Contrary to popular belief, many dietitians (like myself), do not spend their entire lives prepping and planning meals. While we may peruse the grocery store a bit longer than the average bear, we like short cuts just as much as the next shopper. We’re busy wives and moms with work to do, too!
It was probably a few years ago that I discovered the simplest trick to seasoning my food. I am, hands down, a ginger junky. I’d always loved the spicy taste of ginger but found fresh ginger root to be a wee bit too spicy and less than convenient to use to grate and add to food. While buying “jarlic” (minced garlic in a jar), I found ginger paste!
Ginger paste (made by Spice World or Garden Cuisine) is a combination of ginger, fructose, vinegar and salt. It has a few other innocuous preservatives and contains 15 calories per tsp. It’s available in a 10 oz. tube or 4 oz. tube in the refrigerated section of the store, depending on the brand. Ginger paste has the consistency of applesauce and has a fairly long shelf life. I prefer the 10 oz. version because you get much more for your money.
This simple spice trick can be used in oatmeal, marinades, vegetables, fish or sweet potatoes. I’ve added it to leftover quinoa with cinnamon and chopped almonds for breakfast or tossed it in my stir fry. It’s one spice I always have on hand.
If you’re a working parent, you recognize that some weeks, the bottom just falls out. Maybe your kid started a new sport and you’re running him/her to practice right around dinner time. Or you have meetings every other night of the week. This is what happened in our house recently.
I was determined to have dinner ready before I left for a meeting Thursday night. I had rice in the Instant Pot and started a chicken at 4:15 to be cooked by 5:45 when my husband got home from work. I knew a friend was picking me up at 5:30 for a meeting, so I told my 14 year old daughter to “turn off the oven when the timer went off” since I wouldn’t be home.
My husband texted me during my meeting and asked if I was being fed at the meeting or if I’d be eating at home. “Home”, I answered. “Chicken and rice for dinner”.
I got home about 8:15 PM and was famished. He said, “chicken is in the frig, rice is still out”. But when I went to get the baked chicken out, I discovered it wasn’t there. There was some shredded chicken left from 2 days ago. The only reason I baked a whole chicken was that it had been in my frig a few days and needed to be cooked.
I asked, “where’s the chicken I baked”? His answer- “what chicken”? Imagine his surprise when I opened the oven door and there was the dutch oven with dinner I had prepped a few hours before. “UGH”, I exclaimed, clearly exasperated.
Note to self. I need better communication. I should have said, “there is a chicken in the oven that IS FOR DINNER” to my daughter. I should have also told my husband, “I baked a chicken for dinner, it’s in the oven”. Either way, I ate the chicken. It was delicious.
We’re two months into 2018, the time of year when everyone is either into a groove of new habits or have completely given up. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to reach the goal you set out for yourself (weight loss, more water, fill in the blank…), maybe it’s time to re-evaluate?
It would be awesome if we could just wave a wand, swallow a pill or blink our eyes and pray and our goal would be magically accomplished. But unicorns are not reality and it’s time to dive into the real work.
Changing habits takes TIME. While fad diets like the Whole 30 or Keto plan may give you temporary results, they are not sustainable practices that will yield long term success. Are you always going to be able to read every minute ingredient on a food label when traveling, or is it better to learn what the best choice is for YOU given the current situation and move on? Will you consistently never have white rice again or will you forgive yourself for eating a small portion when you went out for Indian food with your family?
Rather than being militant with your habits, how about a little grace and common sense? Are cake, ice cream, soda and candy bars daily going to lead to poor health? Likely. Will a slice of cake on your birthday ruin your waistline? Probably not.
When changing any habit, try to use the SMART approach. Here’s what I mean:
- Be Specific. Weight loss is not a goal- it is an end point that will only happen when baby steps are taken. Walking 3 days/week for 30 minutes is a specific goal.
- Make it Measurable. Wear a watch and measure how many minutes you have exercised.
- Make it Attainable. Is giving up chocolate for life attainable? Probably not. How about reducing your desserts to 1-2 times/week? That might work.
- Keep it Relevant. The change in habit has to matter to you.If you’re trying to prevent diabetes, reducing dessert is relevant goal.
- Given it Time. This is the only part of “Whole 30” that I like. It has a specific amount of time allotted to a task. The key is to ask yourself, what happens AFTER the 30 days?
Habits take time to change. Allow some time for you to make sustainable, realistic changes- not over the top, punitive short term fixes. Your body and mind will thank you.
I’ll admit, as a dietitian and fairly decent cook, I figured it would be no big deal when my 12-year old daughter decided to become vegetarian this year. She’d been on the fence about it for a while, so my husband and I knew it was coming. She voiced being “grossed out” when we cooked a full chicken and would only eat half of a small hamburger because she claimed to be too full every time. When she was little and disliked a food, she’d say it was, “Too spicy”. Now she was able to clearly communicate, “I just don’t want to eat meat”.
Initially, it was a breeze. We are well stocked with natural peanut butter, cheese and black beans- a handful of Maria’s favorites. We make pizza once a week every Friday but now leave off the turkey pepperoni. But after a few weeks, I realized she wasn’t really getting much variety in her diet. I made vegetarian chili, but she didn’t like the kidney beans. We smeared hummus on a tortilla for something different, but she complained it tasted “weird”. I’ll admit, I grew frustrated with her particularly picky palate. It led to lots of food fights at the table, which I knew had to end. I didn’t want her to end up with an eating disorder over not eating chicken.
I had a conversation with her about nutrition and why it’s important to eat a variety of foods. We talked about protein and vegetables, vitamins and minerals. Oh my! This was like talking to a kid about the mechanics of a car. But she listened and voiced a few things she’d be willing to try (lentils, tuna salad, 3-bean salad). We talked about being strong and eating foods we enjoyed and felt good about. I even admitted how I was frustrated trying to find new recipes for her. Me. A dietitian. That loves to create food! If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few suggestions.
- Don’t fight it. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. We’re all entitled to what we like and don’t like to eat. Forcing foods that your child considers “gross” will not excite them to eat them and may only make them control or restrict food further.
- Provide easy alternatives. No one wants to be a short order cook. Make a few dishes that can easily have the meat left behind such as Thai peanut noodles, bean soup or spaghetti.
- Give them a multi-vitamin. While my motto has always been “forks first”, in the case of my 12-year going through puberty, I know iron and zinc are essential. If nothing else, it may prevent deficiencies and put your mind at ease.
- Encourage and teach your child to cook for themselves. This is a life skill ANY child will benefit from. My daughter can make simple omelets, grilled cheese sandwiches and microwaved veggies. The more involved they get, the more control they’ll feel they have.
- Include some vegetarian meals yourself! Consuming less meat is not only better for our bodies, but also our wallets and the planet. Stock up on eggs, beans, lentils, low fat cheese and nut butter. Make meatless Monday the norm. You probably won’t even miss that chicken carcass.
Click on the link to see my project grant with People’s Liberty:
As a dietitian, I am profoundly passionate about issues surrounding food insecurity- the inability to have regular access to safe, nutritious food. Although I didn’t grow up impoverished, per se, my parents were products of the Depression Era, and with 4 siblings, we didn’t waste a thing. I witnessed the result of food insecurity when I worked at the VA Medical Center, in Guatemala where my second daughter was born and in Cincinnati at my girls’ school. Many don’t know that Cincinnati ranks SECOND in the US for childhood poverty. And poverty is the main cause of malnutrition.
Malnutrition not only stunts growth, but also affects learning and the ability to earn a good living for years to come. Children who are malnourished are less prepared to enter the workforce and earn less money than their nourished peers. It is an issue that affects developed nations and neighbors in our own backyards.
About a year ago on the eve of my 50th birthday, I was honored to receive a People’s Liberty Grant for $10,000 to install 10 mini food pantries in low income/food desert neighborhoods around the city. Taking on a project like this was no easy feat! But I am so excited and proud of the work I did with a small team and the help of People’s Liberty.
If you see an old Enquirer box decorated like R2D2 on Colerain Ave, you have seen my work in progress. The other pantry locations can be found here: https://facebook.com/peoplespantrycincy
Here’s how you can help:
- Donate to the Free Store Food Bank. Their dollars fund several projects throughout the city and they have better buying power.
- Participate in food drives at work, church or school. Your donations help those in need.
- Ask your dentist or Gyn office for donations for toiletries. These items cannot be obtained on food stamps and are desperately needed by families.
- Keep some canned goods in your car to stock our pantries. Canned beans, tuna, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, soup or extra toiletries are always needed. Donate things you, yourself would eat or use. Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Don’t waste food! Buy what you need and eat it. If you have perishable food to donate, check out: https://ampleharvest.org
For more information on People’s Liberty: https://peoplesliberty.org
Just because a health claim is on a label does not mean the food is better for you or superior to another brand. Consumers may get duped and end up paying more money than they have to when sneaky marketing is employed.
New Health Claim? Ah, Nuts!