10 simple things you can eat right now to help clean up your diet

Ok, so I usually don't write about this.  I previously had a blog about clean eating and then writing there fell off the escalator of priorities in my life.  But recently I had a "well woman" exam, a.k.a.- a papsmear, mammogram and fasting blood work.  At 43, five feet eleven inches tall and in the 160 lb range, I'm a tall woman who most people would say is "thin".  So when my doctor called to tell me the results of my blood work I was surprised to hear that I fall into the "pre-diabetic" levels on one of my tests (Hemaglobin A1C).   As a RN I see everyday the casualties of the diabetes epidemic in America.  My test results woke me up to the reality that I could end up being one of the patients I care for everyday if I don't take my health more seriously.

I grew up not knowing a thing about healthy eating, and not caring to be honest.  I lived for a Reece's peanut butter cup or a Whatchamakalit bar.  I was a tall, lanky figure and didn't have a problem with weight gain so I ate whatever I wanted.  When I met and married my husband at 19 I was introduced for the first time to the fitness, weight-lifting, healthy-diet world.  Since then I've mostly been a fairly health-conscious girl.  Not being overly concerned about my weight, I have rotated in and out of consistent exercise and healthy eating.  Two child-births and 24 years later, my body has started packing on the inches around my waist and arms.  Still, being tall, I can get away with looking "thin" but in my own skin I've started feeling uncomfortable with this extra padding.  More importantly I've begun feeling tired of feeling tired.  But when that phone call came from my doctor's office the other day I drew a line in the sand.  No more of a month or two of "clean" eating followed by months of pizza, Chic-Fil-A and donuts.

In years past I have cleaned up my eating habits strictly for a month or two so I could feel better, so I'm familiar with all the fad diets out there and the healthier options like the Paleo diet, or the Whole30, etc.  I've also seen the benefits of supplements like Advocare and juicing.  But this time I wanted to throw out the mentality that I am going to do 30 days of clean eating so I can feel better.  As soon as I hung up that phone with my doctor I wanted to do something from that moment on that I could live with, without any special recipes or supplements.   And so I'd like to share ten simple things I started doing right away, and you too can do to help you start eating healthy from now on!

1. Eat cold chicken breast.  I'm serious.  It's actually really good and chances are you might have some frozen chicken breasts in your fridge right now.  If you don't, a quick stop at the store will fix that.  Chicken is the least expensive meat you can buy and it actually tastes good cold.  Just pop some breasts (or tenders) on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Cook them for 10 minutes at 400 degrees in your oven or until they're cooked through.  Let 'em cool, put them in a freezer bag and store in your fridge.  Now when you're hungry and it's not lunch time and it's not dinner time or you have to run, grab a cold piece of chicken and eat it.  Tastes good dipped in hummus too!

2. Eat hard boiled eggs.  Boil 10 eggs and store in the fridge.  Grab one for a quick breakfast on the go with an apple.  Grab one for a quick lunch on the go with a piece of fruit.  Grab one for a snack between meals.  Simple. Cheap.  And it really does taste good.  If you're used to mayo and dressings and such, at first you may find it odd to eat anything without a dressing.  But pretty soon you'll actually start tasting the food, not the dressing, and it'll taste good.

3. Eat lots of apples.  Apples are full of fiber and their sweet.  Pick your favorite apple and buy a basketful.  If you're hungry.  Eat one.  Slowly.

4. Drink a kombucha as a treat.  Have you had one of these?  They're all over the place now.  I know people make it from scratch and stuff, but we're looking for simple, easy access here.  Kombucha is a natural fermented drink that has live probiotic cultures which are great for gut health. A particular favorite of mine is Kevita- Sparkling Probiotic Pinapple Coconut.  No added sugar (look for that, cause some of these do have cane sugar.  And just because it says cane sugar on a brown label doesn't make it healthy.  Sugar is sugar).  There's not a lot of calories in these treats.  Just 30 calories for a 450 ml bottle.  I'm not a big soda drinker, but for soda drinkers, this is good replacement.  It has fizz.  And it's sweet.

5. Eat more fish.  Make a simple baked cod at least once a week.  You can buy a big bag of frozen cod at the bulk stores, and in smaller bags at any regular grocery store.  It's very simple to make.  Just place it frozen in a casserole dish with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Bake it at 400 for about 30 minutes or until flakes when poked.  Wala, you've got a very healthy main dish.

6. Eat veggies with every meal.  Think about what you make yourself, or somebody else makes you, for each meal.  If you looked at it, is it all white, or brown or some shade thereof?  If so you need veggies.  My go-to veggies are spinach with my eggs at breakfast or a frittata (which are loaded with veggies and I make ahead... see number 8), carrot sticks or tomatoes with cucumbers at lunch and some steamed green veggie (broccoli, green beans, zuccini, etc) with dinner.

7.  Eat sweet potatoes.  So if I had to sum it up in two words, clean eating for me is no sugar and no bread.  Those are the two most addictive foods for me (and for most of the American population.  See Diabetes statistics.) and those are also the two foods I enjoy eating the most.  Sweet potatoes kill the bread and sugar craving for me.  To keep it simple I microwave a couple sweet potatoes every few days and keep them in the fridge.  Then if I want toast with breakfast, I cut a half potato into cubes or slices, and sautee with salt, pepper and olive oil until a little crispy.  If I don't have time to sauté I'll just reheat, grab a hard boiled egg and wala- breakfast with no bread.  You can do the same at lunch, dinner or for a snack if you want.

8.  Eat frittatas.  Ok, this is not complicated.  I promise.  And if you don't cook and you think it is too complicated, just cut up a bunch of veggies (tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet onion, zucchini, broccoli, green beans, peppers, etc.) and sauté.  Scramble some eggs and throw your veggies on top.   But if you like to cook, make a frittata at least once a week.  You can store it in the fridge and eat a slice for breakfast with an apple. Or for lunch or dinner.  Be sure to put lots and lots of veggies in there and don't add cheese.  You really won't need it.  It's delicious.

9. Drink hot or iced herbal tea.  There are lots of great herbal teas that have supplemental benefits, taste delicious, have no sugars and help occupy you when, like me, you like to snack while reading or writing or studying.  Sipping on a hot cup of peach tea, or chamomile and lemon helps keep me from unnecessary eating.

10.  Eat popcorn.  Last but not least keep popcorn around.  Not the movie-theatre, loaded-with-artificial-butter-flavoring stuff, but just some natural popcorn that you can salt or even sprinkle with a tablespoon of real melted butter if you want.  When everyone around you is eating cupcakes, donuts, brownies, ice cream and candy (this happened to me the other day), pop a bag of popcorn and slowly eat it until the sugar temptations around you disappear.  Even if you eat a whole bag of natural popcorn, you're not going to even come close in eating the simple-toxic carbohydrates or sugars in all those aforementioned deserts.

I could add much more than 10 things.  Things we all know, like drink more water, don't eat right before you go to bed and go for a walk or exercise when you're hungry or munchie.  But those 10 things listed really help me eat a realistic, healthy diet that my body can live with.

But what about "cheat" days for pizza, donuts, ice-cream and Dutch Bros. you ask?  Yeah, I could have "cheat" days like I've heard many people say you should have.  For me, it's a downward spiral.  If I "cheat" one day, I don't feel so bad about cheating multiple days and before you know it I'm just eating like the rest of the western world, which is currently being drowned in the expenses and damage of the diabetes tsunami that has overtaken our health and healthcare system.  So for me I am choosing not to cheat.  I'm choosing to choose to eat something I like and my body can live healthily with.

Whether you're tall and thin or obviously overweight, you can start eating these 10 simple things right now and it won't require any special diet plan, recipe or supplement.  Just making these simple choices will be a proactive step in a healthy direction.  I hope this post is practical and helpful for you.

A slow-to-believe believer's thoughts on Good Friday

It's Good Friday.

There's a tsunami of meaning in those three words.

Maybe for you it's just TGIF.

I get it.  Honestly, I grew up hearing the story of Jesus' death and resurrection, but for years it made no connection with my soul.  If I'm honest the celebration (if you can call it that) of Good Friday has been odd to me at best and often it's been an offense.  Tim Keller said something I heard the other day to the effect of, "The cross of Christ is offensive in all sorts of ways, and if you haven't felt it, if you haven't ever struggled with it, I don't think you get it..."  That has been the case with me.  Until recent years, I haven't really stopped to face the ugliness and offense at the center of the Christian message: that Christ was crucified for our sins.

Years of questioning from dear loved ones who don't believe has caused me to look that horrific, bloody, crucified, historic Jesus I love in the face and wrestle with the offense of the Christian doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Christ dying in our place for our sins).

I am a believer.  But I understand unbelief.  Unbelievers I love have caused me to examine what it is I say I believe on holidays like Christmas and Easter and Good Friday.  And I'm very glad they have.  I'm a slow-to-believe believer in Christ.  The wonder and horror of what Christ endured and did for me, specifically, and for all who would believe in him, is palpably meaningful to me now more than ever.  But I'm thick-headed and slow to get it.  I'm sure the meaning of Christ's substitutionary death will increasingly become more real for me since it is infinitely full of truth and life.  Increasingly, substitutionary atonement is no longer two big, seminary-graduate words only to be heard from a pulpit.  Substitutionary atonement is the bloody door through which I enter an eternity of grace upon undeserved grace!

But I digress.

I want to try to explain at least a cupful of my thoughts regarding Good Friday as I stand under the Niagra Falls of Christ's substitutionary death for those who believe in him.

There is much to capture in thinking on what it means that Christ died in my place and satisfied the just requirement of God for me so that I will never experience rejection from the God who made me to know him as Father and friend.   As I say, It's like trying to stand under Niagra Falls with a tiny tea cup to grab a drink of water.  But here I go.

It's Offensive Because We're Evil

Good Friday is about how we have perverted the glory of God and how he makes his glory known rightly again.

The thought that people are basically good and if we just modify "bad" behaviors we would all be happy and the world would be a better place is lost on me.  I've had a 2 year old.  I've lied so I could look good to another liar.  I've been abandoned and objectified as a woman.  And I've watched the news and cared for people broken by the evil in others.

We modify "bad" behaviors not because we're basically good, but because like Imagine Dragons said, "No matter what we breed, we still are made of greed."  If we're honest, we know inside us is a drive to make ourselves the center of life at the expense of others.  It's an insidious evil that seems to lie dormant, but peeks out it's ugly head and beats its little brother so it can have the ball, or abandons it's family so it can have a better life... or a thousand other birthed-evils that come out of our hearts.  We have laws, and behavior modification techniques and self-help books, and therapists and jails and multiple forms of restraint and training in our lives because we are trying to tame the beast.  Not because we're all angels at heart that trip up every now and then.

And all the horror that comes out of us is not just horrible because of what we do to each other.  It's horrible because we were not random, chance products of evolutionary process. If that's all we are then there would be no reason to call anything we do right or wrong.  It would be simply part of the process of evolution: survival of the fittest.  But we know we do evil things and we recognize evil in others because we are made to do good.  To be good.  To be godly. To reflect the glory of God in our lives like living testimonies to the universe and each other.  Our human lives are to be like works of art that display the beauty and wonder of the One who made us.  The evil in us is so evil because is a perversion of the image of God in us.

When I look at the cross of Christ and the horrors of his crucifixion and think about the why behind it- Why would God do that to save us?  I realize, at least in part, that the reason the cross of Christ is so offensive and horrific is because billions of people (including me) have perverted the glory of God with our lives and made God out to be a liar and a murderer and a self-centered leech with a message that says, "Your life for mine!"   The cross of Christ is justice.  It's a making right the message that has been wrongly proclaimed from sinful humanity.  The cross of Christ says God is worth my life.  God is truth.  God is just.  God is life.  God gives life.  God's message is, "My life for yours!"  The cross of Christ is a historical entrance of God into humanity saying, "This is what you all have done to me.  This is the bloody truth about the evil that is in you that perverts the truth about who I am and who you are.  I am bloodied and broken and bruised by your evils.  You were made to glorify me, but you have defamed me.  And I bear it because I am God and I give my life for you!"

On the cross Christ is taking the truth that, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" in his own body.  His bloody, broken flesh on that cross is the embodiment of our perversion of God's glory.  He became our sin.

I know that's not all the cross of Christ says.  But it's a few drops.  It's enough to cause me to hate my sin and love my sin-bearing Savior.

All Real Love Is Substitutionary Sacrifice

Good Friday is about what love really is and what only God can do.

In that same talk, where I heard Tim Keller say that if we haven't really struggled with the offense of the cross of Christ we probably don't really get what it means, I also heard him say something that captured a few more drops of the cascades of truth pouring from the side of my pierced and broken Lord.  He said, "All love. All real love is a substitutionary sacrifice. 'My life for yours'. Heart of the universe..."  It's true.  It's a truth we can all recognize.  We all know it when we see substitutionary sacrifice.  When a parent gives up their agenda for the day to tend to a child in need.  When a soldier dies to keep an enemy from taking freedom and life from another.  When a firefighter rushes into a burning building to rescue a trapped man.  All of these and so many other examples speak of the universal truth that real love is "My life for yours. I'll die, I'll sacrifice, I'll serve to make your life better, easier, richer."  Evil is, "Your life for mine.  How can you die, how can you sacrifice, how can you serve to make my life better, easier, richer?"

But even though we see this truth in our lives, none of our little displays of the true message substitutionary sacrificial love can save our fellow man from the righteous judgement of God on the evil we all carry around inside.

There's a line in an ancient Hebrew Psalm in the Bible that says, "Truly no man can ransom another or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit." (Psalm 49:7-9)

It's the truth.  We all display little imperfect examples of the universal truth of substitutionary sacrifice, but none of us can be an atoning substitute for another human being.  The only person who could ever pay the costly ransom required to love an evil human being and give them a life that lives forever in friendship and intimate relationship with God is God.  I might die a little so that my son can live more.  But only the God-Man Christ Jesus can die so that my son can live forever!

So there's my little tea cup of truth.  It's just a drop from a fountain that flows abundantly with truth and life.  Christ died bearing the evil I have lived out which has perverted the truth about God.  And Christ did this for me because only he can give God's life for mine so that I might live forever!

Maybe this Good Friday you can sip and taste with me and see that the Jesus who died so horrifically for our sins this day in history about 2000 years ago, he is good.

Three Practical Ways to Take Refuge in God

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I've been thinking a lot these last few months about what it means practically to take refuge in God.  Refuge isn't a term we use often personally.  On a political level we may think of refugees, and the place they go to flee the danger in their homeland as a place of refuge.  But for the Christian, the idea of God being a refuge should be very real, personal and practical.

Christians are not at home with the ways of this world.  We feel like foreigners here.  We don't have the same desires we used to have.  We once partied like the world, were greedy like the world, sought self above all like the world, and hid from the pain and brokenness in this life in various ways.  Those ways were once our refuge.  Before Christ shone on our hearts and broke our chains we hid from the suffering of death, betrayal, loss and pain in people, temporary pleasures, mind-altering substances, sleep, money, withdrawal, food... and many other various cotton-candy hiding places.  In those days, we found that hiding in those places gave us an escape from one pain only to be bound by the chains of another.   Since Christ has come into our lives, we know that only he can truly hide us in times of trouble.  We fail many times, running back to old hiding places that can't shelter us from the storms of this life.  But ultimately, it is Christ that we run to, because as our brother quick-fall-Peter said, who else is there to go to? Only Christ has the words of life.

But what does it look like to hide in Christ?  What does it look like to run to God as refuge?

The Psalms are full of declarations that God is the psalmist's refuge.  The psalmist runs to God when he's betrayed, when he's chased, when he's surrounded, when he's found in sin, when he's sick, when he's in pain, when he's depressed, he even runs to God for refuge when he feel like God has forgotten him.  Why?  And how?

There's definitely more than one blog post worth writing on this subject.  Just taking the time to read through the Psalms and notice how often the writer calls on God as a refuge could be a devotional for a year.   I want to focus on one particular Psalm and think about how we as Christians take refuge in God.

Psalm 57 has a small title under it in my Bible that says, "To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave."

David wrote this psalm when he fled from Saul in a cave it says.  Saul was the king of Israel God had told was no longer going to be king.  He was loosing his mind and was murderously chasing David to kill him, knowing David was to be the king in his place.  Now that's a situation to feel like one might  need to find refuge somewhere.  I've never had to flee physical danger, but like David, I know the feeling that my soul is "bowed down", or "in the midst of lions."

As I read through this Psalm I find three practical ways to run to God for refuge:

1) Call on God's mercy
2) Remember God's sovereignty
3) Expect God's faithfulness

Call on God's Mercy

"Be merciful to me O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge. In the shadow of your wings I take refuge 'til the storms of destruction pass by." -Psalm 57:1

God is not a big, fluffy teddy bear to run to when you need to throw a tantrum.  He's not a neutral zone where anyone can come and get away from trouble.  He's almighty and holy.  He's a righteous judge and knows the heart of every man.  He's unable to be OK with sin in any amount or kind.  He's perfect.  He is to be feared.  And anyone who might try to stand before him would find themselves toast without the means he has provided to cause none of that righteous anger against sin to be aimed at them.  And that means is Christ.  Christ is the propitiation (big, church word) for us who believe in him, that is, he takes all the condemnation aimed at us from God.  To say it another way, Christ satisfies the need for God to destroy sin and sinner.  If God were to ignore sin he would not be a good God or a just God.  God's perfect justice demands the destruction of sin and the sinner.  Otherwise the malignancy of sin (which we all see everyday in our broken world and in our own lives) would spread unchecked, and God would not be sovereign or good.  But God is not only perfectly just he is also gloriously gracious and merciful.  He is love.  Therefore he humbled himself to be what we could not be and do what we could not do.  That is mercy.  And for the Christian, calling on God's mercy as displayed in Christ, is to call on the only power strong enough to shield our souls from the lies and traps and chains we so easily believe and turn to.   We call on this mercy in our prayers every day.  We call on this mercy when we face our failures once again.  We call on this mercy when we feel the threat of fears that we were once controlled by.  In calling on God's mercy we remind our souls to hope in the God who died for our sins so that we could be in friendship with him and no longer fear his judgement.

Remember God's Sovereignty

"I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me." - Psalm 57:2

Whatever we flee to for refuge must be more powerful than the situations we're fleeing from.  Only God can be that.  I don't claim to understand the workings of God's sovereignty or the whys.  But I know that when I face the sting of death, or the fear of rejection, or the terror of an enemy, or the betrayal of a companion or any other hard and painful suffering, there is only One who can do anything about it.  The Creator of the universe.  It's in knowing that the very God I run to for refuge is the God who has designed this suffering in my life to purify my faith and make me more like Christ that I find a true place to hide.  He may not take away the pain of this suffering, but he's the only one who can.  And one day he will take it away.  It may not be now.  But it will be.  In the mean time, I run to the One who rules over it and trust him to use it as a tool in my life for my good.  He cares.  He hears.  He loves.  And He will rescue.  In remembering God's sovereignty I hide my soul from the lies that God is punishing or God has forgotten or God is helpless.  He rules over what hurts me and he uses it to fulfill his good purposes for me.

Expect God's Faithfulness

"He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!" Psalm 57:3

Knowing God's faithfulness requires a history with God.  If you don't have much of a history with him, look to the book of his-story, and look to his people both living and dead.  The God of the Bible has a long history of unbroken promises and faithfulness to unfaithful people.  As the psalms say so often, his faithfulness reaches to the skies!  If I were to try to write out the zillions of ways God has shown he is faithful there wouldn't be enough atmosphere to contain the words!  But when we find ourselves in the midst of the storms of destruction God's faithfulness comes into question in our minds.  Has he forgotten us?  Is he even there?  Does he care?  This is where the Bible points us to a cloud of witness who say: God is faithful!  He will not abandon!  Hebrews 11 is famous for being the hall of faith, calling to account the names and stories of the people of old who have lived by faith.  But as you read through these stories and names it is not the faith of these people so much that encourages ours, but the faithfulness of the One they had faith in.  Noah built an ark from faith, believing what God warned him.  But it was God who saved Noah and his family from the storm of destruction that came on the whole world!  Abraham ultimately believed God when his body was as good as dead despite his failed attempt to fulfill God's promise for him.  But it was God who did the miracle of giving Abraham and Sarah Isaac despite their dying bodies.  And I could go on and on to recount how God was faithful to Joseph even in the betrayal of his brothers and the lies that landed him in Pharaoh's prison.  And how God did not forget his people in Egypt but prepared and sent Moses, hearing their cries for deliverance from slavery even though they were a stiff-necked people.  And how God heard the humble confession of a prostitute in a wall of a city he was about to destroy and saved Rahab.   Not to mention Ruth and Noami or Esther or Daniel or Paul or the many who have died as a result of their faith and who's deaths have been the seed through which a harvest of souls were faithfully rescued by God.  I remember God's faithfulness as I read my Bible, look to the lives of Christians throughout history and in my life today and look back at my life as I've imperfectly walked with him.  He is faithful!  Remembering this is sure refuge for my tired soul.

I may not be able to see my soul like I see my body, but just as my body would run to a strong structure to hide from a destroying storm, my soul runs to God to hide from the destructions that threaten when I face pain, death, betrayal, temptations, my sin, weariness, anxiety and many other soul-storms.  My soul runs when I open my mouth and call on his mercy, when I recall God's power over all things, and when I open my Bible and remember his faithfulness.

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