Better Choices, Better Results

Archive for February, 2011

Putting Food By

If you grew up in the rural areas of Appalachia, you’ve probably heard this term.  Simply defined, it means saving food for the times when it’s not plentiful.

Personally, I’m all for acting like a squirrel; gather it when it’s plentiful and preserve it for tough times.  I’m an avid canner.  I buy in bulk at the Farmer’s Markets (I typically visit 2 or 3 per weekend during the summer) and can, can, can!  At any given time you’ll find jars and jars of home-canned green beans, tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, chili sauce, soups, sweet potatoes, pie fillings, salsas, chicken, beef, etc., in my house.

I also freeze!  We have 2 large deep freezers stocked with zucchini bread, zucchini soups, tomato soup, farm-raised beef, pumpkin puree, applesauce, etc.

For Christmas this year, I bought a high-quality food dehydrator.  I plan to dehydrate tomatoes, corn, beans, zucchini, fruits and onions for later use.  Dehydrated foods offer a light-weight and space-saving alternative for people who don’t can and don’t have freezer space.

I realize that I’m probably in the minority when it comes to my attitude about “putting food by” until it’s needed later on.  Twenty-four hour grocery stores and the ability to get almost any food at any time have conditioned us into not keeping a lot of food on hand at any given time.  I’ve heard, more than once, that an average American city only has 3-days worth of food on hand at any given time.  Three days!  What would happen in the event of a trucking strike, natural disaster or continued rising gas prices?

My point in this post is to encourage each of you to consider ways to take advantage of food when it’s available, use what you need, and save the rest for later on.  I’m going to do a series of posts about cooking in bulk, freezing, canning and dehydrating as the warm weather approaches.

I’m also doing something this summer I’ve never done before…I’m going to grow a huge garden with some dear friends and see how much produce I get.  I’ll take photos and weigh the foods and show you how I preserve the foods for later on.

I hope you’ll join me in this journey.  Grow your own garden, even if it’s a container garden, on your patio or deck!

Just think of me as a little squirrel, gathering an abundance of food and saving it for winter!


Something that Bothers Me

I went to Sam’s the other day to get a few household items and some fruit.  While standing in line, I started looking around at what other people were unloading from their grocery carts.   I’ve noticed that when I’m eating healthier, I tend to scrutinize what’s in other people’s shopping carts.  I know it’s wrong of me, but I can’t help it.

Admit it – you do the same thing, don’t you?

Anyway, I noticed that so many people were purchasing mostly “junk” food.  I saw multiple bags of candy, chips, crackers, sweet rolls, honey buns, Little Debbie Cakes, boxed macaroni and cheese, cake and brownie mixes, full-sugar sodas, white bread, etc.  In my immediate surroundings, I don’t remember seeing anything fresh.  No fruit, no vegetables, no meat products, nothing with whole grain in it.  It actually made me very sad to realize how much people are missing out on by eating pre-packaged foods.   I was also alarmed about the number of chemicals and preservatives they were going to ingest.

Here’s what really gets me, though – unhealthy food is generally less expensive than healthy foods!  I can’t understand that.  To make your average snack cake, you start with a healthy food like whole grain, and then you process it until it’s a sad resemblance of its prior beauty, then you add sugars and fats and preservatives in a huge factory setting.  Then you ship it all over the world where it can sit on a shelf for months without going bad!  And it’s cheaper than a bag of apples.  It doesn’t make sense to me.

I suppose my point in all this rambling is to encourage you to really pay attention to what you are eating.  The less processed something is, the better it’s going to be for your body.  Once you break free of the addiction-like hold that processed, over-sugared and full-of-fat foods have on you, you’ll be able to appreciate the simple beauty in a fresh fruit salad.

Healthy Eating!

A Tip!

Peanut Butter lovers of the world, rejoice!  I have a great tip for you.

I really like peanut butter. I’m also careful about the portion size I eat, but I find it difficult to spread right out of the jar.  Even after measuring and spreading it on whatever I’m eating, I sometimes find that there is too much peanut butter in some places, not enough in others.

A few days ago, I opened the jar of PB and placed it in the microwave for a few seconds.  The heat thins it out somewhat, making it easier to spread and easier to measure.  I was able to use less than the suggested portion because it spread easier.  Try it!

Here’s a tip within a tip…dip your peanut butter out of the original jar and into another container.  If there is any of the sealing foil left on the jar, it will spark in the microwave. 

Ask me how I know this…

Walking Update

Last week was a bad week for me on several accounts.  Stressors…there have been a lot of stressors in my life. Unfortunately, I let that stress interrupt the progress I’d been making with my walking routine. 

Life happens.

Anyway, this morning I was determined to get back on track (pun intended!).

I finally figured out how to download a walking cd onto my mp3 player.  I had purchased “You on a Walk” a couple of years ago, and had never used it.  Today, I did.  The cd has a 30-minute walk with music.  The songs change pace so that you get a fast-paced workout in 30 minutes.  Luckily, I was in the marching band in high school, so I can keep up with the beat on almost any music.  Unfortunately, I kept counting “1,2,3,4 – 1,2,3,4” in my head as I walked.  Those of you who were in band will know what I mean.

This is a GREAT CD if you are looking for a pre-timed music mix.

The music was what I’d call 60’s beach-party style, with a little classical thrown in for the warm up and cool down.  It made me sweat!  It made me change my walking pattern during the really fast songs.  To keep up, I had to take shorter steps, which used different muscles.  Think race-walking.  That’s what I was doing.

It was great!

Out with the Old

So I’ve shared that I’ve lost a couple of sizes in clothing.  What I haven’t shared is that while I’ve been eating better, so has my mother.  It’s so much easier to make changes and achieve success when you have someone doing it with you.

Anyway, once I discovered that I could get into smaller clothes, I pulled out all of my larger pants and offered them to my mother, who is a little bit larger (and taller) than I am.  That inspired her to pull all of her larger pants out of her closet as well. 

We donated a bunch of clothing and threw out some old, worn-out items.  Mostly pants, but some other items as well.  In a few weeks, once it gets warm, I’ll go through my tops and do the same thing.

I won’t be in my current size for more than a few weeks, I hope.  My goal is to rotate the 4 pairs of pants that I bought over the weekend until I’ve dropped another 2 sizes, and then repeat this process with my mom.

It was really freeing to pull out that old stuff and get rid of it.  It felt like I was leaving my old lifestyle behind.

It felt good.

A Trick that REALLY Works!

I’m very proud of myself.

I’ve lost 2 sizes (or is it really 4 sizes each size skips a number?) since I started eating healthier, drinking more water and moving more.

I’ve resisted getting rid of my clothes because they cost a lot of money and I really don’t want to buy a bunch of new stuff every couple of months.  However, I was going to a dinner party over the weekend and wanted something new to wear. 

So I went shopping.

And tried on pants 2 sizes smaller than what I was wearing.

And they fit!

And they don’t have elastic in the waistband!  Almost everything I owned had elastic in the waistband!

So – on to the trick that works.  These new pants that I bought were a little snug in the waist when I sat down, since there was no elastic to stretch.  At dinner, we had appetizers, a salad, an entrée and dessert.  I ate a few appetizers and my salad.  When my entrée came, I ate one bite.  ONE bite!  I swear that having those pants fitting so snuggly helped me fill full and I was unable to eat anything more.

I got to enjoy my meal for two additional days as well.  I ate the entrée for my dinner the following day, and shared my dessert with my mother the day after that.

I’m going to remember this trick for every eating occasion from now on!


I mentioned in a recent post that when I drink a soda, it’s diet and caffeine-free.   I’ve chosen to be caffeine-free for several reasons that are all my own:

  • I don’t like being dependant on a chemical.
  • I noticed instances of rapid heart-beat prior to giving it up.
  • I felt like it was contributing to my “addiction” to soda products.  (I love those little bubbles!)
  • I’d heard that it lead to bone loss.

I gave up caffeine in August of 2010.  I’d done it twice before, but had gone back on the caff-wagon after a couple of months.

This time, I think it’s for good.  I’m not anti-caff for everyone.  I think people can choose for themselves whether they want caffeine or not.  It’s not an illegal substance.  However, here are some facts that I found on about caffeine.

“Caffeine is naturally found in certain leaves, beans, and fruits of over 60 plants worldwide. Its bitterness acts as a deterrent to pests. The most common sources in our diet are coffee, tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola, and energy drinks. Caffeine can also be produced synthetically and added to food, beverages, supplements, and medications. Product labels are required to list caffeine in the ingredients but are not required to list the actual amounts of the substance.”

Caffeine consumption is increasing in America, with the average American consuming 280 mg per day.  Since I don’t drink coffee, my caffeine delivery system was through diet soda.  Referencing the chart below, I found that a diet coke contains 47mg of caffeine.  If the average American consumes 280mg per day, that meant I was probably drinking 6 sodas per day.  My memory of my soda habit confirms that.  Six sodas per day! 

In the case of our weight loss surgery patients, caffeine also tends to act as a nonspecific appetite stimulant—for bad carb choices.  So it’s a SABOTAGER of success; it makes the work that much harder.   When I think about my own journey as someone who is trying to lose weight and simply consume better food and beverages, I think about the time-frame between my decision to give up caffeine and my decision to focus more energy on eating healthier.  Three months after I quit caffeine, I was ready to move on to better food choices, and I haven’t really struggled with my eating plan.  In fact, I lost 4 pounds over Christmas, while on vacation!

There’s even bad news for people who choose decaf tea and coffee: there’s almost always some caffeine left in products like tea or coffee that are labeled “decaffenated’.

Here’s a chart I found on the same website:

Sources of caffeine Caffeine content
Plain, brewed 8 oz 135 mg (range 102-200)
Instant 8 oz 95 mg (range 27-173)
Espresso 1 oz 40 mg (range 30-90)
Plain, decaffeinated 8 oz 5 mg (range 3-12)
Tea, brewed 53 mg (range 40-120)
Green tea 8 oz 25-40 mg
Black tea 8 oz 40-70 mg
Soft drinks  
Barq’s Root Beer 22 mg
Coca-Cola Classic 12 oz 35 mg
Diet Coke 12 oz 47 mg
Dr. Pepper 12 oz 42 mg
Dr. Pepper, diet 12 oz 44 mg
Jolt Cola 12 oz 72 mg
Mountain Dew, regular or diet 12 oz 54 mg
Mountain Dew, MDX, regular or diet 12 oz 71 mg
Pepsi-Cola 12 oz 38 mg
Pepsi, diet 12 oz 36 mg
Sunkist Orange 12 oz 42 mg
Tab 12 oz 46.5 mg
Vault 12 oz 71 mg
Energy drink  
Full Throttle 16 oz 144 mg
Monster Energy 16 oz 160 mg
Red Bull 8.5 oz 80 mg
Rip It 8 oz 100 mg
SoBe No Fear 8 oz 130 mg
Spike Shooter 8.4 oz 300 mg
Medicine: over the counter  
Excedrin Extra Strength 1 tablet 65 mg
Bayer Select Maximum Strength 65.4 mg
Midol Menstrual Maximum Strength 60 mg
NoDoz Maximum Strength 1 tablet 200 mg
Pain Reliever Tablets 65 mg
Vivarin 1 tablet 200 mg

It wasn’t easy for me to give up the caffeine monster. 

“There is no doubt that there are withdrawal symptoms that you can experience. These symptoms include headache, tiredness/fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness/attentiveness, drowsiness/sleepiness, decreased contentedness/well-being, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and felling muzzy/foggy/not clearheaded. The onset of withdrawal symptoms typically begins 12-24 hours after abstinence, with the peak intensity occurring at 20-51 hours. The withdrawal symptoms last for a range of two to nine days. This is a considerable amount of time that makes it easy to understand why people would have a hard time cutting caffeine from their diet.”

I gave it up on a Thursday, and by Sunday, my withdrawal symptoms were gone. 

I think it was worth it.