I've been sharing my thoughts, ideas, rants, and raves with you all for well over two years. I've loved focusing on health and wellness topics, but as David and I move into Mexican Adventure Mode, I've started to think about how this space will evolve with us. I still plan on writing about the public health topics that interest me, like why so many cultures are obsessed with dictating what "perfect" bodies look like, but I also want to make sure that I'm reflecting my true daily life on these pages. For a while, my reality is going to look like a lot more travel, trying new foods, navigating a new country, and learning a new language. That being said, I don't want to lose some of the great content I've written in the past, so below you will find a compilation of older pages that will soon be disappearing.
We All Have to Eat
Eating is an essential part of who we are as people. Over time, this simple routine of fueling our bodies morphed into something much more complex; connecting our essential selves with family, and community. We continuously explore and experiment with new tastes and sensations, searching for the perfect bite. Most importantly, sharing a meal or a common food experience draws us closer, and can help us find the commonalities between seemingly disparate cultures.
Somewhere in recent history, however, we created a new way of thinking about food and eating; one which differentiates good from bad. Our new food paradigm tells us there is a right, and many wrong ways to eat, and that everyone should follow the same rules. When did eating become so uniform? When did carbohydrates become the enemy?
I fell head first into this new world, and am slowly climbing out. I choose to eat certain food and not eat others for many reasons; health, religious observances, taste preference, price, availability, etc. You may or may not choose the same foods for the same reasons, and that is ok.
Eat what works for you.
My Meal Planning Philosophy
Weekly meal planning...like many of my food philosophies, my relationship with meal planning and grocery shopping is complicated. However, over the past few years, the positive outcomes of taking a little extra time to think through my upcoming week inched me toward accepting this new habit. Tips, tricks, and advice on how to plan and prep your weekly menus seems to have invaded popular culture in recent years. Just Google "meal planning" and you will find over 6 million hits from well known sites like The Kitchn, My Fitness Pal, Cooking Light, Whole Foods Market, etc.
So what's so complicated? Good question. I believe planning meals for the week ahead lowers stress around meal times (at least for me), causes fewer kitchen arguments, and makes grocery shopping quicker and easier, but I also worry about increasing my own food anxiety through such focused attention on eating and food choices. I make a distinction between meal planning and meal prepping for this exact reason. Meal prepping involves spending large amounts of time in the kitchen during the weekend (or another off day) cooking in order to make meals during the rest of the week faster. For some people, especially those with crazy work and after-work schedules, this practice works. It means simply reheating food during the week instead of spending time each night making something new. Meal prepping does not work for me, however, because it requires locking myself into a menu days in advance, and for someone with food anxiety, often enhances my stress levels. I believe an important part of improving my food anxiety is allowing myself to eat what I want each day, and moving away from viewing food in such black and white terms.
Meal planning, on the other hand, focuses my food anxiety differently. Instead of spending hours cooking during each weekend, I take 30-45 additional minutes to organize my menus for the upcoming week, which allows me to enjoy the rest of my down time with non-food activities, and working toward better food/life balance.
Efficient and Stress-Free Grocery Shopping
My grocery store trips used to include walking up and down every aisle, staring at the shelves trying to make decision, and inevitably realizing I forgot important staples when I returned home. When I lived alone, this strategy worked. When I got married, and suddenly started cooking for two people, it imploded. Fried eggs with roasted vegetables each night no longer cut it. Now, I walk into the grocery store with a list based on the menu I planned for the week. I am in and out in under 30 minutes, and rarely make subsequent trips during the week after realizing I am missing a key ingredient for dinner. Immediate stress reducer!
Easy Weeknight Cooking
Each Friday night or Saturday morning I spend 30-45 minutes planning the menu for our week ahead. I consider our schedule; dinner invitations from friends, wanting to attend a gym class, and other after-work activities, in order to create a simple plan. For example, I teach a fitness class once a week, which means either David cooks dinner that night, or we do what I call "on your own". If David does cook, he let's me know what recipe to include on the plan for that evening. Or maybe I know we will both be home a little later, so I choose a recipe which requires less cooking time. This extra planning means I don't wake up each morning worrying about what to cook that night, or come home from work only to stare in the fridge trying to put a complete meal together.
No Hassel Lunches
One of the best parts about meal planning is never having to worry about lunches; I always make enough dinner in order for both of us to take leftovers for lunch. Yes, we are only two people, and most recipes make four servings, so it's easy, but even for larger families, this can be a great strategy. I no longer scramble in the mornings to throw together a (boring) lunch. Instead, I am taking something healthy and delicious.
The key to using meal plans to my advantage (lowering food anxiety) is building flexibility into the menu. A flexible plan sounds contradictory, but it works, I promise. As I mentioned earlier, locking myself into a dinner recipe days in advance only enhances my complicated relationship with food. 95% of the time I stick to the plan, but sometimes I change my mind about what I want to eat, am extra full from a work lunch, or too tired from a long day to stand in the kitchen, so I change the plan, and guess what? Everything is okay.
This last point is especially true as we begin our life adventure in Mexico City. I will no longer be working 9-5, customary eating times and patterns are different in Mexico than in the United States, and who knows what kind of kitchen I will have in our rental. With so many unknown factors, plus my desire to take advantage of the wealth of fresh produce available in Mexico, I guarantee my meal planning strategy will change, and you better believe I'll be sharing all of my kitchen successes (and non-successes) with you!
Walking enthusiast, kitchen experimenter, sports lover (watching, not playing), and future world traveler.
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