Don’t like to follow a recipe when you cook?

Me neither.

My years at culinary school were torture as we repeatedly cut carrots into tiny cubes and skinny batons, weighed and measured every ingredient for every soup, sauce, and souffle.

(Is a souffle considered baking or cooking when it’s savory?)

In the words of my favorite Italian chef, Pannini, “You can’t successfully riff on the classics unless you know them note by note.”

That put recipes into perspective for me.
And made this student’s life easier to do what I was there for: to learn.

One more thing about following a recipe until you can make the dish to perfection: It’s not just how much of each ingredient, but why those flavors in those amounts matter.

Tasting the final product to discover what one ingredient makes it memorable means you can dream up ways to make other foods memory makers.

What’s this got to do with the 5 ingredients I mentioned up top and you?

The 5 ingredients are part of my recipe for a healthy, happy life. Each ingredient supports the others and the whole. Take one out and you might be okay but aging in good health with your sass and sense of humor intact won’t be as easy.

The good news is, anyone and everyone can do these 5 things, make them their own. First, you must learn about each ingredient and see how they work together, then you can riff.

Here are the 5 ingredients:

  • Protein at every meal and snack
  • Fall in love with fat
  • Learn to balance your blood sugar (No science degree needed)
  • Sleep and rest (Ok that’s 2)
  • Move it

So far so good, right? I haven’t asked you to eliminate anything you love, take up running, or live on kale.

What follows is enough information to get you started right away and keep this email short-ish. (You’ve probably got enough on your plate this week — and speaking of plate, if you take just one suggestion and use it, your holiday eating could spare you the spare tire.)

Early January I’ll be introducing an email course on this. It will take place over one week and each email will cover each of the ingredients in practical application.

Why protein and why pretty much whenever you eat? Because protein is the building block for all the cells and the systems we are made of. Women often don’t get enough of it. It’s a blood sugar balancing superhero because it fills us up without raising blood sugar.

The other superstar when it comes to this simple recipe for health, feeling good, sleeping like you used to, and finding a weight that works for you — and staying there — is fat.

Fat glorious fat, the one food component that does not raise blood sugar at all. It is satisfying and the best fuel for long term energy. Imagine you are having friends around to sit by a fire and chat. Would you build it with skinny branches and kindling? No. You might start it with those, but they burn away quickly. To have a fire that lasts you put on big logs, right? Fat is the big logs of your internal fire.

The great saturated fat debate rages on and you might guess which of the science I side with, but that’s a conversation for another email. For now, look for whatever you think of as healthy fat and include it throughout the day.

Here’s a hint about why those two made the Power 5. If you look at nature, they are often found together. Fish, meat, nuts, even vegetables contain both in one neat package.

Speaking of balancing blood sugar, why and how, right?

Why? Because high blood sugar is the evil villain in this age better journey.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating; too much sugar in your blood leads to too much insulin, aka insulin resistance. It is responsible for your very real cravings, weight gain, inflammation, and a greater possibility of becoming diabetic.

How you learn to balance it is to eat with #s 1 and 2 in mind. It starts with you paying attention to how you feel after certain foods or whole meals. If you eat and feel good, satisfied, then you are likely in balance. If you end up being tired soon after, are bloated, could eat more and while you’re at it make it sweet and carby, then you are likely anything but.

Sleep (and rest.) No one needs remind you of the importance of sleep, so why do so many people decide they have to live with insomnia or trouble staying asleep? Our sleep patterns do alter as we age, but it’s a myth that less sleep is just the way it is.

The email course will have oodles of help for sleepless types. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep and feel like you’ve tried everything, don’t despair. Help is on the way.

For now, try this. Lower the lights in the room you sleep in before you head that way. Light is the enemy of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy and allows us to wake refreshed as it diminishes.

Finally, and the one you either already embrace or want to scream because you knew I was going to say it: Move it, move it!

Again, this isn’t news to you, and yet…

That couch so comfy, the business demands so many, the memories of gym class so awful, that movement gets nary a thought until it’s too late.

Well, not too late to ever move again; too late in the day to go do something.

Take the “must work out for 30 minutes a day” pressure right off that pretty little head of yours. Replace it with the idea of getting movement throughout the day. If you love dedicating a set amount of time to work out, or move in a certain way, ab fab — if not, you too can give your body what it needs. More on how in January.

For now, if you sit at a desk all day, set a timer and get up every hour for 5 minutes and walk around, or dance, go up and down some stairs. If walking is painful or you have limited mobility, move your legs in the chair. Bend over at the waist and release your neck and shoulders.

Earlier I said that each of these habits supports the other one.

Watch. If you eat protein and fat throughout the day, your blood sugar will be balanced and you will have energy to move. You’ve also got a better shot at a good night’s sleep. (Not guaranteed but it does contribute.)

Movement also contributes to sleep. Not sleeping well or enough means the brain goes in search of sugar, (this includes white, starchy foods,) to stay alert. Cravings are likely to knock you off your healthy meal plan. And high blood sugar depletes energy making it harder to stick to your good intentions.

Just like I had to learn the classics before I could create my own repertoire of delicious meals, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about these simple but dang-if-they-don’t-work habits so you can tailor them to a daily routine that works for you.

Hey, I have an idea — why not sign up for The Power of 5 email workshop when it launches in January? It will include practical ways to make these habits your own.

And will include lots of “Try this” kind of options because I know some of you will feel like you’ve tried everything to sleep better, find motivation, lose weight (I know I didn’t mention that but it’s def possible if it’s something you are looking to do), or just have the lifestyle stuff be easy.

No money will change hands and I will host one live Zoom call at the end for Q & A.

A good recipe is one that works to give you the result you are looking for, it tastes great, looks appetizing, and is satisfying. Bonus points when it’s not too complicated and doesn’t have too many ingredients.

After 35 years of cooking and baking I’ve got lots of quick recipes I can throw together and adapt depending on the ingredients on hand. My wish for you is that you find a recipe for a “Damn, look at me looking good and feeling younger than the number” kind of routine that you can roll no matter what “ingredients” you happen to encounter.

Speaking from experience — mine and the hundreds of women who have learned this from me — I know it’s possible.