Meal Planning for Beginners Guide

Find Out How to Make Eating Healthy Easier.

I talk a lot about meal planning. That’s because it’s without a doubt one of the most foundational concepts for a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is possible to be healthy without meal planning, but it’s incredibly difficult and more than likely, a much more expensive way of doing things. My guess is that you don’t have space for that. You are busy, you don’t have an unlimited budget and you certainly don’t have unlimited time and energy. That’s where meal planning comes in. The concept is based on deciding ahead of time every meal that your family is going to have for at least three to four days but preferably the entire week. If you’re just starting out with living a healthy lifestyle or are ready to find out how to make eating healthy easier, then this step-by-step meal planning for beginners’ guide is for you.

***Note, you’ll probably want to plan to spend about an hour on getting your system in place. If that seems like too much, remember that this investment of time up front will help reduce the amount of time that you spend on weekly meal planning and will help to reduce food costs on a regular basis.

Step 1: Create a List of Regular Meals

Meal planning for beginners starts with creating a list of your favorite meals or at least meals that you and your family eat regularly. Here’s the way that I do this:

  • Create a spreadsheet with a column for Meals, Ingredients, Cost and Recipe. The simplest way is to use Google Sheets so that you can call it up on your phone wherever you are.
  • In the Meals column, make a list of 10-14 meals that your family eats regularly and/or loves. (If you don’t have 10-14 good foundational meals, see Step 2.) Be sure and leave 5-10 rows between each meal. You can also include the recipe’s website link or indicate the cookbook and page number where it can be found in the Recipe column. Different tabs for breakfast, lunch and snacks can also be created.
  • Then create a list of every ingredient in each meal. Do this in the Ingredients column using the empty rows between each meal.
  • Finally, figure out the average cost for each meal. I do this in the Cost column by including the usual price for each ingredient. For spices and items that I know I don’t use all at once, I come up with the general cost of the amount needed for that specific recipe. At the end of the recipe entry, I put “Total:” in the Meal column and then over in the Cost column, I total up the cost of all the ingredients.
  • It’s helpful to make a note of any recipes that use partial ingredients that may spoil quickly such as ½ can of diced tomatoes or ½ of an onion. That way you can easily know which recipes would be good to make in the same week to cut down on food waste as much as possible.

Step 2: Find Good Recipe Resources

If you don’t have 10-14 foundational meals that you can call on quickly when you’re planning your meals for the week, you’ll need to find at least three good recipe resources that you know won’t let you down. It may take a bit of trial and error to find these, but my bet is that you probably already have them even if you don’t realize it. These are the websites, blogs, and cookbooks that you regularly go to because you know that they have things that your family will eat. If you need suggestions for possible resources, feel free to use some or all of what I consider to be the 5 Best Healthy Food Blogs and the 7 Best Vegan Recipe Blogs and Websites.

As you find new meals to add to your repertoire, simply include them with the list that you’ve already started. This list is going to be the foundation for your weekly meal planning.

Step 3: Create a Meal Planning Template

After you’ve found your basic meals that you can rotate through every couple of weeks, it’s time to create your Meal Planning Template. Again, I do this in Google Sheets in the following way:

  • Have columns labeled Meal, Day of the Week, Recipe, Cost of Meal and Recipe Notes.
  • In the Meal column, have sections that are labeled Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast and Snacks.

Step 4: Fill in the Meal Planning Template

If you have your list of meals that you can refer to, filling in your meal planning template for the week is fairly easy. At this point, it’s just picking and choosing from the list that you’ve already created and maybe adding a new meal every now and then.

  • Cost-saving tip: Think about what foods are in season and look at your grocery store sales circular at the beginning of this step. Choose the meals from your list that use foods that are in season or on sale to keep costs as low as possible.
  • I create a new tab for each week within the same spreadsheet so that I can easily go back and remember what we had the previous week or two weeks before.
  • I would advise having a meal template for each year. Any longer than that gets too cumbersome to scroll through all of the tabs.
  • At the end of the list, you can calculate what your general cost for meals for the week will be by putting “Total:” in the Meal column and then over in the Cost of Meal column, totaling up the cost of all of the meals. That way, if it doesn’t fit within your budget for the week, you can go back and make adjustments.

Step 5: Use Meal Planner to Make Grocery List

Once you have your meal planner filled in, making your grocery list for the week is a snap. Simply, look at the ingredients’ list for each meal, check to see whether you already have it in stock or if you need to add it to the list. If you don’t have a good grocery list template that you use, you’re welcome to access my free Food Inventory and Shopping List template here or check out some of my other favorite meal planning tools.

Bottom Line on Meal Planning for Beginners

The bottom line on meal planning for beginners is that it will take some time and effort to get your system in place. Once you’ve done that though, the time and money savings and health benefits that you will reap from it will make it more than worth your while


Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Health Benefits of Blueberries

Nutrition Information and How to Store and Eat Them.

To say that blueberries are one of my favorite foods would be an understatement! They may come in small packages, but they’re full of flavor, nutrients and many health benefits. That’s why they’re by far among the things I look forward to most about summer. So, what makes these berries so special? We’re taking a look at the many health benefits of blueberries as well as why they’re so good for us, and how to buy, store and eat them. 

Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

What Are Blueberries?

According to the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, blueberries are part of the Ericaceae family, also known as heaths1. Their cousins include rhododendron and azaleas, and they grow on bushes2. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that they weren’t cultivated before the 20th century. Before then, you could only find them in the wild2

Blueberries are a summer fruit that are worth their weight in gold as far as I’m concerned. If you grow them or have ever gone to a “pick-your-own” farm, you know what I’m talking about. Picking these tiny berries in the hot summer sun will either put you in a Zen place or have you questioning your sanity. The good news is though that the work is well worth it once you start popping them in your mouth. 

Nutrients in Blueberries

When it comes to micronutrients, blueberries rank right up toward the top of the list of superfoods. High amounts of fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium and folate3 are just a few of the reasons why they earn honors when it comes to the healthiest foods. 

Health Benefits of Blueberries

If you’re looking for the health benefits of blueberries, the things that you’ll probably hear the most about are the antioxidants. They and other berries are packed with these health-boosting substances5, 6. According to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids and may “prevent or delay some types of cell damage7.” Research shows that this cell damage is considered to be a major contributor to degenerative diseases associated with aging. These include cancer, cardiovascular disease, immune system decline, brain dysfunction, and even cataracts6,8

Eating blueberries in regular, moderate amounts is being looked at as a way to possibly prevent and fight these diseases and others and to boost overall health9, 10. This means, at least according to one study, three or more servings of a half a cup of blueberries every week11. Less than that and the benefits may not be as great. 

How to Buy, Store and Eat Blueberries

I mentioned picking blueberries before. If you’ve never done this, I would highly recommend trying it at least once. The secret is going early in the morning, before the sun is bearing down on you and the temperature is too hot. If you take a young child or a child with a short attention span, be sure and go with realistic expectations. Picking blueberries is fun, but it can get tedious. 

Whether you’re picking them yourself or buying them in the grocery store, you’ll want to look for firm and plump deep blue berries. You don’t want them to be soft and squishy or still purple-ish in color. Those will be too tart. 

Storing Blueberries 

Fresh blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator and will usually last up to 10 days. If you haven’t picked them yourself, you’ll want to sort through them fairly quickly to make sure that none have mold on them. Mold spreads quickly so this could ruin the entire bunch if you don’t find it before storing them. 

You’ll also want to wait to rinse them until just before you’re going to eat them to keep as much moisture out as possible. I store mine in a plastic baggie with a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture that might be on them. If they come in a container, you can also just store them in there, but you’ll still want to put a paper towel in the bottom. If you’re not going to use all of the blueberries immediately, freezing them is supposed to be very easy. I wouldn’t know first-hand about that because I never have any fresh blueberries that we don’t eat. If you do though, the Old Farmer’s Almanac explains how to freeze them here

How to Eat Blueberries 

My favorite ways to eat fresh blueberries include having a cup by themselves, in muffins or in a cobbler. For my daily green smoothies, frozen blueberries are usually a key ingredient. 

Cost of Blueberries

Blueberries are not included on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List but I still try to buy organic berries of any type. Blueberries don’t carry as many pesticides as some of the others, but if they’re not organic or verified as being chemical-free by the grower, they’ve probably been sprayed in some way. Buying organic raises the cost for what is already a usually fairly pricey fruit to eat, which is why I only buy fresh blueberries during the summer – when they’re in season and the price is lowest. Otherwise, I buy them frozen. The health benefits are pretty much the same either way. 

Bottom Line on the Health Benefits of Blueberries

The bottom line on the health benefits of blueberries is that we should all be eating them – especially as we age. I didn’t truly need an excuse to eat more blueberries, but by all means, if the research shows they’re that good for me, who am I to argue?

Sources

  1. University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. The Highbush Blueberry.http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2012/johnson_jor3/classification.htm
  2. The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Growing Blueberries. https://www.almanac.com/plant/blueberries#
  3. Sustainable Food Center. 3 Power Foods That Will Change the Way You Eat During Pregnancy. https://sustainablefoodcenter.org/latest/cooking/3-power-foods-that-will-change-the-way-you-eat-during-pregnancy
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171711/nutrients
  5. Silva S, Costa EM, Veiga M, Morais RM, Calhau C, Pintado M. Health promoting properties of blueberries: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(2):181-200. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1518895. Epub 2018 Oct 29. PMID: 30373383. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30373383/
  6. Ames BN, Shigenaga MK, Hagen TM. Oxidants, antioxidants, and the degenerative diseases of aging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993;90(17):7915-7922. doi:10.1073/pnas.90.17.7915. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC47258/
  7. National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Antioxidants: In Depth. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth
  8. Prior RL, Cao G, Prior RL, Cao G. Analysis of botanicals and dietary supplements for antioxidant capacity: a review. J AOAC Int. 2000 Jul-Aug;83(4):950-6. PMID: 10995120. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10995120/
  9. Kalt W, Cassidy A, Howard LR, Krikorian R, Stull AJ, Tremblay F, Zamora-Ros R. Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins. Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):224-236. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz065. PMID: 31329250; PMCID: PMC7442370. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31329250/
  10. Wolfe KL, Kang X, He X, Dong M, Zhang Q, Liu RH. Cellular antioxidant activity of common fruits. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 24;56(18):8418-26. doi: 10.1021/jf801381y. Epub 2008 Aug 30. PMID: 18759450. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18759450/
  11. Harvard Medical School. Eat Blueberries and Strawberries Three Times Per Week. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/eat-blueberries-and-strawberries-three-times-per-week

The Benefits of Reiki

What It Is, How It’s Done and How It Might Benefit You.

If you’re starting to think about your health in a holistic way – where you recognize that the mind, body, nutrition, and some say spirit are all connected – then you may have heard of Reiki. It’s practiced in some hospitals, and it can also be taken to a very spiritual place. So, what in the world is this very intriguing technique and is it something that we should be exploring in terms of our health? I, for one, wanted to find out, so I went to Reiki Master teacher Deborah Dixon to get some answers. In addition to having her own private practice called Subtle Wellness , Deborah conducts trainings at Duke Integrative Medicine. In this Q&A, I share what she had to say about the many benefits of Reiki and why it might be worth exploring further as yet another tool to have in our healthy living toolkit. 

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Peppermint Tea & Me: What is Reiki?

Deborah Dixon: Reiki is explained a lot of different ways. It’s usually explained as a simple stress reduction technique and as a technique that channels universal life force energy or animating life force energy. It’s talked about as energy medicine or as vibrational medicine because it raises the vibration of a person. While Reiki as a hands-on healing practice already existed in Japan, the practice as we know it was developed in the 1920s. It arose from the spiritual awakening of Dr. Mikao Usui. What he brought to his hands-on healing was unique, and that has become what we know around the globe now as Reiki. 

PTM: Is Reiki Based in Science?

Deborah Dixon, Reiki Master Teacher

DD: To say that it’s science-based is a little bit of a stretch because it didn’t originate or evolve from any kind of scientific inquiry. However, we know now through science and research that we can use science to understand that Reiki is working and that it’s having a physical, mental and emotional impact. However, to explain it in terms of science is a little more difficult. Quantum physics probably gets the closest. 

We can look at it in the way we maybe look at light, the way we look at vibration, but I don’t think that science is able to fully explain it yet. The best roadmap will be neuroscience and how it’s been evolving since the middle of the 20thcentury to explain how embodied and contemplative practices like meditation and mindfulness can impact the body. In that way, we know that Reiki engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is then a cascade of benefits to the body and mind. So, it’s interesting. There’s a lot of science there, but there’s also a sort of mystical core behind it. 

PTM: Is Reiki considered to be a type of alternative medicine?

DD: While it is used in hospitals and clinical settings, I think it’s usually referred to as a complementary modality or an alternative modality. You may hear it referred to as energy medicine, bio-field techniques and bio-field medicine. For me, as a practitioner and teacher, I shy away from talking about medicine and healing and using those terms with it simply because it’s not licensed in any way. It’s totally a complementary, adjunct therapy. Those of us who practice it do not diagnose or prescribe in any way. I personally like to keep the medical terminology out so as not to mislead people. Some of us look at it more as spiritual healing, metaphysical healing and like to keep it there. 

PTM: How is Reiki done?

DD: It is usually done with light touch. The client is fully clothed, often reclining, like on a massage table, but it can be done with the person sitting in a chair. It can also be done at a distance because it doesn’t have to involve touch. 

You can send Reiki to a different location, and it can be sent back in time. You can do that by sending it to periods in your life, where you’ve had distress and trauma. Sometimes that’s harder for people to wrap their mind around. If you’re into quantum physics, sometimes it’s not that hard. It’s odd, what seems like the most “woo woo” sometimes is the part that’s backed up by science a little bit more because there is the idea that there’s an intelligent part of us that’s existing outside of time and space.

I think ultimately, the advances in neuroscience are going to help us understand it better. Because what’s happened to us in our life is stored in our body. It’s stored in our nervous system. So, when people are working with trauma, they’re releasing a tangible thing that’s residing in their body. In Reiki, we’re working with that energy. 

PTM: So, the focus is the energy and not necessarily the touch part of it?

DD: There is a lot of warmth in my hands. It’s easy to think that it’s body heat and that it’s moving from my physical being to your physical being, but it’s more energy than we know – even when we’re in person. When I do a distant session, I’ll feel the energy in my hands, the same as I do when I’m in person. Many people will find it very similar to doing an in-person session. 

To be honest, all these years, I never offered distant Reiki professionally. I focused on what was easy for people to wrap their mind around. But I did distant all the time with other Reiki people and sometimes with people that would request it and were students. It’s really just been the last year that I’ve done so much professionally because of the pandemic. People have actually accepted it better than I would have thought. I definitely had clients who I thought, “That’s going to be a hard one for them,” but trying it, it’s really just like an in-person session. The proof is in the energy and the experience itself. 

PTM: Are there specific points that you focus on?

DD: There are some lineages, particularly in Japan that do not have prescribed hand positions. That came up early on in the development of Reiki in certain lineages with a clinician wanting to have practitioners at every bed and wanting to have something more systematic. At that point, it became a full body treatment that involves the hand positions that move from the head to the feet. It doesn’t necessarily have to go that way, but it usually does. You’ll find that when you do energy work that you feel the person’s energy field moving down that central column. If you’re familiar with the chakra system, it’s moving down the chakras. Some medical people will practice Reiki focusing on the glands, which actually match up with the chakras. So, regardless of what direction you’re going with it, you’ll often find that people have their hands in those same places. 

PTM: What are the benefits of Reiki physically, mentally and emotionally?

DD: The benefits of Reiki can be numerous. Because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, it’s a stress-reduction technique. Stress reduction reduces the heart rate and increases digestion, lowers respiration, and truly, it’s that reset. Reiki, like meditation, like yoga and other mindfulness and body practices, it pulls us back into that part of the brain that is safe and relaxed and at rest. It’s the calm mind. It’s order, it’s ease, it’s that sense of wellbeing. I’ve literally had people sit up from the table and say “Oh! Everything seems okay.”

You’ll also find a lot about it reducing anxiety, being good for insomnia and it’s excellent for burnout. A lot of nurses practice it, not just on the patients but on each other for burnout. Reiki is also good for pain management and increasing circulation, and it’s really good with chemotherapy. These are things that have been researched. Those of us who practice it, oh my goodness. We see amazing things happen. If you keep showing up for that practice, you’ll see shifts in all sorts of physical issues. 

PTM: How long does it take to see the benefits of Reiki?

DD: The benefits of Reiki can be seen or felt immediately, but it often can take weeks or months. I’ve seen people immediately have sort of a bounce-back from things like depression, but not always. There’s been research with depression where people receive Reiki once or twice a week for six weeks and that was sort of the sweet spot. I would say that if people come weekly or bi-weekly, that is really transformative. It’s very individual. When clients come, I always tell them that it’s a craving. They’ll know if this is doing something for them, they’ll know when to come back because it is very individual. 

PTM: What kind of training is required for Reiki?

DD: It’s very easy and accessible for everybody. It’s important to know that there’s no official oversight or licensing for Reiki whatsoever because that can be a little confusing when you’re looking for training. You’ll see things about certifications and licensing but those are just what individual teachers and companies are creating. The foundational levels are level I and level II. Level I focuses on self-practice and clearing. Level II goes a little bit further into those techniques and introduces distant work and working with others. It’s usually after Level II training that people might choose to practice professionally. 

PTM: So, someone could do Level I and be able to do it on themselves? 

DD: Yes. Self-treatment and self-healing and self-clearing are the foundation of the practice. That begins in Level I. No matter how far you go or how long you practice, that’s still the foundation of it. That’s where you get your mojo – from that work on yourself and the clearing of yourself. Then you can add working on others or other things. People Reiki many things. They’ll work with their animals, they’ll work with plants, and they’ll work with food.

PTM: If someone is considering Reiki for the first time, what should they look for in a practitioner?

DD: I would say that it’s very individual, but the main thing is to see if you feel good with the person. If you resonate with the person. Talk to the practitioner first. If I were to ask a question, I would ask, “How often do you do self-treatments or how many clients do you have a week?” That goes to the idea that it’s the practice that makes the practitioner. A person could have a gazillion certificates, and they could be a Reiki master for 10 years, but if they haven’t done it this month, then their session may or may not be good. 

I have Level I practitioners that at first, they are not natural. They come out of it saying, “I don’t feel anything. It didn’t take with me.” I tell them to go home, put their hands on themselves every day and do the self-treatments. They will come back to a Reiki share in a few weeks and their hands are on fire. They are channeling energy. So much so that I would go to them. 

So, you want to find someone who is obviously doing it enough to be out there doing it professionally. Truthfully though, if you have someone living next door who may not work on a lot of other people but who is a devoted practitioner, and that person works on themselves every day, that’s an excellent person to get Reiki from. 

The Cost of Reiki

The cost of Reiki is usually between $45 for distant sessions to $60-$75 for in-person sessions. A session can be anywhere between 45 to 90 minutes depending on the options offered by specific practitioners and the setting in which it’s being done. 

You might also be interested in checking out these studies on biofield science, which go more in-depth on the energy field that each of us have. 

Bottom Line on the Benefits of Reiki

Deborah says that the bottom line on the benefits of Reiki is that it’s recognizing, tapping into, receiving and in some cases releasing the energy that exists in all of us. If you decide to try it, it’s best at least the first time to go in with an open mind and very few expectations. Just be open to the experience and see what happens. 


Money Saving Tip: Fast Healthy Meals

Ingredients to Have on Hand for Fast Healthy Meals.

The need for fast healthy meals is real. If you ask most people why they eat out multiple times a week, they will usually say that they need food that is fast, cheap, convenient or just doesn’t take any effort because they’re too tired to cook. I get it! We all have those days at least every now and then. While planning for busy days ahead of time is ideal, it’s simply not always possible. That’s why it’s so important to have the ingredients for fast healthy meals on hand so that you can pull something together right in your own kitchen quicker and more cheaply than you can go through the drive-thru. 

Basic Convenience Ingredients

Here’s a look at some of what I call “basic convenience ingredients” that I always try to keep around. Having these items on standby makes fast healthy meals a snap.

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through some of the links included in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

  • Amy’s Organic Refried Black Beans – (affiliate link) After having tried many different brands of refried black beans, I firmly believe that these are the best canned version out there. 
  • Tortillas – I highly recommend Mission Foods Carb Balance Tortillas (Flour, Whole Wheat or Spinach Herb)
  • Frozen vegetables – Especially corn, peas and green beans
  • Fresh vegetables – Red peppers, spinach, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes (bake ahead of time and keep for when needed in the refrigerator)
  • Salad mix – Spring mix is my favorite
  • Salsa
  • Beans – Canned or pre-made and frozen (black, garbanzo and dark red kidney beans are my staples)
  • Quinoa – Pre-make and keep in the refrigerator
  • Brown rice – Pre-make and keep in the refrigerator
  • Guacamole single serving packs
  • Baked or grilled chicken – Pre-made 
  • Lentil or whole wheat pasta
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts
  • Green and/or kalamata olives

Examples of Fast Healthy Meals 

Here are ideas for some of the fast healthy meals that these basic convenience ingredients can make. 

Pre-Made Bowls (5 minutes) 

  • Pre-made brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Corn 
  • Protein (other than beans) – Baked or grilled chicken, tofu or sirloin steak
  • Salsa
  • Toppings – The sky is the limit! Possibilities include guacamole, sour cream or plain yogurt, shredded cheese and Chipotle Mayo Sauce

Pasta with Vegetables and a Protein (10 minutes) 

  • Lentil or whole wheat pasta
  • Stir-fried vegetables in olive oil – Possibilities include broccoli, mushrooms, red peppers, onions and carrots
  • Protein – Baked or grilled chicken or tofu (cooked with vegetables in olive oil)
  • Lemon juice and olive oil for flavoring
  • Pinch of sea salt

Vegetable and Protein Wrap (5 minutes)

  • Baked or grilled Chicken or tofu (cooked with vegetables in olive oil)
  • Stir-fried vegetables in olive oil – Possibilities include red peppers, mushrooms and wilted spinach
  • Tortilla
  • Green olives (added after everything has been put on tortilla)

Rice and Beans (Less than 5 minutes)

  • Pre-made brown rice
  • Red kidney or black beans

Salad with Protein (5 minutes)

  • Salad mix
  • Cucumber, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and carrots
  • Baked or grilled chicken, pan-fried tempeh, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or kidney beans. ***Note, if I’m putting tempeh in a salad, I put it in the Delish Knowledge marinade from The Great Big Vegan Salad before pan-frying it. This can be cooked ahead of time. 
  • Lemon juice and olive oil dressing
  • Other potential toppings include pumpkin seeds, kalamata olives or sunflower seeds

Black Bean and Spinach Quesadilla (5 minutes)

  • Tortillas 
  • Refried black beans
  • Spinach
  • Guacamole to spread on top

Smothered Sweet Potato (5 minutes)

  • Pre-baked sweet potato (re-heated in microwave)
  • Black beans
  • Salsa

Warm Kale and Quinoa Salad (5 minutes)

  • Kale
  • Quinoa
  • Walnuts
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Bottom Line on Fast Healthy Meals

These are just a few examples of the healthy convenience ingredients that you can have on hand as well as the fast healthy meals they can make. All of the ingredients except the fresh vegetables and pre-cooked meat and grains can be kept for a while and used when needed. Since Thursday night is usually leftover night in my house, if I have any fresh vegetables, or pre-cooked meat or grains that haven’t been used by that point, we’ll use them then.  

The bottom line is that all of these meals can be made in less than 10 minutes, which is usually faster than you can drive to a fast-food restaurant and go through the drive-thru. On top of that, these healthy options taste delicious and cost much less. 


The Importance of Stretching

Find Out Why, When and Even How You Should Stretch.

For most of us, the importance of stretching is a severely underappreciated concept. That is until the time when we get out of bed multiple days in a row and our joints are stiff and creaky. At that point, you may find yourself pledging that if you can only walk like a normal person that you’ll do yoga and stretch every day and that you’ll never, ever take your muscles and flexibility for granted again. 

The fact is though, that most of us do take our flexibility and range of motion for granted, but we shouldn’t. They are what help us to be safe when we’re moving, to move in the way that we want to and to feel good as we’re doing it. That’s why I went to Jennifer Bunn, PhD who is a Kinesiology Professor and Associate Dean for the College of Health Sciences at Sam Houston State University. In this Q&A, she explains why stretching is so important and should be a part of our daily routine. 

Peppermint Tea & Me: What is stretching? 

Jennifer Bunn: A lot of people think of stretching just with flexibility, but really, it’s taking a joint through its full range of motion. When you do that, you actually end up pulling and elongating on the muscles that are attached within that joint. And that’s where you feel that stretch. 

PTM: Why is stretching important?

Jennifer Bunn, PhD

JB: The importance of stretching can’t be underestimated. If you don’t move and take your joints through their full range of motion, then you will lose that range of motion. Especially as you get older, your muscles will tighten up a little bit more than when you were younger. As that happens, your joints actually reduce how much motion they can have if you don’t stretch those muscles regularly and allow movement through that full range.

It’s also important to talk about balance – both from right to left and making sure that the right side of your back has a similar range of motion as the left side of your back. There’s also balance from front to back or anterior to posterior. We don’t want to find ourselves hunching forward all the time and reducing the range of motion that we have on the front side of the muscles compared to the back. 

PTM: Who should stretch?

JB: That one’s easy. It’s everybody. Everybody needs to move their joints and take their joints through a variety of ranges of motion and preferably through the full range of motion. That’s especially true through COVID where we’ve found ourselves working from home and in front of computers more. People who sit a lot need to stretch. 

PTM: Is there anyone who shouldn’t have a regular stretching routine?

JB: Anyone with degenerative joint disease should consult a medical professional before incorporating stretching into their routine. 

PTM: How often should we stretch?

JB: Daily. Even a couple of times a day. Just to kind of move things around. Even going from sit to stand will actually stretch the front side of the muscles that are in your hip to lengthen them back out after they’ve been shortened for a long time. So, people are probably doing it more frequently than they’re giving themselves credit for. 

PTM: When are the best times to stretch?

JB: If you are doing purposeful stretching and trying to really increase range of motion, you want to try and make sure that your muscles are warm, and your joints have become a little bit looser. When there’s increased temperature in the muscles, they move better. To give an example of this, when people do hot yoga and are able to move in ways that they aren’t usually able to, it’s because really warm muscles can really move. They can go into positions that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to when they’re colder. 

PTM: How long does it take to warm the muscles up and is there anything specific that we should be doing to do that?

JB: Not long. It takes maybe 5 or 10 minutes. You can walk about. You can go on a little baby jog. Whatever it is. Hop on an elliptical. Any of those kinds of things would be good before you really stretch. You can also do a complete workout. Do your workout in full and then stretch at the end. Most of the time at least some of your workout will get you into that range of motion and then you could do your full stretching routine if you wanted to at the end to really kind of push your muscles a little bit further as far as flexibility goes. 

PTM: What are the different forms of stretches?

JB: There are two forms that we typically use with stretching. There’s dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic stretching is when you move the joint through its range of motion. Things I think of for dynamic stretching are when you do like monster kicks where you kick your leg out in front of you and try to touch your fingertips with your toes. Or where you do knee hug walks where you take a step, you bring your knee up to your chest, you hug it, take a step, do the next one, and come up and hug it. So that’s kind of dynamic flexibility. 

Static stretching is when you go into a stretch and you hold it for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or whatever it is. The goal of that is to try and progress the range of motion even further. 

PTM: What do you consider to be the top areas that people should pay attention to when they stretch?

JB: The ones that I think of, especially now, as we find ourselves in Zoom Rooms constantly, or if your job usually requires a lot of sitting, you want to stretch your hips, your back and probably your neck. The reason I bring up the neck is that whenever we’re on a computer or even on our phones, we end up drawing our heads forward and that creates a misalignment of the spine. The same kind of thing goes if we’re seated a lot over a keyboard or something similar. Everything crunches forward, and we make kind of like this C shape with our head, our back and even our hips moving forward. So, stretching all of those back out is a good idea.

PTM: What should we not do when we’re stretching?

JB: Don’t take a joint or a muscle past a point it doesn’t want to go. Listen to your body. If you’ve got an area of your body that’s saying, “Yes please stretch me,” pay attention to where it says, “Stretch me only to this point.” Do your best to kind of relax as you move. Don’t stretch an area that’s really tightened and fussy with you. If your body starts to talk to you a little bit, or even yell at you, as you’re trying to stretch that area, don’t ignore that. The best thing is to just listen and draw back a little bit and put it back into a place where it’s not going to be so fussy. Then maybe the next time you can try to push it a little further. 

When you’re working on stretching and flexibility, you do want to be able to feel the muscles pull a little bit. It should be that “hurts so good” kind of idea and not an “Oh no, I’ve just pulled something and now I can’t move.” That’s where your body is telling you, stop, reverse, go back and start over. 

Stretching Resources

If you’re now convinced about the importance of stretching, Jennifer has some suggestions for incorporating it into your day in a manageable way. Among those is seated or desk yoga. Here are some sequences that she recommends.

Jennifer also recommends stretches similar to the ones demonstrated at the following resources as being good for overall flexibility:


Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Health Benefits of Arugula

Nutrition Information, How Much It Costs and How to Eat It.

If you’re a big Mediterranean food eater, then you’re probably very familiar with Arugula. If not, you may have seen it on a menu, in the grocery store or at the farmers’ market and wondered what this leafy green is all about. For those who haven’t had a chance to try it yet, prepare for a taste that’s distinctive and familiar all at the same time. As a vegetable that deserves its time in the spotlight, we’re looking at the health benefits of Arugula, how much it costs and my favorite ways to eat it. 

What is Arugula?

Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable which is also known as salad or garden rocket1.As a member of the Brassica family, its cousins include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, bok choy, and Brussels Sprouts. You can find Arugula in the in the spring and early summer, before it gets too hot, and in the fall, before it gets too cold1. While it has the familiar taste and texture of a leafy green, it also has a very distinctive spicy and peppery taste that gets stronger the more mature the leaves are. If you want a milder taste, be sure and find a supplier that harvests them when they’re young. I know the vendors at my farmers’ market will usually let customers know if a batch is older and will have more of a kick. 

Nutrients in Arugula

In addition to being full of flavor, Arugula is also packed with nutrients. These include high amounts of calcium, Vitamin C, and potassium. 

Health Benefits of Arugula

As with any of the leafy greens and other cruciferous vegetables, Arugula is a low-calorie, low-carb food that is high in health benefits. Among those are the fact that it contains high amounts of folic acid, which can help prevent neural tube defects in newborns1. Arugula and other cruciferous vegetables are also associated with reducing the risk for various types of cancer3. That’s because they have high concentrations of isothiocyanates4. These molecules come from compounds in cruciferous vegetables and, according to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, help to get rid of carcinogens from the body5. The fact that Arugula is also high in Vitamin C means that it’s good for immune function as well as being helpful in preventing or delaying the development of cardiovascular and other diseases caused by oxidative stress6.  

How to Buy, Store and Eat Arugula

When buying Arugula, you’ll want to make sure that the leaves are crisp and fresh. You do not want to eat wilted Arugula! Store it by washing and drying the leaves and then putting it between paper towels. Put the paper towels and Arugula in a baggie and seal it shut. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to lose its nutrients during storage7, but as with any greens, it’s better to use it within 3-5 days. 

I have several favorite ways of eating Arugula. They include:

  1. Wrap
  2. Salad
  3. Omelet
  4. Pizza

Basically, if you want to add a bolder taste to any of these, add Arugula. If you want to temper the taste a bit, cook it. Cooked Arugula isn’t quite as strong. 

The Cost of Arugula

The cost of Arugula is about the same as it is for any other greens. I generally pay about $4 for a bag that contains just over three cups. If you want to make it go farther, mix it in with a spring mix to spice up the flavor and add as much nutritional value as possible.

Bottom Line on the Health Benefits of Arugula

The bottom line on the health benefits of Arugula is that this is one leafy green that’s definitely worth experimenting with. The health benefits are numerous, and the taste is anything but bland. 

Have you tried Arugula? If so, let us know in the comments below what your favorite way to eat it is. 


Cooking for Different Diets

Cooking for a Mixed House Without Going Crazy or Broke.

Food allergies and sensitivities, health reasons and personal preference. These are just some of the reasons why different members of a family may be eating different foods. My family has included several different diets for many years now. First, it was my youngest son and his food allergies. Then my husband tried low carb for a while. At the time, I had no idea what that meant or how to cook that way. Then I became primarily healthy plant-based, and my oldest son changed his diet to match his weightlifting. While I will be the first to admit that this has been and continues to be challenging at times, it is doable. You just have to go about it strategically. If you’re trying to cook for a “mixed house” for whatever reason and are getting frustrated, I’m sharing my tips for cooking for different diets without going crazy or broke. 

**Note: As with anything with this site, the word diet is used to refer to the general way that someone eats, not restrictive eating. 

Agree to Eat Together as Much as Possible

If everyone is eating something different, it may be tempting to just let each person do their own thing when it comes to meals. In my book though, eating together as a family is one of the most important things that you can do. If everyone is eating something different, this is especially true. Meals are a shared experience that you can still have even if the food that you’re eating isn’t the same. That’s why making a concerted effort and agreeing to eat together as much as possible is so important. You may not be able to bond over the food that you’re eating, but you can still bond through the time spent together. 

Agree to be Supportive of Each Other

If one person has to eat differently because of health reasons, that’s easier to understand. If someone decides to eat differently for another reason, it can easily become a source of misunderstanding and conflict. This can be especially true as children become teenagers and start to develop their own identity. Assuming that eating differently than the rest of the family is grounded in rational reasoning rather than just being picky, I believe that diet exploration should be encouraged and supported. 

I also think that as adults, we should be continuing to grow and change. If that includes someone changing how they eat and think about food, I believe that should be respected and supported – as long as that person does the same for those who may not have changed how they’re eating. We can’t force others to change, nor should they necessarily need to. We also can’t force people to stay the same. 

Everyone Has to Pitch In

This is a critical concept when it comes to cooking for different diets. No one should feel like a short-order cook unless that’s their paid job and is what they want to do. Otherwise, everyone in the family needs to pitch in to help with meal planning and preparation – especially if they’re going to eat differently than everyone else. When dividing up the responsibilities in the kitchen, I think it’s not only perfectly fine but important to have people doing tasks that may or may not contribute specifically to what they’re going to eat.  Caring about, contributing to and experiencing the food that someone else is going to eat in that way is a vital part of being a family. 

Learn About Each Type of Diet

I mentioned earlier that when my husband decided to try going low carb before I had changed my diet, I didn’t at all understand what he was doing. This was frustrating for both of us. While I had researched everything that I could get my hands on having to do with food allergies to get my son’s health back on track, I didn’t understand that I needed to do the same for the way my husband wanted to eat. That’s why I would get my feelings hurt when he wouldn’t eat some of the food that I had fixed or would look for something different. 

On the other hand, when my oldest son started eating a high protein, no dairy and very little sugar diet, I got him to share with me what he was reading and learning about. That way, I could understand and help him do it in a relatively healthy way. Needless to say, it went much more smoothly. 

Figure Out Staples 

If you figure out which staples are needed and always have those on hand, options will be available to everyone – no matter what their diet. Many staples can also be bought in bulk, which helps to keep prices down.

Determine staples that would work for everyone. Here’s my list along with some additions from Harvard Medical School

  • Beans and other legumes
  • Olive oil and avocado oil
  • Broths or soup stock – such as chicken or vegetable
  • Vegetables – frozen and fresh
  • Herbsspices and other seasonings such as lemon juice
  • Fruit – frozen and fresh
  • Whole grains – oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa 

Determine staples needed for individual diets. In my house this includes the following:

  • Variety of flours – brown and white rice, whole wheat and coconut
  • Variety of starches – tapioca and potato
  • Xanthan gum
  • Variety of pasta – Lentil and other gluten-free and whole grain 
  • Variety of lean meats
  • Nut and seed butters – peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter
  • Tempeh and tofu
  • Plant-based milk alternatives
  • Variety of sweeteners – honey, maple syrup, agave and white and brown sugar
  • Variety of seeds – hemp, flax, pumpkin and sunflower

Meal Planning

If you’re a regular on here, you know that I believe that meal planning is essential to healthy eating. That’s especially true for cooking for different diets. Planning out the week’s meals and other food needed will make sure that all needs and some wants are met. It will also cut down on the frustration factor involved with having to make multiple trips to the store because essential ingredients are missing, or you’re stuck at the last minute trying to figure out what’s for dinner. 

Stick with the Basics

While elaborate, complicated meals are fun to fix every now and then, if you’re cooking for different diets, you’re going to want to stick with the basics for the most part. Keep it simple and use spices, herbs and other seasonings to add flavor. This will keep you from becoming so overwhelmed with fixing one person’s meal that you forget to leave time to fix the rest of what you need. Again, if you keep the staples mentioned above on hand, there should always be plenty of options available to everyone. 

Find Meals with Things in Common

Finding meals with things in common will keep you from having to start from scratch for each individual diet. It’s also crucial for keeping costs under control. If you try to prepare meals that use entirely different ingredients, the price tag will quickly go up. 

Good examples of finding meals with things in common include:

  • Brown rice and vegetables for sides
  • Have a base of pasta and tomato-based sauce and add different types of protein for each person
  • Bowls – Rice, beans and corn provide the base for everyone and then different toppings and sources of protein are added
  • Fajitas – If someone is plant-based and everyone else eats meat, cook up the peppers and onions with seasoning mix and then remove some from the pan. You can then add chicken or steak to the rest for the meat eaters and cook up tofu with some of the seasoning for the person who is plant-based. Brown rice and black beans can round out the meal for everyone. 

Meal Prep

Meal prepping means to prepare individual ingredients or entire meals ahead of time. This is another concept that I think is critical to healthy eating in any case, but it’s especially true for cooking for different diets. When it comes down to cooking on a busy weeknight or after a day of activities, you want things to be as simple and easy as possible. Meal prepping will make that happen because everything will be ready to go, and everyone can just build their own meal. 

There are two strategies that I highly recommend for this. 

  1. Prepare as much as possible (with everyone helping) on the weekend or days off. 
  2. Try to have a set time for meal prepping so that everyone can be involved.

Have Designated Utensils and Bakeware for Food Allergies

This doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy completely different utensils, dishes or pots and pans for foods being prepared for those with allergies. It does mean though that while you’re cooking, if there are foods being prepared that someone else is allergic to, you should have designated cooking utensils and pots and pans that are only used to prepare the food for that person. 

When it comes to washing the items in a standard home kitchen, the simplest thing to do is to wash everything in the dishwasher so that they can be sterilized. Putting everything into a sink full of hot, soapy water isn’t necessarily safe because unless you wash each item thoroughly before you put it in the sink, the remaining food particles come off and stay in the water. That means that you’re washing dishes for an allergic person in the same water potentially containing remnants of the foods that they’re allergic to. 

Bottom Line on Cooking for Different Diets

While the idea of cooking for people with different diets can seem overwhelming, following these strategies will make it very manageable as well as help to keep costs lower. 

If you have experience with this and have additional suggestions, feel free to leave those in the comments below. 


Money Saving Tip: Declutter Your Home

Find Out How Decluttering Your Home Can Save You Money and Sanity.

If you’re having trouble getting inspired to declutter your home, here’s one potential motivator. Think about all of the money you can save! If nothing else gets you going, maybe that will. When I started decluttering back in the winter, it was because I had had enough. I was done with all the stuff in my surroundings clogging up my physical and mental space. What I didn’t know and have come to quickly find out was how much money I would save as a result. And I’m not even done yet! 

Because living abundantly through being frugal is so important to me, if I’d thought about it in this way earlier, it might have motivated me to do it sooner. If the same is true for you, I hope what I’ve learned will help you.

You Can Find What You Need When You Need It

This is no small thing! I’ve kept a tally. I’ve been at this for several months and have easily already saved well over $150 on things I didn’t buy. These were things I thought I needed simply because I couldn’t find what I needed when I needed them because they were hidden under piles of other stuff. 

The dumbbell that I was getting ready to replace because I hadn’t been able to find it? Found! Underneath old pillows in the floor of my closet that I’d hung on to because I thought I might need them some day. In reality, no one would ever sleep on those old, dirty things and they were just keeping me from seeing what I really needed to see. 

The gift bags and tissue paper that I knew I had plenty of somewhere but couldn’t see where they should have been? Found! Underneath the old rolls of wrapping paper that had remnants left on them but wouldn’t have been able to wrap anything. 

The spices I was getting ready to buy AGAIN even though I knew I had bought them fairly recently? Found! Behind jars of other spices that I had duplicates of because I kept replacing them when I couldn’t find what I needed!  

You get the point…

You May Be Able to Sell Things That You’re Not Using

Decluttering your home is different than organizing. Decluttering is getting rid of things that you don’t use or need. Organizing is putting the things that you do have in an order that makes them easier to find and use. If you’re truly decluttering, the things that you’re getting rid of may no longer be useful to you, but they may be useful to someone else. That means that selling them through Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace or in a good old-fashioned yard sale might be an option. 

If You Have a Clutter-Free Outlook, You Probably Won’t Be Buying as Much

While decluttering doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll become a minimalist, you will probably figure out fairly quickly that less can be more. As you declutter your home, I feel certain that you will start looking more critically at the things that you’re considering bringing into the house in the first place. That doesn’t mean that you won’t ever buy something again just because you want it, but it will become more of the exception than the rule. For this, your wallet will thank you! 

Decluttering Your Kitchen May Encourage You to Cook at Home More

If opening your pantry or a kitchen cabinet door makes you feel so queasy from the mess that you immediately call for take-out, it’s time to declutter. Getting rid of that mess can make cooking enjoyable again and something that you may want to do more often. Not only is this better for your bank account, but it will be better for your health as well.

Decluttering May Prevent You from Having to Buy a Bigger Home

Talk about a money saver! This sounds pretty extreme, but it is a possibility. In fact, I would strongly suggest the next time that you get dissatisfied with the space that you have in your current home, that you clean out a closet. If your satisfaction level doesn’t start going up, then begin taking it room by room. After you’ve decluttered pretty much your entire house, if you still feel like you need more space, it might be time to start looking. My prediction is that you may realize that you don’t need more space, you just need less stuff.

You May Find Money and/or Gift Cards That You Forgot About

The idea of finding money and/or gift cards may seem random, but I’m here to say that it can happen. I recently found money in old purses that I thought I couldn’t part with for one reason or another, and I found gift cards tucked away in drawers. I can’t promise it will happen every time, but certainly if the clutter has been building up, your chances are pretty good.  

Decluttering Can Prevent Costly Mistakes in Other Areas of Your Life

Decluttering is just that powerful! Have you ever left the house so frazzled in the morning that you ended up making a big mistake at work? Or has living in a cluttered house ever worn on you so much mentally that you treated other members of your family badly?  All of those mistakes can come with a steep price. Strained relationships, lost confidence in you at work, and poor mental health overall are serious and very real possible consequences of not learning to declutter. Again, I speak from experience here. It is amazing how much lighter and more together you can feel not having to wade through a bunch of needless stuff just to get to the dryer or to get to your shoes. 

Bottom Line on Decluttering Your Home

The fairly simple but often seemingly overwhelming act of decluttering your home won’t automatically make you a millionaire. But, it may very well make you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. As we’ve seen here, decluttering can help you save money in quite a few ways, but most importantly it will allow you to simply make more space in your life for what truly matters. 


The Benefits of Hobbies

My Journey to Find a Hobby.

Do you have a hobby? If so, is it music, food or gardening-oriented? Or would you rather be running or doing some type of art or craft? If you do have a hobby, I’m jealous. I don’t truly have one, and I need one. I can’t even say that kids, work or the general demands of life got me sidetracked from doing the things that I used to love. Other than reading, I’ve never really had a hobby. I’ve dabbled in different things – violin, stamp collecting, calligraphy, etc. but I’ve never truly found anything that I could just get lost in. Now though, it’s time for me to find a hobby, and maybe the same is true for you. If so, we’re going to look at the benefits of hobbies and some possible ways of finding one. 

What is a Hobby?

Before we do any of that, we have to first get clear on what a hobby is and what it isn’t. First off, hobbies and interests aren’t the same thing. Job site Indeed’s editorial team helps us to clarify this distinction. The writers of this article say that “A hobby is an activity you may complete in your free time that brings you pleasure1.” It’s an ongoing experience that you can regularly commit to outside of work hours. 

They say an interest, on the other hand, “is a desire or need to learn more about a specific subject1.” You can have a work-related interest and interests can even become hobbies, but the defining difference is that hobbies should take place in your free time. According to Indeed, “If you’re making an income or participating in the activity during work hours, it’s usually considered an interest rather than a hobby1.” 

Benefits of Hobbies

The scientifically proven benefits of hobbies are numerous. For one thing, they make us healthier. One study found that participants had more positive and less negative mood, more interest, less stress and lower heart rate when engaging in leisure than when they weren’t2. Another study found that leisure activities are associated with lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference and body mass index. They’re also linked to the perception that participants had of themselves as being in better health3

Another benefit is that hobbies may make you better at your job. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology shows that creative activity outside of work helped participants to better recover from a demanding work environment, which reduced burn-out and overall stress levels. In addition, it found that being creative outside of work was also associated with more creativity on the job4

And finally, hobbies allow us to break away from our everyday experiences without feeling like we should be “on task,” doing something productive or that we have to be the best at whatever we’re doing. Kettering Global says that “Engaging in a hobby can be a mental escape, help us hone a skill, or just provide an opportunity to socialize with others5.” In other words, they allow us to simply have fun, challenge ourselves in new or different ways without having to worry about the end result, or just give us a common interest to share with others. 

Why I Need a Hobby (And Why You May Need One Too)

Where I usually run into problems when it comes to hobbies is that I have many interests, but as someone who is naturally “a worker,” I tend to turn everything I do into work or a project. Engaging with my interests then begins to feel like an obligation and there goes my ability to turn my brain off and relax. As a result, I feel like I’m always “on” or that there’s something else that I should be doing. If this is true for you as well, we both need a hobby. 

How I’m Going to Find a Hobby

So how do we go about finding a hobby? How do we find something that we enjoy doing or are passionate about if we have no idea of what that is? Clearly, I’m not an expert on this, but I know it involves being willing to try something new. 

A Lesson Guide that I found online on the Importance of Hobbies from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension has some useful tips6. Here are just a few of them:

  • Take it back to your childhood. Think back to what you loved doing as a kid. 
  • Try a couple of ideas on for size. Explore a craft, sports or book store and see what captures your attention.
  • Find something that will make you forget about your day. If it feels like it’s going to be stressful instead of exciting to learn, then it’s probably not for you. 
  • Notice what you love to buy as guilty pleasures. That item might be pointing you toward your hobby.  
  • Think of the last thing that made you forget to eat. This should be outside of just simply a hectic day at work of course. What did you become so absorbed in that you completely lost track of time and didn’t think about eating? Somewhere in that activity may be your hobby. 

In addition to following these tips, I’m also going to use HobbyHelp’s list of 105 possible hobbies to give me ideas. While there are some on there that I can immediately cross off because they simply don’t sound appealing to me at all, there are others that might just be contenders. 

Bottom Line on the Benefits of Hobbies

If you’re thinking that all of this sounds like too much work and that something that you’re passionate about should just automatically find you, I would encourage you to think again. Finding a hobby shouldn’t become another source of stress in your life, but there’s a difference between work and exerting some effort toward something. As I think we’ve seen here, there are many benefits to finding a hobby, and I’m looking forward to discovering what mine is. 

Lean on Your Community

Do you have a hobby? If so, let us know what it is in the comments to give us all some ideas. If you don’t have a hobby but some of what’s been said here inspires you, let us know what you figure out as well. 

Sources

  1. Indeed. 5 Key Differences Between Hobbies and Interests. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/difference-between-hobbies-and-interests
  2. Zawadzki, M.J., Smyth, J.M. & Costigan, H.J. Real-Time Associations Between Engaging in Leisure and Daily Health and Well-Being. ann. behav. med. 49, 605–615 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-015-9694-3
  3. Pressman SD, Matthews KA, Cohen S, et al. Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosom Med. 2009;71(7):725-732. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978. https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/joop.12064
  4. Eschleman, Kevin J., Madsen, Jamie, Alarcon, Gene, & Barelka, Alex. Benefiting From Creative Activity: The Positive Relationship Between Creative Activity, Recovery Experiences, and Performance-Related Outcomes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. April 2014.https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/joop.12064
  5. Kettering Global. Why Hobbies are Important? https://online.kettering.edu/news/2019/04/15/why-hobbies-are-important
  6. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension. Importance of Hobbies Lesson Guide.https://www.uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/extension-homemakers/Hobbies_LessonGuide.pdf


Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Health Benefits of Pea Shoots

Nutrition Information, How Much They Cost and How to Eat Them.

I remember the first time that I had pea shoots. My youngest son’s pre-school class had gone on a field trip to an organic farm, and I was a chaperone. As part of our tour, they cut pea shoots that were growing and handed them out for us to try. I was not a big “greens” fan at that point, so I wasn’t crazy excited to eat anything with stems and leaves. Since I was trying to be a good sport for my son and his friends, I ate them and tried to not make a face. The second I tasted them though, I knew that I didn’t need to act like they were good because they really were good. In fact, they were delicious! If you haven’t tried pea shoots, I’m here to tell you why this vegetable may just become a regular on your springtime menu as well as why they’re so good for you, how much they cost and how to eat them. 

What Are Pea Shoots?

Pea shoots are essentially baby garden pea plants. Since peas are vining plants, pea shoots are the leaves, stems and in some varieties tendrils from the tops of the very young plants. While the peas themselves take 65-80 days before they’re ready to harvest1, pea shoots can be eaten within 2-4 weekswhen they’re several inches tall. Because peas do best in mild to cool weather, pea shoots are available in spring, early summer in some places, and fall. If you’re wondering if they taste more like a pea or more like a green, the answer is both. They actually have a very sweet pea flavor, with a similar texture of leafy greens. 

The texture of pea shoots is one of the reasons why I like them so much. While they’re full of healthy nutrients like leafy greens, the fact that you eat the tender stems makes the texture similar but slightly different. This offers some variety for someone who eats a lot of greens! 

Nutrients in Pea Shoots

From a nutritional standpoint, pea shoots may be baby plants, but they pack an adult-sized punch. They’re high in water, low in fat, low in carbohydrates, and a good source of fiber. They also have high amounts of Vitamins C, E and A and potassium3

Health Benefits of Pea Shoots

Because of its high nutritional profile, pea shoots offer many health benefits. The high levels of Vitamin C and E act as antioxidants and help the immune system to work properly6,7. Vitamin A is important for vision, immune function, reproduction and cellular communication8. And your body needs potassium for proper kidney and heart function as well as for optimal muscle and nerve health9

In addition, pea shoots have a high carotenoid profile3. These act as antioxidants that protect cells and help to block the early stages of cancer. 

How to Buy, Store and Eat Pea Shoots

Pea shoots are abundant at farmers’ markets in the spring, early summer and fall. While they will come already bagged up, be sure and check to make sure that they look fresh and not wilted. 

To store them, wrap them in a paper towel and leave them in an open plastic bag. You don’t want to wash pea shoots until you’re ready to use them. When you do wash them, do it gently under cold water. I like to put mine in a colander and just gently toss them around under the running water. 

You’ll also probably want to trim off any extra-long stems that don’t have leaves. While the stems are very tender, it’s the combination of the leaves and the stems that make these so tasty. 

The nice thing about pea shoots is that they are delicious raw, or you can cook them in a skillet like you would with a stir-fry. If you’re cooking them, you’ll want to do it for a very short time, just before you’re planning to serve the dish. My favorite ways to eat pea shoots are mixed in with salads, on sandwiches or in an omelet. 

Cost of Pea Shoots

The important thing to remember is that a cup of pea shoots goes a long way in any recipe. While you can certainly make an entire salad or side dish out of them, they are usually used to complement or add to something else that you’re serving. I generally pay about $4 for a bag that contains just over three cups. That’s about $1.30 per cup. A cup is definitely a good size serving for however I’m using them. 

Lean on Your Community

Have you tried pea shoots? If so, let us know in the comments how you like to fix them. 

Sources

  1. NC Cooperative Extension Chatham County Center. Plant Peas, Please.https://chatham.ces.ncsu.edu/2017/02/plant-peas-please/
  2. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. https://nesfp.org/world-peas-food-hub/world-peas-csa/produce-recipes/pea-shoots
  3. J. Santos, M. Herrero, J.A. Mendiola, M.T. Oliva-Teles, E. Ibáñez, C. Delerue-Matos, M.B.P.P. Oliveira. April 2014. Food Research International. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996914000799?casa_token=pbsqBC0jOy4AAAAA:nnA1mHt5TbqQxo03aH0sc1LBFjH6nfTBl5WgBnSX85C6h_mSbq6YVJMhZBIVbIlhFlKz5Is0
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/506159/nutrients
  5. Cronometer. https://cronometer.com
  6. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/
  7. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin E. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/
  8. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
  9. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Potassium. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-Consumer/
  10. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables. https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/