Week 1 (Healthy foods: What matters most?)

Before I get started, let me give you a glimpse of my thoughts regarding how I’m going to tackle this weekly series: I hope to have an introductory post (like this one for this week) that covers the big idea for the week, a second post that carries those ideas from the big-picture perspective to the more detailed and practical perspective, and a final post about what I did this week that worked and what I did that didn’t. It may not be as clear-cut as that– it might turn out to be only two posts, one big-picture and one practical, with my experiences that week woven in the two. Or it may be some other combination. Whatever shape it takes, I hope to provide those three things– big-picture, practical application, and my own trials and errors.

This first week is about refining the art of having healthy food that can be grabbed and eaten quickly and, ideally, with little hands-on time. That way, we’ll be able to ensure that we have easy access to a nourishing meal despite a busy schedule. And it’s not as impossible as it sounds.

Before looking at how that can be accomplished, the priority status of foods must be established. There are tons of foods parading as healthy choices, but really aren’t. What foods matter the most? If I have 0.5829 seconds to choose my next meal, what should I grab?

Baby step #1: Focus on proteins and healthy fats. Why? Proteins and fats are what keep you going. They’re vital for cell development, repair, and general health. Not only that, but they prevent blood sugar levels from riding that proverbial roller-coaster– carbohydrates cause blood sugars to rise rapidly and plummet just as rapidly; both high and low blood sugars leave you with fatigue, light-headedness, nausea, a piqued complexion, irritability, and cloudy thinking. Granted, those symptoms are quickly remedied by more food and water, but if you’re busy or on the go, you probably won’t have the chance to stop and recover until you just pass out (which is a possibility if blood sugar levels drop too low). And if you choose more carbs as your recovery food, you’re entering that dreadful cycle all over again. Who wants that?

Blood sugar levels are important, but being and staying satisfied and full is important too. If you’re not, you’ll be distracted by hunger, and that’s just counterproductive, plain and simple. We’ve all been there. Proteins and fats have your back, though, as they slow the total break down of your meal and cause you to feel fuller longer. (Runners do this before a long run: they’ll eat oatmeal with plenty of almonds, for example, to cause the quick-energy oats to stick with them longer.)

(Note: By “healthy fats” I mean the following [the list before the semicolon [;] is best for cooking, and the list following it is okay for cooking, but not preferred]: “butter, tallow and suet from beef and lamb, unrefined lard from pigs, chicken fat, goose fat, duck fat, coconut oil, and [non-hydrogenated] palm and palm kernel oils; [also,] extra virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed sesame and peanut oils, expeller-pressed flax oil (in small amounts), and cod liver oils [for fat-soluable vitamins like D and A].”* Nuts are good, but try to get the raw kind and toast them in a skillet first; this reduces its phytic acid, an anti-nutrient and general enzyme inhibitor. The following are fats you should avoid entirely, if at all possible: all hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, and vegetable oils.* [Phew. Sorry for the long list, but there’s generally a lot of confusion about fats–if you have any questions please comment and ask!])

Baby step #2: If you’re going to reach for carbs, reach for veggies first, fruit second, and grains last. Carbs really aren’t the enemy. Your blood sugar has to be brought up and some point. 🙂 Just know that they’re in nearly everything and are pretty unavoidable, so try to grab protein and fat before you reach for the carbs. But a diet of just protein and fat gets pretty boring, so now what? Vegetables aren’t as sugary as fruits and grains (the last two breakdown into sugars), so they’re carbs that won’t raise blood sugars too fast and furiously. They are also fairly cheap and a good way to fill you up, so you won’t break your budget or your blue jean’s zipper. Fruits are different, as they really don’t offer much nourishment. They are, however, excellent for sweetening things or raising your blood sugar if you haven’t eaten in a while and feel those symptoms detailed above. Grains (anything containing wheat, oats, rice, etc.) are a complex subject for another time–just know that they’re not the nutritional super stars they’re made out to be, and if you’re going to have them, try whole-grain options, preferably soaked, sprouted, or “soured” with your own sourdough starter. If you lost me on the soaked/sprouted/soured thing, don’t sweat it; I’ll talk about that later. Just focus on less grains, but if you’re going to have them, avoid the white flours and instant oats–go for whole wheat and old fashioned oats.

Those are some very basic keys to picking out what kind of foods you should consider grabbing on your way out the door. Because this is more abstract brain food than really helpful practical material, my next post will be discussing how this all plays out in the kitchen–it’ll be more fun than this info-cramming one, I promise. 🙂

*The Weston A. Price Foundation. “Know Your Fats.” The Weston A. Price Foundation. Ed. Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig. N.p., 2011. Web. 8 May 2011. <http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats&gt;.

an adventure

Regarding my last post (The Five (ok, 6)-Forget-Me-Nots), there’s something I should clarify.

I didn’t want to sound like I have perfected that list, but, in retrospect, it can be interpreted that way.

I don’t do all of those five (or six) things all the time. Should I? Yes, I really should. But it just doesn’t happen every day. They should be habit, and I should only sway from them when there’s an emergency or other out-of-the-ordinary occurence. But, quite honestly, that isn’t happening in my life–yet. They are five things that I try to view as priorities when there are so many things going on I lose sight of what’s important.

I was thinking about that today–Yes, all those five things are great. And I’ve found that they really, really help and are important. But how can they be implemented? How can we make them habit?

So. I’ve been inspired by my own list (selfish, I know)…to create another list. (Surprise, surprise, I’m actually not left-brain hemisphere dominant…

How about I work through the list one item by one item– how can we do these things when it’s just hard and busy and all you can think is I just don’t feel like doing this! when you’re trying?

We’ll begin officially on Monday, and I’m thinking the schedule (ugh..I cringe at that word) should look something like this:

Week 1– #1 (healthy, fast food)

Week 2– #2 (Sleep and fighting fatigue)

Week 3– #3 (sensing a pattern? 🙂 Daily prayer and Bible reading)

Week 4– #4 (Relaxing)

Week 5– #5 (Having order in routines)

What about week six? After all, the list was really a list of six things and not five…

Continue reading

The 5 (ok, 6)-Forget-Me-Nots

It’s been a busy few days. Ok, weeks. Reason? I got a job. And college plans have shifted significantly. Even now, I don’t have a lot of time to post a nice, juicy post, but let me share a few ideas that have been on my mind.

During busy times (which for many of us is always), try to keep these 5 (6) simple things in mind:

1) Always make sure you have access to the healthiest food you can afford (financially and time-wise), even when you’re busy busying yourself. (: As I work at a more up-scale fast food restaurant, I’ve found this to be crucial: I can’t take long breaks, because I’m not paid when on break, and so I usually need something that can be eaten quickly; and because when my blood sugar drops just a wee bit, I’m dizzy and because I need to be able to focus clearly to fill accurate orders, I need something high in saturated fat to help maintain a level blood glucose; because I work six to eight hour shifts, I need protein so I can make it through the shift. Reason enough? Well this was challenging, but I’ve found that I do best with my own variation of Kimi Harris’ nut bars (topped with my own version of her fudge) and Lindsay Edmond’s soaked whole wheat bagels. The bagels pick up my low blood sugar quickly, and Kimi’s nut bars keep it up and keep me going. And both can be eaten fast. (What’s even great is that a lot of variety can be mixed into these options– the bagels can, of course, come in a multiplicity of varieties, and the nut bars can be messed around with too: honey or pure maple syrup? no seeds? all seeds? almonds or cashews? both? walnuts or peanuts? all of the above? cinnamon? all spice? Yes. I shall never be bored with this simple meal.) Goal achieved!

(Why bother trying to eat healthily even in times of stress? I’ll be writing more extensively on this later, but just looking at it from an economic point of view, you earn more time by being healthy. I don’t just mean more time on earth alive; I mean you earn more time being well and less time being sick. Just imagine how much work we could get done and how many fun things we could do if we didn’t spend as much time being sick!)

2) Sleep. And sleep well. And long. Try to be in bed by 10:30 at the latest, as your endocrine (hormone) system cleanses itself between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am. I know it sounds weird that your system has a time that it cleanses, but I can only tell you from my own experience that there’s nothing nearly as refreshing as seven to eight hours of sleep that began before 11 pm.

3) Remember to pray and read the Bible–make a deliberate effort to do so! Our physical health is extremely important, as God is the one who gave our bodies to us, and we should do what we can to take care of them, but even more important than our physical health is our spiritual health. Heck, even our physical health is indicative of what’s going on with us spiritually.

4) Relax. You had a stressful day. Or you have stressful days ahead. Or both. Do what you can to relax after work. Set aside half an hour before bed (oh hey, might that be around 10 o’clock? 🙂 ) and do something that relaxes you: that may be reading, sipping a cup of tea, listening to music, crocheting/knitting/sewing, whatever. But just chill. This effects way more things than we realize, and I hope to get a post up here about it. (N.B.: Do try to avoid illuminated screens at least an hour before bed; it’s been linked to insomnia, and I’ve found by my own experience that this is quite true.)

5.)  Try to establish routines. If you’re like me, the word “routine” might as well be in a foreign language. I never, ever stuck to one for more than a week or two. Ever. Until recently. Now I’m easing into them, and I’ll (hopefully) write a little blurb about them in the near future. But for now, know that they really do reduce the stress of trying to get the little, daily things out of the way while trying to take on the stuff that’s not the usual. (Say a doctor’s appointment, a sickness, an unexpected extra two shifts at work…) Whatever it is, having a routine to fall into makes doing tasks faster, less-stressful, and less of a big deal. It’s also honoring to God to have some sort of an order to your life, as God is a God of order– but more on that later.

6) Don’t be discouraged. All of the above won’t happen overnight–take it slowly, and try building on one thing at a time.

(So much for not writing a long post. Oh well. I hope you find this encouraging!)