Archive for the ‘healthy eating’ Category

On workdays I don’t have a lot of time for breakfast. I had gotten into the habit of eating poorly, whether that be grabbing a couple of Pop-Tarts, stopping at a fast food joint for a biscuit (and soda, since I don’t like coffee), or getting a 3-egg omelet from the restaurant downstairs in my office building. Eating is important to getting physically fit and it’s the area I fail the most, which is why I’ve struggled a lot with building fitness and losing weight.

In one of my runner magazines, I saw a suggestion for “summer porridge,” because it was easy, healthy, and something that can be prepared the night before. If you’re not familiar with summer porridge, it’s basically oatmeal that has time to soak the liquid up overnight in the refrigerator, removing the need to cook the oatmeal. Perfect if you have a limited amount of time in the morning. Here’s my simple recipe:

1/3 cup quick cook steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup fruit
1/2 tablespoon honey

Note that all the key ingredients are 1/3 cup. That’s what makes it easy to remember.
I throw the ingredients into a container, mix the ingredients together with a spoon, and then put the porridge into the refrigerator, where it’s waiting until morning. It’s been great! I find the meal refreshing, filling without being too heavy, and I stay full until lunch time. Also, I’m getting real fruit, not fruit juice (which too often has added sugars), I’m getting the oatmeal for fiber, and the yogurt helps with digestion.

Now you may be thinking, “What kind of yogurt?” I did. There are some recipes that say to use Greek yogurt and that if you substitute with regular yogurt, you need to reduce the milk. I am using regular yogurt but I didn’t reduce the milk. For me, it’s the right consistency. For my wife, it’s a little too much liquid, so you’ll likely need to adjust the milk/yogurt amount depending on what type of yogurt and how much liquid you like with your oatmeal.

As for the plain yogurt, I did see recipes that called for vanilla flavored yogurt. In my case, I’m getting enough sweetness through the fruit and the honey. Therefore, I didn’t want the added sugar that you get with flavored yogurt.

That brings me to the last item, which is the fruit. We’re in winter and fresh berries aren’t available where I live. I do have frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., in my freezer. I have found that if I measure out the 1/3 cup and combine, that by morning the fruit are chilled but no longer frozen. Therefore, I don’t bother trying to defrost them.

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Filter on Led...One of the things I struggle with the most is looking at events and circumstances in a negative way. As I’ve stepped into the world of life coaching I have come to find that I’m not alone. Let me give you an example:

One of the men I’m coaching is trying to make a dietary change. He knows his diet could use some serious work. I’m right there with him. The worst time for him is at work. At his location there’s a nice little shop with a wall stocked with candy bars and the like. There’s also a fridge with sugary sodas and a freezer with a plethora of high calorie frozen treats. If he doesn’t have something on hand the temptation is to hit that shop and come back to his desk with a poor snack choice. His goal is to eliminate that kind of snacking from his diet. His action item was to bring enough healthy snacks in from home to support this goal.

We are meeting every two weeks so we can review goals and action items. At the first meeting after the action item was set, he was down on himself. He hadn’t successfully brought the snacks each day. He resorted to the way I typically think (and have to fight to correct): he had missed some days. As a life coach I have a different perspective, one which I was able to share with him. Prior to setting that goal, he never brought snacks in. So he went from 0 for 10 to 5 for 10. In other words, he was halfway to his goal. He had made solid progress. See the difference?

When I shared this perspective with him, I could see a noticeably positive change in his body language. He was looking for the smashing success. He didn’t get that (10 for 10), and that’s why he was down. I was able to get him to see that most things take effort and he was not going to have that overnight success on most goals. The key was for him to keep trying to make progress towards accomplishing his goals. He had done that with a sizable step in the right direction.

Are you looking at events and accomplishments through a negative filter? Try and take a metaphorical step back, remove the filter, and reassess. Have you made progress towards a goal of yours? The question here isn’t about how fast you moved towards that goal. The question is, “Did you make progress?” This is key to achieving your goals. Realize that you’ve made progress and celebrate that victory. Then identify what you need to do to keep making progress or to make progress at the rate you want (if that’s doable). We’ll look at that tomorrow.


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I’ve had terrible luck finding a decent water bottle with a filter. I’ve tried several models, including some name brands, but without much success. The most expensive name brand leaked when it was tipped up, making it okay after a workout, but not so good at the office. And that’s really where I needed it the most: at the office. I had pretty much given up on finding a decent one that worked for me until I happened upon the Camelbak Groove at a department store last week.

It was about the same price as the other name brand I had found that worked except for leaking, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

When I took it out of the box, I looked briefly at all the instructions and found all the main pieces came apart easily for washing. That, of course, is recommended, so I did disassemble the water bottle and it was as easy as described. The water filter is easy to deal with. You rinse it under running water for 15 minutes and then it plugs right into the tube that you can see in the center of the bottle. Everything screws back together and it’s water-tight.

It was the ease of use that I appreciated the most. The bottle is designed to be used being held upright, meaning you don’t have to tip it back in order to drink out of it. I have found this to be great on hot summer days here in South Carolina when I’m in my car driving home. I can keep my eyes on the road while sipping from the water bottle. The bite valve keeps water from leaking out but it’s easy to use to get water. I wondered how effective it was when I first saw it, but it works well. It also comes apart and is replaceable. Speaking of the bite valve, the bottle is designed so that you can both open and close the spout/bite valve with one hand. I can see it being useful on a hike with a walking stick.

Do note, the water filter is only to “improve the taste” of already treated water, like what comes out of the tap. It is not intended to provide purification or filter out bacteria, etc., so don’t use it for that. It does remove the chlorine taste from tap water and that’s what I wanted. I would definitely recommend it based on my experience thus far.

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Last year’s garden yielded a modest crop of green peppers, one monster zucchini, a few cucumbers, a couple of tomatoes, and a barely edible watermelon. We did a raised garden and despite warnings against doing so, I planted everything too closely together. Nothing had room except for the green peppers, which got started after everything else had died off. We had a lot of green leaves, just no vegetables. However, the one barely edible watermelon got our little girl hooked. Fast forward to this year.

This year we planted a garden of the same size (10′ x 30′), but there are only 4 tomato bushes and one set of watermelon vines. The tomatoes have one 10′ x 10′ section and the watermelon has the other 10′ x 20′ lay of the land. This has worked out well as we’ve gotten quite a few tomatoes in our first round… probably in the neighborhood of about 10 pounds. Round two is growing as we speak. With respect to the watermelon we already harvested one and it was perfect, as you can probably guess by the picture. There are 5 more growing, one almost ready to harvest. Needless to say, we’ve done a lot better this year.

My daughter is the one most interested in the garden and it’s an area she’s been able to help out. Initially, the two older boys and her helped weed the garden until our crops really took hold, but the boys haven’t done a whole lot since. We have them landscaping the rest of the yard. *grin* She has been actively involved helping to water the garden, a perfect chore for her. The boys feel involved since they did a lot of the hard work establishing the garden: getting the raised beds set up, helping plant the garden, and then weeding it a couple of times.¬†Fertilizing and harvesting is something my wife and I have been handling, and as a result, it’s something we all share in.

Because everyone has pitched in, it really has felt like a family garden. The kids were proud to be able to deliver some tomatoes to their grandmother last week from our garden. It’s been a positive experience, and when compared with last year, it has been a learning experience, too. I know when my boys grow older they are going to remember about packing the plants too closely together. They’ll have learned from our earlier mistake.

If you have children and have never considered gardening with them, it’s something to look into. Even if you’re an apartment, container gardens are an option, and that’s how we got started a few years ago. In fact, we still have some things growing in containers. For instance, our strawberries are in hangers on our front porch. We have rosemary in a small pot that could sit on a shelf in the kitchen or on the dining room table. We’ll probably do a few more containers as the summer months fade so we will have fresh veggies and herbs in the winter. Once you eat a good crop out of your own garden, it’s hard to go back to grocery store bought vegetables unless there is no other option.

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We used to be like a lot of other folks, trying to figure out what to have for meals based on what was in the house. As a result, buying at the grocery store was always a haphazard affair. In addition, there is time and stress in trying to figure out meals and then considering if you have enough time to get the meal cooked. When you add in time commitments like karate and ballet for the kids, as well as church, it becomes easier to grab fast food rather than plan a balanced meal.

About a year ago we said enough with the choosing and cooking a meal on the fly. We instead decided to start planning meals, with the exception of weekday lunches. Weekday lunches would consist mainly of leftovers and/or sandwiches, so there didn’t need to be any planning involved there. A microwave was the most complex cooking apparatus needed and the kids can use it just fine. This helps a lot. It means most weeks we’re only planning 16 meals. Breakfast isn’t that difficult because there are a few combinations that my family likes and we can repeat those. Therefore, dinner has the most variation, especially for the Saturday, when we have the most time to prepare. Because of planning meals out for the week, we know in advance what needs to be cooked. That also means we know about when to get started with everything, which results in a more consistent meal time. It also means we reduce fast food meals to when something happens and we just don’t have time or when we choose to get a fast food meal as a treat. Here’s an example of this week’s meal plan:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Sunday, July 01, 2012
  • white rice
  • tuna fish
  • cucumbers
  • homemade spaghetti
  • salad
  • French bread
  • grilled cheese sandwiches
  • sweet potato fries
Monday, July 02, 2012
  • eggs
  • chicken sausage
  • fried potatoes
  • pork tenderloin
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • couscous
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
  • pancakes
  • bacon
  • baked chicken
  • black-eyed peas
  • corn on the cob
  • biscuits
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
  • boiled eggs
  • oatmeal
  • peaches
  • hamburgers
  • hot dogs
  • chips
  • chicken cordon bleu
  • peas and carrots
  • French bread
Thursday, July 05, 2012
  • cereal / pop-tarts
  • brown rice
  • pot roast
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • potatoes
Friday, July 06, 2012
  • eggs
  • bacon
  • biscuits
  • meat loaf
  • salad
Saturday, July 07, 2012
  • pancakes
  • sausage
  • hamburger helper
  • brown rice
  • cucumbers
  • orange chicken w/ broccoli
  • oriental noodles

We know at a glance what we’re having. Also, since we have the meals planned out, it means we can write out a shopping list before heading to the grocery store. This saves money because it reduces impulse buys. It also reduces the time you spend in the grocery store. In our case, I know the layout of the grocery stores we shop very, very well. I have actually spent time learning the layout. Why? Quite simply, because I can organize my grocery list in the order I encounter the items at a particular grocery store. Again, this saves time. However, I did it not so much for the time savings, but because if I am treating grocery shopping like a game, where I’m trying to cross items off my list as quickly as possible, I don’t linger and make the impulse buy. It’s more than just being able to justify buying something that’s not on my list. It’s a simple of matter that I don’t even consider anything that’s not on my list. And finally, we save time because we don’t have to keep going back to the grocery store. We make two trips a week and we’re good. If we weren’t a family of six, I’m sure we could get away with one trip. However, milk, juice, and eggs don’t make it a week.

All in all, here are the benefits we see from menu planning:

  • Eliminates the stress of trying to figure out what to cook.
  • Reduces cost grocery shopping because a shopping list is easier to write out.
  • Reduces time grocery shopping because we’re following a list.
  • We’re able to plan out meals and ensure a reasonable balance for meals.
  • We’re able to reduce fast food meals to when things just go haywire or when we choose to eat out. This is both more healthy and saves money.
  • We’re able to have a more consistent meal time.

If you aren’t sitting down and planning your meals, I hope you consider it. It helps a lot. It will take a bit to find your happy medium as far as time intervals are considered. Some plan two weeks, even a month out. We tried that, and we even tried to shorten the interval to twice a week to coincide with grocery store trips. For my family, once a week seems best. We still need to make two trips to the grocery store, but that second trip is faster and cheaper overall.

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In¬†Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin uses the phrase “deliberate practice” as the method by which one improves in a given domain or field. Deliberate practice isn’t fun. It’s mentally draining, it’s hard, but it’s necessary to get better. I’m going to borrow the “deliberate” part to coin a new phrase, “deliberate knowledge.”

When I sat down this weekend and thought about my fitness goals, I came to the realization that I have a lot of information available to me with respect to exercise. And, generally speaking, I know what I need to do on the exercise front because I’ve trained for both track running and long distance running just as I’ve trained (and trained others) for baseball and soccer. I also enjoy reading and learning about better training methods for both running and soccer. So studying that domain of knowledge is fun for me. It’s not the same level as “deliberate practice.”

What I don’t know well enough is nutrition and diet. I know the basic stuff, the general sayings, but nothing in detail. I don’t know the scientific reasons why certain foods are better than others and in what quantities. For instance, linoleic acid is essential for good health, but too much is bad. How much is bad and how much is needed? What foods contain it? This isn’t stuff that really interests me. Pouring through and processing this sort of knowledge is studying. It’s like I’m back in college taking a course required for graduation that I don’t really care about. However, in order to reach my fitness goals and be able to maintain an optimum level of fitness, this is the sort of information I need to know.

Enter the concept of deliberate knowledge. In order to get better, I have to have it. However, it’s not knowledge that I enjoy obtaining. To me it’s work, it’s not fun, and after a certain point in a given day, I can’t mentally process it any more. Now, if you want to talk about why the leading edge extensions make the F/A-18 and the F-16 more aerodynamic and maneuverable, well, I can do that all day. Nutrition and diet? Not so much. It’s going to require deliberate effort to gain and master that knowledge. Hence the phrase, “deliberate knowledge.”

Attack deliberate knowledge just as you would deliberate practice. You know it’s not going to be fun. You know it’s going to be hard. But look at your goals and realize you must put the time and effort in to gain that knowledge in order to progress. Use the same motivation you would use to push yourself through practice in order to work your way through knowledge. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck where you are. No matter how un-fun deliberate knowledge is, it’s better than not going anywhere and being miserable for it.

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Two nights ago I was a bit tired and it was getting late. I hadn’t done my workout yet and I heard myself saying, “It’s just one workout. It won’t hurt to skip it.” Then I remembered I said this last week and ended up missing 3 workouts as a result. For someone like me who is trying to get back in shape and lose weight, missing workouts is a bad idea. It does hurt, not only because I need the workout to build fitness, but also because physical fitness is no longer a habit. Skipping a workout is giving approval to returning to poor choices. It’s self-destructive. Because I caught myself, I went ahead and did the workout. When I was done, I was glad I did. I didn’t give in to self-destructive behavior.

Then the next morning I read this post from Ben Davis (blog | twitter). He calls himself a

“connoisseur¬†grandmaster of justifying my bad habits”

and I have to say I’m right there with him. It reminded me of a post by Sebastian Marshall (blog | twitter) where he restates a simple truth:

“self destruction is generally counterproductive.”

Giving in to self-destructive behavior tends to give “permission” to make other self-destructive choices. For instance, “I’ve missed yesterday and I really don’t feel that much better today. It won’t hurt to miss another. I’ll get back on schedule tomorrow.” But then tomorrow comes and we reason, “Well, I’ve already blown two workouts for this week, so I’ll just get a fresh start next week.” And that can lead to a decision like, “Well, since I plan on getting back to my diet and workout regimen next week, I’ll eat that second helping of mashed potatoes and maybe a piece of cake, too. I might as well enjoy myself before going back to the grind.” And we’ve built on one poor decision after another with an unintentional plan to build some more.

Therefore, if you can, resist the urge to give in. Do what you originally planned on doing. Even if you can’t do a full workout, do something to reinforce the habit. Maybe you’re finding the urge to open up that college textbook overwhelming. At least start. Typically the biggest obstacle is getting started, just like getting a piece of furniture moving across the floor. When the furniture is at rest, there is friction (static friction)) opposing the movement of the piece of furniture. And the friction at rest tends to be more than the friction when the object is in motion. So it usually take a lot more force to get the furniture to budge than it does to move it once you get it going. Resisting a bad choice and embracing a good one is often the same way. For instance, I found that before I started working out last night, I just didn’t want to. However, once I got started, I looked forward to the rest of the workout. And by the end of the workout, I was glad I had done it. I was glad not just because I had resisted the self-destructive behavior, but also because I made one more step towards a major goal of mine.


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