Archive | May, 2014

Sprint or Marathon

29 May

I get it.  As a busy single mom working outside the home, I am the head of my household.  I am stretched pretty thin.  Time is probably my most crucial asset right now.  And like other single parents, that asset is precious, elusive, and running low.  My desire to live a healthy lifestyle is in constant battle with time.  The effort to sit down for a family dinner every night, while a worthwhile goal, may be fleeting.  Given these constraints, how am I supposed to put a healthy home made meal on the dinner table every night?  This question, my conundrum, is deeply tied to time.  Or rather, lack of it.

Ronald Reagan, a prominent figure in American history, said “All great change in America begins at the dinner table”.  This quote is on the title page of my book “The Toddlers Kitchen”, and I use it here as well because it speaks volumes.  Family dinners are proven to have a positive impact on the family unit, whatever that family unit encompasses.  Consider the following statistics.

Your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight (Hammons & Fiese, 2011).  All three of these statistics are attached to one family ritual-shared mealtimes. Wow!  That is  a big thing.  Huge in fact.  Shared mealtimes have a measurable positive impact on a family.  Given that, why not have daily family meals?  Time, of course.  But the positive impact of family meals is simply too monumental to let slide.  It is too important to the well being of our family to disregard.

Being a runner, I began to think about it like this: Is the ability to have a family dinner most nights a sprint or a marathon? It depends on how you look at it, but I think it is both.  Let me explain.  This may take a minute.  Sit back and let’s chat.   Oh yes, that’s right. You can’t. No time.  So we will quickly discuss.

I pondered this point tonight as I came dashing thru the door from work after 6 p.m.  I was up a t 5:15 this morning, went to the gym, made lunches, got the kids out the door and was at work before 8:15 a.m..  And I stopped for gas on the way to work.  The last thing I wanted to do after work was go to the kitchen and figure out what to make for dinner.  But I did it anyway because I wanted my family around me and a forum in which to discuss our day. I, like my children, was craving togetherness, fellowship, and personal interaction with my family.

Heading into the kitchen, I started water for cooking pasta, grabbed shrimp and frozen vegetables out of the freezer, began making a pasta sauce, and chatted with my family.  And therein lies the benefit of warm interaction and growing the family relationship.  Sharing the commonality and experiences of the day is a way to be expressive, experience acceptance, and understand the safety of unconditional love.  Those above cited statistics pertained to the children, but the benefit of a family dinner to a parent is joyful.  Affirming and positive energy flows in these casual moments in which to exchange happenings of the day, share simple school gossip, review homework, and discuss the challenges of the current or following day.

Family meals are a sprint like tonight.  I came in from work and it was a race to get a family meal on the table to share.  Family meals are a marathon because the benefits of family meals are crucial to longterm family health, and wonderfully dynamic.  There is a pleasure in both he sprint and the marathon, benefits of both, and appreciation of mastering both the sprint and the marathon.

So turn that TV off, put all phones away (there is a “phone bowl” in my kitchen.  We eat in the dining room.  All people present for meals must put their phone in the bowl during meals so that all  may interact with those at the meal), turn some music on, and enjoy one another.  Talk about your day, practice good manners, and most of all, laugh.  Interact.  Grow relationships.  Because after all, the entire body benefits from sprinting and a marathon.  Even busy single moms and their kids.



Blast into Super foods!

26 May

Super foods are in the news constantly these days.  The question is do you find good health in whole foods or in other ways?  While touting super foods, the media also barrages us with cheater methods, like “supplements are a must”, “take those vitamins”.  To that I say pish posh to that.  Bullroar.  Nonsense.  Put that protein powder aside and get into super foods.

Super foods are all the rage…to talk about.  But are you ready to dig in and add them to your diet?  I hope so because nutrient dense foods are cool!  So is having variety in your diet and trying new things.  Expand your palate!  Try new foods and enjoy crazy good health benefits.  Take the leap and delve into super foods.  What to try first…hhhmmmm.  Put cabbage on the menu.  Why?  Glad you asked.  Didn’t like it as a kid?  Well it’s time to try it again,   Overlook its nonglamourous reputation and appreciate the cabbage contribution to good health!  It is loaded with micronutrients.

Micronutrients in food provide the nutrition your cells need to run your body.   These are important for cell function, simply put, by eliminating some bad molecules in our bodies.  Antioxidants are prize fighters in this arena and are essential in a healthy diet.  Where are these elusive antioxidants found?  In many foods, including cabbage.  What else does cabbage do for good health?

In addition to being loaded with antioxidants, cabbage has significant amounts of vitamin C and vitamin K, making it great brain food.  It is also a good source of folate in the diet, which is essential for red blood cell development.

Want to leave the medications at the drugstore?  Me too.  So consider that cabbage has long been used as a natural remedy for relieving constipation, curing headaches, and easing joint inflammation. For a new mother that has breast pain, cabbage is a natural way to eliminate it.  If you aren’t a nursing mother but went out last night and indulged in adult beverages, cabbage has been used for centuries as a hangover remedy.  Hey, I’m just sayin’…

Moving on….it is a vegetable that is often overlooked in its flexibility.  Cabbage goes in soup, can be piled on a sandwich, is a great side dish, and can even make a fantastic appetizer.  It can be eaten raw or cooked.  Also, fresh cabbage is budget friendly so it fits into any lifestyle.

Need a quick healthy vegetable to go along side your baked chicken or grilled steak?  Cabbage can simply be sautéed with butter, salt and pepper for an easy side dish.  Simply core a 2 pound head of cabbage and slice thinly.  Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan.  Add the cabbage, stir occasionally, and voila!  In 15 minutes you have a super side dish.

Let’s review.  Cabbage is a really healthy flavorful flexible super food.  It packs a nutritional punch with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease fighting properties.  If that isn’t enough, let me give you one more reason to try cabbage.  Cabbage contains beta-carotene, and that contributes to the growth and repair of the body’s tissues, and that may help protect your skin against sun damage.  All great stuff!  Its time to try cabbage again, so pick a recipe, cook it up, and enjoy a good contribution toward wellness!

Disclaimer: You have to take the good with the bad. Not only does it create a unique and somewhat lingering  scent when you cook it, cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable.  That is a fancy way of saying that it is a gas producing veggie.  Yup, you’re gonna fart.  Do not let that stop you from enjoying this delicious vegetable, but eat it with folks you know really well!




21 May

Walls. They are a good thing. They are there to hold something up. A ceiling. A roof. Precious pictures. They provide a comfortable boundary, a form of protection. If we were plunked down into a place that was pitch black, our instinct would be to reach out. Find the walls. That would be an indication of where we might be. How large is the black space we are in? Reaching out and finding a wall would begin to provide comfort, answers, direction. So walls are a good thing.

As a parent, I want to be a wall for my children. I want to hold them up.  I want to provide solid boundaries. When they are uncertain or in the dark, I want them to reach for me and find comfort in knowing that I am there, standing firm. Providing direction. Answers. That is what a good parent aspires to achieve. Even as an adult, I still look to my parents to be my wall. We all have weak moments, trying times, and it is comforting to be able to still count on not only my parents, but my whole family, to hold me up.

Good friends do the same thing. I have learned over the years that biology does not necessarily make a family and that friends can also be counted as family. A favorite Richard Bach quote comes to mind to sum up my definition of family: “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” I love that!  So we can depend on our friends to be our wall. And we should be theirs. Lift them up. Allow them to hold us up. These become the layers of our wall.

How do the layers get applied to a wall? Slowly, allowing each layer to become a firm foundation to the next, is a good way to build a solid wall. A base upon which a new layer could be applied, accepted, hardened. Ready to accept the next layer. So its safe to say that a trusted wall can be built over a long period of time. It can’t be rushed. Time, patience, trust…the tools of good construction some might say. So walls are a good thing. Or are they?

There can be a flip side. They can also be a barrier. Walls can seal or entomb. Shut off and divide. Hold back. Unfortunately some folks better fit this metaphorical description of a wall. Which is sad. These are the walls, the people, that we need to keep at arms length. They divide, and that is the last thing anyone should want. We have all run into people and relationships that have been this type of wall. And sometimes it takes us some time to realize what type of wall a person or relationship provides. We might think that a person is there to lift us up. Support us. Only to find out later that they are the “other” type of wall.  That is not good for overall wellness and a healthy spirit.   So what do you do then?

I have had both types of walls in my life over the years, and who can’t say that? I have learned to cherish, value, and take care of my good walls. That is my firm foundation.  And I have made it a priority in my life to be a good wall to my family (a.k.a. friends!). That takes time, experience, patience. But when we run into a bad wall, and we all do, is it time to turn and run? Well, that might be the first instinct, but I say no. Let it become another layer to the wall.

The old saying “You can’t go around it, you can’t go under it, so you must go over it” comes to mind. Going over a “bad” wall becomes another firm layer if we let it. We overcome it. We conquer it. And we allow it to become another layer to the foundation. And as a parent, we can teach our children how to use adversity to build a layer. Learning comes in many forms. Going over the wall also means to learn how to put more good walls in our life. Get over the bad ones, build more, layer more, with good ones. Become a better wall ourselves. We strengthen. We learn. We use the good the bad and the ugly. And we move on. Stronger. Better. Another layer for our wall. I know what kind of wall I am, what kind of wall I strive to be.  My foundation is very strong, and that contributes to my wholeness.  My wellness.  My vitality.  What kind of wall are you?


Dangerous Dehydration

15 May

The weather is warming up.  Spring is here and we are on the march toward summer and hot weather.  Water. H2O. Hydration. We have all heard that we need to drink water. 8 glasses a day in fact. But where is “glass”  or portion really defined? And what else counts as water? Does the water in our morning coffee factor into our “8 a day”, or the water in the bunch of grapes that we ate for an afternoon snack? There are many answers here, but lets ponder water for a moment.

The body uses water for cell function and is essential for every thing that the body does. It is well known that for optimal health benefits, the body needs to stay hydrated throughout the day.   Our body needs water, uses water, has water in its systems and cells for function. But it does not have any way to efficiently store water for long term usage. That is why we must pace our intake, and make sure that our intake is continuous. That can be complicated for some people though.  Some people just don’t like water.

I am a big water drinker, but my mom does not like the taste of water.  So she mixes water with other beverages, such as juice, to keep herself hydrated and healthy.  Listening to your body is crucial when focusing on good health. And so is common sense. Drink water throughout the day. If you are feeling thirsty or your mouth feels dry, chances are you are already heading toward dehydration.

To those folks that really don’t enjoy drinking water, eat some foods that are high in water content. Most fruit has a high water content, so munch on melon, grapes, or citrus fruit to help stay refreshed throughout the day. Watch the junky, sugary, and carbonated drinks.  Yes, your morning coffee or tea count.  So does your food.  Your body accepts and uses all kinds of fluids in drinks and natural foods, so as we march toward summer, march toward better health by sipping away all day!