Main Nutritious Intent Website

Monday, September 28, 2015

Delicious Nutrition on a Budget

I still think the holidays are a ways off, but retail stores beg to differ with their numerous Halloween and even Christmas displays in full view.  But regardless of how distant the holidays may feel, there is one very universal reality - budgets tend to get tight around the holidays.  Whether from visiting family, gift-giving, decorating to-the-hilt, or simply entertaining friends, our finances tend to take a hit this time of year.  Here are some ways to make sure you continue to enjoy delicious and healthful nutrition when funds are a bit leaner:

1. Plan, plan, plan!  Making a menu is key so that you can plan to work in leftover items throughout the week.  Also, making menu leads to making a grocery list and when we stick to our list, we spend less.  

2. Shop seasonal produce.  Whether that means apples, pears, squash or root veggies, embracing the flavors of the season means sale prices at the grocery store.  

3. Try frozen and canned produce.  Frozen produce is a convenient twin-sister to fresh fruits and veggies.  Nothing is added, it is simply fresh produce that is frozen.  Canned produce is getting much more attractive nutritionally as the canning process is using less or no sodium with veggies and natural fruit juice instead of syrup for fruits.  And lets face it, they canned produce wins hands down when it comes to convenience and store-ability.  During colder months when local produce is no longer an option, use canned and frozen varieties to supplement your produce budget and maintain a high level of plants in your diet.  

4. Go meatless a few days each week.  Lets face it, the butcher counter is one of the highest priced areas of any supermarket.  By simply omitting the meat from your entrees a couple nights a week, you can not only help increase the fiber, vitamin and mineral content of your diet by incorporating more veggies and whole grains, but you'll save some bucks as well.  

5. Enlist the crockpot.  Soup season is one of my favorite times of the culinary year.  Not only do you get loads of veggies, beans and warm comforting flavors to accompany all that nutrition, but they are generally very simple to throw together in a crockpot and you'll be hard pressed to find a cheaper meal.  Beyond soups, enlist your crockpot (and your children to help learn the art of crockpot cooking - they'll thank you later) to keep your family on track with family dinner.

Eating at the dinner table is always a healthier option and cheaper than eating out.  Knowing you have a hot meal waiting for you at home is the best deterrent to the siren song of the drive-thru.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back-to-School Lunches: Keeping It Real

I've been seeing so many blogs and Pinterest pins about packing these amazing lunches for your kiddos - some are quite over board, some are so gourmet, and others maxing out the cuteness factor. It seems as though the message we get is that if you aren't sending your child to school with a Bento box full of some amazing, surprise that is worthy of a blog post, you're not making the grade as a parent. NOT SO!

The problem at the other end of the sack lunch spectrum is when you give up trying to prepare a lunch at home and instead allow the store to do all the work for you - this results in a sack full of processed, convenience foods. 

Somewhere in between there is a happy and healthy medium which may not be pin-able but is very doable. 

You have a real child with specific and very real ideas of what they will and will not eat. The real-world of the lunchroom at times seems to involve more high stakes trading than does Wall Street.  So keep your kids in the equation. They should be the ones you are training to pack their own lunches. 

One of the best things you could do to better understand how to teach your kids to pack a lunch would be to go and eat school lunch with them. Get a taste of the front lines so that you know where they're coming from and what the lunch atmosphere is like. 

More than anything, remind yourself that all those ideal Internet images don't define your success or failure as a parent. They may provide some entertaining and occasionally helpful ideas, but you need to operate in reality which often doesn't resemble at all the board you have on Pinterest. 

Here are some tips to Keep It Real:

  • This may mean that packing a sack lunch for the real world includes means having on hand some convenience foods: KIND bars is a great example of this with their transparent (visible) nutrition.  Choose wholesome convenience items and keep them balanced with the rest of the lunch. Which leads to the next point:

  • Teach your kids to pack mostly "real" food. Foods with no ingredient labels should be in their lunch sack as well as some with very short ingredient labels such as cheese, popcorn, fruits & veggies.  But to make this work in the real world, you'll need to involve your kids in some prep before its time to pack the lunch.

  • Pack the occasional goodie - nothing wrong with a homemade chocolate chip cookie or treat, but keep the portion size in check and if it is occasional it will remain a treat.  
  • Be realistic with the container as well - let's face it, you can drop a lot of cash replacing cute lunch containers so consider the personality of your child and whether they can be responsible for a returnable, washable system, or if a chuck-able sack will save you both grief. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nutrition 101 Instructor: Your Great-Grandma

Lately I've been thinking about how much health wisdom there is to be found in the lives of my ancestors.  If you have any grandparents or great-grand parents  still living, take advantage of the unique perspective they may provide.  One health tenet poses the question: "If your grandmother (or great-grandmother) were grocery shopping with you, how much of what is in your cart would she recognize as food?"  

That is just one way in which a different perspective may pay health benefits.  Here are some others I've learned from family members that came before me:

  • Ice cream is a rare treat. 

 My grandmother-in-law tells my children about growing up in the rural town of Holden, Utah.  In August, her father would pull the block of ice out of the granary where it was buried since spring and made homemade ice cream.  No doubt it tasted better not only because it was homemade, but because it was a rare and anticipated treat.  Health lesson: Treats are and should be occasional events, not mealtime staples. 

  • If you can grow food, you should. 

My father grew up in a very rural area of southern Minnesota.  In addition to the farm crops, they had a kitchen garden.  Basically, if you wanted to eat it, you had to grow it first.  My father tried to transfer this concept to his own children by planting a large garden.  As a child in Logan, Utah, I spent countless hours weeding that rocky garden and cursing all the while.  But the harvest was bountiful and you didn't have to worry about the source or carbon footprint of your dinner.  Studies have shown that gardeners eat more produce and have healthier diets overall than non-gardeners.  Health lesson: Grow a garden and eat what you grow.

  • Family dinner isn't a strategy, it's part of life. 

I've seen this taught on both sides of my family from my parents on back.  It hasn't been until recently that family dinner has even been considered optional.  This is a huge soap-box item for me, so I'll try to keep it brief.  Children in families that eat dinner together 5 or more times per week have higher grades, less obesity, less drug use and less incidence of eating disorders and depression.  This is probably just a tip of the iceberg, but suffice it to say that the entire family benefits from lower stress levels and better health when family dinner is the norm.  Health lesson: Family dinner isn't optional, it's essential.  

  • Traditions and foods go together for a reason. 

Studies have shown that regardless of the country of origin or the food culture associated with it, those that eat a culture-specific diet (drive thru and take out are not the cultural foods I'm talking about) have less incidence of cardiovascular and obesity-related diseases than the current American diet.  My from Grandmother-in-law's traditional picnic lunch of homemade fried chicken that they would pack to watch the full moon rise over the sand dunes of western Utah, or the Norwegian foods that were a staple at my grandparents' family reunions have taught me that not only is there nothing wrong with tying food to traditions, but that it can also be beneficial.  Sunday night means warm chocolate chip cookies at my parents house.  As a result, I have no desire for prepackaged, subpar cookies during the week.  A sense of belonging, stability, and identity come when your family is raised with traditional foods and the cultural quirks that come with them.  Health lesson: Maintain nourishing family traditions.

So take a minute and see what nuggets of wisdom, health or otherwise are hiding in your family tree.