Blue Apron Update
I mentioned in podcast episode 34 that I loathe having to cook dinner when I get home. To remedy this issue, I was experimenting with Blue Apron, a service that provides fresh ingredients to make meals. After two months of using Blue Apron I cancelled the subscription. Here is why:
I was on the plan to get 4 meals for the week. The cost for that was $140 per week. That works out to roughly $8 per meal. Yes, that’s a little pricey. But you have to take into consideration that you get the fresh produce and meat delivered to your house.
They deliver very fresh produce and goods that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy.
Because you use fresh herbs and fresh citrus, the meals are very well seasoned and has a restaurant quality taste.
I learned a few new cooking techniques.
For example, when making meatloaf, the recipe instructs you to sauté the garlic, onion and other herbs. You then add those aromatics to your ground meat. I’ve always just added everything together raw.
The last positive was that the meals were unique. I hate thinking up what to cook. I have a standby menu that I tend to recycle, but I get tired of it.
The meals were time consuming to prepare.
You have to do a lot of chopping and mincing. With the herbs, you have to pick off the leaves. Now as an aside, I’ve seen chefs on the food network grab a bunch of herbs and chop them all together. But I can see where you would want to leave out the stems.
The fish was not fresh
For four meals, there was usually one fish meal and one vegetarian meal. At least twice the fish spoiled after 2 days. I got my deliveries on Fridays and usually the weekend was so busy I would save these meals for the weekdays. Usually by day two, the fish produced a punishing odor that filled the entire house.
The vegetarian meals were not always filling
One time we had vegetable enchilada with a salad. It was fine for me, but later that evening my husband snuck out to McDonalds to satisfy his hunger.
From a financial standpoint, I didn’t think the vegetable enchilada with salad was worth $8 per person.
There were a couple of other occasions where not all of the members of my family got full from the meals. I saw lots of snacking on potato chips later in the evenings. I figured this defeated the purpose of having my family eat healthy.
I have mixed feelings about the service. I liked having a meal planned out for me, but it was a lot of work to prepare the meals. They would often take about 45 minutes to prepare. This is in stark contrast to using my pressure cooker that cooks chicken in 7 minutes. More on using a pressurecooker later.
So now I am back to cooking dinner after work. This is one of those necessary things that happen each day. It’s a part of life to do things we don’t want to do, but you don’t have to feel stuck in the grumpiness of overwhelm. Look for other areas of your life that you can change to smooth over the impact of the daily grind.
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Five small tweaks that can improve your day
To smooth things over and reduce the grumpiness, here are a few things you can do to improve your quality of life.
1. Have green tea in the morning instead of coffee.
While green tea does have some caffeine, it has significantly less than coffee. Green tea also has antioxidants and excellent anti-inflammatory benefits. Why do you need antioxidants? I talked about this in episode 32 when I talked about super foods. Think of oxidation as your body’s rusting process. There are lots of things that cause oxidation and free radical formation and some of the contaminants in food contribute to this. So a cup of green tea can help offset some of the damage from the foods we eat. You can also get more information about this in episode 40. This episode is about organic foods and I talk about pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
2. Get a new pillow.
Is your pillow broken? A broken pillow is one that you can fold and it stays folded. If this is the case, it’s time for it to go! You need to have a pillow that is the proper firmness and gives you good neck support.
The thickness of your pillow depends on whether or not you are a back sleeper or a side sleeper. You should not sleep on your stomach! Stomach sleeping is horrible for your spinal alignment. Sleeping on your stomach puts your neck at a terrible backwards angle, especially if you have a thick pillow. That angle is fine if it only lasts for a short time like when getting a massage. But it’s not good for sleeping for several hours.
If you sleep on your side, you will do best with a thicker pillow that supports your neck in a way to keep it parallel with the rest of your spine.
If you sleep on your back, you should have a thinner pillow so that your head and neck are not propped up. The issue here is you don’t want your neck in a flexed position all night. Have you ever awakened with a “crick” in your neck? This is where you have a contracted muscle that restricts your head movement. If you try to turn your head the muscle is tight and hurts. Sometimes you can get a crick from a muscle strain.
Getting a crick in your neck from a bad pillow
If you sleep in a position that is not neutral for your neck, your neck muscles have to work hard to maintain the position. So the muscles that are flexed stay flexed all night in a way they are not used to and they can be sore and tight the next day.
Your head weighs between 10-12lbs. If you pick up a 10lb dumbbell and hold your arm outstretched, it will get very tired. Well just think how much work your neck muscles do holding up your 10lb head all day. Then at night, those muscles are ready to rest and not have to work holding your 10lb head in an awkward position in which you’ve put it.
As a general rule, you should replace your pillow once a year to keep it fresh and supportive.
3. Wake up 10 minutes earlier.
Do you rush around in the mornings? A rushed morning creates a stressed morning. Instead of rushing in the morning, try getting up 10 minutes earlier. I talk with some of my patients about moving their workouts to the mornings. This requires getting up about an hour earlier. Waking up an hour earlier takes much more discipline. You would have to restructure your evening to go to bed earlier.
Ten minutes should be a negligible change in your daily routine. But that extra 10 minutes in the morning can make a huge difference in your stress level by opening up more flexible time for you. Ten minutes can be enough time to put on mascara or style your hair. Or you can simply spend the time relaxing or get to work a little earlier.
4. Stretch in the morning.
Stretching has many benefits. We tend to lose flexibility and mobility as we age. Stretching loosens your tight muscles and increases blood flow to your muscles. It also just feels so good. Increasing the blood flow to your muscles can help get you going in the mornings.
Do you have trouble getting out of the bed once you wake up? Are you walking like Frankenstein to the bathroom? Stretching in the morning can help with this morning slowness more effectively than jumping in the shower. Once you wake your muscles up, you’ll feel better about getting your day started.
5. Have a healthy shake for breakfast.
Most quick breakfasts are anything but healthy. Breakfast foods tend to be very starchy and/or sugary. This can give you a quick pick up, but the sugar burst and subsequent insulin surge afterwards can leave you feeling tired in an hour or two.
So instead of a bagel or toast, try a green smoothie with protein added to it. I’ve recently gone back to having smoothies in the morning. I did it to break my sugar addiction. And boy do I feel better. I’m gradually losing my sugar cravings. I had a cinnamon roll the other day and it was sickeningly sweet. I was surprised that I used to be able to scarf those down so easily.
The key here is to make a smoothie that does not have too much fruit. I recommend a 2:1 ratio of 2 parts greens to 1 part fruit. In this case the fruit is there just to give it a little sweetness.
This doesn’t have to be complicated using a recipe. I grab two handfuls of greens and one handful of frozen fruit. I try to use organic ingredients, especially for the greens.
To the smoothie I add goji berries, chia seeds and some hemp protein if I have it. All these things I get off Amazon. I’ll also add some acai berry powder. I dump it all in without measuring. To create a drinkable consistency, I add unsweetened almond milk then blend it all up.
I used to use coconut water which tastes sweeter, but it actually has much more natural sugar. So the carbohydrate load from the coconut water ends up being higher when you use coconut water.
I talk about this in detail in episode 25 when I talk about smoothies. I compare the calories and sugar composition of a piece of cake and a smoothie. So to remind you, the world health organization recommends a daily sugar intake of 10% of your daily calorie intake. For the average adult, that works out to be around 25 grams.
For a slice of chocolate cake that is about an 1/8 of the cake, you get 249 calories and 26 grams of sugar. This exceeds the recommended amount of sugar for the day by 1 gram.
A 16oz Strawberry-Mango smoothie (strawberry, mango and coconut water) equals 366 calories and 60 grams of sugar.
Calorie wise and sugar wise, you might as well have a piece of cake. So this is why I say limit the fruit, use unsweetened almond, cashew or coconut milk and now you’ve got yourself a healthy meal alternative that can boost you up for the morning.
Try at least one of these changes and see how it impacts you. It’s time for me to get new pillows.