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Fitness, Nutrition

Essential Guide to Healthy Eating

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Healthy eating does not have to be difficult or complicated. As an advocate for healthy living, understanding food and basic nutrients is important to me. I believe that to change your body (and physical health in general), you must start with your mind first, then your food, and THEN your exercise. You can’t outwork a bad diet, and you’ll never enjoy a lifestyle of healthy eating until your mindset is right about food.

Rather than re-creating the wheel, I’ve simply gathered some resources from the MyFitnessPal Blog that does a great job of simplifying the basics of healthy eating. I like these linked articles because they explain the importance of often persecuted food groups and defends my personal opinion that eating a balanced variety of foods is better than any restrictive “diet-of-the-month” that requires you to cut all carbs or fats. Take some time to read these links and educate yourself. Consider this your crash course in healthy eating.

Essential Guide to Macros

Essential Guide to Protein

Essential Guide to Fat

Essential Guide to Carbohydrates

Want more? Check out my video presentation of a Nutrition 101 course I taught for my employer.

Fitness, Nutrition

Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

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Want your family to eat healthier? It all starts with a healthy shopping list. If your cupboards and fridge contain mostly healthy foods, everyone in your family is likely to eat better. If the junk food is not in your house, you can’t eat it. Duh.

Surprisingly, healthier eating can lower your grocery bills, too. It’s true that ready-to-eat meals and packaged foods save time, but they can cost more and some have too much salt and fat. I was skeptical of this claim like you are, until I tried it myself. If you want real, sustainable change in your health, you’ve got to get the food part right. The good news is that it’s not that hard to do.

Follow these tips to get the most nutrition bang for your buck.

Stock Up With Staples

These pantry basics will give you the foundation you need for better family nutrition at home.

– Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables

  • Canned: Look for low-sodium vegetables and no-added-sugar fruits. We use a lot of canned green beans. Warmed up with whole wheat pasta and some lean meat for a super simple meal.IMG_0434
  • Frozen: Use what you need for a meal, then put the rest of the bag back in the freezer. We use a ton of frozen mixed veggies. I like to nuke the frozen veggies with raw broccoli. It steams the broccoli perfectly in 2 mins. Added to some pre-cooked chicken breast and whole wheat pasta or seasoned sweat potato chunks for a delicious healthy meal.
  • Dried: Check the label for and avoid added sugar, especially on fruits. I like raisins and dates. They are super sweet on their own to help satisfy my sweet tooth.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and non-instant oatmeal

Steel-cut oatmeal costs just pennies per ounce and is a good source of fiber. I’ve cut a lot of bread out of my diet lately, but I still go for super cheap Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. No need to pay for the fancy stuff.

Beans, lentils, and peas

Packed with protein and other nutrients, they’re a great way to stretch your food dollar. Save! Use them in everything from soups to chili to burritos. Packaged dried beans cost less but take some planning to cook. Low-sodium canned beans are another option. Rinse canned beans to lower sodium even more.

Nuts like almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts

Lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs We eat lots of chicken breast, natural deli turkey, 93% lean ground turkey or beef, and eggs. Lots of eggs. So cheap and filling when mixed with veggies in a stir fry or omelette.

Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products

Children under age 2 should have whole milk unless otherwise directed by your doctor. Yes, you can eat cheese. Real cheese though. Velveeta is not real cheese. Read the ingredients. We like Sargento Cheese. Yogurt and cottage cheese is tricky. Read the ingredients.

Buy Healthy Snacks

How to keep your kids from going overboard on chips, cookies, and other snacks? Make it easy to find the healthy stuff. We’ve learned that kids will adjust to the food you have. Don’t assume you must have junk food snacks for the kids because that’s all they will eat. You are in charge.

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Keep these healthy options on the center shelf of the fridge: (this list is on our fridge)

  • cut-up fruit
  • baby carrots and low-fat ranch dip
  • string cheese
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • low-fat yogurt

And these on the counter:

  • dried fruit and nut mix
  • pretzels
  • whole-grain crackers and peanut butter

3 Surefire Healthy Grocery Shopping Rules

To keep your food choices on track with your family’s health goals, follow these three basic rules as you cruise the supermarket aisles.

Don’t shop hungry. Ever notice what winds up in your cart when you shop with hunger pangs? Eat a nutritious snack beforehand so the munchies don’t take control of your shopping.

Make a healthy shopping list. Even if you know what you need, a list saves time and prevents impulse buys. Organize your list into sections according to the store’s layout. Shop for the healthy items first, picking up the treats last. We use the Kroger ClickList to automate our shopping. When you shop from home via internet, you are far less likely to add items to your cart that aren’t on the list. Saves buckets of money!

Hug the walls — most of the time. Stay focused. Avoid parts of your grocery store with the unhealthy choices. The edges of the store (the perimeter) tend to have the healthiest choices. Detour down center aisles for beans, whole-grain pastas and cereals, and canned and frozen vegetables and fruit. Skip the aisles with chips and other temptations, or get only the items on your list. When you’re grocery shopping with kids, the temptations can be especially distracting.

Let us know your healthy grocery shopping tricks to save time, money, and sanity.

SOURCES: University Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa State University: “Convenience costs;” “Snacks for healthy kids;” “Stretch your protein dollar;” “10 tips for saving at the grocery store;” “Ways to save money in 2010;” and “What’s a good buy?”American Dietetic Association: “Raising healthy eaters from preschool to high school” and “Save time and money at the grocery store.”The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: “Winning ways to grocery shop with young children.”WebMD Health News: “Baby Milk Recommendations Changed.”

faith, Family

You Are Part Of Something Big | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.

Dwight L. Moody

Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults.

John Calvin

I think it’s essential for you to hear this, but did you know you are a part of something big that some Christians believe is unnecessary. You are a member of a worldwide, and local body of believers called the church. While your personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential, it was never intended to be private. Therefore participation in the body of Christ by joining a local church is not just nice; it’s necessary. I often worry about you not attending a local church regularly, and that you might dismiss it as irrelevant. But here are a few reasons I believe it’s important and the ways it has blessed me in my journey with Christ.

One | Man Was Created For Relationship

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Genesis 1:26

Notice the text above. God creates man us not just in “his” image but in “our” image. The use of the plural personal pronouns “us” and “our” is significant. And just like the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) is in relationship, we were created with the same need, not only for a relationship with God but others.

But you intuitively know this. You would otherwise experience loneliness and aloneness without meaningful relationships. You have been aware of this your whole life. You are reminded of this immense value often—every time someone includes you or leaves you out. Every time a friend comes to rescue or leaves you hanging. Every time a girl takes an interest in you or, in some cases, ignores you. We desire relationship, and we cannot do without it. God sketched it into the very fabric of our being.

Yet the relationships that fill this void have the potential to move us in two directions. Either they move us toward God or away from God. They thus make us better or worse. You have heard these words from me many times, but these two scriptures capture this truth. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33) And at the same time, here is another important scripture, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

You know both your mother and I have always been concerned about the relationships you have. The reason being is that we know that relationships have great power to either corrupt you or make you sharper. At this point in your life, you get to make your own choices about the friends you will spend your time with, but I hope you’ll spend more time with those in the latter category—men, and women, that make you sharper.

Most of my longest-lasting friendships and relationships have been forged in the church. In fact, in the church, I have found lifelong friends whose character, skill, and influence is still having an impact on me. Their voices echo in the chambers of my heart and mind whether or not I still see them regularly—some have passed on, some have moved, and some I still see, but they speak truth to me. And because we have shared in worship and sought God’s way together, they have made me the man I am today. This is just one of the many reasons I think it’s vital to attend a local church. 

So go to church! Build some friendships and pursue God with others, even when it feels a little awkward for a while.

Two | You Need the Church and The Church Needs You

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

1 Corinthians 12:17-18

In these verses, Paul, the author, is comparing the church to a body. A living system of people that work together and therefore rely on each other as they rely on God. And while many believe you can be a Christian without going to church, nothing could be further from the truth—the reason being—you are the church!

Choosing not to attend because the church is full of sinful people, you don’t like its style, or think it’s not necessary to be called a follower of Christ is entirely mistaken. God never intended Christians to function independently from the Christian community. It’s simply impossible. This would be like saying you’re a soccer player when you don’t play on a team. Or suggesting you are a leader when no one is following you.

And here is the great part about being a part of church or body—you need them, and they need you. In reality, the church has gifts and resources that you need, and at the same time, you have gifts and resources that the church needs. Being a part of a body has numerous mutual benefits. Plus, you gather with people that share a common vision, mission, and values regarding life and godliness, and all this results in the biggest reason we go to church—to worship God together. Weekly we gather underneath the Lordship of Jesus Christ and worship him. As the author of Hebrews said, we must “not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Three | Men Need Regular Positive Accountability

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2

Accountability is something many men run from simply because we think of it only as something that occurs when we do something wrong. But accountability can be positive as well. It can be something that pushes and drives us to be better men, leaders, husbands, and fathers. I know without positive accountability as a man, I am destined for negative accountability—which is how most men learn through failure. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can be a little more proactive.

You need to start building relationships with some Christian men you trust and with whom you can confide. Men that love Christ and will propel you to be better. They will help you to become the man that God wants you to be and offer you encouragement in the temptations and burdens of life.

While I am present for you now, there will be a day I am not, and I hope that you will always be connected to a church because it’s essential to your ongoing growth and faith development. Act upon this immediately, and it will bless your life along our long journey toward our eternal home—together.

I love you, son, Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Nutrition

Feed Your Machine

feed the machine1

Some time ago, I wrote about some timeless principles to manage your most important project (YOU) – by focusing on being a better person. You can read it here.

I want to take the idea of managing yourself a step further to look at your physical health. After all, you can’t be your best when you don’t feel good. I’m going to focus on nutrition. Hear me out, this is not a shake-my-finger-at-you sermon to go on a diet. Diets don’t work. My focus is a paradigm shift regarding the way we think about food.

Here are two scientifically proven mathematical equations for food to get us started.

Garbage In = Garbage Out

Eat Real Food = Feel better + Improve Performance + Look Better

Your body is a finely tuned machine. You may not think so when you look in the mirror, but it is absolutely true. It performs countless functions every moment that we don’t even realize. It also gives feedback on how we take care of it.

Much like any other machine, it performs well when it is cared for, and it performs poorly when it is not cared for. Ever put soda or donuts in your car’s gas tank? Would it operate well if you did? In the same way, we need to feed our bodies with the right fuel if we expect to perform our best.

body-trash

NEWS FLASH: our bodies were not meant to eat highly processed, chemically enhanced, boxed food with 25 ingredients on the nutrition label even if it says “low fat”, “healthy”, “low calorie”, “high protein”, etc. Without getting into all the science of chemical additives and processing, I promise that these unnatural, unpronounceable ingredients are not good for us.

If you feel low on energy during the day, depend on caffeine, carry more weight than you’d like, suffer from pain and fatigue from performing common activities, have indigestion, bloating, or are often “irregular” you should first look at how you fuel your machine.

I’ve been on a journey of natural, whole foods healthy eating for a while now and can attest that it is the secret formula to help all the ailments I mentioned and more.

95 disease by food

You might say, “I don’t have time to eat healthy” or “I don’t know how to eat healthy.” I’m with you. I said these things myself, and not too long ago.

Changing your nutrition requires a change in your MINDSET about food first. You must agree that your fuel impacts your body’s performance and that natural, whole food is the best way to eat.

Instead you say, “I can’t afford to eat poorly” or “Learning to eat right is important to me and I’m going to figure out how to do it because I want to perform, feel, and look my best.”

You make conscious decisions about what you put in your mouth because you know that it will absolutely impact you whether you feel it immediately or not. Just like you wouldn’t put soda in the gas tank because you know the car wouldn’t work, you mindset about fueling your body should be the same. I mean who doesn’t want to perform, feel, and look their best today AND for the long term?

Educating yourself about proper nutrition and whole, natural food eating is key. The internet is filled with nutrition advice, some of it is good (and much is not).

My favorite healthy eating resource is www.9010nutrition.com This is a thorough resource with articles, videos, links to healthy recipes, and a no obligation email registration that connects you to even more great advice and encouragement to help you along your healthy eating journey. Of course there is the Fitness & Nutrition tab on my website that has a recipe section as well.

If you are ready to make real and lasting changes to your health, the next step is up to you. I would be honored to help you get started on your healthy living journey. Let’s chat!

faith, Fortitude, Personal Development

The Danger of Ambition | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, most men learn about the dangers of ambition the hard way. 

We never intend to slowly distance ourselves from God, family, or meaningful relationships. We never aim to become evil, manipulative, or narcissistic. We never plan to commit adultery, get divorced, be prosecuted, get fired, or be canceled on social media. But ambition has led to all these results and more.

And for those who have been down these roads and experienced these results, we know the hidden dangers. For some, it begins with seeking a competitive edge. Or for others, begins with a desire to please others who are never satisfied. And others get caught in its trappings by the promise of achievements, notoriety, and prosperity.

So, son, in guarding and forewarning yourself of these dangers, here are some things you must know.

One | Ambition Feeds on Selfishness

“as to zeal, a persecutor of the church…”—Paul commenting on his past as the man formerly known as Saul, in Philippians 3:6

These short words are how Paul identified his former behavior. His zeal was second to none. He was known for his ambition. This was so widely known that his conversion to faith was unbelievable for many Christians.

And when [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.—Acts 9:26

What’s interesting about a man’s ambition is not that it’s all bad. Ambition, zeal, and industry are good, as long the object of ambition is not the self. When the ambition focuses on the self, a man will ultimately use others around him to accomplish his own end. They become his means to elevate himself, which has now become his central focus. This is tough to see when at first, but as selfish ambition grows, the effects are far-reaching. And as we discover in Saul’s life, he began using people for his personal advancement. And this process can become so self-serving and devious that deviation from this path can seem unbelievable and impossible to observers.

The dilemma is that there is no end to this progression until the pain of necessary change confronts a man. And depending on how callous and impervious to the pain we’ve become, it might require tremendous pain. Or, like in Saul’s case, we finally have a confrontation with Jesus Christ that knocks us off our feet and onto our knees.

Two | Ambition is Aimless Enticement

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

King Solomon- Ecclesiastes 1:14

Solomon, the wisest and wealthiest man to ever live, has something significant to teach us about the path of ambition. Money. Fame. Success. They are all attractive. Many a man will pursue them. The reason why men seek them is positive short-term gains. But the problem is that the short term gains always fall short. Moreover, the short-lived gains lead to aimless running. Therefore men from one temporary gain to the next. Before long, we look up and see we have been running after purposelessness and aimlessness.

No man wants this. We want the exact opposite—purpose and meaning. And as Solomon discovered, there was only one to find it. And in the final sentences of the book of Ecclesiastes, he tells us how to find purpose and meaning. The path to discovering it is not through human ambition but holy fear. Fear of the One who provides purpose to a man. And this is not aimlessness—this is our aim!

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Three | Ambition Compromises Character

And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”—Samson’s confession to Deliah in Judges 16:17

This confession led to Samson’s fall. But he did not arrive at this moment suddenly. He got there one small decision at a time. His selfish ambition eventually caused him to get closer and closer to the edge of compromise. Until finally, he thought he was impervious to failing. Thus, his ambition clouded his wisdom and exposed his character and, therefore, his life’s mission and purpose.

All human ambition will lead a man to do something that seems stupid. What’s interesting is that at the moment they do it, they don’t think it’s stupid. It’s just another choice in a series of choices that lead to a final and foolish decision. But what this decision reveals is their character. Therefore most men look back at this, realizing how stupid one decision was and the series of smaller decisions that led up to it—that can never be undone but can only be done differently from that point forward.

So what can we do?

Overcoming Ambition

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

Instead of surrendering to ambition, great men surrender ambition itself. In the act of surrender, we loosen our grip on what has a hold on us. And we offer it to God. We submit everything our ambitions have been focused on, which is the self, and we give our ambitions and the self to a holy and willing God. Then God, who we now worship—not the self—guides us down a new path focused only on him. 

And the best part is that God does something in this exchange that reignites the male ambition with a twist—it becomes holy ambition. Ambition focused solely on him and his purposes. And in this, we discover that God has a purpose for us and that he wants us to live in out in his character and in his way.

Son, be ambitious. But do not fall for the trappings of human ambition. They are, but folly, and many a man has fallen to its trapping. I love you—Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.