Are you interested in better equipping your kitchen so that you can support healthy, high-energy dining along with a more efficient cooking routine? If so, you're going to love this article. First, we'll talk about planning and preparing you for the task at hand: deciding what your goals are and understanding what you need to accomplish in order to make those goals happen. This article will then focus on the important elements of kitchen preparedness and how to go about making your kitchen a launching pad for good nutrition, efficient cooking and high-energy fare. We'll also cover the importance of making your kitchen work for you -- and we won't leave out the small stuff. In addition, we'll suggest some ways for you to make better food choices, and we will also discuss how to employ and maintain a "grazing" strategy for optimal energy. Finally, we'll go over options for eating out smarter when you're not dining at home.
What You Will Learn
This article is designed for anyone who wants to become better organized and develop better planning, shopping and cooking skills based on the principles of the Atkins Advantage. Here's a summary :
Focus on the role of preparation in achieving your long-term nutritional goals
Identify the nutritional goals that matter most to you
Use your kitchen to tackle the daily challenge of keeping your body well-fed for maximum energy
Explore various time-saving kitchen concepts that can make it easier to plan and prepare meals
Learn to equip your kitchen with a core group of high-protein, high-fiber, low-sugar staples for continual preparedness
Become skilled at eating smart when you are eating out
What's a High-Energy Kitchen, Anyway?
First of all, a high-energy kitchen isn't one that uses a lot of electricity or natural gas. We're talking about your energy levels. Following the five principles of the Atkins Advantage (high protein, high fiber, low sugar, no trans fats and abundant vitamins and minerals) is a terrific, long-term strategy for steady, even energy levels from morning till night, no matter what your day brings. And one of the best ways to make sure you reach and maintain those abundant energy levels is to set up your kitchen and plan ahead so you can create a wide array of healthy, delicious fare -- high-energy food to eat at home or take with you. That's the focus !
This article was written by a busy, career-oriented person and competitive athlete who understands the challenges for balancing optimal eating habits with identified time constraints; what you read is wisdom derived from personal experience!. .
Remember, register for the Discussion Message Board , it is a key aspect of your Atkins learning experience. The more you contribute to the Message Board--exchanging questions, concerns, ideas and tips--the more you and your classmates will benefit from each other's insights and unique experiences.
Now, let's begin!
Benjamin Franklin once said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." In other words, planning and preparation are the keys to your success if your goal is to be healthier and more active. Preparation, in fact, is a state of mind. It means that you're not only motivated to set goals, but also serious about achieving them.
Many times, people may tend toward setting personal goals too high, and strive for reaching them too quickly. Failing to reach unattainable goals may produce a negative effect. Make sure that your personal goals are relaxed, fun and practical!
Going Over Your Goals
Okay, it's time to talk turkey. Not the bird, but goals. A goal is an achievement toward which you direct your effort so that you may attain a desired end. This means you get behind the wheel and steer. And since the Atkins experience is all about taking charge of your life.
Since this article offers some innovative ideas for preparation and organization through planning, you already have a goal: to seek out ways to become more energetic, and as you know, that means eating well. So what does it mean, then, to "eat well?" Essentially, it means enhancing your nutritional program to a point where you are making significant progress toward one or more of the following:
Lean body composition
Energy needs (steady energy instead of peaks and valleys caused by too much sugar)
Some of these factors may be more important to you than the others, but that's why your goals are unique to you.
Your specific goals can be carved out of this framework. For instance, is your goal to become more performance-oriented, or to compete athletically at a more intense level? Or is it your goal to be fitter and more energetic so you can keep up with the fast pace of your everyday life? Or perhaps you have some health risks that need to be addressed through some lifestyle changes? Your goal may be as simple as keeping up with the grandkids when they visit? Regardless, it's important that you identify where you want a solid nutritional program and healthy lifestyle to take you.
Of course, the building blocks for good health and meeting all of the above goals are contained within the Atkins Advantage principles. The principles are as follows:
High protein: Planning for protein intake throughout the day means that you will be energized and fulfilled all day long.
High fiber: Humans oftentimes don't get enough fiber in their diet, so concentrate on maximizing your fiber intake by eating vegetables, whole grain products and fruits with skin.
Low sugar: Sugar offers empty calories that have no nutritional value and therefore it should be minimized in your diet.
Low-glycemic carbohydrates: These foods don't spike your blood sugar as high-glycemic foods do, thus keeping you steady, strong and energized during the day, instead of battling sugar spikes that bring on sleepiness
Vitamins and minerals: These are essential for lasting energy. A solid nutritional plan ensures that you meet or exceed the Recommended Daily Allowance of essential vitamins and minerals.
Trans fats: Avoid them! There are so many ways to substitute good foods that don't have trans fats. Trans fats are usually man-made, and they offer zero benefits.
Keeping these Atkins Advantage principles in mind is a great starting point for our discussion of creating high-energy meals and snacks in your kitchen.
Now we'll get to the good stuff: kitchen gear.
This is not your mother's kitchen! Even though many of us cherish the memories of how Mom cooked and cared for her kitchen, fortunately, we are fortunate today to have a much broader range of choices available to assist us with meal preparation and storage. Plus, we have more nutritional and medical information available to us, better labeling and better sources of fresh, healthy, high-energy foods.
Preparing and cooking food can be therapeutic, so enjoy it -- don't look at it as drudgery. If your attitude shapes up that way, it will be a grind. Your kitchen is your haven for improving and sustaining life. Be mindful of that fact and it will take care of all your nutritional needs.
Equipping the Kitchen: Your Gear
Your kitchen equipment and tools are the engine that drives your high-energy kitchen, so eating healthy requires some advance planning and organization. That's because you want to be able to have several options for preparing each food. Here are some ideas for some standard or unique equipment to start your kitchen off right, many of which you may already have.
Grills (indoor and outdoor): Many of today's cooks enjoy using an indoor grill: one where meat is cooked on both sides at once, with the run-off going into a drip tray. They come in all shapes and sizes. Cooking with this type of grill will help you to avoid excess fats; you can also grill vegetables as a tasty alternative to steaming. An outdoor grill is great too, even during winter. Just brush the snow off and fire it up. Meat and shellfish are best when broiled or grilled. Outdoor grilling is also splendid when you use a rotisserie attachment for perfectly cooked meats, especially turkey breasts or whole chickens. A grilling basket to hold veggies gives you a crisp alternative to steaming.
Multi-speed blender: This is one of the most useful items in the kitchen. You'll need this for making your own protein shakes or for "dressing up" an Atkins Advantage shake with some frozen or fresh fruit. Blenders are great for making sauces, gravies and salad dressings as well. Look for something that is powerful and runs smoothly.
Wok: Woks cook quickly, efficiently and cleanly. The heat is even and less likely to burn your food. Carbon steel woks can be cheap yet well-made. Stir fry anything and everything, Chicken, fish, beef, pork, tofu -- all can spearhead a stir-fry meal. A wok cooks vegetables and keeps them crispy (as long as you don't cook them too long).
Food processor: This comes in handy for everything. With this you can slice and dice and cut and shave and, basically, create anything on the spot. It's great for all veggies and fruits, and even nuts and cheese.
Slow cooker: These appliances are a busy person's favorite--you can be away all day and it'll do the cooking for you. They are especially useful for cooking leaner cuts of meats. Cooking meat slowly, for several hours, makes it fall-off-the-fork tender, and it stays juicier as well.
Toaster oven: This saves you the time of warming up the big oven when you're in a hurry. They heat up quickly and can cook almost anything--pork, beef and poultry included.
Airtight freezer wrap machine: These are effective for helping you to sort your foods ahead of time and freeze them, knowing that the food will stay fresh. It allows for fewer trips to the store, giving you more time for attending to your busy life.
Rotisserie: A rotisserie is indispensable because it produces perfect, juicy meats--especially chicken--on the rotisserie rod or in the basket flipper. They are affordable and offer a healthy alternative to frying. When you think about a rotisserie, think protein!
Note: Don't say, "I really don't know how to cook." Of course you do! Cooking is entirely instinctive and can be enhanced through easily obtainable knowledge. If you are not so sure of your cooking abilities, take a class or browse the Internet for tips, ideas, recipes and more.
Once you have the proper tools, the rest gets easier. Now on to some more great tips.
When it comes to preparing a high-energy kitchen with maximum enjoyment, old clichés don't apply: you do need to sweat the small stuff! After all, you're busy and your daily calendar is always packed. But you still need to take care of you, first, before you can tackle the load that lies ahead of you. Let's discuss a few more tools to add to your collection of cooking tools:
Cutlery: A high-powered, quality cutlery set anchors your kitchen. Cheap knives don't last. Buy something that will last for many years.
Santoku: A santoku is a cross between a cleaver and a chef's knife. The flat edge is excellent for slicing and mincing, perfect for dicing, and works well for light chopping. It is especially popular among people with smaller hands. If you do a lot of slicing, dicing and mincing, this knife is fabulous. It cuts vegetables with no squashing, no mess. It cuts perfectly each time, including even the most delicate tomatoes.
Stainless steel storage containers: These are great for storing all of your flours, flax, bulgur, whey protein and protein bars. They are easily accessible, more so than cupboards or a pantry. Keep your overflow in the pantry, but keep the containers handy for time-saving access.
Silicone bakeware: You can make low-carb, fiber-loaded baking goodies in these marvelous accessories. They take up almost no storage space, and clean quickly and easily. They are also less likely to cause burning. You may want the following to round out a good assortment of silicone bakeware: roasting sheet, bread loaf pan, cake pan and muffin pan.
Cast iron pots and pans: Have at least one of these around. They are the most versatile cookware available. They last a long time, improve with age and spread heat better than any pot or pan. They are great for making low-carb soups, sauces, casseroles and pilafs.
Steamer: Do you throw a bunch of water into a pan, toss the veggies in and let them cook that way? If so, the essential vitamins and minerals are headed into the water, not into you. Plus, you turn the veggies into water-logged, rubberized, inedible objects. Steaming vegetables is a must unless you are roasting or grilling them. A favorite choice is the stainless steel basket that just drops right into one of your pots.
Miscellaneous: Keep around smaller items like an egg poacher, bamboo and/or wood utensils and lots of plastic storage containers.
Conduct a Kitchen Inventory
Counter space is at a premium in most kitchens. Take a look at your kitchen with an eye to freeing up more counter space--this will give you more room to prepare your meals and snacks. Do you have appliances on your counter than don't get used very often? Can you consolidate functions--for example, a microwave/convection oven combo over the stove to free up counter space. A kitchen island (permanent or the rolling kind) is another possibility.
In this article you got started on a review of your kitchen and its state of preparedness. Hopefully, you will have found some valuable tips that can work for you.
Next we will take you onward to the next step: putting it all together to build a winning program consisting of nutritional excellence. You'll get tips for stockpiling foods and "grazing" throughout the day on small meals, and we'll also present you with some useful information for eating smart when eating out. Come to the Message Board to meet your instructors and classmates. Be sure to ask any questions you may have, as well as discuss any kitchen and food preparation issues or challenges that come to mind. http://learningcenter.atkins.com/
Think of your nutritional habits as your body's engine--you can only put out as much energy as you take in. But remember, not all fuel is created equal. That's why we reviewed the Atkins Advantage principles ; let those principles be your guide to maintaining a high-revving, clean-burning engine.
We live in a time of great abundance--our choices are not as limited as they were years ago. New products abound, and we are sometimes overwhelmed by the food choices available to us. A lot of the new products, however, are highly processed, contain large amounts of sugar and include ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats. That's where the Atkins Advantage principles come in: to help you understand the basic requirements for picking the right foods. That dizzying aisle of breakfast cereal choices becomes a non-issue when you start looking at the sugars they contain.
Organic is a labeling term for products that are produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The production of organic foods usually means the products are minimally processed and chemical-free. They are also free of conventional pesticides and artificial fertilizers. As to organic food from animals, the animals are reared free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Free- range animals are raised free to roam, in their natural habitat, without the stress that animals experience on a mass production farm. The lesser instances of sickness in free-range animals mean that antibiotics do not need to be used to treat them.
As both products become better understood and produced more efficiently, the prices become lower, making them more affordable and easily available at your local stores.
Choices and More Choices
Other choices we have are varied types of milk such as rice milk, soy milk and organic milk. In addition, both breads and pastas are now commonly offered in the whole grain variety. Remember, white breads and pastas are made from refined grains, and have had nearly all of the fiber and nutrients stripped away. On the other hand, foods that are "whole grain" are made with the complete grain kernel, whether the grain remains intact--as with oatmeal--or it is ground to make cereal, bread or pasta. Whole grain foods are a super source for fiber!
Do you like to bake? If so, you can choose from a wide selection of oat and wheat flours, so as to avoid the white enriched flour that is stripped of its nutrients. And you have the option to use sugar substitutes if you find it necessary to sweeten your baked goods. And for sandwiches, you can choose from a variety of high-fiber, high-protein wraps in place of bread.
Be cautious about the highly-processed frozen foods at your grocer. Oftentimes a "low-fat" item contains a lot of carbohydrates with a high sugar content. Plus, these dinners tend to be small and leave you hungry immediately afterwards. Ask yourself what you can whip up quickly in your kitchen that would be of greater nutritional benefit while still leaving you full and satisfied.
We have so many choices! So it's up to you to make the right choices that are best for you and the goals you are striving to reach.
Now let's turn our attention to improving our eating habits through grazing on multiple meals.
The word "graze" sounds a bit like farm lingo, doesn't it? Well grazing, or eating smaller amounts of food more frequently during the day, is essential for:
Proper fueling to keep up your energy levels
Boosting your metabolism
Improving your glucose tolerance
Avoiding sugar spikes that make you feel tired and lazy
Grazing means doing so only with good, nutritious food--not empty carbs. Grazing on sugary sweets or empty-calorie snacks will only fill you up and keep you from being able to eat the good food when the time comes. When you graze, don't think snacks--think real food! In fact, think of grazing in terms of mini-meals. Doing so will help you achieve the ideal mix of protein, fiber, low sugar intake and healthy fats that will help you achieve your long-term goals.
Here's a tip: Overlook the notion that there's a "breakfast," "lunch" or "dinner." Try to think in terms of meals: meal 1, meal 2, etc. When you enjoy many small meals, you eat less at every sitting, and are less likely to find yourself so hungry that you overeat. How many meals should you eat per day? It depends. You have your own habits, your own goals and a unique way of processing food into energy. So experiment. Start out trying to eat four smaller meals per day, then kick it up to five or six, if you'd like, when your body adapts to the change. Generally speaking, eating every three hours is a good way to start. Give yourself a few weeks to adjust to your new eating timetable and you will feel the benefits. Daily sluggishness and sleepiness--from insulin spikes and overconsuming carbs--will soon be almost non-existent.
If you're worried about taking in too many carbohydrates from grazing throughout the day, try getting your carbs--high-fiber carbs that are low on the glycemic index--in small increments through the day along with your protein to slow the release time and keep you satisfied longer.
Your high-energy kitchen, then, is always prepared to meet the demands of your healthy habits. Make that a part of your goal. Do you have to eat on the run? If so, then ask yourself: would a plastic container of leftovers--heated up quickly-- make a good substitute for that fast food joint down the street? Let's explore some smart strategies for cooking food in advance.
Cooking Food in Advance
Making food up ahead of time is a good way to keep you organized and satisfied. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Pick out one or two times during the week that you can set aside for preparing food in advance. Think about making enough for dinners and lunches, as well as freezing portions for later. Try a weekend slot and maybe a weekday night, as well. Cooling larger quantities of nutritious food and putting it into containers for later consumption keeps you well-prepared. It means you don't have to fire up the stove every day, then cook and clean up. People with busy schedules might want to try this alternative.
Keep prepared foods in plastic storage containers or baggies. Put together meals that maintain a good balance between protein, natural fats, and low-glycemic carbs that are high in fiber. Make sure you have enough meals for the next two or three days, depending on when you think you can get to cooking again.
Keep the pantry stocked and the freezer at least half-full. Buy items on sale, use coupons and use a meal planner to determine what you will cook and when. And above all, don't shop when you're hungry! Always hit the supermarket after a good meal.
Keep an eye on food s that your freeze, and always put the date on your frozen portions. Foods that linger too long suffer freezer burn--they're dried out and robbed of nutrients. Wrap freezer items carefully, double-wrapping them if possible.
Does your fast-paced life leave you eating out often? Let's take a look at what you can do to have more control over those situations.
When you eat many meals away from home, you're not in full control of your nutritional intake. Your nutritional needs are in the hands of someone who doesn't know you and who isn't a part of your life and long-term goals. Going out for meals can be fun, interesting and a wonderful sensory experience; however, common-sense nutrition means that you need to balance those occasions with your health and nutritional needs. According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly half of American dollars spent on food are spent on away-from-home foods.
Some FYIs for Restaurant Dining
There are exceptions, of course, but restaurant food is typically higher in calories, trans fats and refined, low-fiber carbs -- which equates to lower nutritional value. Many dishes rely on hidden sugars, frying or breading and heavy gravies and sauces. Perhaps most unsettling is the portion sizes that American restaurants have been accustomed to serving. All these factors can work against you and your long-range health goals.
But eating out is not always a bad thing. Try to build healthy habits that will not work against your nutritional gains. Here are some ideas for making your restaurant experience healthier and more positive:
Watch portion size. Beware of ultra-large portions. Order á la carte, from the lunch menus or even a kid's meal. If you don't have those options, plan to take some of the meal home in a carry-out container.
Understand cooking methods. Avoid foods that are listed as "fried" -- all too often, this means the presence of trans fats. Look for food items that are "poached," "roasted," "baked," "grilled" or "steamed" to indicate a healthier preparation of the food. Ask your server how the food is prepared before you order it. If there's nutritional information on the menu, be sure to use it wisely.
Modify your meal. Ask to substitute. Don't be afraid to ask for special substitutions such as brown rice instead of fries, salad or an extra serving of vegetable instead of potato or pasta, or fresh vegetables as opposed to anything fried. Also feel free to ask for a different method of cooking your food, such as broiling instead of frying.
Watch out for gravies, sauces and dressings. Always have them served on the side so you can control the amount that you use.
Skip the appetizers. This only adds to your portion, and it often includes an unhealthy choice of white breads and other fillers. Stick to your main meal or just munch on fresh vegetables dipped in olive oil as a starter if everyone else ordered an appetizer and you need to keep busy until your meal arrives.
Decide beforehand. If you really need to discipline yourself, decide what you are order before you get there, and stick to it. (Online menus are great for this.) This minimizes the chance of you ordering unhealthy food or eating too much food.
You can still have fun eating out; you just need to be wise about how you go about it. Making the right choices will pay off in the long run. You'll avoid that heavy, weighted-down feeling that comes from overindulging in foods that aren't good for you.
Putting together a workable plan can be a bit daunting, and it might take you a few tries to arrive at the solutions that fit you best. But remember that you are unique and that your goals must work for you. They must fit into your schedule, and they must not be so extraordinary that you can't attain them.
Good nutrition is at the core of your healthy existence. For instance, if you exercise daily but are not making healthy food choices, your body may not benefit from the step-up in physical activity. So what steps should you take to lay the foundation for better choices in regards to nutrition?
Remember that when you exercise, it's important to maintain a balance between cardiovascular conditioning and resistance training (weightlifting). Building lean muscle mass helps to increase metabolism and fat burning.
If you haven't thought of yourself as the meal planning type, give it another try--it wil simplify your life immensely. Try planning for a few days at a time, or for a week when you get more efficient at doing it. Try sitting down to compile a varied list of food items that will help to fulfill your eating goals. When you shop for your groceries, be sure to read the labels with the Atkins Advantage principles in mind, and always be on the lookout for trans fats and high sugar content.
Embarking upon a meal preparation system that requires more planning can be stressful at first. You will adapt over time! Don't pick a hectic or ultra-stressful time in your life to launch your new way of doing things. Slide into things slowly, if you have to. Or perhaps wait until you can clear the time when you can make the full commitment, if that's what you think is necessary in order for you to succeed. Whatever you decide, don't procrastinate. Don't wait for a New Year's resolution -- that could be too far away.
Preparation involves not only the right equipment and the right foods, but also the appropriate mindset. This is the key! You. Remember, you're in control, and you're arming yourself with knowledge and motivation.
Thanks for Taking the Time
We hope reading this article has put you in the mood for meal planning, food preparation and using your kitchen resources wisely. After you've built the foundations for sustaining good nutrition, you're well on your way to healthy, high-energy living.
Before you go, please drop by the Message Board to check in with your instructors and fellow students with any remaining questions, tips and comments.
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The Rules of Induction
What Induction Can Do For You
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The Atkins Nutritional Approach: Getting Started, Staying Focused
Myths and Facts of the Atkins Nutritional Approach