What Are The Benefits Of Eating Cabbage?

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Cabbage? It’s tasty, versatile, low cost and has a longer shelf life than other veggies. Grab a head on your next shopping trip!

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Cabbage?
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Cabbage?

You may have noticed that I have a lot of recipes on this site that use cabbage and there’s a very good reason for that.  I love cabbage.

The flavor of raw cabbage is strong and slightly bitter, which accounts for the tendency to serve it with dressing and accompaniments that are slightly sweet.  When cabbage is cooked, it becomes much milder and tends to blend with whatever items it’s cooked with.

This brings us to its versatility.  Cabbage can be eaten cooked or raw, hot or cold.  Shred it, chop it, boil it, fry it, braise it, roast it.  Cut it into steaks and throw it on the grill.  Wrap it around some ground meat and rice to make cabbage rolls.  The possibilities are endless.  Seriously.

Then there’s the low cost. Cabbage is second only to potatoes in terms of price per edible cup.  In today’s economy, we’re all looking to stretch a dollar as far as we can and cabbage can certainly help with that!  Maybe this is why the term cabbage sometimes refers to money!

Wait…did I mention that cabbage can last up to 2 months in your refrigerator? 

What Are The Health Benefits Of Cabbage?

What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Cabbage?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Cabbage?

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable.  This type of vegetable has long been known for its health benefits, including cancer prevention, protection from radiation therapy, heart health as well as improving immunity and digestion.

It has powerful levels of vitamin K, magnesium, folate and beta-carotene, to just name a few.

At 17 calories and 4 carbohydrates per cooked half-cup (one cup raw), cabbage is a valuable part of a low calorie and low carb diet!

What About Fermented Cabbage?

What About Fermented Cabbage?
What About Fermented Cabbage?

Fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut as it is more commonly known, is a way to preserve cabbage by simply combining it with salt.  It then ferments at room temperature for 2-4 weeks, resulting in a salty and sour treat that will keep for up to a year in your fridge.

Not only does it taste great, but it also has good bacteria and provides probiotics, which are great for gut health and digestion.  Click here for step-by-step instructions to make your own sauerkraut right at home!

A similar method for preserving cabbage is to pickle it.  While it doesn’t last as long as sauerkraut, you can store it in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.

To make pickled cabbage shed enough cabbage to pack tightly into a quart-sized canning jar.  Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar and 1 tbsp sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, stirring to melt the sugar.  Pour liquid into the jar to cover the cabbage completely.  Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using.

Feel free to mix up this pickled recipe however you want to by adding additional veggies (I add onions) and/or using a different kind of vinegar.  You can also add more sugar if you prefer a “sweet and tart” version.  

What’s The Difference Between Red And Green Cabbage?

What’s The Difference Between Red And Green Cabbage?
What’s The Difference Between Red And Green Cabbage?

While there are lots of different kinds of cabbage, the most common types are the cannonball cabbage, better known as green cabbage and red cabbage, also known as purple cabbage.

Some people feel that the red variety is sweeter and is more tender when cooked but I find the flavor and texture (cooked or uncooked) to be virtually interchangeable.

Both red and green cabbage are good for you but red cabbage packs a more powerful nutritional profile and more overall antioxidants.

I think the biggest difference between the two is the appearance, both raw and cooked.  For example, I like the look of red cabbage in this colorful and creamy broccoli coleslaw, as it contrasts nicely with the green broccoli and brown raisins.

On the other hand, I prefer the green variety to make andouille sausage with cabbage.  The cabbage, paired with multi-colored peppers and sausage results in a visually pleasing color palette.

What Are The Best Ways To Cook Cabbage?

What Are The Best Ways To Cook Cabbage?
What Are The Best Ways To Cook Cabbage?

I’m glad you asked!  Cabbage is incredibly versatile, as I mentioned before.  I’ve found that different types of cabbage can be used interchangeably in many recipes.

When I made homemade Chinese dumplings, it called for ½ of a head each of green and Napa cabbage.  That left me with, you guessed it, ½ of a head each of green and Napa cabbage to use up after I was done.

I used the leftover Napa to make this Chinese chicken cabbage soup (no relation to the cabbage soup diet!) but I have also used regular green cabbage in the soup with good results.

I then made meatballs and cabbage using the remaining green cabbage and some meatballs I had in my freezer.  I have also replaced the bean sprouts in fried vegetable spring rolls with green cabbage because that’s what I had on hand at the time.

This Is How The Cow Eats The Cabbage

This Is How The Cow Eats The Cabbage
This Is How The Cow Eats The Cabbage

So, here it is.  All the reasons I love cabbage.  If I could write a song about it, I would.

What’s your take?  Do you like cabbage?  What’s your favorite way to eat it?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

All My Best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

We all want to be healthier. Making better food choices is a big part of that but changing the way we eat is hard. How long does it take to change a habit?

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?
How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

So you’ve started on a journey to change your ways.  You’ve decided to be healthier, eat better, ditch the take out and cook your own healthy meals at home.  It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s harder than you thought it would be.

It takes longer than you thought to research meal plans, find what you want in the grocery store, to prep and put together your meals every day.  And, unfortunately, you’re still craving your favorite frozen pizza.  It’s enough to send any (previously) sane person, screaming, to the nearest drive-thru.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before but it takes time to feel comfortable after making changes to your life, especially big ones.  But how long do we have to wait for this to get easier?  How long does it take to change a habit?

First, let’s break down some of the specific reasons we’re having problems.

How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan

Create a Healthy Meal Plan
Create a Healthy Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan seems like a chore at first, especially for those of us who are used to flying by the seat of our pants in regard to mealtime.  Who has time to find recipes, write out a menu and set up a shopping list for the next couple of weeks??  How would you even know what you’ll want to eat all those days in advance???

Ok, just calm down.  This process is completely malleable.  I’ll tell you right up front that I can’t plan my meals more than a few days ahead of time, either. But what I often do is keep an eye out for recipes online.  When I find something that I’d like to try, I print out the recipe or email it to myself.  This gives me plenty of ideas of what I’d like to try sometime in the future.  If you join the email lists at a few sites, they send the recipes to you!

If the ingredients in a recipe are shelf-stable, freezable or have a relatively long refrigerator life span, I’ll buy them on my next shopping trip so I can have them on hand when I’m ready to make it.  This is a form of meal plan because I already have the recipes and ingredients when I’m ready to cook.

Now for the shopping list.  I have a notes app on my phone (I’m sure you have one as well) so I keep a running shopping list.  If I need something or want to acquire ingredients for a particular meal, I just whip out my phone and add to the list.  When I buy something, I just remove that item from the list.

Sounds easy enough but now you have to face the grocery store.  When I first started on this journey, you can be sure that I knew where they kept the hot dogs and frozen dinners but where the heck are pine nuts?   It’s true that it will take you a little bit longer on your first few trips but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.  Remember that it’s ok to ask for directions!

For more tips on this subject, check out this article!

Prep. Cook. Repeat.

I love to cook.  I am often at my happiest when I can spend the afternoon creating a complex meal for myself and/or other people.  I understand that not everyone loves (or even likes) to cook and that’s something I can understand on a certain level.

For me, cooking is an undertaking, a project.  I do not enjoy feeling rushed or pressured when I’m cooking and I don’t like to cook when I’m feeling tired after a long day.  And, let’s face it…I usually don’t have an entire afternoon free to make a meal.  So, in that respect, I often don’t like to cook.  But I still gotta eat so what’s a girl to do?

The first thing to do is check your local supermarket.  These businesses recognize the increasing desire of their customers to eat healthy, whole foods while having increasingly less time to spend cooking.

I’m happy to say that they’ve stepped up to the plate by offering a large selection of items that are prepared and/or ready for cooking.  This includes produce that is peeled and cut into various shapes and sizes, both in the produce department and the frozen section.

Check out the meat and frozen food aisles to find proteins that are already deboned, ground or sliced.  Other areas can supply you with sliced or grated cheese, hard-boiled eggs, chopped nuts and many other things to reduce your time in the kitchen.

Another thing I do is take advantage of the opportunities I do have to cook.  Most dishes will last in the fridge for up to 5 days and can also be frozen in serving-sized portions for a minimum of 3 months, sometimes longer.  This means I can make extra portions and eat them throughout the week or freeze them for later.  Here are some additional thoughts on this subject!

But Wait…I Still Want Pizza

I Still Want Pizza
I Still Want Pizza

You’re eating healthy and you should feel better, right?  You should be enjoying the benefits of fresh food and craving some more of that awesome, nutritious stuff that your body needs…except you’re actually dying for a drive-thru sandwich.

You know you shouldn’t.  It’s unhealthy and it’s detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t even taste that good.  And yet, here you are.  You could be in line right now, waiting for your turn to get one of those nuggets of death and berating yourself for being so weak.

Take it down a notch, ok?  It’s not your fault.

Manufacturers have discovered how to use a precise combination of sugar, salt and fat to virtually ensure our overconsumption of the foods they’re pushing. This concoction lights up the pleasure centers in the brain, creating a euphoria that compels us to want more.

It’s so powerful that it’s been compared to cocaine. Yes, you heard me right. Check out these findings put together by Yale University.

The good news?  The longer you hold out, the weaker that compulsion will be.

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?
How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

This brings us back to the original question.  How long does it take to change a habit?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes between 18 to 254 days and about 66 days for it to become automatic.

Why the wide margin?  Because habits are diverse and affect our lives in different ways.

When you get in your car, you most likely put on your seatbelt without even giving it a thought.  You probably don’t remember struggling to form that habit, it was just something that became a muscle memory after doing it over and over.  Why?  Because, although you know that it could potentially save your life, the seatbelt doesn’t connect with you emotionally.

How about that time you cut your finger with a knife?  I’ll bet it didn’t take you long to form the habit of keeping your fingers out of the way while you’re cutting potatoes.

Food is a different situation altogether.  Eating food gives us pleasure for many different reasons.

We need food to live and so we’re naturally drawn to it.  We also enjoy the different flavors and mouthfeels of these foods as well as the satisfaction of being full.  And nothing compares to the camaraderie of sitting down with our friends and loved ones for a good meal.  Our attitude toward food is wound tightly with tradition, emotion and physical need.

What we eat is a habit that’s much more difficult to change but it can be done.

Here’s my take on the situation.  This is a journey, not a race. You can’t change your entire diet overnight.  Maybe not in 6 months.  Maybe not even in a year.  All you can do is begin.

Ask yourself what you’re willing to change right now.  Maybe you’ll decide to make a smoothie for breakfast tomorrow.  Or trade the takeout one day this week for a super quick and easy tomato and shrimp salad.  Once you’re comfortable with that, maybe you’d like to change something else.

The Best Time Is Now

The Best Time Is Now
The Best Time Is Now

The most important thing to remember is to always be kind to yourself.  There will be hiccups and backslides.  I’ve been at this now for over 4 years and I still have a relapse from time to time. But I’m miles ahead of where I began.  That’s what matters.

So go ahead and get started.  The best time is now.

What’s the first change you plan to make?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

What Happens When We Stop Eating Processed Food?

What Happens When We Stop Eating Processed Food?
What Happens When We Stop Eating Processed Food?

 

We have talked (a lot) about how processed foods are chemical-laden, addictive wonders of scientific labs all over the world. Well-paid scientists the world over have, and continue to, come up with processed foods that are highly addictive and make you want to eat them again and again.

These foods are well-known to cause weight gain and all the health issues that go with it as well as causing our bodies to react to chemical additives resulting in migraines, brain fog and even some that can lead to organ failure and serious disease.

But what happens when we stop eating processed food? Aside from avoiding the negative consequences, what positive reactions can we expect from eating whole foods?

 

Here’s To Your Health

Here's To Your Health
Here’s To Your Health

Eating more fruit can lower our risk of cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Many phytochemicals found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes act as antioxidants, which protect cells from damage that can cause cancer.

The role of healthy food in avoiding, controlling and/or reversing diabetes is essential. The introduction of fiber, high quality protein and fats help to maintain a slow, steady level of glucose in our system, as opposed to the “sugar rush” that is the result of sugary, low fiber and low protein processed foods.

The fiber, high quality protein and healthy fats found in whole foods help to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in your body by helping you feel full faster and longer than processed foods.

An interesting study showed that people who eat an ultra processed food diet tend to gain weight.
When those same people ate unprocessed whole foods, they lost weight. Intriguingly, the weight differences on the two diets occurred even though both kinds of foods had been carefully matched from a nutritional standpoint, including calorie density, fiber, fat, sugar and salt.

 

Stronger and Stronger

Stronger and Stronger
Stronger and Stronger

A diet with adequate calcium and magnesium is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Keeping the bones healthy is vital in preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis later in life.

High quality protein helps to build and maintain healthy muscle mass. When these proteins are paired with fiber rich carbohydrates (for energy) and healthy fats (for more energy!), they create the building blocks for strong muscles.

Water is also important when performing the exercise that builds up your core strength and muscle mass. Yes, it replaces the fluid that’s lost when you sweat but it also replenishes electrolytes, sodium and glucose. Not only that, a couple of glasses of water before exercising will lower your perceived effort while consuming water after exercise will ward off muscle cramps, remove toxins from your body and deliver the nutrients your body has burned.

Create Beauty From Within

Create Beauty From Within
Create Beauty From Within

 

Eating a whole foods diet can help cleanse toxins from your body while increasing nutrients which are essential for healthy skin. This is because the liver, kidneys, adrenals, thyroid as well as the intestines work together to make that happen. If your liver and kidneys are overtaxed trying to filter out an over consumption of toxins, it can cause skin breakouts. If your hormones are out of whack, your thyroid can’t function properly causing the skin to be dry and flaky. If the intestines are having trouble expelling waste, it can cause the skin to become thick, blemished and oily.

Whole grains such as brown rice and oats contain B vitamins, silica and zinc which can alleviate brittle and thinning hair. These B vitamins will also help to keep your lips hydrated, relieving cracking and chapping.

Vitamins K and C can be found in dark green and leafy vegetables can boost circulation and strengthen capillary walls in the skin, improving its strength and color. Potassium, such as is found in avocado, can reduce puffiness by reducing water retention. Since avocados also contain healthy fatty acids that help keep your skin soft, it sounds like a spinach/avocado smoothie is the perfect breakfast to keep you looking your best!

Tossing back a few nuts will supply your nails with some much-needed B7, zinc, iron and protein to keep them strong!

 

Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After
Happily Ever After

Antioxidants and phytochemicals found in plant based foods reduce inflammation and repair damage to brain cells while restoring balance to our neurotransmitters. Studies show this leads to reduced episodes of depression compared to those who consume more processed foods. There is even evidence that a whole foods diet can reverse depression without the aid of medication.

The proper amount of quality sleep is also important to regulate your mood. A low fiber and higher saturated fat diet has been shown to lead to a lighter and less restorative sleep, resulting in more awake time over the course of the night. Fatty foods can also be harder to digest, making it harder to fall asleep in the first place! On the other hand, eating foods rich in melatonin and magnesium, such as almonds, can improve sleep by regulating your inner clock and reducing stress hormone cortisol,

Magnesium will also help to reduce headaches.

Viva La Vida! (And Enjoy It More!)

Viva La Vida! (And Enjoy It More!)
Viva La Vida! (And Enjoy It More!)

 

So here’s the bottom line: Switching to a whole foods diet will help you lose weight faster, age slower, get fewer headaches and have better hair, skin and brain function. It will also lead to a better night’s sleep!

Think it’s hard to give up the junk? Maybe at first. That’s because many processed foods are made with “perfect” amounts of added sugar, salt, fat, and other chemicals designed to make us want more. Shockingly, studies have shown that this combination addicts us in a similar way as drugs.

But many people will testify that once they get away from processed foods, they no longer have any desire to eat them. It doesn’t mean you’ll never slip again…it just means that each time you do, you’ll enjoy it less and less, much like an ex-smoker becomes intolerant to the sight and smell of cigarettes over the course of time.

So go ahead. Climb on the bandwagon and begin to live your best life. You can do it!

All my best

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

6 Foods That Were The Spawn Of Satan…Until They Weren’t

Remember when nuts were unhealthy? Or when cranberries caused cancer? Here’s my take on 6 Foods That Were The Spawn Of Satan…Until They Weren’t

 

6 Foods That Were The Spawn Of Satan...Until They Weren't
6 Foods That Were The Spawn Of Satan…Until They Weren’t

Remember when nuts were unhealthy? Or when cranberries caused cancer? Here’s my take on 6 Foods That Were The Spawn Of Satan…Until They Weren’t

When was the last time you heard that a particular food was bad for you?  Maybe it was today.  Maybe it was yesterday.  Maybe you can’t open your computer or turn on your TV without hearing about the latest culinary evil that’s out to ruin your health.

Now ask yourself when was the last time you were told that a favorite nosh was certain death only to find out they were wrong?  How many times can you remember that happening?

For your entertainment, I’d like to share with you a few foods that were considered the spawn of satan…until they weren’t…

The Skinny On Fats

The Skinny On Fats
The Skinny On Fats

It seems that nothing has gotten a worse rap than fat and cholesterol.  Way back in the 1970s, the consensus began to take hold that eating fat caused fat to build up in the body and eating foods with cholesterol caused cholesterol to build up in the arteries.  This was followed by a push to eat more sugar as a way to promote weight loss and energy.

This theory was eventually (and thankfully) disproved before the following 3 foods were forced to take a permanent dirt nap.

Eggs: Canadian researchers did a study of 1,231 patients to measure the linear increase in arterial plaque for people over 40.  The study focused on which was worse: smoking (measured in pack-years) or consuming egg yolk (measured in yolk years).  It was concluded that eating one egg yolk per day was as risky as smoking 5 cigarettes

ll turns out that it’s saturated fat that’s often consumed in the whole breakfast, not the cholesterol in eggs, that raises “bad” cholesterol (I’m looking at you, breakfast sausage). Eggs are a healthy source of high-quality protein, healthy fats as well as necessary vitamins and minerals.

Butter: The popularity of butter took a plummet back in the 1980s due to claims that cholesterol and saturated fat lead to coronary heart disease.  Turns out the manmade trans fats found in margarine were worse.

While manufacturers have moved away from using trans fats in margarine, butter has come surging back as the underdog of the dinner table.  The argument now rages as to whether we should be using synthetically produced margarine or butter, a natural food that (unquestionably) tastes better.  The scientific community now agrees that both can be part of a healthy diet if used sparingly.

Welcome home, butter.  I’ve missed you.

Nuts were once considered to be unhealthy due to their high-fat content.  It’s now accepted that nuts are a nutrient-dense food that lowers the risk of disease by decreasing cholesterol, insulin resistance and blood vessel dysfunction.

Stop The Ride, I Want To Get Off

Stop The Ride, I Want To Get Off
Stop The Ride, I Want To Get Off

They were good…they were bad…they were good again…occasionally all at the same time!

Cranberries were first cultivated for commercial sale in 1816 in New England.  Because of their growing season, which extends into November, these tart little berries became a favored Thanksgiving treat and enjoyed brisk sales until November 1959  when it was discovered that some cranberry samples tested positive for an herbicide that was thought to cause cancer.

Although cranberries were quickly cleared of any health hazards, sales struggled for the next several years.  This was devastating for an industry that made the vast bulk of its profit over the winter holiday season.  The answer to their prayers came in the early 1960s when Ocean Spray’s new CEO came up with a plan:  Mix cranberry juice with sugar water and sell it year-round as a “Cranberry Juice Cocktail”.  It was an instant hit and now both the juice and the cranberry itself are back in the good graces of John Q. Public.  And, while we’re on the subject, check out my recipe for Fresh Whole Cranberry Sauce!

Bananas have a rollercoaster history worthy of a soap opera.  They may have been cultivated as early as 1000 B.C. and became a popular treat shipped to different parts of the world beginning in the 7th century.  By the 1700s, boats were reluctant to ship bananas due to superstitions that they caused the boats to sink and jinxed fish hauls.

Somewhere towards the end of World War One, United Fruit (who imported bananas) began to tote the delightful yellow fruit as a cure for childhood celiac disease while, at virtually the same time, others referred to them as “a cause of indigestion and a treacherous dietary component”.  Researchers immediately came to the banana’s defense, calling them “a wholesome, palatable and nutritious article of food”.

This debate continues today with claims that bananas rot your teeth, lower your blood pressure and cause migraines.  They aggravate constipation…unless they don’t.  And don’t even get me started on how the fiber in them helps you lose weight unless the sugar makes you gain.

Is your head spinning yet?

Remember That One Time You Had To Give Up Coffee?

Remember That One Time You Had To Give Up Coffee?
Remember That One Time You Had To Give Up Coffee?

For years, doctors warned that drinking coffee led to a plethora of health risks:  It could increase the risk of heart disease, stunt growth, cause stomach ulcers and heartburn, among other things.  The problem?  They didn’t factor in other risks like smoking, alcohol consumption, height, weight, diet, gender, ethnicity and blood pressure.  A new study, done in 2019, did not endorse drinking coffee but it did debunk the previous studies.

Other recent studies show that coffee lowers the risk of developing diabetes and liver damage while boosting our concentration and memory.  It may even ward off the mental decline caused by dementia.

The bad news?  Caffeine is still addictive and withdrawal symptoms may cause headaches.  It can interrupt sleep patterns and momentarily raise blood pressure.  Considering my two-cups-a-day habit, I say it’s worth the trade-off!

 Maybe The Problem With Food Is Food Itself

Maybe The Problem With Food Is Food Itself
Maybe The Problem With Food Is Food Itself

Nutraceuticals and fortified foods walk a thin line between food and medicine.  Ever since we got it into our heads that certain foods are “good” for us, society has been on a mission to consume more of these foods, whether it be by eating copious amounts of a single food or taking it in pill form.

This article from 1896 gleefully predicts a future where it’s not necessary to eat food at all, instead a person would simply take a pill to fulfill their daily nutritional needs.

The author admits these pills won’t taste as good as real food but seems excited at the prospect of being able to give up dinner parties and the accompanying “symposia” that go with it.  No, you’re right…conversation is overrated.  And let’s not forget that “the pleasures of the table have ages on end been absorbing too much of the time and inclination of man and woman.” 

Thankfully, this dire prediction hasn’t come to pass yet…and let’s hope it never does!  For more of my thoughts on nutraceuticals, check out this article.

Just One Word: Ugh

Just One Word: Ugh
Just One Word: Ugh

What are we supposed to eat now?  Who are we supposed to believe?  What’s the deal?!?

How about this word:  Context.

Many studies are undertaken to prove or disprove a particular theory and are often laser-focused to the point of silliness.  At least one of those coffee studies includes people who drink up to 25 cups of coffee daily.  And one discussion of how bananas rot our teeth included a baby whose parents allowed him to suck on bananas in place of a pacifier.  Most of us don’t do either of those things so, really, do those studies even apply to us?

Here’s another word:  Variety.

The most reasonable and healthy thing to do is to eat a variety of different foods.  How many cranberries do you really need?  And eating an entire jar of almonds will only ensure you don’t have any room to consume the other nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function.  While healthy, one cannot live on almonds alone.

Here’s my idea:  Look at all those studies with a critical eye and decide if they really apply to you.  Then go ahead and eat a variety of healthy foods to ensure that you have the right fuel mix to keep your engine running.

What’s your take on the subject?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

Preparing Healthier Meals

Many people face barriers in preparing healthier meals, including a lack of time and conflicting information about nutrition, and taste preferences.

Preparing Healthier Meals
Preparing Healthier Meals

Eating healthy. It’s something we all know we should do but it can seem like an impossible task. Often we feel so ingrained in our bad behavior that it’s hard to decide how to even get started.

I’m not an expert in the field and my eating habits are not perfect. I’m just a gal who’s trying to do better today than I did yesterday. I fall off the wagon just like everyone else and struggle to get on the right track again.

I have, however, picked up a few nuggets of knowledge along the way in regard to preparing healthier meals and I’d like to share a few of them with you!

Eat At Home (And Pack Your Lunch)

Eat At Home
Eat At Home

Americans love to eat out.  It’s a fact.  Studies show that we, on average, spend over 50% of our total food budget to eat food away from home 4-5 times per week.

Now, we all know the dangers associated with fast food but there are pitfalls at your local sit-down eatery as well. Restaurants are in the business of serving food that tastes good with little regard for how healthy it may be. The result is often an increased amount of fats and sugars compared to meals you would normally cook at home.

The bottom line? Those who eat more home-cooked meals are simply healthier than those who don’t.

And since you’re cooking dinner anyway, why not cook extra to pack for your lunch tomorrow?

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables
Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

The recommended amount of produce for adults is 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables.  (And, no, french fries don’t count.)  This seems to be an area where many of us fall short.  More than 90% of Americans don’t eat enough produce.

While a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are the optimal solution to good health, let’s be serious. We don’t all like every vegetable. Me? Not crazy about salads. Or at least that’s how I feel about the bowl full of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers but I love this Mexican Avocado Salad and this Orange and Beet Salad.

Vegetables can take on a whole new flavor profile when combined with a small piece of bacon, some soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, or a few nuts. Sometimes, they can even be the base for your entire meal!

Smoothies made with whole fruits and vegetables (not juice) are a great choice, quick to prepare and easy to take along for the ride to work. This is one of my favorites but there are plenty of other options out there, both “green” or “fruity”.  Really, almost any combo of fruits and veggies works well in a smoothie so use your imagination!

So, maybe it’s not that you don’t like produce. Maybe it’s just that you don’t like the way you’ve been preparing it!

Lose The Cans And Bottles

Lose The Cans And Bottles
Lose The Cans And Bottles

Marinades, sauces, dips, soups, canned fruits and veggies…the vast majority of these pre-made items are loaded with sugar, salt, fat and all kinds of additives. And P.S.? They don’t taste nearly as good as what you can whip up in your own kitchen.

OK, OK, you’re right. I’m not going to ferment my own vinegar or soy sauce. It’s stinky and it takes months.

What I can do is make a few key items when I have the time and store them in the freezer for when I need to use them. Applesauce,  cranberry sauce, barbecue sauce and tomato sauce are just a few examples of things you can whip up in no time!

Salad dressings and dips often don’t hold up as well to freezing but it’s easy to throw together just the amount you need for the meal you’re having. Blue cheese? Yes, please! Thousand island? Honey Mustard? Making these will leave you unflustered!

And this ranch powder mix will happily sit in your cupboard for a long time until you need it.

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead
Plan Ahead
  1. Make a meal plan. This doesn’t have to be complicated but it is important. It’s a fact that those who make a meal plan are more likely to have a healthier diet.
  2. Hit the store. Make a list of everything you’re going to need to make those meals and go shopping for everything you don’t already have.
  3. Prep, prep, prep. Prep all the food you just brought home from the store. Break the proteins down into serving-sized portions for freezing (so you don’t have to defrost 5 pounds of ground beef to make one meal) and pre-prep other items in advance (such as turning that head of broccoli into bite-sized pieces). It’s easier to prepare a meal after work if you’ve already done some of the work!
  4. Cook for the future. Since you’re cooking anyway, why not make enough for another meal? Many of my recipes, such as this pepper steak stir-fry, make 2 or 3 servings that can be used for several meals during the week. I love to cook a whole meatloaf and then freeze individual slices to use later in sandwiches. Uncooked meatballs can be frozen (make sure the ground beef hasn’t been previously frozen) and then thawed in single portions to make sweet and sour meatballs or pasta.
  5. Don’t be overzealous. This is a mistake I’ve made more than once. I mean, why not double this sausage and butternut squash skillet so it will last the whole week? Because I guarantee you’re going to be sick of eating it by day 3. Luckily, it freezes nicely so I was able to eat the rest a few weeks later.

Go Forth And Cook

Go Forth And Cook
Go Forth And Cook

The road to eating healthier meals can seem like a long and daunting journey but keep in mind that you don’t have to be good at this all at once. There will be missteps, missed exits and side trips. The important thing is to stick with it. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to preparing that healthy meal. I promise.

What strategies have you adopted to make things easier? Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Weird Foods Of The World

Weird Foods Of The World
Weird Foods Of The World

From jellied moose nose to maggot-laced cheese, there are a lot of weird foods out there! What weird foods do they serve in your neck of the woods?

Most of these strange offerings are simply menus that have been eaten through the generations and have become commonplace (and enjoyed) in the areas where they’re consumed. I’m acquainted with people who have come to my country from around the world and visa versa (myself included). All of these people (myself included) have a tendency to miss the food from home, all the things they can’t get where they are currently planted.

I think we can all agree that traditions, including food traditions, are something we all hold dear without ever really wondering how they came into being. Why are some foods eaten in certain areas of the world but not others? Two words: Opportunity and necessity.

Many parts of the world today are fortunate to have continuous access to food that is sourced locally as well as internationally but this was not always the case.
Before there were grocery stores and worldwide transport, food was provided according to what could be grown, foraged or hunted locally. There was always the fear that this food supply could be interrupted at any time by weather, insects, political unrest, illness and many other random occurrences.

For this reason, any item that was obtained was used to its fullest extent. No part of the animal or vegetation was wasted.

And when those interruptions to the food chain did take place? You still gotta eat. Of course, anything tastes good when you’re hungry but many people found that their “food of last resort” was better than they thought it would be and continued to eat it even after the crisis had ended.

What do you say we take a look at a few of these weird hangers-on that are still enjoyed in different areas of the world?

Aftermarket Body Parts

Aftermarket Body Parts
Aftermarket Body Parts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Heads and Eyeballs

Although the head and eyes of animals are eaten worldwide, fish seems to be the most popular. In many cultures, the entire fish is presented at the dinner table and the eyes of the fish are often saved for the most honored guest. The heads of animals are commonly used to make soup in a number of countries.

Jellied Moose Nose

Similar to head cheese, this dish is considered a delicacy among indigenous communities of the northwestern region of Canada and Alaska.

Shirako

Shirako translates to “white children” but is actually the sperm sacs from certain fish. These blobs look like tiny brains and are said to have a sweet, custardy taste.

Balut

Served mainly in the Philippines, Balut is a fertilized duck egg. To properly eat one of these puppies (um….duckies?), tap a hole in the top, slurp out the liquid goodness and then enjoy the crunch of the partially developed embryo that’s left.

Muktuc

Muktic is raw whale blubber with the skin still attached. This dish can be served “as is”, frozen or pickled and is popular in Greenland and Canada. Apparently, if you have enough chew power, it renders a oily, nutty flavor and is high in vitamins C and D.

I’m Gonna Eat Some Worms

I'm Gonna Eat Some Worms
I’m Gonna Eat Some Worms

Crispy Tarantulas

It’s believed that tarantulas were first eaten by Cambodians starving under the Khmer Rouge regime. These days, the fried creepy crawlers are often rolled in sugar or garlic and sold by street vendors but, unfortunately, the effects of deforestation and over-harvesting may put an end to the practice.

Ant Egg Soup

This blend of fish, fish stock, spices, ant eggs and ant embryo is popular in parts of Asia. Fans say it tastes like shrimp, while the addition of baby ants lends a sour aftertaste.

Locusts

Eating Locusts sort of makes sense. They’re crunchy and sweet-tasting, can be eaten smoked, dried or fried, sometimes mixed with meringue or caramel for dessert. Locally sourced and high in protein, locusts are also kosher. And they eat your crops. What better revenge than to beat them at their own game?


Did Someone Say Cheese?

Did Someone Say Cheese?
Did Someone Say Cheese?

Casu Marzu

This cheese from Sardinia starts out as Pecorino. Fly larvae are introduced into the cheese and burrow through the cheese after they hatch. Casu marzu is considered unsafe to eat after the maggots have died unless it’s been refrigerated.

Milbenkäse

This German specialty cheese starts out as something akin to feta but then it’s placed in a box with some rye flour and mites. The enzymes in the digestive juices excreted by the mites (Yup. Mite poop) cause the cheese to ripen. This method of cheese making, which dates back to the Middle Ages, was almost extinct by the 1970s when only one person remained who knew how the process worked. Luckily (?) he was able to pass the information on before he died.

Eat This and That

Eat Me
Eat Me

Huitlacoche (Cuitlacoche)

The word itself translates to “corn smut” or “black mushroom” and refers to a blue-black fungus that sometimes grows on organic corn. It’s a rare occurrence and is considered a delicacy in Mexico.

Airag

This Mongolian drink is mildly alcoholic and made from fermented mare or camel milk. Advocates say the taste is “quite agreeable after getting used to it” and the flavor profile “refreshes and sparkles softly on the tongue”. Very few first-time drinkers agree.

Black Pudding

This is a traditional English/Irish pudding made from the fresh blood of a slaughtered animal. Although similar to blood sausages found in other regions of the world, black pudding is distinctive for using a higher proportion of cereal (such as oatmeal) and various spices.

 

Eat! Drink! And Be Merry!

Eat! Drink! And Be Merry!
Eat! Drink! And Be Merry!

While I’m not adventurous enough to actually try any of these foods, I’m certainly not knocking them. Hey, I’m from New England, where we eat peanut butter marshmallow sandwiches (“fluffernutters”) and brown bread that comes in a can. Moxie, a local carbonated beverage for which outsiders have used the words like “burnt root beer”, “rust” and “battery acid” to describe its flavor, actually has its own yearly festival. Who am I to point fingers?

Have you tried any of these unusual foods? What strange foods are served in your local area? Let me know in the comments below!  And be sure to check out some more fun food facts here!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

How Food Affects Your Brain

We hear a lot about how eating affects your health and your weight but did you ever wonder how food affects your brain? Let’s take a look at that question.

How Food Affects Your Brain
How Food Affects Your Brain

Our brain is the team leader that keeps our entire body functioning. It facilitates every process that takes place, it coordinates every action that occurs. Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t want anything murking up the driver of my car and, as it turns out, what you eat does affect your driver. A lot.

Just as our cars need regular maintenance to continue to run smoothly, our brains require a steady diet of nutrient-rich food to continue to function at an optimal level. That, of course, comes from eating high-quality food.

Welcome to “Healthy Eating 101: How Food Affects Your Brain”. Please find a seat, class has begun!

How Sugar Affects Health

How Sugar Affects Your Health
How Sugar Affects Your Health

Wait… Is Sugar A Processed Food?

Both refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are processed from their original form (sugarcane, beets or corn) to become the easy-to-use sweeteners that we’re so familiar with. The problem is not really the processing of these products but the sheer volume at which they are added to our foods.

What are the side effects of eating too much sugar?

High sugar diets lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, which increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that increased glucose levels lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease even without diabetes being present.

Studies also show the excess consumption of fructose specifically, such as is found in high-fructose corn syrup, leads to an increased risk of dementia.

How much sugar is too much?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men. Unfortunately, the average American consumes a whopping 108 grams (22 teaspoons) every day. That’s almost half a cup of sugar. Wondering how we’re managing to choke down that much sugar every single day? It’s really not that hard.

Traditional Coca-Cola, by their own admission, contains 65 grams of sugar in a 20 oz bottle. 13 teaspoons. With one bottle of Coke, you are well over your daily intake of sugar already and more than halfway to being an “Average American”.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that soda (pop, tonic or whatever your regional term for it is) has that much sugar. It’s no secret and many people have given it up completely for this very reason. But in this world of processed foods, you will find sugar in the most unlikely of places.

Pasta sauce, granola bars, instant oatmeal packets, salad dressings and breakfast cereal can all put a serious dent in your daily sugar allotment. Heck, there are some yogurts that can suck up your entire allowance!

Should I cut out sugar completely?

It’s not necessary to cut sugar out completely. Sugar and corn syrup aren’t evil villains who have it in for you. As a matter of fact, they’re here to help. Added sweeteners can enhance or mellow flavors by altering our perception of tastes but keep in mind that a little goes a long way. You can make a difference in your own diet by reading those nutrition labels so you can be aware of how much sugar you’re taking in. It might even cause you to start making your own spaghetti sauce.

The Link Between Serotonin and Depression

The Link Between Serotonin and Depression
The Link Between Serotonin and Depression

Do Processed Foods Lead To Depression?

Processed foods don’t, in and of themselves, cause depression but when we eat them we are not eating the healthy food we need to keep our serotonin at the proper level.

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates a number of bodily functions, both physical and psychological. Low serotonin levels have been linked to poor memory, low mood, anxiety and aggression.

So How Does Serotonin Affect Depression?

While there is no direct link to low serotonin causing depression, there is a link to those who are already suffering from depression or have a family history of depression. While higher serotonin levels in this group of people don’t dissipate feelings of depression, it does provide a more positive emotional response to those feelings. In other words, they are less likely to take negative action, such as self-harm, in response to what they’re feeling.

What foods increase Serotonin?

Eating foods rich in tryptophan will help to increase serotonin levels but not all these foods will be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and actually help serotonin levels in the brain. Some foods that can pass the barrier are corn, milk and chickpeas which can be especially effective when paired with bright light and exercise.

What Other Foods Improve Brain Function?

Foods That Improve Brain Function
Foods That Improve Brain Function

The antioxidant beta-carotene that’s found in many orange and dark green produce can protect the brain against mental decline. An 18-year study showed that men who took beta-carotene supplements had sharper memory skills and less cognitive decline than their counterparts who were taking a placebo.

Consuming nuts, seeds, fish and certain oils provide omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. These lipids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that promote healthier brain cells and can lessen the deterioration of the brain.

Curcumin, which is found in turmeric, improves the function of brain neurons, strengthening and protecting them while encouraging their growth. This promotes memory and the ability to cope with mental strain.

The Bottom Line Is This…

The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line

Yes, you can eat a little more of this and a little more of that but the bottom line is this: Eating a whole foods diet is simply good for your mind, body and soul. The evidence shows that sticking to high-quality foods positively affects your brain function and emotional stability.

It’s time to take charge of your food, your health and your life. Your brain will thank you.

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

Do Diet Foods Make You Fat?

Despite all the low-fat and sugar foods that line the supermarket shelves, we are unhealthier than ever before. What going on here? Do diet foods make you fat?

The supermarkets are full of foods that claim to be wholesome and nutritious in addition to helping us maintain a thriving lifestyle and healthy weight.

But what if the very things we thought would help us to be healthier are actually making us fatter and more debilitated? Do diet foods make you fat?

Too Much Of A Good Food

Low fat is usually touted to be a healthy way to lose weight, get healthy and stay healthy.  Unfortunately, many too many of us associate the words “Low Fat” with “Low Calorie”, which makes people underestimate the number of calories they consume when eating low-fat food.

Studies show the Average Joe feels less guilty when eating these foods, which allows us to justify eating bigger portions.

As we’ve talked about in the past, fat is what makes food taste good.  When fat is unnaturally removed from a food, sugar is added to make it taste better so those who are seeking out low-fat foods are often introducing extra sugar to their diet. And it’s a fact that healthy fat is better for you than any kind of sugar.

Studies also suggest that if you consume something sweet your appetite increases, whether the food/drink is artificially sweetened or not.

So–low fat?  Fuggedaboutit!

I Feel So Empty

Healthy fat and protein have advantages over refined carbohydrates in making you feel satiated and full for longer so why do so many people go for empty calories diet foods such as granola bars and rice cakes?

Why? Because we know it’s healthy.

Or maybe we’re being misled.

Let’s take a box of yogurt raisins, for example.  Raisins are good, right?  And yogurt?  Also good, right? And it’s such a teeny-tiny box.  How much harm can it do?

If we cruise over to the website for one popular brand, you’ll notice they’re quick to point out that this product is made from whole non-GMO fruit.  Interestingly enough, grapes are a berry.  First words outta their mouths and it’s a deception.

They go on about this being a “healthy” on-the-go snack and that raisins contribute to our daily intake of fiber, vitamins, and essential minerals.  There’s talk of antioxidant powerhouses, natural sugars and how this little cardboard box of goodness can help us reach our recommended daily servings of fruit.

Sounds good, right?  How can we possibly go wrong?

Take a closer look.   See that “+” symbol?  Let’s just click on that to see what they’re legally required to tell us while hoping we won’t bother to look.

Looks like there are 120 calories (45 of them from the raisins), 20% of your recommended intake of saturated fat (none of it from the raisins) and 18 grams of sugar (about half of it from the raisins).

There’s about ½ an ounce of raisins in each 1-ounce box of “yogurt” covered raisins.  That means you’d have to eat 8 boxes of raisins to equal one serving of fruit. 960 calories, 160% of your daily allotment of saturated fat and more than quadruple the recommended intake of sugar.  Still sound like a healthy snack?

What about all that fiber?  The vitamins and essential minerals?  Antioxidants? All less than 5% of your daily recommended intake.

Now take a look at the ingredients: Well, raisins.  We knew that.  But, what’s this? Yogurt-flavored coating?  Made from sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat milk powder, yogurt powder (cultured whey and nonfat milk), whey powder, artificial color (titanium dioxide), soy lecithin– an emulsifier, vanilla, tapioca dextrin and confectioners glaze?  That doesn’t sound like yogurt to me.  I think a more apt description would be “candy-coated raisins”.

Sooo….

If you want yogurt covered raisins, why not stir some raisins into plain greek yogurt?  Add a drop of honey and vanilla to sweeten the pot.

One For The Road

What can be healthier than grabbing one of those ultra-high-calorie, sugar-packed, fat-inducing smoothies out of the cooler at your favorite convenience store?  Wait…what?  Aren’t smoothies healthy?  Many times the answer is no.

When you make a smoothie at home or buy one at your local hipster hub, chances are it’s made from whole foods, one of which is probably whole fruits or berries.  Commercial smoothies tend to be made from fruit juice.  Why is this important?

Let’s take a look at this commercial smoothie.

By their own account, this drink is made from the juice of 3½ apples, 1 banana, 27 blueberries and 3 blackberries.  It’s been non-GMO verified, has no preservatives and no added sugar. It’s been “boosted” (read: artificially introduced) with 6 vitamins and minerals and has 2 grams of fiber. That’s good, right?

Well, it contains more than 20% of your daily calories while only providing 12% of your daily fiber intake.  It also has 55 grams of sugar.  That’s more than double the recommended intake of daily sugar, according to the WHO.

It’s important to remember that when we eat whole fruit, we consume the naturally occurring sugar along with the naturally occurring fiber, which slows the rate at which our bodies take in the sugar.   When we remove the fiber and just consume the juice, it crashes into our bodies very quickly.  As a matter of fact, our bodies will react to this naturally occurring sugar in exactly the same way as manufactured, or added, sugar.

What’s In Your Sushi?

Sushi is generally considered to be healthy, nutritious and low calorie. It starts with rice and nori rolled around fish or vegetables but often there’s more than meets the eye.

Rainbow sushi is the T Rex of sushi:  it’s sushi rolled in additional fish.  While the fish provides high-quality protein as well as healthy fats, at 475 calories and 16 grams of fat it’s a bit too much of a good thing!

Shrimp tempura roll is another iffy choice.  It weighs in at over 500 calories and 21 grams of fat from fried shrimp.

See how easy it is to pack in some extra calories and unhealthy fats when we’re not paying attention?

If you want to keep it healthy, choose simple avocado and tuna rolls that come in at under 200 calories per serving (one roll or 6 pieces) with less than 5 grams of healthy fat.  California, salmon and spicy tuna are also good choices with less than 300 calories and about 10 grams of healthy fat.

Oh, and take it easy on the sauces.

The Bottom Line

I’m not asking you to never eat another convenience food as long as you live.  We all get tempted by what we see on the menu, at the corner store or in our kids’ Halloween pumpkins.  I’m not telling you to never treat yourself or never get unexpectedly hungry when you’re away from home (and all that healthy food).

All I’m asking is that you give it some thought, read the label, take a minute to find out what you’re actually putting in your body.  And always remember this:  If the packaging has to explain why it’s healthy…it’s probably not.

Stay well.

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

Eating Healthy On Vacation And Business Trips

Eating Healthy On Vacation and Business Trips
Eating Healthy On Vacation and Business Trips

Hitting the road? I’ve got some tips for eating healthy on vacation and business trips! It’s a piece of cake!
It’s time. The annual family vacation, seminar, corporate bonding session or meet-up with far away friends and family. Or maybe it’s just better than staying home. Whatever your reason for hitting the road, there’s no reason to break with your decision to eat wholesome foods!

Food For The Journey

Road Trip
Road Trio

Air Travel

Airport food is overpriced and never very good. It’s commonplace to spend $20+ on a bottle of water, a teeny-tiny bag of chips and a cold sandwich that was made who-knows-how-long-ago.

The good news? TSA allows a wide variety of food through the security checkpoint and onto the airplane. Meats, cheese, bread, crackers, nuts…basically anything that’s not a liquid or packed in liquid. One caveat: Some fresh fruits and vegetables are NOT allowed, depending on their point of origin.

As for that overpriced water? Bring an empty drinking container and fill it once you get past the checkpoint.

Road Tripping

Hit the supermarket the day before to pick up a variety of healthy food. Road trips can be long and it makes us want to eat out of sheer boredom. Keep this in mind when choosing food. Come up with unusual or fun choices and let everyone in the car have a say on what they’d like to eat while on the road. If feasible, allow for some more expensive foods that may not be in your house on a regular basis, such as roast beef or exotic cheese. Don’t forget snacks that are easy to eat in the car such as grapes or nuts!

Stop for meals and some leg stretching in a park, when possible, instead of a rest area, where the sights and smells from fast-food stands and convenience stores might tempt you to eat junk.

If you find that you have to stop for food, skip the convenience store. Instead, choose a grocery store where there is a wider variety of healthy options.

At Your Destination

Eating Healthy In Hotels
Eating Healthy In Hotels

So you’ve arrived at your destination, checked in and unpacked your bags. Now it’s time to make a meal plan! The first thing you’re going to want to do is hit the supermarket (yes, again) because the easiest way to keep healthy while away from home is to continue to make your own meals as much as possible.

I know what you’re thinking. How are you going to make a healthy meal in a hotel room?

I’m going to assume you have a refrigerator in your room. Depending on how long your stay is (and how big the refrigerator is), you may be able to get all your food in one trip and not have to worry about it again!

I’m going to also assume that you have a microwave in your room. This is good news because microwaves are for more than cooking frozen entrees! You can cook a fresh bowl of oatmeal in less than 2 minutes. Throw some uncooked pasta in a bowl of water and microwave it for 5-8 minutes. Quesadillas, baked potatoes, nachos, scrambled eggs and bacon, steamed veggies, ground beef, rice, and corn on the cob. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Pick up frozen, fully cooked chicken breasts and a bag of salad greens to toss together with some oil and vinegar for a super-fast salad. Use the chicken that’s left to throw together some chicken salad.

How about a peanut butter and fresh strawberry sandwich?

Make some overnight oats before hitting the hay for a super quick breakfast the next morning. Mix up any remaining yogurt with some fresh fruit or berries for a refreshing snack. How about some guacamole boats or a hummus wrap?

Day Tripping

Day Tripping
Day Tripping

At some point, you’re going to want to (or have to) leave your room. You know, to go to the theme park, business meeting, seminar or whatever brought you to town.

If you’re out for the day, pack a lunch. If you drove from home, you may have brought a cooler for the road trip. If you flew, you can purchase (or maybe you thought to pack) a collapsible insulated bag. Seal some hotel ice in a Ziploc bag and throw it in with your food to keep things cool.

If you’re in a meeting or at an event that includes a buffet-style lunch (or dinner), there are usually healthy options to choose from. If you think this will not be the case, feel free to bring your own lunch because, hey, it’s a free country, man. *flashes peace sign* If someone calls you out, you can cite health issues, which is absolutely true…you’re healthy and you want to stay that way.

Always keep some healthy snacks and drinks close at hand for combating between-meal hunger (and that pastry bar they always have at meetings!). Think trail mix, fresh fruit, peanut butter crackers or popcorn, which you can pop up fresh in a paper bag using your hotel microwave. You’re welcome.

Create a custom healthy drink by popping a teabag and/or a few slices of lemon, cucumber or strawberry into your water bottle.

Eating Clean When Eating Out

Eating Clean While Eating Out
Eating Clean While Eating Out

It’s bound to happen. Maybe it’s a meeting, maybe you’ve been outvoted, maybe you just want to have someone else cook for a change. Whatever the reason, here you are at what always seems to be your downfall — dining out.

Let me assure you that eating in a restaurant doesn’t have to be unhealthy.

The first thing you need to do is fix your mindset. Remember that vacations and business trips are not about the food. They are about taking in the sights, forging tighter bonds with people you know and connecting with people you don’t. It’s about having new experiences and learning new things. It’s all about the journey.

But you still have to order dinner.

Look for “naked” proteins that aren’t covered in sauces or cheese. The same goes for a veggie or potato side. This might be, for example, steak, broccoli and a baked potato. If you don’t see anything that fits the bill, ask your server if the kitchen can prepare something for you.

The salad bar is another great option for your veggie side or even for your whole meal. Stick with fresh veggies, fruits, and healthy proteins such as eggs and nuts/seeds. Skip the (probably premade) salad dressings and ask your server to bring you oil and vinegar to top it off.

For a more in-depth discussion about eating healthy in restaurants, check out my article on the subject!

Falling Off The (Whole Foods) Wagon

Falling Off The Wagon
Falling Off The Wagon

You were fine. Just fine. You were eating well, staying strong and feeling great but the moment you passed through the entrance to the fair, the smell of fried dough hit you. You fell off the wagon and you fell hard. You proceeded to eat your way through the entire fair, reeling from one concession sideshow to the next until you had hit them all. Now you’re feeling guilty, tired, cranky, bloated and more than a little nauseated.

Guess what? It happens to the best of us. Put it in your rear view and climb right back on that wagon!

Here are a few tips to help you feel better fast:

  • Take a walk. A brisk walk will speed up your metabolism, which will help to empty your stomach and shed excess fluid. It’s also a mood booster, Win-win!
  • Drink some water. A steady intake of water will help you lose the bloat, especially if you add a few slices of lemon, lime or cucumber. Coffee and green or hibiscus tea are also natural diuretics.
  • Have a piece of candy. Sucking on peppermint or ginger candy will help alleviate the nausea associated with overeating.
  • Get some sleep. A good night’s rest will leave you feeling strong, confident, energized and ready to get back on track!

Whatever you do, don’t follow through with the promise you made to yourself that you’re “never going to eat again”. Skipping meals will only lead to extreme hunger and another binge.

What are your hacks to survive traveling? Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

Cooking for one person – 14 Questions Answered

So, you’re single and trying to eat healthily but cooking for one person seems like more trouble than it’s worth. You got questions…I’ve got answers!

Cooking for one person
Cooking for one person

When starting down a new path in life, there are always questions.  The problem, at least for me, is I feel dumb when I ask them. I feel like people who would have the answers, those “In The Know” are looking down at me and wondering why I would attempt this when it’s obvious that I don’t even have the most rudimentary skills to make it happen.

Is this the truth?  Probably not but all it takes is that one person to make us feel like we would never be able to pull this off, right?

I’m here to tell you that you can do it and I’d like to help!  I’ve got answers to 14 common questions about how to get started on this journey to eat healthier and be successful cooking for one.

What Should I Eat If I Live Alone?

What Should I Eat When Living Alone?
What Should I Eat When Living Alone?

What do single people eat?

Generally speaking, people who live alone tend to have poorer eating habits than those who don’t, men to a greater degree than women.  I’m not throwing shade here, it’s just a fact.

Why?  Theories abound but it seems most singles agree that it’s harder to keep fruits and vegetables fresh until they can be used and it’s harder to purchase portions of fresh food sized for a single person.

And let’s not forget accountability…it’s easier to eat cake for dinner when there’s no one there to see you do it.

What should I eat if I’m single?

I’m not crazy about the wording of this question because it seems to indicate that there are things we are “allowed” to eat and things we are “not allowed” to eat.

We should be striving to add more whole foods to our diets and cutting back on empty calories as well as processed foods but let’s face facts: There will absolutely be (the very occasional) times when you’re going to eat cake for dinner.  And that’s ok.

What can I cook that’s healthy?

What can I cook that's healthy?
What can I cook that’s healthy? 

What is a healthy dinner?

There’s no one-size-fits-all healthy meal.  People have different likes, different eating habits and different beliefs on what is ethical food.  Based on what our bodies need to thrive, a meal should consist of protein, fruits and/or veggies, complex carbs and calcium.  And don’t forget that a tad bit of fat helps your body absorb all those nutrients!

How do single people eat healthily?

It’s easier to eat healthy when you have the healthy foods you need right on hand. Whether you like to shop for groceries daily, weekly or monthly, make sure you go with a  meal plan in mind and a list in hand.

Take advantage of the butcher, seafood and deli counters to get the exact amount of product you’ll want to eat.  Shop for loose fruits and veggies in produce and don’t hesitate to ask the clerks in produce and meat if you can get portions smaller than the packages that are on the shelf.  Lastly, check-in the frozen aisle for healthy foods that will keep for a while in your freezer!

How do I cook when living alone?

How do you cook when living alone?
How do you cook when living alone?

What are the easiest things to cook?

There are plenty of simple recipes out there that just take just a few minutes to prepare such as spinach feta pizza and pan-seared scallops.  You could also just Google “simple meals to make” to get some great ideas as well!

How can I simplify cooking?

One of the easiest ways to simplify cooking, in my opinion, is to make something once and use it (at least) twice.  Make creamed spinach for a side to your steak and use the leftovers for eggs florentine. Dill Greek yogurt dip is great for dipping some veggies while watching your favorite movie but it’s also great as a chicken marinade or in egg salad!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to whip up something delightful when you have a good selection of condiments and spices.  Szechuan-style shrimp? Nothing but shrimp, rice and condiments. You can pick these spices and condiments up as you go along so don’t hesitate to invest in a new spice or additional type of mustard. These things have a long shelf life and come in handy when you’re on a mission to “throw something together”!

What should I cook for one person?

What should I cook for one person?
What should I cook for one person? 

What should I make for dinner for one person?

I think too many people feel like cooking for one person is somehow different than cooking for an entire family.  It’s exactly the same. Oh, the proportions may need to be adjusted but that’s it. Spaghetti and meatballs? Just cook 2 ounces of spaghetti (the end of the bundle should equal the diameter of a quarter), top with a quarter cup of sauce and a few meatballs.  Viola! Spaghetti for one.

What should I make for lunch for one person?

My favorite lunch for one is a repeat of what was for dinner.  It was good then, right? Well, it’s good now, too!

What about breakfast?

What I make for breakfast is varied depending on whether I have to work or not.  If I have to be up and out in a hurry (because, let’s face it. We’re always in a hurry in the morning, right?) I’ll go for a very quick smoothie or something that I’ve pre-made on my day off, like a breakfast cookie or overnight oats.

If I have the time, I like to make eggs with…well…something.  It depends on my mood.

Sometimes, (I’ll admit it!) I just grab whatever leftover comes to hand, even if it isn’t technically considered to be “breakfast food”.

I guess what I’m saying here is just have something.  While we can’t always make time for breakfast, we can always grab something healthy and eat it on the way. Not hungry? Grab something anyway because I guarantee that you will be. Your body hasn’t had food in 12 hours or more and, if you’re famished by lunch, I also guarantee that take-out is going to look much better than that salad you packed.

What should I cook tonight?

So, it’s happened.  You were busy, you didn’t take the time to plan, you didn’t take anything out of the freezer.  There’s nothing for dinner.

Really? Nothing?

This penne pasta dish comes together in no time flat.  So do scrambled eggs, peanut butter toast or a hummus tabouli wrap.  Just take a deep breath, open your cupboard and your mind.  I promise there’s something to eat!

What can I cook when I run out of ideas?

This is actually one of my favorite things.  Why? Because I get to try something new. First of all, what do you have for ingredients?  Let’s say you have a chicken breast, a potato and some frozen peas. Just Google it! Seriously.  “Chicken potato frozen peas. Enter.” This method has never failed me.

Still got questions?  Ask away in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!.

All my best

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

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