My profoundly wise mother had a simple order for her five kids: eat your fruits and vegetables, drink your milk, go outside and play. She insisted our family of seven sit down together for dinner every night at six o’clock sharp. And, we did not eat until my father said grace. Without intention other than to organize a busy family, my mother wisely insisted on good nutrition, physical activity and meals together. She kept a wise kitchen and blessed us all with the love of food, the joy of cooking and yes, playing outside.
Wise Kitchen Tips
Organize Your Pantry. No matter how big or small your kitchen might be, there’s the place where you keep your nonperishable foods either on a simple set of shelves or if you are lucky, a walk-in pantry. Over time items can get disorganized and messy. To energize this essential space, take everything out. Toss foods that are past their use date and long past your interest. (Tossing food comes up later.) Organize what you are keeping by category, such as baking ingredients, on one shelf. Then arrange canned or boxed foods by food group on another shelf and so on. I like to use canning jars for things like dried beans, nuts, dried fruits, pasta and rice. It’s easy to see how much you have on hand while the various textures and colors offer a bit of flair to your pantry shelves. Now that you have serenity in your pantry, try the refrigerator.
Waste Not. Just because it is wise to toss things beyond their use date, plan to cut down on wasting food. You might be surprised at how much you toss. Americans unwisely waste 40 percent of fresh and processed foods each year. The first step to change this is being aware of what you toss. Wince when you do toss and allow a little guilt to hit you. Rethink leftovers. They become new ingredients in another recipe. Make a grocery list that focuses on food use efficiency. “Waste not” wisdom equals a smaller grocery bill.
Donate Food. What a blessing it is to share food with people who don’t have as much as you might. Donate cash or healthy foods to your local foodbank or pantry. Canned foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are more nutritious than most people believe. “If you can’t feed 100 people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa
Eat Breakfast. M.F.K. Fisher, a wonderful food writer, once said “First we eat, then we do everything else.”
Simple wisdom for starting your day. Research shows people who eat a healthy breakfast, not just a latte, are more productive mentally and physically, eat less throughout the day, and have less difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Children who eat breakfast do better academically.
Eat Graciously. Americans are grab and go eaters. At lunch many of us eat out of a fast food paper bag. Meals at home are frozen and microwaved to save time. Try this even if it takes more time. At least once a week, set your table attractively. Find a new healthy recipe to try. If you typically eat alone, invite a friend to join you. This intentional approach to a meal is soothing and uplifting and sharing food with family and friends is good for the spirit. Eat with gratitude.
“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious”. Ruth Reichl
This traditional Spanish soup is a wonderful make-ahead, refreshing summer soup and packed with nutrition.
In a blender add the following: 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, 4 green onions (include tender part of green stem), 1/2 English cucumber (don’t peel or seed), 1/2 red pepper, 1 small clove garlic, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, freshly ground pepper and salt to taste, fresh basil leaves to taste. Blend until smooth. Chill several hours. Serve topped with diced avocado, onion, pepper and cucumber. Servings: 4 to 6.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator
Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.
On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.