Monday, December 28, 2015

Healthy Eating

           Like many of you, we treat “dieting” and “exercise” like they are curse words in our house.  But, like many of you, we recognize that we need to do what we can to be healthier.  So how do we avoid those nasty words and still get it done?  We strive for a “lifestyle” change, something that will stick with us and not be just a failed attempt at “diet and exercise”.  In the next few paragraphs I’ll share with you some of the tips we’ve learned and things that have worked and have failed miserably.  We have found that it is worth trying a little harder to live a healthy life rather than have to deal with health issues related to weight gain and inactivity.   
            Let’s start with the easiest and cheapest: accountability.  Find a friend or family member that you can bounce questions off of, share your achievements with, and who will be uplifting when you are feeling discouraged.  I promise you, discouragement will rear its ugly head.  If you have several friends and/or family members who want to journey with you down the healthy living path then start a group on one of the social media sites.  You can share recipes, workouts, joys and struggles you face on this journey.  Yes, it is a journey.  It is not something that just happens overnight.  Some mornings you will wake up excited about the journey and some mornings you will wake up and be ready to give up.  That’s where your accountability partner or group becomes important.  Utilize them and don’t hold back.  There is a good chance they are feeling the same way and you can work though it together and come out stronger.
           Now on to something that isn’t as easy, but which can be cheap (or even free) and make a huge impact on your “lifestyle” change journey.  Fitness.  Exercise.  Workouts.  Words that make people cringe when they hear them.  Instead of fitness, exercise, or workouts, think of it as “activity”.  Start small and slow and (as improbable as it sounds) you will feel your body start to crave more and more activity.  In February of 2015 I started by walking more.  Not far and not fast, but I had a friend I would walk with and we had a great time visiting and solving the world’s problems during our walks.  It was fun, it was not exercise.  I was able to enjoy the walk without my brain telling me I was about to die.  Fast forward to June 2015, and I ran my first 5K with my sister who is younger, leaner and more trim than I am and can run a 5k without practicing.  I never imagined I could run a 5K (or even walk that far) but I did.  While my time was not the greatest, I finished and I beat my sister by two tenths of a second!  Sibling rivalry is a huge motivator.  Running a 5k was not my goal on the journey I started in February, it was just a side benefit of what I was doing. 
     I also researched and learned about crossfit.  I will let you do your own on that, but I will say it can be fun and a nice change to walking, jogging.  You will hurt in places you didn’t know existed, but it will be a good hurt and you will look back after a week of doing squats and think, “man my posterior is starting to look good!”  Look to the World Wide Web for daily workouts and videos on how to do the or check with your local gym for classes.  Many websites post daily workouts that can be done with items you have laying around the house.  A 5lb bag of sugar weighs just as much as a 5lb dumbbell. 

                                             Run For Hope 5K June 2015, Katie Parsons, Missy Husted, Kim Lakins
                Run for Hope 5K, June 2015, Teressa Davenport, Caleb Lakins, Kim Lakins, Missy Husted, Katie Parsons
            We can’t talk about health and fitness without talking about something we all enjoy:  food.    I love food. I love making food, eating food, and sharing food so that makes this part of the “lifestyle” change the hardest for me!  I started out thinking I had to eat bland food that was expensive and no fun to cook.  I was wrong. 

      One of the most difficult things for a lot of people to give up is red meat, but there is an alternative that is starting to become popular and is a very good substitute: bison.  According to the National Bison Association, “nutritionally you are getting more protein and nutrients with fewer calories and less fat.  Buffalo is a dense meat that tends to satisfy you more while eating less.”  Bison is also easier on your digestive system than beef.  While it is a slightly more expensive than good quality beef, the health benefits outweigh the cost in the end.  I found that bison is very satisfying and easy to cook with.  It is a little drier than beef, but if you cook it at a lower temperature it turns out great.  You can replace all your ground beef recipes with ground bison and satisfy that red meat craving you are having.   

      One of my favorite ways to use bison and satisfy a craving is bison sliders with a sweet potato “bun”.  Wash a sweet potato and slice it nice size pieces.  Coat it with a touch of olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake at 400 degrees until the potato slices are tender.  While the potatoes are cooking, make bison patties the same size as your potato slices, season to taste, and cook over low heat until done.  Assemble like you would a “normal” burger with mustard, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions.  The resulting “burgers” are very satisfying and the sweet potato “bun” adds great vitamins and nutrition to your meal.   Bison can be found along The Corridor at Ralphs Packing in Perkins. 
                                                 Bison Sliders on "Sweet Potato Bun"
      One of my failed attempts at replacing beef was with turkey.  Now, I know a lot of people love ground turkey and use it in place of beef for everything, but I think there is a few things to consider when doing that.  First, do not buy the cheapest ground turkey you can find.  Yes it is cheaper than beef but that does not mean the quality is better.  Second, do not think you are eating something that is going to taste like beef when you replace it with turkey.  You *will* be disappointed.  Take advantage of spices.  Cajun seasoning helps make almost anything more palatable!

       We have eaten a lot of chicken breast along our journey.  Chicken is reasonably inexpensive, high in protein, and full of nutrients and vitamins.  That does not mean you can deep fry it and call it “healthy”.  A few ways to prepare it include grilling, baking, and stir fry.  When grilling, you can find a marinade recipe that is low in sodium to jazz it up a bit.  Stir fry can be a good, filling option and give you the benefit of a good dose of vegetables.  In a large skillet, with a good dose of olive oil, put in a medium size diced red onion.  Cook it until it is tender, and then add a nice amount of diced bell pepper, zucchini, squash, or whatever other vegetables you like and cook till tender.  Add thinly sliced chicken breast along with a clove of minced garlic and cook until done.  Use about ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce, the juice of a lemon, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve this as is or over brown rice.  Give yourself extra bonus points if the vegetables are fresh out of your own garden.

          Remember, one of the most important keys in a healthy lifestyle food change is moderation.  Our bodies are amazing machines, and can use a vast range of foods as nutrition, but even “diet food”, when not eaten in moderation, can cause weight gain.  A friend of mine has lost over 60 pounds in the last two years, and all she did was switch from a full size plate to a salad plate.  She eats the same things she always has, just not as much of it.
         Fads and diets come and go, but a healthy diet combined with exercise is a guaranteed way to lose weight and feel better.  Find an accountability partner (preferably not your spouse, but that’s another article!), make an effort to be more active, cut back on eating fat, and simply don’t eat as much.  It won’t happen overnight, and you don’t need to change *everything* at once.  Start small and work up.  The best time to change your diet and activity level is five years ago.  The second best time to start is today.

Chicken Marinade
½ cup water
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tbsp salt
¾ tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp pepper
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp butter

Heat to dissolve all ingredients

Marinate chicken for no more than 4 hours and then grill chicken

*The Corridor January 2016

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