Weekly Meal Plan 11/17-11/23

How we react to things is a really good indicator of our core, our essence, those fundamental and if not unchangeable, at least strongly resilient parts of ourselves. This last week we discovered (while having someone complete one repair on our heat system) that a significant section of our venting was, in fact, not even connected to the thing that makes the heat. We have lived here for over seven years.

My husband, in a display of his generously sunny disposition, responded with “Yay! It’s finally going to be warmer in a big section of the house.” And I know he’s right, and I’m happy about it too. But right there along with my happy, is a calculator of all the wasted heating dollars, and frustration with all the HVAC people who’ve been here before now… because REALLY?! So, it’s fixed, and as tonight it seems that winter has arrived, I’m happy about it too. Really I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want warm comfort food, because just like my dollar wasting calculator, my desire for comfort food is core, basic me-ness. I’m pretty sure both my love of comforting belly warming foods and frugal dishes show up in this menu. Hopefully all my sunny people will eat them and still stay their wonderful sunny selves. Hope your week reveals something essential about you that you just love.

 photo b4b5fa15-af38-4aaf-93a3-efb49641c748.jpgMonday: 30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili, Quinoa, Cornbread, Green Salad

Tuesday: Lentil/Bulgur Burgers, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli, Green Salad

Wednesday:  Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, Mixed Grain Bread, Green Salad

Thursday: Asian Varia Bowl with Rice Noodles, Veggies

Friday: Homemade Pizza, Cut Veggies

Saturday: Baked Butternut Squash Risotto, Green Beans, Green Salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Spinach and Pesto

Adult Lunches: leftover chili, leftover Cold Kickin’ Soup

Lunchbox Treat: Peanut Butter Crisp Cookies (yes, I will share this one…)

  

I had completely forgotten about those cookies. Yeah, I gotta go. Hope your week is as easy or as hard as you need it to be and that all of your vents are properly connected. Eat well, be well friends!

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

This article came trickling across my wire today and I think it’s absolutely fascinating. It’s a pictorial: one week of groceries in 20 different countries around the globe. Interesting to see how much of that picture is taken up by ingredients, and how much is taken up by processed foods. I’ll say this, I have a hunch as to why Bhutan keeps being named one of the happiest places on earth…

THAT is a whole lot of real food.  It’s an interesting experiment really.  What would your kitchen look like if you spread a week’s worth of groceries around and took a picture? Check out the other 19 countries in the pictorial and see what food looks like around the world.  I’m tempted to include my own picture, but the market trip was a few days ago and the idea of hauling it all out to photo makes me crazy…  but chances are good I’ll be going again… Hmmm, I smell a little real food pictorial coming on.  What’s in your pantry?

Sometimes It’s Not That Complicated

I am a member of an online Mom’s group.  I don’t necessarily participate all that much, but when the twins were infants and we had just moved here, it was a lifesaver.  There was always someone around to “talk” to.  I still check in from time to time, to chat with my book club friends, get advice on a restaurant, or help a new Mom know it’s going to be okay.  While I was visiting with my online ladies yesterday, an interesting question caught my eye. Continue reading

You Deserve Real Food….. Baby Step #8

BabyStep8“Psssst!”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you.  The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”

“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”

“Everyone?”

“Well, I certainly try.”

“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”

(silence)

“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”

“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”

What do you think?  Does it count?

When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance.  They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend.  But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend.  And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it.  I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading

Baby Steps 6: New Habits – New Rewards

January 1st is a tough time to make a change.  I mean, how many of us still have Christmas cookies in the house?  Fudge?  Candy canes?  Chocolate…. no wait.  I always have chocolate in my house.  In my defense it is dark chocolate and I limit myself to about 150 calories worth a day.  What?  How can you stop eating chocolate you ask?  I’ll answer that in a second, but would just like to point out that although the holidays bring all sorts of unusual treats into our homes, most of us always have a lot of ‘food’ on hand that is not healthy food.  Food is a habit that is hard to break.  No wait, that sounds ridiculous… Poor food CHOICES can be a hard habit to break.  Habits are hard to break.  Time to develop new healthy habits.  They can be hard to break as well!

BabySteps6

That is my segue back to the chocolate.  I used to adore Reese’s peanut butter cups and all manner of sugar-filled treats and candy.  Switching to dark chocolate took time.  I had to start with some in-between chocolate…, kind of dark, kind of milk / wishy-washy Charlie Brown kind of chocolate.  But as I developed new habits for snacks that were lower in sugar I began to find the more sugary versions WAY too sweet.  In fact, when I imbibe in a high sugar treat now I feel really bad in about 10 minutes.  No kidding.  It’s a great motivator to stay away from the crap, but it took some time to develop that sensitivity.

So my answer about having chocolate in the house without eating it is this.  The less sugar in the chocolate, the more deeply satisfying is eating a reasonable amount, AND the less sugar, the less likely to cause craving for more.  That is my experience.  And it is experience that has driven Little Sis and I on our quest to eat more healthfully, and to achieve a degree of success towards that proposition.  Experiences of wellness and satisfaction.  Repeated experience develops habits.  Paying attention to experience helps us develop healthy habits.  We would like to help you have experiences that will drive your own success towards healthy eating.  We suggest that you can develop new habits and new rewards.

If you are new to the Baby Steps series, I heartily recommend that you take a click back to the beginning and follow through the steps we have outlined thus far.  (Brief synopsis to follow)  If you are not new to the series – scroll on down to the next section which includes some tips for breaking habits.

Baby Steps Series (All offered with love and encouragement during successes and slip-ups):

Introduction: Baby Steps Down the Road to Better Health
a little why should ya for ya and links to recipes

Baby Step #1 - The Ol’ Switcheroo
Swapping out one or more of your worst choices for better ones – One Item, One Switch
some suggestions for where you might make a swap if you’d like suggestions and links to recipes

Baby Step #2 - Be Fearless, Be Honest
Facing up to what you are currently eating – we’ll still love you, I promise.

Baby Step #3 – Pantry Perusal
We help you assess what’s in your pantry.  Taking a hard look at what and why you find what you find.

Baby Step #3b – Peeping in our Pantries
A Peep into our pantries.  What are good items to have on hand for quick, healthy meals along with links to recipes

Go Back Jack – Baby Steps Check in
Encouragement to keep at it, even if you mess up.  Everyday provides new opportunities to make good choices about food.  We are with ya!  Hang in there!

Baby Steps #4 – Adventurous, Experimentation and Gratitude
So you’ve decided to improve your eating and your health, how do you get the rest of the family to come along?  Suggestions here!

Baby Steps #5 – It’s Time for a Plan
The name says it all – helping you make a plan after all your hard work preparing and experimenting.

Baby Steps – Happier, Healthier Holidays
Suggestions to eat as healthfully as possible during the holidays – or anytime when you know you will have tough choices coming your way!

Baby Steps – Don’t Say Diet
Reminders and encouragement that you don’t need to diet, you need to change what you eat.  You can learn to be satisfied and energized by healthy food.

And now Little Sis and I both have some things to say about New Habits – New Rewards….

I heard this guy interviewed on the radio the other day.  He had some really interesting, specific, and helpful things to say about habits.  I immediately thought of changing the way we eat in terms of habits.  So much of how we feed ourselves is habit driven, routine, doing what we’ve always done.  Habits can be hard to break.  We want to help and so does Jeremy Dean.  He gives 10 tips for habit change here that he covers in greater length in his new book Making Habits, Breaking Habits.  I was delighted to see how many of his tips sounded like the kinds of things we suggest in our Baby Steps to Better Health series.

Dean’s very first suggestion is “For Big Results, Think Small.”  He discusses the importance of making change in small, incremental, manageable and achievable bits.  Sound familiar?  Other themes that we both stress are repetition, tweaking (the same plan won’t work for everyone), and replacing an undesirable behavior with one that is desirable rather than just trying to suppress the “bad” one.  Yay!  These are just a few of his tips – there are a total of 10 in the article, and like I said they’re all from a larger book.  If you’re trying to make some healthy changes, this guy just might have some insight for you. And there’s nothing like having your advice validated by an official smart guy. :-)

Indeed we do like smart guys, don’t we Little Sis?  I would like to add that we have cultural habits about using food as a reward.  We deserve’ a treat at the end of a hard day.  We ‘earned’ a chocolate milkshake by cleaning out the garage.  Only problem is we are hurting ourselves with some of these choices… what kind of a reward is that?  Rewards aren’t supposed to hurt, are they?

Make yourself a list of non-food rewards.  One of mine is to step outside (when possible) smell the air and look for some birds or other wildlife.  That always makes me feel better.  A little break, no harmful intake.  Then if I am really hungry, I can eat something that will nourish me in all my bird-loving glory ;-).  Seriously, make a list.  Little things, little treats… treats you can pay attention to like a cup of flavorful herb tea, a game of cards with your sweetie or friend, a flower or two to put in a vase where you’ll see it, a bath with scented water.  Make a list because options are good and options can help you overcome old, harmful habits.

Another benefit to the list of non-food rewards is that when the habit rears its head, if you go get the list, or read your list, you have a chance to move beyond the initial impulse.  Habits are in a way trained impulses.  Given a little bit of time to think about the consequences of our habitual actions, we might make a better, or less bad, choice.

Close your eyes when you’re sure that you ‘deserve’ that bag of Doritos or Reese’s peanut butter cup, breathe and count to 10.  Then look around you wherever you are and decide what you are going to do next.  Maybe the treat won’t seem so important anymore, or you will acknowledge a healthier choice and ‘treat’ yourself well.

Congratulations for reading a Baby Steps post.  That is a Baby Step right there!  You deserve a pat on the back and a healthier body!  Let us know how you are doing developing new habits and new rewards.  Please also let us know if there is specific information you’d like from us.  The Steps continue down the road to better health.

Baby Step 5: It’s Time For A Plan

By now I suspect you’re getting a little weary of legwork.  You’ve experimented with a swap, you’ve kept a food journal, and you’ve investigated your pantry, and you’ve thought for a bit about how to get those with whom you eat the most on board with the idea of a new approach to food.  You didn’t realize you’d already done so much, did you?  Didn’t do it all?  That’s okay.  Jump in here, go back to the beginning and start there – whatever.  There is no timeline.

The only due date I’d like to suggest is that you do something today.  No, don’t wait until January…  Waiting until January means losing a month of taking baby steps down the road.  Yes, there are more holidays coming, and you can decide how to deal with them, but they aren’t TODAY.  There’s no reason you can’t get a little ahead of the game and celebrate whatever season it is for you with a glow of better health and the satisfaction of knowing that in addition to anything you’re doing for others, you’re also taking care of yourself.  Convinced?  Yay!  It’s time to make a plan….

Gather your stuff.  Get that food journal.  Open that pantry door.  Peek in the refrigerator.  Your mission is to make a list of foods that you’d like to baby step out of your diet.  No, you don’t need to come up with a specific number.  And yes, we will help you figure out which ones to start with if you’re not sure.  Let’s see if we can’t make some progress with a few simple questions.

  1. As you look at your food journal, is there something that you know is unhealthy and that you eat regularly for the sake of convenience or to treat yourself?  Perhaps you have a soda habit or a frappucino addiction.  These are perfect places to start – a food that is not a meal, it’s offering no nutrition, and it’s loaded with sugar.  Am I telling you to ditch them altogether? You know me better than that. Cut them out, cut them down, wean yourself, swap them out for something healthier.  Whatever a baby step is to you… do that.
  2. As you consider your food choices, does carry out or fast food play a major role in your lunch or dinner meal planning?  Set a goal for eating one more home cooked meal or one more brown bagged lunch per week than whatever your current total is.
  3. As you examine that pantry you’ve already peeped in, take notice of the number of packaged snacks.  This is an excellent place to experiment with some snack swaps or learning to make a homemade snack.
  4. As you peek in the fridge, take notice of the beverages that are available.  How many of them are sweet?  How many of them are juice or juice-like?  Another excellent place to get started.  Remember, you don’t have to throw it out (unless you want to, and I’m certainly not going to stop you).  Cut the amount, cut the frequency, mix it with water, swap it for something healthier.
  5. Still not sure where to get started?  Some basic categories you should consider: foods with a lot of sugar or corn syrup, foods that contain excessive fat (especially hydrogenated fats), foods that contain excessive sodium (in all its forms), and highly processed foods (like those that stay good for a REALLY long time).
  6. Still at a loss?  I’m going to point you toward Michael Pollin’s food rules – eat food, real food, mostly vegetables.

Overwhelmed.  Don’t be.  Now is when you take all those answers and thinking and make a list of foods or food categories that you want to work to eliminate from your diet.  It could look something like this:

  • sugary cereals
  • soda
  • chips
  • carry out

My current list looks like this

  • caffeine (UGH)
  • salt on the plate
  • afternoon sweet

So am I going to do all of these at once?  Maybe, but I won’t cut them all out.  For my caffeine problem, I’m switching from two large mugs of my beloved coffee to one of coffee and one of black tea.  The next step will be to switch the black tea out for green tea.  Then black tea in the a.m., green tea in the afternoon… you get the picture.  I have reduced caffeine before and in addition to the headache, I’ve found that being abrupt on this one makes me miserable and inflicts some level of misery on those around me….  so I’m going to step it down, achieve my goal at a pace that allows me to make adjustments, allows me to tame my body’s addiction over time without being a horrible grouch for the holidays.

Once you’ve got a list of things you’d like to cut/limit/wean yourself off of, choose a starting place.  Pick one of them and consider how you want to proceed.  Limit the quantity?  Swap it out? Cut it altogether?  Your answer will be different from my answer – what is a baby step to you may seem like a huge leap to me.  This is YOUR plan, not a test of your character, but  series of decisions you get to make for yourself.

Finally, write down the steps you’re going to follow to get started on that change.  If you’re going to limit your quantity, write down how that’s going to work – what’s the new limit and what are you going to do to replace that item?  If you’re cutting a sweet treat in the middle of your work day, what are you going to either eat or do to replace that ritual?  Write it down.  Write down your start date (today) and then give yourself a goal date for reaching whatever your desired change is on that item.

If you want to ditch chewy granola bars, write down when you’re going to start (today), write down what you’re going to do instead (there could be a few steps here), and write down the date by which you hope to be done changing this food habit.  Does that mean you’ll never eat one again?  Maybe, but probably not.

Remember what Big Sis said – the key to healthy eating is making healthful decisions as often as you can.  Establish a new pattern so that the chewy granola bar (or soda, or candy or drive through) is an exception rather than the rule. Open the door to improved nutrition and prepare to be wowed as your taste buds come back to life and you discover new satisfaction in eating for your health.

And just in case you’re wondering, this isn’t all about what we cut out… we have plenty of suggestions about what to cut in. A little delish, morning, noon, and night comin’ up.
If you need help with some swaps, read this step.  No suggestion that works for you there?  Ask us!  We’ll answer, and probably some others will too.  You don’t have to figure it all out yourself… and if you don’t like your plan a week from now, know what you get to do?  Change it.  It’s YOUR plan.

Baby Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest.

The Sis sisters want you to feel good, to eat well, and to enjoy your food.  We do not want you to go on a diet.  There are so many diets out there, so many plans that will tell you exactly what you will eat and will give you a variety of ways of measuring, quantifying, and analyzing your food so that you can be sure you’re staying on plan.  This is not what we’re about.

Baby Steps to Better Health is a way to learn how to eat real food, healthful food; to learn how to change your relationship with food and to move from a place of deprivation to a place of healthful and satisfying abundance.  So the first step asked you to make a switch, to find one unhealthy item in your diet and switch it out for something healthier.  Didn’t do it yet?  Didn’t go so well?  Went great?  It’s all good.  You can jump in where we are, start from the first step, whatever you like.  Any step you take towards healthier eating is a good one.  Today, we’re going to get started on Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest. Huh?

I used to teach and one of the things my colleagues and I constantly reminded ourselves was that you have to teach where the student is.  You have to figure out what they know if you want to teach them something new.  The same is true for any habit or change that we are trying to make, isn’t it?  If I want to build a table, I need to get real honest with myself about my carpentry skills; I have to see if I have the materials required; I (this is certainly true for me) would have to learn some very specific skills; then I would be ready to start building successfully, rather than making the kind of table I would make if I just started banging away with hammer and nails(and believe me I speak from experience here as I am a long-time bang away at the unknown kind of gal).

The next few baby steps are prep work, getting honest with ourselves about what we eat, investigating the materials we have on hand, and learning some new skills.  Rather than thrashing about and banging away at our food, our self-esteem, our bodies, and our nerves, it seems wise to take some time to gather our resources and suss out exactly where this road starts so we can get on with making it go somewhere healthy and delicious.

What I’m going to suggest here may put some of you off, and perhaps that’s why I’ve been jabbering (stalling) here.  I want to suggest that you keep a food journal… NONONONONO don’t click away.  I’m not talking about THAT kind of food journal.  I don’t want you to measure your stuff and write down how many calories are in things.  I don’t want you to assign numbers to your food.  I don’t want you to categorize your food and check things off.  I don’t want you to freak out about writing these things down.

I just want to suggest that you make a note of what you’re eating (including snacks).  Why?  So we can post them and judge each other?  I’m hoping you know us better than that, but in case you’re concerned, no, there will be no judging.  The Sis sisters both know from experience that a lot of eating is driven by habit and convenience.  A great deal of our munching is not really considered, it may be reflex, it may be habit, it may be a lot of things, but getting it on a piece of paper makes it really easy to look at our choices and find some places to begin, to set some goals for ourselves, to identify good candidates for the kinds of switches that we’ve suggested in Baby Step 1.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down. 

A few months ago I realized that I was putting on a little weight and was feeling a bit lethargic, weighed down, a little slow and unmotivated.  I began to pay attention to, and to write down, what I was eating.  I realized that every day while I was making dinner, there was quite a bit of snacking going on.  The exact contents varied, but more often than not a fair amount of salt and fat worked their way in there.  Some days I nibbled so much that I wasn’t even hungry for the delicious, healthful meal I had prepared for my family.  It took my attention to identify that habit, to realize that I was letting myself get too hungry at that hour and to be sure to listen to the call of the wild stomach before I became a ravening beast.  I needed to see it to make the change.  Once I saw it, it was very easy to identify some changes that I could make.  I didn’t need anybody to tell me what to cut first – I knew it.  I could see it right there on the page.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down.

So what should this food journal look like?  You know what I’m going to say, right?  I don’t care what it looks like.  I don’t care what you write it on.  I don’t care if you use shorthand.  I don’t care if you write it with a crayon with your toes.  My only recommendation is that you put it together in such a way that you will be able to look at a whole week or so without a lot of effort – so writing each day on the back of a receipt that is in your wallet full of receipts from the last 4 months (is this just me?) is probably not the way to go.  Beyond that knock yourself out.  Write it wherever, however, this is YOUR exercise.  You are finding the real starting point for YOUR road to healthier eating.  No numbers, no measuring, just a log of what you are doing.  No judgment, no fear, no recrimination.  You can do this.  Just take a step, with a pen (or a crayon) and a piece of paper.  We’ll take it with you.  We can be fearless and honest together.  Okay, GO!

Baby Step #1 : The Old Switcheroo

Easing the progress of any change is the confidence that you can handle change.  You CAN handle the truth, right?  Unfortunately, for most of us, part of any change is remembering the times we failed to complete the intended change.  We all fail and we all sabotage future success by focusing, highlighting, dwelling on, gnawing over, and losing sleep over, our failures.  One reason the Sis sisters came up with our Baby Steps plan was to provide do-able changes that will not only reward you with the outcome of the change, but will provide you with a success.  And it doesn’t need to be a total smashing success, because food choices are not permanent.  We have many opportunities to get it right… everyday. Continue reading