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Why You Need To Start Using A Slow Cooker

Why You Need To Start Using A Slow Cooker

You may know what you should be eating to be healthy and why you need to eat it but what trips most people up is how do you put it all together? Like a Rubix cube to Kim Kardashian, the kitchen is something that throws most people off.

Cooking is a skill that definitely takes some time to master but there’s a secret shortcut that can help you make meals easier, faster and, just like me, cheaper than ever. It’s called the slow cooker or crock pot and I’ll show you the benefits that come from it.

What Is A Slow Cooker?

Slow cookers are often called crock pots, which are actually a brand name that has been associated with slow cookers the same way Kleenex is with facial tissue. A slow cooker is a lidded round or oval cooking pot usually made of ceramic or porcelain and surrounded by a metal housing and has a glass top. It has an electric outlet to it that the pot or “crock” is cooking container and heat reservoir that usually has a low, medium and high setting. With the selected temperature the crock’s contents are at atmospheric pressure and the cooking process is slow and gentle that can take anywhere from 4-8 hours

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Benefits Of Cooking At Low Heat

Food that is cooked at too high a temperature is prone to losing a majority of its nutrients and the potential for burning can cause a host of problems as well. High temperature cooking such as frying and barbecuing can create harmful chemicals in the foods that can lead to certain types of cancers. Meat, in particular, can develop polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines that can change your DNA and also cause cancer.

Cooking at a more gentle temperature is not only more beneficial for the nutrients in the food but for your overall health. Slow cooking, along with steaming and poaching, are the most ideal ways to cook food.

Using A Slow Cooker To Save Money

Since I tend to lose all my money betting on March Madness a slow cooker can be your best friend to keep costs down. Since the cooking process is gradual even tough cuts of “undesirable” meat can turn into a super tender dish. These tougher cuts of meat also tend to be the cheapest so opt for:

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  • Pork belly
  • Pork hawk or shank
  • Pork shoulder
  • Flank steak
  • Skirt or hanger steak
  • Brisket
  • Top rump
  • Chuck and blade
  • Oxtail
  • Lamb shank
  • Lamb neck and shoulder

When you combine these cuts with vegetables and potatoes you are looking at meals that work out to only a few dollars that provide a good amount of portions.

How A Slow Cooker Improves Your Nutrition & Health

You already have the health benefits of cooking at a lower temperature but also the more tender the meat the easier it is to digest and absorb. The best slow cooker meals are usually traditional and tend to contain real whole foods. The sooner you can get these real foods into your diet the better your health will be. After you have your choice of meat the next main ingredient in a slow cooker recipe is usually some form of broth or stock. Bone broth or stock have some tremendous health benefits including:

  • Heals your gut and promotes good digestion
  • Inhibits infection (the reason everyone turns to chicken soup when sick)
  • Reduces joint pain and inflammation
  • Promotes strong bones
  • Promotes healthy hair and nails

Now when you start adding in vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, potato or sweet potatoes, onion and lots of herbs you are getting one of the best meals you can eat. You get a great combination of protein, soluble fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients all in one shot.

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How To Put This All Together

This is where it gets really easy, there’s really no wrong way to combine different ingredients like I listed above but here’s a good go to recipe to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound small potatoes halved
  • 3 medium carrots cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

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  1. Toss the beef with paprika, salt and pepper and coat in flour shaking off excess. Heat oil on medium-high heat in a skillet and cook until all sides are brown, around 3 minutes. Put the beef, potatoes, carrots and onions into slow cooker pot and stir together.
  2. Heat some more oil in a skillet on medium heat, stir in tomato paste for one minute, and wine and flour and whisk together. Add in beef broth and thyme and whisk together until thick or for around 4 minutes making a gravy.
  3. Pour the gravy into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Season with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and can be served in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of paprika.
  4. Feel like a hero

Wrapping It Up

A slow cooker is easy, fast and cheap, just like me. You can get them anywhere and they can really help you in the kitchen while at the same time improving your nutrition. Like I mentioned before if you’re looking to save money on food costs this little beauty will be your best friend. If you want to learn more about nutrition, the foods you should look to include in your diet and some more recipes you can get my Healthy Eating Starter Kit as a free download to get you up and running!

Featured photo credit: Janine via flickr.com

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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