All You Need Is The Right Tool – 9 Best Kitchen Tools for Healthy Food Prep

imagesCAI5SIDKOne of the most effective ways to stay on track with a diet is to COOK AT HOME. But there’s more to a healthy kitchen than a well-stocked fridge and a pantry full of pre-portioned snacks.

My husband can fix almost anything. His favorite saying is “all you need is the right tool”. This is true when it comes to cooking healthy too. How you prepare and enjoy your meals matters almost as much as what you’re eating. The following are must-have items that will help turn your kitchen into a weight loss machine:

 

1. Food processor

You can purchase a mini or full-size processor for chopping or shredding vegetables, fresh herbs, and nuts with ease. It will also puree and let you sneak vitamin-rich cauliflower, broccoli, squash, and sweet potatoes into sauces and spreads or even soups. Whip up healthy hummus, pesto, and marinades, too. You can also try a handheld blender; they work well for smoothies.

 

2. Knives

Any smart weight loss program will call for plenty of vegetables, and a sharp knife will make all that cutting, chopping, and slicing much easier. Make sure you have a chef’s knife, a slicer, and a paring/utility knife, plus a sharpener (dull knives make prep work far less enjoyable). Armed with these, you can start your week off with containers full of red pepper strips, celery stalks, carrot sticks, and insert your favorite veggies here ____ for easy snacking. Embrace your inner Top Chef!

 

3. Downsize plates and glasses

Average plate sizes seem to be getting bigger and bigger. The bigger your plate, the more likely you are to load it up with food. Replace your 12-inch dinner plates with 9-inch salad plates, and then fill them up with high-fiber, low-calorie greens and beans plus smaller portions of healthy carbs and meat.

When it comes to glasses, Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers found that individuals pour more of a beverage into short wide glasses versus tall narrow ones http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/.  I always tell people not to drink their calories, but if you want to have a morning OJ or a Friday night cocktail, choose a taller, narrower glass (think Tom Collins instead of rocks). But for water, choose the biggest goblet you can find: Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can help you avoid needless snacking.

 

4. Salad spinner

This kitschy tool lets you simultaneously wash and dry your greens. Spinach and lettuce will last longer if stored dry.

 

5. Mini zip-close bags or small tupperware type containers

Use them to hold individual servings of nuts, dried fruit, granola, cheese, and other easy-to-gobble items. There is nothing worse than mindlessly eating handful after handful right out of the bag, and before you know it consuming 100’s of calories in an otherwise healthy snack.

 

6. Oil mister

These gadgets allow you to add just a spritz of heart-healthy oil without overdosing on fat. Think avocado oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil. Mist veggies prior to roasting them, or add some flavor to salads. You should also keep your pantry stocked with nonstick cooking spray, which allows you to whip up everything from scrambled eggs to chicken breasts without butter or oil.

 

7. Micro plane grater/zester

Use this tool to grate small amounts of flavorful cheese into soups, salads, and more. It will also zest oranges, lemons, and limes which can pack in a lot of flavor without adding any calories.

 

8. Slow cooker

If you don’t like cooking but love coming home to a house that smells delicious, this is the tool for you. I am not a great cook… ask any of my friends, but I can rock a slow cooker. It’s hard to screw up any meal when a crockpot is your tool of choice.  Slow cookers can turn basic ingredients such as chopped vegetables, chicken, broth, and spices into low-fat, down-home comfort food. And if you have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you, you’ll be less likely to open the fridge and mindlessly snack while you wonder, “What should I make for dinner?”

 

9. Spices

A fully stocked spice cabinet lets you add flavorful, calorie-free punches to food. You’ll save on fat and sodium, too. Staples include:

Basil for pasta and veggies

Bay leaves for flavoring stocks, sauces, and stews

Cayenne pepper (red pepper) for a spicy kick

Cinnamon for hot cereals such as oatmeal or in baking

Crushed red pepper flakes to add heat to spaghetti, soups, sauces, marinades, and meats

Cumin for chili or Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern foods

Dill for fish or potatoes; mix with low-fat yogurt or sour cream for a vegetable dip

Garlic powder for any recipe that calls for garlic flavor

Oregano for tomato-based sauces as well as stews and vegetables

Rosemary for lamb, chicken, potatoes, stews, sauces, vegetables, and fresh breads

Rubbed Sage for chicken, turkey, stuffing, and pork chops

Thyme for hearty roasted or baked dishes as well as vegetables

Encourage Fitness — Do As I Say And As I Do

Parents influence kids every day with words and actions, and when mom and dad regularly encourage kids to be active, they help kids to appreciate fitness and have fun along the way.

 

Teaching practical life skills is one of the many roles that parents have. Things like how to brush teeth, how to tell time, how to tie shoes, and research now suggests that another one to add to the list is how to be healthy and active.

 

It’s never too late to start a healthy habit, especially with kids. Kids like to move, and though it is highly unlikely that a child goes from couch potato to Olympian, there are several ways parents can influence their children to exercise.

 

While verbal encouragement or logistical support, such as driving kids to soccer practice, is important, parents’ attitudes about health and fitness and their own patterns of physical activity are equally as important, since kids often follow by example.

 

Being active together has shown to have a significant impact on how kids view exercise, but it often goes down as a child’s age goes up.  Younger children are more likely to want to spend time being active with their parents than teenagers, so there may be a window of opportunity to use it before losing it when it comes to co-activity.

 

And even though the sphere of influence on kids can be far and wide from friends to teachers to Sponge Bob, few are as direct and important as parents .

 

Children are well known for their contrary nature. Tell them to do something, and quite often they will do the opposite. So trying to force children to exercise may not be the best strategy.

 

Every parent has his or her way of approaching life lessons, but the idea with fitness is to get children to appreciate being active, and have a little fun along the way. “Because I said so” may work for putting the dishes away, but encouragement, celebrating small victories, and doing things together can be effective ways to motivate kids to get fit and stay active. And no child wants their brain to turn to mush because of too much television.

 

Whether is it sports, riding bikes, a martial arts class, or walking the dog every night, it is important to consistently present each opportunity in a positive light.  It may take a bit of time and patience, but when children find the fun in being active, fitness can become a part of everyday life.

 

When kids are active at a young age, the habit can last throughout their lifetime, and influencing kids to be active at an early age is no different than teaching them the golden rule or respecting their elders. So it’s time to put fitness right up there with teaching children how to ride a bike and that  there’s no hiding a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.

 

Self-Compassion Keeps Us From Eating The Entire Pie

Learning girth control takes practice, and overindulging during a meal can trigger a downward spiral of unhealthy eating. Unfortunately, part of dieting is falling off the wagon every so often, but depending on how people view themselves, one incident of busting a grub can be the beginning of the end. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Negative self – thoughts may lead to even more pigging out after blowing your diet, as a way to cope with feeling upset about over eating. I sometimes fall into this category, and I call it the “go big or go home syndrome”. This is deciding to eat the entire pie because I think I ruined my diet by eating one slice.

I’m not big on talking about studies, because it seems like there is a study out there for everything and every angle. For every study that says black, there are two more that say white. However, this one is very compelling.

The study (Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly) looked at 84 college women who were asked to participate in research where they had to each eat a donut, and then they were offered one piece of candy. 31% of these women were on a diet, but each group was made up randomly.

After eating the donuts, researchers encouraged self-compassion by telling the first group that even though they may feel guilty, they should not be hard on themselves. Everyone eats unhealthy from time to time, and there is no reason to feel bad. The second group was told nothing, no words of encouragement, nothing.

Both groups were then asked to taste one piece of candy, but the candy bowls were left in the room after the researchers left. Guess which group chowed down on the most candy? The group that was told nothing and given no words of compassion ate more additional pieces of candy. Did they feel like they already blew it, so they might as well really blow it?

Self-compassion can buffer us against negative self-feelings in all sorts of situations. When we are kinder to ourselves by showing self-compassion, we become less self-critical when we blow our diets (or even dealing with other stressful life situations). A little self-love will help us to cope with negative feelings about our weight by NOT gobbling, gorging, and guzzling everything in site. Self-compassion is caring. Caring about making healthy choices not harmful ones. If that doesn’t work, embrace the inner Dalai Lama where self compassion = happiness.

 

The Foolproof Way To Get Back On Track When You Blow Your Diet

I was at the gym today on the treadmill listening to the two guys next to me lament about their ups and downs of weight loss. One of the guys had lost over 100 pounds several different times, which also means that he has gained over 100 pounds several times.

There is nothing as overwhelming as seeing that scale start to creep up. It happens to everyone, but how far you let the creep continue is up to you.

Scale creep happens because of the small, daily decisions, ones that you thought were just a big dinner, or a skipped workout were explained away in your mind as isolated incidents. But they are not. The little things add up, and they can add up fast if you don’t pay attention.

Gaining weight back is a similar path to how you took the weight off. When you lost one or two pounds a week, you made daily accountability decisions and choices that resulted in weight loss. Maybe it was your daily or weekly weigh-in on the scale, maybe it was your big salad for lunch, or pulling out your jeans to see if they fit yet. All of those little changes, those small decisions added up to your weight loss.

Gaining weight back follows a similar pattern. Remember, you didn’t lose the weight in a measured exact way of three pounds per week every week, and you don’t gain it the same way. It usually starts with one little trigger.

The Fourth of July bash and your birthday only a week apart … YIKES. One little trigger, for example an over the top meal: a big steak, baked stuffed potato, a little of the crab appetizer and the chocolate cheesecake, topped with drink after drink in celebration. You feel so lethargic the next day, which I call a food hangover, that you break your normal oatmeal/blueberry morning and you have a cup of coffee and a croissant just to function the next day and curb your food withdrawal.

Since you “messed up” breakfast, you say “screw” it to lunch and have the pizza you’ve been missing. Once you’ve had the pizza for lunch, you think, might has well have the fried chicken for dinner because I’ve totally blown it. What’s one more meal?

Maybe your scale ran out of batteries and you don’t have that accountability that you’ve been so diligent about when you lost weight. You just stop weighing in because you no longer have your scale. Two weeks go by and you’re so scared of seeing what that number will be, you go another week without weighing in. Three weeks turn into four and the pounds continue to pile on.

It can be as simple as wearing comfy sweats for 4 days in a row. They feel so big and roomy, that you eat an extra muffin and you think, wow, I must be doing great because everything still fits! (I’ve done that one myself, many times, then I finally “wake up”, pull up my jeans and say, ughh!!!! What was I thinking!?!??).

It’s all those little decisions, the same daily decisions you made when you were losing weight, that result in adding the pounds back.

The most FOOLPROOF to get back on track is to commit to one good day.

If one good day seems overwhelming , commit to one good meal. Just one. If you have already blown breakfast, then make your lunch your “on track” option … something that will give you energy, make you feel great, and give you the confidence that you can do it. Often, just one positive decision, one good lunch, one good run, can give you the jolt you crave to shake it up and get you back on the track of losing the weight. You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there. Get out of the water and get back on track!

Exercise Expectations

What You Can Expect From Exercise

The Shrot Term Benefit (right after you finish): Exercise works on the part of the brain that determines what kind of mood you’re in. No matter how rotten you feel when you start out, a good run, swim, bike ride, or walk can change that mood. If you’re already feeling good, you’ll even feel better.

The Long Term Benefit: After a few weeks your body will be firmer and more flexible. Your pulse will be slower when you’re not working out; a sign that your heart is working at a healthier pace. You’ll look better and the difference will start to show in your shape and how you carry yourself.
 
 What You Can’t Expect From Exercise

You can’t expect to look like a super model that  you see in a magazine, television or advertisement. If you went to take voice lessons, you might expect your voice to improve, but you wouldn’t expect to sound like Madonna. The same goes for your shape. You’ll end up with your body –  in shape,  not with the shape of someone else.
 
A Work Out That Works
The word exercise covers a lot of different activities, from walking to weight lifting. The best exercise is any kind that keeps your whole body moving for at least 20 minutes, makes you breathe harder than usual, makes you sweat, and gets your heart beating faster. 

A good exercise routine involves these four things:
Warming up
Conditioning
Cooling down
Stretching

Warming up
Before you begin working out at full force, start slowly by using the same motions you’ll be using when you’re exercising . By starting out easy, your giving your blood time to make its way to your muscles. The blood is fuel for those muscles, and if you don’t give it a chance to get to them, they might poop out on you. 
 
Conditioning
This is when you work your body so much that you feel a difference in your pulse rate and in the way you are breathing. During conditioning, you’re working out the most important muscle of all — your heart. Exercise that increases your pulse rate (makes your heart beat faster) is the kind that has all of the benefits like controlling your appetite and making you feel terrific. People who don’t exercise end up storing much more of what they eat as fat, than people who work out often. The reason for this is that muscles which are in good shape from conditioning use of a lot of energy, and fat uses hardly any energy at all. (Read: you burn more calories)
 
Cooling down
Don’t bring yourself to a sudden stop when you’ve finished your work out. Your body isn’t prepared to quit as quickly as you might be, and a sudden stop could cause cramps, dizziness, or even fainting. Slow to a stop by lightly doing whatever activity you’ve been doing, just at a slower pace.

 
Stretching
This softens and relaxes your muscles, allowing them to handle the extra stress you have put on them during your work out. Well-stretched joints are less likely to strain, or sprain. Even if you only have time for a quick stretch, doing it after your workout is key.
Make the most of your routine by including all four steps, and embrace your inner supermodel.

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