Month: July 2014

Home Cooking on the Go

There’s nothing better than a hot home-cooked meal, especially after a long day of work. Though it might seem impossible to cook while on the road, it’s not that hard to do at all. With a little planning and my favorite kitchen tool, cooking in your truck can give you a nice break from truck stop food and a more nutritious meal, as well. This is all possible thanks to the amazing slow cooker.

Some of you may already use one in your truck, and I hope you’ll agree that they are convenient and easy to use. Slow cookers range from $15-$40 and can hold anywhere from 1-7 quarts of food. These tiny pots take up little space and need little maintenance while cooking and during clean up.

  • Cooking with a slow cooker: Most meals are made the same. Throw everything in, place the lid on, put it on Low or High, cook for a few hours, and enjoy (remember
    that when your cooking meat, put it on the bottom).Crock Pot
  • Cook times on high:
    • Stew meats: 4.5 hrs for 3 pounds
    • Chicken: about 1 hr per pound
    • Pork loin: 5 hrs for 4 pounds

By planning ahead, you can pick up some ingredients during your Walmart stops. Using bits of meat, chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, and rice is a good place to start when making a stew. You can make a small batch for the night, or a large one to feed you for a few days. Just set it up when you start your break, and before your hours reset, you’ll have a great home-cooked meal!

These great cookers can be used to make many different meals, next week I’ll post some recipes that are easy to make and cost effective.

Smarter Choices

Soda and Water

Most people know what foods are healthy and which ones aren’t, but there seems to be a lot of haziness when it comes to understanding why it matters. I’ve talked about the way some foods have more nutrition than others but what does it all mean in the end? I guess what it really comes down to is giving our bodies more calories than it needs. A good way to explain this is with water and soda.

Most people would agree that water is better than soda, but what does it matter, how does it affect our bodies?

Well, I’ll start by saying that a 12oz can of cola has about 39g of sugar (which is just over 3 tablespoons of sugar) and about 150 calories. To help you gauge how much energy this is, it helps to know that it takes about an hour of walking (at your usual pace) to burn 150 calories.

Let’s admit, everyone loves a cold soda pop every now and again but when we drink a can of it our bodies are given all of this energy that it’s not going to use (unless you’re walking an hour for every soda you drink). Our bodies have become very good at saving these calories (as fat) for a rainy day.

Water on the other hand is simply water; zero calories and zero sugar. So when someone drinks water, they don’t have to worry about the calories that are not being used…because there aren’t any!

So I’ll ask again, why does this matter?

All of this extra fat that our bodies are so keen on keeping will eventually start to over work our bodies. Like doctors are always saying, being overweight can lead to a number of other health problems. But, replacing 3 cans of soda with 3 bottles of water every week can help you drop about 1 pound of weight and will help you feel better, overall (of course everyone’s bodies are different and weight loss happens at different rates).

Though 1 pound isn’t a lot, considering the difference it would make over time is important. 3 less cans of soda every week can add up to 53 pounds in a year by simply cutting out some soda. So even if you’re not ready to make any big changes in your diet, switching out soda for water every now and then can make a ton of difference.

Reading Nutrition Labels

Before I started studying nutrition, I don’t think I ever looked at a Nutrition Facts Label. I thought it was because I didn’t care about the numbers and percentages on it, but really, I didn’t know what I was looking at. I mentioned last week some of the important things on a label (and hopefully some of you took a peek at one over the past week) but I wanted to explain it more clearly. That little box full of lines and numbers not only has meaning, but can easily help you make better food choices.

 A label has many different categories, and though they’re all important, I’ll just focus on a few.

Nutrition Facts HighlightedServings: The serving size lets you know the amount of food that all the information is based on. This section also tells you how many servings are in a package (most food items have more than one serving per package). 

Calories: This number states the amount of calories that your body will get from one serving of the food. You now know, that not all calories are equal and you should keep this in mind when looking at the rest of the label (having more calories with more vitamins might be better than have less calories and no vitamins).

Total Fat: Fat comes in two basic forms: unsaturated and saturated. A label will give you the total fat and the saturated fat, but subtracting the saturated fat from the total fat will give you the unsaturated fat. A good rule of thumb is to eat more unsaturated fats, they are the healthier choice. Some labels will also list Trans-Fat, and the less of it you eat, the better.

Cholesterol: The thing about cholesterol is that our body makes it on its own, so we don’t need too much coming from our food. When we do get it in food, it will always come from animal products (vegetables are naturally cholesterol-free). For those of you worried about your cholesterol, looking at this number is most important in keeping your heart healthy. Doctors say that eating less than 200mg a day is best for the average person.

Sodium: This number is most important for those of you worried about high blood pressure. The American diet has a very high level of salt, so choosing items with less of it, even just once a day, can help make the biggest difference in your health. The recommended intake for salt is 2400 mg a day.

Total Carbohydrates: Like fat, carbs are also broken down into categories on a label: fiber and sugar. Those of you with diabetes can help control your insulin by spreading out your carb intake (ask your doctors for more info, if you’re interested!). When it comes to fiber, anything from 3-5g or higher, is considered great (and remember fiber can help lower cholesterol!). Sugars, though they are super tasty, should be limited whenever possible.

Vitamins & Minerals: I mentioned last week some of the vitamins and minerals that are listed on a label. No matter which are on the label you’re reading, the advice is always the same: the more the better!

Though this is a ton of information, I feel that it is important for you guys to have it. Companies are required by law to put this info on their food for a reason, but no one is required to teach us how to use it. So whether or not you’re ready to take the next step toward a better lifestyle, here is the know-how. Use some of it, all of it, or none of it, but next time you pick up a snack, look at the label and see what you can read.

Be sure to ask your doctor about any question you have before making a drastic change in your diet.

Calorie Conundrum

Per Serving-01

So I was about half way through my rant about water and fiber, and soluble and insoluble ratios when I realized how dry it was. It was becoming more of a lecture than a blog post; hell, I was getting bored! But thank goodness for Ctrl+Alt+Del!

Though I stated that I would discuss these two topics (which, don’t get me wrong, getting enough of both is very important and I will come back to it, eventually) I figured I was getting a little ahead of myself. So instead, I’ve to decided to start at the beginning.

When it comes to eating right, most people start by looking at their calorie intake. They start counting calories, and restricting calories. This can be helpful if you know what the heck a calorie is.

People throw the word around so much but no one really understands what a calorie is. At the basic level, a calorie is a unit of measurement. Very much like an inch of space, or a pound of weight, there is a calorie of energy. It is the energy our body needs to survive. However, our bodies only need a certain amount of this energy (and every body needs a different amount), but if you add more than it needs, your body will save it for later, storing it as fat. Now, the thing with calories is that they’re not all the same.

When it comes to calories in food, there are two kinds: calories that provide the energy needed to live and calories that also provide your body with nutrients like vitamins and mineral (an example would be fruits or vegetables). All calories give our bodies the energy they need but not all give the vitamins and minerals. Because our bodies only need a limited amount of calories and a certain amount of vitamins and minerals, it’s better to get them both in one package. Essentially, some calories (nutrient-dense calories) will give you more bang for your buck.

Now what does this all mean for you readers? If you’re up for the challenge, try looking at some of the foods you eat and see if they’re nutrient-dense. The label in the back can help decide. By looking at the amount of fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron that’s listed and going for the item with a higher percentage of each, you can choose the item that is more nutrient-dense (I’ll go into greater detail about these labels next week). Here are some examples of some nutrient-packed snacks that can fit in your truck:

  • Nuts: There’s some good nutrition stuffed into these crunchy bite-sized snacks. My only warning with nuts is to watch your salt intake, many of these are heavily salted when roasted. An easy way to reduce the salt intake (for you guys with high blood pressure) is to get the kind that is unsalted.
  • Trail-mix: these are perfect for snacking along the road. The salty-sweetness is tasty and better for you than most snack you’ll find at the truck stops.
  • Jerky: this stuff is packed with protein and because it’s dehydrated usually carries little fat and low calories, making it a great snack for the road.
  • Yogurt: the individual cups sold can keep for about a week or so in your fridge. It makes for a light and sweet snack that is packed with calcium and other good stuff for your bones and body.
  • Veggies: for those of you that are ready to take that bigger step toward a healthier lifestyle, carrot sticks and sugar snap peas can last about a week in your truck. Though they might not be readily available at truck stops, many Walmarts keep them stocked in their produce section. They’re very refreshing and crunchy, perfect for these hot summer days. They’re also packed with many vitamins and minerals, not to mention fiber (which can help keep you full longer!).

These are just a few snack options that can help you take a step in the right direction for your diet, but keep in mind, too much of anything thing can be bad. And when it comes to calories, remember to try to give your body more bang for its buck!

Manufacturing Expands in the Tighest Capacity Market in History

The actual headline of the attached article is:

“US Manufacturing Expands More Slowly In June”

By reading the headline you would think that we are in a worse position.  But, we have 13 straight months of growth in US Manufacturing.  So while we had a decrease of .1 from April (55.4 index in April and 55.3 in May), we have to remember that every month we are resetting the bar.

It is easier to think of this in terms of percentage.  If March had a base number of 100 and we had 110% growth in April then the new base number in April is 110 (100 x 110% = 110).

That places Aprils base number at 110.  So if we have a slower grow rate of 105% then we would have Mays base number of 115.

Not great at math but even I know that 115 is better than 110.

So why are these index’s important?  Because it helps us check the pace of growth.  But in terms of rates and capacity it tells us that what we are looking for (more products being created) that things continue to get better.

So watch the index’s but make sure you understand who the audience for the headlines are.

U.S. Manufacturing Expands More Slowly In June.