Over the past several years I have taken a few courses in online business marketing and was introduced to the relatively new organizational strategy for time management, batching. The idea is to perform similar tasks using similar resources all at once during a designated block of concentrated time, increasing and optimizing productivity and decreasing distraction, fatigue, stress and procrastination.
So what does that have to do with anything?
Well, I’ve found this to be a viable tool when it comes to getting dinner on the table. The truth is, I’ve never been particularly good at doing the family dinner thing. I mean, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, so I don’t have any real excuses. It’s just that, in our family, like many of yours, we often find ourselves eating on the fly, going to this game or that lesson, or one kid doesn’t like what we’re having while the other isn’t eating carbs this week. Sometimes there are only 2 of us home at dinner time and other times we have a full house. The struggle is real.
But I am determined to eat well. No matter who’s coming for dinner.
In order to eat well every day I had to develop a method to this meal madness. Contain the chaos. Come up with shortcuts to getting dinner on the table rather than succumb to pre-packaged meals to reheat in the microwave, ordering out or eating out of a bag.
So I implemented batch cooking. I didn’t invent it or anything. I actually learned it from my meal mentor Lindsay Nixon, The Happy Herbivore. One strategy is to batch cook all your staples to freeze or refrigerate in single portions for later use. And it works beautifully, saving time, money and more importantly food waste. I hate throwing food away. Batch cooking staples ensures that I always have something I can throw together to create a meal that is plant-based and oil free. It's just a matter of reheating.
beans + rice + salsa + corn pasta + marinara + frozen veg quinoa + beans + frozen veg + soy sauce
Batch cooking also gives me back time out of the kitchen, because let’s face it, summer’s coming and I don’t want to have to be in the kitchen all day. I want to be by the pool with the rest of the fam.
Sipping margaritas. Listening to my jams.
What is more telling is what happens when I don’t batch cook my staples.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. No matter what diet it is you're following.
I have a few other batching shortcuts in my repertoire you can read about next week.. In the meantime, here are some staples I batch cook mindlessly while listening to the latest podcast or while streaming one of my favorite shows. I hear the new season of Orange is the New Black debuting June 9 (praise hands emoji):
Beans: Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and brown or green lentils are what I use most for soups, salads, hummus, dips, bowls, wraps, tacos. I use the pressure cooker which eliminates having to soak legumes before cooking or having to stand watch over the stove. You can certainly cook your beans in a large pot. I like to make the whole bag and freeze in single serving portions.
Marinara Sauce: I prefer an oil-free marinara sauce, reducing my fat intake and keeping ingredients simple where I can. I use a Crockpot to batch a triple recipe and freeze in 1 cup portions. You can use a family favorite recipe for traditional spaghetti sauce and eliminate using oil quite easily by sautéing any vegetables in ¼ cup water rather than oil, adding more water to prevent sticking as needed.
Whole Grains: Cook entire bags of whole grains such as rice or quinoa to use for bowls, side dishes, soups or salads and freeze in 1 cup portions.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: I cook a bunch of these for the week and store in the fridge. Potatoes can be easily reheated for soups, loaded potatoes, dry-fried potatoes or snacks with your favorite condiment. Don’t forget the many reasons why you should be eating plenty o’ potatoes!
Vegetable Broth: Check out our video on getting a second life out of your veggies by turning your scraps into vegetable broth. This makes a great base for soups and can also be used for sautéing.
Pasta: Pasta can be cooked al dente at the beginning of the week, stored in ziplock bags and reheated in 30 seconds in boiling water on the stove. Sometimes even boiling pasta can seem like too much after you’ve worked all day. This method works great for weekday meals.
Salad Dressings: I also like to prepare a big batch of salad dressing at the beginning of the week as I don’t really like pre-packaged bottled dressings. My friend, Trisha, introduced me to this delicious salad dressing created by Dara Dubinet for the fastest salad in the west. You could also check out this Sweet & Tangy Salad Dressing from My Plant-Based Family!
BBQ Sauce: While there are plenty of tasty barbeque sauces out there, I enjoy making my own oil-free version. It’s just so simple and gives me a little more quality control over the amount of fat and sugar I’m consuming. It all adds up, and sauces and condiments are sneaky culprits for causing us to consume more than we think.
So maybe you’re thinking of giving this plant-based thing a go? Summer parties and gatherings have already begun and sometimes before we know it, the scale starts creeping back to where it was on January 1st when we pledged we would lose those last 10-15 pounds for The. Last. Time. Here in the northeast we go all-in, celebrating the warmer weather with Happy Hour all day, every day. But, Summer is actually THE perfect time to go plant-based; to eat more seasonal veggies and fruits and crowd out all that stuff that’s threatening to sneak back into your diet and cause the slippery slope of sabotage….again.
Stay tuned for more practical and doable solutions for getting your next health-giving plant-based meal on the table quicker and with ease. Let's do this!
Yesterday this post looked a lot differently. I shared it with a very wise woman and she told me,
"It's not the act of falling on hard times that makes us relatable, it's the willingness to let people in."
Wow. That hit me hard. I'll be honest, at first, I was a little irritated. I have spent a long time pondering on what makes me unrelatable or intimidating, as I have been called. I'm a private person. It was instilled in me as a child. My Dad (step-dad) has taught us that "your private business is YOUR private business". I felt by sharing hardships I showed weakness and was asking for pity. I never considered the idea that people would feel more open to me if I were more open....
I have witnessed others who have publicly displayed their trials and tribulations and it appeared to me that people related to them because they liked to know that those people weren't perfect...I thought they liked see other's imperfections to make themselves feel better.
And NOW...........this new perspective....UGH! It has got my wheels turning. How differently I am seeing things.....That's hard for me, I am set in my ways. Stubborn some may call me (do not ask my husband!!)
I'm not a people person and I would like to get better at it. With this new perspective, I would like to share a few stories of mine, glimpses of my past, to be a more open person. I would like to be relatable. I kind-of like to think that I am a nice person: giving, kind, honest, and compassionate...but maybe I'm biased.
I am going to open up and hopefully, you can get a better picture of ME. Here is part one of my series:
My parents divorced when I was 3; my younger sister was 2 and my older 6. It was not amicable; no where near amicable. My sisters and I were caught in the crossfire a few times with some scary stories that I'm not quite ready to share. But I will share the tale of my wicked stepmother….
Wife number 2 of 4 for my father was a monster, to put it nicely. My father and step-monster would come to pick us up every other weekend. It was a 2 hour round-trip, which the step-monster never failed to complain about the entire ride to and from her house. Other than those complaints the car ride was pretty pleasant. She would smile for my father and ask how our weeks had been. Of course as little children, each and every time we would buy into her act, thinking “things would be different this time.”
By the time we reached their home it was nearly bedtime. We played with her children for a bit and then, we were off to bed with the reminder “No one makes a sound before 10 am or you will be on my Shit List” (direct quote from the step-monster). As small children between the ages of 4-8, it was really hard to stay quiet all morning waiting for the step-monster to wake up. Trust me, you did not want to be on her “Shit List”! Keeping all the kids quiet was on the shoulders of my older sister starting at the age of 8. If we were quiet until the step-monster got out of bed, between 10 - 11 am, we were rewarded with breakfast. But as soon as breakfast was cleaned up, we had to head outside...for the rest of the day. Rain or Shine. There were some exceptions, if my father was home (he worked most of the time), we could spend a little more time inside. Of course, extreme weather allowed us a day pass inside; however, that was something we never wanted!
“I'm not putting up with you brats all day.”
It wasn't all that bad; we were kids, we loved playing outside. There were 6 of us and sometimes more with neighborhood kids. We had a lot of fun, playing in the woods and having adventures. Once the darkness started to settle in we could head inside. There usually wasn't any lunch. Maybe it was because we weren't even allowed out of bed until 10 or 11 am or that we were forgotten about once we were out of sight? We had dinner, some TV, and then, bedtime.
When my younger sister was 4, she had a little toy phone that was her favorite. Everyone knew not to mess with it. Well, the step-monster decided she wanted to make a mix-tape and we all needed to be quiet. (great idea with 6 kids in the house between the ages of 2-8, right?!) She recorded her tape and all seemed well, until, she listened to it. She played one part for us over and over. A little voice could be heard “my phone”. She demanded, “Whose voice is that?”...we all knew. As punishment, my 4 year old sister was made to sit in the bedroom ALONE for the rest of day (it was early afternoon!!). I sat outside the door crying and holding her hand for the whole day. All of that over a mix-tape!!
When my older sister was about 10, she brought a library book to my father's house for the weekend. One morning, our 6 year old step-sister grabbed the book and started to rip the pages. My older sister took it from her and the step-sister screamed. The step-monster came barreling in with a belt and my older sister learned not to wake the monster. My Mom pressed charges creating a whole new shit storm. Yes, it was the right thing to do, but we still had to spend time with the step-monster every other weekend and that only made things worse.
Oh my poor Mama. I can't imagine how hard it was for her to let us go. It's not like she had a choice; we had to go. The law said so. I was just a very little girl and the finer details are blurry. I know as I got older, I could see how sad she was when we left, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. As the details are fuzzy, and I still have a poor relationship with my father, I can't remember at what age he and the monster divorced...somewhere around the age of 10, I think.
I have some really great stories and some not so good ones. I'm human after all. I'm not looking for pity and I certainly don't hang on to any of the hurt and anger. I'm stronger for it all. I know a lot of people have suffered far worse and I am not trying to take anything away from them. I'm just sharing a tiny, little piece of my life to show its imperfections, be a more open person, and find some relatability. I leave you with this:
“When you look at a person, any person, remember that everyone has gone through something that has changed them.” Be Kind, Always.
Peace, Love, Plants,
Meet my friend, Elsy, or LC, as I like to call her. Elsy is my sister from another mister. And from another mother. She’s from another country altogether. We have known each other from adolescence through adulthood, having that sisterly relationship complete with shoving matches, stand-offs and silent treatments, but also unconditional love, adoration and a heck of a lot of fun.
I first met Elsy during the summer of 1987 after my freshman year in high school, having just survived a sweltering 8-hour solo bus trip from Mexico City to Veracruz, complete with live chickens and low key juvenile harassment from young kids selling chiclets.
Elsy and her mother greeted me warmly when I ascended the stairs of the coach, my bulging suitcase in hand. This is a time before most suitcases had wheels or spinners, you know. You just had to take breaks when walking long distances, setting it down and switching hands every 10-15 steps.
Elsy was a girl of 15; she came in a small package, a tiny little thing, which was my first clue we wouldn’t be sharing clothes. She was fun-loving, always down for a good time, had a hot temper and a short fuse...kind of like a firecracker.
Elsy’s family was not new to hosting exchange students in their home and Elsy herself had recently returned from a year long study abroad in Michigan where she learned English. I spent the majority of that summer living large, getting to know Elsy’s friends and family, hanging out at the club, drinking soda out of plastic bags with straws. I immediately fell in love with the food- I was a good eater and was frequently greeted with smiling terms of endearment such as ‘gorda’ or ‘gordita’ which, frankly, didn’t translate very well. This is meant to be a light hearted compliment in Mexico, but calling any American teenaged female “chubby girl” feels like a back-handed one at best.
It’s all good….
Other than that, I spent time immersing myself in the culture...practicing all the Spanish curse words like a boss, driving without a license, learning to smoke on Marlboro reds and doing lit tequila shots. I was rocking the scene at all the discos and finding myself in the social pages of the local newspaper, celebrity style. There were few rules or laws to be broken...and if they were, it could easily be overlooked with a ten spot.
I’m expecting a call from my mother any second now.
Elsy and I have remained close friends for nearly 31 years. I have made many trips to visit her and her family since that first summer in 1987. She, in turn, has visited me a number of times, as has her brother Jorge. We have both grown up, had families of our own, been there for each other through life's trials and tribulations and recently Elsy became a grandmother to a beautiful baby boy, Jorge, a name he shares with his great-uncle and great-grandfather.
A few summers ago, Elsy and her daughter Elsy came to visit me, traveling with a friend from Michigan. (Side note: Elsy’s mother is also named Elsy, so I’m not quite sure, even after all these years, how the three of them keep this straight).
One day, presumably because she was bored, Elsy started cooking. I didn’t even know she knew how to cook. Her family always had Chavela to cook the meals in the family home (another reason I kept going back). Elsy cooked all day. She cooked and chopped and blended, fried and sautéed, showing me how to make authentic Mexican black beans, empenadas, homemade corn tortillas and salsa, the real deal. (I’m saying all this in my best Elsy impersonation).
My family spent the majority of the day and night at the kitchen table, forks in hand, ready and waiting for the next creation to be placed in front of us. We couldn't leave the table for fear of losing our seat to one of the neighbors. #FOMO
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ok, maybe it doesn’t outrank the days my kids were born but it’s definitely up there.
Here, I have created a healthier version of LC's recipe (there was no recipe, just lots of quick movement and I knew to keep my fingers out of the way) for authentic Mexican black beans, sans the bacon grease. I love everything about this versatile Latin American side dish. I love that black beans are served at almost every meal on the daily at the typical Mexican dining table. That would be breakfast, lunch AND dinner. They're dependable and reliable and they go with everything, really. Sometimes they're puréed, sometimes left whole in their juices and sometimes it's a combination of both. You can even substitute with pinto beans here for traditional Tex-Mex refried beans. You can put them on a tostada, use them as a taco filling or in a burrito. I hope you love them too...and what you now know of my dear friend, Elsy...as much as I do!
We have a cultural obsession with weight loss, but despite that, right now 1 in 3 Americans is OBESE. And if that isn't cringe-worthy: 18% of our children are MORBIDLY OBESE!! With skyrocketing numbers in increases of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers our healthcare costs are rising and 75% of those costs are attributable to the aforementioned diseases. AND ALL of those diseases can be avoided or possibly reversed with some fairly simple diet and lifestyle changes. Being overweight is the number one cause of most diseases...here is how to make some changes:
1. You are Not Getting Enough Water - Studies show drinking more water may help you lose weight and keep it off. Drinking water increases the amount of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure(REE)-the amount of energy expended by a person at rest- possibly increasing REE by 24–30% within 10 minutes of drinking water. This lasts at least 60 minutes. So, if your day is filled with water you will have a continuous increase in calories burned...YES, PLEASE! I notice that when I don't drink enough water I become very bloated because my body is hanging on to the little water it has...eliminate the bloat by drinking more water. There is no magic number, but most people need between 1 and 2 liters a day. Drink when you're thirsty and stay away from caffeine as it dehydrates. Also, water is calorie-free so you can reduce your calorie consumption by swapping water for soda or other sugary, high-calorie drinks.
2. You are Underestimating Your Calories - Most people underestimate the calories they consume. We forget about the “tastes” we have while cooking or “not wasting” what the kids leave on their plates. Don't shoot the messenger, but those calories count! We also, tend to underestimate serving size. Serving sizes are usually much smaller than we like to admit and if we are counting calories, we need to be honest with ourselves in order to see results. If you are using technology to track your calories burned, you are probably not getting accurate information. A study was done analyzing wearable technology for tracking calories burned and they found that the majority of the trackers were very unreliable; overestimating calories burned by up to 40%!! When you are mislead with the thinking that you have burned more calories, you assume that you can now eat more calories which leads to more calories consumed than burned = weight gain.
3. You are Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables - Eating more vegetables is the single most important thing you can do to achieve weight loss AND better health. Vegetables tend to be lower in calories than most other foods; especially, processed and refined foods. Their caloric density-calorie content relative to weight or volume-is one of the lowest. Which means you can eat MORE food and consume LESS calories. Also, fruits and vegetables contain the most fiber. Fiber leaves us feeling full and satisfied. Fiber also, takes more energy to burn, which means you will burn more calories just by eating these foods. Choosing more fruits and vegetables means you will eat less processed food which is very calorie dense and unhealthy. Aim to add fruits and vegetables to every meal.
4. You are Eating Too Much Fat – Eat fat? Don't eat fat? Which is it? It's been a controversy in the media for decades. Let's look at the facts: NO oil is healthy. None. They are all stripped down and processed, and contain no nutritional value. More importantly, oil has a calorie density of 4,000 calories per pound!! So are there good fats and bad fats? Yes and no. Dietary fat is very easily converted into body fat; whereas, carbohydrates are more easily burned as fuel. So, if you are consuming any kind of fat, it can easily be converted to body fat instead of being used for energy. Choose your fats wisely, choose ones that are nutrient dense from plant sources like avocados, seeds, and nuts. Animal-fat sources are the worst, which contain mostly saturated fats. They also contain cholesterol, hormones, carcinogens, dioxins, antibiotics, and bacteria, while also devoid of fiber and antioxidants.
5. You Are Stressed the F@ Out! - RELAX! Easier said than done, I know! I struggle with this one myself. I like to be in control so the food aspect of this, I got! But, the stress, OH THE STRESS!! The facts: Levels of "the stress hormone," cortisol, rise during tension-filled times. This can turn overeating into a habit. Because increased levels of the hormone cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. Exercise can trigger the release of the “feel good” hormones so this is a great stress-reliever. Also, meditation has been scientifically proven to significantly decrease stress levels with just 10 minutes of daily mediation. Love yourself—do the things you enjoy and forget about the rest. It is OK to say no!
6. You are Not Moving Enough - Nutrition is the most important factor in weight loss. Calories in vs. calories out. You must burn more calories than you consume. Our bodies do a great job at burning energy in the form of calories, but if we want to lose weight we need to eat less than we burn. But we can also burn off some of those calories in the form of exercise and while we are at it, reduce stress, too...WIN! WIN! Exercise isn’t just about that 30 minutes on the treadmill; it’s about creating a lifestyle that isn’t sedentary. But, the great thing about eating healthfully and exercising is that all that good stuff makes you have more energy!! Then, you want to move! Find an activity that you really like/love and that is the one that you can form a habit around. It can be anything that keeps you moving for at least 30-40 minutes; walking, running, hiking, yoga, biking, etc. Consider weight training: more muscle = more calories burned. While a pound of fat burns only two calories per day, a pound of muscle burns six—and takes up a lot less room.
You can find these tips with more details and also more tips in our NEW FREE eBook “9 Steps to Losing Weight and Feeling Great”, but the best part about our book is we not only give you the tips, but a guide to help you along the way which contains a 7 day meal plan with recipes and grocery shopping lists!! Sound great? Sign up here.
Peace, Love, Plants,
I never used to like tofu. To me, it seemed gross, spongy and weird. I first tried tofu 9 years ago after giving up meat. It didn’t go well, but for whatever reason I just kept at it. Eventually, I learned to like it, but ONLY if it was pressed. It was a texture thing. In the years since, I’ve done almost everything one can do with tofu from using it in stir fry dishes to pumpkin pie and now I find myself picking at it right out of the package. This is a real life testament that we can learn to like new foods at any age. You may just have to keep trying.
What is tofu exactly?
Tofu is a soybean curd that’s made by coagulating soybean milk from either whole or sprouted soy beans and pressing together the extracted curds into soft white blocks.
See? Sounds gross. The word curd is off-putting right from the start.
Tofu making is very similar to cheese making in that you are separating the curds from the whey. Because of this process, moisture content is the defining difference between silken, soft, firm and extra firm tofu varieties you’ll find at the store. Firm and extra firm tofu will be more dense, have less moisture and more protein per serving and can stand up to the rough housing of grilling and stir-frying. Soft or silken tofu products have more moisture and resemble more of a yogurt consistency making it great as a thickening agent and is a good substitute for cream, cheese and eggs when baking or creating sauces and dressings.
Tofu-making has actually been around for about 2,000 years and was first recorded in China, then Korea and Japan, later arriving in Vietnam and other parts of Southern Asia, presumably with the spread of East Asian Buddhism as it’s the main source of protein in their vegetarian diet.
Tofu is low in calories and is a rich source of protein, iron and also calcium and magnesium, depending on the coagulants used in the processing (e.g. calcium chloride, calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate). Tofu also contains all 8 essential amino acids, is naturally gluten-free and has no cholesterol.
Tofu is a super flexible food, having a somewhat neutral taste it takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings or marinade is used. It works beautifully in cold or hot dishes and can be prepared to grill, bake, fry, to eat fresh or in single skillet dishes.
Tofu is usually found in the produce section of the grocery store with other meat and dairy substitutions. It looks like a white brick packaged in water. Mori-nu tofu is a shelf stable brand and is my preference for making my own vegan mayonnaise or vegetable dip. I usually order Mori-nu from Amazon as it can be a bit harder to find.
While soft and silken tofu are most easily used fresh and drained out of the package there are several options when prepping firm and extra firm tofu:
Freezing: Personally, I really enjoy tofu if the block has been frozen first. I simply throw the entire package in the freezer until the day before I’m ready to use it in a recipe where I want the tofu to be really dense and chewy. Alternatively, you can slice and freeze portions in freezer bags or paper. The process of freezing causes almost all the water to be pulled out and contracts the whey into a spongy consistency that will absorb sauces and marinades more easily. Frozen tofu can be easily thawed in the fridge, microwave or hot water bath.
Draining/Blotting: Whether you have skipped the freezing step or not, slit the package of tofu and drain off the water. Let the block sit on a paper towel or clean dish cloth for 5 minutes or so.
Pressing: This is a very common step but not always necessary. There are fancy tofu presses you can buy, but in my opinion, it’s easy enough to use what you have at home. You can press any additional water out of the block of tofu by wrapping it in a clean dish towel, placing it between two flat, hard surfaces, such as cookie sheets or cutting boards and applying weight on top. In my case, I've got it down to using a baking stone, hamburger press and a couple of dumbbells or soup cans.
Salt soak/Draining: If you feel like you want to skip all the pressing business you can bypass that with a 15 minute salt water soak. Though I have never used this method, it is said to preseason the tofu and create a crisper texture. After the soak, let drain and dry on paper towel or clean dish cloth for 5 minutes or so.
Marinating: Marinating tofu is one of the most popular methods of flavoring. Simply cover it in your favorite spices, sauce or marinade. Freezing and pressing enhances the flavor absorption here but is not necessary. The longer you let the tofu marinate the better, but 30 minutes is a good place to start.
Well, if I’ve convinced you to give tofu a first or second chance...I’m all about second chances ;) Here are a few helpful tips for using this wonder food and soon you'll be asking yourself why you didn't cross this bridge, or block, a long time ago:
I'm keeping it simple this week with a vlog. I have gotten asked a few times about how to roll sushi. It sounds intimidating, but really, very easy once you practice a few times and have the right tools. Check out my quick video on the tools and tips you need to make the job easier. I'd love to see your sushi skills...please share with me on Facebook and Instagram!! Make sure to tag @livingsimplynourished!!
Do you ever come across one of those pictures of yourself from the past and think “What happened to her?” Or, “I want that body back!” Or, “Oh! To be young again...” I rarely go through photos. They make me feel incredibly sad. Even if they’re mementos of happy occasions. In fact, as I've been purging my house and minimizing my belongings...I come across pictures I don't know what to do with, and quickly pile them away to sort out last.
I think it’s because they capture a time that happened long ago and the older I get, the further away I am from that moment. I guess there is the sense that time is running out…”Like the sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” da-da-daaaaa...
I’m turning 45 this week. That’s like... halfway to 90. Or halfway to 50, depending how you look at it. Both of which are beautiful milestones, but….as much as I keep practicing, the words FORTY-FIVE just don't roll off my tongue. The words seem too big for my mouth. I’ve been thinking about turning forty-five since I've been 44 ½. So much, so, I thought I was turning 46 for a few minutes.
This is where it happens, right? When you can't quite remember how old you are without doing some quick calculations.
And for every one of you out there who try and convince me 45 is still young, there are a few of my students who love to remind me on the daily that I’m old. As dirt. At this point in my life, I really do feel age is just a number, because I still feel as though I’m 28.
In fact, there’s this adorable teacher-friend at the school where I’m doing a long term sub gig, who I find so fun and relatable, I thought maybe we were close in age. But, I found out yesterday when I’d had my first baby in 1995, she would have been 2.
The truth is, I feel I’ve been rockin’ the 40’s. (Just ask anyone who attended my cousin Lauren's wedding last summer.) My 20’s were reckless and confusing, my 30’s were lost to motherhood and a struggle to “find my self”, my 40’s just seem a good fit. I pay less attention to what’s going on with everyone else, in that meaningless, gossipy kind of way. (I said LESS attention, I'm human after all.) I’ve lost the need or desire to prove myself and be noticed. I’m trying new things that I didn’t have the time or confidence to do before. And there is that freedom to speak my mind, to speak my truth; I’m just not that invested in what people think of me anymore.
And I think many 40-somethings would agree, it’s incredibly freeing and empowering.
I look at my picture from years ago, of this young girl. Slimmer. Prettier, maybe. Smoother skin. Less worry. She has her whole life ahead of her. What would I tell my 18 year old self? Ooooh, that’s a tough question. My fingers are paused over the keyboard, because this hits a nerve.
You are not that important. And you are THAT important.
The thing is, when I take a better look at the photo, I see more closely in her eyes the desperation to be loved, the fear and uncertainty of the future and the longing to be liked and accepted by everyone. And she’s right to be afraid. Because sh*t’s gonna go sideways. Over and over again.
I guess I would tell her to stop looking for happiness and fulfillment outside herself. That she is enough. That to be loved and accepted, you must first learn to love and accept. But can you tell that to an 18 year old? Well, I guess you can, but can she really hear it?
It takes some of us years, decades even, if ever at all, to come to this wisdom. But, by then you can’t fit into your 18 year old jeans and your breasts aren't where they used to be. It’s so unfair!
So how does one celebrate turning 45?? What’s the protocol?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really enjoyed birthdays. Or birthday parties, for that matter. I think it’s because there’s this great sense of expectation we don’t speak about. Unless you’re a Kardashian. Or a Real Housewife. I kind of get a kick out of them throwing their own glam-fabulous, over-the-top birthday events, inviting everyone who’s anyone, except the one they’re mad at. Which is probably the reason they planned the party to begin with.
This year I’m going to keep things simple and do something I've really been craving. I’ll be spending time in nature, in one of my favorite places, with some of my favorite people. I’m going to take a break from my phone and my laptop and the everyday-ness. I have much to be grateful for: a husband and kids I adore, active parents who enjoy spending time with me, loving and supportive family and friends, my health...plus I have a good bottle of wine for the occasion.
Come on 45...Let's do this.
Let's talk some sh**! 97% of Americans are deficient in this nutrient. So, that's only 3% that are getting enough! We need approximately 31.5 grams per day and the average American gets just 10-15. Every year, roughly, 63 million Americans suffer constipation and 10 million with hemorrhoids, in part, due to the lack of this nutrient. Its deficiency also contributes to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hormonal problems, asthma, allergies, acne, and more (yes, there's more!!)
Have you guessed it?
FIBER! Fiber makes life way more enjoyable...or wait, no, that's bathroom visits! Well, actually life, too-- fiber is so important to our health and digestion and 80% of our immune is in our digestive system. Fiber is one of the most important nutrients to maintain balance and health in our bodies.
What does that mean for our health? Most of the illnesses seen by medical professionals today originate from a fiber-deficient diet.
What is fiber you ask? Great question!! Fiber is the indigestible substance which is resistant to digestive enzymes. So what does that mean? Indigestible? That doesn't sound good! Exactly the opposite! It's what our bodies need! As it passes through our digestive tract, being indigestible and all, it does a lot of work picking up all the bad stuff and getting rid of it!
Let's first start with the well-known benefit of fiber...bulking up our poop and making bathroom visits more regular! Bulkier, softer stools are easier to pass than hard or watery ones, which not only makes life more comfortable, but also helps maintain colorectal health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fiber diet may help reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis (small, painful pouches on the colon).
Next, fiber can LOWER CHOLESTEROL. As your digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid, thereby reducing the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Fiber lowers blood sugar levels. Increased fiber intake is associated with REDUCED BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS.
Your cancer risk may be reduced with increased intake of fiber. A 2011 meta-analysis from the British Journal of Medicine found an association between cereal fiber and whole grain intake and reduced risk of colorectal cancer. This protective effect may be due to fiber's tendency to add bulk to your digestive system, shortening the amount of time that wastes travel through the colon. Fiber, also, naturally reacts with bacteria in the lower colon and can sometimes ferment into a chemical called butyrate, which may cause CANCER CELLS to SELF-DESTRUCT. Fiber may also have a protective effect against mouth, throat, and esophageal cancers.
All those sound great, right?! How about this one: Eating more fiber can ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE!! People who eat a high fiber diet are less likely to die of any cause, a new study of nearly one million people has found. According to that same study, Those who ate the greatest amount of fiber daily were 16 percent less likely to die than those who consumed the least amount of fiber.
Still with me? How about food allergies and asthma? Yup, fiber can help with that, too! New research suggests that fiber could play a role in PREVENTING FOOD ALLERGIES, the existence of which has long puzzled scientists. Again, this theory comes down to the interaction between fiber and bacteria in the gut. Scientists theorize that people are not producing the right gut bacteria to tackle foods commonly associated with allergies, like peanuts and shellfish. Without the right bacteria, particles of these foods can enter the bloodstream via the gut. The same goes for asthma, particles enter the bloodstream causing an autoimmune response like asthmatic inflammation.
Ok. maybe you knew about all of those, but have heard that increased fiber intake can help BALANCE HORMONES? I know, crazy, right?! Fiber binds to excessive amounts of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and helps the body eliminate them. This helps reduce symptoms of PMS, menopause, acne, unwanted facial hair, mood disturbances, endometriosis, fibroids, risk of breast, prostate, and thyroid cancer.
Holy crap!! This fiber business is serious sh**!!!!!!
Now you know and want to change! How do you add in more fiber?
All plant food contains fiber!! Did you know that?! When asked, more than half of Americans thought steak contained fiber! Nope!! But, all those beautiful plants contain lots! Check out these rich sources of fiber:
Tips for adding more fiber to your diet:
Peace, Love, Plants,
Red, white, yellow gold, fingerlings, russet, blue/purple...makes no difference to me. I love all potatoes. I loved baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, steamed potatoes, fried potatoes, roasted, twice-baked, hash browned, French fried. And I love potato soup. And potato ice cream. Just kidding, I’ve never had that.
But everyone always seems to be hatin’ on the potato. The potato first started to acquire a bad wrap during the low-carb craze of the early 2000’s, lumped in with all the white foods that are making us fat. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not the potato that packs on the pounds. It’s the company it keeps on our plate. Butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon...and it’s also how we are preparing them. In other words, it’s not the potato in the french fries that is rounding out our waistline; it’s the oil we are frying them in.
So, I stand here in defense of this humble tuber, begging the world to stop villainizing. Here are my 12 reasons to eat MORE potatoes.
1. The potato is a nutritional powerhouse: White potatoes are among the most nutritious vegetable in the world. And research shows potatoes contain phytochemicals, with antioxidant activity, such as flavonoids and carotenoids. Here's a breakdown of the nutritional value for a medium white potato, with skin:
2. Low in fat and calories: The potato in the picture above has just 120 calories and 0g fat.
3. Spuds are satiating: Potatoes are ranked high on the satiety index, meaning they make you feel full and satisfied longer. Our brains act like the fuel gauge in our cars, directing you to fill up when we are on empty. Foods high in resistant starch, like potatoes, flip on every fullness switch in the brain and release fullness hormones in the intestine and make your cells more resistant to insulin.
4. Potatoes Support Weight Loss: New research shows that potatoes help people lose weight, and not just sweet potatoes, but white potatoes too. In a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, three groups were assigned diets ranging in 5-7 servings of potatoes per week. One group was eating potatoes every day. Subjects were closely monitored for dietary compliance. All three groups lost weight, further disproving that potatoes cause weight gain.
5. Potassium: Potassium is the key to healthy blood pressure. Potatoes pack 620mg of potassium, 18% of the recommended daily dose of this hard-to-get mineral. They actually rankest highest for potassium content of the 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits and vegetables, including the more well known source for potassium, the banana.
6. Vitamin C: Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing us with 45% of the daily recommendation...which is more than their famous cousin, the sweet potato!
7. Fiber: Potatoes are considered to be a fiber rich food, having an average 2g fiber per tuber. A potato with its skin is considered a high fiber food.
8. You can live on them: From Ireland to China, evidence shows that humans, historically, have survived on potatoes and little else, thanks to their nutritional content. This same evidence shows that these populations getting 70-80% of their calories from potatoes were also very lean.
Take a look at Australian, Andrew Taylor, who found recent fame by vowing to eat nothing but potatoes in 2016 in an effort to cure his binge eating. Not only has the man from Melbourne reportedly lost over 100 lbs, but says he’s sleeping better and has cured his depression and joint pain, lowered his cholesterol, sugar levels and blood pressure.
And the plant-based community took it as a personal victory when Mark Watney, the space botanist character played by Matt Damon in 2015’s, The Martian, survived being stranded on Mars on a diet of cleverly harvested potatoes.
9. Potatoes are cost effective: If you want the most bang for your buck, potatoes offer the greatest ROI. In fact, a recent study showed potatoes deliver an excellent nutritional value per penny, second only to beans. Potatoes provide an affordable source for essential nutrients like magnesium, fiber, and Vitamins C, E, and K. And they're the most cost-effective source of potassium out of all food groups.
10. Eating Potatoes Helps the Economy: The potato is the fourth most widely consumed vegetable in the world. And, it’s a big money maker for American farmers. Potatoes are the leading crop grown in the U.S. In 2010, the U.S. exported $3.8 billion worth of potatoes. Japan, China and Mexico are leading buyers of stateside spuds. Potatoes are grown in 30 U.S. states, with Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin rounding out the top three.
11. They Fight Cancer: Sweet potatoes and other colorful potatoes are rich in antioxidants such as carotenes, the precursor to Vitamin K.
12. A word on Sweet Potatoes: Only distantly related to the potato and not part of the same nightshade family, sweet potatoes tend to get lumped in with the regular potatoes because they are prepared the same way.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin K. Carotenoids, the powerful form of antioxidants, can fight cancer and heart disease. These tuberous root vegetables contain 438% of your daily value of Vitamin A, which is essential for building a strong immune system. Vitamin A is essential for areas in the body that go haywire when we catch a cold. It keeps the mucous linings in the nose and throat, our bodies first line of defense, healthy and functioning properly. Sweet potatoes deliver 37% of vitamin C plus Vitamin B6, potassium, iron and calcium all in just 105 calories! They also contain 4g of dietary fiber, 16% of your daily value and zero grams of fat.
Though I often enjoy eating potatoes plain, either as a breakfast or as a satisfying, low-calorie snack, here are some fun and flavorful tips to prepare them without all the added fat:
Tips for Storing Potatoes:
The Martian, starring Matt Damon
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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