Spring Clean Your Cooking Routine

Anyone else have spring cleaning on their mind? Or has that shipped sailed since we’ve been stuck in our homes for months now!? Just like it’s important to periodically deep clean and purge unnecessary clutter around the house, it’s helpful to reevaluate your meal planning, shopping and food prep routine also. Here are a few simple steps for spring cleaning your cooking routine as we head into this new season.

Step 1: Take inventory of your fridge, pantry & freezer Did you know that according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans waste more than $161 billion dollars of food annually? That’s $1,600 a year for a family of four! To avoid this you should routinely take inventory of your food supply.

Let’s begin with your refrigerator, this cleaning process should be done at least once a week. For those fresh foods that are nearing the end of their shelf life, consider putting them in a soup, stew or smoothie. Throw out foods that have been "hibernating" in the fridge too long.

Next let’s venture into the depths of the pantry to see exactly what you have, then strategize how to use it (or if needed, toss it!). You can save money as you work through shelf-stable items too. Before purchasing duplicates be sure to use those that are close to their sell by date, then restock. Also remember to re-stock those healthy staples that make fast and easy weeknight meals; like this spaghetti squash with turkey veggie sauce dish. Some of my family’s favorite pantry staples are canned tomatoes, coconut milk, vegetable broth and nutrient-rich whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat.

Next work through your freezer. We jam pack our freezer with the usual suspects including riced cauliflower, broccoli, shredded kale, green peas, frozen berries and cherries, and of course wild caught fish! I often make double batches of meals too and freeze the second batch for a “prepared freezer meal” one another week; it’s such a fun surprise (but be sure you label it, otherwise it could be a surprise)!

As you clean each of these areas, check expiration dates to help determine when to dispose of foods. But when in doubt, throw it out. Have you ever wondered what's the difference between "use by" and "expiration?"

• “Use by” or “best if used by” date is not a safety-related date (these are usually placed on shelf stable foods, like cereal). It’s the last date recommended for use of the product at optimal quality.

• "Expiration" date means don't consume the product after this date (think of your dairy foods).

Once you’ve finished each area of your kitchen try to get in the habit of using the First In, First Out method – which means put those closest to their end date in the front of your fridge/pantry (so they’re the first ones to be used). That way you never waste food, or money.

Step 2: Embrace seasonal produce One simple way to get out of a cooking rut is to switch up your go-to fruits and vegetables based on the season. Bonus: this also means fresher and less expensive finds! I love salads with seasonal fruits and vegetables like this one featuring strawberries and radishes which came back in season, beginning in March. Did you know that depending on the season, frozen produce may be more nutritious than fresh? That’s because if a fruit or veggie is out of season it is picked while it’s still green (meaning not yet ripe) and held under conditions during transport to ripen. That means less tasty, and less nutritious food. Be sure to print this Produce Availability Chart that shows you how to eat seasonally, for those of you who are Michiganders.

Step 3: Find a meal planning method that actually works. Remember that meal planning is key to staying on track with healthy living goals, so if you’re current setup isn’t working, it might be time to switch gears. Make it a goal to find an approach that feels doable -- and most importantly, sustainable. If this is something you struggle with, you might consider outsourcing. Try out my meal planning program to save time so you can focus on improving your culinary skills and enjoying home-cooked meals over endless recipe searching. The recipes are so tasty too, so even if you enjoy meal planning, trying my plans can offer nice variety for as little as $9/month!

Dedicating time to freshen up your cooking routine can produce results that last. A simple, well-planned menu and well-stocked pantry will reduce your stress in the kitchen and limit the need for takeout (saving your health and your wealth). Set yourself up for success…which step will you tackle first?

Crazy About Cardio!

When it comes to exercise, I’ve always been a crazy cardio lady! Anything that involves running or high intensity work, you can count me in! I’ve been a runner for most of my life. I’ve completed several 5k’s and even all the way up to a double marathon. But hey, I’m married to an ultra-runner so what once seemed like many miles doesn’t anymore. To be completely honest, I run for the fun/health of it now! And because I like to eat!  It’s a social thing for me usually, but when I run alone (more often now with social distancing) it’s more on the therapeutic side.

With the current health pandemic, now really is a perfect time to get outside and start walking/running/biking or any cardio activity you think you might enjoy!

Since this month we focus on cardio, let’s think about the benefits. Aerobic exercise helps reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, increases bone density, increases lung capacity, increases energy, decreases stress while increasing quality sleep, and helps burn fat and calories.

Have you ever “woken up on the wrong side of the bed?” Basically just felt irritated and grumpy?! That was usually me before I started running most mornings. It truly is THE best way to start my day! Don’t discount what cardio can do for your mental health as well. It’s just as important, if not more, for mental reasons as physical.

Getting outside and getting fresh air and sunshine…those two things alone can help boost mental and physical health. When you add in some aerobic exercise it can double those benefits. Think about boosting your Vitamin D levels, decreasing depression, increasing gratitude and appreciation, breaking through the boredom (especially now) and experiencing greater levels of happiness. What we usually think will make us happier statistically doesn’t. Similarly, what we think is difficult and don’t want to do (exercise), usually rises our levels of happiness. So get out there and get your run on! I’ll be right here cheering you on!

Sleep Tips!

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Fitness From Home

As I am writing this blog it is day 30 of the Michigan stay at home order. People talk about the new normal- I hope not…but it is what it is. If you have not already done so, it is time to consider a home strength training program. It has been my experience that unless you have a home gym already, it is awkward if not difficult to strength train at home. However, you can do a program that will at least allow you to maintain your current level.

My first suggestion is take advantage of one of the number of organizations offering paid or free online workouts. Don’t forget there is a home exercise program on the PPW site. If you’re not into structured classes like that, be creative. Follow these principles and use what you have around the house to design your own program:

• Work the total body

• Work both sides of the joint (push/pull)

• 8-12 reps with a resistance that fatigues the muscle to a 6 or 7 on a scale of 10

• 2-3 days a week

One last suggestion, any cardio should be done outside!! We need to get out and get fresh air. Be respectfully of “social Distancing” but get outside. Stay Healthy

The Latest on the Science of Intermittent Fasting

Welcome Spring! The weather is warming up, and with all seasons of spring we start stripping off the layers. So naturally, people begin their‘Spring Break Bod’ plans [#SpringBreak2020]. There are so many different diets out there that claim to help with weight loss and disease prevention: low-fat, low-carb, ketogenic, paleo, whole 30, vegetarian, vegan, DASH, Mediterranean, MIND, etc. But I want to talk to you about one of the latest trends: the science of intermittent fasting, otherwise known as IF in the world of food and nutrition.

You may be used to eating three meals every day, plus snacks. That’s pretty common. With intermittent fasting you can essentially eat how much of whatever you want—but here’s the catch: you have to stay on schedule. With intermittent fasting there are scheduled periods of time when you can eat and others when you have to fast. Unlike most other diets, intermittent fasting tells you when to eat, not what to eat.

And, many people say that it can help lead you to better health and a longer life.

Sound interesting?

Let’s dive into some of the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.

How to intermittently fast

Most of the diets that help achieve weight loss work by reducing the number of calories consumed. Intermittent fasting does the same thing, but in a different way. This way of eating significantly limits calories (requiring fasting) for certain durations of time (intermittently), while allowing little or no restrictions the rest of the time.

Intermittent fasting essentially means skipping meals on a regular basis, sometimes daily, weekly, or monthly. Here are a few different approaches:

  • Time-restricted feeding—Having all of your meals during an 8 to 12 hour window each day, drinking only water the rest of the day.
  • Alternate day fasting—Eating normally one day but only a minimal number of calories the next; alternating between “feast” and “famine”.
  • 5:2 eating pattern—Consuming meals regularly for five days per week, then restricting to no more than 600 calories per day for the other two. This happens by eating very little and drinking only water on those two fasting days.
  • Periodic fasting—Caloric intake is restricted for several consecutive days and unrestricted on all other days. For example, fasting for five straight days per month.