Tips for Quick Eats

If you’re anything like me, I realize that I am STARVING and it’s I need to eat dinner asap. My body can’t wait an hour for a casserole to cook! Given this problem, I’ve come up with some pretty creative, easy solutions to get a meal ready to go in less than twenty minutes. Usually, this starts with a good weekly meal prep! I always have some basic staples on hand–easy sources of protein (tuna, eggs, grilled chicken, etc.), greens, and prepped veggies.

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Meal prep–>less stress

Sometimes I divvy up my prepped ingredients in containers for the week for lunches, or I’ll keep it all ready in the fridge to whip up a quick dinner.

When it comes to cooking veggies and protein sources quickly–I have all the tricks! For veggies that take a while to roast or sauté (think cauliflower, winter squash, green beans, etc.) I recommend giving them a quick steam in the microwave! I know, I know. Steamed veggies=soft, flavorless health foods…BUT, if you steam them for half the recommended time then give them a quick roast at 400-425 Fahrenheit to crisp them up–perfection!

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Another trick if your dealing with a veggie that’s particularly tricky to chop like a whole cabbage, cauliflower, or winter squash, simply stick it in the oven whole! Make sure to wash it well then pop it in the oven until it’s slightly soft to the touch. Take it out and let it cool for a bit, then it becomes incredibly easy to chop. After chopping, pop it back in the oven to get that extra crispiness!

What do you do to save time in the kitchen? Do you get hangry and desperate for dinner?

Holidays, Stress, and Coping with the Madness

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While the holidays are often filled with joy, it can be a difficult time for those who have strained relationships with family. Even the healthiest relationships experience added strain from the extra stressors of the holiday season—from frantic travel to financial concerns. This holiday season will likely be especially tense given the recent divisive election. For many with opinions that conflict with the opinions of family members, holiday gatherings and discussions are no longer a source of joy, but rather a source of contention and dread.

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Stress is typically higher than usual during the holidays, and research shows that being aware of our stress can help us cope. This sounds counterintuitive, but low-level stress often puts us into a bad mood without an awareness of why. On the other hand, with somewhat higher stress, we are aware of the added stress and can adequately compensate for its negative effects. We are generally able to self-correct for the effects of a bad mood when reminded of the added stress and its effects.[1]

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According to Dr. Sherryl Goodman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology, we should remember that everyone generally wants to have good, positive experiences, no matter how it may feel in tense moments. Dr. Goodman also cautions that individuals often set unrealistic expectations for family gatherings and special holidays, which can often lead to disappointment and frustration. Most of us fall victim to unrealistic expectations for the holidays; endless holiday movies, nostalgic childhood memories, and the tendency to remember the past as being more positive than it truly was only adds to this problem.[2]

Expectations of the holiday season are important. Low expectations can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, expecting to have a fight with our cousin might influence a negative attitude, which might in turn promote negative discussion leading to a fight. As Dr. Goodman notes, expectations that are too high can lead to disappointment. Bearing this in mind, expectations that are moderately positive are often harbingers of happiness during the holidays. A helpful mantra to keep in mind during the coming weeks comes from a text used in Alcoholics Anonymous and quoted by psychologists alike: The Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference…”[3]

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While The Serenity Prayer does make reference to God, for some people, an alternative interpretation is that the power to grant that serenity is within each of us rather than in God. With this advice in mind, happy holidays! I hope you enjoy this time with loved ones while also practicing plenty of self-care.

References:

1: Tesser, A., & Beach, S. R. (1998). Life events, relationship quality, and depression: an investigation of judgment discontinuity in vivo. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(1), 36.

2: Kennedy, Q., Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2004). The role of motivation in the age-related positivity effect in autobiographical memory. Psychological Science, 15(3), 208-214.

3: Niebuhr, R. (1950). The serenity prayer. The Alcoholics Anonymous Grapevine.

Originally posted: http://www.destinationhealtheu.org/healthemory/holidays-stress-and-coping

Prebiotics: What the Research Says (Part 2)

Prebiotic, not to be confused with probiotic, is a form of fiber that aids in the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics and probiotics work best together because prebiotics extend the life of probiotic bacteria in the body. The majority of prebiotic fiber is made up of carbohydrates that cannot be digested so it stays in the (warning: anatomical terminology ahead) colon and is fermented.

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So where does prebiotic fiber come from? Soybeans, oats, whole grain wheat, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and food additives, such as wheat dextrin, psyllium, acacia gum, inulin, and polydextrose are common sources of prebiotic fiber. Studies have shown that most Americans consume several grams of this fiber every day, although most of us probably do not realize this type of fiber exists. Prebiotic fiber not only increases the efficacy of probiotics in the gut, but it has been shown to enhance immune function. Research on prebiotic fiber is only just beginning, but it shows promising results.

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So where does that leave us? Probiotics have shown incredible health benefits, but how can we effectively and safely get these benefits? If choosing to take a supplement, look for varieties that contain prebiotic fiber, often called fructooligosaccharides (FOS), in addition to live, active strains of bacteria. I have recently started taking a new probiotic supplement from Silver Fern Brand that meets these standards. The supplement has been tested by a third party lab and cites a great deal of literature supporting the supplement’s formulation. I am thrilled to try it out and I will report back after taking the Silver Fern Brand Probiotic for two weeks–I want to make sure I take it long enough to see the true effects!

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Do you take a probiotic supplement? Have you had any results?

Probiotics: What the Research Says (Part 1)

Following news that supplements stocked at reputable stores, such as Target and GNC, are not what they appear to, it seems impossible to know what supplements, vitamins, herbs, and extracts should stay in our medicine cabinets. That brings us to the illusive probiotic; the purported benefits of probiotics were quickly swept up in popular media, but there is no clear consensus on its supplemental effects. Shelves feature endless varieties with combinations of different bacteria strains—leaving us to guess, pick the variety on sale, or simply walk away in frustration.

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Before picking the right brand, it is important to know what a probiotic is. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes probiotics as “organisms and substances which contribute to intestinal microbial balance.” Probiotic bacterium come in a variety of strains. One of the most common strains is Lactobacilli, commonly advertised on fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir.

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Probiotics have been shown to decrease intestinal discomfort, improve blood lipid levels, delay aging, and prevent tumors. These benefits only occur if the probiotic bacteria can survive the acidic pH of the stomach. Thus, about seventy to eighty percent of the probiotics on the market today are not as beneficial as they claim.

Although the benefits of probiotics are supported, the credibility of many supplement brands is not. Supplement makers often combine probiotic strains randomly, without research or reason, and then tout that their brand contains ten probiotic strains, whereas another brand may only contain eight. To us, this sounds promising. More strains must mean increased health benefits, yet the opposite can be true. In certain combinations, probiotics can be antagonistic to one another and there is little research on the benefits of these combinations.

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When Silver Fern Brand contacted me about their new probiotic line, I was intrigued. Their probiotic supplement is unique in the ingredients and, according to my research, sounds promising! The supplement includes prebiotic fiber, which is critical for an efficacious probiotic supplement…learn more about prebiotics and my review of the Silver Fern Brand supplement and probiotic drink mixes in part 2!

Have you tried a probiotic supplement? What do you think of taking supplements?

Finals, Feelings, and What’s to Come

This has been such a hard year–personally, nationally, and globally. I am excited to say goodbye to 2016 and ring in 2017! While the future is uncertain, having a positive outlook and a curiosity of the unknown, rather than fear, I know there will be some element of joy. During these past few weeks I have been finishing up the last of my undergraduate courses, which is absolutely horrifying to me! I vividly remember my first set of finals, and now I am at the end.

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I will still be in school next semester, but I will not be enrolled in any classes and instead will focus on my honors thesis. This means a great deal of change for me, which I find both exciting and terrifying. I will have a great deal of flexibility  and will need to construct my own schedule–a blessing  and a curse. I love having a degree of structure, but I will be grateful to avoid rush hour traffic and get home before 9pm on week nights!

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Given the chaos of the past weeks, I have not posted as much as I like, but I plan to make up for it during the holiday break! I will be playing in the kitchen, trying new products, and truly relaxing a bit.

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For those of you with flexible schedules, how do you organize your day? What are your favorite ways to stay focused?