Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out

Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out

One of my favorite things about summer vacation from teaching is that I can catch up on many of my other passions:  organizing, reading, planning and writing.

Keeping my house is one of my greatest joys.  I get very excited about my “Spring Cleaning” and I often get carried away.

For example, I decided to take a break and write–as I am doing now about what I am taking a break from–cleaning out the closet.

I pride myself on all the decluttering I have already done and yet–how did this closet get away?  I have taken out so much from this closet that I am surprised how much actually fits in there!

I will be organizing and reorganizing some things this summer, I will be meal prepping and keeping my healthy meals schedule and reading and writing and planning for the next school year.

As much as I say I will not do all these things and just enjoy the time off and relax–I don’t think I physically can. I never have.

It confuses me when other people talk about not liking organizing their closets, their homes, their meals etc.  I wonder: “How do these people survive in the world?”

So I am cleaning up and cleaning out–yet again–not because my house, or my planner or my routines need it–but because I love to do it.

I love a clean kitchen, an always made bed, an organized pantry.  I enjoy my meal plan calendar and my recipes with my grocery lists all built in.

I love that there is no dust under my furniture–because I move the furniture to clean–and some of my friends think I have gone around the bend.

After a long day at work–during the school year for me, but all year for my husband–it is so nice to come home to a clean organized space.

I like knowing ahead of time what we will be eating and that I have all the ingredients available and that the laundry is done and put away where I can always find it.

There is one drawback to my little obsession.  I often bite off more than I can chew–like I have today–taking everything out of that closet.

Some of these things just need to be reorganized in the bins I have for them, but other things need to be addressed–like all the boxes of picture albums that I am in the process of scanning, to be cataloged, to be saved (electronically) forever.

That is a little project I began a few years ago that I will continue until it is done.  I am trying to capture all those memories before the pictures are irrevocably lost to fading and yellowing.

So, when my little break is over, I will clean up everything and reorganize my things back into the closet except for those boxes of pictures–which I will continue to scan and clean out.

It means something to me very important that this organizing bug is in me. It means that I revisit the items and routines in my life to make sure everything is in its place and that things are in good repair, for when they are needed.

It means that we don’t keep things and routines that are not serving us that can be serving someone else instead.

And ultimately it means that we count our blessings, everyday for all that is wonderful in our lives.

Do you have the summer cleaning bug? Why do you reorganize and how much do you enjoy it?  Comment below or send me an email with your thoughts @ emptynestsavvy@gmail.com.

Have a productive day!

My Morning Coffee

My Morning Coffee

I have been drinking coffee since my early teenage years.  Since I am now 50 that has been…well, a long time.

Depending on who you ask coffee can be good for you or coffee is very bad for you.  Like with anything else, I say that it depends.

If you drink 12 cups of coffee a day then I think it is safe to say that the coffee habit is probably bad for you.

But if you have one or two cups of coffee a day, my thought is that it’s probably okay.  

The older I get the more true the saying is that most things in moderation won’t hurt you.

There are benefits to coffee, most coming from the little jolt of caffeine that coffee offers. Caffeine helps stimulate metabolism, increase our wakefulness and give our brains a little shot of alertness.

The drawbacks of drinking coffee, even if you drink it in moderation, is not the coffee itself but all the things we add to the coffee: Sugar, creams, milk, non dairy creamer, and flavor shots to name a few all add calories, unnecessary fats and in some cases artificial flavors, colors and chemicals.

While my years of coffee drinking have not always been with the best cups of coffee–when you know better, you do better.

But for over 30 years I had a “cafe con leche” each morning.  This consisted of a full cup of whole milk, warmed on the stove or microwave, a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee and 2 teaspoons of sugar.

This, of course, was creamy and delicious and gave me quite a jolt in the morning followed by a sugar crash a few hours later. Not good–but I’ve made the change.

Here are my two recipes for a healthy cuppa:

Expressive Espresso

Brew a 8 oz  pot of espresso coffee (my favorite brand is Cafe Bustelo) and add 1 stevia packet to sweeten.  Makes 4 2oz servings–sometimes I refrigerate any extra servings for the next day–just warm in the microwave. I can only have 2oz at a time–espresso really packs a punch!

American Brew

I like a mild columbian roast made in a traditional coffee pot.  Stevia to sweeten to taste, usually 1 packet. I only drink one cup, so unless others want coffee also, I make the smallest amount possible.

If a regular roast is not available or I am in a hurry I just put a coffee cup of water in the microwave and heat about 1 and ½ minutes.  Once hot, I add one teaspoon of instant coffee and ½ stevia packet and I’m done.

Easy…and no added stuff that masks the taste or changes the number of calories.  

So I hope, like me, that you are enjoying a cup of coffee when the mood strikes you and that you don’t let others decide for you what is good or bad for YOU.  

While most of us are learning and trying to live a more healthy life that does not mean–that with the proper information–we can’t make decisions for ourselves.

Enjoy your cuppa and have a great week!

Reach out with a comment about My Morning Coffee or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

 

The First Day of Summer

The First Day of Summer

Today is the first day of summer–not the first day of official summer–but really the first day of my summer…

When I am not blogging and researching and trying to figure out nutrition I am also a teacher.

Of small human beings.  Well at least, younger human beings…most of my students by the end of the year are taller than me.

So today I celebrate the last 182 school days–and all the accomplishments my younger humans and I have made!

My kids have learned all kinds of US History, some have learned to say please and thank you, and others have embraced the idea that they can be anything they want to be if they are willing to work for it.

More importantly, my kids taught me all kinds of things as well. And for that I am grateful.

The year was excruciatingly long as school years can be and at the same time surprisingly short.

We taught and learned through an eclipse, a mega moon, Hurricane Harvey, a snowstorm this area has not seen in 10 years, and an early heat wave followed by the last frost of the season.

We call all that normal Texas weather–never predictable–just like each school year.

For today, I am setting aside lesson plans, nutrition plans, craft projects, decluttering ideas and meal prepping.

Because today is the first day of summer–for me and for my students.

I’m just going to enjoy today!  Let the summer begin!

 

The Skinny on Fats

The Skinny on Fats

The advertisers and marketers in our society have gone to great lengths to convince us that fats are bad for us to eat. Some of them are and some are not.

By scaring us into believing that all fats are bad–we buy into (and literally buy) all the fat free, light and trans fat stuff they advertise as healthy. First we need to understand what fats really are.  I thought I knew, but once again, I was wrong.

Like with everything else, there are the goods and the bads….

Bad fats are saturated fats that the body has a harder time breaking down. They are usually stored by the body (as fat) and can usually be found in processed foods. These fats can cause cholesterol levels to go up and can put us as a higher risk of cancer, inflammatory diseases and heart disease.

But guess what?  While saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats and trans fat are very very bad for us–most cholesterol problems come from the processed sugar in our diets! Again from all the processed foods we eat.

That does not mean that I am recommending you eat saturated fats and stay away from sugar–I am recommending you stay away from processed foods as much as possible, because it has both!

The good fats though are very important to our bodies and we need them for the proper functioning of our bodies.  The goods can be found in meats, eggs (yes the yolks), and believe it or not the fat on pork.

Bacon lovers you can rejoice! Just make sure to find the best options for the good fat products that are available to you, for example, grass fed meat over corn fed.

Other good fats include avocados, walnuts, salmon, and cooking with extra virgin olive oil are another good source of the good fats that help our bodies.

So to make this completely confusing–if you want to lose the fat in your body you actually need to eat a balanced diet with more fat (the good fats).

But here is the really skinny part of fats–in my humble opinion it seems to me that we as a society are making things much harder than it needs to be.  

We drive ourselves crazy trying to find the “best” foods to eat while at the same time wanting the convenience and variety we have now. And there lies the problem.  There is too much of too much!

If we get back to basics and really look to eat as naturally as we can we can still have a great variety of foods that we enjoy without throwing our health to to wind.

When I think about my favorite foods–my mind always goes back to the things I most enjoyed in my childhood:  steak, chicken, rice, ripe tomatoes, fruit, vegetables.

All those things have the protein, the good carbohydrates and the good fats that we need. My mother has always cooked with olive oil or butter–but not in excessive amounts. Our tomatoes were plain or had a little olive oil and vinegar on them.

Rarely was anything deep fried or dripping with thick gravies. We ate modestly and we ate well. I never remember being hungry or unhealthy.

It wasn’t until adulthood and all the convenience of processed foods that my health started to change…and before you know it we spend years chasing back the health we already had and took for granted.

And that is my skinny–I’m getting back to basics.

What are your favorite foods–that may have been considered “bad” that turns out are not so bad?

Comment below or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

 

The Extremes

The Extremes

If you have been following my blog you know that I am on a journey to make my life the best it can be…faster, smarter and better…and hopefully give you ideas for your life as well.

Along this journey I have been examining life have have learned a great deal about myself, others and life in general.

Part of what I am digging into is human nutrition–me being the main human I am examining. I mean really, how can we live our best life if we are sick and tired all the time?

I for one was sick and tired of being sick and tired–so I was ready for the changes I am making and up to now am happy and better for it.

With that said I want to talk about changes–and when they go wrong–and that usually happens when we mere people take things to an extreme.

Most–but of course not all–people make nutritional changes to their diets because they want to lose weight. We realize we cannot continue on the upward trend the scale is making.

So we go on a diet–and we lose weight–and then we go back to our merry lives and we gain it all back and more…so we go on another diet.

I know…I’ve done it this myself and so we conclude that those diets don’t work.  Are the diets to blame? Or the dieters?

In my opinion it is neither. Here is what I mean:  We start a nutritional program and we are committed to it and we lose weight.  Both the program and the person are successful UNTIL we encounter something that doesn’t fit in the program.

Like donuts brought in by a generous coworker, an invitation to a baby shower or a birthday party.  Or Thanksgiving and Christmas come around again–and the diet is broken.

The real reason this happens is because most diet programs and the people following them–yes, including me–take them to an extreme.

If the program calls for no sugar, we try to cut out every drop of sugar in our entire lives. A no carb diet? We kill ourselves making sure we have not one gram of carbohydrates. Low fat? We cut out anything with any kind of fat–even the good fat that our bodies need!

Then there are the fad programs that call for eliminating everything but one component in order to lose weight: The grapefruit diet: only grapefruit; the coffee diet: black coffee 3 times a day! The banana diet–well you get the picture.

These ideas are not sustainable and they are not healthy!

Some can be very dangerous because it changes the functions of the body and can cause major problems–especially if you are seriously cutting back on carbs or not getting enough vitamins and minerals needed for healthy functions.

However, I do believe that all diets or nutritional programs have good ideas that can be used to make lasting change.

And change is the hardest part of all of this.  Instead of going to extremes each one of us needs to find the nutritional program that works for us–stop making excuses and then just make the life changes we need to be healthy and happy.

No extremes, no excuses.  Make your life better–faster and smarter.

Send me your comments on how your nutritional plan is going (or not going!)  or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions! We are all here to share and help each other!

 

Carbs to the Rescue

Carbs to the Rescue

Ah Carbs!  The pleasure trigger of the taste buds and the bain of all the empty calories we consume.

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation as being the worst thing to enter our dietary lives–EVER!

But as with most things the majority of people are getting this wrong. This is mostly because they are not doing the research themselves because they are relying on all the sound bytes they hear…

And while I am just another sound byte–I have at least done my homework.

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our nutritional plan. It is where we get our energy so we can, you know, do stuff.

If we were not getting energy from our food we would feel deflated and tired–all the time–and you would quite literally be unable to function.

If you are trying to lose weight many diets encourage you to cut out carbohydrates–completely.  

Many people grab onto that advice and cut out all carbs!  This does lead to weight loss but very often that weight loss is too much, too fast, can be very dangerous and is not sustainable.

Those diets fail–or I should say the people on those diets fail to reach their goals because they cannot follow the program long term as a lifestyle…I’ll discuss that next time.

Back to carbohydrates–we cannot survive without carbohydrates in our system everyday and this is why:

Carbs come in 3 main categories:

  1. Sugars or simple sugars like glucose, fructose etc. that are basically already broken down for us. These go into our system, give us a little zip of energy and then fizzle out quickly. Because they are simple it takes a lot of them to make us feel “full” or “satisfied” so we eat a lot of them.
  2. Starches are more complex sugars that need to be broken down by our digestive system to create the glucose our bodies need for energy.  So these carbohydrates take longer to break down and give us a slow burn of energy.
  3. Fiber.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body but is needed to aid digestion and to give us a happy gut and happy bathroom experiences. This, as you know, is super important!

When we eat too many carbs, the body can store some of them for future energy and turns them into fat. Not good.

In a nutshell–we need to eat carbohydrates that are complex and whole to provide us with that slow burn and with fiber. Processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in everything else are just empty calories that do not serve us!

The amount of carbohydrates that we need depends on the number of calories you need per day to reach your nutritional goals. I discuss that in a previous post called The Big Mac.

The best carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole fruits, potatoes, legumes and whole grains. It is important though to remember to watch the serving sizes and the preparation of these foods so that we don’t change a good carbohydrate into a fattening dish.

We also don’t want to eat so much of a good thing that we turn it into a bad thing by overloading our bodies with too much sugar–even from whole foods–that is needed in a day.

For people who are currently battling obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease a low carb diet can be life changing. And I think–especially given our current society–that this is important to mention.

And while a low carb diet may come to your rescue–we need to include the proper water intake, exercise and a host of other changes to our habits as a permanent life change for our rescue to be sustainable.

Remember that carbohydrates did not cause our obesity and a host of other health problems.  Our ancestors ate all kinds of carbs and were healthy–and thin!

Our ancestors, though, ate whole foods–not processed foods!  And there is a way to include whole foods and the science of convenience in processed foods to help us achieve both nutritional values and health objectives!!

While I am still digging for the answers–remember to take everything you know and understand to be true with a grain of salt. Do some discovering of yourself and what works best for your body–because no two bodies are alike!

Reach out with a comment or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

Protein Packed

Protein Packed

I am quickly learning that my curiosity about nutrition is very hard work which was not what I expected, but I have always enjoyed a challenge–and a challenge this certainly is.

Learning more about macro nutrients and how they impact the body has been an exciting ride–which I can’t seem to get off of–and today I am full of protein!

Protein is one of the important macro nutrients that we need to have for a healthy diet. Getting the right proteins and in the right amount is the trick.

Where do we get our protein, what are the best types of protein and how much is needed?

First–where do we get our protein?  I thought the easy answer was meat! Beef, chicken and pork are very good sources of protein, but they are not the only sources of high protein.

There is protein in dairy products like eggs, natural cheeses, yogurt, 2% milk, organic milks, and whey and casein protein powders (for protein shakes.)

Proteins can also be found in seafood like Halibut, Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon, Tilapia, Anchovies and Sardines–and in all kinds of beans: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and so on.

I was very surprised at the amount of proteins found in nuts and grains like almonds, walnuts, cashews, oats and brown rice. Who knew? Well, I think many people knew–but I didn’t or I wasn’t really paying attention.

How much protein does each person need?  If we remember that protein is needed to build and repair muscles, organs and our skin then it makes sense that we need a fair amount of that.

For a normally active person of normal weight 25-30% of your daily calories from protein would be a good amount. Once again, math will have to be involved in your plans.

That does not mean that I am advocating going out and having a couple of greasy hamburgers a day! While that may have a lot of protein–it also has a lot of other stuff that is not good for you!

Protein also has some magical powers if you are looking to lose weight. When you increase your protein the body’s metabolism increases–burning more calories faster–at the same time that you are feeling fuller and will then eat less of everything.  Magic.

On top of that, proteins help you build muscle mass, which will keep your metabolism at an optimal level to keep burning calories–even when you sleep!

The most exciting thing I have learned in recent days about proteins is that it helps create enzymes that not only repair muscles–especially after a workout–but it helps repair organ tissues.

There is a great deal of research that is showing that increasing your protein intake–as we get older especially–helps us lower blood pressure, and combat diabetes and since it helps maintain muscle–it keeps us stronger longer.

Can we over do it?  Of course, as with anything else–too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.  There is some evidence–although no real scientific proof yet–that if you have kidney disease, too much protein can be harmful.

But for a healthy person getting the right amount of protein each day can help you stay healthy, maintain a good weight, prevent muscle loss as we get older, and keep our metabolism working at optimal levels.

Most healthy women should have between 45 and 75 grams of protein a day and healthy men should have between 55 and 90 grams of protein a day.  The more active you are–the more protein you should have!

Living our best life is important to living a long healthy life–and being healthy and active is the key!

Think about how you can protein pack your days to a healthier you!

Leave a comment below or contact me on emptynestsavvy@gmail.com!