Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Purifying The Body Naturally.

Herbs and Spices can be extremely powerful, and serve to purify and cleanse the body. Killing off bacteria and foreign matter that maybe lurking inside the body.

The truth is we have evolved as a species to eat a wide variety of herbs, spices and foods which have natural anti-viral properties. Sadly due to modern processed food and delicate tastes many of these have now been forgotten…..

In years gone by we cooked with these substances not only to add flavor but for their health benefits, things like Garlic, Fennel, Ginger, Cinnamon, Pepper and many others have a potent effect on our well being.

I am going to go into some detail about how some of these substances can have a profound effect on your body and hopefully encourage you to use a wide variety of them while cooking and eating at home. These are some of my favorite and ones which can be easily implemented into your everyday cooking.

Thyme – In previous articles we have looked over thyme as it is an extremely useful herb. It contains Thymol which is an extremely potent anti-bacterial, so potent that it is used in many mouthwashes as a main component. The article linked has loads more information on Thyme and its uses when cooking, recently I have been using fresh thyme to make a herbal tea by simply steeping a few branches on Thyme and sweetening with honey.

Garlic – Well known for its anti-bacterial properties Garlic can slow and kill more than 60 types of fungi and bacteria, including some of the most potent known to man (Salmonella, and Staphylococcus to name a few). It is no wonder it is known to be “nature’s anti-biotic”, Garlic is also filled with anti-oxidants. It can be added to pretty much anything when it comes to cooking and works especially well with red meat and poultry. I often make a chicken marinade with Olive Oil, Crushed Garlic, Lemon Juice and Sea Salt/Pepper, leave it to soak overnight and cook the next day.

Ginger – Which contains a substance called Gingerol which works to kill parasites and bacteria. Ginger can be steeped as a tea or used in a wide variety of asian dishes like curries and stir-frys. For a simple Ginger tea try the following:

§ Cut the Ginger into thin slices

§ Add to a saucepan filled with water and bring to the boil

§ Reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes

§ Strain the tea and add Lemon juice and Honey to taste

Although the lemon honey and ginger tea is associated with cold weather, it can be drunk year round and works to cool and cleanse in the summer or warm and uplift in winter.

Cayenne – Capsicum which is a component in all peppers is another potent anti-parasitic. It seems that Cayenne pepper maybe the most concentrated of the family plus it is easy to get hold of and a great spice to add to all kinds of dishes that need a little kick.

Cloves – Sometimes forgotten as they are associated with the festive season, so are rarely used outside of this period. Cloves contain two anti-microbrials Eugenol and Caryophyllene which work to kill off parasites in the body, they actually travel through the bloodstream to the offenders. Although cloves are usually used in sweet dishes they can also be added to Chilli or other more savory stew like dishes. I love adding a few cloves to homemade applesauce, which adds a very pleasant and warming flavor.

There are many many other herbs and spices which can help to cleanse the body, I have just gone over some of the standouts. It is important when cooking at home to try and emphasize the use of these foods as they can have hugely beneficial properties and realistically be the difference between good and great health.

Especially when we take into account that supposedly 90% of Americans have some sort of parasites which do a great job of remaining undetected in the body. The least we can do is use a variety of natures cleaners on a regular basis to help purify the body….

Article from Zen to Fitness

Butter: Good Fat or Bad Fat?

Butter: Good Fat or Bad Fat?

<!–butter–>People are often shocked when they see how much butter I use and eat in one day.  But I know the real truth; Butter is a good fat and can actually help you lose weight.

Unfortunately, people thinking butter is unhealthy is a very common misconception. People still think that butter and saturated fats are the reason heart disease is one of the top killers in this country (and now in many other countries as well). The truth is that it’s not the natural fats that are causing this epidemic, its the sugar, processed and packaged foods and overconsumption of refined oils that are causing so much disease (and you can add Diabetes, High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure to this list as well).

1. Did you know that during the 60 year period from 1910-1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%?

2. During this same time butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person each year to 4 pounds per person each year.

3. During the past 80 years, the consumption of dietary cholesterol intake has increased only one percent.

So where is the problem? Why all the heart disease?

1. During the same period, the average intake of dietary vegetable oils (margarine, shortening, and refined oils) increased by about 400%.

2. During the same period, the consumption of sugar and processed foods increased by about 60%

Those are the facts, but there’s never better proof than the results I see with my clients and my readers. When people finally stop eating margarine, refined oils, “fake” butters, sugar and processed foods, their health sky rockets! (and by sky rockets I mean, gets better, greatly improves, elevates to whole new levels). Not to mention all the body fat they lose off their body (now isn’t that just an awful side effect?)

It’s important to mention that the butter I use is organic and grass fed. It has this beautiful deep yellow color and is not white like most conventional butters. It has gone through minimal processing and has no added growth hormones and antibiotics. I get all my butter from

Now that I told you butter is ok to eat, here is a delicious chicken recipe you can enjoy:

(Please remember that the mad scientist in me sometimes forgets to document the exact amounts so you may need to play around with this a bit.)

Chicken with “I’m not afraid of butter” dressing


2 large chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb of chicken)
6 Tbsp of melted butter
lemon juice from 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste


Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pan. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook chicken breasts in butter covered on very low heat. Do not let the butter get brown. Pour lemon juice in a seperate bowl. Slowly stir in the remaining melted butter as you stir mixture. Then slowly add the olive oil as you stir mixture. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Once the chicken is cooked through, served on a plate and pour the “dressing mixture” over your cooked chicken breasts.

Don’t be surprised if you are tempted to pour this dressing on your veggies and just about every other food item you can think of. It’s delicious!

Article and recipe by Isabel De Los Rios from The Diet Solution

7 Reasons You’re Still Hungry—Even After You Just Ate!

7 Reasons You’re Still Hungry—Even After You Just Ate!

Do you sometimes feel ravenous, even though you just polished off a tasty lunch, a full dinner, or a midnight snack? Some food ingredients can trick our bodies into not recognizing when we’re full, causing “rebound hunger” that can add inches to our waistlines. But these simple tweaks can help quiet your cravings:

You Drink Too Much Soda

Sodas, iced teas, and other sweetened beverages are our biggest source of high-fructose corn syrup—accounting for about two-thirds of our annual intake. New research from the University of California at San Francisco indicates that fructose can trick our brains into craving more food, even when we’re full. It works by impeding the body’s ability to use leptin, the “satiation hormone” that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat.

Your Dinner Came Out of a Can

Many canned foods are high in the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, which the Food and Drug Administration recently stated was a chemical “of some concern.” Exposure to BPA can cause abnormal surges in leptin that, according to Harvard University researchers, leads to food cravings and obesity.

Your Breakfast Wasn’t Big Enough

After following 6,764 healthy people for almost 4 years, researchers found that those who ate just 300 calories for breakfast gained almost twice as much weight as those who ate 500 calories or more for breakfast. The reason: Eating a big breakfast makes for smaller rises in blood sugar and insulin throughout the day, meaning fewer sudden food cravings.

You Skipped the Salad

Most Americans don’t eat enough leafy greens, which are rich in the essential B-vitamin folate and help protect against depression, fatigue, and weight gain. In one study, dieters with the highest levels of folate in their bodies lost 8.5 times as much weight as those with the lowest levels. Leafy greens are also high in vitamin K, another insulin-regulating nutrient that helps quash cravings. Best sources: Romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens, radicchio.

You Don’t Stop for Tea Time

 According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, people who drank one cup of black tea after eating high-carb foods decreased their blood-sugar levels by 10 percent for 2 and a half hours after the meal, which means they stayed full longer and had fewer food cravings. Researchers credit the polyphenolic compounds in black tea for suppressing rebound hunger.

You’re Not Staying Fluid

Dehydration often mimics the feeling of hunger. If you’ve just eaten and still feel hungry, drink a glass of water before eating more, and see if your desires don’t diminish.

You’re Bored

Researchers at Flinders University in Australia found that visual distractions can help curb cravings. To test yourself, envision a huge, sizzling steak. If you’re truly hungry, the steak will seem appealing. But if that doesn’t seem tempting, chances are you’re in need of a distraction, not another meal.

Adapted from The New American Diet

Chopped Salad

Serving Size  : 4    

2      heads       Romaine Lettuce, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1      can           garbanzo beans

1      pound      cooked turkey breast, cut into 1/2″ pieces

4      oz            mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1                      cucumber, peeled and diced

4                      Roma tomatoes, diced


3      tbs           vinegar (balsamic, red wine, apple cider vinegar, etc.)

1/2  cup                       extra virgin olive oil

1/2  tsp each    sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2      tbs            Dijon mustard

Combine all salad ingredients and toss with salad dressing.

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Four Healthy Alternatives To Chicken…..

Four Healthy Alternatives To Chicken…..

Eating chicken has become synonymous with eating healthy, and it’s a common assumption that chicken and fish make up the gamut of healthy protein.  But there are several alternatives to chicken that offer flavors all their own.  If you don’t have a local hunter buddy, these foods may take some work to locate, but they’re worth checking out if you want to expand your menu into other healthy protein sources.


Because of its extremely low saturated fat content, rabbit is one of the foods of choice for heart disease patients and the elderly.  The meat is 100% white meat, and you can expect rabbit to have a very mild flavor, with very little “gamey” taste.  Recipes for rabbit commonly call for extended cooking times, and the FDA suggests cooking rabbit in the oven for not less than one hour, and making certain the meat achieves a temperature of at least 160-degrees Fahrenheit.  Owing to its exceptionally low fat content, may recipes for rabbit recommend stewing.

A single 3-ounce serving of rabbit contributes just 3-grams of fat, and so contains just 147 calories.  However, at 28-grams of protein, that 3-ounce serving is a muscle building powerhouse.  Rabbit is also a great source of iron, with a single serving contributing about 23% of your recommended daily allowance of iron.


Derived from another North American game animal, venison is the meat harvested from deer, and was a favorite of Native American Indian tribes.  A 3-ounce serving of venison contains even less fat than rabbit, contributing just 2-grams of fat to your diet.  Like rabbit, the low fat content demands careful attention in the kitchen.  Recipes commonly include slow cooking methods to tenderize the meat, with the crockpot being a favored kitchen tool.  Slow grilling can provide very tasty meals if careful attention is given by the chef.  Venison goes well with red wine, making for an antioxidant laden meal.

Owing to the extremely low fat content, a 3-ounce serving of venison has even fewer calories than a serving of rabbit, coming in at a mere 128-calories, less than 2-grams of saturated fat, and 26-grams of protein.


Estimates suggest that at one time, there were as many as 30 million prairie bison in the United States.  Commercial hunting pressure in the early 1900’s, encouraged by the U.S. government, decimated those numbers, but restoration efforts over the last 30-years have allowed these massive creatures to return to their home range.  Interest in bison for commercial purposes has increased again, and from a nutritional standpoint, it’s understandable.  A 3-ounce serving of bison contains about 5-grams of fat, and has just 145-calories.

Although bison has a low fat content, it’s slightly higher in fat than venison or rabbit, which makes cooking bison slightly more forgiving to the chef.  Still, most recipes call for slow cooking, and careful attention is required on the grill.  Recipes for bison burgers often recommend mixing bison with fats to keep them juicy, but this should be avoided when possible, as it adds unnecessary calories.  When cooking steaks, most experts recommend the use of tongs, rather than a fork, for turning bison on the grill.  Using tongs avoids puncturing the steak, which would release the all-important tenderizing juices.


Once favored by kings, quail are the closest cousins to chicken on this list, and one of the easiest to locate.  Quail are very small birds, so a single quail breast is typically between 3-5 ounces in size, making it the perfect serving size.  It’s not uncommon to see quail, usually in 2-breast packages, in the frozen meat section at your local grocer.

In sharp contrast to the recommended slow cooking methods for the other protein sources on this list, most experts recommend cooking quail on intermediate heat for no more than 10-minutes.  The short cooking time will seal in flavors and keep the meat from drying out.  If you want to try your hand at roasting, try sealing the meat first by searing quickly over high heat and then popping them in the roaster.

Expect your efforts to reward you with a meat that is slightly more gamey than you’ll expect from chicken, but also sweeter, and in contrast to chicken, well complimented by red wine.  Nutritionally, quail is lower in fat than chicken, with a single serving providing just 2-grams, and no saturated fat.  Although lower than the other foods on this list, quail still has more protein than a single serving of chicken (13-grams), and the low fat content means a single serving of quail has a mere 69-calories.

As you can see from this short list, the options for someone who wants to eat healthy, yet still enjoys steaks and burgers, extends well beyond chicken or fish.  Cooking these foods requires some adjustment on the part of the chef, as the low fat content makes it very easy to overcook these foods.  But with a little effort, there are many options that can provide meat lovers with alternatives that even exceed the health benefits of chicken.

About the author: Greg Hayes is the author of Live Fit Blog, a blog about healthy living, weight loss, and what it means to be a father, friend, husband, and much more.
Here is a simple recipe using bison…looking for more recipes check out my cookbooks 

Salsa Chili

   2      tablespoons   extra virgin olive oil
   1      clove         garlic minced
   3      oz            ground turkey, buffalo or chicken
     1/4  teaspoon      cumin
     1/4  teaspoon      chili powder
     1/2  cup           chunky salsa
   1 1/2  teaspoon      coarsely chopped roasted cashews
     1/4  cup           red kidney beans, drained and rinsed1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to low and add garlic
and turkey.  Cook about 3 minutes, stirring constantly to break up meat
until meat is no longer pink.2. Add cumin, chili powder, salsa and cashews, stirring to combine.  Cook 1
minute.  Stir in beans and continue cooking 1 more minute or until heated

The Truth Behind 5 Food Myths


The Truth Behind 5 Food Myths

It goes like this: A client looking to lead a healthier life hires me, a culinary-trained nutritionist, to help him improve his diet. I analyze what he’s been eating, factor in his food preferences, and together we create an eating plan that fits his lifestyle and goals. Soon after, he’s noticeably leaner and more energetic—a happy customer. 

That’s when the trouble starts. After a coworker asks him for the details of his diet, my client suddenly finds himself in a heated interrogation. Doesn’t your nutritionist know red meat causes cancer? And that potatoes cause diabetes? Shouldn’t he tell you to eat less salt, to prevent high blood pressure?

The upshot: Myths just made my job a lot harder. That’s because nutrition misinformation fools people into being confused and frustrated in their quest to eat healthily, even if they’re already achieving great results. Thankfully, you’re about to be enlightened by science.

Here are five food fallacies you can forget about for good.

Myth #1: “High protein intake is harmful to your kidneys.”

The origin: Back in 1983, researchers first discovered that eating more protein increases your “glomerular filtration rate,” or GFR. Think of GFR as the amount of blood your kidneys are filtering per minute. From this finding, many scientists made the leap that a higher GFR places your kidneys under greater stress.

What science really shows: Nearly 2 decades ago, Dutch researchers found that while a protein-rich meal did boost GFR, it didn’t have an adverse effect on overall kidney function. In fact, there’s zero published research showing that downing hefty amounts of protein—specifically, up to 1.27 grams per pound of body weight a day—damages healthy kidneys.

The bottom line: As a rule of thumb, shoot to eat your target body weight in grams of protein daily. For example, if you’re a chubby 200 pounds and want to be a lean 180, then have 180 grams of protein a day. Likewise if you’re a skinny 150 pounds but want to be a muscular 180.

Myth #2: “Sweet potatoes are better for you than white potatoes.”

The origin: Because most Americans eat the highly processed version of the white potato—for instance, french fries and potato chips—consumption of this root vegetable has been linked to obesity and an increased diabetes risk.

Meanwhile, sweet potatoes, which are typically eaten whole, have been celebrated for being rich in nutrients and also having a lower glycemic index than their white brethren.

What science really shows: White potatoes and sweet potatoes have complementary nutritional differences; one isn’t necessarily better than the other. For instance, sweet potatoes have more fiber and vitamin A, but white potatoes are higher in essential minerals, such as iron, magnesium, and potassium. As for the glycemic index, sweet potatoes are lower on the scale, but baked white potatoes typically aren’t eaten without cheese, sour cream, or butter. These toppings all contain fat, which lowers the glycemic index of a meal.

The bottom line: The form in which you consume a potato—for instance, a whole baked potato versus a processed potato that’s used to make chips—is more important than the type of spud.

Myth #3: “Red meat causes cancer.”

The origin: In a 1986 study, Japanese researchers discovered cancer developing in rats that were fed “heterocyclic amines,” compounds that are generated from overcooking meat under high heat. And since then, some studies of large populations have suggested a potential link between meat and cancer.

What science really shows: No study has ever found a direct cause-and-effect relationship between red-meat consumption and cancer. As for the population studies, they’re far from conclusive. That’s because they rely on broad surveys of people’s eating habits and health afflictions, and those numbers are simply crunched to find trends, not causes.

The bottom line: Don’t stop grilling. Meat lovers who are worried about the supposed risks of grilled meat don’t need to avoid burgers and steak; rather, they should just trim off the burned or overcooked sections of the meat before eating.

Myth #4: “High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is more fattening than regular sugar is.”

The origin: In a 1968 study, rats that were fed large amounts of fructose developed high levels of fat in their bloodstreams. Then, in 2002, University of California at Davis researchers published a well-publicized paper noting that Americans’ increasing consumption of fructose, including that in HFCS, paralleled our skyrocketing rates of obesity.

What science really shows: Both HFCS and sucrose—better known as table sugar—contain similar amounts of fructose. For instance, the two most commonly used types of HFCS are HFCS-42 and HFCS-55, which are 42 and 55 percent fructose, respectively. Sucrose is almost chemically identical, containing 50 percent fructose. This is why the University of California at Davis scientists determined fructose intakes from both HFCS and sucrose. The truth is, there’s no evidence to show any differences in these two types of sugar. Both will cause weight gain when consumed in excess.

The bottom line: HFCS and regular sugar are empty-calorie carbohydrates that should be consumed in limited amounts. How? By keeping soft drinks, sweetened fruit juices, and prepackaged desserts to a minimum.

Myth #5: “Salt causes high blood pressure and should be avoided.”

The origin: In the 1940s, a Duke University researcher named Walter Kempner, M.D., became famous for using salt restriction to treat people with high blood pressure. Later, studies confirmed that reducing salt could help reduce hypertension.

What science really shows: Large-scale scientific reviews have determined there’s no reason for people with normal blood pressure to restrict their sodium intake. Now, if you already have high blood pressure, you may be “salt sensitive.” As a result, reducing the amount of salt you eat could be helpful.

However, it’s been known for the past 20 years that people with high blood pressure who don’t want to lower their salt intake can simply consume more potassium-containing foods. Why? Because it’s really the balance of the two minerals that matters. In fact, Dutch researchers determined that a low potassium intake has the same impact on your blood pressure as high salt consumption does. And it turns out, the average guy consumes 3,100 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day—1,600 mg less than recommended.

The bottom line: Strive for a potassium-rich diet, which you can achieve by eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. For instance, spinach, broccoli, bananas, white potatoes, and most types of beans each contain more than 400 mg potassium per serving.

From Men’s Health article

Summer Potato Salad

   6 small  or medium potatoes boiled until soft and drained. Let cool 10-15 minutes while assembling the rest of your ingredients, then cut in quarters or thick slices.
   5  scallions sliced
   1   garlic scape sliced thin
   1  Handful snap peas- tops and veins removed, then sliced
   2 ears corn cut off the cob (raw)
   1  bunch parsley chopped
   Sea Salt/pepper to taste
  2 Tbs prepared mustard
  1/4  cup extra virgin olive oil
  1 large handful basil or cilantro chopped fine

1. Combine all ingredients above in a large bowl. *Don’t stir the potatoes
too much or they will fall apart.

2. Whisk together dressing ingredients
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Foods Rich in This Vitamin Reduce Your Diabetes Risk by 20%

Foods Rich in This Vitamin Reduce Your Diabetes Risk by 20%

With diabetes rates soaring in developed countries, it’s important to be aware of every lifestyle change you can make to reduce your risk.

While a healthy diet and exercise remain at the top of the list for diabetes prevention, simply making a point to include plenty of vitamin-K-rich foods in your diet could lower your diabetes risk by 20 percent.

Why It’s Important to Get Plenty of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is most well known for the important role it plays in blood clotting, but it does so much more than that …

  • Fight Cancer …

Studies have linked vitamin K2 with a nearly 30 percent reduction in your risk of cancer mortality and a 14 percent lowered risk of cancer altogether.

  • Improve Bone Density …

Vitamin K is one of the most important nutritional interventions for improving bone density. It serves as the biological “glue” that helps plug the calcium into your bone matrix.

Other studies have shown vitamin K to be equivalent to Fosamax-type osteoporosis drugs, with far fewer side effects.

  • Prevent Heart Disease …

Vitamin K helps to prevent hardening of your arteries, which is a common factor in coronary artery disease and heart failure. Research suggests that vitamin K may help to keep calcium out of artery linings and other body tissues, where it can be damaging.

  • Stave off Varicose Veins …

Inadequate levels of vitamin K may reduce the activity of the matrix GLA protein (MGP), which in turn has been identified as a key player in the development of varicosis, or varicose veins.

  • Lower Your Risk of Diabetes …

People with the highest intakes of vitamin K from their diet had a 20 percent lower risk of diabetes compared with those with the lowest intakes, according to the latest research from University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands..

How Much Vitamin K do You Need?

Many people are not getting the currently recommended intakes of vitamin K, which are likely already too low to begin with. In fact, according to What We Eat In America, only one in four Americans are meeting the recommended levels of dietary vitamin K.

Further, the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily intake of 120 micrograms for men and 90 for women are based on levels that will ensure adequate blood coagulation. But vitamin K is important for more than just blood clotting; it impacts the health of your bones, arteries and immune system as well.

Vitamin K1, K2 and K3 … What’s the Difference?

There are three types of vitamin K:

  1. Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is found naturally in plants
  2. Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, is made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract
  3. Vitamin K3, or menadione, is a synthetic form that is manmade, and which I do not recommend.

You should strive to include both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2 in your diet, as both are beneficial.

K1 is found in dark green leafy vegetables, and makes up about 90 percent of the vitamin K in a typical Western diet. Collard greens, spinach, salad greens, kale, bok choy, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are particularly good sources.

The best natural source of vitamin K2 is derived from an ancient Japanese food called Natto. Natto is made from fermented soybeans and significant amounts of vitamin K2 are produced during the fermentation process. You can find natto at some health food stores and Asian grocery stores.

It’s important to note that vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that in order for your body to absorb it effectively, you need to eat some fat along with it.

by Dr. Mercoal

Here is a very simple and delicious greens recipe to add to your repertoire…

Kale with Apples & Mustard

 Tart apples, grainy mustard, cider vinegar, and a touch of brown
sugar add sweet-and-sour flavor to kale.

                        * 1 tablespoon oil, olive, extra virgin
                        * 1 1/2 pounds kale
                        * 2/3 cup(s) water
                        * 2 medium apple(s), Granny Smith
                        * 2 tablespoon vinegar, cider
                        * 4 teaspoon mustard, whole-grain
                        * 2 teaspoon sugar, brown
                        * 1 pinch salt

1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add kale and cook, tossing
with two large spoons, until bright green, about 1 minute.

2. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

3. Stir in apples; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is
tender, 8 to 10 minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl.

5. Add the mixture to the kale, increase heat to high and boil, uncovered,
until most of the liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes.

Recipe Source: Eating Well

For more recipes that include greens, tap here.
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Thinking Small without Guilt: Setting Your Minimum Goal Standards

Thinking Small without Guilt: Setting Your Minimum Goal Standards

Have you ever – perhaps in January – come up with some grand plan for self-improvement? Perhaps you promised yourself that you’d jog daily. Maybe you resolved to cook every night instead of eating out. You might even have written down goals, drawn up timetables and charts, and pumped up your willpower as much as possible.

And yet, somewhere along the way, you stopped. Going to the gym five times a week just wasn’t working. You ended up impulse shopping. You never managed to get up on time. Whatever it was, you felt like you’d failed.

The problem is, we’re prone to all-or-nothing thinking. We set ourselves high standards, and give up completely when we can’t meet them.

There’s another way. Rather than aiming for some maximum level of perfection, think small instead. Decide on a minimum standard which you’ll have no excuses for not achieving.

I first came across this idea from Shauna Reid, also known as Diet Girl, lamenting her own all-or-nothing thinking, she wrote:

2009 Minimum Standards Agreement!

  • Write down what I eat
  • Exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes
  • 10.30 PM Internet curfew! […]

I know 20 minutes doesn’t sound like much to you hardcore dames out there, but last year I kept going from one extreme to another. I’d do a 16 miler for my Moonwalk training then do nowt for a week. Even if it’s just twenty minutes of Pilates or a quick jaunt around the village, I need to set a minimum.

Why a Minimum Standard Agreement Works
You’re probably still tempted to come up with grand, perfectionist goals. You’re thinking “I won’t get the same results if I just shoot for the minimum”. But is that really true?

How often have you set grand goals only to give up days later?

How often have you undone your hard work – by having an eating or spending binge after a period of too-harsh restriction?

When you set a Minimum Standard, you feel empowered, because you can easily achieve what you’ve promised yourself. Even on a really busy day, you can find time to write three sentences in your journal. Isn’t it better to do those three sentences daily, rather than aim for three pages and give up after a week?

Plus, when things are going well, your Minimum Standards Agreement doesn’t limit you at all. Let’s say you’ve promised yourself that you’ll walk for just 15 minutes each day. On a nice day, when you’ve got some extra time, you might decide to walk for 30 minutes – or even an hour. And the best part is, this will be a bonus achievement – above and beyond the minimum which you said you’d do.

You’ll feel great about hitting your targets, which means you’ll want to keep going. After all, if you manage to do your 15 minute walk for five weeks in a row, you won’t want to skip a day just because it’s raining.

Examples of Minimum Standards Agreements
So what does a minimum standards agreement look like? And which areas of your life should you focus on?

You’ll want to think about whether to make your targets:

  • Daily, weekly or monthly
  • Time-based or outcome-based
  • Focused on one key area, or split across several

I’d suggest that you pick one to three areas of your life where you’re struggling. Perhaps your two priorities are losing weight and saving money. You could set several simple targets like:

  • Have one day each week when I don’t spend anything (makes you more aware of your spending habits, should help you save money)
  • Take a packed lunch to work at least two days a week (good for money-saving and eating a healthier diet)
  • Spend at least 15 minutes exercising each day (walking, cycling, etc)

Start small: you can always up your commitments if you really feel that this is too easy. Of course, the most effective minimum standards agreements will be the ones which you come up with yourself – but if you’re stuck for ideas, you might want to try some of the below ones.

Remember, you can always do more. These are minimums that you’re supposed to be able to do without fail – even on bad days!

Health and Fitness ideas

Money ideas

  • Empty the spare change from your pockets or wallet into a jar every evening
  • Have a “no spend” day once a week (or once a month)
  • Ban yourself from online shopping in the evenings (or at particular points when you’re prone to impulse buy)
  • Start saving $5/week towards Christmas right now
  • Write down everything you spend on food/drinks out

Work ideas

  • Spend five minutes each day working on that dreaded report or presentation
  • Tidy your desk once a week (or once a month)
  • Take two minutes to plan your morning when you first get in to work
  • If you have a side business or personal project, spend fifteen minutes working on this each evening
  • Clear three emails from your backlog every day
  • Read one chapter of a relevant book each week (or a few pages each day)

Have you ever used a minimum standards agreement with yourself, in the past? How did it work out? If you’ve never tried it before, what could you put into practice today?

by Ali Hale. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life.