Sunday, January 30, 2011

Basic recipes for health

Health experts make it sound simple: to be healthier, all you need to do is exercise more and eat better. But these two "simple" concepts are huge and complicated. We often lack time, knowledge, motivation, and stamina to exercise regularly. And many people (myself included) find it even more challenging to make three nutritious and delicious meals per day. But if you've never cooked for yourself, the way to start is by learning the basics. There was a great article posted on the New York Times a few weeks ago that explains the challenges that many people face when it comes to cooking real, whole and healthy foods. It also offers three basic recipes that will help many people get started on cooking from scratch, no prior knowledge necessary. These meals are delicious and easy to make with simple kitchen equipment (a stove, a pot, and a pan).

Click here to read the article: Three Recipes. The recipes (for stir fry, salad, and rice/lentils) are included on the left-hand side of the article.

There are a host of recipe blogs, websites, and cookbooks that are great for beginner cooks, and those trying to incorporate simple and whole foods into their meals. When I first began cooking, I searched for "quick" or "five minute" recipes. Of course, these recipes ended up taking me longer than five minutes, but it helped me to learn the basics of sauteing and roasting vegetables, and cooking meat and grains. You can also search for recipes with five ingredients or less.

Here are a few of my favorites. Please email me or leave a comment if you have others that you love!

  • The Lifehacker Cookbook has great tips - everything from "how to make the perfect grilled cheese" to "no-knead pizza dough."
  • Start Cooking is filled with videos on various cooking skills, including simple skills and how to cook entire meals.
  • Epicurious: Quick & Easy gives you simple recipes, as well as entire meal plans.
  • Simply Recipes: Quick has beautiful pictures, and step-by-step directions in each recipe.
  • All Recipes: Their huge library means they have an overwhelming amount of recipes, but it also means you can find a simple version of the recipe you are looking for.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Health is a daily commitment

     Wow, thanks everyone for the enthusiastic response! I received a number of reflections and resources that people would like to share about how they live healthy. From now on, I'll try to post at least one resource, inspiration, or idea per week. 
     Below is a reflection on living healthy from Emily, a friend of mine who is a nurse in Madison, WI. Note her statement that healthy living is a commitment you have to renew every day. This is something I definitely find I must do. Read her upbeat and inspirational reflection, then see below for some resources on making health a daily commitment.
I think you have to make a commitment to yourself every day if you want to achieve a healthy life. That means in all aspects, not just nutrition and exercise. You must allow yourself to have room for mistakes, learn to forgive yourself when you err, and to be open to the love and wisdom of others. To address the idea that in our society it is so easy to be UNhealthy, I think if you make a commitment to yourself that you renew everyday, then the healthy choices become more natural. Surely, it is easier in the short term to make unhealthy choices, but what is easy is not always best. And, more often than not, the things that are most worthwhile in this life are the things that do not come easily. My inspiration comes from the people I care for. You know, I've made my career around managing people's long term illnesses, and so often those are things that could have been prevented by lifestyle choices and changes. I just tell myself I don't want to suffer in my old age (if I make it that far!), so when I buy fresh fruit in January I think of it as an investment in myself and my family for the years to come!
One Way to Commit Each Day: Keep a Food Journal
  • Food journals help you pay closer attention to what you're eating. The simple act of recording your food intake will help you see patterns in what you're eating, including when you're more likely to eat too much or indulge in foods you'd rather not include in your diet. 
  • I'm not a Twitter user, but I know many people are. If you do tweet, here is an ingenious new way to easily keep track of what you eat each day: Tweet What You Eat
  • If you don't tweet, you can call into an 800 number to verbally record what you've eaten each day (or any other aspect of your health that you're working on): Use Jott to Keep a Food Diary
  • You can also use an online journal. Most of the ones offered online are full of ads and/or cost money, so I would also recommend an Excel spreadsheet (here are some templates) or a regular old notebook.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 do we live a healthy life?

So, the year is 2005. I'm in college, and it's my first year without my mother or the dorm kitchen to cook my food. My meal of choice is macaroni and cheese, occasionally with freezer-burned chicken nuggets on the side. The only vegetables I tolerate are corn and green beans, which, when coming from a can, hardly count as vegetables. I don't exercise, besides a quick stroll across the street to the building where my classes are held. After two years of eating processed and fatty foods in the dorms, I'm not in good shape.

Fast forward to today -- while I still have a long way to go, health is much higher on my priority list. I'm now an avid vegetable fan, I've run two half marathons, and I practice yoga pretty regularly. I spent a year teaching about healthy eating in Chicago, and I continue to teach about it at my school in New York. I've lost 15 pounds since my lazy days in college, and I've also learned to cook a thing or two.

I couldn't have done it, however, without some inspiration. Inspiration from my mom (who quit smoking after thirty years), from books, from cooking blogs, from online articles, from friends who patiently taught me to cook.

My goal with this blog is to be a source of inspiration, or motivation; a place to go when you need a little push to get outside and run, or cook a vegetable-based meal, or kick an unhealthy habit. To clarify, I'm not limiting this to any one person's idea of "healthy living." We all have different ideas about what health is, and I think part of this blog will be exploring how wide of a net this idea of health can cast. I'm open to posts about anything, from tiny tips on exercising, to fad diets, to feeling good no matter what your weight. 

With any luck, this will be a blog filled with resources, favorite recipes, meal planners, websites for eating and exercising, community events to join, and inspirational ideas. Living a healthy life in today's society is complicated and challenging. Check back whenever you can, to hear from people who are all struggling with the same thing you are: When our days are filled with fast food, comfortable cars, and busy schedules, how do we live a healthy life?
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