Fluoride & Your Thyroid

As we’ve noted before, the thyroid is a small but mighty gland that sits just above your collarbone and plays a key role in every single bodily function.

The thyroid itself regulates all of your cellular metabolism; your energy, how you grow, heal and regenerate, how you process food into energy, how you sleep, everything.

It’s also part of a critical feedback loop to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands that live in your brain, which pretty much control all of your hormonal (endocrine) functions. Reproductive, adrenal and immune function, even your blood pressure and central nervous system depend on this glandular collaboration.

When this gland isn’t working as it should, it can mean, among other things, a higher risk of gum disease, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions.

hypothyroidismWhen the gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, the result it hypothyroidism. If untreated, it can ultimately lead to cardiovascular problems, impair kidney function, and reduce fertility in both men and women. Hypothyroidism during pregnancy can raise the risk of miscarriage or other complications.

One thing that can get in the way of proper thyroid function? Fluoride. A wealth of research has shed light on this problem, including a new paper recently published in Scientific Reports.

The study looked at thyroid issues among a population in central Iran where significant levels of fluoride occur naturally in the ground water. It included 198 cases and 213 controls and evaluated the effects of fluoride on T3, T4, and TSH hormones specifically.

The results were conclusive with prior studies, which found that ingestion of significant amounts of fluoride appeared to reduce T3 and T4 levels and increase TSH levels. In the current study?

The major finding of this study is that TSH values are higher with a higher fluoride concentration in the drinking water, even for generally low fluoride concentrations. This is seen both in cases of untreated hypothyroidism and in controls.

Note that the “standard concentration” of naturally occurring fluoride in this study – less than 0.5 mg/L – is lower than the currently recommended level of public water fluoridation here in the United States.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that thyroid diseases, including thyroid cancer, have been advancing at an alarming rate, particularly here in the US.

So how can we reduce our exposure, particularly if we rely on fluoridated water supplies for our drinking water?

One option is to go for spring water – ideally in refillable bottles or jugs and not the single-serve plastic bottles you see everywhere.

Another is to opt for a home filtering system to treat your own water. Be aware, though, that some systems, such as reverse osmosis units, also strip out essential minerals from the water right along with the fluoride. Fortunately, there are mineral cartridges you can add to restore these vital nutrients.

Some suggest that the same can be accomplished by added a bit of unrefined Himalayan salt to your water – half a teaspoon for every gallon of water.

For more ways to reduce your fluoride exposure, check out these tips from our friends at the Fluoride Action Network.

Guest Post: Which Plant-Based Milks Are Best?

Our thanks to the office of St. Louis biological dentist Dr. Michael Rehme for letting us share this post from their blog. The original is here.

Cow’s milk is a complete food, at least for baby cows. It has a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It also contains compounds that boost the immune system.

soy beans and milkBut not everyone can drink cow’s milk – or any animal milk at all. Some have allergic reactions to it. (Up to 3.5% of children today have milk allergies, and while some eventually outgrow the allergy, others do not.) Some are lactose intolerant – including 80% of African-Americans and closer to 100% in Native American and East Asian populations. Yet others are vegan, do not like the taste, or avoid cow’s milk for other personal reasons.

Hence, the increasing popularity of plant-based milks. These are made by grinding various beans, nuts, or grains, then adding water and often flavors and additional nutrients.

But how do these compare to cow’s milk nutritionally? That was the focus of a study recently published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. Four of the most common plant-based milks were considered: soy, rice, coconut, and almond.

Of these, soy was found to pack the biggest nutritional punch, with the best balance of proteins, carbs, and fats. Soy milk also contains cancer-fighting substances known as isoflavones.

Unfortunately, it also contains anti-nutrients that interfere with nutrient intake and absorption. Many also just don’t like its flavor.

Coconut and almond milk are low in both carbs and calories. Most of those calories come from fats known to benefit heart health. Neither is a great source of protein, however. Almond milk has a little, while coconut milk effectively has none. (There are also concerns that the ramped up production required by the ongoing almond craze is less than environmentally friendly.)

Rice milk was found to be the most unbalanced of the four. It’s very high in carbohydrates, containing more than twice as many as cow’s milk, and very low in both proteins and fats. Still, researchers suggested it may be a good option for those allergic to soy and nut-based milks.

But these are hardly the only plant-based milks out there. Other, newer options include oat, hemp, hazelnut, and macadamia nut milks. Like the others, each of these has its nutritional strengths and limitations.

Oat milk, for instance, is low in protein but high in healthy fiber, while hazelnut milk is nutritionally similar to almond milk but richer in the B vitamins and vitamin E.

Macadamia milk might seem less than ideal, with more fat and less protein than most nut-based milks. Yet the fat is almost all monounsaturated, which may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Hemp milk has much to recommend it. It has four times the omega fatty acids as soy milk and provides 10 essential amino acids.

One point that must be stressed is that these plant-based milks are not for very young children and especially not for babies. It is essential that babies be fed either breast milk or a complete infant formula. No plant-based milk can provide all the nutrients required for infant development.

Another key point: So long as you get your calcium and other nutrients somewhere, it’s not essential for adults to drink milk. Until very recently in human history, adults drank water and got all their nutrients from their other foods. This is still true in many lactose intolerant populations.

Nonetheless, if you choose to drink milk, what is the best milk for you? Talk with your integrative healthcare providers, read labels while shopping, and keep in mind your individual health needs. There’s no shortage of options for those who want to replace cow’s milk with a plant-derived alternative.

Why You Need Sleep – & Tips for Getting More of It (Better Quality Sleep, Too!)

A lot of people don’t realize this, but sleep loss is second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to why you need to sleep.

This, of course, raises the question of what you can do to get more sleep, and better quality sleep, into your daily routine. Dr. Mercola offers some helpful tips:

You can also read through his tips here.

What do you find most helpful for encouraging a good night’s sleep? Share your observations in the comments!

Ready to Start Brewing Your Own Probiotic Drinks at Home?

Kombucha Kefir & Beyond book coverRecently, we were given a copy of a book called Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond, which promised to be “A Fun and Flavorful Guide to Fermenting Your Own Probiotic Beverages at Home.”

We’re happy to say that it lived up to its word, with authors Raquel Guajardo and Alex Lewin bringing a refreshing perspective (and a bunch of new recipes!) to the world of probiotics.

Raised in an industrial town in northern Mexico, Guajardo brings a background to the recipes that adds a ton of variety to fermenting beyond the popular kombucha. This combined with Lewin’s curiosity about the holistic health benefits of probiotics result in a wealth of informative material, partnered with new recipes and great, simple ways to incorporate probiotics into each day.

As we’ve noted before, fermented foods like kombucha and yogurt are a great way to consume priobiotics. The helpful microbes in such foods help defend against disease, balancing the gut so the rest of our body, mouth included, can function at its best.

The authors spend a good amount of time covering the importance of probiotics and their impact on our health. They also explore the very definition of “health” and how it seems to have gone missing in what we call our “healthcare system” today.

They also highlights the importance of eating real foods – foods close in form to how they occur in nature, processed in the home kitchen, with trace compounds intact. This is and always has been one of our pillars of good nutrition.

making kombuchaBut if you’re wanting to skip the preliminaries and just learn how to make these foods, you can jump ahead to page 47. That’s where the authors get down to business about the few simple kitchen tools you’ll need, information on jarring, and simple tips.

The recipes will make you want to be invited to a dinner party at one of the author’s houses, starting with some down and dirty five-minute recipes. So often, healthy eating and drinking can feel overwhelming and complicated. Easy five-minute recipes like the Salty Fermented Lemonade or Limeade will have you more than ready for the warmer days ahead this year! Just add preserved lemons or limes to sparkling water with some crushed ice, fresh mint and raw honey you have a delicious, refreshing, and healthful drink.

The variety of the other recipes included in the book is really quite remarkable – from kombucha coffee to vegetable drinks like Beet Kvass all the way to brines and beers. One whole section is dedicated to Mexican fermented drinks like pulque (made from the sap of the maguey and referred to as “the drink of the Gods”) and colonche (made from prickly pear).

And that’s just the beginning. The fermented cocktails will have you daydreaming of your next cocktail party.

However, one key thing to consider any time you make fermented drinks – or buy them, for that matter – is the sugar content and the carbonation. The latter can erode tooth enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay. Sugar, of course, is the favored food of the microbes involved in the decay process. The two together are a real double-whammy.

We recommend going with the least carbonation and sugar. (Maybe it’s a good thing that home brewing can be so tricky that drinks sometimes fall a little flat!)

Overall, this is a great book for beginners to learn more about the process of fermenting and how to easily incorporate probiotics into every day with great recipes.

A Look Back at…Thermography

Originally posted June 29, 2017; updated

Most of us are raised with a rather reactive and passive relationship with healthcare. You see your doctor or dentist only once something goes wrong and expect them to fix it.

But functional and biological medicine remind us that by the time you get symptoms, most conditions are fairly well advanced – and often more costly to treat. Fortunately, there are a number of technologies available to help us spot potential problems before they get to that point.

Thermography is one of those technologies.

Thermography is a radiation-free way to scan your body for early signs of dysfunction or imbalance on the cellular level. It’s been used by European integrative doctors for over 30 years and was FDA-cleared for use in the US in 1997.

The technology itself is based on your body’s ability to thermoregulate. This ability to keep a steady temperature is controlled by your autonomic nervous system.

When your internal temperature changes, your hypothalamus is signaled to initiate changes to bring your temp back to its norm. You sweat; your blood vessels widen or contract; your muscles and other organs generate heat – that kind of thing.

So by making a sort of heat map of your body, thermography aims to shed light on this key aspect of your body’s self-regulating abilities.

Alfa thermometryTexas Thermography Clinic uses a particular type of thermography known as thermometry. This technique uses a lightweight, infrared sensor to measure the temperature of your skin. The scanner is somewhat similar to a wand thermometer that a nurse or doctor swipes across your forehead to check for fever. But with thermometry, more than 100 points are checked, including points on the teeth and jaws.

This is followed by a 10 minute period in which you’re exposed to a cold stimulus. Then the thermographer takes readings of those same 100+ points again. Differences in the readings reflect how well your organs and tissues are functioning and how they deal with physiological stress.

Both sets of readings are run through a sophisticated computer program which maps out the temperature patterns of your body. That information can help your doctor identify imbalances that you can address proactively – through follow-up diagnostics and, as appropriate, treatment – before they can become bigger problems.

You can see how this is a perfect fit with our holistic, biological approach. Prevention is the foundation.

The Best Way to Treat Gum Disease? Avoid it!

healthy gums
But how do you go about doing that?

You can start by not adding fuel to the fire:

  • If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. It’s the number one risk factor for periodontal disease and tooth loss.

  • Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. If you brux (clench or grind your teeth) during sleep or suspect you may have sleep apnea, talk with your dentist about solutions so you can get a good night’s sleep. Research suggests that lack of sleep may be second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease.

  • If you eat a lot of sugar, flour-based foods, and other refined carbs, cut back on them. Gum disease is marked by chronic inflammation, and these foods make inflammation worse.

  • Evaluate the stress in your life and take steps to bring it under control.

Then there’s the matter of oral hygiene.

According to new research in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, even just tooth brushing can make a difference. Participants who reported brushing at least twice a day were found to have deep periodontal pockets on about two fewer teeth, on average, than those who brushed less.

Those pockets deepen as the disease process causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. With healthy gums, the natural space between the gums and teeth – the sulcus – is one to three millimeters deep. Neglected, the spaces get even deeper, allowing more room for harmful bacteria to colonize and thrive.

Once this happens, tooth brushing can only be a partial help. At this point, additional tools such as floss and oral irrigators are needed to control the pathogens harbored within the pockets.

All of these are also tools that you can use right now to keep gum disease from developing in the first place.

Flossing is basic, but it needs to be done correctly in order to make a difference. And if your gums bleed, that’s all the more reason to get diligent about flossing. That bleeding is a sign of gum disease.

If you don’t like to floss, try cleaning with interproximal brushes instead. These small brushes fit between your teeth and are great for cleaning at the gum line.

You can also use these “proxy” brushes to apply ozonated oils to your gums. These oils are commonly made by infusing medical grade ozone into an organic oil such as olive, sunflower, coconut, hemp, or castor. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant that’s ideal for controlling oral pathogens. (We use it in a wide variety of ways here in our office!)

Oil pulling can be a helpful addition to your daily hygiene routine. A simple swish of a tablespoon of coconut oil every morning for 10 to 15 minutes before you brush can have a positive impact.

Oral irrigators such as Waterpiks have also proven quite helpful for keeping the gums healthy. Antimicrobial botanical tonics can even be added to the water to enhance their cleaning power. (The Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums Irrigant is one good option.)

In addition to amped up hygiene, a few nutritional changes can have a big impact, as well. It’s not just about avoiding the harmful stuff but making sure you get the full complement of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs to function as designed.

Also look to getting more movement into your daily routine. Research has consistently shown that exercise helps lower your risk of gum disease, as well as reduce chronic inflammation in general.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet against gum disease. But working a variety of the above tools into your daily health routine will take you far in keeping perio problems at bay, keeping your smile healthy and whole.

Got Gum Disease? Treatment Could Save Your Life

ultrasonic scalingPeriodontal disease affects up to 80% of Americans. It’s not just a problem in the mouth, either. It’s been linked to many other conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers.

The good news? Periodontal therapy can help reverse gum disease. This may, in turn, help improve your overall health – and, as we noted before, even save you a good chunk of change in the long run.

For instance, a new review of the science suggests that non-surgical perio therapy may improve glycemic control in people with diabetes, at least in the short term.

Patients who underwent [nonsurgical] periodontal treatment had about half a percent lower HbA1c levels three months after treatment than those who did not undergo periodontal therapy.

“Evidence from the literature suggests that successful periodontal treatment, which results in the reduction of inflammation from the periodontal tissues, improves the metabolic control of people with diabetes mellitus,” the authors wrote.

Another recent study looked at the impact of intensive periodontal treatment on blood pressure. In this case, 95 patients were randomly split between control-treatment and intensive-treatment over the course of 4 weeks, then followed for 6 months.

After one month, systolic blood pressure – the top number – was almost 3 points lower in patients who had intensive treatments. After three months, it was almost 8 points lower. Diastolic pressure dropped, too, by nearly 4 points.

At 6 months, systolic pressure had dropped almost 13 points, and diastolic had dropped by nearly 10.

“The present study demonstrates for the first time that intensive periodontal intervention alone can reduce blood pressure levels, inhibit inflammation and improve endothelial function,” said study lead author Jun Tao, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the department of Hypertension and Vascular Disease and director of the Institute of Geriatrics Research at The First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

The study was published last summer in the Journal of Periodontology.

Other research has found evidence that periodontal treatment may help those with chronic kidney disease and atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries). The latter was especially so for those “already suffering from CVD and/or diabetes.”

On the flipside, some research has found that patients who don’t respond well to periodontal therapy had “an increased risk for future CVD, indicating that successful periodontal treatment might influence progression of subclinical CVD.”

So what are the options for treatments?

While in its early stages, gum disease may often be reversed by more intensive home hygiene, nutritional improvements, and other lifestyle changes, dental help is needed when it becomes more advanced.

This can include frequent deep cleanings, such as with an ultrasonic scaler, along with regular ozone treatment to keep harmful bacteria under control. Probiotics may also be recommended to help right the microbial balance in your mouth.

Between cleanings, a system like PerioProtect can also help keep harmful bacteria at bay so friendly microbes can proliferate.

And when gum disease is particularly advanced? LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure) can be used to remove diseased tissue while preserving healthy tissue and destroying pathogens. It’s a kind of super deep cleaning for your gums and tooth roots, less invasive than conventional surgery yet potentially more effective. Research suggests it may even stimulate the growth of new bone in the jaw, restoring support to the teeth. And it’s comfortable for the patient, essentially pain-free.

Research published in the Journal of Periodontology has stated that LANAP should be considered the first line therapy in restoring health to diseased gums.

But the absolute best way to treat gum disease? Keep it from arising in the first place.

Mouth Guards May Protect More than Just an Athlete’s Teeth

With this year’s Super Bowl right around the corner, most Americans have at least a little bit of football on the brain – if not for the championship match-up itself, the unveiling of new, often over-the-top ads throughout it.

But whether you watch it for the game or ads – or don’t watch it at all – one thing definitely remains true: When playing any kind of sport, protective gear is a must.

And it’s not just the obvious things like the helmets and shoulder pads, knee pads and shin guards. In fact, one crucial piece of protective gear may not be so noticeable but equally (if not more) important.

football tackleThe mouth guard.

And this is especially so when it comes to protecting against concussions. According to the National Safety Council, a child in the US is treated for a sports-related concussion every 3 minutes. As many as 3.8 million athletes suffer a concussion every year. Countless other cases go unreported and undiagnosed.

These mild blows or jolts to the head can have immediate effects, such as blackouts, nausea, and fatigue. More concerning are the potential long-term effects, including brain damage and even death.

Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports injury. In football, brain injuries account for 65% to 95% of all fatalities. Football injuries associated with the brain occur at the rate of one in every 5.5 games. In any given season, 10% of all college players and 20% of all high school players sustain brain injuries.

But as we’ve noted before, mouth guards may help prevent injury. They essentially function as a cushion between the teeth, protecting them but also absorbing some of the shock from impacts and stabilizing the head and neck.

This was shown again in a small but compelling study in Dental Traumatology, in which five male participants were fitted with custom-made mouth guards. A weighted pendulum was then positioned to strike their chins. The impact was monitored by sensors placed on the forehead and left jaw joint.

In all, the effects were measured under several conditions: mouth-open, light clenching, and maximum clenching without a mouth guard; and mouth-open and maximum clenching with the guard in place.

With or without clenching, the guard made a difference, reducing the impact of the pendulum blows – at least in the case of a small impact load.

This suggests that wearing a mouthguard and/or teeth-clenching might be effective for preventing concussion and TMJ fractures when subjected to higher impact forces. Furthermore, wearing a mouthguard in itself provided an impact reduction effect similar to the combination of teeth-clenching and wearing a mouthguard, which suggests that as long as players use a mouthguard, they do not have to continuously clench their teeth to obtain the protective effects if they receive a blow to the mandible.

While many sports have similar risks of trauma and blunt force to the face – from people or objects – many sports still don’t require gear that protects the mouth and jaw. You do see more voluntary use of wrap-around protective plates on baseball helmets in the wake of some high profile bean balls, but their use remains optional.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that baseball, along with basketball, has been associated with the greatest number of dental injuries. In football, mouth guards are mandatory.

But bear in mind: Not all mouth guards are created equal. Stock devices that are supposedly “ready to use” out of the box have been found to provide the least protection. “Boil and bite” guards are somewhat better, but they still tend not to fit as well, which reduces their protective ability.

As with their cousin, the night guard – worn during sleep to protect the teeth from the force of clenching and grinding – the best option is a custom-fit device made from a model of your teeth. It fits the mouth it was made for perfectly and, being thicker, too, offers a higher level of protection.

We’ll say it again: While an over-the-counter guard may be better than nothing, over the long haul, custom is the way to go.

Supporting a Healthy Body Supports a Healthy Mouth

girl with tabletHow much time do you spend sitting each day? Probably more than you’d care to. Many of us spend the vast majority of our time every day seated – usually in front of a screen of some kind.

Unfortunately, all this sitting is a major contributor to poor health. And it’s not just adults who have gone sedentary. Kids are in on the trend, too, with screen time up and physical activity is down. As the authors of a recent paper in Obesity Facts noted, surveys have shown that 6- to 11-year olds are inactive for roughly 6.4 hours a day. Among teens, that jumps to nearly 8 hours a day.

Physical activity, on the other hand, is declining. Of boys between 3 and 10 years of age, 11.7% participate in sports less than once or twice a week, and 11.7% do not engage in any sports at all, with even lower levels of physical inactivity in girls of the same age

Suffice it to say, those numbers are going in the wrong direction.

Ideally, screen time should be balanced with more opportunities for kids to keep moving. Their developing bodies and minds need physical activity. Too much screen time, on the other hand, can make inactivity seem the norm. It encourages sedentary behavior.

So what can we do to reduce screen time? A few ideas:

  • Many kids are sent to watch TV or play on a tablet while the adults prepare dinner. Try to involve the kids by having them help cook or set the table.

  • Eat dinner together at the table, away from the TV. It’s a great opportunity for talking with each other about how your day went and what you did and saw, as well as making plans for the following day or week.

  • Incorporate a family activity after dinner such as a neighborhood walk or light yoga. Yoga Calm is one of several excellent programs of yoga for kids. Or play a game together rather than watching a TV show or movie. Many simple card and board games can be played at practically any age.

  • Put some coloring or activity books out on the table or floor to occupy the kids during busy moments rather than sitting them in front of the TV or putting a tablet in their hands.

The American Academy of Pediatricians provides guidelines for screen time, harnessing the good digital media can do while keeping screens from completely dominating your child’s waking hours. Again, balance is key.

For sedentary time may also contribute to chronic inflammation – and where there’s chronic inflammation, there’s usually gum disease. In fact, inflammation is one of the things that links gum disease to a whole host of systemic health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and some cancers.

Simply put, supporting a health body supports a healthy mouth.

Image by Nick Olejniczak

Helping Kids Learn to Eat Healthy in a Food Environment That’s Anything But

No matter where you go or what you do – turn on the TV, log into email, wait for a movie to start, step inside just about any kind of a store – you’re apt to be bombarded with marketing for unhealthy food products.

One of the primary targets? Our kids.

kids watching screenAs we noted last week, kids are highly influenced to eat foods they see marketed on TV, one of many factors contributing to childhood obesity. Now, new research in Pediatrics shows how that trend goes for big screen offerings, as well.

For the study, 31 G- and PG-rated films from 2012 to 2015 were evaluated for their “obesity-promoting content and weight-stigmatizing messages.” The raters documented how frequently the content included eating or negative messages around weight.

Let’s just say the answer was “often.”

All 31 movies included obesity-promoting content; most common were unhealthy foods (87% of movies, 42% of segments), exaggerated portion sizes (71%, 29%), screen use (68%, 38%), and sugar-sweetened beverages (61%, 24%). Weight-based stigma, such as a verbal insult about body size or weight, was observed in 84% of movies and 30% of segments.

So on the one hand, you have depictions that suggest behaviors that contribute to weight gain, and on the other, weight gain is scorned. Talk about mixed signals!

Other research suggests that kids’ eating behavior may be directly affected by depictions in film. One recent study of product placement in films found that

branding and obesogenic messaging in children’s movies influenced some choices that children made about snack foods immediately following viewing, especially food with greatest exposure time in the film.

While such studies acknowledge that there’s more to learn about the long-term effects of this psychological game, it’s hard to see much good come of this, just reinforcement of the unhealthy eating patterns so predominant in our culture.

That’s why it’s all the more crucial that we provide more healthful models for our kiddos to follow. For just as kids may mimic what they see in the media, so they may just as well follow the lead of their parents and caregivers.

One of the main reasons parents turn to drive-thru, carryout, or frozen meals is simple convenience. We’re all busy. Our kids are busy. Pre-made meals can seem to save the day – but only if we’re thinking in the short term.

Consider the long-term inconveniences of the chronic health problems that arise from diet – oral and systemic alike – and the short term benefits shrink.

Fortunately, with a little planning and prep, healthful eating – real food you make at home from whole foods combined by human hands – can become just as convenient. Consider incorporating some of the following practices into your routine:

  1. No time to grocery shop? Many stores have started offering home delivery again or will bag the food and have it available for pickup. This can be a huge timesaver. Check with your local stores to see if they offer this service.

  2. Meal prep on days off. If there are one or two days during the week with fewer activities, try to spend a little time prepping veggies or marinating proteins. One of the biggest time-sucks is prepping veggies (some of the most important ingredients you can use). Chopping, dicing or marinating on the weekend can make for some easy cooking on the weeknights.

  3. When cooking, cook a little extra. Consider doubling recipes to have an entire meal ready for another night.

  4. Consider a pressure cooker to easily turn vegetables and protein into a quick soup. You can even bake potatoes or hard boil eggs in pressure cookers, in a fraction of the time.

  5. Conversely, consider a slow-cooker that you can start early then effectively ignore until meal time.

  6. Some restaurants are better than others. When you really do want someone else to do the cooking, consider restaurants that might include locally sourced foods or at least feature foods that are organic and sustainably raised. You may even find farm-to-table options that could be both healthy and educational for the family.

Even starting out by giving up one or two days of fast food can make a huge difference. And gradually, you may find that this becomes easier to incorporate into your every day routine (and easier on your wallet).