Enjoyed this blog post by a young mom in my neighborhood, Melanie Willis Wilde.

 Sunday, February 23, 2014

Healthy Stuff That’s Helped Me

Last January I was a mess. A real live anxious, high blood pressure, postpartum, insomniacal…mess. I went to a great internist who told me that the best thing I could do was eat a low salt, low sugar diet and exercise 150 minutes a week with some yoga or deep breathing exercises in the mix. That and a low dose of blood pressure meds were my prescriptions. I did a lot of research about what it actually means to eat a low salt, low sugar diet.
The American Heart Association recommends eating 1500 mg or less of sodium a day and 6-9 teaspoons of  added sugars (24-36 grams). If you’re like me and most Americans you’re not following this. I decided to try my hardest to start “eating clean,” and this was a pretty good ruler for me. I didn’t calorie restrict, I just watched my salt and sugar. It’s an interesting challenge to see how much you normally eat and then cut it back to the recommendation.
I was shocked at the sodium levels in things like cereal, soy sauce, canned soups, chicken broth and honestly most packaged things. You can eat your entire recommended daily amount of sodium in just a couple teaspoons of soy sauce or two servings of most canned soups. Crazy!
I found myself having  to get more creative, cook more from scratch, and find some new recipes. Here are some things I’ve learned and some tips.1.I checked out a few Paleo cookbooks from the library and found some great recipes and snack ideas.
2. You can add no salt or half or less than half the salt required in most recipes and it tastes the same or better. This includes soups, baked goods, salad dressings- really. really.Same with sugar. Add way less than what it calls for and be amazed at how good it still tastes.
3. Your tastebuds “reset” if you stop eating so much processed food and suddenly an apple or salad taste amazing, whereas before they don’t taste so amazing because your body thinks it wants salty sugary stuff.
4. As a general rule,  I eat one salad a day. I make a batch of homemade salad dressing at the beginning of the week and use it all week long. I  like to mix it up and go for more Mexican style salads, fruity nutty salads, cob type salads- lots of possibilities.
5. Corn tortillas. 10 mg of sodium compared to 150 + in flour tortillas.
6. Almond butter is delicious.
7. Coconut milk is amazing. You can make creamy soups, smoothies, curries, etc with coconut milk with no added sugars and no sodium.
8. I don’t follow this every day, all the time, and I don’t sweat it. I feel that being mindful at all and having a general guideline really helps me, but I’m not so strict that I can’t go out or have my cake and eat it too sometimes. I feel like choosing a new lifestyle is just that. It’s not a temporary diet for me, it’s how I want to live from now on. It’s not realistic for me not to have treats or salty things sometimes and when I eat with other people I can’t control what they fix, so I let it go for that meal. No big deal.
9. Meals weren’t too hard to for me to come up with, but snacks were. Nuts, fruit (fresh or dried), apples with almond butter baby carrots, snap peas, toast with “no salt” butter, homemade salsa with corn chips or corn tortillas, Lara bars, homemade beef jerky,greek yogurt (check the sugar and sodium and get the lowest you can find) with berries or a low sugar granola, seeds…
10. I discovered that adding more ginger or garlic or peppers or other fun spices are not only fun and exciting but made it so I didn’t miss salt and sugar so much. Fresh herbs are great too.
11. Lots of people are doing this and the internet is a great resource. Google “clean eating,” and you’ll see what I mean. You can find meal plans, recipes, support…it’s great.
12. I have ditched cream of _____ soups, Ramen, boxed mac and cheese, bottle spaghetti sauce and other sauces, and lots of other stuff completely. I cleaned them out of my cupboard and food storage and I haven’t looked back. I still have some questionable items, but I’ll never go back to those offenders. I don’t miss them.
13. It was not easy to start this. I got a little down thinking about the ease of processed food and I got stumped for awhile about what to eat and what to feed my kids and I ran out of ideas. I kept at it and kept looking and I feel like we’re doing pretty good and have been for about a year. It’s about progress not perfection.So, that’s kind of all I can think of. My health and energy have improved. I only had to take blood pressure meds for a couple months. Probably due in part to my postpartum period ending and my anxiety levels dropping and I think a lot because I was choosing to be more healthy. If you’re looking to make some healthy changes, I’d recommend looking at your salt and sugar intake and starting with that. Hope this helps someone somewhere have a starting point. I think if we do all in our control to be healthy it’s so empowering.There’s so much you can’t control about having a body and what it does, but giving it good fuel is something you can do.




The last tip, rule, or shall we say warning I’d like to issue when it comes to Costco survival, is this: Have a good financial plan and check-out strategies. That’s a formal way of saying Know how you’re going to pay. I joked in my first post that in anticipation of shopping at Costco, I’d collected enough cash to stuff a mattress. That wasn’t true—it was just close to true. Again I’ve learned the hard way to be prepared to pay far more money than I’m anticipating paying. Costco does not take many kinds of credit cards. In fact, it only takes one.  I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten to the front of the store, my basket loaded to the ceiling, only to get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I remember that.

Now I have nothing against American express, but I haven’t applied for one out of principle. I’m stubborn that way. Luckily, Costco does take checks. It can be very uncomfortable, however, to take this prehistoric route when there are ten or so customers behind me with carts loaded as high as mine. I might as well be getting out parchment and a stylus the way they roll their eyes and jerk their heads as they whisper about being in the wrong lane. Yet, sometimes there is no other choice. Here’s an example of what can happen at Costco:

A few weeks ago,  I went to Costco for the express purpose of getting a new blender. I make a lot of smoothies and I’d been wanting a really good blender for quite a while. I really liked my daughter’s blender and she’d told me Costco had the best price. I never asked what that price was and I had no idea that a good blender can cost about as much as a town home. When the salesman who demonstrated this blender type told me the cost, I snickered a little.

“How about a demonstration?” he asked.

Hey, I was there anyway. Well, that demonstration ended with a sample of peach ice cream. Oh there were some other factors that convinced me to go ahead and get the blender such as the fact that it could practically turn rocks into flour 2. It didn’t take much to clean it and you didn’t need to be a civil engineer to put it back together, and 3. I’d get an instant $50 rebate right there on the spot. Anyway, I told myself, this blender would last me the rest of my life here on earth and considering my age, could be handed down to the next generation. I decided on a red one  and put it in my cart.

While I’m here I might as well get some of the other stuff I always get here, I thought then, pulling out my basic Costco list. My youngest daughter had asked me to pick up a particular brand of granola bars and I got those, then grabbed some almonds for my mother and cashews for my husband—in jars the size of wheat silos, of course. At check-out, guess what? My membership was overdue. By the time everything was added together, I could have bought my own little grocery store, fully stocked. Obviously, I hadn’t brought that much cash with me. It was stylus time again.

By the way, Costco puts checks through on the spot.



The last time I went to Costco I saw a woman there wearing those shoes we used to call stilts . I thought, Oh you poor child, do you not know anything? Yes, experience makes a person feel so very superior. Never mind, that I had to learn my Costco rules through my own mistakes. Rule number one, for instance: Wear comfortable clothing, particularly good shoes, I jotted down after I wore a pair of shoes to Costco just because they were cute and matched my outfit. I thought I’d be fine because they weren’t even heels; they were flats. Yet, I knew, I knew they didn’t have much arch support. I was limping before I’d even made it to frozen foods to pick up my giant package of “Organic Tri-berries.”  In fact, I only made it as far as the brownie bites that day— and that was it. You’ve seen the scenario. All that anticipation, preparation, and training for nothing. 

Rule number two you’ve heard before—many times.  Don’t come hungry. It’s a pretty basic shopping rule, but it applies even more at Costco. Again, I learned this the hard way.  I went to Costco once without having eaten a good breakfast or decent lunch and came home not only with two extra packages of brownie bites, but one of those kingsize cheesecakes, two dozen two-pound muffins. and  a set of giant jars of Nutella. I say “a set” because nothing comes in singles at Costco.

I also wasted a great deal of time hanging out by the sample tables that day. I’d have a chicken nugget, wrap my scarf around my head to disguise myself and go back. By my third stop, I was pretty sure the lady was on to me, and I felt obligated to buy a package of those nuggets. That brings us to the third suggestion, rule, or tip. Make a list and stick with it.  Impulse items at other stores are things like those  little 33 cent chocolate balls with foil wrappers, tic tacs, candy bars, and magazines. At Costco, you might come home with a new area rug or a tree. My son-in-law says he and my daughter  just bought a car through Costco. Hopefully it was on their list.

(To be continued . . .again . . . I will post the exciting conclusion tomorrow.)


You finally have a chance to sit down for a few minutes and actually watch something on television. It’s undoubtedly a rerun- at least it generally is for me. You’re really getting into it and it’s exciting and you’re concerned about the characters and the outcome, and you’re breathing heavily and biting your lip and grasping the armrest of your chair. But then it comes to you that this program has gone on for quite a while. You check the clock and  sure enough you see that’s it’s six or seven minutes to the hour. You’re pretty sure that there is no way all these issues are going to be resolved in that amount of time. Still you hope. You hope, by some miracle, it can happen. But no, when the hour is up and everything should have come to a happy and satisfying conclusion you see those ominous words “to be continued” on the bottom of your screen.

Do you have any idea when it will be continued, what day or what year, or if ever? No. No, you do not.

Don’t you hate when that happens? I do. Soooo, I apologize profusely that I added a “to be continued” at the end of my blog post about my adventures at Costco. It was getting too long. I do assure you I WILL continue this blog post and get back to it today, or possibly tomorrow or maybe within the next few weeks or so, but sometime eventually I will. I absolutely promise.


My four-year-old grandson jumps up and makes an announcement. “Grandma, I’m going to go use the toilet now.” Keddington* is one of those open-book guileless people who verbalizes almost every thought.

I can’t resist teasing him.  I’m bad that way. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I say with an exaggerated look of despair. “That isn’t allowed  today!”

Keddington stares at me with large eyes. “Really?”

“Nooooo,” I laugh.  “I’m just kidding. Of course, you can use the bathroom.”

“Oh good!” He races down the hall.

I decide this boy could use some lessons in kidding. He’s far too gullible.

“So Keddington,” I say when he comes back to the living room.  “Do you know what kidding is?”

He tilts his head. “Yeeeeeah,” he says slowly. He doesn’t sound so sure.

“Kidding is like joking. It’s saying something silly to try to fool somebody. Why don’t we practice. Now you tell me when you think I’m kidding, okay? Ummm, let me think. Okay. Keddington, I’m thirty-four years old.  Am I kidding?”


“How do you know?”

“Because that’s kind of old, but you’re really old.” He chooses not to leave it at that. “When you get really old you die soon.  Are you going to die soon?”

“Not that I know of.”  This isn’t nearly as much fun as I anticipated. “Moving right along,” I say. I pick up a white bowl from the shelf next to the television. “See this bowl?” I ask. “This bowl is black. So what do you think? Am I kidding?”

He hesitates.

“Is it black?”

He shakes his head. “It’s not black, it’s white.”

“That’s right. So am I kidding?”

“Yes, you’re kidding.”

“Right!” I walk across the room to a painting of tulips. “Look, here’s a picture of a building.”

After studying the picture carefully, he smiles. “You’re kidding,” he says.

“How do you know?”

“It’s a picture of flowers.”

“Good job again!” The boy’s really catching on to this.  “Okay, now you try it. Now you kid Grandma.”

“Okay.” Keddington looks frantically around the room. His eyes stop at the TV screen where there’s a resting picture of superheroes. A slow smile emerges. “The Hulk is blue,” he says.

I laugh with great satisfaction.  “Oh you’re just kidding me! The Hulk isn’t blue.. The Hulk is green.”

His face becomes solemn. “How did you know?”

“I just know that The Hulk is green. And umm, I see his picture there on the screen.”

He looks up at the screen. “Oh.”

“You go again.”

He lifts the small sleek remote control. “Grandma, this is a wall.”

“Hmmm,” I say. “A wall? I kind of don’t think that’s a wall. I think you’re kidding me.”

Keddington doesn’t ask “How did you know?” this time. He just grins.

“Now if you’d told me that that remote was a phone, you’d probably fool Grandma,” I tell him. I let him know that I have picked up our remote at home a few times to make phone calls.

“Ha ha ha!” He really gets a kick out of that. We kid or tease a little more, then move on to other more serious matters such as snack time. He’s no hulk. He’s well below the average weight for his age, and whenever I tend, I try to feed him something with some substantial calories. The problem is, here in this healthy household, finding something even a little bit caloric is challenging. After I’ve looked through the cupboards and fridge I decide to ask Keddington if he might know about some secret stash. I’m pretty sure my daughter keeps lunch treats for her older kids somewhere. “Keddington, do you think there’s something on the shelves downstairs you might want to eat? Should we go down and see if we can find something?”

Keddington doesn’t answer. “Keddington?” I step back into the living room.

Keddington has the remote up to his ear, a mischievous look in his eye. “Grandma, I’m on the phone,” he says.

I laugh full out. It turns out he knows a little more about kidding than I thought he did.  Either that or I’ve created a monster.

*name changed


Cosco Champion

Cosco Champion

These past few weeks I’ve been doing squats, weight lifting, and long-distance speed-walking. I’ve gathered enough cash to stuff a mattress, and have been making detailed lists and plans. Then there’s been the hard work on emotional and mental readiness with affirmations such as: “I have what it takes! I can do it! I will triumph!”

Okay, you’re right, shopping at Costco isn’t quite like entering a triathlon, and maybe I’m exaggerating  just a little,  but I’ve gotta tell you, to me this trip I make monthly to quarterly feels like an Olympic event.

For those of you who are familiar with Costco, you know this is not your run-in-and-grab-a-bottle-of-milk kind of store. Oh no. We’re not talking 7-eleven. Comparing Costco to a regular store is like comparing a walk around the church parking lot to the Boston marathon. Just gazing in the distance from the front of this warehouse structure to the bakery in the back, can cause the hearts of even the most courageous and prepared to skip a beat. That is, of course,  if we’ve been fortunate enough to make it through the preliminaries — 1. finding parking in what seems like a distant county, 2. making the trek to the front door, and 3. pulling a cart the size of a small truck from one of the seven, mile-long rows.

“Why do you even go in there?” my husband keeps asking. “It’s not like we have kids at home anymore. It sometimes takes us months to use up the stuff in those huge containers. I don’t get it.” I haven’t answered him yet in a way that satisfies him or me. It’s one of those things I can’t explain. Why DO we do what we do? Maybe I shop at Costco for the same reason people climb Mount Everest—because it’s there. Of course, in the case of Costco, not only is it there, but items are there I can’t find anywhere else. And the fact that they’re packaged in such nice big portions—these favorite items—makes my heart beat like a train coming out of a station. Anyway, aren’t big portions the American way—what this country is all about? I’m showing my allegiance, right?  Plus there’s the savings part of it as well, an illusion maybe, but it always seems like I’m saving when I buy things in bulk.

Mostly though, I go to Costco for the same reason I suspect the athletes this week are competing in the Olympics. It’s the general exhilaration: the excitement of knowing you’re involved in the big one. Costco, like the Olympics, is the ultimate challenge. It’s the true test of shopping mettle.

To be continued . . .