Food Waste: America’s Dirty Little Secret

peppers and veggies

I was cleaning out my fridge yesterday and came upon several fruits and vegetables that had gone bad. I threw them into the compost bin (we are lucky that our progressive city provides curbside compost pickup) feeling terribly guilty. And for good reason. According to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans waste 150,000 tons of food a day, the equivalent of 1 pound per person per day. Those with the healthiest diets, the ones that contain lots of fruits and vegetables, are the worst offenders. That would be me.

Not only is this offensive to the people in this country who struggle with food insecurity, it’s also horrible for the environment. All the water, pesticides, soil and other materials it takes to grow vegetables and raise animals are being wasted at alarming levels. If your city doesn’t provide composting services, and the huge majority doesn’t, all that food waste is going into a landfill which releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.  Hello climate change.

Add to all of this the fact that only 4 of the 10 larges supermarket chains have plans in place to address waste in their own stores, and we have one very big problem.

I wrote over the summer about my plan to make each day of the week unique. On the list  I will add taking stock of our food situation on weekends so that I can plan ahead for the week to use the food that needs to be consumed soon. My husband pulled a Larabar from the back of the pantry for a snack this weekend and it had mold growing all over it. Turns out it expired in 2017. Larabars are expensive and we ended up having to throw away two boxes of them. To say I felt ashamed of that is an understatement. They are a nutritious source of calories and they could have been donated to our local food shelf if we weren’t going to eat them in a timely manner.

Ever since I watched this Oprah episode on food waste way back in 2008 I have thought about the food we waste. Did you know Americans make up just 5 percent of the world’s population but use 25 percent of the world’s energy resources?

I, for one, am just tired of the waste, and I’m ready to make some changes. One thing we do well in our house is eat leftovers. We love them and more often than not we eat at least 75% of the leftovers in our fridge. But I am going to start freezing what we don’t eat instead of finding them in the back of the fridge when it’s unsafe to eat them. I’m going to insist we finish one type of snack food in the pantry before we buy something similar. And I am going to stock back up on these reusable BPA-free GreenBags that I used to use all the time until we ran out. They keep fruits and veggies fresh much longer.

What haven’t I thought about? Is there something you do that helps reduce your household’s food waste? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Summer Intentions

Every time the seasons change, I use it as an opportunity to reevaluate my routines, habits and goals. I’m what I guess you could call a “serial improver”. For example, setting an intention to eat at least six servings a day of fruit and vegetables several years ago has stuck, and I’ve built on that goal to the point where now I’m regularly eating 9+ servings a day.

Some people are part of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp. I am squarely in the other camp. To me, it’s fun and exciting to think about new ways to do things, which is why I obsessively read health and wellness articles and studies. The idea that I can “hack” my health (whether it’s physical or mental) or find new ways to do things like make cooking for my family easier, gets me very excited.

So, I thought I would share what my goals and intentions are for this spring and summer. I would love to hear what yours are, so please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom!

  1. Meditate daily.  This is *always* on my list and I have yet to accomplish a consistent daily practice. And yet, meditating really does benefit me in many ways, such as reduced anxiety, more focus, and better sleep. I love the Headspace app and have been using it for years. With some meditations as short as two or three minutes, there’s really no excuse for not doing it daily.
  2. Blog more consistently. Someone just said to me recently “I really miss your weekly cocktail recipes!” And even though I see the metrics of how many people read my blog each day and I know that I have people logging on from all over the world to read Cultivate Wellness, sometimes I still find it hard to believe. That comment sparked my commitment to be more intentional about my posting schedule.
  3. Add strength training to my weekly routine. I hate it. Like, I really hate it. I have yet to find a way to include it in my workout schedule so that I will actually follow through on a long term basis. Have advice for me? Please share! It’s going on my list, as it always does, because I’m sure that one day I will find a way to do it. It’s very important for people over 40, especially women, to include strength training. Read here for more information on why. One possibility is this 9 Minute Strength Workout.
  4. Stop being the cruise director. This one goes against everything I am. I have been told by lots of friends that one of my strengths is bringing people together and planning new and fun things to do. If a reservation needs making, concert tickets need buying, or trip needs planning, I’m usually the one to step up. I truly do enjoy doing this, but sometimes it feels more like a job than a pleasure. So, I am intentionally going to take a step back from that for the next few months and see what happens. Maybe I’ll free up some energy to strength train 😉

I’m sure I will add more intentions to my list but this seems like a good start. Please comment below with your spring/summer intentions!

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New Year’s in September?

Maybe Some New Goals

This Is 43

birthday-cake-757102_1920

Most years, when I’m on the cusp of a birthday, I have all sorts of goals and ideas swirling around my head for the next year. Read more books, try a new kind of exercise, plan a trip, you get the idea. This year it’s just….blank. It’s not that I don’t have exciting things happening. Namely,  I will finish my Nutrition Consultant program this year (that’s big!). But I made that goal years ago, so it’s not a new one.

This year, though, I’m struggling with getting pumped about any new plans. I’m trying to cut myself some slack, because for the past couple of months I’ve been dealing with a recurrence of mono. Yuck. I’ve been tired, lethargic, and it has been pretty hard to follow through on things that require my brain  (i.e.: school work). Maybe when I’m back to feeling 100% the ideas and excitement will flow.

In the meantime, I’ve turned to some of my friends to ask them for ideas. My friends KK and KC think I should launch a new business after I finish school. My friend Ali thinks I should shoot for running a 10k. More than a few friends have encouraged me to run for office (I need to grow a thicker skin before that is even an option).

So, readers, tell me: what goals do you set each year? What fun or challenging things are you planning on tackling soon? Leave me your thoughts in the comments and maybe we will all get inspired!

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Good, better, best.

Maybe I’ll Finally Stop Multitasking

It’s possible I get distracted very easily. Maybe it’s actually very likely that on any given day, during any given task, I find myself checking texts, emails, Facebook, and Twitter far too often. Then I forget where I am in my task and it takes a while to get back up to speed. How much time am I wasting every day because of this? Probably hours.

I was on Twitter and saw a well known journalist mention the Pomodoro Technique for time management and I was instantly intrigued. So I did some research and decided to put it to the test the next day, when I had set aside a few hours to finish a school project.

It seems so simple and I’m kind of embarrassed that I haven’t used a time management technique in all the years I’ve been going to school and work. Real talk: my time management sucks. Well, it used to, anyway. So, here’s how it works: set a timer for 25 minutes (if that seems too long, start with 15). After the timer goes off, give yourself a five minute break to check email, read Facebook, make a cup of tea or check messages. After your fourth 25 minute work session, give yourself a longer break to take a walk, read a book, or watch a show on Netflix. Repeat repeat repeat as long as you have time.

If you sit down for a chunk of time without any sort of strategy, you might find yourself getting distracted too easily. When you have shorter chunks of time using the Pomodoro Technique, it’s easy to put off returning phone calls, texts or emails because you know you’ll have a reasonable amount of time to tackle those things. This strategy can even be used for household chores. For kids, break it down into five, 10 or 15 minutes depending on their age.

Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you! Maybe your life will be changed for the better! And if you like this post, please feel free to share with with family and friends!

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Under Pressure

stress sign

I walked out of Super Target today having no idea where I parked my car. The parking lot was jammed when I arrived and I snagged the first spot I could, then promptly forgot where. This has sort of been my M.O. lately. Every December I tell myself I’m going to pare back my expectations, and to some extent I have gotten better. But there are still things to take care of! I have so many to-do lists floating around in my head it’s only natural I forget the details, like where I parked my car.

One thing that I’ve decided not to even care about right now is whether my food is organic.  For the most part I buy much of my meat, dairy, and fruit and vegetables organic. I have a growing girl at home and it’s something that’s important to me. I also care about putting less chemicals into the environment. I like supporting smaller farms. All that stuff. And by the way, I also make zero judgements about how anyone else feeds their families.  We all have different things we care about. We all have different ways we allocate our budgets. December is always a time of spending more on groceries because I am cooking for others, making big batches of cookies and quadrupling soup recipes. It’s expensive! So this weekend while shopping with my daughter I just had this lightbulb moment where I decided to Just. Not. Care. Immediately a huge weight lifted and I felt happier. It’s kind of a small thing, but with big benefits. My budget will thank me and my stress levels will go down. (Note: I realize that being able to choose whether to buy organic or not is a privilege, and there are many people who go through every month wondering if there will be enough food on the table. If you are looking for a good charity to support, please consider making a donation to a local food shelf, or to Feeding America.)

So, what will you give yourself a pass on this month? Will you decide that not everything has to be homemade? Or that you’ll use gift bags instead of wrapping paper? How about that you don’t have to Pinterest the sh&% out of every project? If you need permission to let some things go, you are hereby absolved. Pick one or two (or if you’re an overachiever like me, five or six things) that you used to think were super important but upon reflection just really aren’t. I promise the holidays will still be special, perhaps even more so. Because instead of being cranky and tired and overwhelmed, you might find that you are actually enjoying the company of your family and isn’t that really what this whole thing is about?

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Confessional

LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!

 

VEGGIE DUMPLINGS!

veggie dumplings

Thanks to everyone who participated in helping choose the very first recipe I’ll test from the It’s All Good cookbook.  The big winner was Veggie Dumplings followed very closely by Japanese Chicken Meatballs. So no one feels left out, I will make the meatballs next, okay?

I am planning on making the dumpling with my 10.75 year old’s help (she would really want me to tell you she’s ten and three quarters).  She truly is my sous chef.  I started cooking and baking with her when she was about one.  First, she “helped” (i.e.: made a huge mess and caused a lot of havoc but had a great time).  Now she truly helps.  For real.  She reads recipes, measures, chops, cracks eggs, blends, toasts, and can even make some recipes by herself start to finish.  It’s a revelation.  After all the hard work of incorporating her into my kitchen endeavors, even on days when it would be so much easier to do it by myself, she now truly makes cooking and baking easier on me!  It only took about 10 years, but here we are. So anyway, the picture of the dumplings above are what they would look like in my dreams.  The end result will surely be delicious but maybe not so pretty.  Regardless, I will post the real photos of our finished product.

On a separate but related note, I started my classes for my Nutrition Consultant program yesterday.  I am enthralled already by the material so that’s a good sign.  My favorite takeaway from yesterday’s reading was this: “Being in conflict over what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, and with whom to eat may be a greater problem than what to eat, as distress sends a major stress message to the nervous system, inhibiting robust digestive response”. — Ed Bauman.  I find this to be so true.  I know so many people who are on special eating programs, or who just feel really stressed about eating in general.  I think it’s so important to remember that being relaxed about eating, whatever it is you are putting in your mouth, is so important.  Stress surrounding eating just messes up your insides.  I truly believe that when you are relaxed about it, your digestive system works better.  Remember though, I’m no doctor, so if you are on some sort of medically required eating program, you should stick with it and listen to your physician.

Until next time, eat well!

Let’s Take Back Our Health and Vitality!

My name is Melanie.  I am a mom and nutrition enthusiast who gets excited about exploring new ways to nurture my (and my family’s) health, well-being and happiness.  I believe that we can assist our bodies and minds in being their healthiest through the use of:

  • Healthful and nutritious food
  • Exercise
  • Nurturing activities that make us feel good and reduce stress (massage, meditation, yoga and acupuncture are some of my favorites)

This DOESN’T mean I eschew going to the doctor or taking western medications when needed.  I am a firm believer in using knowledge and expertise from both sides.  I am forever on a journey to find a healthy and balanced mix of these two disciplines.

I’m increasingly worried about the state of our health in this country.  Although information and knowledge about the causes of obesity and ill health abounds, the rates of obesity and its accompanying diseases like diabetes and cancer continue to rise.  I love a good juicy burger like the next person, and I don’t believe in full-on deprivation of “fun” foods, but I also firmly believe it’s time to take the reins of control into our own hands and do what’s right for our and our families’ health and our wellness I believe we can cultivate a healthy balance in our lives, one which allows us to enjoy delicious tastes and textures but also guides us in the direction of balance and vitality.

Let’s do this together! I recently embarked on a Nutrition Consultant program through Bauman College.  I cannot wait to share all I learn with you!  We will focus on eating for our overall health, and there will be lots of information on disease prevention, chronic disease management through nutrition, mental health and more.  I will post recipes, ideas, inspiration, studies, articles and anything else I think will help you on your journey towards better health.  Join me, won’t you?