5 Festival Food Tips

Summer Solstice and Festival Fun! These are the days we long for in winter. The trick for many is sticking with a reasonable food and fitness routine through ninety-degree days, corn dogs and elephant ears.

Here’s one idea: You could put it all off until August when the kids go back to school and chalk it up to summer vacation fun. The catch with this plan is that once school begins, life gets fairly hectic and the pressure is on with scheduled activities. Once that rush is over, we’re almost to the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and we know what happens then. Next thing we know…oops, time for those resolutions. Sorry to be “Johnny Rain Cloud,” –it’s the pattern I see repeated over and over on a regular basis.

Time to break the cycle and try something new! There truly IS a way to balance life and health, while maintaining sanity and having fun.

To get you going, here are my 5 simple tips to help you negotiate festivals, celebrations and summer vacations! By choosing even ONE, you will feel more positive about your health.

  1. Drink plenty of water every day. I could write a lengthy essay about the reasons this is important, and actually, I did. I covered this in my blog in January 2016 (link: Water Habit Blog just in case you need a refresher). Besides lots of health benefits and combatting dehydration during these extremely hot days, there are zero calories, zero artificial colors and zero sweeteners to contend with. You will feel full on less food and also “save” those calories for something really decadent.
  2. Find and eat a vegetable. I’ve scoped out lots of food establishments, festivals, county fairs, etc. and it IS possible to find some type of vegetable that’s not battered and fried. So, if you are away from home for an extended period of time, eat something in this category that is redemptive at some point. Recently I spotted a fair vendor with beef tips who also offered sautéed vegetables. When on the road, most fast food places offer a salad—which is a good option instead of the fries. I recently had a very good salad with grilled chicken from Culver’s. It’s rare to go to any party and not see something green—besides the M&M’s. I know there is a bit of resistance to eating vegetables at celebrations. Do the best you can and just give it a try.
  3. Check out all the food options, whether you’re at a picnic, festival, or party, before you begin filling your plate. By doing this, you can pace yourself and determine which fun food you want to be sure to enjoy so you feel balanced. Or, sometimes you know what your fun splurge is going to be before you even reach your destination. Make your plan, then stick to it.
  4. When you know in advance that something you are planning to eat will not agree with you, consider passing on it. Do you really want to feel lousy for the next few hours after you eat the elephant ear or fried Twinkie? If there is something you really want to try for novelty, consider sharing it with friends. And for the record, sometimes we need to eat something and then feel bad as a reminder as to why we only do it on occasion. (Depending on your age, you may not understand this theory. Trust me, one day you will.)
  5. If there is a food you absolutely love and it is AMAZING, enjoy it fully. No guilt. No justification. No stories. I ate the Dairy Belle ice cream because I love it. These days, I can skip the elephant ears and corn dogs because skipping the indigestion does not make me feel deprived.

Enjoy your summer and all the delightful celebrations that come with it. Make YOUR plan, then stick with it. Living a healthier lifestyle is about making small changes that add up over time.

For some light-hearted entertainment, check out my Food, Festivals and Fun video by clicking HERE

“The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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My Hot Dog Confession and Easy Grilled Vegetables

It was Friday afternoon and someone (my dear husband, “Mr. Non-Compliant”) got hungry and wanted a hot dog. We were about to get on a highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic and Madvek’s Dog House was nearby, so we caved. Yes, I caved. I ate a Chicago style hot dog. Check it out. It was covered with lots of vegetables and CELERY salt. I truly enjoyed it–AMAZING. Once in a while… However, for the record, I DID NOT EAT THE FRIES. Now, moving on to a more redemptive topic: Grilled Vegetables.

One of the best things about summer is the grill. Less cleanup for me, since my dear husband is also a Grill Master. It’s easier to feed a crowd and enjoy entertaining when the cooking is done outdoors.

Here’s an idea for grilling vegetables:

Cut an assortment of fresh vegetables such as yellow zucchini, red bell peppers, Vidalia onions, green beans–whatever you like best or have on hand—into fairly equal pieces. Don’t be concerned about making too many because leftovers are perfect for a snack or with your morning eggs.

Take a large piece of foil and pour a couple tablespoonfuls of olive oil on it to coat. Add the chopped vegetables. Season with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, garlic powder, onion powder or simply salt and pepper. Drizzle with another couple tablespoonfuls of olive oil and seal the foil. Double wrap with another piece of foil. This ensures that you don’t loose your contents. Keep in mind that the more vegetables you have in a packet, the longer the cooking time. I often make two packets and make the packet more flat than round, so the vegetables cook evenly.

Place on the grill and turn halfway through cooking. As far as timing, if your heat is at 300 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes is a good range. Of course, this is only a suggestion to gauge from, since it depends on how you like them cooked and how direct your heat is.

Potatoes are great like this too. Slice them thin or cube them and follow the same instructions. These take about an hour to cook and they are really tasty when some of them get crispy. I like to mix sweet potatoes with the Yukon Gold variety. This works well when there are people who aren’t as fond of the sweet potatoes. Yep, you guessed it–Mr. Non-Compliant.

With such an abundance of summer vegetables to choose from, you can mix, match and try new combinations, which adds great variety to your meals. Happy grilling!

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” –Ann Wigmore

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It’s Berry Time

Indiana plus June equals strawberries. ‘Tis the season to enjoy the best of the best.

When my boys were little, we would make the trip to Johnson’s Farm in Hobart on Ridge Road and ride the school bus out to the fields to pick the tastiest strawberries. I still remember the dust that would float through the open bus windows and settle over the old green seats. One of our favorite things, besides eating as many as we could while we were busy finding the most perfect ones, was to put our faces down into the buckets as we filled them, and simply inhale. The aroma was so intoxicating that it made us giggle aloud!

Another equation for strawberry picking goes like this: Two little boys + plants low to the ground + intense sun as it approaches noon + heat = COMPLAINING. Fun memories, and I recommend giving it a try. Hint: Go early in the day.

Whether you are into picking your own or paying a bit more for someone else to do the labor, local strawberries are typically available through June. Berries of all kind are a great fruit to enjoy–low glycemic index (so it will not cause a spike in your blood sugar) and lots of antioxidants. How about it—they are delicious AND healthy!

Ideas for AMAZING ways to eat them, besides straight up: (it’s all about the balance!)

  • Homemade shortcake, muffins, pancakes or bread
  • Sprinkled with regular, chocolate, or other flavored balsamic vinegar
  • Topped with CoCoWhip (a whipped coconut oil instead of Cool Whip)
  • Pie (plain strawberry or with rhubarb)
  • Jelly or jam, which is what I used to make back in our picking days
  • Mixed with Greek yogurt
  • Protein smoothies
  • In oatmeal
  • With chocolate coconut mousse

I’m sure there are many more, but at least this will get you started. Of course, if you are trying to cut back on gluten, carbs, sugar, etc., then plain is perfect. When they are this fresh, “just the strawberries, please” is perfect.

I have six plants in my garden; however, they are not quite producing a bumper crop. Here’s the good news:  Johnson’s Farm in Hobart still lets you pick your own if you wish. It is a good idea to call before you go to make sure they have plenty of berries available. Picking the berries could be your exercise for the day. Oh, and remember to wear your sunscreen and drink plenty of water.

Enjoy~

“Strawberry Fields is anywhere you want to go.” –John Lennon

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Got Joy? Share Joy

Are you feeling joyful today? If you are, why? Is there a way you can share it?

These are loaded questions, so let’s explore some thoughts on the topic.

I know people who are grandparents. When I ask them anything about their grandchildren, their faces light up like a sky of fireworks on the fourth of July. They beam with joy.

When I listen to the symphony, as the conductor and musicians are playing the composition, they exude a joy I can see, hear and feel.

If you’ve ever watched a chef prepare a dish, whether in person or on television, he or she exudes joy while creating the beautiful, delicious meal. Then, when that first bite is taken that we have no way of sharing…WOW! I want that!

Now I’m going to push the envelope: is there some part of living in a healthy way that brings you joy?

  • Maybe you love going to the gym, and your friends there are fun. Joy.
  • You thought you hated eggplant, until you stumbled upon a recipe that was simple and intriguing, so you tried it AND liked it. Joy.
  • When you go out to eat and you remember your rule about taking home a box with some of your AMAZING meal so you have leftovers for lunch the next day…Joy.
  • Gardening is a nice hobby that keeps you moving and agile. The flowers and vegetables are a great benefit. Joy.

Now, how can you take a slice of your fitness joy and share it with a friend, spouse or colleague that may be stuck? Perhaps they are having some life challenges and feeling bad—bad about their life, their lack of motivation, and their absence of JOY.

Ideas:

  • Try a new recipe and have them over to dine with you.
  • Share your most motivating workout song with them.
  • Call them and make a plan to do some activity together—golf, walk, tennis, coffee. (Sometimes you have to start really small.)
  • Go to a “new” restaurant and find the two healthiest items on the menu and split them. Remember your rule about the box going home.
  • Check out one of the farmer’s markets and buy a vegetable that scares you—just a little. Find a recipe and make it together.
  • Start a dinner club that eats together once a month and try “healthy” recipes from various countries. We used to do this years ago and took turns hosting. We ate well and it was really FUN!

So today, zero in on your joy and then think of a way to share it. Even if it seemingly has nothing to do with fitness, you will help somebody feel better.

Whatever you come up with, the world will shine a bit brighter because of it!

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” –Mark Twain

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Fruits and Vegetables Made Easy

‘Tis the season of Farmer’s Markets and an abundance of fruits and vegetables grown locally. Well, almost. In winter, it can be such a challenge to find a tasty tomato or strawberry.

June is the month in Indiana for homegrown strawberries. July is for blueberries and corn on the cob, and August is the month of peaches. I realize corn on the cob does not really count as a vegetable, however it is a wonderful vehicle for butter and salt. When it’s amazing, and we live in the heartland, we enjoy it.

Here is a real eye-opener: Eating at least 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day may help lower your blood cholesterol. There are numerous substances in food that have cholesterol-lowering properties. Many are found in vegetables and fruits. Mother knows best, again. Now I know why she made me eat those stinkin’ green beans! (I like them now.)

Of course, there are many other reasons to increase your intake of vegetables and fruits. Among them:

  • They are alkaline producing, which can help to preserve bone mass and muscle tissue.
  • They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.
  • They contain lots of water to help you stay hydrated.
  • Because fruits and vegetables have a high water and fiber content, they’re low in calories relative to their volume. Consuming them on a regular basis can result in a higher volume of food intake. A high consumption of low calorie density foods can help to control overall food intake and manage body weight. In other words, when you fill up on fruits and vegetables instead of other foods, it can help you lose weight. Sweet!

If your goal is to reduce body fat, the ratio of vegetables to fruits should be 5:1. To maintain your current numbers, the ratio is 3:1.

I will admit, 10 servings of these wonderful foods do not quite make it on a daily basis with our family. We can do better, so we practice. I enjoy growing a few vegetables among all the weeds, especially tomatoes. Give it a try, even if you only have room for a couple pots on a patio. (Less to weed then!)

Another thing I like to do is bring home a “new” vegetable and then figure out a tasty way to prepare it. I challenge you to do the same. If you get stuck, shoot me an email and we’ll figure it out together.

The more colors and variety, the better. Have fun with this. Buying local produce helps support those who live in or near your community, is fresher than produce coming from another country, and has a higher nutrient content. What’s not to like?

For those of us who live in Indiana, the arrival of Farmer’s Markets is simply another reason to be glad it’s spring!

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” – Doug Larson

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Choosing Wisely

Sometimes we attend luncheons or dinners, and the fare offered is rather limited. Perhaps, as I wrote in my blog last week, we feel like we are using up our 20% of the 80/20 rule. But maybe, just maybe, we can get by unscathed. Here are my tips on how to make choices that are just a little bit healthier, so you can save your 20% for another meal! (Friday night pizza?)

I’ll give you a couple of scenarios so you get the general idea. Let’s say you are at a business luncheon with buffet options:

  • Tossed green salad with several dressings
  • Rolls for sandwich making or as a side
  • Thinly sliced roast beef with au jus
  • Italian sausage
  • Hamburgers
  • Sliced tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onions, etc. to dress up a sandwich
  • Assorted drinks: water, diet soda, regular soda, unsweetened ice tea, coffee
  • Assorted fresh fruits
  • Brownies (you can tell by looking that they are NOT AMAZING)

For this blog’s sake, pretend summer is just around the corner and you may need to put on shorts or a swimsuit. You are committed to cutting back on breads, sugars, and want to eat more vegetables. Here’s how you make this lunch part of your 80% instead of 20%.

Begin with a GENEROUS helping of salad. Choose the least amount of dressing you need to add flavor without distracting from the taste of the greens and other salad components. An oil and vinegar based option is typically a better choice than thick and creamy, since you need more of the creamy types to go around.

Next, if you make a sandwich, add more vegetables to it. Maybe you could even make an open-faced sandwich and use a big piece of lettuce as a topper, instead of eating the entire roll. Or, skip the roll totally and you have the meal concept: main dish with side salad. The best drink option is water, then the tea or coffee. If you select soda, you will get more than your day’s maximum of sugar, and the chemicals in diet soda are not good. Enjoy your natural sugar from the fresh fruit.

If you typically bypass the salad, eat the sandwich and drink a soda, practice switching just one of those options. Slow and steady…

The brownie…it’s not amazing, so skip it. Save up for a treat you will REALLY enjoy later.

When you attend a sit-down dinner and the food is plated for you, you get what you get. However, these are usually pretty standard: salad, soup, protein (beef, chicken, fish), vegetable (green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower) and starch (baked potato or pasta). Can you tell I’ve been to lots of these? If the chicken is fried, removing the skin is a good move. Avoiding fried foods as much as possible is preferable. Rolls are almost always present and may certainly be skipped in case the dessert IS AMAZING! (I have been known to eat the bread when the main course is not the best or if it is rather skimpy. There are times…)

This is simply a matter of making choices that are a little better than you may have made a year ago, or six months ago. It depends on your personal health and fitness goals and what works for you. Bon Appetit!

“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” ― Thomas Edison

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Why 80% is an “A” on my Scale

When I was in school, an “A” was earned with a score of 90% to 100%. There wasn’t much room for error. When I practiced pharmacy, the range of error was even less, as you can imagine.

When it comes to eating in a way that serves you nutritionally, I like the 80% rule. It works like this: eat nutritionally sound foods at least 80% of the time. The other 20% is “room for error” or “cheat meals” or whatever term suits you. 

Reality check: life does not always allow us to carry out our perfect plan for fitness, food, and the way we think things ought to go. We have very little control. However, we can usually control our food choices and how much we move.

80% is realistic. The 80/20 rule allows for those special times with friends, holidays, birthdays and “because I had a tough day” days. 80% gets us past the ALL or NONE way of thinking, which only sets us up to fail miserably.

Here’s how it works: 80% of the time make sure you eat the proper amount of lean protein, vegetables, carbohydrates and good fats.

An easy way to know how much you need:

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.
  • Your fist determines your veggie portions.                            
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.

The recommendation is that women have one of each of those with most meals. For men, the recommendation is two of each with most meals. This guideline assumes you eat 4 times a day. Easy.

Let’s do the math. Eating 4 meals a day means 28 meals a week. So, following the 80/20 rule, if 22 or 23 of those meals are on target, you’ll most likely stay on track.

This takes into account Sunday brunch, the birthday celebration at work on Tuesday, “because it rained” on Wednesday (this person doesn’t live in Northwest Indiana where it has rained everyday for at least a week—that person blew it BIG time), pizza sounded really good on Friday night, and the hot dog at Home Depot called to you on Saturday.

I’ve had days when I never saw a vegetable and the carbohydrates ruled the plate. It happens. Life happens. Eat well most of the time and you’ll probably reach most of your health and fitness goals.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” –Charles M. Schulz

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What’s Your Elephant?

I recently came across a movie starring Bill Murray (odds are good it’s a comedy—it was) and an elephant by the name of Vera. In a nutshell, it’s about a motivational speaker (Bill) who learns his circus clown father died and left him Vera. Since elephants aren’t like dogs when it comes to traveling, eating, sleeping, etc., Bill found himself in quite a quandary. The movie tells the story of how he and Vera managed their new partnership as they traveled across the country. 

Although I’ve never seen an elephant up-close and personal, I’ve seen some fascinating documentaries and think they have many traits similar to us. They’re pretty interesting looking, not to mention HUGE.

So, what is the elephant you’re facing today? What is the problem in the middle of the room that feels as big as Vera? Need some clues? It could be the one thing that is keeping you stuck and out of alignment with your health and fitness plan.

Maybe your elephant is:

  • Too many snacks in the house because your family “needs” them. 
  • Eating late at night.
  • Taking care of everyone else and not taking care of you.
  • Working too many hours.
  • Difficulty in planning meals.

Here’s the thing Bill discovered in the movie: the more he wanted to avoid Vera, the bigger she got. He couldn’t make her go away by eating, drinking, sleeping or running. He finally had to face the fact that he had an elephant and he had to deal with her.

Today, what if you could just whittle away a piece of your elephant? Is there one small thing you can do to make your Vera a bit less daunting?

Like:

  • Exchange one of those snacks in the house for something a bit healthier.
  • Figure out if your truly hungry, or simply bored, then make an adjustment.
  • Ask for help with one thing that you really don’t need to do.
  • Shave an hour off of one workday.
  • Plan one or two meals ahead of time for your busy week.

Don’t worry about the WHOLE elephant today, simply a piece of it. Face your Vera, make a plan, and take one small action!

“The very things that hold you down are going to life you up.”—Timothy Mouse from Dumbo

The movie: Larger Than Life

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