Every time I hear of a new diet, I sigh in frustration. Diets fail...period. They get you hooked with some weight loss or maybe a lot of weight loss, but in the long run, unless it is a change for life, they will fail. Biologically, our bodies were made to adjust our metabolism according to a bountiful harvest or a food shortage. During a food shortage, like most diets, your body goes into starvation mode and hoards all of the calories that you take in. When there is an abundance of food, your body will adjust your metabolism to burn those calories more efficiently. So say you go on the ever popular no-to-low carbohydrate diet where you eat very few carbs.
Let me preface this by saying that I am all for limiting refined or simple sugars in your daily living. We eat 100% whole grain breads, cereal, pasta, rice, etc. for the most part, and we limit ourselves to one sugary item per day. For example, if my kids had a cookie for lunch at school, they get fruit for dessert that night.
Back to the diet, if you go on this diet, and you start limiting things that you will eventually put back in your diet, the diet will fail you because you have not made a life style change. Limiting calories in any form will make you lose weight, but when you add those calories back in, most of the time, unless you are burning them off with exercise, the weight will come back plus some. Remember the starvation mode, your body thinks that it has been in starvation mode, so it packs on the weight in case you go into starvation mode again. It is our amazing ability to survive that takes many people on a roller coaster ride when dieting.
What I advise instead are life style changes, permanent things that you can manage for life. For example, I think everyone should know how to read a food label. I know that most of you reading this probably do, but do your kids? Do they know what protein is? Do they know why vitamins and minerals are important? Do they understand why they should try to limit sugar in all of its many forms, i.e. high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, glucose syrup? I think they should be taught this early in school, but I know my kids aren't learning this in school. It falls to us to educate ourselves and to share it with our kids. Tori and Brendan can read a food label and tell me if that food is healthy or not. They don't always make the right choices, but my hope is that I am setting them up for a life time of conscientious eating.
Tips of the day:
Tip #1: teach your kids how to read and understand a food label. When you are at the grocery store, and they want something, like a sugar packed cereal, have them look at the label, or read the label to them depending on age, and tell you if it is good for them.
Tip # 2: Don't diet! Make life style changes that you can stick to.
Tip # 3: You hear it all the time, but get active. If all you can make time for is a 20 minute bicycle ride with the kids, do it! When I started exercising regularly (3 to 5 times a week) 2 and 1/2 years ago, I started with ten minutes a day. When I was able to increase the time, it was an accomplishment, and that kept me going. If I had made myself start at 30 minutes, it might have been too taxing on my body, and I probably would have quit.
Tip #4: When making a soup, stew, casserole, etc., I always finely dice my vegetables. That way it is very hard for them to pick anything out, and they don't get freaked out by anything that I have snuck in.
The following recipe is packed with high quality protein which I think kids do not get enough of, and it is delicious. It takes a little time to chop up the vegetables, but if you can use a chopper thing, like the one Pampered Chef makes that you push up and down on, it makes the chopping a lot easier. There are cheaper ones at other stores too.
Chicken, Sausage and Ham Stew
3 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil, not EVOO
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
2 cups , finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/2 cup 1/2 pound smoked ham, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 lb. dried lentils, soaked in very hot water for 15 minutes
1/2 c. wild rice
Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a deep dish. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking to remove any excess. In a large , heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until evenly browned, about 5 minutes per side, adding more oil if needed. Remove with tongs to a plate. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, celery, carrots and bell peppers, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the ham and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves, and bring to a boil, stirring to deglaze the pan. Return the chicken to the pan and reduce the heat to medium low. Add the drained lentils and the wild rice. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and is very tender, starting to fall from the bones, about 1 hour. Add more water, if necessary for a stew. Take the chicken out, remove the meat from the bone, and shred using two forks. Return the meat to the pot and remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves and serve.
Side note: For even more nutritional value, throw in some washed and chopped greens for the last 30 minutes or so. There is so much flavor in this stew that you can't go wrong sneaking them in there. This makes a lot of stew so freeze what you don't eat, and it will be a great go to meal for a busy week night.