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Oct 9, 2018 · I Tried a Mediterranean Diet Meal Delivery Kit for a Week, and This is What Happened in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Have you heard about meal planning kits delivered to your front door? Some examples include Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, Marley Spoon, HomeChef, just to name a few!  The idea is that each week, the company sends you a box of recipes and fresh ingredients so that you can easily cook healthy dinners.  I’ve been wanting to try one of these services out for a while, and when I learned that one of them was now offering a Mediterranean meal plan, I knew it was time.

Ever since I learned about the brain-healthy Mediterranean diet, I’ve been trying to eat more fish and veggies. But I was stuck in a rut when cooking at home.  I was balking at the idea of picking a recipe, going to the store and finding the ingredients, and then preparing all the ingredients.  I don’t hate to cook, but I don’t love to cook either – and I only like the fun part, which is the actual cooking and eating part.  There are a couple other things you should know about me, when considering this review:  I love good food, and I’ll try anything, shellfish and beef are my favorite proteins, and I am an efficient (i.e., lazy) cook.

STEP 1. Picking a company.                                                                                                                                    

There are many different ones, and they seem to brag about different things. Organic!  Sustainable!  Vegetarian , Paleo, and Keto )!  Diabetes-friendly!  Gluten-free options! Lowest cost!  Hassle-free, easy, and quick!  Many meal options!  And so on.

Since SunBasket was the only one that advertised specifically a Mediterranean meal plan, I chose it.  But really, all the companies offer brain-healthy options – for example, pescatarian (fish) or vegetarian plans, or the ability for you to go online and pick each particular recipe each week. Nutrition information is always available for each recipe.

Price- wise, each meal portion costs roughly $12-13 for almost all the companies. And almost all offer a special introductory discount for your first order.

STEP 2. Going online and signing up.

Ok so this wasn’t too bad. I selected the 4-person Mediterranean Plan to include 3 dinners for the week.  It showed me the 3 default recipes, and I opted to replace one of them with one that sounded tastier to me.  There were a lot of meals to choose from, but only a handful were marked as “Mediterranean”.

STEP 3. Receiving my box.

The meals were delivered while I was at work on a Monday (you can pick the delivery day). Since I live in Florida, I was dismayed to see the boxes on my doorstep on 90+ degree heat! However, the box had cooler packs that kept everythingcold.  And, full disclosure, I promptly just put it all in the refrigerator, as I was too tired to cook that night.

The recipes came in a color booklet and were clear and easy, and cooking time ranged from 15-45 minutes for the 3 different recipes. Everything was clearly labeled and all ingredients were great quality and in good condition. The final meal portions were actually a very good size.

STEP 5. Cooking and Eating.

Recipe 1. One-Pan Mediterranean Stuffed Sole, with sautéed kale, tomatoes, olives, and white beans.

Stuffed Sole

I sometimes order fish in restaurants, but I usually hate to cook fish at home – it’s just so stinky. Well, this time… was no different.  The wild sole fillets fell apart a little in the pan, so stuffing it was a little tricky.  The recipe called for zesting a lemon, and I don’t own a zester so I skipped that step.

I thought the fish tasted boring and fishy. My husband, however, liked it!  So, he will eat the leftovers, and I will never cook it again.  The whole dish also felt like it was missing a starch, like brown rice.

On the bright side, we both thought the easy-to-cook vegetable side dish was delicious, and I could’ve eaten this for dinner alone. This recipe inspired me to  start adding olives and white beans to my veggies for flavoring and protein every now and then, so this was a win for the Mediterranean diet!

Recipe 2: Fast Honey-Harissa Pork Chops with spiced chickpeas and chard.

Porked Chop

Pan frying the pork chops was easy overall, but one of the pork chops was a much thicker and darker cut than the other one, resulting in one perfectly juicy pork chop and one slightly dry and tough pork chop. The honey glaze had a little spicy kick to it, and the flavor was very nice.  I modified the glaze just for the kids, replacing the harissa spice with garlic powder.

Sun Basket substituted the chard with red cabbage instead – they will occasionally make substitutions for a variety of reasons. We like cabbage, but the final plating felt like it was missing something green.  And this time I microwaved a bag of brown rice (ready in 90 seconds), just in case it felt like a starch was missing…

The Moroccan-spiced cabbage (coriander, cumin, allspice) and chickpeas were a wonderful compliment to the pork, and the meal really came together well. I ended up putting some brown rice on each plate to make it feel complete.  The African flavor profile was a gentle and pleasant change from our usual.  My husband and I agreed that this recipe is going into the rotation.

Recipe 3: Chicken Cacciatore with cauliflower mash.

Chicken

Ok, by this day the produce was not looking as fresh, so I knew I had to cook that night. Cacciatore is a rich tomato-based chicken stew, and I was looking forward to cooking stew on a 90+ degree day. (NOT.)

With the air conditioning cranked up, I tackled the recipe. It required me to chop cauliflower, olives, mushrooms, and parsley, which I found annoying – couldn’t they have done this for me?  I suppose the produce stays fresher longer this way, but I was still annoyed.  This better be good.

The cauliflower mash was little labor-intensive as well, maybe because I thought it was supposed to be the consistency of mashed potatoes. I gave up and renamed it cauliflower rice.  Whenever the recipe called for water, I substituted with my secret weapon: chicken broth. (I find that this gives my food that je ne sais quoi, umami depth of flavor that takes things up a notch.)

The final result was a hearty stew that the whole family (even the kids) enjoyed. The cauliflower mash/rice was tasty, and there was no need to add a proper starch to the dish.  Even the kids thought it was actual rice and ate it!  This meal is also going into the rotation in the winter, if winter ever comes here to Florida.

Overall

PROS

Doing this service forced me to cook fresh food, try out new things, and reminded me of healthy foods that I love. For example, I don’t think I would have ever tried cooking with white beans or chickpeas otherwise, and eating cabbage again reminded me how much I love it.  I will definitely add all the vegetable sides to my cooking repertoire.  It was very convenient, and we ate less take-out than usual.

CONS

If you are environmentally conscious, the packaging that the meal kits come in will be painful to deal with – all the cardboard, heavy cooler packs, and plastic containers each week. I actually needed these things and will be re-using them, but I know not everyone will re-use and recycle.

Not every recipe was a winner. Like going to a restaurant, there can be some trial and error, hits and misses until you find your favorites.

COST

The cost can seem high at $10 a portion, but when I factor in the time I saved by not going to the store or prepping the ingredients, and the fresh groceries I maybe would’ve thrown away when I didn’t use it all for the recipe, it’s not too bad. And considering that I could’ve resorted to ordering take-out instead, it may have saved me money.  But then again, if I cook at home, someone has to clean up…

The Final Verdict

I plan to continue meal delivery service, but with some changes. First of all, I will order two meals per week instead of three, so the ingredients stay fresh, and I have more flexibility.  I will filter out meals that include fish (unless my husband is willing to cook it).  We will eat our fish when we eat out!

I’ll take advantage of the introductory offers and try out a couple other services. Even though the others may not advertise Mediterranean meal plans, I can pick out plans and recipes that look brain-healthy, and use olive oil as my primary oil. For example, I’ll look for chicken, shellfish, or vegetarian recipes that are low in bad fats and high in green leafy vegetables and nuts, beans, and seeds.

Overall, I think these services can be useful and inspire folks like me to get in the HABIT of cooking again, and help folks discover new foods and food preparations to add to their routines.

 

Jun 25, 2018 · How "de-cluttering" can help you in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

In general, we recommend a day planner that is small enough that you can carry it around with you everywhere. It should be simple but have 3 essential sections: The day's schedule, a task list for to-do's, and a notes section. We encourage you to write in it and review it consistently, so that it becomes a HABIT!

Jun 25, 2018 · How "de-cluttering" can help you in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

If you are interested, here are a few websites that have more resources :

For a summary of the steps I outlined above — https://thecrazycraftlady.com/konmari-method-checklist-journey/
For a short simple checklist of items to work on, and the order in which to de-clutter — https://www.lavendaire.com/tidy-konmari/
For a a more thorough and comprehensive checklist of items — https://www.neatlittlenest.com/single-post/2017/11/03/ULTIMATE-KONMARI-CHECKLIST

Dr. An Oskarsson

Jun 25, 2018 · How "de-cluttering" can help you in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Hello Dr. Rubenzer,

If you are asking about a simple checklist or plan for your de-cluttering process, here are a few websites that have good ones :

For a summary of the steps I outlined above — https://thecrazycraftlady.com/konmari-method-checklist-journey/
For a short simple checklist of items to work on, and the order in which to de-clutter — https://www.lavendaire.com/tidy-konmari/
For a a more thorough and comprehensive checklist of items — https://www.neatlittlenest.com/single-post/2017/11/03/ULTIMATE-KONMARI-CHECKLIST

Thanks for reading!

Dr. An Oskarsson

Jun 22, 2018 · How "de-cluttering" can help you in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

shutterstock_640339735

Got stuff? 

Most of us have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.  Think back to the last time you moved – were you surprised by how much you had?

If you do a search on the internet for keywords like “de-clutter”, “minimalist living”, or “Konmari method”, you will find that there is a recent hot trend in the housekeeping world. People such as Marie Kondo, author of the books “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy”, suggest that we all should dedicate some time to organize and simplify our home environment (read: GET RID OF STUFF).  The rationale is that doing so would ultimately reduce our stress and make us happier being surrounded by only the things we need or love.

The Importance of Simplifying

Before I go on to describe a specific method for de-cluttering, let me explain why this is the topic of a blog designed to help those living with MCI blog.

During Mayo Clinic’s HABIT program for people with MCI, we teach participants how to effectively use a day planner to help increase independence and compensate for memory issues.  Participants learn strategies for writing the important information you need and want to remember, how to organize the information (i.e., where to write it down so that you can easily find it), and how to use the planner effectively. As it becomes a habit, participants’ worry less about whether something has been forgotten and gain confidence in their abilities.

It’s a similar concept when applied to our physical surroundings!  While just about everyone can benefit from a simplified and organized home environment, imagine how it could be helpful to persons with cognition and memory problems.  Let’s use the clothes closet as an example.

Example: The Overflowing Closet

Do you really need to hang on to the clothes that don’t fit anymore, or that you haven’t worn in a year?  Do you need 5 similar belts, 10 pairs of jeans, 20 handbags…?  Are you going to be invited to a 70’s party anytime soon? Now suppose you reduced the closet to only the clothes that you actually have worn in the last year and the clothes you love… imagine how much easier it would be to find the items of clothing you are looking for when you need them!  Would it be easier to pick out an outfit to wear, or find that favorite shirt?

I myself have a 6-year-old son who is very opinionated about what he will wear. I finally figured out that the fastest way to get him dressed is to go straight to the laundry basket of clean clothes to pick out his outfit for the day. The clean clothes laundry basket is filled with his favorite items and if he wore it recently, I know it’s something he will accept! I’m not suggesting that you live out of a laundry basket, but I am saying that reducing the amount of un-used and un-loved stuff in your home has its benefits!

A De-Cluttering HOW-TO

Organization experts often suggest a specific method for purging your things, believing that some ways are particularly effective. The following is a basic description of one de-cluttering process that is loosely based on the Konmari method.

STEP 1.  Pick a category of stuff to declutter: Clothes, Books, Papers, Personal care/Bathroom, Kitchen, Miscellaneous Household items (e.g., electronics, DVDs, medicines), Sentimental items.

Continuing with the clothes closet example, let’s suppose you’ve decided to work on your SHOE inventory.

STEP 2.  Lay it all out.  Now you can survey everything and get a good sense of how much you have of each item type.

For your shoes, find a space (e.g., table, floor) where you lay all your pairs of shoes out in front of you. Put your sport shoes next to each other, all your dressy shoes together, your sandals, loafers, boots, and so on. (Now it will be more obvious that you have half a dozen pairs of white tennis shoes!)

STEP 3. Pick up an item one at a time, and ask yourself whether the item is has been recently used. If not, does it bring you joy?  If the answer to either of these questions is yes, KEEP the item and designate a space for it.

Pick up a pair of tennis shoes – when was the last time you wore them? If it’s been a while, why is that? Will you be wearing it them anytime soon?   Perhaps they are your favorite most comfortable pair (KEEP), perhaps they are a too small, or utterly hideous (DON’T KEEP). Maybe you’re keeping them because you never really used them and they look brand new – but should you keep things that make you feel guilty (DON’T KEEP)!?

STEP 4. If it’s not a keeper, thank the item for its service and then decide to THROW AWAY or GIVE AWAY.

With the pair of tennis shoes still in your hands, you can think “I really enjoyed wearing you in the 1990’s. ” Now put them in the trash pile or the donation/give-to-a-friend pile.

Tips:

  • If you are having a hard time discarding things, try focusing on whether you can come up with reasons to keep something (rather than reasons to discard it). While it may be true that there is “nothing wrong with it”, if you cannot think of a good reason to hang on to it (e.g., this was a present from my beloved aunt, I need it for upcoming special occasions), it’s time to let go.
  • Don’t try to do too much all at once, or you risk getting overwhelmed! Break the project into smaller tasks, and pick a category or subcategory of items that you feel is do-able in the time you’ve allotted for it. For example, in our closet scenario, you might work through the following categories in separate sessions over the course of a week if you have time, or a month if you are very busy:
    • Tops & Bottoms
    • Dresses/Suits, Jackets
    • Handbags, Belts, Scarves
    • Shoes, Hats, Gloves
    • Socks & Underwear

The Bottom Line

The reason we keep utensils in the utensil drawer in the kitchen and our underwear in the underwear drawer in the bedroom is the same reason we put our doctor’s appointments in our day planner and our to-do’s on our to-do list – so we can form a habit of looking in the right place for important things and being sure to get those things BACK into the right place so we can find them later.  Furthermore, making the effort to reduce how much stuff we have in each designated place – to only the things we really need and love – makes it easier to find what we’re looking for when we need it. We at the HABIT team feel that persons with MCI may especially benefit from an organized and simplified home environment.

So, why don’t you schedule some time in your planner to start de-cluttering? Give it a try and let us know how it goes and more importantly, how you FEEL!

 

May 1, 2018 · Our HABIT Team: Meet Miranda Morris in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Miranda Morris

I first met Miranda Morris last summer in 2017, when she was the coordinator and a therapist for the Jacksonville HABIT program. Since then, she has become the Master Program Coordinator for HABIT – supporting operations for Jacksonville, Phoenix, and Rochester.  This week I got the chance to interview her and learn more about this vibrant, funny, larger-than-life lady.

An Oskarsson: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Miranda Morris: I told people that I wanted to be a mermaid until I was in Kindergarten. Then I said I wanted to be a scientist.

 

AO: How did you end up being a Master Program Coordinator?

MM: I originally started as a psychometrist AND a coordinator. I did that for a while until the program grew and demanded more time, so I slowly moved toward only doing HABIT stuff. Then, after being a full-time HABIT Coordinator for HABIT for a year or two, my husband got a promotion and was asked to move to Alabama. I truly love what I do, so I was heartbroken about the possibility of having to leave Mayo Clinic and HABIT. I jokingly asked Dr. Chandler if I could just work remotely from Alabama, and she supported the idea. Once we got permission for that, we discussed it with the HABIT Directors at the Arizona and Rochester sites. They supported the idea and asked me to come on board as a Master Program Coordinator so we could be more efficient and helpful to our patients.

 

AO: What is your favorite thing about the HABIT Program?

MM: There are so many parts that I love! I think my favorite is when I work with someone to get back to doing a hobby that they used to love, or when I can encourage someone to seek out creative activities. I now know several talented visual artists, writers and musicians.

 

AO: What do you usually use the “Notes” section of your calendar/planner for?

MM: I use the Notes section of my calendar to write one thing that made me laugh that day, one thing for which I am grateful and one goal for the next day.

 

AO: What is your favorite thing about living in Alabama?

MM:  So many different types of wildlife!

 

AO: What do you miss most/least about Jacksonville FL?

MM: The thing I miss the least is definitely the traffic—UGH! The thing I miss the most is the ocean.

 

AO: If you could only eat 5 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?  (Don’t worry about whether it’s healthy)

MM: Tomatoes, strawberries, Moon Pies (it’s a southern thing), fresh mozzarella cheese, and pecans.

 

AO: Do you have a hidden talent or special skill?

MM: I paint a little. It’s one of those things that clears my mind, and I can lose myself in for hours on end.

Miranda's Painting

(Reference picture is on the left, and painting by Miranda Morris is on the right. She likes to take a little freedom with vivid colors.)

AO: What is one of your goals for 2018?

MM: To have more adventures. Even if that only means driving an hour north to go on a hike to find a waterfall that I saw on Instagram.

 

In addition to her multi-site program coordinator role, Miranda continues to work as a therapist for some of the HABIT sessions. We are thankful for all that she does!

 

Jan 16, 2018 · Getting Back to a Good Habit in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Resolutions

The holidays are over, and it’s the New Year. Have recent travels, visitors, parties, illness, or other things wreaked havoc on your routine?  You may have missed a day or two – or a week or two – of sticking to habits and behaviors that help with living with MCI.  This inconsistency can make it difficult to continue with good habits.

What better time than New Years to make resolutions that support sustaining and maintaining good brain habits!?  We all know those healthy habits we think we should do, things like following a good diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, engaging in activities to stimulate your mind, simplifying your life, writing in your calendar, and all that good stuff.  How do we start, or get back to these good habits?

STEPS TO GETTING BACK TO A GOOD HABIT

Step 1. Choose a habit or change that you liked – or almost liked – to re-commit to.

If you went through the HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking® Program with us, you got a good start on keeping a memory organization system (the calendar), exercising, practicing relaxation, and getting out and about being more social again. If you have fallen away from these things, we want to encourage you to start again. Maybe one of your habits was a little less painful than the others, or there was one that you were pretty good at before the holiday interruptions.  Re-assess what is most important to you now, and commit to one change at a time.  Don’t try to jump back into everything at once, this may be too overwhelming and increase your chance of failure.

Identifying the thing you want to change for many can be the easy first step. What becomes more difficult is sustaining the new habit.  The enthusiasm that we had on New Year’s Day to commit to a resolution may already be fading by week 3 of 2018.  How do you keep it going?

Step 2. Think of ways to increase your chances of successfully sticking to the habit.

Do you have a clear plan? It is one thing to say you are going to eat healthier, it is another to clearly DEFINE what eating healthier means (more of a Mediterranean diet? The MIND diet?)  Once you’ve defined what you are going to do, for example eat more fish instead of red meat, you will need your supplies to do it.  This means finding new recipes, buying your ingredients, and learning how to prepare fish to your liking. You also have to pick a date to start:  I’m going to the grocery store this Saturday to start with Saturday’s dinner.  Are you allowed cheat days so that you don’t have to give up your precious cheeseburger?  Plan these! If you know that you are allowed to have a burger next Tuesday at your Men’s Lunch, you will be more able to resist it today when you are hungry.

Also, check your environment. Is it helping you stick to your habits?  You may need to simplify and organize your surroundings again.  For example, do you need to transfer notes and lists that are scribbled on post-its, notepads, and multiple calendars into one place?   Should you tidy up the area around your “drop zones” for your keys, phone, wallet, glasses, remotes, and other important things?

With memory loss, it may be helpful to enlist the help of a friend or family member and remind them of your goals. Talk to them about how they may help you. Should they cue your memory when you need it? Would you like a regular time to check in on how you are doing?  Can they help by modeling the good habits alongside you?

Think of ways to increase your enjoyment of the habit. Are you making it as fun as you can make it?  Can the habit be incorporated into a social activity, or done with a friend?  For example, it can be much more fun to walk with a friend than alone.

Step 3. Be accountable.

Write it down! Just thinking about change isn’t that useful. Write down your specific plan in your calendar.  Make entries and notes in your calendar to support your commitment to the habit.

Communicate the habit/change to at least one other person – so they can praise you when you work at it!

Other ideas include joining a club, class, or group to motivate you; Finding someone willing to coach you; Rewarding yourself for sticking to your habits for a certain period of time.

Remember that slips will happen and mistakes will be made, but don’t expect perfection and don’t be discouraged. After a lapse, you can always try to start working on your habits again, and reap the benefits!