Tag Archives: health

Back to School Refresher

Hi all,

Sorry to have gone on hiatus again. Summer has been crazy around here. Lots of travel, lots of home repairs, lots of cleaning from said home repairs…. My oldest started school this year, and I’ve honestly been looking forward to an enforced schedule to regulate our days.

Many people feel like this time of year is almost like a New Year’s, a time for resetting and making goals. Hopefully, you are trying to get into a groove with menu planning, eating healthy, etc. Here are a few tips that have been helping me lately.

1. Find something you WANT to cook. We all need lots of quick meals in our arsenal. But, I think it is a good idea to find something that you really want to cook/make that maybe takes more time. For example, I recently grew my own sourdough starter. I’ve used it to make bread, waffles, pancakes, and pizza crust. Does it take time? A little, but actually not that much active time. The key was I WANTED to make it. So I didn’t mind the time. Think outside the box: homemade nut butters, jam, curing/smoking meat, bread, sauerkraut. Maybe it is taking time to stock your freezer with items. But think of something you’d be willing to spend time cooking. I bet you’ll find the time.

Sourdough Bread

2. Think through all the food you need when making your grocery shopping lists. Most kids need to take a snack to school. Maybe you’d have a better day if you took a snack with you to work. Make sure you have accounted for these in your shopping. If you don’t buy healthy snacks, they won’t magically make it into bags. It seems like a no brainer, but it’s important to think about it. One box of crackers and one package of string cheese isn’t going to keep you all going for a week.

3. Try to eliminate decision making. Planning a menu can be a lot of work. Try to streamline or simplify where you can. We always eat breakfast for dinner on Wednesdays. Tuesday is leftover night. Maybe every Tuesday can be taco tuesday. Pizza Fridays. Meatless Monday. These systems either remove or simplify the decisions when planning your menu. Help yourself out!

4. Pick one day for a fancy dinner. Our family recently started having a more formal dinner on Sundays. We sit at our nicer table, use a tablecloth, kids get real dishes, use cloth napkins, etc. We are hoping to break out candlesticks. I try to make sure food makes it into serving dishes rather than putting pans on the table. I often try to have a special drink. Taking this time to enjoy food as a family has been great for our relationships. My kids love it and are SLOWLY improving in table manners. And even if the dinner isn’t super complicated, it feels fancy because of our surroundings. Try it!

Hope these three tips help you as you go back to school. I’ve got some fun recipes coming soon!

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Sugary death match: Jelly vs Nutella

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I have a confession to make. I only started eating peanut butter about 4 years ago. That may seem really strange, but it’s true. Hope glimmered in my life back in 2011/2012, and I have since come around. I still am not as big a fan as many people, particularly of peanut butter and chocolate. Which brings us to today’s topic.

We all know the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Most kids love them. Recently, I’ve had more and more mom friends talk about giving their children peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. At first, my nutrition mind screamed, “A chocolate sandwich?” But then I thought for a minute and realized jelly is basically pure sugar. Outside of taste, I wondered if there really is a difference.

Today, I’m breaking down the nutrition for you. Here’s the sandwich: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter (because creamy is not delicious), and 1 tablespoon of grape jelly OR nutella. All nutrients are in grams, except calories. Ready:

Nutrients       Peanut Butter and Jelly             Peanut Butter and Nutella    
Calories 311 355
Carbohydrates           45 42
Sugars 15 14
Fat 10 16
Protein 12 13

To me, these numbers aren’t incredibly different. I have heard parents argue that there is less sugar and more protein in nutella. While that technically is true in the numbers, one gram either way doesn’t get me excited. The biggest difference is really in calories, which also isn’t huge. In the end, it really comes down to what your child will eat. Either is a decent, if not perfect choice. But don’t try to justify that one is better than the other. Just own it for what it is, the sandwich your child prefers. Happy eating and parenting!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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The Science behind Nutrition Advice

People often express frustration at nutrition recommendations since they seem to change over the years. Many years ago, butter was “bad”, so everyone switched to margarine. Then with information about trans fats, people thought margarine was bad. Low fat diets were all the rage, then low carb. Why is it so confusing to determine what foods are good for us?

I read an interesting article recently (here) about the problems with trying to do nutrition research. It highlights many aspects. I think the overall reason is that our diets are so complex. The article mentioned historical studies, such as when it was discovered that oranges and lemons (high in vitamin C) prevented scurvy. This study was done on sailors who consumed a very limited diet. We have so many more foods available today, it is hard to isolate the effects of any one single food or food group.

The diversity in our diet is generally a good thing, so we don’t want to take that away. Having a greater variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and even meats/proteins is excellent, especially across the year.

So can you trust any nutrition research? Yes. How do you know what to believe? Here are my tips:

1) Is it promoting a single food or very narrow food group? Then I would say maybe be skeptical. No one food is going to be a “super food” that will literally change your health. Broad categories such as leafy vegetables, berries, etc, are the types of groups we are looking for.

2) How many studies or people did it look at? A single study is only worth so much. There are “studies” published that combine the results of lots of individual studies. These often show less drastic effects, but are more reliable.

3) Does it make sense? For example, the recent announcement saying a diet high in bacon and red meats increases risk of cancer doesn’t come as a huge shock. We know those are not the best choices to make everyday in our diet. Compare that to a (fictitious) study saying eating half a head of cabbage everyday reduces risk of diabetes by 50%. Why on earth would cabbage (specifically) do that? Who would eat that anyway?

Positive skepticism is the way to approach most scientific research. All of it is testing theories. We just need to sift through to find what makes sense to us.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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