As soon as you walk through the door, in some homes, the questions start, especially my favorite: What's for dinner?
And just like that, the second shift, an unpaid shift, begins before your shoes are off. "Bringing home the bacon and fry it up in the pan" was a great hook in a 70's commercial, but for home chefs with an 8 or 12 hour work schedules, finding time to prepare a home cooked meal remains challenging. So many food apps exist now that are inexpensive, and can even deliver a meal before you get home.
But with those deliveries, apps and drive-thru meals come some hidden numbers that can be astronomical. Some restaurant meals contain over 1200 calories per meal with more saturated fat, salt and sugar than is needed for a day. The latest food apps and food trucks deliver fully cooked meals in under an hour, give or take, but what else? How much salt, added sugar , food dyes?
For some Americans, most of their sodium intake, — over 75% -- is found in packaged and processed food, and restaurant food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in restaurants, some of us eat an extra 200 calories more per meal.
Now, switch up the chefs. You in the kitchen, with the right ingredients, in the right portions, can help prevent or manage common chronic health diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease. And with time, create a entree on par with most restaurants.
The medicine cabinet may be in the bathroom, but the real command center at home, when it comes to health, is in the kitchen.
Every meal or snack has numbers attached- calories, fat , sodium and sugar content- that hyperlink to these numbers- blood pressure, glucose ,cholesterol, and pounds. A holistic approach to disease prevention or management that includes diet modification and home cooked meals can serve up the necessary numbers for a healthier household that saves money in the household budget ,and maybe, reduces valuable time spent in the physician's office, hospital or emergency room.
The DASH Diet- Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension- , Mediterranean diet, or African Heritage Diet, can help manage or prevent prehypertension, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and some cancers. The MIND Diet- Mediterranean- DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay- may even offer protection against dementia and cognitive impairment with meals filled with berries, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, lean meats, olive oil, nuts and beans.
But who has time to cook?
If you are a foodie that pins recipes, or consumes cable food shows religiously, you make time for home cooked meals. A weekend prepping, labeling , packing , and storing weekly meals neatly in the refrigerator may be part of your weekend routine. If not, personal chefs are just a click away to prep and cook personalized menu selections based on food preferences, allergies, food intolerances or medical conditions. And then there are the subscription meal kits that include recipes, herbs, spices, veggies and in some cases, a meat or seafood selection. And if you like farm fresh and local food, CSA memberships and farmers markets serve up a variety of vegetables, herbs, cooking demonstrations and recipes.
What happens next is easy. Grab a glass a wine ( or herbal tea) , put on some music and relax. Home cooked meals with local and fresh food doesn't have to be stressful.
First, you wash.
The leafy greens need a good rinse and soak to remove the clingy critters that sometimes accompany your veggies from the farm to your kitchen. You never know when you will discover a tiny snail, ladybug ( let them fly away please) or aphid. Not to mention the occasional corn worm clinging on your ear of your bicolor corn.
Flavonoid rich berries need a quick spray of water right before you use them. Rinse off the tomatoes, squash, winter and summer, and bell peppers if they're in season. And before the first bite of your sweet melon from the back of the pickup truck, rinse well under running water. Cantaloupes especially need a rinse because of the unique netting that can harbor Salmonella and other pathogens.
Time to process
Next step for a CSA share , depending on the season, is stripping the leaf from the tough stem , shelling peas, clipping the ends from green beans, shucking corn and , removing skins from the garlic and onions. And then it's time for the rough chop, chiffonade, grating, zesting, mortar and pestling.
Here are some tips to win in the kitchen:
1. Find your prep cook. End the "what's for dinner "questions. If everyone eats, everyone can help with the prep. Children of all ages can do more than take the chicken out of the freezer; they can wash vegetables and dishes. Your resident food critics can shell peas, clip green bean ends ,and remove garlic and onion skins like a pro. Depending on their age, kids can safely cut an onion, crush garlic cloves and peel potatoes.
2. Mise en place. No more " where is the.....? " Everything in its' place, clean, and ready to use. Your designated prep cook can even learn a little French at the same time.
3.Meal Plan. A weekly meal plan shaves off time in the kitchen, grocery store , or even on your smartphone app once you decide what's for dinner before dinnertime You can also keep track of your calories, sodium, sugar, simple carbohydrate and saturated fat intake with a meal plan that includes recipes with nutritional facts.
4. Marinades, Rubs and Sauces. Aji verde, salsa verde, dry rubs, wet rubs, pesto...Prepare and refrigerate these well before you're ready to cook. When it's time to tenderize and/or season meats and vegetables, this part of the recipe is done .
5. Prep, Cook and Freeze. Casseroles and one dish meals are great meals that you can cook and freeze for later . If it's a family favorite, double the recipe, savor some, label and freeze the rest. With a CSA membership, sometimes there's a bounty of one or more vegetables or herbs. You can freeze part of your share for the winter months. Have a surplus of green beans in your CSA share? Blanch, label, and store some in the freezer. Why buy frozen vegetables when you can freeze your own?
6.Communication. This is important. Your prep cook can quickly transform into an executive chef, and improvise a meal or snack with the ingredients needed for your weekly meal plan. Make sure everyone understands that some of the ingredients in the kitchen are for everyone ,and not for just a table for one.
The peach- a symbol of renewal, youth, longevity, and immortality. Summers in Texas were filled with hand cranked ice cream made with rock salt, pound cake, blackberry cobbler , and homemade peach cobblers with a golden lattice crust. Once I moved to Maryland, Aunt June, a chef at a country club in Paris, Texas, baked and sent me home with peach hand pies that filled my carryon bag on return trips to the DMV. Peaches grew with little fuss on a neighbor's tree near my grandparent's house, and thrived in the Texas heat. We took for granted that peach trees blossomed ,and bore fruit with little need for insecticides and fungicides in some parts of Texas. At the end of the summer, peach trees were heavy with enough ripe fruit for Sunday dinner peach cobblers , and for packing Mason jars with a taste of sweetness for the winter months.
Freestone peaches, named because they are easily separated from the hard pit in the center, are sweet , fragrant, some yellow, some white ,and are in season now. Clingstone peaches cling with their last strand of flesh to the pit like cling wrap. If you've ever had peaches from a salad bar, fruit cup or canned peaches from your pantry, chances are you've tasted a clingstone peach.
And then there is the donut peach, also known as a Saturn peach. The peach that looks more like a mini jelly donut with a thumbprint in the center. The unique peach with a bespoke floral perfume that transports you to a spice rack filled with hints of vanilla, and almond essence.
The donut peach is a heirloom peach variety originating in China , ,cultivated and domesticated from its' hairy , small and sour ancestor from China. This pale yellow, less fuzzy, peach variety was introduced to the US in the late 1800's. Once scientists at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experimental Station cultivated and developed a frost tolerant winter hardy variety, the donut peach tree began growing successfully in Zones 5-8, and since the 1990's have slowly populated grocery store shelves and farmers market tables.
Low in calories, with Vitamin C, Vitamin A , complex carbohydrates and fiber, the donut peach is a great snack for a lunchbox, before or after a workout, or even with your morning coffee. And for parents with student athletes, after the first bite into a donut peach, your child may ask for more food in its' original packaging.
This week ,we have organically grown donut peaches in our Nourish Well farm share.
Staying hydrated this time of year keeps the locs lovely, the braids beauteous and your skin glowing. Summer heat and humidity with temperatures near 100 degrees, can take its toll on your skin, and hair causing damage more than skin deep. Eating a variety of ripe veggies and berries lets you eat your water. Ripe, summer fruit is packed with water, and antioxidants like anthocynanins, lycopene, and Vitamin C. All in their natural packaging .
Water is everything in the heat and even in the shade. Your kidneys, those two lima bean shaped organs that put the D in detox, need water to maintain fluid and acid-base balance, regulate blood pressure and electrolytes( sodium, potassium, magnesium and more) and filter waste from meals, meds, and a myriad of other substances. Hydration is self and kidney care, especially during the summer.
Treat yourself this summer. Self care is easier and enjoyable with a plate or bowl filled with summer fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries , blackberries ,blueberries and tomatoes. Even yellow squash is 95% water. Our curated Nourish+Wellness shares bring you a variety of fresh, organically grown vegetables and berries.
Sugar. In. Everything. Not that a little bit of sweetness ,every now and then, is harmful, but the typical American diet is filled with so much sugar, that keeping your added sugar intake less that 50 grams per day , about 12 teaspoons, is considered to be eating clean by some.My ginger beer from the health food store has over 30 grams of sugar which is not too different from the major cola companies. And that pint of butter pecan ice cream hits it out of the park with sugar and cholesterol. Three servings per pint vs 1 pint in one sitting.
Sugar starts and ends the day. A stack of pancakes or waffles soaked in syrup from the school cafeteria or home. Or maybe a bowl of multicolored cereal , a cup of caramel macchiato , a toaster tart, a glass of fruit juice( or blend) or a breakfast bar on the go. Wash lunch down with a can of soda( name brand or artisanal), sweet tea or an energy drink, and maybe the total is over 80 gm of added sugar before dinnertime. Hungry at the mall? . Your favorite cinnamon roll from the food court has 58 grams of added sugar. How many mall miles do you have to walk to burn off those calories?
At the end of the day, most Americans eat about 26 teaspoons of sugar per day.Yet, there is still controversy and always will be, over the role of sugar in increasing obesity rates in the US and other Western countries. Sugar is big business with deep pockets and lots of beneficiaries.
So you won't find the recommended daily amount (RDA) amount for sugar, unlike for fat, carbohydrates and protein, on nutrition labels. The documentary, "Fed Up", explains in detail why sugar is so ingrained in the American diet despite increasing obesity and Type 2 diabetes rates in children and adults. It also exhaustively outlines the long arm of the sugar industry to the White House, Congress and US supported international health organizations like the World Health Organization.
Sugar is king ,queen, the big joker and the whole royal court.
Infant formulas have lactose, found naturally in breast milk, and a drizzle of sucrose, table sugar. One infant soy formula has about almost 2 teaspoons of sugar in an 8 oz serving. After being fed a sugar filled diet since birth, is it any wonder that kids have a sweet tooth and have cavities during their first dental visit. This isn't a brushing or toothpaste issue, this is a hidden sugar issue that would surprise most parents.
When we talk about social determinants of health, food insecurity, especially to fresh food, is a risk factor for common chronic health diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. Inserting grocery stores hasn't increased the daily vegetable and fruit intake in food deserts for a variety of reasons, but that's another discussion. From 2015-2016, according to the CDC, over 30% of Americans were obese- a body mass index of over 30.
Even if you don't appear to be overweight, visceral fat, visible on specialized X-rays, sees it all, hidden fat around the liver, intestines and other abdominal organs. Inside and out, Americans are growing in all the wrong places and eating themselves to medical specialists, hospitals, pharmacies ,bankruptcy and early graves .
National and international health organizations have recommended limiting sugar intake for decades. At the same time, food manufactures have focused on limiting the fat concentrations in their products while heaping on piles of sugar. The World Health Organization recommends that no more that 5 percent of daily calorie intake come from added sugar; that amounts to about 10 grams of added sugar per day for a 2000 calorie diet. The American Heart Association has recommended that 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men is more than enough for daily intake.
So when you step on the scale, remember that since childhood , your risk factors for some cancers and preventable chronic health illnesses health were fueled by sugar, some hidden, some not. From the sucrose or corn syrup solids in your infant formula , to the sugar from your favorite food truck, convenience store , artisanal food vendor, fast food, and vegan establishments , elevated added sugar i ,saturated fat , cholesterol ,and calorie intake are all risk factors for preventable illnesses.
But there is always hope and determination on the road to wellness.Take a look in your cabinets and pantry, read the nutrition labels and learn exactly how much added sugar is in your home and diet. Create a meal from scratch with whole foods. but from our CSA. It takes time to cook but look around, kids can take chicken out of the freezer and wash a bunch of parsley or lettuce. Some kids can even slice a cucumber or create your house salad dressing.
In the end, your bottomline and waistline may improve. Create your own flavored drinks-there are so many herbs, fruit and spices available to flavor your own water without added sugar, caffeine or food dyes. And most of all, read the nutrition labels, especially the added sugar content, and be careful with food products that don't have nutrition labels.
At the beginning and end of the day, it's your health and wellness that matters.
" The medication just makes me crave carbs. "
I've heard this comment for more than a few people on a variety of medications, especially ones living with depression, anxiety and other behavioural health conditions. Because of the weight gain, one friend was thinking of discontinuing one medication in particular. In medical records, in the past hopefully ,health care professionals document this as "patient noncompliance" , without asking why medications are discontinued or understanding each patient's unique needs or breaking points.
Gaining weight was a dealbreaker for my friend, but before the medication was dropped with a quickness, she talked with her physician. And the physician listened and made adjustments to the medication regime. Time will tell if the changes result in the desired effects.
But before the prescription changes, we discussed this mystery "carb craving. The usual suspects are in plastic packaging, usually low in fiber, high in salt , high in sugar ,rich in empty calories that fuel weight gain, displayed near the checkout counter, and leave you hungry 30 minutes later. Not apples, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, kale, collard greens or spinach. Sugar, fiber and starch are all carbohydrates, but fiber rich foods at least keep you sated and satisfied and help keep you hydrated. I recommended keeping a food/mood diary just to get an idea of what foods, how much food , and the most likely time/place that carb consumption takes place. Like eating a pint of ice cream in bed at night while watching or binging your favorite show on a screen. All clues on the weight gain mystery.
But, the fact is, some medications can increase your appetite, affect your metabolism, or absorption of certain compounds. Some medications to treat psychosis, epilepsy,hypertension, Type 2 diabetes,inflammation, depression, and also birth control pills, can cause weight gain. Along with the original diagnosis, weight gain can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension obesity, arthritis,sleep apnea, some cancers, polycystic ovarian syndrome( can lead to infertility) nonalcoholic fatty liver disease( NAFLD), and stroke. No one has time or interest in developing another diagnosis while trying to treat the initial diagnosis.
Ideally, before the prescription is submitted to the pharmacy, healthcare practitioners discuss side effects with patients- especially weight gain- and discuss nutrition and other prevention techniques to mitigate medication side effects. If they don't, ask questions about side effects and discuss them with your physician and your pharmacist before you sign the signature line on the screen.
In some cases, consultation with a registered dietitian can help. Registered dietitians are uniquely qualified to recommend an individualized plan of action that meets your nutritional needs based on your medical history, while also understanding your unique food likes/dislikes. No food should be off limits, to a degree, but a diet that meets your nutritional needs has to take priority over packed ,highly processed, sugared ,and salted foods. In humans, vitamins and minerals don't just create themselves. Unlike goats and their ruminant bacteria that manufacture their own Vitamin, K, C and B vitamins, humans need plants for most of their vitamin needs.
So if you are craving carbs, order from our CSA, we have the carbs you need.