Posts filed under ‘Ramblings’
As much as I love cooking and sharing recipes, I also love getting a chance to share resources for healthy lifestyles with you guys! I am so passionate about health (guess I am in the right field!), and that stems from so many more places than just the kitchen. What we fuel our bodies with is more important than many think, but a healthy lifestyle also includes exercise, rest, good hand washing, and seeing a doctor every once in a while!
We may feel like we have a lot to work on personally (have you written down your goals for the year?), but how are we doing when it comes to our kids? Too often, we treat kids like they are little adults, but they are so much more complex than that! They are growing and learning and, most importantly, modeling themselves off of parents and caretakers. Kids need to be taught that fruits and vegetables are delicious, nutritious and important. They need to be shown that physical activity can be more fun than TV or video games. They need to be encouraged to wash their hands and brush their teeth. They need your help in staying healthy!
I am not yet a parent, and so I don’t know what this looks like personally. However, Kathryn sent me a pretty comprehensive guide that covers family health insurance, healthy eating tips for kids and families, how to get more exercise, and when to bring your kiddos to the doctor. Here are some of the facts and tips I found most interesting and useful:
- The American Medical Association reports that 25% of every healthcare dollar is spent on activities linked to poor health, such as improper diet, lack of exercise, sun exposure, smoking, substance abuse and failure to use seat belts.
- Modeling healthy lifestyle choices is essential… Carve out family time; mealtimes where all family members gather are ideal, and with a little planning can be achieved a few times a week.
- One in three U.S. children and adolescents are overweight.
- Dice vegetables very finely for use in sauces, meatloaf or pasta dishes.
- Crank up the tunes when doing housework and encourage children to dance while they work.
- Encourage children to cough or sneeze into the crook of an elbow instead of cupped hands.
If you have a family, I would love to hear how you model a healthy lifestyle for your kids, or things you want to try in the future! Take some time to browse this article, I hope that you find some good resources to keep you and your family on a healthy path.
Question: How do you model a healthy lifestyle for the kiddos in your life?
We are 5 weeks into the New Year… how are your New Years Resolutions coming? Did you make one? Did you write it down? The following infographic is from the Education Database Online and raises some great points about the benefits of goal setting!
If you are in the majority of those who do make resolutions, it is likely that one of your goals is to lose weight or get healthier. While these are great goals, they are incredibly broad and difficult to measure success on a weekly basis. In my clinical training, I have learned to help people set more attainable goals within their main objective. For example, exercise 3 times a week could be a mini-goal for the month of February, which would be a step towards weight loss and better health. Weight loss can be influenced by other factors, but making a decision to add exercise is something that you can tangibly work towards. Besides providing compelling evidence for written goal setting, I love the emphasis at the end of this graphic on making step-wise, attainable changes! I hope that this helps to motivate you in whatever goals you are trying to accomplish in 2013.
Question: Did you make a New Years Resolution? Share below, and let us know how you are doing! Does anything in the above graphic help you with your goal?
Hi Friends! It has been a while since my last post, so I figured I’d drop by to update you all on my blogging absence! I was in a rut for much of the fall and creating meals became a chore. I had a few bursts of creativity, but some of my passion began to dwindle. Once I had the time and energy to get back to recipe creation, I lost my camera cord! I am currently in the process of obtaining a card reader so I can still get pictures off my camera, but until then, I won’t be doing much posting.
A vacation from blogging doesn’t mean a vacation from cooking though! Follow me on Pinterest to see what recipes I have my eye on and what ones I have tried and loved. I look forward to being back with you all sometime after the new year!
Merry Christmas and I hope you all enjoy the holiday season!
A “Golden Weekend” is really a disappointing concept, I now realize as I sit here typing this. It simply means a 2 1/2 day weekend between rotations – no studying, no stress, no guilt. Only in med school do we get excited over 2 day weekends! Regardless of my sanity level, I spent my rare weekend off relaxing with girlfriends and visiting with my parents. Here is a recap of my weekend in pictures!
FRIDAY: Girl’s Night
When the boyfriend goes out of town, its time to get all the girls together for food, wine, and girly fun! It has been months since I have had time to entertain, so I loved being able to make a few recipes that have been collecting on Pinterest and test them out on a few friends. Coincidentally, they are both from Savory Simple… and are both amazing! We had some Jalapeno Poppers for an appetizer and Chocolate Covered Pretzel Peanut Butter Blondies (which I have renamed PMS Blondies) for dessert. Not only were they delicious, they were pretty simple to make!
SATURDAY MORNING: Lazy Baked Oatmeal
A friend slept over after the Girls Night, and we had noble plans to do yoga and have a productive morning. We decided a lazy morning would be slightly more restorative instead… This Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal from Chocolate Covered Katie fit the bill perfectly! I topped it with a few chopped almonds and fresh ground cinnamon, and enjoyed it with French Press hot coffee. (My cinnamon brew trick still works in a French Press for perfect Fall coffee!)
SATURDAY AFTERNOON: Parents and their Surprises
My parents drove up from New Jersey to celebrate my birthday with me, and spoiled me beyond belief! Not only did I get an iPad for my birthday (and finishing the boards and my two hardest rotations and Christmas!) but they also stocked me up on some Costco pantry essentials and a few Whole Foods treats!
SATURDAY EVENING: Family Dinner
After some major food shopping, what could be better than making dinner?! My parents asked where I wanted to go for my birthday, and after a month away from my kitchen, I decided nothing sounded better than a home-cooked meal. My aunt joined us for an amazing 3 course birthday dinner at home: cheese and crackers, lemon-herbed fish en papillote (loosely based on this recipe) with roasted asparagus, and leftover blondies with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The day was filled with laughs, stories, and great food – a perfect day!
SUNDAY: Oatmeal, Church, and Dim Sum
Our morning was off to a healthy start with oatmeal, my Banana Bread Oats more specifically! (If I can turn my Dad into an oatmeal lover, anything is possible… I swear these oatmeal recipes are magic!) After church, we finished off an amazing weekend with Dim Sum in Chinatown. Filled with dumplings of all shapes and sizes, it was a fun way to wrap up a fun weekend with my parents!
Question: What did you do this weekend? Did you try any new recipes or new restaurants?
Life has had more than a few new adventures for me in the last several months. I passed the first step of my board exams, started my third year clerkships (and completed the two hardest rotations!), and have begun to transition from being a book-based student to an apprentice. My days look dramatically different, and there has had to be some change to accommodate that. While I will never fully be able to settle into routine since my clerkships rotate on a close to monthly basis, I am starting to get the hang of “going to work” every day. I have never been happier to wake up each morning, excited to see what challenges face me and new things there are to learn. My days might be long and arduous, but even on the most difficult of days I know that I have made the right decision.
My personal life has also started to change as well. I have been dating my boyfriend for 5 months now and could not be happier. He has been a friend and constant source of encouragement for me as I face the shifting demands of third year of medical school. While we are best friends and have a lot in common, our thoughts on food are pretty opposite. He is a carnivore by nature and would be happy eating steak and eggs for the rest of his life if he could. He has been following the Paleo diet for the past few months, successfully losing 20+ pounds and gaining a substantial amount of muscle. This has forced me to do some reading and further research into healthy diets, and has left me with a softer and more moderate view towards food choices. My view on vegetables will never change: they are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, whether you are trying to lose or sustain your weight. However, there is good evidence to support that a sugar and carbohydrate heavy diet can be just as dangerous as a diet rich in red meat. I have also learned that diets lower in dairy consumption have also been shown to be healthier. My conclusion, not far off from where I started, is that life is all about balance. A healthy lifestyle is more than what we put in our body, it is also about gaining joy from what we eat and with whom we share our meals. Where does that leave me? I guess I am moving towards a more “flexitarian” lifestyle. I still cook and eat vegetarian/vegan meals at home. My diet is still based off of real foods. I have started using less dairy and wheat and have shifted to more whole grains like quinoa and farro. When I am in a giving mood, I will make my boyfriend a “side” of meat. When we go out, I will often choose the seafood option from the menu, since these tend to be healthier, less cheese-laden, and more creative. Living in New England means there is too much good, locally caught seafood to pass up. I am learning to let go of the rigid definitions of healthy eating that I have held, and to embrace enjoying food more fully as a cultural and creative outlet.
Outside of the hospital, I have still had time for a few fun adventures. To tie up a wordy post, I will leave you with a few pictures of the summer I squeezed in around rotations!
During my last post, I asked for some healthy living challenges to be used as part of SlimKicker.com‘s healthy living level up game. Congratulations to Maddie for being chosen for her excellent idea!
“A good challenge to do is to have at least 1 home cooked meal a day (bringing in your own lunch counts too). Eating out is bad for the waistline!”
I have been trying to take Maddie’s advice, even on my busy surgery rotation. My secret for overcoming the early morning rush for a 5:30am start time is to pack my lunch the night before. Not only is it good for the waistline but also for the wallet… salads at the hospital cafeteria are ridiculously overpriced! Maddie – you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize!
In the process, a friend posed another challenge in her comment to me. She will soon be going to Kenya, and will be teaching a nutrition course while there. On top of that, they will be planting a garden of chaya, mustard greens, moringa tree, cucumber, cranberry hibiscus, cauliflower, beets, and carrots. She wants to be able to leave behind some simple, healthy recipes using some or all of these vegetables and has asked for some brainstorming help! Keep in mind that this is a rural community, so access to ovens and appliances is limited.
To give you some starting points: Chaya is a bitter leafy green that is sturdy, able to stand up to bugs and draughts. It is most often boiled before being eaten. Mustard greens are another leafy vegetable, prized for their cholesterol-lowering ability. Again, these are best steamed or sauteed with onions and garlic. Moringa tree is being grown frequently in poverty stricken nations because of its high-protein leaves and seeds. I have also seen it ground and used in a “Moroccan spice blend,” which I actually have in my cabinet right now! (Sources: Wikipedia and here)
Some ideas I have brainstormed so far: a raw (or lightly steamed) shredded beet and carrot salad with a squeeze of fresh citrus juice, salt and oil and moringa seeds for protein. Along similar lines, cucumbers and carrots sliced with fresh ginger also makes a great vegetable side! For chaya leaves and mustard greens, a simple saute with garlic and onion sounds like a great way to add in greens, or they could be steamed and added to traditional soups and stews! Cranberry hibiscus seems to be perfect for a drink – maybe boiled in tea or blended with citrus juice and a bit of natural sugar. Cauliflower is another vegetable that would be a great addition to traditional soups. It could also be blended into a puree with onions and garlic.
I am sure that there are many far more creative and knowledgable ideas out there – I would love to hear what you think! Anyone ever cooked with any of these tropical ingredients and want to share their expertise?
There is a popular saying that goes, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym,” referring to the fact that our body composition depends as much if not more on our food choices than the amount of exercise we do. However, I think that phrase needs some revising. I truly believe that the choice happens at the grocery store, not the kitchen. If you buy healthy foods, you will eat healthy foods! Keeping tempting snack foods and indulgences out of the kitchens makes it much easier to make healthy choices when it is late, you are tired, or the stress of the day makes you want to eat everything in sight! But how do you conquer the grocery store and leave with only healthy purchases? This is what my best friend asked of me, so we took a field trip to Trader Joe’s to learn some healthy grocery shopping basics. This is the advice we came up with for filling your grocery cart with healthy food on a budget.
1. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is the oldest advice in the book when it comes to healthy grocery shopping tips, but it really works! The real food – like fruits, veggies, dairy, and meat – tends to be located towards the periphery of the store. The tempting snack foods, desserts, and prepared frozen meals tend to be located in the center aisles. While necessary ingredients are located in the center as well, the bulk of time should be spent perusing the outskirts. The 80-20 rule applies here. 80% of your time and grocery budget should come from the perimeter, while the other 20% is dedicated to the shelf stable centrally located necessities.
2. Stock up with fruits and veggies, and try at least one new produce item each week. The most common comment I hear from friends is that they don’t buy fresh produce because they are afraid of not being able to use it and wasting food. I have found that the more produce I have in my house, the more I am forced to make healthy choices for that exact reason. It is easier to choose an apple for a snack when you know you have to eat the fruit before it goes bad! It may take a few weeks and a little playing around with how much you can realistically eat within a week, which may mean a few up front weeks of spoiled veggies or sad fruits. However, it is worth the experiment in the long run! If this really is an issue, then frozen fruits and veggies are still an excellent option. Simply look for things that are flash frozen, have no added salt or sugar, and will maintain texture and flavor after being frozen.
Trying new things is also crucial here – you may find new favorites and will never know unless you begin to expand your horizons! This will also break you out of boring produce ruts and help to ensure that you get the full range of nutrients in your diet.
3. Focus on whole grains. Make sure that your bread is made with 100% whole wheat flour, choose whole wheat crackers and wraps, and look for items like quinoa, brown rice, old-fashioned oatmeal, and other unprocessed grains. White grains turn more quickly into sugar and are only for a treat, but often hide in products marketed as whole wheat or healthy. Be a label sleuth and a grain snob – it is for your health.
4. Read the labels! And don’t just stop at calories and fat. While counting calories is important for weight loss, there are other important items to consider. Serving size is key – my friend picked up a package of chicken taquitos and exclaimed, “Oh, only 110 calories!” That may sound ok until we looked at the serving size and realized that it is per tiny taquito, which would not make for the most filling lunch.
Ingredient lists are also good to peruse – anything with a laundry list of ingredients or with lots of hard to pronounce chemical names is probably something to steer clear from. Another important line to read is sodium. Anything with more than 10% of the RDV of sodium is probably not worth it – you can add salt if your taste buds need it, but you can’t take out the hidden salt. High sodium foods are not heart healthy, and also lead to water retention, which can be discouraging for dieters. The last place to look on a food label is the carbohydrates section. You want high fiber foods, since they help with satiety and help, well…. ya know. You also want to avoid added sugars, which I learned during my challenge, are everywhere!
Now take the reading labels example as a whole: my friend was choosing between 2 different types of bread. Both were 100% whole wheat, no weird preservatives, and similar in calories (110 vs. 80 per slice). Many dieters would stop there and choose the lower calorie bread. However, we looked down and noticed the 110 calorie option had 3x the amount of both fiber and protein, making it more nutritious per calorie and therefore the better option. Reading food labels is important!
5. Keep a well stocked pantry. Having staple ingredients on hand when the fridge seems empty will help you avoid the take-out temptation. Bulk grains, pastas, beans, low-sodium canned tomato sauce, and frozen veggies are helpful and can be thrown into a quick meal, like rice and beans or pasta with vegetables. Vinegars and herbs are also helpful for adding flavor and interest to a simple meal, without high cost, calories, or sodium. Having healthier quick-fix meal options, like low sodium soups or healthy frozen entrees instead of boxed mac and cheese and high sodium options, is also important for nights when things are too busy to cook.
6. Never shop hungry. If you are hungry, you will fall victim to end cap sale items, junk food treats, and impulse buys. Shopping on a full stomach will help you focus and make the best choices at the store.
7. Use a list. Some people go to the extreme with meal planning and lists, but I take a looser approach. In order to shop the sales, I make a bare bones shopping list: 3 types of fruit, 5 types of veggies (2 leafy green, 1 starch, peppers, mushrooms), bulk grain, bread, yogurt, eggs, etc. This allows me to choose what looks best that week or what is on sale, while still allowing me to have the essentials for meals throughout the week.
With these guidelines in hand, my friend was able to conquer Trader Joe’s and emerge with bags of healthy food! Together, we brainstormed healthy lunches, picked up fruit for healthy snacks, and compared a lot of labels to pick the best products. We both learned a lot and had fun in the process, but who wouldn’t have fun with this little guy smiling back at you the whole time?!
Question: Do you have anything to add to this list? What is your grocery shopping style?
This past month has taught me a lot. Sure, I put in a lot of hours learning microbiology, physiology, pharmacology, pathology… but beyond the medical science, I also learned a lot about myself.
I learned that it is okay to realize you have worn nothing but leggings and yoga pants for 6 days straight when you sort your laundry.
I tested my attention span and sedentary capacity to their limits, and then broke up study blocks with jumping jacks and sit ups to stay awake and sane.
I realized how important it is to get out of the house each day, even if it is just for a quick one mile jog.
I learned how much I love to run.
I remembered how much I love to walk on days when I just can’t muster the energy to run.
I appreciated just how much I learned in the past two years, and how much there is that I still don’t know.
The human body is an amazing machine.
I learned that it is okay to cry on a friend’s shoulder when you are overwhelmed and feel inadequate for the task at hand.
I was and am constantly reminded that God is faithful. Starting the day with a Psalm helped refocus my priorities on some really tough days.
I am amazed at the supportive and loving community that has surrounded me and carried me through to where I am now.
I learned that colored pens make everything more fun.
I released my post-exam anxiety and jitters by recycling two years of notes and scrap paper.
I learned how important home cooked meals are to me. I only ordered take out twice. And both times were worth it.
I survived by being okay with having breakfast for dinner. And lunch. And breakfast. Because what would life be without home fries and eggs?
I made more variations of home fries and eggs than I knew possible before this past month. Breakfast for dinner meals were great because they still gave me the break I desperately desired in the kitchen without any intensive prep or clean up. I never measured, so these are loose instructions for some of my favorite and unexpected combos rather than strict recipes.
The first is a Turnip Hash that was inspired by the plethora of turnips I received in my Boston Organics box. I cut up a large turnip (peeled) and a large potato (unpeeled) into bite sized pieces and steamed them until they were fork tender. I then sautéed them in a large skillet with a pad of Smart Balance Light butter, a pinch of salt and rosemary. On a whim, I threw in a small handful of raisins and a dash of cinnamon, because it makes everything better. And it did. I was surprised how much I liked this! The classic rosemary with potatoes kept it homey, while the turnips added an interesting flavor and stronger texture. The raisins were a nice sweet addition, though I did make it without and liked it both ways. A whole turnip and potato made at least 3 if not more meals for me served alongside a fried egg and piece of toast. Breakfast for dinner success number 1!
The second is a Curried Egg Omelette. I can’t take credit for this idea – my Grandma is the true brains behind this creation. While in Florida, she made eggs one morning and on a whim (I am seeing where my cooking style comes from now…) threw in a dash of curry powder and cinnamon. I was skeptical, as I am sure you are as well, but, like I said, cinnamon makes everything better. And it did. The cinnamon flavor didn’t shine through, but instead enhanced the light curry flavor that took over the scrambled eggs. It was unexpected and addicting. I knew I had to make it again. So I did. I mixed two eggs with a teaspoon of Greek yogurt (you could use milk or sour cream as well) and a few shakes (about 1/4 tsp) curry powder and a shake (less than 1/8 tsp) cinnamon. You can turn this into scrambled eggs, or pour it into a really hot pan for a nice omelette with a crunchy outside. The curry flavor is mild but unique, and leaves me wanting more! I ate these eggs alongside some sweet potato home fries, skins left on and sautéed in olive oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Lesson learned in writing this post: I should buy stock in cinnamon.
And I am so excited to cook and share with you all again!
Way back in February (where does time go?!) I won a give-away that Sarah at The Smart Kitchen hosted! I was so excited to win this, not just because it meant free yogurt and granola, but also because I am excited about the cause that prompted the give-away. To enter the drawing, you had to sign Jamie Oliver’s petition to demand healthier food in school cafeterias. I was a huge fan of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution reality show, and was happy to learn how to participate in this cause. Pediatric obesity is a growing problem in our country, and cannot just be tackled at home. As kids spend more of their time daily in school, it is important to know that they have healthy food to nourish them throughout the day.
In full disclosure, I was not the healthiest eater when I started high school. I would be known to call a soft pretzel lunch, or grab a package of Nutty Bars to hold me over through dance practice after school. Looking back, I don’t know how I got through the day on just salt and carbs! Obviously, I have come a long way since then! These Chobani yogurts and Love Grown granola would have been much healthier options for lunchtime and after school snacks, had I been wise enough to make healthier choices as a teenager!
I was happy to try out some different combinations with the goodies I received. I loved the Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Yogurt – it was like having Cookies n’ Cream fro-yo for breakfast. Combine that with some fresh berries and a handful of the Cocoa Goodness Granola… what could be better?
Frozen yogurt! My friend used to freeze single servings of yogurt all the time, so I knew I wanted to turn this into real fro-yo. I mixed in a few more chocolate chips to make this more like a dessert, and then popped it in the freezer overnight. I popped it in the microwave for 20 secs to take the chill off, and then enjoyed a healthy, single serving dessert.
I love the Orange Vanilla flavor as well. I used it in a Strawberry Mango Smoothie, and loved the extra flavor it added. I also love it for breakfast with a sprinkle of the Simply Oats Love Grown Granola. For as much as I liked the chocolate, the simplicity of this granola has really won me over. There is the perfect amount of clusters to sneak as a snack, and the lightly sweetened granola is perfect for breakfast. If the taste alone wasn’t enough to sell me, the simplicity of the ingredients was! With little more than oats, honey, agave, and a few mix-ins, I love this granola as a quick morning breakfast on days I don’t have time to make oatmeal.
So go sign Jamie’s petition. Learn about pediatric health and nutrition. And treat yourself and a kid you know to a delicious, healthy snack!