(Originally Published In The June 16th Edition Of Exposure Magazine.)
A couple weeks ago, we talked about how making your food with a variety of color tends to make it more attractive to eat. Interestingly enough, this week I learned that people are also affected by what vegetables or foods are named. Research suggests that similar thinking persists in young adults. In a research letter published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine Bradley Turnwald, Danielle Boles, and Alia Crum explain that people in a university cafeteria were much more likely to eat vegetables labeled with indulgent descriptions than vegetables labeled in a descriptive way or in a way that highlighted their health benefits. It definitely points to how much the brain is involved in our eating preferences. We are attracted by what it is called and also by what it looks like. I know this is true for me and for many others as well. When I am searching for a new recipe on Pinterest or a recipe site, I am always drawn to recipes that provide pictures and descriptions. Words are important. How it looks is great, but how it fuels your body is most important.
You can create a menu that looks, sounds, and tastes great, and still fuels your perfectly designed body. I encourage parents to use menu planning with their children. Help them understand that food is fuel, and should look appealing. Let your children create a fun and nutritious menu and encourage them to name the menu items. Discuss what the meal will look like, what vitamins are in certain foods, and when it comes time to choose a vegetable or fruit, ask them what they think would be a nice color and flavor to go with the rest of the meal. This kind of creative meal planning will help you avoid the starch laden, repetitious meals of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and corn. If you have young kids, a better way to teach is to simply have pictures. You can print, laminate, and attach a magnet to the back of each picture. You can sort the various food groups and help them pick the meal based on balanced nutrition, color and content. As part of their morning routine, post the pictures of what the nights meal will be on the refrigerator. When my three children were young, each family member was responsible for choosing a dinner menu for one day a week. We planned the whole months meals at one time and I wrote it all out by hand. It was always posted so that everyone knew what was coming. Grocery shopping was much easier and efficient. Each dinner had to have a main dish, a side dish and vegetable or fruit. We also always had to choose two out of three items on the menu that everyone liked. I was the master of the planning so we didn’t eat the same thing 3 times in a week. My husband and I chose last so we could provide variety. This was a truly joyful experience and one that helped our children learn about food pairing, balancing a meals nutrition, color and variety. If we had only known we could have named the meatloaf Marvelous Mouthwatering Meatloaf instead! I think we might have missed out on a bit of fun!
(Originally in the June 2nd Edition of Exposure Magazine.)
Food is fuel, but most people eat strictly based on taste. We need to remember that it is important to make selections that are appealing to the eye as well as the palate. As we may get bored with eating the same meals over and over, we also tire of seeing the same mono chromatic color in our food as well. Even when we love the ingredients, we may not find it appealing if it’s all the same color.
The other night I was cooking dinner. I had cut up several small zucchini. I then added fresh garlic and green onions and a big handful of asparagus chopped in pieces. I sautéed them in coconut oil. While it smelled heavenly, it just didn’t make me happy looking at it. I added some seasoned chicken and still thought it wasn’t right. Color, that’s what it was missing. I threw in about a cup of steamed carrots slices. I literally laughed out loud! I thought “now it is perfect”! We have to spend some time in meal planning to make sure we are attracted to what we need to eat. Eating healthy isn’t a chore, but it does take some thought. I might have added some red pepper if I had one on hand. Color makes us happy and food is no exception. Your eyes don’t eat, but they do motivate you, so be sure to take some care with presentation. Think about the last time you had a green salad. Did you eat just lettuce or spinach? Did you create a masterpiece and add some tomato, shredded carrot or cranberries or blueberries? If two salads were put in front of you, and one had varied tiny bits of flavor and color and one was just green, which would you choose?
When creating your next meal, give some thought to how you can make your meal a piece of art, pleasing to the eye as well as your mouth!
(Originally posted in the May 28th Edition of Exposure Magazine. )
Sixty percent of our body is water. Do you realize that you “lose” water by breathing, exercising, urinating and even breast feeding? We are constantly depleting the water needed by our body to function properly. In helping people create a healthier lifestyle, I find low water intake to be the most problematic, yet easiest to fix.
Our bodies have a few ways to communicate dehydration. I will share three. The first sign for most people is feeling tired. Your body is encouraging you to conserve water by sleeping. Breathing will be shallower, less movement – all adds up to conserving water. If you feel fatigued, drink 16-24 ounces of water and reassess how you feel. The second common symptom of lack of water is headaches. Often you will find people have dehydration headaches. Your brain is literally yelling at you; it is thirsty! Once again, try 16-24 ounces of water intake. We do derive approximately twenty percent of the required water needed through our food. This doesn’t mean we should slack off in water intake because we ate spinach or watermelon. Drink first! The third symptom is constipation. This is no fun! There is a reason it’s called waste. Your body is done with it and it’s got to go. Without adequate hydration, it may not be able to. Constipation can impact your health in a variety of negative ways resulting in other health issues.
What is the magic number? Drinking less than fifty percent of what you weigh in pounds in ounces of water is too little. The actual percentage is about sixty-seven percent, according to Mayo Clinic. Factoring in what you derive from food- fifty percent of what you weigh leaves you with a pretty good balance. If you want top performance from your body, make water intake a daily goal. For most wanting to lose weight, a gallon a day is recommended.
Lastly, here are some tips to increase your intake. Measure it with a measuring cup or gallon jug! It’s the only way you can be sure. Flavor your water by adding slices of strawberry, cucumber, pineapple, apples, lemons and limes. Be creative! You will know you are drinking enough when your urine is light yellow to almost colorless. I start every day with a gallon pitcher full of water to make sure I reach my intake goal. Drink up my friends!
(Originally In The May 18th Edition of Exposure Magazine.)
As I hit my 50’s, I “created” a health crisis- Literally, I was sitting in a hospital on my 50th birthday. I say “created” because my own behavior led me to it. The journey to better health started out of necessity. Two years ago, I found myself over committed, overwhelmed and incredibly stressed. Like a lot of working moms and entrepreneurs, I felt I could handle it all. I had 3 jobs, countless volunteer jobs and was also a wife, mom, animal mom and much more. Something needed to give- and unfortunately it was my heart that yelled from the inside- “Hey, we protest this treatment!”.
I had to reassess the priorities in my life for my health. I found through this process I needed to focus on three core priorities. To do this right, I excused myself from many of the responsibilities that were dragging me down, eliminated the jobs I didn’t need, and refocused on my health. I want to share with you a bit about my journey and break down the three core goals I set for myself.
Restorative sleep- we need it. When you don’t sleep properly you will be heavier, unhappier and sometimes cranky. All three are undesirable, but common. Shut down and repower your brain. Some interruptions are unavoidable, like soothing a child or grandchild in the night, but the majority of us need to shut it down for seven to eight hours a night. Limit any light entering your brain 30 minutes before sleep. It signals your brain to slow down for restoration. No electronics- phone, television, Kindle, etc. Your sleep patterns, and ultimately your body, will thank you. I suggest quiet meditative time working on your I AM statements in the complete dark before bed. I AM Confident, I AM strong, I AM healthy, I AM a goal getter, etc. You choose your own I AM because you know where you are headed. Your brain continues to work on the tasks you give it before bed. Focus on what you want to manifest by repeating what you want to accomplish the next day! Intention and mindset is everything. One may find this weird, but I spoke to my heart every day during my health crisis, and still do today. I tell it I am grateful that it is healthy and happy and wonderfully made. When I find myself stressing, I tell my heart to be strong, work correctly and maintain balance. I am not able to control others so I focus on my own health and wellness. Healthy mindset = healthy body. I claim it. And I sleep to retain it.
The second core goal is exercise. No I am not a gym rat or a marathon runner. You don’t need to be either. Here is what you DO need to do… move. Exercise is about baby steps- or maybe upping the total number of steps. People become overwhelmed with the idea of exercise. Make it simple. If you love to watch TV, commit to planking for a commercial break, or doing 25 squats or 20 sit ups each break. Decide to walk the same number of minutes you choose to watch TV. Stop talking yourself out of exercising. Start small but be consistent. There are no excuses. Seriously, there is a modification for everything. If you are very overweight, then start with walking to the end of your driveway or the other end of your house. Increase the distance each time. Maybe you will be able to reach the end of the block next time. If you need to stop and catch your breath at any time, do so. Document your progress. Progress is the motivation that will keep you consistent and on task. The last and most important part of exercise- NEVER compare yourself to others and their journey. Run your own race!
Last and most important core goal. You cannot out train your diet! Yes, you are what you eat and drink. Figure out what you want your eating goals to be. Yes, it’s confusing, but you have to be able to maintain your plan, so it has to be able to be done as a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet plan. I prefer learning how to eat real food with a balanced consumption of nutrients while controlling sugar intake. Read labels and avoid excess sodium and packaged food. It’s convenient to eat packaged foods, but come with a cost, often an expanding waist line. There are lots of resources online to help you get a handle on the food intake part. I prefer the My Fitness Pal app, especially for beginners, as it helps you actually SEE what is happening when you eat certain foods. Nutrition is 80% of improving your health. Your water intake is critical. In helping people every day improve their health, it’s the one deficiency, I see most often. We have learned to use sugary soda, energy drinks and sugary snacks as a crutch for a quick boost of energy, at the expense of proper hydration and nutrition.
Of course, I love the occasional binge of barbecue ribs or lasagna! It only become a problem if this is your diet every day, even more so if you are the king or queen of seconds. Measure your portions until you are 100% sure what a portion is. No excuses.
These three core goals will not always be in perfect alignment. One day you may eat well, sleep poorly but walk 15,000 steps. Be kind to yourself and look at how you are progressing over time. It’s about the progress, not each individual day. Don’t micro-manage every tiny detail or you will fail at becoming a healthier you. Love yourself on your journey, run your own race. Focus on feeling good, being strong, creating inner happiness and living the life you deserve!
These are my older blog posts, which originally appeared in my Exposure Magazine Column, "Healthy Living."