a neurotic food freak to be healthy. Feeding yourself and your loved ones doesn’t need to be meltdown-inducing. You do have to make a choice. Drink water. Move your body. Eat fruits and vegetables. Ditch the junk. Lift heavy things. Make the decisions that get you to your goals…or don’t.

It’s entirely up to you.

You’re an adult.

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Mock Food

I have come to the realization that I am not a fan of fake foods, or mock foods; things that are pretending to be something they are not. For example, turkey bacon. It’s not bacon. Bacon is bacon.

The same is true in the land of fruit and veg. These so-called transition dishes are just weird, some are not even edible. I get that the point is to transition away from a meat-based diet by having similarly flavored meals, but produce on it’s own, without trying to morph it into something else, is actually SO good.

Here are my latest adventures in mock food.

Carrot dogs!

These are the most vile things I’ve ever eaten. Partially cooked, then soaked in a “brine” of soy, liquid smoke, garlic, etc. it seemed like they might be okay….but they are gross. I can live my life without hotdogs. And carrots are sweet, crunchy deliciousness just as they are.

What will be the last time I venture into mock food promised to be a creamy alfredo to serve over pasta. Made with cauliflower (because what isn’t made with cauliflower lately?!) and nutritional yeast – I found it HORRIBLE. Wretched. Awful. Stop trying to make cheese out of yeast flakes. Its disgusting. Seriously.

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Vegan alfredo
While I’m on the subject, the Braggs’ Nutritional Yeast seasoning is the stinkiest thing. I will gladly take my B vitamins in the form of capsules, thankyouverymuch.

Here’s to buddha bowls, salads, pastas, rice, beans, tacos, fruit, veggies and all the yummies just as they are!

Teaching Gumption

“Pull the dumbbell up like this,” I told her, “as if you are pulling the cord on a lawn mower.” I had borrowed this phrase from my trainer, because it accurately illustrates the movement I wanted her to perform. To this day I cannot start my lawnmower and not think of this move, and my trainer.

“My mom told me never to learn how to start a lawn mower so I would never have to mow a lawn,” she replied. “My husband takes care of that.”

Whaaa?!

Years ago I remember working in the bank and a recent widow came in, understandably bewildered by the many decisions and paperwork that comes with the death of a spouse. “My husband took care of our finances and gave me cash to spend for household items. I don’t know how to balance a checkbook…”

Jamie Oliver’s experiment with some U.S. schools a few years ago was shocking. He presented grade school children with a whole potato. Not one child could tell him what the object in his hand was. He did this with many fruits and vegetables, and other than just a couple of things (apples, I think) these kids didn’t recognize most produce in it’s whole form!

Why the rant today? Well, let me tell you.

I trained a 12 year old girl the other day who broke my heart. I was able to decipher through our conversation that she is a very young 12 and doesn’t know how to do much, simply because not much is expected of her. She is obese. She is no doubt made fun of by her peers. She was self conscious and insecure (more so than the average tween). When I asked her (and her mother) about the kinds of foods they eat, the mother laughed and said, “I don’t cook.” She said this as if it were beneath her, as well as something of which to be proud.

While training another client, I discovered that she hadn’t eaten anything all day, just her morning cup of coffee. It was 2:30pm! She doesn’t like to cook, doesn’t know what to do to make things quick in the morning, but yet cannot figure out why she has no energy, feels sluggish and cannot resist the afternoon treats her customers bring in to the office! For her, the thought of breakfast was an all or nothing proposition. It had to be a huge undertaking – bacon, pancakes, eggs, etc. We had a great conversation about how to not only eat breakfast everyday, make things quick (hello my favorite: hard boiled eggs!) but also to do what I call “easy prep” so things are grab and go through the week when time is more limited.

As a military spouse, being independent and having some gumption to even attempt to do things on my own is essential. Granted, I grew up with a mother who worked right along side my father building houses. She hammered just as many nails, installed can lights, laid tile flooring and everything in between.  Even now, my parents are building a structure on their property and my mother literally raises the walls with my father. I get that not everyone has that example to follow, and it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the some of the mindsets I’ve described.

Here’s the thing; regardless of what we’ve been exposed to, if we neglect to teach our children how to perform basic tasks, essential life skills, how are they ever going to learn? School?! Not likely. It’s unrealistic to think that school should, or even could, cover everything. That’s our job as parents. We do our kids a great disservice by doing everything for them. Feeding ourselves and taking care of our bodies is a basic skill. We teach our kids how to use a fork and spoon as toddlers, why wouldn’t we teach them how to prepare food when they are older?

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Give a child a fish, and you’ll feed her for a day. Teach a child to fish, and you’ve fed her for a lifetime.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love food. Good food. Not drive thru fill-your-gut-but-feel-like-crap-5-minutes-later type of ‘food’. Real nourishment. The kind that feeds your tummy AND your soul. In today’s daily post, we are asked to “describe a favorite childhood meal. The one meal that was a treat, meant “celebration” or was pure comfort!”

Meal prep was fun in our house. My mom loves to cook and taught me to love it as well. Some of our best family conversations were around food preparation, at the dinner table, and sometimes the coffee table where we ate dinner. I remember conversations over potato peeling, chats over veggie chopping, as well as being asked to grab some ingredients from the garden for dinner that evening. There is nothing fresher than your own backyard garden!

The best, yummiest, celebratory meal has always been turkey day. It’s the day of the perfect bite. My perfect bite. Like most families, we have certain food traditions around the holidays. My favorite Thanksgiving foods are always the same; white meat turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and a roll. A tiny little morsel of all of these ingredients perched atop that piece of bread create the perfect Thanksgiving bite. I love that bite. And I recreate it every year, even as an adult.

While I don’t do the canister stuffing anymore, and opt for healthier versions of what we prepared when I lived at home, I loved this last Thanksgiving when we prepared all dishes from scratch and my mom and I and some friends were gathered once more in the kitchen. We’ve been fortunate to live close to my family this tour and have created wonderful memories for our children with them. I love that even as time goes on, we can continue to pass on our love of all things cooking, but in a healthier direction.

That perfect Thanksgiving bite is my favorite, partly for the food itself, but mostly for the memories made in the preparation of that bite.

 

 

Food Rant: The No Time Myth

Disclaimer: As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” Before I get contrary comments, I’m coming out right now and saying that in terms of health and nutrition, there are situational exceptions. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn these things, factors involving poverty, homelessness, etc. that I am not addressing here. I’m talking to the majority of us who haven’t taken the time to really be conscious of what we are feeding ourselves and our families, were taught but got lazy, or are tired of feeling like crap from eating food out of packages day in and day out.

When it comes to food and meal preparation, it’s no mystery that ours is a culture that prizes convenience. In the documentary Fresh, the quote is that Americans fear nothing but being inconvenienced. In my own experience and observations it rings true. (Even when it comes to other matters, such as a slow internet connection, or traffic lights, we get disproportionately upset by delays and frustrations.)

Here’s my theory: When it comes to food, we’ve been fed the line that “we are so busy,” that we “deserve a break today,” and that cooking from scratch is really hard, labor intensive, and time consuming. We just don’t have time to cook. I call a big fat B.S. If people really thought about it, or were taught how to cook, it wouldn’t be such a daunting task, and more importantly, we would be less apt to buy into the idea that we are just too busy. We’d know better.

Here are a couple of real world examples:

Old Fashioned Oats vs. Instant Oatmeal in a packet (with fruit flavoring, usually)

First off, tearing off the packet, pouring water in a bowl and nuking it in the microwave, takes all of 1 minute, plus 1 more minute of standing/cooling. Old Fashioned oats? They take all of 5 minutes. You’re saving a whopping 3 minutes. Seriously? Boiling water or heating milk and adding some old fashioned oats is super easy, and tastes better. Top with fresh fruit instead of fruit-like flavors made of who knows what. If you need a little sweetness, add some honey, cinnamon, or even a bit of brown sugar. It’s tasty, it fills you up with lasting energy (with no crash later), and it takes 5 minutes. Don’t tell me you don’t have 5 minutes in the morning. Drop the drive through Starbucks coffee and you have more than 5 minutes.

And if that wasn’t enough, check out the ingredients in the apple cinnamon instant oatmeal packet:

Oatmeal Ingredients

First off, sugar is the second ingredient! (the higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it there is in the package). Creaming agent? What the heck? Gross! Partially hydrogenated anything – you don’t want! Partially hydrogenated=trans fats. And you’ll notice they put a little note at the bottom that says it adds “an insignificant amount of trans fats”. These man-made chemical nasties in any amount are not good. Peach flavor? I thought this was supposed to be apples and cinnamon. Bottom line: if they aren’t ingredients you wouldn’t cook with in your own kitchen, chances are they aren’t that great for you. Put ’em back and grab the old fashioned oats. They’re better for you, they’re customizable, and no nasty ingredients!

Macaroni and Cheese – the blue box vs. homemade

Boil water, cook the noodles, add orange powder, a bit of milk and some butter. Stir. Boiling water takes a few minutes. (If you’re really cool and have a high-tech stove, it can be as little as 90 seconds!) Start with hot tap water and it takes less time. But making homemade mac and cheese takes THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. You aren’t saving any time by buying the blue box. And in fact, based on these crap ingredients, are losing big time in terms of health:

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That list is HUGE! What is interesting is that currently, Kraft uses dyes (yellow 5 and 6) that have been shown to cause behavior issues with kids. (What’s shocking is that our kids aren’t glowing after eating the stuff! It’s nearly neon!) This stuff is really bad news. The same stuff sold in the U.K., not so much. Why? Why don’t we care about what we eat? Want to know how to make homemade macaroni and cheese? It’s easy! Boil the water, add noodles (buy whatever shape you like!), cook and drain. To the warm pot, add 1-2 tbls of butter, 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, shredded cheddar cheese and the drained noodles. Stir! Yum! Easy! (If you want go for the gold, you can even pop it in the oven for 5 minutes on 400 or broil with a little shredded cheese on top and panko bread crumbs for crunch!) Add in some diced lean ham or turkey and some broccoli for a complete meal. It’s really just not that hard!

Many convenience foods are like this. You can make them yourself at home, for about the same amount of time, but more nutritious and without ingredient lists that read like a chemistry text book. This doesn’t just apply to stay at home parents. Growing up, I know I was fortunate to have parents who cooked at home nearly every night. But you know what? They both worked full time. (For many years, they both worked multiple jobs, but still managed to put a meal together.) Again, it’s not just for the stay at home parents. Eating real food can be done. Don’t buy the lie that we are all just too busy. If we are too busy to eat – we’re too dang busy! Feeding ourselves is a life skill. We have to eat to survive!

 In my research, I came across a yahoo question from what I can only assume was young person (early teens, I’m guessing) preparing a meal for a 6 year old sibling. The question was, “How do I make oatmeal?” I’m not sure what I was more shocked at, the fact that he or she was unable to read the directions (again, I’m assuming this was a teenager), or the fact that he or she hasn’t been taught how to cook. Even if I hadn’t been taught how to cook at home, which I was, I learned quite a bit in my home economics class in school as well. How are we not teaching people to feed themselves? Am I alone in thinking this is crazy?! Most of us eat everyday, how do we not know how to prepare it for ourselves? It starts with us as parents. We need to teach our kids how to cook. We do them no favors by doing everything for them, or buying it out of a box or a drive through window. 

Thoughts?