Making Mealtime Easier

180196547 b8db2d4501 300x225 Making Mealtime EasierMaybe it’s just me, but mealtime is SUCH a pain. I feel like I’m always running out of ideas and now that the girls are in school full-time, afternoon and early evenings around here are really hectic.

I need a plan. A meal plan to be more specific.

There was one summer when I did a great job of planning meals and buying groceries ahead of time. Mealtime was much less stressful and much more pleasant then. So why did I stop? I’m not sure. Things got busy, as they do, and I got out of the habit.

One of my goals for the new year is to reduce the stress I’m feeling. To help with that, I’m going to stop making things harder for myself. When I don’t have a plan (for dinner, among other things) I feel more stress than I need to. So it’s meal plan time!

I’ve found several options for meal planning that I want to share with you. Some are more involved than others, so if you’re interested in making your own meal plans, you should be able to find something here that will work for you.

  • Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week [my review], has a weekly meal plan template that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and a place for a grocery list. Also, Unclutterer.com has a new sister site called Simplifried. According to the website, “Our goal is to make feeding yourself and your family as painless as possible.” Naturally, I’ve already subscribed to their updates.
  • Ivory at Little House in the Suburbs introduced me to Say MMM, which is a web-based meal planning application. If you prefer your tools automated, Say MMM may be the way to go. Even better? It’s FREE!

To solve the mealtime hassle in my own home, I’m going to set aside some time each Saturday to discuss meal options with my family. From there, I’ll make a list of lunches and dinners for the week and compile my grocery list. On Sunday, I’ll make a trip to the store and buy all of the supplies I need.

I’ll still have to cook amidst the chaos that often accompanies the dinner hour, but I do think that knowing what I’m making and having the ingredients on hand will make the whole event less stressful for me.

How about you? Do you plan your meals ahead of time? Do you think it’s made your life easier?

Photo Credit: gordasm

What Is Wrong With High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High fructose corn syrup is one of the main ingredients in almost any processed food. You’ve probably heard nutritionists and environmentalists say it needs to be avoided. There’s a popular commercial running on television involving two mothers at a birthday party laughing about all the hype and insisting that in moderation, high fructose corn syrup is a “natural,” wonderful thing. It should be noted that this ad is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association.

So what’s a person to do? Believe HFCS is evil and try (possibly in vain) to avoid it, or roll with it and accept the fact that it’s in nearly every factory made product we consume?

I’ve done some digging and hopefully what I’ve found will help you make more informed choices for you and your family.

The Primary Question

Is high fructose corn syrup worse for us than sugar?

The Answer

We’re not sure. Some studies have been conducted, but many have been deemed flawed or not comprehensive enough. For sure, more research needs to be done.

Other Questions

What is high fructose corn syrup?

According the the Mayo Clinic online,

High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener and preservative. High-fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose — another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.

The reason that high fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar is because of huge government subsidies that go to growers of corn.

So What’s the Big Deal?

The bottom line is that high fructose corn syrup is simply another form of sugar.  Marion Nestle, author, food policy expert and professor (she holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition) writes, “Biochemically, [HFCS] is about the same as table sugar (both have about the same amount of fructose and calories) . . .”

But here’s the problem, Nestle adds, “[high fructose corn syrup] is in everything and Americans eat a lot of it—nearly 60 pounds per capita in 2006, just a bit less than pounds of table sugar.   HFCS is not a poison, but eating less of any kind of sugar is a good idea these days and anything that promotes eating more is not.”

So what are we to do?

1. Read labels. This is one of the most important things you can do. HFCS is in nearly all processed foods. If it’s the first, second or third ingredient, then there’s a lot of sugar in that product. It’s probably best to skip it.

2. Eat more real food. Go for foods that don’t come with an ingredients list.

3. Avoid sodas. These drinks are notoriously high in HFCS.

4. Be aware that it’s very difficult to consume sugar “in moderation” if you don’t know how much you’re eating. Start paying attention to what’s in the food you eat so you can make more informed choices about your sugar consumption.

Let me know if you have more questions about high fructose corn syrup and I’ll do my best to find the answers. If you found this post helpful, please tell a friend and consider tweeting it and/or liking it on Facebook.

Green & Healthy Breakfast Ideas

happy breakfast Green & Healthy Breakfast IdeasThe other day I wrote about smoothies and while I tend to drink them any time of day, I often incorporate them into breakfast because they’re yummy and they’re also highly portable.

There are a few other things I like to eat for breakfast and I find that when I do take the time for this important meal, I feel better for the rest of the day. I’m also less hungry and less inclined to go on a mad search for sugar-filled snacks mid-morning.

My goals with my breakfast choices are to include organics whenever possible, real foods (which is to say, not processed or packaged), something with protein and some complex carbohydrates. I’ve also been using more ground flax seeds. I’ve known for some time they they are good for us, but as I’ve been reading Tosca Reno’s books, The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged! Green & Healthy Breakfast Ideas and The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids: Simple Strategies for Lasting Health and Fitness Green & Healthy Breakfast Ideas I’ve learned even more about the benefits of these little seeds. In addition to the heart healthy goodness attributable to the Omega-3s, Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), fiber and lignans in flaxseeds, these little powerhouses also act as a mild laxative to help keep our systems moving.

Now, onto the food. . .

3 Green & Healthy Breakfast Ideas:

Oatmeal + Fixin’s

I start with rolled oats (not quick oats). Often they are organic and usually they are purchased in bulk.

I usually cook them in the microwave with almond milk or water.

Then I add in 1-2 Tbs. of ground flax seeds, chopped walnuts, a drop or two of pure maple syrup, and some kind of fruit — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or chopped apple.

This breakfast is delicious and filling.

Eggs and Toast

I usually boil 1/2 dozen eggs (pastured) at the beginning of the week and keep them in the refrigerator.

In the morning, I toast two pieces of Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread and spread it with just a bit of homemade butter. Then I sprinkle some ground flax seeds on top.

If I’m eating at home, I slice one boiled egg onto a piece of toast and eat it that way. If I’m eating on the go, I simply eat the egg and the toast separately. I try to eat a piece of fruit as well, or make a simple smoothie of frozen fruit and a bit of orange juice and water.

Garden Omelet

This is a summertime favorite because I can grab vegetables right out of the garden or at the farmer’s market.

You can really make the omelet any way you want to. My favorite is very simple with only three ingredients:

Eggs

Fresh spinach leaves

Chopped heirloom tomatoes

Sometimes, I’ll add in some feta cheese or other vegetables if I have them on hand.

It’s important to point out that I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. I’m not suggesting that these ideas are perfectly healthy or that they will appeal to everyone. So far, though, they’ve been working well for me.

I’d love to gather more ideas for healthy breakfast foods. Please let us know what you eat for breakfast by leaving a comment below.

Photo Credit: Toobig4pond

Where Should Your Organic Dollars Go?

shoppers guide Where Should Your Organic Dollars Go?

It’s hard to know where to spend your precious organic dollars. Fortunately, Environmental Working Group (EWG.org) has just updated their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce where they list the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen.” The Clean 15 are the least sprayed fruits and vegetables and therefore the safest bets if you want to skip organic. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 most heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables, so whenever possible, it’s best to buy these organic.

There are many reasons to avoid consumming pesticides, not the least of which is the often unknown impact of these chemicals on our health. According to an article on CNN Health, a recent study has found that “Kids with above-average levels of a common pesticide byproduct had twice ADHD risk.”

I’ll list the Dirty Dozen below, but the EWG has created a handy printable guide that will fit in your wallet. Click here to get it. Dr. Andrew Weil has come on board this year extolling the virtues of the Shopper’s Guide. You can watch a short video of his comments while you’re there if you’d like.

The Dirty Dozen – Buy these organic:

Celery
Peaches
Strawberries
Apples
Blueberries
Nectarines
Bell Peppers
Spinach
Kale
Cherries
Potatoes
Grapes (Imported)

One way we’re saving money is by growing some of our own. For example, this year we’re growing strawberries, potatoes and bell peppers from this list. Good luck with your organic shopping. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with.

Photo Credit: FoodNews.org

Mmmm. . .Smoothies

smoothie Mmmm. . .Smoothies

I’ve been trying to find easy and delicious ways to increase my intake of good foods. One of my favorites is the smoothie. There are two combinations I’m really into lately and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first one I learned about from Hannah Keeley. I’m no longer sure of the exact amounts her recipe calls for, because I tend to estimate as I’m tossing things in the blender. In other words, consider this an adaptation.

Blueberry Energy Smoothie

Frozen blueberries (I use organic wild blueberries)

Orange juice

2 Tbs. ground flax seeds

2 Tbs. wheat germ

Blend and enjoy. Sometimes I’ll add in frozen raspberries as well for an extra fiber boost. (Did you know that raspberries have a whopping 8 grams of fiber per cup??)

Strawberry Almond Milk Smoothie

Frozen strawberries (organic whenever possible – strawberries are heavily sprayed with pesticides)

Almond milk

1/2 cup rolled oats

1-2 Tbs. ground flax seeds

This has been my go-to smoothie of late. It’s so yummy and keeps me full all morning.

There are so many wonderful options for making smoothies. Please share some of your favorites in the comments.

Photo Credit: terriseesthings