Monday, May 31, 2010

H is for Honey

If you’re going to consume sugar, you may as well use the natural kind. While honey is high in sugar, and therefore high in carbohydrates, there are many benefits to this natural sweetener.

Honey has many healing properties, including antioxidants, royal jelly (a serum produced for the queen bee that makes her live longer), and antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Honey has been effectively used to treat everything from sore throats to liver damage, and from skin burns to digestion issues. Local honey has been shown to help with seasonal allergies in a given region.

Below is a recipe for whole wheat bread using honey as a sweetener. This recipe requires having a bread machine, so if you don’t have one or prefer not to bake, try buying a whole wheat loaf that is sweetened only by honey. It will taste delicious and it’s healthy.

Whole Wheat Bread with Honey
1 1/8 cups water
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon dry milk powder
1 ½ tablespoons butter or non-hydrogenated shortening
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

Assemble ingredients into a bread machine and follow manufacturer’s directions for whole wheat bread.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Foods

Building and Grilling a Kebab
(womenshealthmag.com)

The very nature of a skewer—lean meat or fish interspersed with a variety of fresh vegetables and maybe brushed with a simple low-calorie, high-flavor sauce—all but guarantees healthy eating. Best of all, kebabs take just a few minutes to assemble and the potential for deliciousness is limited only by your imagination. Try one of our suggested kebab perfections (at left), or thread your own lean-and-mean masterpiece (at right). Now stop drooling and go fire up the grill!

Rules of the Skewers

Step 1 Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 20 minutes before loading them up. The moisture will prevent the wood from catching fire and scorching your dinner.

Step 2 The protein you're cooking will determine the size of the produce on your skewers. Shrimp and scallops cook quickly, so fruits and veggies should be cut smaller. Chicken and pork take time to cook, so pair them with larger chunks.

Step 3 You can marinate the loaded skewers in sauce before grilling—up to two hours for meat, but no more than 30 minutes for seafood. Or simply brush the sauce onto the food before grilling and at least once during cooking. Whether the food has been marinated or not, it's always great to finish the kebabs with a light sheen of fresh sauce just before bringing them to the table.

Step 4 You want a medium-hot grill—not so hot that it chars the food's outside before cooking the inside, but hot enough that the food's surface will fully caramelize.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

G is for Gum

Have you ever wanted to eat a half an hour after dinner—just to get the garlic taste out of your mouth? While the obvious solution would be to brush your teeth, another option would be to stick a piece of gum in your mouth.

When I was a kid, we were told that gum was unhealthy—worse than candy. But somehow between then and now, dentists and nutritionist alike have proclaimed it healthy. I suppose one could argue about the sugar or artificial sweeteners and their negative effects, but one thing I know is true: gum helps to control senseless eating.

We all have those moments when we eat simply because the food is there. Or we’re nervous or stressed and our first impulse is to chew madly on something. Or we are wrapped up in a movie or a conversation and don’t notice that our hand keeps returning to the bowl for more munchies.

When we have those dumb-cow moments, gum can rescue us from sabotaging ourselves. If we stop and think long enough to pop in the Trident, the distractions can come and go without us breaking our goals.

So the next time you head out the door for a graduation or retirement party, arm yourself with a pack of gum. It just might be the best diet pill out there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

F is for Fats

Fats make up an essential part of our diets if we are going to be healthy. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids help protect your brain, heart, bones, joints and skin from the deterioration that comes from aging. Other fats, like monounsaturated fats, can make a healthier heart and improve life-expectancy.

But what about weightloss? One of the first things we often think we should eliminate from our diets when we’re trying to lose fat is fat itself. It seems to make common sense. But does fat elimination work?

First, elimination of bad fats is always going to be good. Hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, deep fried foods, and processed fats are going to work against our health on multiple levels. However, there are good and necessary fats, as mentioned above. These fats, when used in moderation, will improve our health—including the much longed for weightloss.

Here are 5 reasons why fats are good for weightloss:
They make us feel full
Make us feel satisfied for longer
Helps us with portion control
Helps minimize cravings
It tastes good

I have heard that if we starve our bodies of fat, our bodies will cling harder to keep the fat it has. There is a reason I have named my blog after a natural food that is high in fat. Whenever I hit a weightloss slump I start eating avocados. So far, I’ve successfully broken through the slump when I do. There must be something to it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

E is for Encouragement

I’ve heard it said that if you want to be healthy, you need to hang around healthy people. It is difficult to order a salad and water at a restaurant when those around you are getting platters of deep-fried junk food. It’s difficult to exercise when everyone around you wants to sit and do nothing. It’s not easy to keep an ideal weight when those around you say it doesn’t matter. However, I do not suggest that you dump your unhealthy friends. We can adopt a couple strategies that will help us be encouraged, even if we are surrounded by unlikely candidates.

I’d like to offer advice in two areas. First, connect with a person who will be an encouragement in healthy living. A partner for accountability, for praise, for motivation, and for advice is an ideal recipe for success. Second, be an encouragement to someone else. I am not talking about nagging someone—I’m referring to building someone up. Give praise. Give a listening ear. Motivate by leading.

Encouragement is an essential part of our lives. Starting from the time we are children, we rely on the adults around us to praise us when we do well and motivate us when we are struggling. As adults, encouragement doesn’t always come falling down upon us, however. More likely we hear our faults before we hear about our achievements from others. When encouragement is steady in our lives, we have a distinct advantage in achieving our goals.

The neat part of encouragement is that when we encourage others, often we are encouraged as well. It makes others feel good and believe in good things—it makes us feel good and believe in good things too.

Monday, May 24, 2010

D is for Diet

Diet: \ˈdī-ət\ (noun) 1. food and drink regularly provided or consumed 2. habitual nourishment 3. the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason 4. a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight

When considering diet using the first definition, you could say that everyone is on a diet. I have a family member who likes to joke that he is on a seafood diet—he sees food, he eats it. But which of the four definitions above truly comes to mind when you think of a diet? I’d say it is probably number 4.

There are scads and scads of books on dieting—low-carb, no-carb, low fat, no fat, nothing but cabbage soup, the baby food diet, Slimfast, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Zone, Blood Type, Atkins…shall I go on?

There are diets that are unhealthy if one were to make them a lifestyle, but are they bad for a short-term weightloss program? As many diets are out there, there are equally many philosophies on how various diets affect people. It’s probably a guarantee that if a particular diet becomes popular, a resistance to that diet will also become popular.

Here is my philosophy on diets, for what it’s worth among the millions of philosophies: Dieting is okay for a short period of time for the purpose of weightloss and long-term health. A diet should be chosen on an individual basis because every body is different.

As soon as the short-term diet is over, a person should immediately find a healthy way of eating that will keep them healthy long-term. If a person finds they gain their weight back after a diet, it’s time to reevaluate the purpose of the diet and determine if other internal issues, besides the simple nutrition and exercise, need to be worked on.

Friday, May 21, 2010

C is for Chocolate

Chocolate is good for you—mostly because it contains anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants help protect us from damage to the heart and blood vessels. They also guard our DNA from damage that can lead to cancer.

While rich desserts may contain these anti-oxidants, the fat and sugar involved will do much more damage than the good if it is consumed too often. The more sugar and fat that is added to chocolate, the less healthy it becomes. Therefore, the best kind of chocolate is the dark chocolate, which has more cacao and less of the fats and sugars.

Below is a recipe calling for a small amount of dark chocolate, making it an ideal dessert while still being healthy. It’s simple and quick.

Start with a cup of fresh fruit. I prefer raspberries, but strawberries and peaches work as well. Take one tablespoon of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips and melt in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Pour melted chocolate over the fruit and you have an easy, healthy, and tasty dessert.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

B is for Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is one of my favorite foods. It makes a delicious meal, whether sautéed, pureed for soup, or baked.

Butternut squash is filling. For someone who tends to feel unsatisfied with smaller portions, it’s the perfect option. It’s a comfort food to beat all comfort foods: it has a creamy texture, a nutty and buttery taste (just where do you think it gets its name?), and it’s warm and thick.

Don’t forget the best part—it’s low in calories and fat! In fact, one cup contains a measly 82 calories and 0 grams of fat. It’s also a great source for vitamin A and vitamin C. It has a very low glycemic index, so it will help keep the carbohydrate cravings in check.

While May is hardly the season for this fantastic fruit, butternut squash is such a favorite I simply could not write an article starting with B without celebrating its existence. Incidentally, May is a wonderful time to place butternut squash seeds directly into the ground. Come November, you’ll be very glad you did!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A is for Apple

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the old saying goes. Below are interesting facts about apples and why they are so good for you.

Ways apples help keep a person healthy
Bone Protection
Asthma Help
Alzheimer's Prevention
Lower Cholesterol
Lung Cancer Prevention
Breast Cancer Prevention
Colon Cancer Prevention
Liver Cancer Prevention
Diabetes Management
Weight Loss

Other interesting fact about apples
The average person eats 65 apples per year.
Apples float because 25% of their volume is air.
The largest apple ever picked weighed three pounds, two ounces.
One medium apple contains about 80 calories.
The skin contains more antioxidants and fiber than the flesh.
Red Delicious is the most popular of 2500 varieties of apples produced in the U.S.
The only apple native to North America is the crabapple.
Half the U.S.’s apple crop is turned into apple products like applesauce and apple juice.

(Information taken from healthdiaries.com)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Doubtful Diet Drink

There was an article recently in Consumer Reports that told of a woman who visited a regional coffee shop and found the drink of her dreams—the Lite White Berry, an “indulgence without the guilt.” It was lite and delicious! It was so good, in fact, that she returned every day to order her new drink.

Then reality hit. She was shocked to discover that she gained ten pounds in a month! After looking up the drink’s nutritional data online, she discovered that each time she drank her guiltless indulgence, it had cost her 520 calories and 32 grams of fat. "When I found this out, I cried," she wrote. "Then I got angry.”

Trusting a restaurant to tell us what is good and nutritious for us is like trusting a car salesperson to give us a good deal because their worried about our budget. Not all businesses are as sneaky as this coffee shop, but they are in the business of selling, not looking out for people’s health. The only person who can really look out for my personal health is myself.

The lesson is this: Look at the numbers, not the catchy name or product description. Names are meant to sell the product, while nutrition data tells the objective truth. Additionally, if it seems too good to be true, it likely is! Something that tastes like it contains 500 calories probably does.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Healthy Vacation

Jay and I recently went on a vacation with our two young children. In some ways, vacationing with small children isn’t really a vacation at all—it’s more of a full-time job in a beautiful place. But my husband was there to help and we had a very nice, laid-back trip.

We are not big-city vacationers. The place we went was small and there wasn’t a restaurant chain within 40 miles. We were renting a house with a kitchen, so one of the first stops we made was to the Cookie Crock Grocery. Prices were not as exorbitant as you might imagine. We were able to stock up on fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, and whole wheat bread. Though we did dine out a couple of times during our stay, our favorite meals were the ones we bar-b-qued from our ocean-view deck.

Although there were plenty of places we could have toured, we did not sight-see famous landmarks or book a reservation for a marine excursion. Maybe when the kids are older. Instead, we took long walks along the scenic coastline, made several trips to the sandy beach, and spent a lot of time at an oceanside kids’ park.

Sometimes it’s those simple vacations that are the best. I returned home feeling healthier and more relaxed than when I left. After all, isn’t that the point of a vacation?

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Time Away

This week I am enjoying time away with my family at the beautiful California coast. The weather has been a little chilly and gorgeous.

As always, vacation means eating differently than normal. Next week I'll post ideas of ways to stay healthy on vacation.

Still, it's never a bad thing to enjoy something extra and sweet now and then. I can't think of a better time to enjoy the frosting on the cake than during vacation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Foods

White Pita Pizzas
“Offering the perfect blend of gooey cheese and garlic, these white pizzas are so quick to prepare, you can have them out of the oven faster than a delivery driver could knock at your door.”

Ingredients
2 whole wheat pitas, split horizontally into 2 halves each
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pesto

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Place the pita halves on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and garlic in a bowl. Spread 1/4 over each pita. Spread 1 tablespoon of the pesto over the cheese on each pita. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Calories: 264
(www.recipes.prevention.com)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Alternatives to Food

As mentioned yesterday, food does more than fuel our bodies—it dominates our world. Food is a wonderful thing, but we don’t have to be held captive by it. There are other ways to celebrate, other ways to reward ourselves and our kids, and other ways to find enjoyment.

Comfort. The best way to comfort anyone is with physical touch—hugs, hand-squeezes, kisses, even tickling. Another way to comfort a child is to distract them from the problem. When Eden gets hurt, I try to find an activity that she enjoys that will pull her mind away from her hurt. The same works for us adults—and the distraction doesn’t have to be food.

Reward. While food can be an easy form of reward, there are many other ways to applaud an accomplishment. For kids, a sticker chart, a ride on the carousel at the mall, verbal praise, and a trip to the park are just a few ideas. For adults, we can reward ourselves by pampering ourselves. A bubble bath, a pedicure, new clothes, and an evening doing our favorite leisure activity are a few ideas.

Entertainment. There are many entertaining activities that do not require food. In fact, when you really get absorbed in a fun hobby, it’s often hard to remember to eat! Hiking, skiing, reading a book, bowling, scrapbooking, gardening…the list is endless. The best way to avoid eating for entertainment is to find an activity that requires your hands and other body movement. Food probably won’t be needed at all—except for fuel!

Celebrations and holidays. Food might be expected at special occasions, but food doesn’t have to be high in fat and calories. Part of the enjoyment of food is the preparation. Spending time cooking and baking can be enjoyable, can make the day extra special, and can still be healthy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Purpose of Food

I’ve heard it said that food is just fuel for your body and nothing more. What? I don’t believe it. If food were just fuel, I’d be eating the same thing every day, every meal. Food is more than just fuel. Food is integrated into almost every special event in our lives. It’s is memorable. It’s essential.

Food is comfort. When my daughter Eden bumps her head or stubs her toe, what do I give her to sooth her and stop her cries? Usually milk. Eating for comfort is something that has been ingrained into us since the time we were kids. When I feel down, I reach for food.

Food is a reward. How many times have I told Eden that she won’t get that special treat if she’s not good? When she does something right, we often give her a jelly bean. Food as positive reinforcement can be very effective. When we finish a tough work week or a college paper, we want a reward—usually food! No wonder I want to go out for ice cream as a reward when I’ve lost five pounds.

Food is entertainment. Can you imagine a holiday with no food? Food provides a luxurious, indulgent activity that few other entertainments can rival. Vacations and holidays are filled with lots of food because those are the times we allow ourselves the most entertainment.

Food is a celebration. We have all been to countless weddings and parties celebrating birthdays, graduations, and retirements. These celebrations have one thing in common. And it’s not a jump tank or free hot air balloon rides. It’s food! Anything else at a party is just icing on the cake.

I wonder how many events we could plan and omit the food. Would anyone come? How about the rewards? Are there alternate forms of celebrations that could compete with food?

Think about it. I’m interested in ideas for parties that might get the mind off food. I want alternatives for rewards that work effectively for my daughter. I want an inexpensive entertainment that doesn’t involve hundreds of calories. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

10 tips that will keep your metabolism high

Eating frequently: Eating small amounts of food works the body, which burns more fat.

Drink a moderate amount of caffeine: Caffeine can stimulate the metabolism to burn 98-174 ore calories a day.

Eat whole grains: Some fiber can increase your fat-burn by 30%.

Drink your water with ice: Cold water can raise your metabolism enough to burn 50 more calories a day.

Avoid additives in your food: Pesticides have been found to cause a dip in metabolism and increase weight gain.

Eat enough protein: Protein consumption maintains the body’s lean muscle, which will burn more fat and calories daily.

Eat iron-rich foods: Iron feeds oxygen to the muscles and helps maintain a high metabolism.

Consume enough vitamin D: This vitamin preserves metabolism-revving muscle tissue.

Don’t drink alcohol: When you have a drink, you burn less fat, and more slowly than usual. The equivalent of about two martinis can reduce your body's fat-burning ability by up to 73%.

Drink milk: Calcium deficiency can slow metabolism.

Information is from Prevention.com

Monday, May 3, 2010

Regret

We all make mistakes—a moment of oops! I’m talking about the mistakes that mess up our healthy life-style. Mistakes like diving into the bag of chips or eating ten pieces of chocolate too many. We all fail to meet our own expectations at some point.

The most dangerous part of an oops moment is not the mistake itself, but the regret that comes from it. Regret can be powerful—in a negative way. Regret can make us discouraged, make us want to give up, and take away the hope and belief that we can actually succeed.

Battling through regret can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Regret is like any other obstacle—it takes determination and resilience to work through it.

Of course, one way to fight regret is to avoid it altogether. When faced with any temptation, we all get some form of pre-regret. Pre-regret is what I call the warning signals our mind gives us when telling us not to do something. Don’t eat that cookie, it’s loaded with sugar and fat or you don’t really need the extra portion at dinner. If we listen to our pre-regret, we will probably never have to deal with post-regret.

Post-regret is always louder and stronger. It eats at us. It nags. It plays over and over in our minds. Why is it so much harder to ignore our post-regret than our pre-regret?

I believe it’s possible to make the post-regret voice duller. We can choose to ignore it. Is it helping us succeed? The only time we should listen to the post-regret is when it is motivating us to listen to our pre-regret voice.

It’s also possible to train ourselves to sharpen the pre-regret voice. We can listen to it. Give it value and respect. It may be hard to hear it because we have chosen to ignore for years, but it’s still there, speaking quietly and faithfully to our good sense.