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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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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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