Tip of the Week
You just dropped the little one off at school, your husband’s car broke, so you just dropped him off too. The to do list begins: grocery store, home to unload the groceries, clean house, back to school to pick the little one up, help with homework, get dinner, bath time, and so on. Did I for get to mention work in the midst of the chaos that you call your day? That’s life for most of us.
How can we simplify our over-scheduled and crazy day to day lives? Well, it’s hard! In most American homes, both parents work, leaving less time to do the day to day activities of keeping your house and family in order. In general, we spend less time together as a family.
In my house, one of the most important parts of our insanely crazy days is dinner time. It is one of the few times we re-connect as a family. When you start to break down communication as a family, you start to run into problems. We need to check in once in a while and take inventory of how our kids’ and spouses lives are, and you’re your own. When you slow down to talk about your day or week, it’s easier to stay connected.
So, “how,” you may ask, “do I get dinner on the table after my crazy day and still have time to re-connect?” I realize that getting dinner on the table is itself a task at times. This does not mean you should be calling the nearest pizza place or stopping at the golden arches on your way home. You – yes you – can make a relatively healthy, easy meal in a short amount of time. Here are a few things I make when times are crunched, but I want to have something kind of healthy to offer the family:
Bean and cheese quesadillas with fruit on the side
Take 2 tortillas (whole wheat (for finer) if your family will have it. Spread one side with a low fat refried bean (black or pinto work well). Sprinkle cheese and put the other tortilla on top. In a frying pan on medium heat – no oil or butter needed – put your quesadilla down, flip it till the tortilla is brown and everything is meted and warmed. Serve with a side of fruit and salsa. Voila…dinner in 5 minutes!
This works because the many households have cheese, tortillas and canned beans on hand. The beans offer a ton of fiber and protein which means your meal will be more filling. The cheese is just plain good, but it offers a bit of calcium. The fruit and salsa round the meal off.
Mini Turkey Meatloaves
Take ½ pound of lean ground turkey. Add a liberal amount of steak seasoning (I use Montreal Steak Seasoning – probably around 2 tablespoons) and Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tablespoon). Add ¼ c dried breadcrumbs and one whisked up egg. Combine it together with your hands and divide it into 3 or 4. Free form it into mini loaves. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Top with a mixture of ketchup and BBQ sauce (just combine equal parts), and bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with a side of steamed veggies and bread or rice.
This works because ground turkey is typically lean, but a great source of protein. The flavor comes from the ingredients you add, not the meat. Rounding it off with a yummy veggie and starch such as bread or rice makes it a meal. My kids love the meatloaves because I make them just their size. I like them because I can whip them together in no time, and give the kids a bath while they are baking!
My Favorite Chicken Marinade
I usually throw in a handful of fresh thyme leaves, fresh sage leaves, juice of 1 lemon and its’ lemon zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil (enough for how much chicken you are using). Salt and pepper each side of your chicken, and place it in this marinade for 15-30 minutes and thrown on the grill, or in a baking dish and bake off. You can also make the marinade, add the chicken and throw it in the freezer to use later. Just thaw out and use accordingly.
- On days you have a tiny bit of extra time, make meals that you can freeze. Just be sure to prepare them properly and seal them up good to prevent contamination in your freezer, and so your food doesn’t get freezer burned.
- Good Frozen Dinner Meals: mini meatloaves (see recipe above), lasagna (pick your favorite recipe and make 2!), pasta sauce, etc. All these meals can usually be taken out in the morning and thrown into the oven when you get home. When it comes to the meatloaves, you are better off thawing them in the fridge.
- Good Frozen Breakfast Meals: pancakes and waffles (when I make these for the kids on the weekend, I double or triple the batch and reheat them from the freezer in the microwave)
I hope this gets you started. Just remember that sitting down for dinner as a family to re-connect does not mean you have to be a stop at the drive through. With a few ingredients from your pantry and a little creativity, you can whip up easy go to meals in a pinch. Enjoy and slow down!
Health Tip of the Week
You have heard over and over that keeping your body healthy is beneficial to just about everything related to your physical being. Well, here is another reason to keep your body healthy. It keeps your mind sharp too!
As early as your 20s, you can begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make fewer of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. As you age, these small changes can begin to have significant affects on your memory by changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to remember stored information. While you cannot stop the aging process, you can help your brain by exercising it and eating healthy.
To exercise your brain, you will have to actively learn, try and/or experience new things. When you learn something new, whether it is a piece of information, an activity, etc., your brain literally grows. It forms new synaptic connections between your neurons. These connections are the “key” to intelligence, memory and information processing. The more connections you have, the better!!
What are some foods that can help keep your mind healthy? Start with whole foods. That means anything not processed. It comes off a tree or in the ground. Fruits and veggies are a great start! The best brain foods are complex carbohydrates. Because the molecules in complex carbohydrates are long, it takes longer for the intestines to break them down into the simple sugars the body can use. Because of this, they provide a source of steady energy rather than a surge followed by a plunge.* Below is a list of “good” brain food and “bad” brain foods:
Good Brain Foods
Avocados, Bananas, Lean Beef, Brewer's yeast , Broccoli , Brown rice , Brussels sprouts, Cantaloupe, Cheese, Chicken, Collard greens, Eggs, Flaxseed oil, Legumes, Milk, Oatmeal, Oranges, Peanut butter, Peas, Potatoes, Romaine lettuce, Salmon, Soybeans, Spinach, Tuna, Turkey, Wheat germ, and Yogurt
Bad Brain Foods
Alcohol, Artificial food colorings, Artificial sweeteners, Colas, Corn syrup, Frostings, High-sugar "drinks,” Hydrogenated fats, Junk sugars, Nicotine, Overeating, White bread
Check out this interesting article on yahoo health. It covers more of the best and worst brain foods. It is fascinating how food can affect your brain!
What happens if you don’t keep your mind healthy? While this certainly not the inevitable, it is a serious possibility that many people face today. What is it? Alzheimer’s disease! Alzheimer's is a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).
My Great-Grandmommy had Alzheimer's disease. Growing up, I saw her get worse and worse until she eventually lost all ability to remember anyone/anything around her. On the other hand, my Grandmommy, her daughter, is still ticking away sharp as a tack at 72!! The difference? While it is not scenically proven (in my family, anyway), my Grandmommy is extremely active, walking and working out at the senior center 3-5 days a week. She eats a balanced/mostly whole foods diet, and she constantly does things like crosswords, sodoku, reads, goes to museums, etc.
While I am no scientist, I am convinced that keeping your mind sharp is as simple as moving and learning. One may not completely eliminate the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s, but it won’t hurt to try! Now go out and learn something!!
The key is to learn new things, not just revisit old ones.
* Saltman, Paul, Joeal Gurin, and Ira Mothner. The University of California San Diego Nutrition Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Tip of the Week
3 months ago I lost my Father-in-Law to pancreatic cancer at the age of 60, and 4 years ago, I lost my Mom to colon cancer at the age of 46. Cancer is becoming an increasing problem all over the world. It has touched my life closer than I wanted, but in away, it has been a blessing. I have learned more about cancer than I ever wanted to know, but this knowledge has allowed me to change the way that I live and eat. I feel like the knowledge that I have gained will hopefully benefit my children, and maybe inspire you to learn a little more too.
What is cancer? Cancer is a disease defined by a normal cell mutating and multiplying out of control. The best way I have heard it explained, is that cancer is like rust. Once a piece of metal begins to get rusty, it takes no time at all for the rust to spread and destroy the original piece of metal. That’s what happens to a healthy cell. It mutates, then spread to other healthy cells. Left untreated, it (the cancer) will take over and eventually kill its host (the person).
According to the National Cancer Institute, 80% of all cancers are caused by factors that have been identified and can potentially be controlled. Colon, breast and prostate cancers are believed be linked to an unhealthy diet. People with these cancers typically have diets that are high in meat and fat.
In parts of the world where more whole grains, fruits, beans, veggies and nuts are eaten, cancer rates are much lower. Many of the foods that are considered healthy – such as fruits, veggies and grains - offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc. Animal products, on the other hand, are thought to release carcinogenic compounds and are believed to increase cancer risk. I am not suggesting becoming vegetarian, but limiting the amount you consume is a good start.
An important thing to note is cancer and the Latino community – just as the Latino population is growing, so are its’ cancer rates. Latina women in particular have a lower survival rate for breast and cervical cancer than Whites. To learn more about how cancer is impacting the Latino community, see the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics and Latinos 2009-2011.
So, what can you do to decrease your chances of getting a cancer?
Cancer Prevention Tips
First, educate yourself and know your family history. If someone in your family has or had cancer, you NEED to know so that you can get checked. My Mom died at 46, but they believed she began to develop polyps in her early 30s. It takes polyps 5-10 years to become cancerous. So, had she been checked early on, they could have removed these polyps and she may still be here. She’s not, and now I know what I need to do. Get checked in my early 30s – not when the standard 50 year-old check is recommended.
Second, you can change and/or improve your diet. Like I mentioned earlier, diets rich in grains, fruits, beans, veggies and nuts are good diets! The less that these foods have been processed - cooked, peeled, mixed with other ingredients - the better they are for you! These types of food are also high in fiber. A diet rich in fiber is key because it helps keep your digestive system clean. Fiber is also found in whole grains, but it’s not found in meat, dairy and white rice…..or most desserts! For additional ideas on how to incorporate fiber and more fruits and veggies into your diet check out this helpful article posted by the folks at Helpguide.org.
Third, incorporate more cancer fighting foods into your diet. Have you heard of the Mediterranean Diet? It is a diet that contains many anti-cancer foods. Check out this website for a full view of what this diet consists of. Also, here is a table with some cancer fighting foods that can easily be incorporated into your life.
While there is no known singular cause to cancer, the best thing you can do to prevent it by knowing some of the “assumed” causes, and be proactive with them. Don’t smoke and minimize alcohol consumption. Eat a diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and don’t add too much additional fat. Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Bottom line, an overall healthy lifestyle may prevent cancer, while additionally helping prevent heart disease, obesity, and many other health complications.
Check out these helpful resources
Tip of the Week
Do you ever find yourself bored with making the same meals day in and day out? Maybe it’s not you. Maybe your kids are the ones who are bored with the same old meal. So, how do you mix it up and make it fun and healthy - without heading to the closest fast food joint? The key to “mixing” things up. Be creative, get involved, and have fun!
Maybe you can take a traditional lunch item, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and make “sushi” rolls instead of the traditional sandwich. You take the crusts off of a slice of wheat bread, roll it out to thin the bread out. Spread peanut, or another nut butter, followed by jam. Roll the bread up, and cut into 4 pieces. Now you have peanut butter and jelly “sushi rolls!” I did this for my boys a few days ago, and they thought it was hilarious.
What about you? Are you completely bored with your turkey sandwich or salad? Try turning your sandwiches into a healthy wraps. Take a whole wheat tortilla, spread it with a low fat seasoned cream cheese or dressing, and add your favorite sandwich ingredients. Roll it up and cut in two. Make your “boring” salad into an awesome chopped salad! I take my everyday romaine and favorite salad vegetables and chop it really small– like you get at a restaurant - add a bit of crumbled feta (it is lower in fat that most cheeses), some dressing, and voila! To me, things that come wrapped or chopped up really small just make food taste better.
You can also try getting involved with your food. Sounds weird, but seriously! For example, grow some of your own vegetables and/or herbs. If you have children, have them garden with you. My boys “help” by throwing all my garden dirt out of the garden. It may be a little messy, and not exactly helpful, but they are outside with me having fun, and seeing how certain foods are grown. It is a really neat way to learn about the food you are going to eat, and it makes you appreciate the hard work that goes into producing your food. It is an extremely fulfilling feeling to eat what you grow.
So many times we feel that if we can’t make this crazy elaborate meal, then what’s the point? Sometimes even the simplest of meals, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, can be made fun by being creative. Experiment with your food. When I was younger, my Mom, a single mom of 6 kids, didn't have time to make anything from scratch. So, my mom got creative. One of the many ways she did that was making cookies from a cake mix! She wanted something quick and easy, and not a lot of ingredients. Natural food stores carry healthier cake mixes that work well with this trick. My sister, who is a single working mom, makes these all the time because they are cheap, easy, and sooooo yummy!!
Food is what sustains us. It is here to nourish us, not stress us out and make us unhealthy. It should be enjoyable and fun to make! I found this really cool book called “Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won’t Trade” by Sandra Nissenberg and Barbara Pearl. While it is geared toward children, I think that some of the recipes and ideas in this book can be used for adults too! Try to mix things up at home, and stock your kitchen with “go to” items that will allow to make meals quickly and creatively! Check out this article on vidacoco.com to help you get started. Just have fun with your food!!!