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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Spin class can kill your muscle tissue, Round Up found in Ben & Jerry’s, and carbs aren’t the enemy

by | Jul 28, 2017

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup. I missed last week, so added a few more to the mix this week.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week spin class can kill your muscle tissue, Round Up found in Ben & Jerry’s, and carbs aren’t the enemy.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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For the Love of Food

by | Jul 25, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week eating with others transcends better health, the new tastebuds on the block, and why to avoid certain peaches.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).
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For the Love of Food

by | Aug 9, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week your great-grandma’s bad habits make you less healthy, concerned scientists lay the smackdown on the Farm Bill, and Cookie Monster offers mindful eating advice.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Read the rest of this story »

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8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook

by | Jul 11, 2012

Photo by f_mafra

Some guys I know don’t consider cooking a worthwhile venture. Besides the occasional stint behind the grill, they’d rather bask in blissful ignorance than feed themselves in more than 3 steps: stab, chew, swallow.

But ask any woman (or man that already knows how) why it is better to be a kitchen savvy dude and you’ll start to see what these guys are missing.

Whether it’s because they think it takes too much time, too much effort or wrongly assume it’s a woman’s job, men who never learn to cook are losing a huge opportunity to take their man skills to the next level.

8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook

1. Chicks dig it

There isn’t a woman alive immune to a man who can make her a delicious meal. Step up to the plate boys, we’re begging you.

2. Life skills are manly

You can fix your car, hunt wild animals and build a camp fire. Shouldn’t you know how to feed yourself without a drive-thru?

3. You’ll save money

Though there’s a good chance you’re single if you never learned to cook (see point #1), a home cooked meal is a much cheaper date night (or singles night) than dinner for two at Chez Fancy—particularly with the 150% wine mark up common at most restaurants.

4. It’s faster than going out

Fancy date meals aside, cooking at home is almost always faster than going out—so long as you know what you’re doing. Once you have a few basic skills down, you can stop wasting your time in fast food spots simply because you don’t know what else to eat.

5. Guy Fieri shouldn’t be better than you at anything

Food Network star Guy Fieri has bad hair, bad clothes and douchey sunglasses, but the dude knows how to cook. Are you going to let him upstage you like that? Of course you aren’t.

6. Your puppy (aka girl magnet) will eat better

My notoriously adorable puppy Toaster loves salad scraps (sugar snap peas are his favorite), eggs, meats, fish, and pretty much anything else we’re willing to share. A balanced diet is as good for dogs as it is for people (just don’t give them onions, garlic or grapes).

7. You might lose weight

Cooking is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet and stick to reasonable portions. This is a recipe for weight loss, if you’re willing to swallow it.

8. You might like it

Cooking is relaxing, fun, creative, purposeful and, hopefully, delicious. Why wouldn’t you want to add this skill to your tool belt?

Why do you guys like to cook?

Originally published June 6, 2011.

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For The Love of Food

by | Apr 30, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Exceptional reading this week. Whatever you do, don’t miss Michael Ruhlman’s calling BS on the food industry deceiving us into believing we’re too busy to cook. There’s also new data suggesting your genes may determine what diet suits you best (healthstyle anyone?) and important news for diabetics taking vitamin B supplements.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What inspired you to eat well this week?

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How (And Why) To Cook And Freeze Large Batches Of Lentils

by | Mar 17, 2010
Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe

Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe

Healthy eating is important, but for most people (myself included) there are two factors that will almost always trump your best intentions to eat well: taste and time.

In the long run you will not win a battle of wills against your taste buds, and if you think about it you probably don’t even want to. If you hope to build long-term healthy eating habits I suggest focusing your efforts on making the food you cook at home taste as good or better than your default, less healthy alternatives.

Convenience is also a big factor in our daily food decisions. Time is one of our most precious resources, and although I recommend eating slowly I am a big advocate of cooking simply and quickly. In fact, one of the reasons I most often decide to cook at home is that making my own food is much quicker than visiting even the closest taqueria. It is also healthier and cheaper.

On a typical weeknight, I sit down to dinner 15-20 minutes after walking in the door. Granted, I usually cook for just myself, but doubling my recipes is fairly easily and doesn’t cost much in time.

This kind of efficiency does require a bit of planning, however. My meals are typically composed of a big pile of vegetables and either beans, lentils, eggs, fish, intact whole grains, or some combination of these. Half the battle is being sure these things are in your home when you need them.

My fridge is always stocked with fresh vegetables and herbs from my weekly farmers market trip. I also usually set aside a little time each week to cook a large batch of either beans or lentils, which are among my absolute favorite foods for adding substance, texture and a world of flavor to dishes.

I’ve written before about how I make beans using a pressure cooker, but today I want to focus on lentils. Lentils are smaller and more delicate than most beans. As a result, they cook faster and don’t require as much culinary foresight (beans require an overnight soak, while lentils do not).

There are many varieties of lentils. Some are more firm and keep their shape after cooking, making them ideal for adding to stir fries and salads. They can also be used as a substitute for or addition to grain dishes. Examples of firm lentils are French green, black beluga and the most common Spanish brown varieties.

Yellow, red and orange lentils are even smaller and more delicate, which causes them to fall apart and turn to liquid during cooking. These lentils are common ingredients in soups, stews and Indian food.

Because I frequently use lentils as a last minute addition to vegetable dishes to make them more substantial, I have worked to optimize the cooking and storage for a few of the firm varieties. My preference is for the French green and black beluga, but since black lentils are harder to find I performed my experiments exclusively on the green and brown varieties.

My goal was to find the optimal cooking time and the best freezing methods for lentils. Specifically I was hoping to find a convenient method of freezing individual servings that could be stored indefinitely and used within minutes at any time, similar to my method of freezing brown rice.

Traditionally I cook lentils on the stove top in a regular covered sauce pan, but this time I also tried the pressure cooker to see if it could reduce cooking time. In each of my experiments I used 1 cup of dry lentils and 6 cups of water with salt. I added the lentils to a pot of cold water and started my timer when the pot hit the flame.

When preparing lentils, always be sure to rinse them and check for small pebbles before cooking. I do this by slowly pouring my dry lentils into a fine mesh strainer (while checking for pebbles), then rinsing them under the faucet for 30 seconds or so.

A few things surprised me during my experiments. The first is that French green lentils have a much more robust, complex flavor than brown lentils, which have a more subtle flavor and creamier texture. Brown lentils also retained more water and didn’t hold their shape quite as well as the green lentils, and took substantially longer to cook. For these reasons, I strongly preferred the green lentils in my experiments, though I would happily use brown lentils in a hearty stew or as a bed for meat or poultry.

Additionally, because brown lentils didn’t hold their shape as well, I was unable to freeze them in individual plastic wrapped servings like rice. However this method worked wonderfully for green lentils.

As you might expect, my success at freezing lentils in plastic wrap depended on how much liquid I could remove from them before freezing.

For best results, strain lentils very well using a fine meshed strainer before wrapping in individual servings. Carefully place 1/2 cup of lentils in the center of a square of plastic. Fold two opposite edges over the lentils, twist the ends and tie them in a half knot at the top, trying to avoid folding plastic into the lentil ball. To use, run the frozen ball under warm (not hot) water until you can untie the knot. Place lentils in a bowl and microwave 2-3 minutes. Stir with a fork and use.

Both brown and green lentils also froze well in plastic tupper containers. If you know you will be using lentils regularly, you can split a batch you prepare into two or more containers, keep one in the fridge for use and freeze the others. When you are ready, transfer your frozen lentils from the freezer to the fridge the day before you want to use them. Alternatively you could freeze them in Pyrex or glass containers and simply microwave when you want to use them.

I was also curious if a pressure cooker could reduce the time necessary to prepare lentils. For beans a pressure cooker provides an obvious advantage, since on a stove top they can take hours to cook thoroughly. But lentils take only 30-40 min and do not require pre-soaking as beans do. Boiling lentils requires very little attention (make the rest of your food while they cook) and cleanup is easier, so I was curious if there would still be a time advantage using a pressure cooker.

I got different results for the different varieties. For green lentils the pressure cooker did not provide much of an advantage over regular boiling. I found the optimal pressure cooker time for green lentils to be 5-6 minutes, but it takes about 15 minutes for it to pressurize (could maybe be reduced with less water) and another 5 for depressurizing after cooking. Given the extra cleanup/hassle of using the pressure cooker over a sauce pan, the 35 minutes it took to boil the same amount of lentils feels like a better deal.

Another advantage of not using the pressure cooker for green lentils is it’s possible to check the texture as they cook. With the pressure cooker I found it was easy to undercook or overcook the lentils, and the time window was very narrow. This is not ideal if you want the lentils to keep their shape for freezing.

On the other hand, the time advantage gained by using a pressure cooker for the bigger brown lentils was substantial. Brown lentils cooked completely in 7-8 minutes in the pressure cooker, bringing the total cook time to under 30 minutes. However it took well over 45 minutes for them to soften up with boiling alone.

Though I didn’t test them in these experiments, my experience with red and yellow lentils is that they cook in a pressure cooker in about 4 minutes, much faster than simply boiling. This substantially cuts the amount of time it takes to cook with them.

Summary

French green lentils were my favorite for flavor, ease of cooking and storage. They are easiest to prepare by boiling with salt in a regular covered sauce pan for approximately 35 minutes. If well strained, they freeze beautifully in either individually wrapped balls or in a tupper. They can be kept 4-5 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Brown lentils take longer to cook and time is saved by using a pressure cooker. These lentils can be frozen, but do better in a large solid container than in individually wrapped servings.

Either variety stores well in the freezer and has the potential to substantially cut down on daily cooking times when prepared in large batches and used repeatedly.

Do you freeze lentils? Do you prefer to use a pressure cooker?

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Quick Fix: Super Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

by | Feb 8, 2010
Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

It has been forever since I’ve posted a recipe, and I apologize. The thing is, I’ve been really busy. And when I’m busy my meals don’t tend to be super interesting or fancy.

But they are definitely delicious.

Kale has been my favorite instant meal lately. I can usually find three different kinds–curly, Tuscan (aka dinosaur), and red Russian–and they all work with this recipe. You can also substitute chard or any other sturdy greens to mix things up. If you want to make your life even easier look for kale with smaller, young leaves so the stems are tender enough to leave in while cooking.

The key to making a plain green vegetable worthy of an entire meal is adding something with protein or fat (preferably both). Nuts work perfectly, as do any kind of beans or lentils. This recipe calls for pecans, which are wonderful, but I usually use roasted pistachio nuts since they don’t need to be chopped. I was out of pistachios today since I ate so much kale last week (these things happen).

For me this meal is a perfect lunch. Alternatively you can serve it as a side dish and it can serve a few people. If you would like a little more substance serve it with lentils and brown rice or quinoa. I will sometimes have sardines or smoked mackerel or trout on the side.

Super Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

Serves 1-3 people. 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale or chard
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or pistachios
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Sea salt to taste

Start by mincing your garlic, just to make it a tiny bit healthier. Rinse your greens and place them all on a cutting board oriented in the same direction. If the leaves have very thick stems you may want to remove them as explained here. Personally I buy greens that are fresh and tender enough that I rarely bother removing stems.

Pile the greens on top of each other. Starting at the tip of the leaves, cut 1 inch strips until you have cut the entire bunch. If you are using Tuscan or red Russian kale, a lot less chopping is necessary because the leaves are thin and only need be cut in one direction. If your leaves are wide, cut them into 1-2 inch squares. It’s okay if your greens are still wet, the water will help them steam.

Using a pan with tall sides and a lid, add the nuts and turn it on medium heat. Lightly toast the nuts, stirring regularly with tongs. After 2-3 minutes, add olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Add your chopped greens to the pan, sprinkle generously with sea salt and toss with tongs. Cover.

Stir the greens occasionally so they don’t burn, always replacing the lid after stirring. Continue cooking the greens as they wilt and turn dark green. If they start to burn lower the heat, add 1-2 tbsp of water and cover again to steam.

Kale is done cooking when it is dark green and the stems are tender. Unlike spinach, it is very difficult to over-cook kale because it retains its crispness very well.  Before turning off the heat, use tongs to clear a space in the center of the pan and add your minced garlic in a single layer. Allow the garlic to cook until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds, then mix it up with the kale and nuts. Add half cup of beans or lentils at this point if desired.

Continue to cook greens uncovered for another minute or two. Taste test a leaf for saltiness and adjust to taste (be careful if you are using chard, it is naturally salty and easy to over-season).

Serve immediately.

Who loves kale as much as I do?

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10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

by | Jan 13, 2010

Photo by ReneS

For some people cooking alone is a chore rather than a treat, but those people don’t know what they’re missing.

If cooking for yourself seems like more hassle than it’s worth, it may be time to start thinking more selfishly about the whole business.

Eating is a deeply personal, private experience that stimulates all of your senses. We each have our own particular tastes, preferences and memories associated with different foods, and each of these can elicit an entire universe of physical and emotional responses.

When you cook for yourself, especially when you aren’t beholden to the desires of others, you have a perfect opportunity to indulge some of your favorite pleasures. Cook something fancy and high brow, enjoy a favorite childhood dish or just throw 12 odd flavors together and see what happens. You have the freedom to make what you want, exactly the way you like it.

We eat alone for different reasons at different times. Sometimes we are in a hurry. Sometimes family is out of town. Whatever the reason, taking the opportunity to cook for yourself is almost always the most interesting, convenient and pleasurable option.

I began this list on my own, but some of the points were inspired by a book I recently picked up, What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison. It is a quick read and a good source for more inspiration and recipes.

10 Selfish Reasons To Cook Alone

  1. Splurge. Buying exquisite ingredients to feed a crowd can be prohibitively expensive, but a single serving of white truffle can be had without breaking the bank. That is, so long as you prepare the rest of the meal yourself. If you adore Kobe beef or lobster tail, why not use a weekend alone to treat yourself to a fabulous dinner without going out?
  2. Indulge. Have you always wanted to try bacon on your oatmeal? Go for it, no one’s looking.
  3. Impress. Cooking someone a meal and sharing it can be one of the most intimate experiences on earth. Being alone is a great time to practice. Hone your cooking skills and show that special someone what a great catch you are. If you’re already spoken for, adding a few interesting meals to your repertoire is also a great way to impress your family and friends.
  4. Save. My favorite burrito at the place down the street costs about $6. At home I can make the exact same burrito for $2. Plus if I already have the ingredients around I can make it in a fraction of the time. How is that for thrift?
  5. Thrive. My personal favorite reason to cook for myself is that I have complete control over what goes in my food. Here in San Francisco, splurging and indulgence can be bought within a quarter mile in any direction. When I’m home I enjoy making healthy, nourishing food cooked exactly the way I like it.
  6. Improve. Don’t consider yourself a particularly good cook? The only way to get better is to practice. Trying out new things in the kitchen can be much less stressful when you’re alone, so take the opportunity of solitude to make mistakes without inspiring disappointment or ridicule.
  7. Hurry. If you cook regularly and have a decently stocked kitchen, you can make yourself a meal faster than most places can make one for you. Driving somewhere, waiting in line, ordering and waiting for your food may seem like the fastest option but it usually isn’t.
  8. Perfect. Is there a dish at your favorite restaurant that you wish you could recreate at home? Try it one day when you have some free time. You might not get it exactly right the first time, but you can probably get pretty good at it eventually.
  9. Relax. No one is home? The pressure is off! There’s no one to please but yourself. Cook at your leisure, make pancakes for dinner, break all the rules. When it’s just you there are no expectations.
  10. Experiment. Maybe you’ve always wished for a quick and easy dessert that doesn’t have any added sugar. Maybe you’re curious if lasagna can be made in a skillet instead of the oven (it can). Indulge your cooking curiosities when no one is looking and you have a little extra time to play around.

What do you love about cooking alone?

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How To Eat Healthy When You Have No Time

by | Dec 7, 2009
Photo by liquene

Photo by liquene

I’m always pretty busy, but these past couple weeks I have been especially slammed with work. I have a big thesis committee meeting coming up in lab that I want to be very well-prepared for. I also launched a 25-page free healthy eating guide last week, all amidst my 30th birthday and Thanksgiving in different cities.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I do it all (I stay focused and work hard), but some of you have asked an even more interesting question:

How do I have time to eat healthy?

The most truthful answer is that I always have time to eat healthy, because it is not something I consider optional. Healthy eating doesn’t really take any more time than unhealthy eating, it just requires a little more foresight. Luckily I have automated my healthstyle so that healthy eating is actually easier for me than eating junk.

However, when time is especially strained I do make a few adjustments to save on prep time and clean up.

Here are a few tricks I’ve been using to have healthy meals in under 15 minutes.

8 Quick Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Focus on single vegetable meals. If I were asked to make the quickest meal I could think of, I would grab a bunch of kale, a clove of garlic, some sea salt and maybe some pistachio nuts, put them in a pan and cook them for about 7 minutes. You can do this with chard, spinach, fennel, broccolini or any other green vegetable. For protein and carbohydrate I throw in some beans or lentils at the end. These aren’t the most creative meals in the world, but they are healthy, filling, quick and delicious enough to make friends jealous. I could live on these dinners for weeks at a time, and they only leave one pan to clean.
  2. Count on legumes. As mentioned above, it is important to have something other than vegetables in your meals or you will get really hungry. Nuts are a great addition to anything, but the most bang for your buck is beans and lentils. I make huge batches of these once or twice a week and throw them in virtually everything I cook. A pressure cooker makes legume preparation a piece of cake. If I’m really in a hurry I will just dress some legumes with vinaigrette, maybe throw in some herbs or fruit and call it lunch.
  3. Eat salads. I also add beans and lentils to salads to make them more substantial. It takes less than 5 minutes to slice up some Napa cabbage, toss in some beans, cut up a pear and sprinkle on walnuts with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a quick lunch. Salads don’t require cooking and I just eat it out of the bowl I make it in.
  4. Scramble eggs. By far the fastest cooking protein you can get is eggs. Scrambling 2-3 eggs takes about 2 minutes. Saute some spinach with a little garlic (you can use the same pan if you cook the greens first) and you have a healthy homemade meal in under 10 minutes. This works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  5. Eat breakfast for dinner. Eggs aren’t the only food that can break the typical American meal pattern. If cooking at night really isn’t an option, sometimes I will just double up on my normal breakfast of muesli, fruit and plain yogurt and have it for dinner. Sure I’d rather eat leafy greens, but intact grains are sure better (and faster) than the burrito place down the street.
  6. Cook in large batches. In addition to legumes I also make intact whole grains in big batches and freeze them in single servings. These can be thawed in the  microwave in 1-2 minutes and added to any meal (stirfry, salads, soups, etc.) to make them more satisfying. During the autumn and winter I also rely on roasted winter squash like kabocha for additional vegetables/carbohydrates. My favorite is to cut a kabocha squash in half, remove seeds, rub the inside with olive and sea salt and roast, face down for 30-45 minutes at 400F. Three or 4 slices of winter squash make a plate of greens a lot more interesting. Store your cooked squash in a tupper and add it to various meals throughout the week. I like kabocha, red kuri and delicata squashes because, unlike butternut, you can eat the skin (no peeling).
  7. Have a reliable takeout option. The only trouble I sometimes run into is not having enough ingredients in the house to make a solid meal before heading out. For times like this I rely on a local artisan market, Bi-Rite, that has awesome healthy prepared foods. I’ll pick up a pint of lentil, chickpea or quinoa salad from their deli fridge and a piece of fruit, then I’m good to go. It is worth it to hunt down a place like this near your home or work that you know you can count on to pick something up in a pinch. Whole Foods has great prepared food options if you can find one near you.
  8. Carry fruit and nuts. The worst case scenario is that you get stuck outside the house with nothing but vending machines within walking distance. If you always have trail mix or nuts in your bag you can usually put off a meal until you can find something healthy. Don’t leave home without it.

What tricks do you use to eat healthy when you have no time?

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Automatic Health: Lessons From Personal Finance

by | Apr 3, 2009
Healthy Breakfast

Healthy Breakfast

Probably the biggest misconception about health and weight loss is that it takes a tremendous amount of willpower to succeed. Another myth is that it requires a substantial time investment.  In fact, neither excessive willpower nor time are necessary to be healthy and thin. So isn’t it useless to trying to force them on yourself? I think so.

After reading a captivating article by Ramit Sethi on Tim Ferriss’ (The Four Hour Work Week) blog, I learned most people have the same delusions about personal financeas they do about health—-they think paying off debt and saving money require willpower and time. So we should not be surprised that the solutions for personal finance offered by Ramit are the same fundamental strategies necessary for investing in your personal health. Make no mistake about it, your health is an investment. And a pretty important one at that.

Today I am going to show you how the advice and reasoning Ramit uses in his article can apply to health and weight loss, and how automating these steps can help you achieve your goals. In future articles I will describe in detail how to implement each step. Be sure you are subscribed with either RSS or email so you can follow the series.

Choice Paralysis

Ramit starts by pointing out that we have dozens of choices to make every day when it comes to money. The same is true for health. Should I eat breakfast? Should I pack a lunch? Am I going to the gym?

“Faced with an overwhelming number of choices, most people respond in the same way: They do nothing.”

Clearly “nothing” is not a winning strategy. In both finance and health you must set your default activities so that you will automatically contribute to your long-term goals. Automation is the essence of healthstyle.

Establish a Foundation

Ramit says the first step to automating your personal finance system is to make sure you are getting the best deals you can from your financial institutions, meaning that you have the lowest possible interest rates and are not paying annual fees. Not doing this is equivalent to throwing money away.

In health the first step in establishing your foundation is having the tools you need to succeed. Since how you eat is the biggest factor in determining your long-term health and body weight, you must have the ability to eat properly. In our modern lives, this ultimately means you need to know how to cook for yourself. You will never get healthy eating at restaurants every day. This is the same as throwing your health away.

Therefore it is essential that your kitchen is supplied with the tools you need to cook, eat and store your food. This may seem obvious to some of you, but for many people the kitchen is a foreign and scary place. To assist both newbies and veterans in upgrading your kitchenstyles, I have put together a section of the Summer Tomato Shop called Kitchen Gear (go to the Shop then use the navigation in the sidebar on the right).

Kitchen Gear is grouped into categories that are meant to help you find exactly what you need. The Basics has all the essential items for a functional kitchen. Additionally, below each item I give a brief description of why it is on the list.

If you regularly follow my blog, however, you will soon find that I sometimes use items that are not in The Basics. Usually you can find these in Accessories. In general, Accessories are items that are not absolutely necessary for cooking, but they can make your life a whole lot easier if you have them. For example, you can peel vegetables with a knife, but a vegetable peeler makes it quick and easy.

Storage & Transport has products that help you mobilize your healthstyle, which is especially important if you work away from home during the day. There are also reusable grocery and farmers market bags available.

The Finer Things offers the top-of-the-line products that I wish I had (okay, I have a few of them). I have spent an embarrassing amount of time reading reviews of kitchen products and appliances, and these are the products I envision in my future dream kitchen. For those of you who can afford them, this is your list.

I feel confident in the quality of the items I recommend–I own or have used most of them. I also consider price in my recommendations and try to make this clear in my explanations. If, however, you feel you want an item that is different from what is on my list, you can still navigate to and purchase it through the Amazon links on this website to support this blog. My store is run through Amazon.com and almost always represents the best prices on the internet.

Automate the Basics

The next step in Ramit’s personal finance plan is to automate your bank accounts so that regular payments and savings deposits occur as soon as you get your paycheck (also automatic). This takes care of all your goals and gives you the freedom to make personal decisions with the rest of your money without worry, guilt or willpower.

If you are like most people the structure of your day stays pretty much the same all year long (particularly Monday through Friday). We wake up, go to work (or equivalent), come home, eat, spend time on personal things then go to bed. This structure provides us an excellent opportunity to optimize for health.

Breakfast. One of the simplest things you can do to improve your health is eat breakfast, particularly whole grains and fruit. To easily begin improving your metabolism and blood sugar control, find a couple whole grain cereals you like and start eating breakfast every day. If you think you do not like to eat first thing in the morning, you are most likely dehydrated. Wake up, drink water, then eat breakfast.

Lunch. For many people lunch is the most difficult meal to make healthy because they do not prepare for it, get stuck at work with no food and end up going out and eating something unhealthy. But since you know you always eat one meal at work each day, this is something you can easily automate in your favor.

Each weekend you need to plan in advance what you will be eating for lunch all week. Make sure you cover at least 4 days, but five is better. There are several ways to approach this: you can bring ingredients and prepare your own lunch at the office, make a large batch of food on weekends especially for lunch during the week, or make enough food each night at dinner that you have leftovers for the next day. All these strategies are effective because they help you avoid buying your lunch.

Shopping. In order to accomplish the two above points, you need to set aside a little bit of time each weekend to go grocery shopping and plan (or at least consider) your meals. This time must be non-negotiable; ultimately it saves you time later in the week. For my personal healthstyle the weekend always includes a trip to the farmers market, but there are many other options if this is not realistic for you.

Effective shopping has several components. You must always have the basic stocks of items in your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. You need to shop regularly for staples (milk, for example) and fresh items must be purchased weekly. Details on how to shop for all these components will be given in future posts.

Dinner. People expect the most out of dinner. It generally needs to be quick (I’m starving!), simple (I’m busy!) and delicious (I’m picky!). Luckily, the changing seasons offer great opportunity to keep variety in our dinner menus without needing too many different cooking techniques. If you can get at least a few of the basic skills under your belt, you can make an infinite number of healthy, interesting and delicious meals. Basic cooking techniques will also be summarized in future posts.

Work exercise into your daily routine. Physical activity is essential for staying fit and trim, but it doesn’t particularly matter where you get it. The important thing is that you make it happen consistently by incorporating it into your average day. Personally I walk to work, take the stairs, and make it to the gym for cardio and weights whenever I can.

Whatever method you choose as your source of physical activity must be your default, and skipping your exercise must be the exception. If you prefer using a gym, make sure you have a membership, a gym bag and the necessary apparel to workout at all times. Don’t like the gym? Find an activity that you enjoy and recruit friends to join you. Even if you prefer not to engage in formal workouts at all, you can make an effort to increase your non-exercise daily activity. Some scientists think non-exercise energy expenditure may be especially effective for people who are trying to lose weight but dislike structured workouts.

Tweaking Your Style

Ramit’s final recommendation for automating your personal finance is to customize your plan for your personal circumstances.

We are all individuals and have different needs and preferences, especially when it comes to food and exercise. I do not recommend trying to incorporate every ounce of my advice into your life at the same time. Try the things that are easiest for you and see how they work. Once a few new habits are formed, you can try to tackle some harder ones. As you grow and evolve into your own healthstyle, you may find things that never worked for you before are suddenly feasible. Or you may come up with your own hacks to optimize your health and fitness.

This blog is meant to be a source for suggestions and guidelines, not dogma or a regimented plan. Discovering and improving your own strategies for success are essential for building a lasting healthstyle that reflects both who you are and who you want to be.

How will you upgrade your healthstyle?

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