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Making Meals Easier: A Few Healthy Eating Ideas

Making Meals Easier: A Few Healthy Eating Ideas

    We all try to live healthy lives. We try to exercise a little more, eat a little better. We try to find a balance between the time we spend at the computer, exercising our minds, and the time we spend moving around, exercising our bodies.

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    Here’s the deal, though: it’s easy to add exercise to your day. You take the steps instead of the elevator. You walk to the corner store instead of driving. It may be hard to motivate yourself. In principle, though, exercise is as simple as moving around a little extra every day.

    Eating right is much harder. Sure, you can opt for the salad — but the calories you get from the salad dressing can pretty much negate any vitamins you get from the vegetables. There’s no equivalent to taking the stairs in meal planning, unless you know a nutritionist or two.

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    So I asked a few nutritionists…

    I know my knowledge of nutrition is spotty at best, so in my efforts to eat better, I asked a bunch of nutritionists for meal ideas. There was a qualification on these meal ideas: they had to be easy to make (the equivalent of taking the stairs instead of the elevator). I also asked for the best ideas for those of us who spend most of our day at the computer — even if we exercise regularly, our ideal diet isn’t going to match with someone who spends all day in motion.

    Beth Aldrich is a Certified Integrative Health and Nutrition Coach. She came up with plenty of ideas that make breakfast just as easy as grabbing a Pop-Tart, but about a million times healthier:

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    • High fiber cereal and a serving of fresh fruit and a handful of almonds or walnuts (Beth recommends soy, nut or rice milk over the traditional cow’s milk in the mornings)
    • A hard-boiled egg, toast (whole grain bread) and a banana
    • Oatmeal with bananas, slivered almonds, cinnamon and a touch of brown sugar

    Beth’s suggestions all include a combination of fiber, healthy fats and protein. She puts a special emphasis on making sure that you have fiber and protein in your morning meal: “It’s important for people to always be thinking “long-term” energy and hunger management. So, think fiber in the forms of whole fruit…cut veggies, whole grain crackers on hummus (even Triscuits are good) or even a whole grain, zuchinni or carrot muffin.Then, also think protein to slow down the burning of the “good” carbs. The quickest way is to include a handful (1-2 ounces) of heart-healthy nuts such as hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios or walnuts.”


    Cheryl Forberg
    planned our lunch menu. She’s the nutritionist from NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Cheryl suggested that we focus on protein at lunch time, preferably lean: “High quality protein is a cornerstone of a healthy eating plan. Not only does protein help us to maintain and build muscle, it also contributes to satiety or fullness. And when combined with carbohydrates, such as a piece of fruit, it helps to sustain our blood sugar levels longer.” She also offered up several simple ideas:

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    • 1/2 turkey sandwich (Use whole grain bread and low fat Swiss cheese, along with a piece of Bibb lettuce, a tomato slice and whole grain mustard)
    • Low fat mozzarella cheese stick and one large orange
    • 1/2 cup oatmeal (Make your oatmeal with 1/2 cup fat free milk, a teaspoon of honey and two strawberries)

    Janel Ovrut has some suggestions, based on her work as a registered dietitian as well as a master’s degree in Nutrition Communication. Most are just simple variations on a few favorite meals. Janel says, “With a little planning and creativity, you can come up with easy to make meals that are nutritious too. Think of your old favorites – those standard meals that you have on hand to cook up in a pinch. Maybe it is pasta and sauce, or frozen pizza, mac and cheese, or a sandwich. Using whole grains (like whole wheat pasta or whole wheat bread), vegetables, lean meats or beans, and reduced fat cheese can all make these meals more flavorful and healthful too.”

    • Personal pizza (Spread tomato sauce and reduced fat cheese on a whole wheat pita or English muffin and top with vegetables or chicken. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts.)
    • Pasta and sauce (Use whole wheat spaghetti and add fresh or frozen vegetables — and even some ground turkey or beans — to the sauce).

    For the most part, these meal ideas require almost no cooking — cooking can be one of the biggest hurdles for someone trying to eat better, because it can be difficult to decide where to start. Even those ingredients that seem like they might require some work — like Beth’s hard boiled eggs — can be found ready to eat at the supermarket. Yes, you can buy bags of already hard-boiled eggs at many grocery stores.

    There is one piece of advice that resounded through the advice of all the nutritional experts I interviewed: portion control. Eating a double portion of any of these healthy meals doesn’t double your healthy eating score: instead, it can make it almost as difficult to balance your diet as greasy fast food. It may not be a perfect plan, but practicing portion control can be a good starting point for a lot of us less-than-healthy eaters. Controlling your portions isn’t the same as balancing your fiber and protein, though — Janel, Cheryl and Beth offered pointers for longer term changes.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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