Connect with us

Health

5 Simple Ways To Cook More On Weeknights (Healthier & Save Money!)

Published

on

We all know the value of making our own food, and I think most of us like the idea of having a home cooked meal every night, but despite intellectually understanding the benefits of cooking for ourselves (and starting each week with the best of intentions), many of us often find ourselves reaching for the phone or the microwave when it comes down to actually feeding ourselves after work. And it’s not that we’re all lazy, or undisciplined (though of course that is the case for some). The problem is that we are disorganized, and the unforgivingly rapid pace of modern life rarely accommodates those who fail to plan ahead.

advertisement - learn more

If this sounds like you, or even if you’re someone just looking to enliven your weeknight meals, then the below list should help making real food every night become an (almost) effortless reality. And while the words ‘meal prep’ may send a shudder of anxiety down your spine, I promise: it gets easier with practice. Soon you’ll have a Pinterest-worthy fridge filled with prepped veggies and cooked grains just waiting to be turned into delicious, inventive, and fast meals.

Plan

It all starts with a plan. Creating a weekly menu plan may sound tiring, even restricting, but it is actually the most liberating thing you can do towards realizing your dinnertime goals. Deciding what to make for dinner when you’ve just come home from work and are exhausted, starving, and rushed is no way to cook. It promotes neither creativity nor healthy choices, and it’s certainly not fun, which means you’re more likely to avoid the whole experience the next time it rolls around (which, unless you are superhuman and don’t require food for extended periods of time, will probably be the same time tomorrow night).

Your plan can be as detailed or as cursory as you like, so long as it enables you to organize yourself ahead of time: grocery shopping, meal prep, recipe searching, whatever. This will save you from so much unnecessary stress each night, and allow you to avoid falling into the trap of trying to make healthy choices when you’re feeling desperate. You should be able to come home already knowing what to make for dinner, with everything necessary to prepare it already in your fridge.

It also gives you something to look forward to. You planned your menu, so (presumably) you filled it with things you like to eat, or are excited to try. This really doesn’t need to be a chore — it should be fun! I can’t be the only one who loves scoping out (and drooling over) restaurant menus before I ever enter the building; now you can have that experience every night!

List

Making grocery lists saves you time and money in equal measure.

advertisement - learn more

When you create your menu plan, you should create your grocery list at the same time, seeing what you have on hand already and planning to buy what you don’t. You can also do this backwards, planning a menu based on what’s in your fridge or cupboard.

Either way, writing a list ensures you don’t wander around the grocery store aimlessly, picking up whatever catches your fancy, which often leads to a fridge full of food and you having no idea what to do with all of it — or worse, a cupboard full of junk you bought impulsively. And while I admittedly do love to get my recipe inspiration from the store (or even better, farmer’s market) itself, I still go with a list in hand and an idea of meals I’d like to make during the week, then adjust according to what looks fresh.

Making a list also helps you keep your food costs down, as you only buy what you are planning to use for that week. This eliminates food waste as well, a major problem in North America.

But my favourite part about making a shopping list? It means I probably won’t have to make any last minute trips to the store while I’m in the middle of cooking something — an occurrence which, without a car, is always a major hassle!

Prep

Arguably the most crucial element to eating well during the week, meal prep is the hallmark of organized chefs and efficient home cooks the world over. All you have to do is set aside an hour at some point during the week that is convenient for you; Sunday afternoons always worked best for me, but perhaps you’d rather do it after dinner one night while catching up on your favourite show.

Depending on what you’re making, this probably isn’t going to be a full hour of active cooking time. Meal prep can be as simple as cooking a pot of your favourite grains — maybe you want rice this week, or perhaps you’re craving quinoa — and/or some beans, and steaming a big batch of vegetables. Make yourself a couple of dressings, quick pickle some onions or other veggies if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, and you have yourself the basis for a number of great weeknight meals. When you’re ready to eat just throw in some fresh greens, some nuts or seeds, and protein of your choice, and you’re done! And these same principles can be applied to making your lunches for the week, too.

The other option is to make a large batch of one or two full meals that you can eat throughout the week. A big pot of soup or stew is a timesaving dream, or if your Sunday is particularly free from commitments, why not make a veggie lasagna? The time invested will be worth the joy you feel coming home to an amazing dinner each night.

Either way, the difference between having rice and veggies already cooked in the fridge and having to cook them when you get home from work — plus all the dishes this means you’ll have to do when you’re tired — will be incredible. You get home, you’re hungry, you want dinner now, not an hour from now. Just think about how easy dinner would be this way.

On a related note, every good chef knows the importance of the mise en place, which is the French culinary term for “putting in place,” or in other words, setting up. It means having things ready before you begin to cook — your onions are diced in one bowl, your garlic minced in another, all prepared so you aren’t scrambling about trying to chop and measure while your sautéed veg goes from perfectly caramelized to utterly burnt. While meal prep in the sense that we have established above doesn’t take things quite this far, the concept is the same, and once you begin organizing yourself in this way, you may find yourself investing more time beforehand into making the actual experience of cooking efficient, stress-free, and fun.

Slow Cooker

What could be easier than throwing some things into a pot, turning it on, and coming home several hours later to dinner stewed to perfection? The smell when you walk in the door alone should be enough to convince you to use your slow cooker more often, but the convenience really can’t be beat. You can make all kinds of things in these devices — soups, stews, baked beans, overnight oats — even caramelized onions!

Here’s a list of 10 vegan slow cooker recipes to get you started.

Go Online

Don’t be afraid to try new recipes! The internet has a staggering wealth of resources to draw from — everything from classic recipes to the latest vegan innovations — and offers plenty of how-to videos and tips and tricks to help you along the way. You can also find healthy versions of all your favourite takeout foods, ensuring you don’t feel like you’re missing out on that Thai curry or pasta al forno you love so much just because yore cooking for yourself.

Your own version will probably taste better and be healthier for you, anyway, and you will come to value the sense of accomplishment that comes with trying something new. Plus, once you’ve mastered that difficult recipe, having learned about new ingredients and spices in the process, you can show off what you’ve learned to your friends and family. Master your fear of trying something new and going outside your comfort zone, and you will be grateful you did so.

Let the internet inspire you. Whenever I need recipe ideas, I always turn to my favourite blogs; between the often thought-provoking and informative written posts, the stunning visuals, and the creative recipes, today’s blogs are a foodie’s dream come true. Sometimes I browse just for the fun of it, while other times I search for ideas to help me use up whatever leftover veggies are sitting in the fridge. Bought a vegetable you’ve never tried cooking with before? The internet can help!

This is also a great time to catch up with your family. It’s likely you have many treasured memories of your mother cooking for you, or your grandparents, or some other adult in your life. There is always that one dish from your childhood that comforts you from the top of your head down to the tips of your toes, making you feel safe, and warm, and loved.

Whether it’s the soup your mother made for you every time you were sick, or that special bread your grandmother used to bake when you came to visit, food connects us to our heritage, to our family, and to our own past. Why not set up a Skype call with your grandmother one day and learn how to make that borscht, or arancini, or whatever it is that brought a smile to your face as a child? Not only will she appreciate hearing from you and having the opportunity to pass on her significant knowledge and experience, but you will be preserving a part of your culture for future generations to enjoy.

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
Advertisement
advertisement - learn more

Awareness

Organic Certification: What the USDA Organic Label Means

Published

on

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Organic and natural labels mean different things, and various types of labels tells you what percentage of ingredients are actually organic. We'll explore what to look for.

  • Reflect On:

    Do you sometimes buy products thinking they are organic or fully natural based on their wording? Have you later found out that those products aren't natural or organic at all? Read labels more closely at grocery stores to be aware.

Don’t get conned by fraudulent claims of “natural” or “organic.” Learn what to look for, and why it’s important, to ensure you’re getting the quality you are paying for.

The industrial age of the 20th century brought about changing agricultural practices that have generated increasing alarm about the effects of these practices on the environment and health. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, irradiated and genetically altered food and fiber products has created a groundswell of rightful concern. It has led to the growing demand for non-toxic, organic products that many are willing to pay a higher price for to ensure the healthful purity of food and clothing provided for their families.

With such profit opportunities, it’s little wonder that the lucrative organic product market has suffered abuse with so-called “organic” labels being fraudulently placed on products that have not earned the right. As a result of pressure from farming and consumer groups, legislation for the standardization of organic certification was introduced in the 1980s. It has been updated to include more vigorous enforcement and control methods since, with the current standards established in 2002 by the USDA.

The Standards of USDA Organic Certification

Specific standards must be met in order to legally claim a product as USDA certified organic. Organic producers must utilize methods that conserve water, maximize soil health, and reduce air pollution. The specific standards to earn USDA organic certification include:

Free of synthetic chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and additives

Free from irradiation and genetically modified organisms

advertisement - learn more

Agricultural products grown on land that has been free of prohibited substances for a period of three years

Animals used for meat, eggs, milk or other animal products must be exclusively fed foods that are organically grown, may not be given antibiotics or hormones, and must have access to outdoors.

Clean and sanitized harvesting and processing equipment throughout the process from harvest to finished, packaged product

Detailed chain-of-handling records from the field through final sales

Physical separation of certified organic products from non-organic products throughout the process of production

Regular on-site inspections from USDA-approved inspectors to ensure compliance

Understanding the Certified Organic Label

Once the rigorous process of certification has been completed, organic producers may place the USDA certified organic seal on their products. Currently, there are four levels of certified organic products, with a specific definition of the percentage of organic ingredients the final products contains. They are as follows:

• 100% organic: all production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic.

• Organic: at least 95% of the production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.

• Made With Organic Ingredients: at least 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.

• No organic wording or seal: less than 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic and no claims may be made on the front or back of the product.

Manufacturers or producers who knowingly label a product “organic” when it does not meet the USDA standards are subject to fines up to $11,000 per violation.

Why Organic Certification is Important

When you see the official USDA organic certification seal on food, clothing, and bedding products, you can be assured that these products have met the meticulous standards required and are free of chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, and hormones. When you see the USDA certified organic label, you will understand the value of the higher priced organic products as compared to non-organically produced products.

With the current stringent organic certification requirements enforced by regular inspections from USDA accredited agents, the USDA certified organic label has great meaning and importance to the consumer. Look for the label to know that you are getting the quality you are paying for.

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
Continue Reading

Awareness

WHO Finds Global Lack Of Inactivity Rising Especially In Wealthier Countries — What You Can Do

Published

on

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Inactivity is on the rise and it's the cause of a wide range of health concerns. Our population is only becoming more inactive, not less, and it's time to change that.

  • Reflect On:

    There are many factors of our modern world that make us less active. Our jobs, driving rather than walking/biking, too much screen time. What can you do differently to bring more activity into your life? What story stops you from starting?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than a quarter of the entire population on this planet are not getting enough physical exercise, this number has barely improved since 2001. There are many factors that contribute to this, but just how much damage are we doing by failing to be active?

The lack of physical exercise raises the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and various types of cancers.

Interestingly, according to their study published in The Lancet Global Health, higher income countries, such as the UK, were among the least active population. Women were also found to be more sedentary throughout the world, excluding two regions in Asia.

The study looked at self-reported data on activity levels from 358 population based surveys covering 168 countries and included 1.9 million people.

The populations of higher income countries, which include the UK and USA showed an increase in the proportion of inactive people and had actually risen from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2016, in the lower income countries it remained at 16%.

Those who were classified as inactive did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise and around 75 minutes of intense activity per week.

advertisement - learn more

It was found that women were less active than men overall, except for in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and higher-income Western countries. The authors believe that this was caused by a few different factors including extra childcare duties and cultural perspectives that may have made it more difficult for them to exercise.

Why More Inactivity In Wealthier Countries?

According to the researchers, in the wealthier countries, many of the jobs have transitioned to more office or desk jobs, meaning a more sedentary type of lifestyle. On top of that much of the population of these countries drive automobiles or take public transit to and from work which in many cases accounts for a lot of their time.

In the lower income countries, many of the jobs require the people to be more active, are physically demanding and people often have to walk to and from their jobs.

The WHO has had a goal to reduce the global levels of inactivity by 10% by 2025, the authors of the study feel that at the rate we are currently going, this target will be missed.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Regina Guthold said, “Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health.”

Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.”

Co-author, Dr. Fiona Bull added, “Addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity targets and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable.”

According to the WHO,

Exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds

How much?

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
  • break up long periods of sitting with light activity

What is moderate aerobic activity?

  • Walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, volleyball, basketball

What counts as vigorous activity?

  • Jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, football, rugby, skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts

What activities strengthen muscles?

  • lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups, heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling, yoga

What activities are both aerobic and muscle-strengthening?

  • circuit training, aerobics, running, football, rugby, netball, hockey

Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see that the WHO didn’t touch on inactivity due to too much screen time — watching television, Netflix, Facebook scrolling, messaging, texting, browsing etc. Certainly, the increase in screen time plays a roll with the amount of inactivity, especially in the higher income countries. If you are someone who spends too much time staring at a screen, then it is important to consider the above information. Can you limit your screen time and replace it with something active? Or would you consider jumping rope, or rebounding while watching the television? Our health is our greatest wealth and having awareness about an issue is the first way to create change and take responsibility for our lives.

Could you walk or bike to work instead of drive? What about trying a new sport? Could you commit to adding a few hours each week of physical activity? These small decisions could have a profound impact on your health, longevity and overall well-being.

Much Love

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
Continue Reading

Awareness

List Of Products & Brands That Tested Positive For Monsanto’s Glyphosate

Published

on

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Glyphosate is a carcinogenic chemical that can be found in an alarming number of food products. Traces have even been found in companies that employ the "Organic" label.

  • Reflect On:

    Think about what you buy and consume. By voting with your dollar and opting out of foods that contain this chemical, you are telling Monsanto you don't want it. The power lies in the hands of each and every one of us.

Finally, the corporate giant Monsanto, an organization that has hailed itself as the answer to global food shortages and is “working to help farmers grow food more sustainably” has been outed and is currently facing backlash after a near $300 million lawsuit was settled proving that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the roundup herbicide, causes cancer. The company was found guilty of malice and covering up the fact that their most popular product does indeed cause cancer.

On their website, it still states that “Glyphosate has a 40-year history of safe and effective use. In evaluations spanning those four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been that glyphosate can be used safely.” Seems they are still in denial, despite the lawsuit.

This is great news, however, as this story was too big to be kept from the mainstream. Many are starting to wake up to the fact that Monsanto isn’t as safe of a company as they would like you to believe. Despite years of mounting evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic, Monsanto has been able to deny the fact, stating that no products contain a high enough level to pose a risk, failing to acknowledge the cumulative effect within the body.

Americans have applied 1.8 million tons of glyphosate since its introduction in 1974. Worldwide, 9.4 million tons of the chemical have been sprayed onto fields. For comparison, that’s equivalent to the weight of water in more than 2,300 Olympic-size swimming pools. It’s also enough to spray nearly half a pound of Roundup on every cultivated acre of land in the world.” ~Newsweek

Which Foods Have Glyphosate?

The issue is, it can be difficult to know exactly which products are genetically modified, and thus are likely to contain Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide or some form of glyphosate. In the past, a safe bet was to be sure to purchase only organic products; however in recent years even certain brands of organic foods have been compromised as glyphosate has been found in some of these as well. Thanks to WakingTimes for providing this list of foods containing glyphosate:

  • Original Cheerios
  • Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Wheaties
  • Trix
  • Annie’s Gluten Free Bunny Cookies Cocoa & Vanilla
  • Kellog’s Corn Flakes
  • Kellog’s Raisin Bran
  • Kashi Organic Promise
  • Kellog’s Special K
  • Kellog’s Frosted Flakes
  • Cheez-It Original
  • Cheez-It Whole Grain
  • Kashi Soft Bake Cookies, Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Triscuit Crackers
  • Oreo Original
  • Oreo Double Stuf Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
  • Oreo Double Stuf Golden Sandwich Cookies
  • Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips (Frito-Lay)
  • Lay’s: Kettle Cooked Original
  • Doritos: Cool Ranch
  • Fritos (Original) (100% Whole Grain)
  • Goldfish crackers original (Pepperidge Farm)
  • Goldfish crackers colors
  • Goldfish crackers Whole Grain
  • Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies
  • Oatmeal Cookies Gluten Free
  • 365 Organic Golden Round Crackers
  • Back to Nature Crispy Cheddar Crackers
  • Breakfast Cereals as Tested by the Environmental Working Group (2018)
    • Granola
      • Nature’s Path Organic Honey Almond granola
      • Back to Nature Classic Granola
      • Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey, Raisins & Almonds
      • Back to Nature Banana Walnut Granola Clusters
      • Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ‘n Honey
      • KIND Vanilla, Blueberry Clusters with Flax Seeds
    • Instant Oats
      • Giant Instant Oatmeal, Original Flavor
      • Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal, Original
      • Quaker Dinosaur Eggs, Brown Sugar, Instant Oatmeal
      • Great Value Original Instant Oatmeal
      • Umpqua Oats, Maple Pecan
      • Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream
    • Oat Breakfast Cereal
      • Kashi Heart to Heart Organic Honey Toasted cereal
      • Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
      • Lucky Charms
      • Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Original, Cereal
      • Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran oat cereal
    • Snack Bar
      • Cascadian Farm Organic Harvest Berry, granola bar
      • KIND Oats & Honey with Toasted Coconut
      • Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars, Oats ‘n Honey
      • Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip granola bar
      • Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars, Strawberry
    • Whole Oats
      • 365 Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
      • Quaker Steel Cut Oats
      • Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
      • Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats
      • Nature’s Path Organic Old Fashioned Organic Oats
      • Whole Foods Bulk Bin conventional rolled oats
      • Bob’s Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (4 samples tested)
    • Orange Juice Brands as Tested by Moms Across America(2017)
      • Tropicana
      • Minute Maid
      • Stater Bros.
      • Signature Farms
      • Kirkland
    • Ben & Jerry’s Ice Creams
    • Staple Crops as Reported by Friends of the Earth Europe(2013)
      • Soybeans
      • Soybean fodder
      • Cotton seed
      • Maize grain
      • Sorghum
      • Barley straw and fodder Grass hay
      • Lentils
      • Sweetcorn
      • Sugar beet
    • Miscellaneous

 Final Thoughts

The most effective way to avoid glyphosate in your diet is to eat a whole-food plant-based diet, which means limiting your intake of processed foods as much as possible. Look for the “Non-Gmo Verified Project” stamp to ensure your foods do are not genetically modified and thus should not contain glyphosate. The fact of the matter is, the more informed we are in regards to these chemicals, the more power we have over our own health. It’s up to us to take responsibility for our own lives, our bodies and what we are putting inside. Vote with your dollar and avoid GMO’s whenever possible.

advertisement - learn more

Much Love

Free Franco DeNicola Screening: The Shift In Consciousness

We interviewed Franco DeNicola about what is happening with the shift in consciousness. It turned out to be one of the deepest and most important information we pulled out within an interview.

We explored why things are moving a little more slowly with the shift at times, what is stopping certain solutions from coming forward and the important role we all play.

Watch the interview here.
Continue Reading
advertisement - learn more
advertisement - learn more

Video

EL