Healthier habits

by Risley

Here’s an article about the recent announcement re: the carcinogenic properties of red meat and processed red meat. The article dispels the “red meat causes cancer” scare by explaining something many of us in this group have said many times: all things in moderation. A bit of red meat, like a bit of sun or a bit of alcohol, has benefits. A ton of red meat, like a ton of sun or a ton of alcohol — not a good plan.

Red Meat for Health: A Recent WHO/IARC Ruling

What health scare information — real or imagined or later debunked — has changed the way you approach your health? Here are some of the changes we’ve made in our house, some based on actual science (though I’ve already forgotten the details) and some based on overreaction or instinct:

Limited microwave use. Not so recent, actually–we’ve been doing this for many years. As I write this, though, I can’t recall reading a single thing that says microwaves are a health risk. I don’t recall if we read something about this once and I’ve simply forgotten it, or if we came up with this ourselves. It makes sense to me instinctively though, so I avoid them. (Meanwhile, I go through the x-ray scanner at airports quite happily. This is not a post about consistency, evidently!)

Limited processed soy. I read that processed soy is a potential issue, particularly for young girls. Something about hormones in the processed soy, maybe? No memory of it, but I have three young women in the house, two of whom eat a lot of tofu at their mother’s, so I figure our house should be pretty much soy free, to be safe. (I understand certain tofu–extra soft, maybe?–is okay but other kinds aren’t Obviously, I’m not good at remembering details, so I just avoid it all, for the most part).

No more plastic unless it’s BPA-free. Again because of reproductive health, and all the girls running around this house. We do have some of those little IKEA dishes (plastic). I’ve told the kids not to eat hot things in those and not to put them in the microwave. I really should just dump them all, I suppose. Again, I’m not scoring consistency points.

Limited/no lunch meat. Again, the processed meat thing. And a nitrate thing I vaguely recall reading. We used to use those little squares of ham in fried rice, but now we sub in shrimp. Of course, now the go-to sandwich choice around here for kids is PB + Nutella, so I’m not sure this was a true health move.

Michael Pollan’s rules. I still try to keep us following these. Things like, “Don’t eat something with more than 10 ingredients/with ingredients you don’t know/that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize/that comes from the aisles of the grocer rather than the perimeter” etc. One thing I love about The Lady is that her ingredient lists are 90% or more from the perimeter, so I don’t have to think about it much. No idea if they’ve debunked these guidelines but I can’t see how we can go wrong eating mostly produce and avoiding processed food with a ton of chemicals, so I’m sticking with Mike. We’ve taken this to another level over the past half year or so, meaning that we no longer cheat as much. I’d say we cheat 0-5% on groceries and a little more when out. Those numbers used to be far, far higher. I swear I have more energy, particularly in the afternoons. It could be because of something else, but I’ve decided it’s from cutting out sugar and processed food.

Probiotics. One every morning for gut health. Maybe it’s these little guys, or maybe it’s that DH and I have stepped up our workouts quite a bit over the last several months, but he and I have reached a whole new level of lean lately. We had already been following the Pollan guidelines more strictly, so it seems like the final step of adding a probiotic was the game changer.

No more than one drink/day for women. Breast cancer risk if you drink more than one. No idea if this has been debunked or not, but I can think of various other good reasons to stick to one/day, so I’m sticking to it and have warned the girls a trazillion times that they should do the same.

What about you? Have you taken things too far for reasons you can no longer recall, or for reasons that may never have existed in the first place, except in your gut? Or do you figure that all these rules/discoveries/warnings change all the time anyway, so there’s no sense getting too fired up about them, and just stay the course instead, eat/drink what you’ve always consumed, whether in moderation or not, and assume it’ll all be fine?


177 thoughts on “Healthier habits

  1. Ever since I did the 23&Me health analysis, I’m way more interested in issues that I, personally, am susceptible to. I’m not really interested in following health rules that apply to people with a different genetic makeup.

    So should DH continue to follow his doctor’s advice about taking krill oil every day? I dunno. I am really going to be interested in all the stuff that gets uncovered as genetic medicine progresses.

  2. That “perimeter of the store/middle of the store” has always seemed like the ultimate in smug self-satisfaction to me. If not from the middle of the store, where am I supposed to get even basic staples like oil and vinegar, canned diced tomatoes, oats, cocoa powder, tortillas, chicken and beef stock, and on and on?

  3. I’m actually around (mostly) today so will look forward to seeing the responses. Reading this now, I realize I’ve left out a huge one: buying organic food. We’ve debated this one a bit here, I think, but DH and I are still firmly of the notion that because so few veggies have a peel, we should buy the organic ones. There’s also a significant taste factor, imho, but our biggest concern is the sprays. We buy (hormone free) organic milk, too, and all the hormone-free, cage-free, free range, had-lots-of-friends-and-a-sunny-spot-in-the-field eggs and chicken, fish. Of all the things we do, this is the one with the greatest cost, I’d say. And perhaps it’s a wasted cost, not unlike my financial planner. But it makes me feel better. The organic things we get here tend to be locally grown too, so it’s a double feel-good grocery trip. :)

  4. Milo! You’re supposed to be making stock from scratch and dicing your own tomatoes. Section 325A in the Totebag manual. What’s next from you, frozen vegetables?

  5. Milo – oh, all the stuff you list has to come from the middle, of course. Pollan’s point is merely that your meals should for the most part be made up of the things from the perimeter. So, produce and proteins cooked w/ oil and spices and fruit for dessert, etc versus frozen pizza with boxed brownies for dessert.

  6. I’ll add Kettle Chips, Oreos, and beer/wine to Milo’s list of goodness to be found in the middle of the store. However, WF stocks wine/beer on the perimeter, so you can stick to your “perimeter of the store” rule, and still get your craft brew.

  7. “So, produce and proteins cooked w/ oil and spices and fruit for dessert, etc versus frozen pizza with boxed brownies for dessert.”

    Yeah, Pollan can go suck it. As if there’s any real reason to believe that “produce and proteins cooked with oil and spices” is really going to be any healthier than a few slices of the California Pizza Kitchen BBQ chicken frozen pizza.

  8. Gary Taubes’ book Why We Get Fat (and its even more scientifically dense sibling, Good Calorie Bad Calorie) was incredibly eye opening for me, particularly with regard to how far apart science and public policy have been. Really fascinating.

  9. Hypertension and cholesterol are my concerns.

    I like to think I / we have made some positive moves to address these concerns, but things are limited at best. In addition to being very diligent about serious exercise 4-5x/wk, including resistance and cardiovascular some changes we’ve made in no particular order:
    – cutting back on carbs. Probably half of our dinners are carb free. Not eliminating, but a lot of the time now its protein + vegetable + salad.
    – I actually eat some breakfast most mornings. Used to be that I didn’t need anything till at least last morning, but now I find I am hungry enough to eat shortly after getting up and by having breakfast I find I need less through the day.
    – I buy better beer. This is along the lines of “life is too short for frozen pizza.” Not really a health thing, just a taste / enjoyment thing.
    – I do eat a lot less ice cream, my real downfall. When we (that’s I) do buy it, it’s on a weekend run to the store for a few things, not part of the regular mid-week grocery list run.
    – same thing with salami. I live for Molinari, which has to be ordered in to get it here…the closest thing I can get is Columbus which is close, but not the same, so now I eat less of that.
    – A larger share of my diet is fruit / veg than before.
    – I am working very hard to stay upstairs once I retire for the night and to eliminate the wee hour fridge raid. Moderate success recently.
    – smaller portions. I feel myself getting fuller faster and I am more uncomfortable than I used to be when I overeat, so this is actually a pretty easy one.

    Things not done:
    – try as I might, the late night, pre-bedtime snack habit resists modification. Last night was a banana with PB on it, so theoretically healthier than Pepperidge Farm cookies.
    – no special change to proteins or how they are prepared…charcoal grilling is still the best flavor as far as I am concerned, especially for certain things like hot dogs. So that’s now a double-whammy, right?

    Special note to PTM…at our usual grocery store, the beer section is on the perimeter, so I can make myself feel good about buying that.

  10. I have been attending a weekly, hour-long Pilates class. I love it. Even with regular exercising (and particularly after exercising), I seemed to be collecting a few random aches and pains, like my back would hurt after driving for an hour, or getting up from my desk chair after sitting for an hour. Pilates seems to have eliminated that kind of thing entirely.

    I’m the only guy in the class.

  11. Since my battle of the bulge twenty odd years ago, I rarely snack. When I eat, I have to eat something substantial, so a side salad is fine but I just cannot eat a whole salad for lunch or dinner. I try to eat more vegetables and a small serving of meat. If I am at home, I eat a piece of fruit first and then dessert.
    In my family, relatives who got breast cancer ate properly, were active, never smoked – so my feeling is I could do every single thing but yet be struck down with something.

  12. I think we are a very inconsistent family. I “preach” no soft plastics in the microwave, limit processed foods, all things in moderation, and regardless of food “groups” or “pyramids” you need to eat a variety of foods – proteins (meat or meatless), veggies, fruits, and fats – ideally daily, but at least weekly. My partner has no such concerns though I cringe when I see him heat up food in styrofoam for himself. I am not the primary cook, but when I cook I mainly use fresh ingredients, some frozen and a few canned/jarred items (I don’t make salsa from scratch for example).

    I guess because I have heard so many different versions of “THIS” is bad for you, only later for that food to be the “HEALTHIEST” for you that I am not really on any crusade to eliminate anything in the family. We also see how social standards affect our thoughts about food – for example when my mom grew up only poor people ate fried foods, like fried chicken. To this day, she can’t really shake that and rarely eats anything fried.

    As I age, I find that heavy consumption carbohydrates from bread, rice, pasta, etc. and sweets (ice cream, cookies, candy) make it harder for me to maintain a healthy weight. I eat these more sparingly, but don’t restrict others in my household.

  13. Fred – My understanding is that there is absolutely nothing wrong (or carcinogenic) with wood smoke, which is what charcoal grilling is. The potential downside and area of confusion is from eating burned animal proteins. So cooking with charcoal is fine, as long as you don’t burn the meat. Similarly, burning meat on a gas grill or even in a skillet on the stove is equally bad, but the charcoal has nothing to do with it.

  14. Austin – DH and I also limit our own carb consumption b/c we swear it makes us feel worse, but don’t limit it at all for the kids. I think the carb thing is an age thing and I’m all for the kids enjoying things while they can. I actually think some inconsistency w/in the family is good for kids. They can see how different people deal with things and choose their own approach.

  15. There was a big disagreement about rice and coconut milk in our extended family. These are two things that are part of our traditional diet but some extended family members became very opposed to them. Does rice make you fat ? Is coconut milk bad for cholestrol ? How much of these are you consuming ? Are you stiing on the couch or are you as active as the traditional cosumers of these foods are ? What if you eliminate these but have no problem eating WF veggies chips that are fried.

  16. My pet peeve is the “clean” food label which infers that eating anything else is dirty/bad.

    I used to eat lunch meat every day. I have tried to mix it up some. The lunch meat I buy doesn’t have nitrates in it but I don’t know that it’s that much better for you (haven’t cared enough to look into it).

  17. My DH and I have gradually reduced the meat in our diets- already were several meatless days for religious reasons, as well as vegetarian for Lent, so some of those habits have transferred to other days of the week. Then I had crazy meat aversions with early pregnancy so I bought it even less. It’s not unusual for me to go 3 days in a row without meat without trying. There’s just a lot of vegetarian/meat-free foods we enjoy, and we save money on our grocery bill. Which leaves money (and calories) to splurge when we do go out for trendy burgers or a nice steak. More of a habit thing than a deliberate health decision- though DH has noticed he maintains his weight more easily this way. Probably because now he orders his lunches from the salad and soup place usually now instead of Mexican.

    I’m also cautious about BPA and plastics, though I don’t keep up with the science.

    We also choose to live in a smaller, older place so that we can be in a walkable neighborhood and have shorter commutes instead of a sparkling new suburban home that’s a drive away from everything.

    I recently read a study that my rare health condition has dramatically better outcomes with maintaining a healthy weight- something like 2% will have a life-threatening episode at a normal BMI, vs. over half who are obese. I’ve never been overweight, but now I have serious motivation to keep my weight from ever creeping up.

  18. Louise: We’ve reduced our consumption of rice and don’t use coconut milk, except on rare occasions. I found that 2% milk with a little bit of corn starch in it is a good substitute for coconut milk.

  19. I consistently exercise but am more relaxed about food. Everything in moderation and am trying to teach decent eating habits to my kids.

  20. My husband and I are eating more healthily than ever, but we get takeout often enough that my kids aren’t consistent. We are sort of metric-obsessed now, competing on steps per day, and monitoring a few health measures at home. We both have colleagues who had heart attacks in their 40s this summer, and my BIL had both a stroke and a heart attack this year at 59. So, we’ve become more consistent on exercise and are making changes. We check the sugar content of everything and try to avoid sugar (except when we don’t). I have red wine instead of white wine about 70% of the time. I don’t keep sweets in the house (except to pack son’s lunch), so wanting dessert requires a trip to the store. We still have dessert sometimes, but it reduced mindless snacking. Like RMS, I am trying to target things that I think are specific risks for us.

  21. I’m sort of like AustinMom, have heard too many iterations of things to be convinced of which is “right.” I still remember Snackwells — and thinking, “dude, you really think a cookie is a health food just because it’s low-fat?” I could say the same thing now about “energy bars” — yeah, I do use them periodically (I tend to like the Atkins ones), but really, are they any better for you than a Snickers? And Snickers really, really tastes better.

    I definitely fall along the Atkins/Taubes end of the spectrum. But I am also fascinated by the same genetic stuff as Rocky. I firmly believe that diets that are “healthy” for some are “unhealthy” for others, based on as-yet unidentified genetic markers. Personally, I lose weight and feel better when I cut carbs (even healthy whole-grain ones), but my mom lives on pasta and veggies out of the garden. When I tried her approach, I gained weight, was hungry all the time, and felt miserable; when she tried an Atkins-type approach, she gained weight and felt bloated and miserable.

    The other book I read that made sense was, believe it or not, “Eat Right for Your Blood Type” — as you might guess, the guy targets specific diets for specific blood types. He approaches it from the theory of blood type X originated during XX era, when human diets were ABC, so there likely would have been an evolutionary advantage for people who could tolerate DEF (note that he’s not alleging there is a direct causal relationship between blood type and appropriate diets; but I wouldn’t be surprised if those two weren’t both related to some underlying genetic link we haven’t yet identified). All I know is that anecdotally, his recommended diets for each blood type are the ones that my mom, my husband, and I all figured out on our own.

    Yeah, ok, there’s my crackpot science contribution for the day.

  22. PTM – ha! Of course, having pets around is another of those things that’s supposed to be good for your health, so you totally score on that one.

  23. “having pets around is another of those things that’s supposed to be good for your health, so you totally score on that one.”

    Naw, Ris. I’m trying to treat Junior more like a human now, so I guess I’m even doing that wrong.

  24. “(I tend to like the Atkins ones), but really, are they any better for you than a Snickers? And Snickers really, really tastes better.”

    A mini Snicker satisfies me a lot more than any healthier snack, and therefore helps restrict subsequent snacking/overeating.

    I never paid close attention to this before recently, but I just bought a set of microwave safe plastic dishes, BPA and Melamine free.

    As I’ve aged, I’ve tried really hard to visit the doctor regularly for things like skin cancer screening, mammograms, and other check ups. I hate going to the doctor, and some of these visits provoke irrational anxiety, but I’m making an effort.

  25. I “feel” better and lose weight both when I eat vegetarian, even if it includes a lot of carbs and if I eat “low carb” even if it includes a lot of fatty red meat. This leads me to believe that it is really just the unintentional effects of eating less overall rather than either carbs or meat being especially “bad” foods. I am skeptical of most everything around the hot diet/nutrient of the day. I eat a variety of foods, don’t eat out too often, etc.

    We do cook a lot, and I buy higher quality ingredients for the taste. I do think that there is something that makes eating a home-cooked, scratch meal better for you than a steady diet of Lean Cuisines or McDonald’s, but I don’t think that HFCS is evil either.

    Overall, I know that my true problem is that the volume of food that I eat overall is too high – that is why I am chubby – not because the mix of food that I eat is terrible for me. I am one that eats everything in front of me without thinking & snacks while cooking.

    I find the “science” around exercise frustrating as well, but basically just try to keep moving and try to get in some more vigorous workouts by keeping up running. My goal is to be healthy & mobile in my older years more than anything else – I see the difference between my Mom & my MIL who are about the same age and I think the main difference in their lifestyles is that Mom has always been more active. Not running marathons, but a lot of walking, swimming, biking, and just general moving around in her free time.

  26. Milo,

    I was thinking of starting yoga. I think I might might sign up today.

    Off topic – if anyone is looking go to Mexico this winter the plane tickets (from Boston at least) are super cheap.

  27. “I see the difference between my Mom & my MIL who are about the same age and I think the main difference in their lifestyles is that Mom has always been more active.”

    This is becoming hugely obvious as our parents enter their ’70s and ’80s (not to mention my soon-to-be-90 Granny). To be completely blunt, the people who were always active are healthy as horses; the people who preferred sedentary pursuits are either dead, in treatment for an incurable disease, or were in treatment for an incurable disease before dying of something completely different.

    My natural inclination is to the sedentary, and I’m getting old enough that with my little extra cushion, it doesn’t take much to get aches and strains and such that always seem to provide a great excuse not to do something. But I know which side of that equation I want to end up on.

  28. I’m either too young or too dumb to care about most of these things. I followed the pregnancy diet rules, but that’s about it.

    We tried the Lady and she was a success in our house (she even got my mom to eat red meat!). Even if we stick with the Lady for a few weeks, it will be worth the money in new recipes. I haven’t gone the organic/free range/hormone free route just yet. Mostly because of cost right now. But we have reduced the amount of meat we eat.

    I would love to get DH to lose the 20 lbs he needs to. I’ve given up on nagging. We have a membership to the Y, and I’m the only one who goes regularly. Granted, I only do some classes, but it’s better than nothing. Now that DS is bigger, I can bring him to the daycare facility there while I go to class.

    Rhett – run, do not walk to yoga. It’s the best thing ever. Between yoga and pilates, my posture is better, and I feel better about myself (plus I’ve started gaining back some of the core strength I lost during pregnancy).

  29. Now that I’m done with pregnancy and nursing, I’m supposed to be getting my weight down to the “low end of normal” to reduce the chances of the hormonally-triggered cancer my relative has.

    I was already in the healthy weight range, but I’ve been sticking to a 1,200 calorie/day (eaten, not net after exercise) for a few months and have another 8 pounds to go. I hate it, but I hate cancer more.

    We got a Waring commercial blender – the poor man’s Vitamix – and I’m trying to make smoothies every day out of fruit and almond milk only.

    Ada, correct me if I’m wrong, but there really isn’t much point on cutting back on soy and hormonally treated meats/dairy if you are still taking hormonally based medications, right? I would think the hormones in the Pill would vastly outnumber whatever you ingest from tofu or BPA. (I’m off all meds, but the relative in question is furious that we still drink normal milk – plastic plates are also an issue.)

    Off to walk several miles and hopefully burn off another ounce or two :)

  30. Rhode – totally second your yoga + Pilates praise. In Jan, still desperate to fix my wonky gait, I backed away from CrossFit. After several sessions/week of Pilates/barre/yoga/V.i.P.R for this year, I’ve never felt better. Agree w/ you on posture for sure, and then there’s flexibility and a lot more. And the smaller weights (or no weights) in those workouts feel so much better than the 1-rep-max stuff in CF. I loved CF, but this kind of thing is way better for me.

  31. LfB – exactly. My grandmother lived past her 95th BD, and in her 80’s she was leading senior exercise classes at Shady Acres. I don’t know that I ever saw her doing anything super strenuous or vigorous, but she was always moving. i remember being in grade school & doing exercise shows with her on PBS, and we always went for lots of walks and bike rides. Maybe it’s genetics as my mom & her sisters are all active in this way & healthier than others their ages. But I am going to take the bet that it is not.

  32. Yeah, but were the old people active in their youth because they were healthier to begin with? Because maybe they had a genetic predisposition to health and activity?

    I know I’ve said this before, but my parents at their own body weight in broccoli daily and exercised moderately and regularly, and Dad still was almost immobilized by arthritis and Mom had some weird undiagnosable neurological problem that affected her balance and gait. I’m not as hopeful as I used to be about diet and exercise.

  33. The one thing I’ve really changed since I was younger is eating whole grains. I try to get whole grain everything– pasta, bread, bagels, tortillas, brown rice. The kids tolerate it, but still consider prefer eating refined carbs.

    More recently, I’ve cut down somewhat on the carbs, and largely eliminated sugary drinks. I used to have a soda maybe 2 to3 times a week; they were always a treat, but often also a source of caffeine– I love Mountain Dew. I’ve mostly replaced that with water, tea, and occasionally black coffee when I want caffeine.

    My weakness is sweets, and as I get older, I probably should cut back, but I find that very difficult.

  34. I think the two healthiest habits I have are meal planning and running. It’s so much easier to make a good healthy dinner if I have I have a piece of paper telling me what to do and all the ingredients in the fridge/pantry. No brain power required. And I run at the same time every day, so it’s just part of the routine. No guess work about should I/shouldn’t I/do I have time/do I feel like it.

  35. I’ve been working on the getting healthier thing this past year mostly because I’ve had several little health issues. Earlier this year, I lost a lot of use of my hands-I basically couldn’t hold on to anything for 4 months. That takes a toll on you! but lots of PT later and i’m getting stronger.

    Part of it is definitely where i work. My company is very into health and fitness so the gym here is great and reasonably priced. The classes are phenomenal. I echo those who say Yoga and pilates. I’ve recently started Power Yoga which is more intense. and i joined a swim team so i try to swim once a week. it also turns out my muscles are super tight so that led to an injury so there’s a lot of stretching right now.

    I definitely make sure that nothing is heated up in plastic-that’s a big one for me. My biggest problem is snacking while stressed so I put on 15 pounds earlier this year. My company also provides free nutritionist sessions so she gave me some good tips. the problem is following them!

  36. Rhett – Definitely do the yoga. DW started going to Pilates, and when I mentioned that I should probably do the same, she signed me up for Thursday nights. She goes Friday mornings if I’ll be home, or if the instructor will have childcare available; if not, we get a babysitter for two hours and she joins me for the Thursday night class.

    I’ve been doing mostly elliptical workouts since, when running, my knees started sending me some warning signals reminiscent of high school injuries. That’s all good for cardio, but it was doing nothing for flexibility and some of the aches and pains I mentioned (even aches from sleeping the “wrong way” sometimes).

    To me, Pilates is essentially just preemptive physical therapy for the whole body.

  37. I think the best things you can do are probably to not eat a lot of sugar and steer clear of vegetable oils (although I just ate with my kids at chik fil a so I’m more of a moderation person I guess). I mostly eat low carbish during the week but eat whatever on the weekends. Now that I’m in my late 30s it’s definitely harder than it used to be to maintain my weight. I like the paleo diet but I think as long as you’re eating real food then a variety of diets can be healthy and I think it does depend on the person.

    I love pilates but haven’t done it in a while. I even have one of those reformer machines I should get out because I always do feel better. I think the science behind exercise is basically it doesn’t help to lose weight, but you need to do it for good health and longevity and super strenuous work outs are generally bad for your health.

  38. Sky, I make similar smoothies most days for me and the kids to have with breakfast, but I also will often add plain yogurt to give us more protein and calcium, and cut the sweetness.

    I’ll also sometimes add some veggies if that’s convenient. I recently just about finished a bag of mixed veggies that included broccoli, and what’s left is a lot of little frozen broccoli crumbs, so I’ve been adding some of those crumbs to the recent smoothies. If we have fresh spinach, I may add a few leaves. I try to keep the amount of veggies low enough that they don’t noticeably affect the taste.

  39. Yeah, Ivy, I agree. I used to assume that it was just that healthier people were more able to be active, so the causal link ran the other way. But I’ve now lived long enough to watch people who were equally healthy at 30 get old. And the less they did physically, the older and more frail and diseased they got.

    I am debating a more mixed/methodical exercise routine, because my back/hips/knees need too much time off for running to be it (plus, you know, it hurts). So I am thinking of making a list of classes at the Y, with a plan for options for every day — there’s one Crossfit-type class I have always been interested in, they have spinning very early several mornings, I’d like to get a personal trainer to do some targeted strength training once a week, and then yoga/pilates for the core and stretchy/twisty stuff. Maybe if I have a “if it’s Tuesday, must be spin day” schedule it will be harder to bail just because I’m sore from running. :-)

    @Risley: I have also signed up for the Lady, and she is a reasonable hit in our household — the first week got compliments from DH, which basically never happens with chicken; other weeks have been a little more hit or miss (we tend to prefer stronger flavors, and the “misses” were too bland, so I have learned to up the sauce/spices). And boy did it cut down on the mental stress of figuring out what to have and making a list!! Like Rhode, I will get my money’s worth even if I don’t use it that much more.

  40. “steer clear of vegetable oils”

    I’ve heard many times that certain vegetable oils, the ones with monounsaturated fats, are more healthful than animal fats for cooking.

  41. I echo those who love Pilates. I try to do it once/week. Wish I could do it more.

    My bad health habits – I don’t stretch enough, and I eat too many carbohydrates. I can’t do low carb and run as much as I do (5 days/week), but I definitely feel better when I do *lower* carb, which is not nearly enough.

    I run for the mental benefit, not so much physical benefit. Physically I think running just makes me hungrier…

  42. We make fruit/veggie smoothies for the kids with kefir so they’re getting probiotics along with more veggies than they’d probably eat on their own. I eat two eggs almost every day for breakfast and occasionally have pancakes on the weekends or plain yogurt with honey and pecans. I find that if I’m going to eat a “bad” meal I’d rather do it for lunch or dinner so I keep my breakfast routine consistent.

  43. Finn – I mean steer clear of canola, soybean, sunflower, cotton seed oil, etc. (the stuff in processed foods and store bought salad dressings). Olive oil is fine and I also cook with bacon fat and butter. But like I said, I’m not consistent. I made mayo the other week with avocado oil because you can’t find any store bought mayo w/o vegetable oil but I just ate fries at Chik Fil A that were most certainly fried in vegetable oil.

    What’s wrong with coconut milk Houston and Louise? I always see that described as a healthy fat.

  44. Man this thread is making me feel guilty for skipping the Y this week… I could have gone tonight, but I bailed. At least I have a dance lesson tomorrow night – the Charleston is one of the most active dances we do.

    My Y offers few classes for the “will not work out before real work” crowd. So I found a few classes that meet after work – stability (Mon/Wed) and Yogalates (Tues/Thurs). Stability is pilates with weights on an exercise ball. Yogalates is a mix of pilates and yoga. 4 days per week is usually too much for me, so I’m happy if I hit 2x per week… I’ve had zero lately…

  45. LfB – we find her things can be bland sometimes too, so I double her spices almost every time now. Yeah, isn’t the lack of “What should I make for dinner?” stress a total joy?

    One thing I’ve found lately is that the veggies in Palo Alto (where she lives) must be far smaller than we get here, b/c there’s no way I can put an entire eggplant or head of cauliflower in when she calls for it. Also, sometimes I don’t make one of her meals, for whatever reason. So, I have leftovers every week of a lot of veg. I’ve taken to sauteeing them all together, then blending them, then adding tomatoes: hidden veggie tomato sauce. I keep a container in the fridge for random use (one of my kids makes noodles as a snack so will use the sauce that way) and I freeze the second container for some future too-lazy-to-cook-anything-but-pasta-and-sauce night. My pickiest kid will eat 14 of her least favorite vegetables if they’re disguised in a sauce. (I actually tell her they’re in there but she seems to forget when it comes time for the sauce).

  46. Rhode – you have a 10-month-old. Don’t worry about getting to the Y several times/week. This won’t be your workoutcrazy life stage. Wait till the little guy is driving and doing his own laundry, and then things will change. You could be *teaching* the classes. :)

  47. I’m in the eating in moderation, mostly from scratch camp. I’ve made my views on organic food known often enough over the years, but if someone wants to engage, I’ll play. I’ve done both organic and conventional ag. Like Rocky, I suspect that genetics is hugely important in weight gain, cancer risk, Alzheimer’s, etc. I thought 23andme was out of business because they were practicing medicine without a license.

  48. Ris – he’ll be doing his own laundry long before he can drive… the rules are getting such that he’ll he rear-facing in the backseat until he’s 25!

    LfB/Ris – Yes, we’ve agreed that the Lady has no idea how to make tacos – the meat was so bland! And one stir fry needed something extra – I’ve made it twice now. I’ve also found that some of her ethnic things are impossible to find (Udon noodles? Forget it! But I found ramen noodles, so substitution!). I’ll have to keep the sauce idea in mind. I also make a blended veggie soup with just about everything under the sun in it. It’s an easy way to get “new” veggies into DS’s diet when I struggle with how to feed it to someone with no teeth.

    When she calls for a whole something, I pay attention to the weight. This way I can match her closely. My mom believes that the Lady’s portabellos must be superhuman. We can never find them as large as the meal indicates they should be.

  49. I have told this story before, but it bears repeating. DS1 was born in 1974. I was told to gain no more than 20 lbs and was put on a strict diet at 34 weeks when I had gained 18. He was 6 lbs 6 oz . DS2 was born in 1982. I was told to gain no less than 20 lbs and was encouraged to gain 30. He was 7 lbs 12 oz. That experience, even at my young age, caused me for the rest of my life to evaluate all peripherally medical (nutrition, etc.) advice as no different from my aunties’ folk sayings.

    DH’s numerous dietary restrictions have forced me to suss out all of the necessary middle of the store low sodium items, but mostly to make almost everything from scratch. Most recently it has been Italian sausage – great tasting, but in subsequent batches I need to double grind it to get the fat bits a little smaller. But several years of experience with limiting the refined carbs and several months with sodium restrictions and daily medical monitoring have helped me quickly to find out how rigid I need to be at home, factoring in his occasional consumption of unapproved foods when away from my gaze and our weekly dinner out. But I love to cook, so this is not usually a burden, just as my frequent business travel was not usually a burden when it was required of me.

    Rhett – I am going to relate something my DIL discovered about Boston area yoga. Now that she is well and the kids all have some school/preschool, she was looking for a class (she did live in Portland for years). It is hugely expensive in her metrowest area and hard to find a space at a convenient time – this is a social class issue. So she signed up for jazzercise with a far more diverse group of sahms/word from homes/grandmoms, at a fraction of the cost, and she is finally making some friends. In your neighborhood there should be a wide range of exercise/yoga/dance options for men.

  50. Rhett, I go to CorePower Yoga, derisively known as Corporate Yoga by yoga purists, but it’s really good for building muscle strength. It is hot yoga though. Their yoga sculpt classes are brutal and aren’t really yoga at all, but they’re good. I’ve been forcing myself to go to two of those a week. I know there are CorePower studios in Boston.

  51. @Mémé on November 18, 2015 at 12:54 pm — With DD, I somehow managed to gain 20 lbs in the first trimester despite landing in the ER because I couldn’t even keep water down. I had all these plans about the perfect pregnancy diet (it seemed extra important to do everything “right” after 2 M/C), but boy did that go out the window. I was lucky to have an old country-doctor type as an ortho, who told me, in so many words, “the ‘right’ diet is whatever you can keep down. Just take a pregnancy vitamin whenever you can tolerate it and drink as much liquid as you can.”

  52. Yoga and pilates are great for keeping you feeling younger (i.e. less of the mystery aches and pains). Since I’m doing videos first thing in the morning (usually streaming off Gaiam) it’s not a social occasion but that does make it easy to get in short workouts regularly.

    I feel like the recent restoration of butter’s reputation is a vindication of my faithful adherence to the Julia Child Diet (eat what you like, as long as it’s tasty, in moderate quantities, and accompanied by wine). (OK, we’re not eating wine at breakfast or even lunch.)

  53. Count me in as a convert to The Lady. We are loving the change in our eating and have noticed that we aren’t hungry later in the evening. That being said, I did just stock up on several boxes of Candy Cane Jo-Jos. I’ve also started using 21 Day Fix, but only for the workout videos. I don’t pay attention to the meal plans and serving size. After the first 21 days I noticed a positive change in my physique. Prior to that, I was on a strictly a biking/running workout. I wasn’t looking to change shape or drop weight, but just wanted to feel healthier and add in some weight training (it also has Pilates and Yoga days). I do those videos 3-4x a week and do cardio when I can fit it in.

    I don’t do organics and I don’t pay attention to BPA-free. I’m going to assume that in 10 years they’ll discover that some compound in the BPA-free causes cancer too. I do limit soy intake, though. I also have a grandmother well into her 90s who never exercised (still doesn’t) and never paid attention to her diet (buttermilk, bacon, cookies, yes please!), who only hospital stay was for childbirth and a pacemaker. I think genetics plays a huge role in how we age.

  54. oh thank you Rhett for asking that question. I don’t come here very often and i’ve spent the last hour very confused that I missed something big!

  55. “recent restoration of butter’s reputation”

    Butter was another item of contention. What was funny was the family members arguing about butter vs. buttery spread were the cooks who rarely consumed butter themselves but were concerned about the health of all the rest. Then there are the junior members of the family who finding that the cake made with buttery spread didn’t taste quite right silently refused to eat it.

  56. I don’t even know what the BPA stuff is – is it plastics? I use the microwave so rarely it’s not even in the kitchen – it’s in the laundry room. And we store leftovers, in the rare time we have them, in glass containers, so I haven’t paid attention to health warnings on microwaving plastics, we just never do it.

    I hate leftovers, so I’ve learned to cook just enough for that night (unless it’s something like a lasagna, which I then just rewarm in the oven, or a soup that gets rewarmed in a pot).

  57. I must hang my head in Totebag shame. I eat a lot of sugar. I love white starches and eat them pretty much every day. I eat cereal for breakfast, and put store-bought dressing on my salad at lunch (and I wrap that salad in a white tortilla). I do cook what I think are healthy dinners, but they typically include white rice and/or pasta as either a main component or a side dish. But I’m healthy (knock on wood) and not overweight, as are the rest of the members of my family (again knock on wood), so I’m not all that motivated to change my ways. I’ll probably have to switch things up in a couple of years after I go through The Change, since by all accounts it becomes harder to keep your weight stable at that stage of life, but I figure I’ll deal with that when I need to.

    I honestly think that for me, the most important factor in weight control is that we hardly ever eat out. The times in my life when I have put on pounds were times when I wasn’t eating at home very much.

    I do walk a lot, almost every day, and exercise regularly at the local Y. For those of you who like pilates and yoga, another great class is barre. It’s one heck of a workout.

    Re. pregnancy weight, I’m very small, but I gained a full 40 pounds with each baby. The first time around I made no effort to control the weight gain; the second time around I made a lot of effort to control the weight gain; and yet, the weight gain (and the weight of the babies, too) was exactly the same both times. Go figure. I’m thankful that no one at my OB’s office ever made comments about how big I was getting.

  58. We’ve started doing hello fresh and have been very pleased. Its had two primary benefits. It’s broken us out of our takeout and recipe rut and it saves a ton of money vs. the infamous $100 quesadillas. The primary issues to consider is that it may not work if you have picky eaters in your family and they only offer meals for 2 or 4, so if you have an odd number of kids it may not work.

  59. Oh, and lagirl — Several years ago, soon after Child #2 was born, I was having significant neurological problems, primarily with the functioning of my arms and hands. I was also having what I thought were completely unrelated GI issues. On a whim, I decided to try a gluten-free diet to see how it might affect the GI problems. Well, very quickly, not only did the GI issues clear up, but so did the neurological issues. That particular dietary change changed my life. (I know that sounds really flaky, but for me it is absolutely true.) I hope you get better soon.

  60. North of Boston – I’ve rediscovered Enterman’s chocolate frosted doughnuts (in the white, rectangular box with the cellophane window at the top). I take one with me in the car each morning, along with a medium-sized glass of milk. It’s so delicious, and I know people say that it’s simple carbs and I’m supposed to be hungry again in two hours, but I’m not. I feel full all morning, and then I only want a really small lunch.

  61. Ok. I generally eat healthy and fresh as in we never ever eat pre-packaged food. No canned tomato for us. I do keep some cans on hand for emergencies, but often have to throw.them out because they have expired. I recently found Eden organics canned tomato in jar! So if we like the taste, I might start using it more. I also buy organic chicken and eggs and breakfast is always eggs. Never cereal or pancakes.
    So in general I eat healthy except maybe some chocolates a few times a day, and sour patch kids …… gummi bears…….and maybe potato chips and cookies……and a ton of coffee…… and the recent Wendy’s binge….
    Hmmmm no wonder the weight is not going anywhere. But I don’t eat red meat! So I am safe there!

    No but seriously I do try to eat healthy but need to control my candy consumption. Because we eat a ton of veggies and organic protein, I don’t sweat the stuff I eat outside. We also rotate our oils between olive,peanut, avocado and coconut along with ghee.

    I am now trying to figure out what makes a satisfying meal for me as as well as keeps me full longer. If I try to subsist on salad, I end up eating junk for snack.

  62. My dad has started going to “Broga” in addition to his usual running and swimming workouts. He’s found it to be great for his balance and coordination, as well as aches and pains from some chronic injuries. He and my mom go to class together, and I know it’s helped her RA pain a lot (along with Pilates).

  63. LfB – I totally agree with you regarding staying active. I look around our community and I see almost all of the Asians and Indians (I know technically Asians too) who go out every day and walk. They don’t walk quickly but they do so religiously. I can’t remember the last time I saw an Asian or Indian in a wheelchair so I do think there is something to doing something regularly and also possibly psychic value to doing it with someone. I also see this in my parents who are in their 80s who go to the gym every day. They don’t kill it but they do it every day, always have and they are so much better off than most of their peers.

    I’m done with the classes and the gym. 4 miles every day with the dogs on the trails. Sometimes we jog sometimes we walk. Good for my health and good for my soul. Stopped counting calories and obsessing about all that. Try to be thoughtful about what I eat but don’t deny myself. Feel great and pants are loose (stopped weighing myself too). Such a better place to live for me. Immensely grateful for my health.

  64. NoB, you sound like me :)

    Except I gained 60 pounds with each of the three kids (and I’m just a smidge over 5′) so I looked like a gumdrop.

    All the kids were still born small, and now all three are clinically underweight, so I’m *supposed* to be cramming them full of rice, potatoes, and buttered anything.

    And I love pasta and baked goods. I could happily give up everything else.

    But instead I am spiralizing zucchini “zoodles” and eating a lot of pumpkin bread, because I can cut a lot of flour and sugar out of that. The kids get the real stuff.

    If you want some healthier desserts, I like the chocolatecoveredkatie blog, although I usually add an egg instead of the flax seed (she’s vegan).

  65. Rhett – is Hello Fresh the one on the TV ads, where they deliver the recipe and all the ingredients for it? That looks very cool. I hate to grocery shop, so if I didn’t have people to pawn that task off on, I’d be all over the HF idea. (Though it would be hard to break up with The Lady!)

  66. All the kids were still born small, and now all three are clinically underweight, so I’m *supposed* to be cramming them full of rice, potatoes, and buttered anything.

    Sky – If they are healthy, i wouldn’t try to cram them with too much of one thing. I used to see this done with thin kids in the home country and I don’t think it is correct. The everything in moderation rule still applies. All the skinny kids grew up just fine and a few put on too many pounds as adults.

  67. Don’t worry, Louise – I serve the pasta, rice, and buttered bread, and the children won’t eat it just because they know I want them to eat it :)

    But I do prepare it, so I can tell the doctor it was served when he looks at their slow growth on the chart.

  68. North of Boston: that’s interesting. I had a ton of tests, an MRI and PT and OT and no one ever figured out the cause. For years everyone assumed i had carpal tunnel but it turns out I don’t! one of my therapists said he thought that all the muscles in my forearms were just super tight so when i tried to weight bear it couldn’t take it (downward dog for example). I’ve been doing it more and amazingly it’s getting easier. and now with my latest injury- the doctor said that all the muscles from my hips down are just sooo tight i can’t do stuff…so maybe my body is just structured in a way that makes me get hurt really fast. Besides losing weight, my goal is to just be healthy enough that I can do anything I want….if someone wants to go hiking, i want to be able to say sure i can do that.

    And I get Blue Apron once a month – it’s too expensive for a single person to get every week but it’s a nice change of pace and I can get a few meals out of it.

  69. I just did the wellness assessment to get a discount on my health insurance today. One of the questions was whether I limited the number of eggs I eat. Like some other posters here I thought eggs were considered good for us again. And no, I don’t limit them. I can tell a huge difference in how I feel during the day if I have protein for breakfast versus carbs, so I always try to start with some protein.

    Someone mentioned Mountain Dew up thread. My husband is weirdly addicted to that. So while he is diligently checking the sugar count of everything else (including my stuff) he still drinks Mountain Dew. Seems like sort of wasted effort to me.

    On being active, my great-uncle in Ireland just turned 103. He saw a doctor for the first time at 97. He has smoked forever, drinks whiskey daily, but lives in a rural area where he has walked everywhere his whole life. I really think staying active is the key.

  70. Sky – I’m with Louise there… (and since you wrote “*supposed*”, I’m thinking you are too..).

    On underweight kiddos – a NICU friend of mine had EI tell her to give her daughter toast with butter AND cream cheese on it. Not a smear for flavor, but load the stuff on. That was the last day those people came to her house.

    My underweight kiddo gets his food heated up in butter (just enough to coat the pan), and I’ll add cheese/avocado/nut spreads to his meals in various ways. He’s ridiculously active for a technically non-mobile baby (he doesn’t crawl, he rolls everywhere), and still manages to gain weight, so I’m not horribly concerned. I refuse to make unhealthy meals just to give him the extra calories. As inconsistent as this sounds, I’d rather let him have 3 healthy meals a day, and then let him have an unhealthy empty calorie snack or two throughout the day. Or an extra bottle of formula.

  71. “a NICU friend of mine had EI tell her to give her daughter toast with butter AND cream cheese on it. Not a smear for flavor, but load the stuff on. That was the last day those people came to her house.”

    What’s the big deal? If she had been told to give her daughter whole milk, would that have been better?

  72. My friend didn’t want her daughter to have butter and cream cheese in the large amounts that EI recommended. I honestly can’t blame her – she wants her daughter to have healthy eating habits, and loading on something that shouldn’t be used in mass quantities isn’t healthy eating. Not even if it’s only one meal per day.

    I think there is a big difference between not being afraid of fat, and piling it on. According to my friend, EI was in the latter category.

  73. Random question. How long do you guys keep monthly bank statements? And the monthly mortgage statement?

  74. “loading on something that shouldn’t be used in mass quantities isn’t healthy eating”

    There seems to be a bit of a Puritanical streak in this logic.

  75. she wants her daughter to have healthy eating habits, and loading on something that shouldn’t be used in mass quantities

    Fat is good now it’s refined carbs that are bad. If you need X calories it’s better to eat one piece of toast with a big glob of cream cheese than to eat two prieces with a schemer.

  76. Dell – I keep regular (checkings/savings) bank statements for a year. I think we keep all of our mortgage statements.

  77. Dell – I don’t get anything in the mail. They send me an email to tell me that a statement is available if I want to download it.

  78. Thanks Milo and HM. I am in throes of organizing our paperwork for the end of the year. We hold on to paperwork way too long it seems. We have been getting electronic statement for months now but I still have very old statements in files. Time to shred.

  79. This is probably a non-Totebag view, but I don’t worry very much about whether my kids’ eating habits now will be what they eat at 20, 30, or 40. Particularly for my kids under 5.

    I never make or buy any of the foods I ate daily in 1986: Golden Grahams and skim milk for breakfast every day for four years, a tuna sandwich on white bread with Doritos and an apple for lunch, pop tarts for snack, pasta with chicken and a vegetable for dinner.

    Now I have eggs for breakfast, salad and soup or wrap for lunch, and meat and veggies for dinner – tonight is beef stew.

  80. We’re having fresh elk heart, baked potatoes, leftover bagged salad from the hunt and cranberry relish made with Oregon cranberries, early season California navel oranges, 1/2 t salt and 2/3 c sugar for supper tonight. This [spike] elk was shot near the Grand Ronde River (did anyone else play Oregon Trail as a kid?) and he is now butchered.

    Mr. WCE hauled out one elk lower leg so the kids could see how big it is and how the tendon moves when the foot moves, etc. He cut the antlers off last night with the kids watching and they found the brain kind of interesting. A spike elk weighs ~350 lb, yielding over 120 lb of freezer meat, so we won’t be going vegetarian anytime soon.

    BPA is bisphenol-A. There is in my opinion pretty good evidence that fetal malformations are more common when rodents receive a lot (~1000x + what any normal person would ingest) of it during the equivalent of the human first trimester of pregnancy. Everything else I read looked more like correlation than causation. Risk is at the level where I wonder “Will the removal of plasticizers negatively affect how car seats age in hot, dry climates?”

    I can’t imagine getting rid of entire classes of food. It’s hard enough to get supper on the table as it is. I’m lucky, because my kids are all healthy with no food allergies. I don’t spoon feed Baby WCE (she nurses and gets what she can pick up, which includes things like pieces of avocado). Her weigh percentile exceeds her height percentile and both are very normal. I’d worry more otherwise.

    My Dad is heading in for hip replacements, after 69 years with lots of work-related physical activity and ongoing yardwork and gardening. I wonder if he’ll want knee replacements, too. He is genetically prone to arthritis and, according to his BMI, is overweight, though his chest is larger than his waist, so I think part of it is his body type. He wears size 16 shoes. Hopefully the joint replacements let him be active again.

  81. @Rhode “Udon noodles? Forget it!”

    They have them at Mariano’s. I will send you some. ;)

    Core Power also has an entry-level class called C1 that is not hot, but sometimes the studio is still pretty warm from the prior classes. Some local professional athletes go to Core Power (usually with their hot wives/GF’s), so it must be manly enough for Rhett!

  82. I try to limit carbs, mostly because I have a strong history of Type 2 diabetes in my family even though everyone is thin. Try not to use much plastic for food storage/serving. Cook and serve lean meat/chicken. Do organic for dairy and some fruits/veggies. Wine most nights. Use butter and olive oil. Generous with salt because no one has BP issues.

    My kids are all skinny and were small babies. I pretty much follow Ellyn Satter’s food advice wrt kids, but with my child who was teeny, tiny, I did actively try to get extra calories in him. Doctors stressed that there are basically 2 catch-up windows for growth in childhood including lungs. So, you want to make sure there are enough calories during those times. But, former tiny NICU babies statistically have a higher rate of obesity in adulthood than their full-term peers. Not sure if it is because people push heavy-calorie foods on them and they adjust to that or because the population who has preemies statistically is less healthy/more over-weight than those who do not. Maybe some combo.

  83. Being a preemie is a whole different ballgame than being a term baby. Preemies have to eat intermittently (vs. constant food supply from the placenta) between when they’re born and their due date. They have to use their digestive systems early, which makes them more susceptible to reflux/colic/negative associations with eating. They are harder to feed due to ongoing jaundice.

    My mom was a preemie (born at 34 weeks in 1946) and she wasn’t expected to survive. Her diligent family stayed up round the clock with her to make sure she was still breathing and to wake/shake her if she paused. She had lifelong issues with bronchitis/asthma which I think were worsened or caused by her prematurity.

    Being a preemie is way easier now than it was in 1946 but it’s still no walk in the park.

  84. Dell – I look at the statements and keep the most recent one. Everything else is gone. I probably don’t need to keep even that much since everything’s accessible online.

  85. I don’t keep statements at all. Shred and trash them to the extent we receive them. I keep very little in the way of hard copies. Titles to cars, will/trusts/legal docs, original promissory note to house that got paid off when we refinanced, tax filings. That is about it.

  86. Count me in with those who don’t even get paper statements. I download & save anything needed for taxes on my computer.

  87. LfB/Rhode/Lemon – made the Thai noodles w/ chx tonight b/c DH will be home tomorrow and loves salmon. DOUBLED the peanut sauce. Didn’t dump it all in, but about 3/4 and will let the kids use the other 1/4 if they want more heat, or to use w/ the leftover noodles. So, 1.5x what she called for and it tastes about right. We are a sirachi-friendly family so I more than doubled that.

  88. Ris – thanks for the tip. Regarding the salmon, had those on Monday and they were good, but I felt that it needed something else on the skewer. I’m not a big salmon eater (in fact I never ate it before The Lady), so I should have added peppers or onion. It is hard to fill up on lemon slices.

  89. Lemon – oh, good tip. I’ll add a bunch of onion. I find salmon too fishy so always want a lot of other things with it. Maybe some sour cream or yogurt + dill sauce would be a good add too.

  90. The Hello Fresh boxes seem like a great idea. We had one of those cook your healthy meal places near us but it went out of business and now ironically it has been replaced by a weight loss clinic that is still in business. Now, there is a chcolate shop near the weight loss clinic – so I guess first you visit the weight loss clinic, find that you don’t have that much weight to lose, so rejoice by going next door to the chcolate shop.

  91. I’ve enjoyed reading this conversation. I took a new position at work in September and though I love it, it is kicking my *ss. My exercise and diet fell by the wayside as I struggled to get up to speed at work. I used to walk every day, and now I only walk on weekends. I still cook most meals at home, but I could cut down on carbs and lose a few pounds that have crept up over the summer.

    Now it’s time to climb back on the wagon…

  92. Houston, congratulations on the new position, glad you love it.

    Tonight’s dinner: chicken meatballs (that were supposed to give me enough left over to freeze but I apparently had a bunch of starving boys/men at the table), spaghetti squash with parmesan, green beans, and rice. We are in a total vegetable rut, since no one likes the same veggies. If anyone has great vegetables their kids love, pls pass them on. I try to serve 2/night (Southern dinner = meat +3).

  93. Lark – my kids like root vegetables – so roasted squash, beets, parsnips. They also like spinach and seemed to like Brussel sprouts. Beans are included in vegetables at my house – so you can do mixed beans or a bean soup flavored with meat. In the winter my mom did vegetable bake in a little white sauce (cauliflower, peas, carrots, mushrooms).

  94. I think I have said this many times, I am a big believer in (relatively) high-fat, and lower carbohyrdrate diets. I think we have even seen this proven in some reasonably controlled trials. In my house, this translates to whole milk, lots of eggs, trader joe’s yogurt (the only flavored yogurt I can find with a reasonable amount of fat in it), butter, coconut cream in smoothies. I don’t limit my kids’ carb intake, but try to provide as much healthy fat and protein as I can so that they get a decent portion of their calories from non-carb sources.

    High cholesterol is a serious problem and lowering serum cholesterol has proven benefits. I think things broke down when we started conflated dietary intake of cholesterol (eggs) with serum cholesterol. In reality, the connection is pretty tenuous.

    We eat a lot of processed meat for conveinence – dice some ham for soup, sausage on pasta, etc. I really think I should reduce that, but it’s not easy to do if you are aiming for a decent amount of protein.

    I think it is hard for journalists to evaluate the quality of recommendations. When I look at recommendations (i.e. cervical cancer screening) in a professional setting, they are graded – higher grade means better quality evidence that supports it. There is standardization of grades. For example:
    -In the United States, we recommend that cervical cancer screening be initiated no earlier than age 21 in immunocompetent, asymptomatic women (Grade 1A).
    -We suggest women age ≥30 years and older be screened with either Pap test every three years or co-testing (Pap test and HPV testing) every five years if both initial tests are negative (Grade 2B)

    I wish that dietary advice was communicated that way as well – with information about how strong the recommendation is. That should/could be part of basic scientific literacy in this country – understanding the data behind various dietary commandments.

  95. My basic approach is everything in moderation. I don’t have the mental energy for much more than that, and am not inclined to worry about it because for the most part I’m not convinced that the finer details matter much. I am incredibly sympathetic to those who have to manage food allergies and intolerances–I have been living soy and dairy-free for nursing due to Baby June’s intolerances and it has required an immense amount of mental energy, planning, and forethought about all things social.

    In my teens/20s I was very into high-intensity gym classes, running, etc. Now I care a lot more about just being active–my preferences are walking and yoga/barre/pilates.

    Cook Smarts didn’t work for me because I prefer to cook 2-3 times total per week and then live on leftovers for other dinners and lunches, so it was actually more work because it was more days of cooking than I normally would do. I think if you’re cooking most nights it can be useful.

    One of our favorite veg side dishes is Charred Lemon Broccoli from the What’s Gaby Cooking blog. So easy and so good.

  96. WRT record keeping, now that I download soft copies of most statements, I keep them pretty much forever. They don’t take a lot of disk space, so I don’t think it’s worth my time and effort to purge any of them. I strongly recommend regular backups of those statements, which is something I need to do more often.

    I do get a small amount of paper that doesn’t go straight into the trash, including some receipts that I might need later for returns. I throw those into a box, and fill about a shoebox each year. I’ll eventually purge most of those, probably when I retire.

  97. Lark, we recently bought some frozen butternut squash, precut into chunks. I added some water and microwaved per the package instructions, but I also added a bunch of oregano, basil, and Italian herb seasoning, and DD really liked it.

  98. “experience with limiting the refined carbs”

    As I mentioned earlier, I also try to cut the refined carbs in favor of whole grains. One downside of this is that it’s difficult to maintain that when traveling, and since my body is used to that diet, I start feeling a bit out of sorts on trips longer than a week or so. I can mitigate it somewhat by cutting carbs to below normal and increasing veggie intake to try to make up the missing fiber.

    Maybe I should try small amounts of fiber supplements when traveling.

  99. What is popcorn cauliflower?!?!

    All great suggestions, thanks – we need more veggies in the rotation, for sure, and I’m hitting the grocery store today.

  100. Lark – you can also make “rice” out of cauliflower and use that for fried “rice” and any other rice-related thing. It takes on the flavors of whatever you serve it with so doesn’t taste “too vegetable-ish” for kids.

  101. Ivy – Ha! Had I known I’d be cooking that dish beforehand, I would have found it! But, they didn’t have them at the commissary. Ramen noodles made a good substitution. I loved Mariano’s! And I can’t tell if it’s the store, or just the COL, but man, Baby Rhode’s food and supplies were WAY cheaper there than in RI. And they stocked his favorite sippy cup and I’m kicking myself for not picking up another one while I was there.

    Lark – we just make sweet potato fries last night (not sure if that’s a veggie in your house). I think I ate my weight in sweet potatoes.

  102. @HM — wow, those pictures are magical. But cave diving scares the bejeebers out of me. I think I’d go down and then straight back up before I lost sight of the light. :-)

  103. June – at the little-kid life stage, I was definitely with you. I was thinking last night about this discussion and how so many of my self-improvement/family health-improvement efforts have been relatively recent (in the last 5 or 6 years maybe). That timing definitely corresponds to the period in which the kids got far easier (more self-sufficient), so I wasn’t so worn out by the end of the evening/end of the week. Another more recent uptick in “how can I improve things?” came once I went PT at work, which has led to not only the obvious result of my having more time, but to having far more sleep as well. It’s amazing to me how much more energy I have all day long, now that I’m getting 2 hours/night more rest. In the earlier stages, with attention-needful young kids and a full-time job and not enough sleep, I was more about survival than tweaking any finer details, that’s for sure. And CookSmarts wouldn’t have worked for me then, either–I was more into the cereal+berries+yogurt for dinner mode.

    Which is not to suggest *you* (or anyone else here) aren’t doing enough now. I only mean that most of the things I listed in the OP were things I’ve only started doing at a time in my life when everything in my life and household is sooooo much easier. I wouldn’t have posted that list at 30. My list back then would have been: “Don’t forget to feed the kids. Repeat.” It’s only once my kids got older and more independent that I have had the luxury of quiet and restful contemplation wherein I can spend an hour thinking of the various ways in which I’ve failed myself and my family in terms of health, etc, and then spend another hour devising schemes to improve those things.

  104. @Risley – I am sure it must also be “I will be sad to see you all leave, so before you go let’s make the remaining years memorable”.

  105. Louise – absolutely. A big regret I have (from my large collection of regrets) is that I didn’t start The Lady years ago, so DS would have had more years of good dinners instead of a fraction of a year. My cooking attempts prior to The Lady were pathetic. This group inspired me to do better but even then, until I had someone sending me meal plans and ingredient lists and recipes, my efforts were pretty lame. I’m so much happier with family dinners now, since the kids actually like the meals I serve. I wish I’d had more of these kinds of family dinners during DS’s tenure here.

  106. Lark – we just make sweet potato fries last night (not sure if that’s a veggie in your house).

    No one here likes sweet potatoes other than me. I find this completely baffling. What’s not to like? How can you like spicy black beans or broccoli or sushi, but not like a sweet potato fry? It blows my mind. Same with butternut squash – they will all eat butternut squash soup, but no one will eat it roasted and tossed with a little olive oil & maple syrup.

    Each person in this household likes a fair number of vegetables, but no one seems to like the same ones. I’m going to try these cauliflower suggestions.

  107. “Each person in this household likes a fair number of vegetables, but no one seems to like the same ones.”

    I have the same problem. So I try to get the odd one out on any given night to eat raw carrots, tomatoes, or something similar to get their quota in.

    Sweet potatoes are vegetables, but in the starchy category so not the same as green ones. I’m not articulating this well, but I think you all know what I mean. Here’s a chart illustrating the idea.

  108. Not that I adhere to that chart’s guidelines, btw. But I do try to include as many greenish veggies as possible.

  109. Risley – It’s just that there’s something that really bugs me about Pollan. All the science behind nutrition is shockingly weak, but he and his ilk pick and choose what they like of it, and then turn it into a pseudo-religion. Their rules are based on little besides their own preferences and sense of class superiority.

  110. I think the only vegetables all my kids like are roasted broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. Squashes of all types are met with disdain but they do like sweet potato fries.

    I agree with Ada. Breakfasts are kefir smoothies, eggs and sourdough toast with full fat butter, plain full fat greek yogurt with honey, etc. Dinners tend to be meat/fish, veggies and either white rice/potato or sweet potato. I don’t keep juice in the house, they drink either water or whole milk. My experience is that once the kids hit elementary they are getting a ton of sweets and junk at school (like yesterday they had cake to illustrate fossils?) so I try to keep it pretty healthy at home.

  111. A much maligned vegetable in my house is eggplant. DH doesn’t like it. Growing up it was a much favored vegetable – it seems to have disappeared from our menu.

  112. Milo – I read In Defense of Food some years ago and haven’t read his other stuff. I didn’t get the classist thing or the lack of science when I read it, but that doesn’t mean that’s not all in there. (I am not particularly detail oriented! I tend to read quickly, get a 30,000-foot overview, and promptly forget).

    I wondered about your “smug, self-satisfied” comment yesterday and thought that either you know more about Pollan than I do, or you were talking about me, and you had really gotten the wrong idea about me. For me, it’s not about class or smugness or self-satisfaction, but only about my efforts to continually ratchet up, bit by bit, our health. Pollan’s advice goes w/ the advice my kids’ doc gave them: “Try to mostly eat foods that were recently alive.” So, an apple (perimeter of store) rather than Doritos (in the aisles). Can’t get easier than that, and in terms of a guideline (from which I can and certainly do veer from time to time), I prefer easy over complicated. I recall reading that book and thinking, “This is basically what Dr. X has been telling the kids.”

    So really, maybe my mostly-perimeter thing is more from the doc than from Pollan, now that I think of it. The doc gave the guideline about what to mostly eat, and Pollan just gave the clue about where to find those things.

  113. I’ve made cauliflower mock mashed potatoes, and they’re fine, although I generally prefer roasted cauliflower. A squeeze of lemon juice right before serving usually makes many veggies taste better, IMO.

  114. Risley – No, not about you.

    This is Pollan:

    Eat Anything You Want–Just Cook It Yourself. This cannot be stated often enough. Eat real food. I have gotten into so many long blowhard discussions about the prohibitive cost of organic foods (I disagree) and how people use that as an excuse to buy manufactured edible products instead.

    I don’t care if it’s organic or not, just buy real food, cook real food and eat real food. It is that simple. It will change your life.

    What does that even mean? If I buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, that’s not real food?

  115. Rhett – I’ll gag on any type of eggplant. My Dad loves eggplant parmesan, so I’ve tried to enjoy it from time to time over the years, and I can’t. The texture and flavor is so disgusting to me. And the list of foods that I can’t stand is very, very short, but eggplant is on it.

  116. @Rhett – I don’t think he likes eggplant in any form. In fact, DH has gotten pickier as he has gotten older. I think some of it, is due to not being able to afford a choice of foods growing up, now that he can afford to eat a variety of foods, he doesn’t need to settle for anything he doesn’t care for. I find the whole issue quite interesting.

  117. I have been marveling at the range of fresh vegetables prepared by this group on a daily basis. Probably the greatest difference in food choices from when I was a young mother (at least in a climate where most produce is not grown locally, even in the short summer) is the year round availability of tasty produce. I grew up with a piece of overdone meat, some sort of starch (often just bread and butter, and stringy/soggy frozen vegetables for dinner each night. And frozen veggies meant we were more prosperous and nutrition conscious than canned. Freezing techniques improved by the time I was cooking for my kids, but the memory of those veggies never left me so I rarely used them. And I didn’t have a microwave, so it involved another pot on my 20 in range. Also, fat was the demon to be avoided, not carbohydrates, so a meal of grains plus some meat, sauce and salad was great cooking. My kids asked in adulthood, why did we always have romaine lettuce? I said, because most of the year the choice was between mature romaine (which ships reasonably well) and iceberg. Once in a while we had cooked broccoli. Winter tomatoes were those waxy things in a cellophane package.

  118. I find Pollan, Bittman, Walters, etc very smug as well. But it’s not because of the simple advice like “eat less, mostly plants” or the “eat ingredients you can pronounce” or even the push for veganism – especially if you take it as a rule of thumb and not the One True Way. It’s the smug commentary on how people are too lazy to cook and if they just turned off the TV, they would see how EASY it is to can your own tomatoes and use only the ingredients that they have personally deemed “pure” enough. And the attacks on farming. It shows a complete disconnect from reality. And I say this as their target demographic! They must sound even more condescending to others.

    I can’t remember who here recommended the cookbook Keepers, but thank you! We have been enjoying a lot of things out of there. For me, it’s the perfect level of easy, fast, healthy and flavorful for weeknights.

  119. Milo – exactly! (you posted while I was typing my diatribe) It gets to the level of ridiculous First they came for my rotisserie chicken. Then they came for boxes of chicken stock (you can make your own on the weekend for pennies if you just save all our carcasses and spent 2 hours at the stove!). Then they came for canned beans. Then they wanted me to mill my own flour. STOP THE MADNESS!

  120. Milo – until I had to read every friggin’ label for DH’s sodium intake, I reacted pretty much the same way as you to Pollan et al. It seemed to me there commentary was more about process, not actually meal content. Now I understand better the real differences between the sort of cooking from scratch that my grandmother did in the 20s and I have to do frequently today and the cooking from scratch with many partially or fully processed ingredients that a good and health conscious cook would do today. However, for the middle and upper middle class, just paying attention and avoiding the habit of fast food three times a week is probably enough to maintain health.

  121. DH doesn’t like it.

    Even eggplant parm?

    I’m not her DH, but I completely agree with him.

  122. Meme – Would it be fair to summarize your comment to “for a person who really needs to limit salt intake, it can be difficult to find any prepared foods that meet the requirements.”?

  123. Probably the greatest difference in food choices from when I was a young mother (at least in a climate where most produce is not grown locally, even in the short summer) is the year round availability of tasty produce

    As you note, this must be regional. I remember growing up (in Georgia) tons and tons of vegetables (which of course I hated as a passion – no child has ever been pickier than I) from the farmer’s markets, year round. We definitely ate seasonally, but there were always fresh vegetables. “Farm to table” is not really new around here.

  124. Trader Joes has frozen cauliflower rice. I agree that Pollen is smug, which is the reason I don’t read him. He makes some valid points but it comes across in such as way that I think he is out of touch with most Americans. He clearly has not seen the grocery store desert of Detroit. I think I’ve mentioned this book before – Sugar, Fat, Salt. It was an interesting read about how we eat and how General Mills and the like changed our habits.

  125. I have been terribly unhealthy for the last 6 months or so. Still finding my way with new job, new house, child custody schedule, growing puppy, new life in general. I’ve got to get back into a regular exercise routine, which usually leads me to eat better too.

    My favorite local Italian restaurant makes eggplant rollatini – it’s like manicotti but with eggplant rolled and stuffed with ricotta instead of pasta. With all the cheese & sauce, I can’t even tell it’s eggplant. LOVE it!

  126. Milo. DH is also diabetic, so I had already done the drill to eliminate gratuitous added sugars and away from white grains. His diabetes and the degree of his heart disease almost certainly arose from youthful non rural near poverty, his live in grandmother’s culturally normal but unhealthy cooking, plus years of eating two or three meals a day out without the skills for home prep. He has never been obese and is now at normal weight. He is the poster child for the bad effects of diet in spite of adult SES. As I said, just paying attention, moderation in all things, is probably enough. And knowing how to cook even a little bit.

  127. “they will all eat butternut squash soup, but no one will eat it roasted and tossed with a little olive oil & maple syrup.”

    Squash has an icky texture, all squeaky and gooshy and stringy. Eggplant avoids the stringy but doubles down on the others and tops it off with bitter.

  128. ITA re: Pollan — his tone just sets my teeth on edge. You get the sense that when he mentions “long blowhard discussions,” he’s not referring to his own contributions.

    But it goes back to the “check your privilege” thing — he preaches this wonderful, healthy, “life-changing” approach to food for “everyone,” but his tone says “everyone” is basically “people like me” — UMC people with safe jobs and safe houses and decent schools and family doctors and all those other things we take for granted that leave us with the time and headspace to even wonder whether that tomato was locally-grown. Which sort of goes back to “if you can’t do it because you’re poor, well, you’re just not trying hard enough.”

    I actually do agree with a lot of the substance of what he says. But I just. cannot. read. him. Because my dentist tells me I’m going to need a root canal if I grind my teeth any more.

  129. Oh, dang. I use rotisserie chicken sometimes (The Lady calls for it and this includes one of our family fave recipes of hers) and I also buy (or cause to be bought) boxes of stock and cans of crushed tomatoes. If all the fury against those things is in In Defense of Food, I completely missed it. Willful blindness, perhaps! Perhaps I shall just attribute my shopping/eating strategy to my kids’ doc from now on and leave those other meanies out of it!

  130. I agree with the UMC-ness of much dietary advice. It also tends to be focused around areas with a good supply of year-round local food. (None of the people referred to above are from North Dakota or Minnesota, to my knowledge.) And you have to be a good planner to follow their advice and grocery shop once/week.

    Do any of the food gurus cook for several children? My children are not fond of many vegetables and only like “bland”.

    Like someone else commented, an optimal diet is not a battle I’m willing to fight at this point in my life. I’ll be grateful I don’t have any real limitations on sugar or salt and continue to use canned beans because they are convenient.

  131. The only piece by Pollan I ever liked was this long essay about his experience growing and harvesting opium poppies. It turns out that they’re easy to grow and harvest, which is absolutely not what They tell you. They tell you all those Afghan farmers have to work really hard at it. But the whole process of trying to discern the legal status of the operation and talking to the cops and so on makes for an entertaining read.

  132. “He had prepared the dough the night before, using whole wheat and white flours, letting it rise all morning in the bedroom of one of his sons, a sunny spot in the front of the house.”

    Yes, that’s *exactly* my normal Tuesday lunch process.

    “That’s between you and your cardiologist.”

    And the man wonders why he doesn’t get invited over to people’s houses any more. . . .

  133. Risley – I wonder if you liking Pollan, even though you buy rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, is analogous to me liking MMM, even though I use a gas-powered leaf blower every Fall weekend,am planning to buy a motorboat, own three old cars, and may possibly pick up a fourth.

    I suppose that I see MMM often writing tongue-in-cheek, and my impression was that Pollan takes himself more seriously.

  134. RMS, after reading that article about Pollan and Moss, I would like to see them navigate an ordinary grocery store with three children under 5 and a weekly budget of $150. Then they can prepare the meal for an hour while the hungry children bicker, flush toys down the toilet, and pull the cat’s tail to “see what happens next.”

    I’m happy to lend them my kids if they need any….

  135. @Sky — funny, that’s exactly the thought I had at the “real milk” mozzarella analysis. . . .

  136. “I suppose that I see MMM often writing tongue-in-cheek, and my impression was that Pollan takes himself more seriously.”

    Me too.

    I think Pollan & Bittman are also very disconnected from even the usual routine of an UMC family. Really – anyone who is not a food journalist who has time to dick around all day in the kitchen making homemade pizza dough & letting it rise in the sun – FOR LUNCH. LUNCH! You can take my chicken broth and canned tomatoes out of my cold, dead hands. And I firmly believe that their use does not make my meals less “home cooked”. Especially in the Midwest in January.

  137. Ivy – I just read the article. The author called it a “beautiful, simple lunch.” *SIMPLE!!* Two different types of pizza, chickpea soup, and an avocado-and-orange salad is not a simple lunch in my book. Peanut butter on Ritz crackers is simple.

  138. He had prepared the dough the night before, using whole wheat and white flours, letting it rise all morning in the bedroom of one of his sons, a sunny spot in the front of the house.

    My inlaws cook from scratch and they wouldn’t at all be put off by this sentence, but I am. The inlaws will grind the ingredients required for rice pancakes at home, prepare the pancake mixture, let it rise in the warm kitchen for about a day and cook the pancakes the next morning. But cooking like this, takes planning and time to do all the steps. I think they should join forces with Pollan.

  139. Sky – that’s hilarious

    Milo – honestly, I’m beginning to see now that I got “eat real food as much as possible” from the single book of his that I read, and didn’t get anything else from it. Maybe I am giving myself credit for reading a book that I actually only skimmed? But yes, as you say, it might be a matter of taking what I like, rolling my eyes at the rest and moving on, as you do with MMM.

  140. Lark, popcorn cauliflower is a term for cauliflower cut into small florets/stem chunks (the florets do end up looking like popcorn) and roasted at high heat, usually with olive oil and salt at least, often with other seasonings. There are lots of different seasoning profiles you can use. Garlic, Italian herbs, parmesan; parsley, capers, paprika; Indian spices; but I usually just do olive oil and salt. Get it to where it has nice brown spots and people will eat it right off the roasting pan like popcorn.

  141. seasoning profiles

    I love this phrase. I will be working it into at least three conversations today. Bonus points if with a client.

  142. We definitely take full advantage of rotisserie chicken, canned broth (even though we also make broth from the chicken carcass!), canned tomatoes, frozen corn kernels, and all those handy-dandy convenience foods. When we watched Back in Time For Dinner, the addition of the various convenience foods over a couple of decades made the difference from the mom of the family spending all day in the kitchen (the 50s) to finding she had time on her hands (by the 70s). In a sense, the “bake your own bread or you’re doing life wrong” crowd is pushing a lifestyle that requires someone to be in the kitchen all day and thus is antithetical to the two-working-parent families of today.

    50s episode:

  143. I’ve read and liked some of Bittman’s cookbooks. I improved my pan-fried fish and scrambled eggs based on his ideas. I’m just not as opposed to prepared foods as they are. My meatball recipe includes ketchup mixed with balsamic vinegar and tater tot casserole usually involves Cream of Campbell’s rather than white sauce.

  144. HM – thank you for that link. I plan to watch all of those episodes. I guess I should overcome my Anglophobia (original House of Cards, excepted) and try some British TV. I can recall a few years ago (probably on TOS) when someone not old enough to remember 1960 referred to the June Cleaver era as a nutritious home cooked paradise. The poster was clearly unfamiliar with jello salad, cake mixes, beef without a trace of pink, liverwurst and one of my mom’s staples, cream cheese and jelly sandwiches (although they were on egg bread, not white bread).

  145. HM, my mom used to make desserts that looked like that, although more often using different colored cubes of Jello with Knox gelatin added so they would better hold their shapes.

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