Weight loss is frequently the goal that motivates us to rethink meals, menus, and eating habits. At a certain age — over 45 or 50 — we’re more aware of the importance of a healthy eating plan, as we can no longer deny that without our health, we’re in no position to enjoy a trimmer form much less anything else.
In my cozy household, not only do we grow weary of the old standbys, but changing nutritional priorities offers excellent opportunities to please the palate in new ways. Besides, wouldn’t we all like to decrease the likelihood of certain medical issues if we could — simply by eating right? Isn’t that goal worthy of a small investment in time and attentiveness to what we put in our mouths?
Incidentally, depending on how you make over your menus — even if going with mini-meals and minor shifts — you may find dropping a few pounds to be a pleasant little bonus, as have I after experiencing an extended period of weight loss setbacks.
Healthy Eating Plans?
Yes, some of us are lectured on getting rid of the pounds we put on while raising children or gradually gained during a long marriage. Others of us have loosened our belts after two or three decades concentrating on our careers. And we know that menopause poses challenges for weight loss as well.
Yet shedding excess heft can help us feel more energized, and certainly offers all kinds of health advantages.
By middle age, surely it is just as common to be told by our doctors that we need to examine eating and other lifestyle factors to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, boost our immune systems, and pay attention to our vitamins and minerals — not just the size of our waist bands.
Does this mean saying farewell to all the meals we love? Must it mean depriving our taste buds or going into hock?
Mini-Meal? Meet Mini-Me!
Lately, I’ve been looking to address healthy eating objectives to do with targeted vitamins and minerals, as well as energy level. It’s only natural (as a woman over 50) to pay attention to calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. I also know from past experience that I need to keep B vitamins in mind along with iron. And, let’s not forget those all important Omega-3s and antioxidants.
Some years back, I was struggling with fatigue that I couldn’t seem to kick. There were life events to deal with… divorce, layoff, money worries… At the time, I made sure that my children were eating well, but my own eating habits were dreadful. I worked long hours as a freelancer, slept far too little, stressed far too much, and grabbed whatever I could from the fridge or pantry — just to keep going.
Eventually, it became clear that I suffered from a deficiency in B vitamins. I became more attentive to my own nutritional needs as a result, refocused my eating, and made sure I ate natural sources of B-12 — including (grass-fed) beef and spinach — both of which I love.
What I also discovered (and then forgot, and have since recalled) — I do better with frequent smaller meals throughout the day. Portion control is easier to manage, hunger is less of an issue, and for me… I don’t gain weight. Better still, I tend to lose!
I know, I know… We can’t all do this; it’s one of the advantages of working from a home office. But even in a more traditional workplace, bringing a healthy lunch and snacks can be worth the small investment in time and planning.
Do You Know Your Meal Plan Goals?
These days? My goals are these: Be watchful of bone health, stamina, fight stress-related risks (especially to keep blood pressure low), and yes, work on my mood! (Without my usual exercise routine at present while “reconditioning” my back, I find my mood is negatively impacted. One way to help? The right foods in the right amount!)
When looking to make over your eating for the better — for yourself and your family — it’s important to clarify your objectives. Among the questions you might ask:
- What specifically are you trying to accomplish or change?
- Do you have different needs for each member in the household?
- Have you done your research, including consulting a physician or nutritionist?
- Are there any medical conditions or medications that need to be taken into account, for example allergies or diabetes?
An important disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional; my personal meal planning makeover is straightforward, and what follows is a sampling from that. Do remember the importance of consulting a doctor, especially if you are managing any health conditions or are tackling a significant goal that could be ill advised without proper counsel.
More Considerations in Revisiting Your Eating Habits
As for the first two items in my list above, do remember that you should take into account everyone in the household. For example, if you’re feeding yourself and a spouse, and looking to lower cholesterol, if you’re also feeding three growing teenagers, their needs are not the same as yours.
Moreover, most of us have other practical considerations to manage as well:
- Dietary restrictions and convictions (food allergies, vegan, organic, etc.)
- Time and budget constraints
- Physical and logistical constraints (including access to markets)
- Lifestyle — the need for fast and consistent, as well delicious
Here’s an example. The spirit is willing, but for the time being, I can’t lift much weight and I can’t stand for long periods to chop chop chop. More’s the pity. I adore my soups and they require chopping! So… my mini-meals at present are largely comprised of dishes I can prep in five minutes (really!), rest if need be, then cook in another five to ten minutes, or leave them simmering while they basically cook themselves.
All the more reason for magical foods like beets (so easy to cook and so versatile), along with a few (easy! quick!) recipes to follow here.
Healthy Eating… Recipes!
After a short amount of browsing on the web, I decided to plunge into the pleasures of the potato — the sweet potato, to be exact — while also indulging in my (forgotten?) taste for dark leafy vegetables.
On that first point, I came across a few easy roasted sweet potato recipes, which I modified slightly to suit my more free form culinary tendencies… In other words, I peeled, sliced into smaller pieces, and pulled together everything I like that sounded good to me. My ingredients:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh garlic
- Dijon mustard
- Black pepper
- Herbes de Provence
I diced two cloves of garlic, then tossed them into a bowl with two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard, and a sprinkle of the herbs and spices. I placed the potato slices in, covering all sides with the yummy marinade, and set them on a tray in a 400 degree oven. (This took me two five minute “sessions” — one to peel and wedge the sweets, the next to mix the rosemary-garlic olive oil and get the potatoes into the oven.) I turned the “fries” every 10 to 12 minutes, and they were done in roughly 30.
Potato Power! Sweet!
As for the healthy powers of persuasion in the sweet potato, this source tells us:
One medium sweet potato with the skin provides 4% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium (7% without the skin), and 15% of the potassium (10% without the skin) you need every day.
In addition, on sweet potato calories and more —
A medium sweet potato is a rich source of vitamin A, providing 1096 micrograms of this nutrient. It also contains several other essential nutrients including vitamins B-6, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid, as well as numerous minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
That’s a great deal of power packed into a delicious veggie, don’t you think?
My Marvelous Menus… and Kale!
My marvelous menus? Definitely leaning toward the Mediterranean touch, with lean proteins, a moderate amount of fish, loads of veggies and salads, along with fruit and yogurt.
Kale is another of those wondrously healthy sources of vitamins that I’m newly in love with, and I’ve been adding it (one way or another) to virtually every meal I eat. I mix it with whatever I put into a salad, then drizzle with homemade mustard-lemon-garlic vinaigrette. I garnished my sweet potatoes with my new best friend (the kale), and as you can see, that salad included fresh spinach, Roma tomatoes, barely steamed broccoli, a bit of red onion… Eh voilà!
Incidentally, despite a fairly unforgiving budget, I am able to eat about 70% organic these days and it isn’t breaking the bank. (By way of example, my bag of organic kale cost me about $3.00 and I get three servings out of it, though the bag says 1.5.)
And the nutritional value?
170% of your daily vitamin A, 170% of your daily vitamin C, 15% of your daily calcium. Impressive!
Read for yourself…
Heather’s Recipe for Healthy Stir Fry
Care for another easy, healthy recipe — heavy on the veggies and with a taste of the Mediterranean?
Heather Robinson’s post on cooking for one has several recipes to offer. I especially like this gorgeous stir fry, as I cite from Heather:
Ingredients: broccoli, peppers, onions, garlic, chick peas, tomatoes / tomato sauce; assortment of spices
- Chop broccoli into florets, slice up red peppers, prepare cooked chick peas.
- Sauté all of the above with sliced onion and several cloves of garlic.
- Add more spices than you can shake a stick at (chipotle, cayenne and ancho pepper? Uh, yup)
- Add in enough coulis de tomates to coat.
- (Optionally) top with a blanket of melted emmenthal.
Please note… I say optionally as I try to keep my cheese intake limited (it’s too easy to eat too much!), and I find I don’t miss it.
Do pop by Heather’s place for all kinds of delights…
Heather’s last instruction, which is excellent for reducing stress (for some of us, anyway), especially when you’ve had a long week and find yourself blissfully responsible only for yourself:
Then plop down in front of the most unapologetically girly American movie, because you can.
A little note on Heather’s recipe, particularly as she lives and writes from the south of France, do note the health advantages of eating a Mediterranean diet. And do note the inclusion of many of its ingredients (olive oil, tomatoes, spinach, kale, legumes, peppers) in some of the healthiest food lists around the web.
Sources of Beautiful, Budget-Friendly, Delicious, Healthy Recipes
Clearly, there are hundreds (tens of thousands?) of marvelous recipes you can find on the web, and from those who are experts, which is surely pas moi. I generally tend to cook par le pif — by feel — whether a quick salmon recipe I can pull off in less than 10 minutes or my latest variation of pressure cooker coq au vin.
I encourage you to scout the web for healthy recipes (including desserts), and do remember that we are increasingly advised to
- avoid a diet of too many processed foods (filled with sugar, salt and chemical additives)
- get the best (quality) ingredients we can
- make recipes that can be stored in the fridge or freezer (without preservatives) for many days — less work!
Here are several lists you may find useful. (There are many more. Just Google!)
- Prevention: 12 Foods That Lower Cholesterol
- Everyday Health: 9 Foods That Help or Hurt Anxiety
- Healthline: Foods to Reduce Inflammation
- NHS (UK): Health Benefits of Losing Weight
Any of your favorite healthy eating recipes or sites you’d like to share? Stories of your own transformation from lazy eating habits to healthier ones?
Stop by and see the entire Makeover Series here.
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