Thursday, December 31, 2009

How to Make Healthy Eating Resolutions

Week 14 Maple Creek Farm CSA 2009 - September 16, 2009

Try something new.  Instead of resolving what you won't eat anymore.  Resolve what you WILL eat.

Resolve To eat Whole.
Resolve To eat Organic.
Resolve to Make it Yourself.

You can do it!  When your body is healthy, other areas of your life become healthy too.  No more feeling bad after eating this or that.  No more feeling tired from all the processed food.  No more chemicals in your body.  Make just three modifications to the way you choose and prepare your food to change the way you feel.  For the better.  For good.

First, lets be realistic.  Make these changes slowly.  Fast is not realistic.  You have things to learn.  You have things to implement.  And if other people will be affected by these changes too, it won't be so startling for them.  For the record, I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, these are just my thoughts on the subject.

Second, Create a benchmark.  Go to your doctor for a physical.  Get your blood work done to get a baseline of things that can help measure health like cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, vitamin levels or anything else your doctor thinks you need.  Talk to them about the changes you plan to make.  Most insurance plans cover at least one yearly physical.  Call your company and see if it is included.

Third, track things.  Track things like your energy level, how much money you are spending on food, medical costs, and drugs.  For example, you may spend more on food, but spend less on doctor's visits.

Fourth, lets get going.  Throughout this post I have included references to various books and products that I recommend.  The majority of which I have read or used personally.  If you don't want to buy these, there are ways to get them cheaper than retail.  Check the books out of the library.  Purchase the items from Craigslist or search FreeCycle for them.  Don't let money stop you.

Resolve To eat Whole.
1. Educate Yourself about food and how it gets to your table.
Read: The Omnivore's DilemmaIn Defense of FoodFast Food NationNew Good Food
Watch: Food Inc.
You can purchase them all on my aStore by Amazon.com

2. Don't buy food that has more than three ingredients in the list.  Ideally it doesn't come wrapped in a package at all.

3. Start small.  Try to go one day with a whole foods only menu.  Here is what I would do for a simple day's menu.
Breakfast: Old Fashioned or Steel Cut Oats (I cook mine in a rice cooker for work-free, perfect oatmeal every morning).
Morning Snack: Hard boiled egg (I use the same rice cooker to steam my eggs).
Lunch: Sandwich on Sprouted bread (usually in the freezer section) with 1/2 a sliced avacado, slice of real cheese, and a tomato (put a touch of salt on the tomato for increased taste).
Afternoon snack: Plain yogurt (I love Cultural Revolution yogurt) with a sliced up banana and a small handful of raw nuts.
Dinner: Make yourself some chili with grass-fed beef (here is my recipe for 4 minute pressure cooker chili), and top with some shredded cheese and chopped green onions.  You can make the same recipe in your slow cooker if you want to have it ready when you get home.

Resolve To eat Organic.
1. Educate Yourself about why Organic Food is Better for you and why it tastes better.

2. Find Local Suppliers of Organic Foods.
Try searching Google for [your state] [product name].  For example, Michigan Grass Fed Beef or Michigan Organic Apples or Michigan Farm Eggs.  You get the idea.  I really like http://www.localharvest.org/ to find local sources of the product, meat and dairy that your family eats.

3. Start Slowly.  Replace items one-by-one from conventional to organic.  I don't recommend purchasing food just because it has the USDA organic label on it.  Organic chips, sodas, crackers, cereals and pasta sauces are not a good choice whether they are organic or not.  They are still highly processed and often contain a lot of sugar and salt.  We are going for whole items, packaged as they come in nature.  Ideally they don't have more than one or two ingredients in the ingredient list.

Resolve to Make it Yourself.
Of the three, this is the part that probably will scare most people away, but it is much easier than you think, especially if you purchase a few appliances to do the job for you.  Michael Pollan had an excellent article in the New York Times on cooking that is interesting to read.  I don't remember which of his books I read it in, but he brought up an excellent point that foods that used to be a sometimes treat because of how much cooking time they take to prepare, become an everyday part of our menu since we don't have to take the time to prepare them.

You don't have to know how to cook like Martha to eat healthy (and fast).  I highly suggest purchasing some tools to make your cooking fast and healthy along with some reference books on cooking so you know where to turn when you encounter a problem.  You can cook without these, but it will take you longer to cook & learn.  My suggested menu for one day of whole foods cooking is above, but there are so many variations you could make based on your preferences & tastes.

Suggested Books:
You can find my full list of suggested cookbooks on my A MichiganMom's Recommended products under Cookbooks, which you can purchase through Amazon.  I am not a huge Martha Stewart fan, but her Cooking School Basics does a great job of explaining basic cooking terms and techniques.

Suggested Tools & Appliances:
1. Pressure Cooker
2. Rice Cooker / Slow Cooker / Steamer
3. Bread Machine
4. Food Processor (I have the KitchenAid, but there are some things I am not to happy about with it, and would consider the Cuisinart Food Processor more seriously if I had to make the decision again)

In conclusion, if you did manage to read through this rather long post, you can see that there is some work involved in changing the way you eat, however, the rewards are very worth it.   This isn't something you can do the first week in January when your resolution kicks in.  It is something to do gradually over the entire year, taking baby steps each week.  Use Google Calendar to create a personalized calendar of goals of what you plan to do each week or month.  Make a plan that fits you and implement it over the year.  You'll be happy you did!

Pressure Cooker Chilli Recipe

Pressure Cooker Chilli Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef (ideally grass-fed)
2 medium onions chopped
3 stalks celery chopped
1 small green bell pepper chopped
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt (1 and ½ teaspoons if not using canned beans)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch cayenne pepper
1½ Tablespoons of unsweetened Coco Powder
1 (36 fluid ounce) can vegetable juice (I like RW Knudesen Very Veggie)
1 (29 ounce) strained tomatoes or 1 (29 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes, pureed
1½ cups of dried red beans prepared in your pressure cooker, drained & rinsed OR 2 cans canned red beans, drained and rinsed.


1. Start browning the beef, onions, celery and pepper in the pan until the beef is sufficiently broken up, but still a little pink.
2. Mix all your spices together in a small bowl. Add them to the beef mixture and stir, making sure to coat the entire beef mixture with the spices.
3. Dump in the vegetable juice and tomato puree
4. Cover and bring to high pressure. Cook over high pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally.
5. Top and Eat Your Chili! Even more Delicious when served with warm cornbread.

Pressure Cooker Chilli

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wii Exercise Workouts

Photo: daveynin

For the past year, I have been really good about working out. From November of 2008 to March of 2009 I was going to the gym 4 days a week.  Then it got warm enough to fit about 3-4 outside runs in a week.  I was doing really well until September of this year.  Then my son started a new school that starts at 8AM and my morning workout routine got really messed up.  Getting up at 5AM to make it to the gym, workout, get back home and prepare the kids for their day and me for work wasn't going to happen because I usually need to stay up late to work after the kids go to bed.

Enter the Wii.... I've only had it for a week (an awesome Christmas gift from my parents), but this is my plan for Exercise in 2010 while it is cold out (I'll get back to running in summer).

It has a lot of benefits for our family's schedule:

  • I can workout anytime I want.  
  • No need to worry about the weather.
  • It isn't dependent on me having to have someone home to watch the kids so I can go to the gym or run outside.
  • I don't have to try to schedule my workouts around when the gym has the babysitters there.  
  • Bonus: The kids get some exercise too and have just some good 'ole family fun together.
So far I have the Wii, the Biggest Loser and Dance Dance Revolution to start me off, but I have my eyes on the Wii Fit Balance Board too.  EA Sports Active also seems interesting.

Initially, it may seem like a lot to purchase, but everything above costs a little under $450 (and you don't have to get it all).  The gym by us charges about $100+ a month for a family membership.  So you can see that the Wii is a cost-effective health investment when compared to a year of gym membership fees.










What are your plans for exercise in 2010?  How do you fit in working, being a mom, and trying to keep healthy?  I would love to hear from others on how they fit their workouts in each week.

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