"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simple Living Ideas: Lowest Gas Price Website & App


gas pump
Gas pump copyright 2012
Before you fill up. Check gasbuddy.com on your computer or smartphone (free apps available) for the best gas price in your area. You can search the site by grade of gasoline and it includes maps to the gas stations. The prices are supplied by members, make sure to check that the update was recent.




Monday, January 30, 2012

Simple Living Ideas: Get Outside!: Dressing for Cold Weather.


snowy road
Snowy Road Copyright 2012

Det gäller att smida medan järnet är varmt.
Translation: "There is no bad weather only bad clothing." 
This old Swedish saying couldn’t be more true. If you know how to dress properly you can be outside in any kind of weather. I really learned that this can be a fine art while working at Paragon Sporting Goods in NYC. This store had specialized gear for being out in the desert to being on an Arctic expedition. However, this was Manhattan and very stylish women would come into my department wanting a cute ski outfit for their first ski weekend. They usually would pick out a furry trimmed lightweight parka and some skin tight ski pants. Then I would ask them, “Were are you going skiing?” “Vermont.” What you picked out if for Spring skiing out West.” I would try to redirect them to insulated waterproof pants and down parkas, that their fashion sense did not approve of... “I’ll stick with what I already picked out.” “You’re going to freeze.” “I don’t care.” So, after the first time they fell and got wet I’m sure they spent the rest of their trip hanging out in the ski lounge looking quite fashionable. Too bad, they may have really enjoyed skiing. 
Since the time that I worked at Paragon, in the late 1980’s, prices for synthetic wicking clothing has gone down tremendously. Back then you had to pay top dollar and buy expedition level gear from companies like Patagonia or Marmont to guarantee you’d be warm. LL bean always had moderately priced clothing and jackets but now - fleece from Target will keep you considerably warm for a minimum about of money, thought the product probably won’t last you very long. You would be better off investing in at least mid-range outerwear from LL Bean or Land’s End.
Why am I going on about getting good gear? Because I want you to get outside this winter. You will feel so much better about the cold weather if you spend some time in it daily. At lunch take a brisk walk outside, or if you can take a walk in the morning before your commute. The sun exposure will help prevent SADD, the depression caused by lack of light, and the chill is actually good for stimulating your mind and your immune system. People get sick more in the winter because they are indoors with dry heat that is bad for the functioning of their sinuses. Outside is were the air is germ free.
So, if you ask me specifically what should you wear outside on a cold day I would recommend:
Head: A fleece hat that is not skin tight. When there is about 1/2 inch between your head and the hat this creates insulation. It is very import to keep your head covered because you loss a large percentage of your body heat through your head.
Face: If it happens to be a particularly windy day you might want a scarf (fleece is the warmest and the most itchless) around your neck that is larger enough that you can cover the bottom of your face with it. You can also invest in a Gortex face mask if you live in a really windy area. They are nice because they stay put and they wick away the moisture from your mouth. 
Upper Body: Layers: undershirt, turtleneck (holds in body heat and keeps your neck warm) and a top sweater (a light weight fleece is a very comfortable layer for walking) Parka: waterproof, with a hood, that covers your butt. I wouldn’t recommend down for exercising.  Down tends to get too warm. A Polartec fleece lining would be best.
Hands: This depends on how your body distributes heat. I am definitely a cold hands warm heart kinda person. If you are like me the warmest gloves you can wear are waterproof outer, fleece lined or down MITTENS. If your hands don’t get very cold you can might be able to get away with cotton gloves.
Lower Body: I recommend sweat pants or corduroys.  Denim get’s too cold. If it is windy you can cover your pants with a shell pant or insulated snow pants.
Feet: Socks, wicking wool socks are the warmest. Waterproof lightweight hiking boots are great for cold weather. They will give you good support for walking and keep you warm.
These are my recommendation. I guarantee if you wear all of these items you will be cosy and warm. You’ll be able to get outside, clear your head and get your heart pumping in any snowy, blustery weather that may come your way. 
copyright 2012 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spaghetti with Clam Sauce to Die For!: Foodie Friday



spaghetti with clam sauce
Spaghetti with Clam Sauce copyright 2012

When I say this recipe is “to die for” I mean it quite literally. When my great aunt Jenny was in the hospital for the last 2 weeks of her life my mother had to bring her spaghetti and clam sauce every night for dinner. “I don’t want to go out eating hospital food.” Jenny would say, “I want to go out eating what I love.” 
Jenny was 96 yrs. old and comfortable with the fact that she was dying. She had lived a rich and full life. She was very involved in her church and local politics, and never missed a good party! So, when she told me, “I’m gonna die now.” All I could say was, “I think that’s OK.” “I know it is” she said, “but you listen to me, you need to have another baby. That one is lonely.”
So a year later I had my daughter and she loves spaghetti and clam sauce so much  that she asked me to make it for her 3rd grade food heritage party. “Don’t you want me to make lasagna or raviolis, something that most kids will eat.” “No it’s my favorite dish.” So I made it, and she was right. The kids and parents gobbled it up. I will never doubt my daughter’s culinary sense again, and I will never underestimate what a 3rd grader might eat.


Spaghetti with Clam Sauce
by Diane Balch
prep: 20 minute serves: 4-6
1 pound of Barilla Plus Spaghetti or Schar's gluten-free Spaghetti
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of anchovy paste or crushed into paste whole jarred anchovy
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes (or ground cayenne if serving to kids)
1/2 cups of dry white wine
1 can chopped clams with juice
1 can chopped clams no juice
1/4 cup of fresh chopped parsley
(or 1/8 cup dried parsley)
grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a well salted sauce pot filled 1/4 with water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Put oil, garlic, red pepper, & anchovy paste in a large skillet. Heat on medium low. Do not brown the garlic. Mix and incorporate the anchovy paste until it dissolves into the oil.
  3. Add wine and clam juice bring to a boil for about 5 minutes until water starts to evaporate.
  4. Turn heat off, add clams mix.
  5. Let sauce sit on heat while pasta cooks.
  6. Add pasta and parsley, mix well and let stand for 5 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle individual servings with parmesan.
  8. Serve with a side green salad and white wine.
NOTE: If you want to make a gourmet version of this dish use fresh clams and fresh spaghetti. (The anchovy paste is key to this recipe do not (I know it's anchovy, but trust me.) delete it.
copyright 2012
http://verygoodrecipes.com/italia
Italianfish pasta







Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simple Organizing: "To Do" Lists Keep me Sane.


To Do List


photo: http://winweight.net/weight-loss-to-do-list/
The way I maintain my sanity and compensate for my ailing memory is by writing notes to myself. I used to laugh when I would visit my mom and she had “post it” notes by the telephone, on the refrigerator, on the door... I would say, “Can’t you remember anything?” and her reply was simply, “No.”
Now, I do the same thing. I even have a sticky notes post in my car. I have a note pad by my bed, anywhere that an idea or a “thing that needs to be done” may suddenly pop into my head. I have a note pad ready to catch it. 
I can’t wait until I am eligible for an upgrade on my cell phone. I am definitely getting the sticky pad app. I also can’t wait until I can link my phone calendar with my computer calendar. But for now I’ll make due with my old fashion system of collecting all of these notes and putting them into a basket each night. Then I sort through them. I add things “to do” to my “Master to Do” list and I put ideas for work on another sheet. It is helpful to keep about 3 separate “Master to Do” lists: home, work, and personal.
Every day I take 1-3 things “to do” from a master list and put it on to my “Daily to Do” list. The important thing to remember is to never take anything off of the master list until you have actually done it. Life is just not that predictable. We don’t always end up with the time to do everything. 
No stress, just try for another day. By keeping the item on the master list you will not loss sight of the task. I really recommend trying to keep “to do” lists. It really does help relieve stress to have everything written down. Especially on those days when you wake up feeling anxiety. You know there is something you need to do, but you’re just not sure what it is... because you didn’t write it down.
copyright 2012




Monday, January 23, 2012

Healthy Eating: Pantry Cooking Simplified


Pantry copyright 2012

I’m always aiming to simplify my meal planning and I believe that a key to doing this is to have a well stocked pantry. What foods you keep on hand should be determined not by what is on sale that week at the grocery store, but by what you like to mostly eat.

My heritage is Italian and I tend to enjoy primarily Italian cooking.  Italian cooking really melds with the simple living philosophy because it is simple to cook, and it usually requires few ingredients per recipe. It is also healthy, especially traditional, as my mom calls it, “peasant food.” “Peasant food” tends to be high in nutrients and low in fat because meat is used as a condiment, much in the way that Chinese use it, vegetables and grains are really the centerpiece of this type of Italian cooking.
So what is in my pantry? Things that can make a quick meal. When I plan my meals for the week I don’t think about rotating different types of meat.  I think about which grain will we have tonight. So, I tend to have on hand: different whole grain pastas, brown rice, quinoa, barley, polenta and potatoes. To work with these grains I keep: jarred tomato sauce, jarred Asian sauces like: Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer, they also have a really good lemongrass sauce. You can pour these over any fish or meat, make a grain and a veggie - and you got a delicious ethic meal.
I also keep cans of tuna, beans, and olives, along with some pickled vegetables. Any of these items or all of them can be mixed together with pasta or rice for a yummy quick meal.
In my refrigerator I usually always have celery and carrots, along with onions  these three ingredients are the foundation for most soups and stews. In France these vegetables are called, Mirepoix, they are viewed as the French Holy Trinity.  Of course, as an Italian, I have garlic on hand too. And staples like: cheese, eggs, and milk. (Keep some Parmalat non-perisable milk on hand, in case you run out.)
In my freezer I keep: hormone free chicken tenders or breasts, uncooked peeled shrimp, fish sticks, meatballs, sausage (either pork or chicken) veggie burgers and buns, along with a loaf of bread in case we run out. The vegetables I have frozen are peas, spinach, and green beans, plus a stir fry veggie mix. I also keep some frozen corn, which is a grain, I think the dish succotash is at fault for confusing this grain for being a vegetable in American’s mines. 
From just what I have on hand I can make a week’s worth of dishes. I don’t usually do this. I usually pick one new recipe a week and buy the ingredients for that dish then see what leftovers I have too, but if I was forced to cook from my pantry this week here is what I would probably make: (Because my pantry is well stocked. I rarely have to make emergency trips to the grocery store which are time consuming and waste gas.)
Sunday: Tuna, olives, and tomato sauce over pasta. (If mixing a can of tuna fish into tomato sauce sounds strange to you, trust me, it is really delicious. This a cheap version of a classic Sicilian dish. If you add a jar of capers it would be truly authentic.  This is such an easy, refrigerator free meal we often make this dish on camping trips. 
Monday: Chicken tenders with curry sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans.
Tuesday: White beans, spinach, tons of garlic sautéed together over polenta.
Wednesday: Stir fry veggies, shrimp, soy sauce, garlic and ginger over brown rice.
Thursday: Veggie burgers, salad, pickles.
Friday: Chicken noodle soup with onions, carrots, celery. (Freeze some of this for another dinner) 
Saturday: Frittata with leftover vegetables and cheese served with rustic bread.

copyright 2012

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Foodie Friday: Breaded Shrimp with Escarole and White Beans


shrimp escarole and beans
 Breaded Shrimp Escarole & Beans copyright 2012

Do you still have the leftover escarole from last week’s egg drop soup? Well, if you do I had originally said to sauté it with some white beans and put it over pasta.This is still an option. Though I was fishing around in my freezer and noticed a bag of shrimp. So, I decided to use the escarole for a shrimp dish. Shrimp is a great fish to keep frozen. It doesn’t taste mealy like some fish can when you thaw it out. Also, it is very versatile; shrimp can be added to rice and pasta dishes. You can make salad with it, and of course, it makes a great appetizer. 
Breaded Shrimp with Escarole and White Beans

by Diane Balch
25 minutes serves 4
6 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Italian bread crumbs can use Aleia's gluten-free bread crumbs
1 tbs dried rosemary or oregano 
1 pound medium peeled and deveined shrimp (thaw if frozen)
dash or more cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic minced
1 19 ounce can of Cannellini beans (or any white bean) 
1/2 - full head of escarole, chopped
Optional: splash of white wine
  1. Heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Mix 3 Tlbs. of olive oil with bread crumbs, rosemary, and cayenne.
  3. Add shrimp to bread crumb mixture. 
  4. Spread out shrimp mixture in large baking dish.
  5. Bake shrimp for 10 minutes or until bread crumbs start to brown and shrimp becomes opaque.
  6. While shrimp is cooking heat 3 Tlbs. of olive oil with garlic in a medium skillet. Do not brown garlic. Add escarole, salt and pepper. 
  7. When escarole wilts add cannellini beans and water directly from the can.
  8. (Optional: add splash of white wine) bring to a boil and remove from heat.
  9. Serve with shrimp on top of escarole/beans.
  10. Serve with any grain or potatoes.  (brown rice is my favorite, along with a side salad of tomatoes with red onions)
This recipe is part of a new "Foodie Friday" link with Adelina from the blog Home Maid Simple . Click on and check out the other recipes listed below. Feel free to add a recipe. Enjoy!

Copyright 2012 
http://verygoodrecipes.com/italia
fishItalian

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Simple Organizing: Go With the Flow: Organizing to Your Daily Routine




wall calendar
 Daily Routine copyright 2012
We tend to lay out our house to look nice, not to flow with our daily rituals. Often we decorate our house as we go a long without forethought. Oh, I bought this item today. “It looks nice here.” or, “I don't really have a space for it, I'll just put it hear for now.” And that is where IT ends up staying because we never find the time to move IT.

  This weekend I want you to step back from your work day routine and really look at what you do when you get up in the morning, come home from work, cook dinner, get ready for the next day, and prepare for sleep.  Be as objective as you can, follow your path through your house, and really think about the flow and placement of the objects in your home. 

   Is this item in a convent spot for what I do with it? Do I waste time every morning looking for my hairbrush or make-up?  When I make coffee in the morning are all the items I use stored together? Are my coffee mugs on the opposite side of the counter that I keep my coffee pot?  

Move your things together, so that they are grouped by activity. The bottom line is: you will only put things away when the place you have designated for them is easy and conveniently located within your normal activity flow. 
   Morning Routine: Group all morning grooming products as closely together as possible in a medicine cabinet or closet. I have labels on baskets that say: hair drying stuff, make-up, medicine, back stock (extra toothbrushes, soap, etc.)
As I get ready in the morning. I pull out a basket, use the items, and then throw them back in to the basket.  No one sees the mess, when you open the closet. You see a neat line of organized and labeled baskets. Occasionally, when I find that it is taking too long to find something, I sort through the items in the basket.

   I discard anything I haven't used in a while, (donate unused items), and then I neatly put everything back in to the basket. The neatness lasts for a little while, usually until I am running late one morning. Hey it’s OK, the basket which is the foundation of the organization is still there. The items may not stay neatly together, but they are still together by catagory. The physical basket itself maintains a neat facade. A neat appearance is always nice to have, and I find it calming too. 
Home from Work/School Routine: When you pull into your driveway, arriving home from your day at work do you stop and get the mail or do you leave it in the box until you see it seeping out, and then go empty it? When you enter your house, do you throw your coat on a chair, lay your pocketbook, briefcase and keys wherever they land? Do you check if the phone has any messages?  Do your kids come in the door and plop their backpacks and jackets on the floor? 

Well, if you don't have a designated place to hang all the items just mentioned; walking into your house each day is creating a disorganized mess. You will either have to deal with the mess later in the day when you should be relaxing; or you will push it aside each day until you can't walk through your hallways anymore, and then you will have to spend a day of your weekend cleaning instead of doing something fun.

Establish homes for every item. If you don't have a closet to hang coats, put up some hooks enough for: backpacks, pocketbooks and briefcases. Place a basket on the table by the door and throw the mail and your keys in it as you walk into the house. 

A solid, consist routine will keep your home organized. The hard part is the initial discipline needed to train yourself and your family to follow the routine. You may have to spend a week standing guard at your door and directing everyone into the routine. Pointing your finger saying, “ Coats over here, bags there.”

A coming home routine can look something like this: pull into driveway, get mail, walk in door, hang coat, put purse and briefcase on a hook. Deposit keys and mail into the basket by the door. Kids enter and hang up coats and backpacks on hooks. (OK, this one may be a fantasy.) They sit down for a snack, while you check their backpacks, immediately reading, discussing and discarding notes each day at the same time.

Next, look through your mail daily. All bills to be paid are place directly into a basket designated for bills. When you sit down to pay them they are all together. No hunting on countertops and no late fees for lost bills. I put all junk mail right into my recycling bin, so it doesn't accumulate on my counters.

Prepare for the next day during this transition time. Insert any notes, etc., into backpacks, pack lunches, write your "to do list" for tomorrow. Now you are ready to prepare dinner.  Refer to the menu plan that you made at the beginning of the week. Because you went grocery shopping for an entire week's worth of dinners, you can switch and choose whatever meal you feel like preparing for that night. It doesn't matter which one you choose, because you have the ingredients on hand for all of your dinners. Though do keep in mind to use the most perishable items first.

After dinner you want to establish a set routine for clean up. Who does the dishes? Who wipes down the table?  If your kids are younger, now is a good time to get them ready for bed.  Again, establish a routine. Clothes go in this hamper, floss before you brush, etc. The same routine, in the same order every day. Sounds BORING, IT IS! But, it is also FREEING. Kids crave consistency and routine, it makes them feel secure knowing what is expect of them, and what will happen next in their day.  

If you tackle each task as it presents itself in the day, things "to do" will not build up. You end up having free time to relax and enjoy, your quiet time or family time. If you don't pick up the mail when you drive past the mailbox, and you don't check backpacks and prep for your next day when you have those items in your hand, you are going to have to backtrack. Backtracking wastes time. Precious time to enjoy with family and friends and precious time to sleep.

   Bedtime Routine: On the topic of sleep, did you know that a 100 years ago people sleep 8-9 ½ hours a night. What has changed? We work longer, we have our kids involved in more activities, our homes are a blaze with bright lights, TV's, and computers are on all evening long.  How can your body relax enough to sleep with this much stimulation? 

   Sleep, unless you are ultra-exhausted does not happen instantaneously. You have to spend up to an hour doing relaxing activities to transition into sleep. The word transition is key. Transition requires time, and because we over fill our schedules and are unorganized, we don't allow for the time in ours and our children's schedule for relaxation.  

You can be physically in need of sleep, but you will not fall asleep until your mind is also relaxed. So, how do you get a good night's sleep?  Establish a bedtime routine that you begin at the same time each night. This routine needs to start a least an hour before you want to fall asleep. Read a book, watch the news, take a bath, talk on the phone with friends, have a conversation with your spouse or kids. 

If you wrote down your “to do list” for the next day earlier, and took care of all the sorting and cleaning that needed to be done when you arrived home, you shouldn't have anything preoccupying your mind.  Preoccupations can cause anxiety that will prevent or disturb sleep.  If you think of something else you need "to do" tomorrow, don't fret about it, just add it to your list.  A “to do list” can be very calming. It presents you with a structure for your next day and insures that you will not forget to do something important. 

To signal to your mind and body that is time to get ready for sleep dim the lights. Some people's bodies are more light sensitive and need to be exposed to less and less artificial light as their bedtime approaches or their bodies will not release the hormones needed to induce sleepiness. Computers, because of how close you sit to the monitor, can be too stimulating to use before bedtime. Also, avoid caffeine after, whatever time in the afternoon that you find it will affect your sleep. You might need to cut off caffeine after 12pm or you might not need to cut it off until 3pm. You should ask yourself on nights you have trouble falling or stay asleep: how much, and at what times did I have caffeine?  

  How do you know if you had enough sleep? When you wake up before your alarm rings and you are refreshed. Keep moving back your bedtime 15 minutes a night until you wake up naturally at the time you need to rise.

Life truly is simpler when you establish routines. You do need to slow down for a moment and step back from your life, and really look at the workings of your day to decide which routines work and which ones do not. With a little tweaking and a lot of determination things can run more smoothly in your life and you can have time to socialize and relax.
copyright 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Simple Living Ideas: Space Heater for Lowering Heating Costs

space heater
space heater tornado copyright 2012
Keep your home heat down low. Use a space heater in the one room you spend most of your day. I use a Vornado air circulating unit. You can set the temperature of the room and because the air is circulated the entire room, not just near the heater, stays warm.







Sunday, January 15, 2012

Simple Living Ideas: The Martha Stewart Syndrome: Your Home Does Not Have to Look Perfect


Photo: http://blog.baerhomedesign.com/2011/01/organized-closet-get-decluttered.html
There are a lot of organizing books on the market that I find quiet intimidating to an unorganized person. These encyclopedic volumes filled with pictures of perfectly color coordinated items, professionally folded, and placed on sparsely filled shelfs may be realistic if you are Martha Stewart,  but the rest of us will never have that much space, no matter how much we par down our belonging.  I think many of these books, as beautiful as they are to look at,  make the task of getting your things together more daunting  because the of implied level of perfection these books project. 
I have told friends over and over again, that I really am a very scattered person who has just created routines that keep my deep seated desire, to just throw everything up in the air, at bay.  Once in a while the mess monster does escape,  and it is OK. Being in control all the time is too stressful, I think it might actually inhibit creativity, or at least stifle spontaneity.  Being basically organized, most of the time relieves stress. So relax, the goal of this blog isn't to have your house look like the cover of House Beautiful. The goal is to devise systems in your home that keep your daily life's routines flowing with out wasting time. My next post “Analyzing your Daily Routine” gets you thinking about how to set up your house so it works well, it may not look “perfect” but you will be more comfortable living in it. 
copyright 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

Italian Egg Drop Soup with Little Meatballs: Foodie Friday:

Italian egg drop soup: simplelivingeating.com


It wasn’t hard for me to decide on what recipe to share with you today. Myself and my whole family have been sick.  My son has been home for a week with the flu and pneumonia, unable to eat anything but soup. So,soup it is... I love making soup for someone sick. I think it is one of the most nurturing, healing dishes you can make, and it is simple.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Simple Living Ideas: Microfiber cloths Swap Paper Towels












 http://candacelylyk.blogspot.com/
Switch from paper towels to microfiber cloths to clean and mop up spills. They are super absorbent, long lasting, and better for the environment. I use Scotch Brite. They are pretty reasonably priced and available in the grocery store.



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Healthy Eating: Weight Control the Simple Way

junkfood on a scale


We in the US, live in a very toxic culture when it comes to food, one that encourages constant snacking and overindulgence of highly processed cheap food. The following is a list of 10 things that I do to keep my weight under control. Ten things may sound like a lot from a blog that promotes simplicity, but remember the bottom line for maintaining or losing weight is consistency, whatever strategy you decide to take resolve to stick with it; and practice mindfulness, paying attention to what you eat.  But please, remember to allow yourself to enjoy your food. There is an old Italian saying, “Life is buttering bread.” Bad eating habits, not food is the enemy.

  • Move through your self judgement. Get it out: I’m fat, I’m lazy, I don’t have the will power to loss weight etc... let it out because you know it’s there lurking in your subconscious mind. Now acknowledge that these are all self-judgements that may or may not be true, but you can move past them. Now listen to your rational mind, and make a choice. Say it, write it: “I chose to be such and such weight. This a healthy weight for my body.”  Be realistic, be honest. Now decide how you are going to achieve this weight. Hopefully, the following ideas will be of use to you. Good luck, and remember - weight that is lost slowly is more likely to stay off
  • Weigh yourself every day at the same time. I do it in the morning before I eat. (You’re usually the lightest then.)  Now visual the weight on the scale moving to your desired weight. Feel the tension of your intent. This is an old creative visualization technique that is really great because it forces you to acknowledge where you are, and helps you to direct your energy toward where you want to go. It is helpful for any change you want to make in your life. Even when you are not trying to loss weight you should weigh yourself daily. You don’t get fat overnight, the pounds accumulate gradually. If you see you are starting to gain weight it is much easier to get a grip on 5 pounds than 15 pounds. 
  • Become a picky eater.The pickier you are about what you eat, the less you will eat. Decide: I only eat real, unprocessed, fresh whole food. Don’t eliminate any food group: you’ll only crave it.  Decide: I can eat anything in moderation.  So, if you want chocolate cake, don’t go to the grocery store and buy an inexpensive artificially full of crap cake and gobble it up while watching TV. Instead, meet a friend at a nice cafe, order a really luscious freshly baked piece of chocolate mousse cake and share it with your friend over a lovely conversation. This way you’ll reduced your calorie intake, eat good cake, and connect with a friend.
  • Don’t keep any trigger foods in your house. A trigger food is a food that you can’t stop eating. Mine is cookies. My husband’s is ice cream. I could stand at my kitchen counter with a bag of cookies and eat the whole thing while I stare at the clock on the wall. My husband eats ice cream like a pregnant woman, right out of the carton, never leaving a scoop of it behind, whether it is a pint or a quart container. When you want to indulge in a trigger food make it an event. Go out and eat a small about of it in public, were you’ll be too embarrassed to over eat it. 
  • Don’t eat directly out of a container. I know it means more dishes to wash, but it is essential that you stick to a serving of an item. So, if you want some potato chips, look at the bag, read the serving size. Count out 9 chips put them into a bowl. Put the bag away. Then sit down at the table and consciously eat and enjoy your snack.
  • Savor your food. Stop reading, typing, surfing the web, watching TV, talking on your cell, etc. while you eat. The only thing OK to do while eating is to socialize with friends and family. Most people will not overeat in front of another person, so if you can do all of your eating in public or with company at home. Once when I was in Florence, Italy in a tiny family restaurant, “Latini” it was called, the owner remarked to me that Americans need to enjoy food more. He said, “The best times you’re gunna have in life are at the dinner table and in bed, so, relax and enjoy!” 
  • If you eat after 8 you’re gunna gain weight. It is not conclusive, but there is research that indicates food is digested better earlier in the day. You also have less self-control later in the day. There is definitely evidence that you are less likely to be overweight if you always eat breakfast, probably because it kick starts your metabolism.  After dinner I usually sip tea or drink water. I think there must be something  good about going to bed with your food digested, so your body can do other things: like regenerate your cells!  Also, if you don’t eat after dinner you will wake up hungry and want to eat breakfast.
  • Drink only 1 to 2 calorie drinks a day.  I drink green tea without sweetener. I also drink a lot of water. At lunch or dinner I may dilute a little juice with seltzer water and make a spritzer. Save your calorie drinks for a nice glass of wine or beer with friends or family. I would not recommend drinking diet sodas. No one knows for sure what  the ingestion of artificial sweeteners and chemicals can have on your health. I don’t think it’s worth the chance. We definitely know that the phosphate in soda is linked to osteoporosis.
  • Eat on a regular schedule.  When you eat regularly, and often, you are less likely to overeat. For me three 400-500 calorie meals and 2 snacks that are not over 200 calories, all eaten before 8pm works best. What and how much to eat depends on your physical size and your activity level. The USDA has a site that can really be helpful in determining the approximate calories you should take in per day.  You can plug in what you eat and it  will tell you what you need to alter in your diet. My husband is enjoying a free app called Myfitnesspal. You can take pictures with your phone of barcodes with it, and it tells you the calories and nutritional information per serving. It also helps you track calories and calculate different activities calorie burn.
  • Exercise Daily: Daily is the key. We inhabit a body. Bodies are designed to move or they become dis-eased and down right achy. I am so used  to walking 20  minutes a day and stretching, that if I sit around like a blob, even for one day, I get stiff and achy. Do not use the excuse that you are tired. Exercise will wake you up. Or the excuse that you are in pain. I went back to the gym 3 days after I broke my wrist. I could only pedal on a stationary bike, but getting my circulation going helped ease the pain. When my lower back hurts, I walk.  Most of the time after the walk the pain has eased. It is not until you move that your brain will  produce endorphins that will relieve your pain. Listen to this old Yankee girl, sometimes you have to push yourself. Just remind yourself that you will feel better AFTER you exercise. So get off your butt right now, and go outside and take a walk! If you can’t leave the building, find the stairwell and climb to the top floor and down to the lobby... and when you go back to your computer you will have more energy, and if not, you know you still burned a few calories. 

It really stinks that as we get older we have to develop  discipline, consistency, and mindfulness about eating and exercise, but it is worth it. The pay off is not just living longer, but enjoying a better quality of life.
copyright 2012

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