Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Omega What?

I am sure we have all heard about Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  I wanted to know a little bit more: What are they, Why are they good for you, and What foods contain them?  I did a little research and this is what I found:

Omega 3's are fatty acids necessary for good health but our bodies cannot produce them.  We have to get them from food or supplements.

Omega 3's are good for our bodies for many reasons:
  • Help to reduce inflammation in the body
  • May help lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer
  • Have a crucial role in brain function
  • May reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Lower the amount of cholesterol  in the blood
  • Help prevent cancer cell growth

Fish, plant, and nut oils are the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Here is a list of a few foods which contain Omega 3's:
Flaxseed oil

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Dirty Dozen

There is always a lot of controversy whether you should eat organic or conventional (non-organic)  produce.  I tend to do a little bit of a mix.  Organic foods tend to be a little more expensive so I think it is helpful if you can prioritize which foods you want to buy organic and which foods you can feel safe about buying conventional.

Since we are now in spring  if you can make the time and have the space to plant your own garden, I highly recommend it.  Then you not only reap the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, you know where they are grown, what chemicals are or are not used in the growing process, and you will save money at the supermarket.

If you cannot grow any of your own fruits and veges, check to see if there is a local farmers market in your area or a vegetable coop you can join.  I am a huge supporter of the local farmers market - not only are you usually getting fresher produce you are helping out your local farmers and your local economy. Don't be afraid to ask where their farm is located and how they grow their produce.

Here is The Dirty Dozen (Buy Organic if available)

Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Unhealthy Snacks

I do believe that healthy snacking is an important part of eating a balanced diet.  Eating a healthy snack, like fruit or low fat yogurt, between meals helps to keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day and helps you not to over eat at meal time.

However, unhealthy snacks can cause spikes in your blood sugar, leaving you with that afternoon "crash". Here is a list of a few snacks to avoid:
  1. Doughnuts. High in sugar, trans-fats, and calories doughnuts are not only bad for your waistline, but bad for your energy levels as well. The high sugar content is likely to end in a midday crash. If you crave a doughnut, try a piece of whole-grain toast with 1 TBSP all natural peanut butter.
  2. Soft Drinks. There just isn't anything nutritious about soda, whether it's diet or regular. Don't be fooled because the drink is diet - there is nothing healthy about them and in fact diet drinks can actually make you add on extra pounds!  Instead of a soda, try some sparkling water with lemon, unsweetened tea, or just plain water.
  3.  French Fries: Actually anything fried - from chicken to potatoes to vegetables - should be avoided. Deep-fried foods contain trans fats that are bad for your body. If you want finger foods, opt for carrot sticks, low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks, or grapes.
  4. Chips: Chips of any kind are usually fried so are therefore high in fat and salt.  Instead of chips opt for healthier choices like cut up fruits and veges, apple slices, or a hand full of almonds.  This way you still get the crunch without all the calories.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veges

I feel pretty lucky.  My kids will eat steamed broccoli and carrots at dinner without a fuss.  Now don’t get me wrong, given the choice, French fries would trump the veges any night of the week.  But when it comes to getting them to branch out and try a larger variety of fruits and veges it’s not always an easy job.  So I tried to think of a more creative way to squeeze those important foods into their diet and for me it was  - The Juicer.

First off I will begin by stating that yes a juicer is a pain to put together and to clean.  But every time I start to feel overwhelmed about the entire process I take a look at all of the different fruits and veges I am getting into my kids with no fussing - and the added bonus is that they always ask for more.

I don’t have a secret recipe.  I actually call my juicing technique – The Kitchen Sink.  I try to make sure my refrigerator is stocked full of a large variety of apples, pears, grapes, lemons, grapefruits, carrots, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.  

I find the most effective way to juice is to wash all of your fruits and veges and cut them up into the appropriate size for your juicer before you begin.  Have them all ready to go and then juice away.  The secret I have found is to make sure you include a lot of familiar tasting fruits in with the more “exotic” ones.  For instance, my kids would rarely eat grapefruit, kale or lemons on their own but when juiced with apples, oranges, and grapes, they don’t even know realize they are getting all of the other foods as well.  

My typical juice recipe: 1 red apple, 1 green apple, ½ grapefruit, ½ lemon, large bunch of grapes, large orange, large bunch of spinach or kale, large bunch of salad greens,  3-4 stalks of celery, 2-3 large carrots, 1 pear.  You do not have to use so many different fruits but I figure if I am going to the trouble of getting the juicer out, I want to get the most out of it.  Although I wish I had the time to do this every day, I usually juice for my family 3-4 times a week.  Once you get into the habit, it’s not so daunting, and when I think about all the benefits my family is getting I feel it is worth all of the effort.

Monday, January 24, 2011

5 Healthy Changes You Can Make Today

1. Substitute water for soda.  Add a slice of lemon or lime and you can make it fancy!

2. Use low-fat or skim milk in your latte.   And always skip the whip!

3. Have a small piece of good dark chocolate for dessert.  Make sure it’s over 70% cocoa and then you can throw away your processed cookies and ice cream!

4. Add a 30 minute walk to your day.  There’s still 23 ½ hours left in your day to do everything else on your list!

5.  Add a serving of fruit or veges to every meal.  Try a banana with breakfast, carrot sticks for lunch and fresh berries on your mixed greens with dinner.  It’s that easy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Embrace the New Year

We'll hear it the entire month of January... A New Year - A New You.  So I ask...What makes the idea of a new year fill us with excitement and anticipation of setting new health and fitness goals?    Maybe instead of rolling our eyes at the age old cliche, we should embrace the simple truth in this phrase and look to the new year to set goals not just for a new diet but for an overall healthier lifestyle. 

First, set realistic goals. If are currently not exercising don’t set a goal of running a marathon by the end of the year. Start by adding a short walk into your routine a few times a week and slowly work up to 30 minutes 4-5 times a week.   If your goal is to start running, once you can comfortably walk 30 minutes at a time, add 1-2 minute running breaks into your walk and slowly work up to longer periods of time as you get more comfortable. 

Second, slowly make healthy changes in your diet.  A complete pantry overhaul may be what you need but to keep your family from thinking you have lost your mind...make simple changes one at a time.  For instance, switch from white rice and pastas to brown.  Switch from white bread to wheat and multi-grain varieties.  Be more conscience about the packaged products you are purchasing; if they contain high fructose corn syrup or any kind of hydrogenated oils, put them back on the shelf.  And the most important nutrition goal you can have is to limit your animal protein and start eating a larger variety of fruits and vegetables.

Third, have fun. Try not to look at healthy eating and exercise as a daunting, punishment to endure. Instead, try to turn it into a new way of life – your new and improved lifestyle. Exercise stimulates various brain chemicals, which may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. You'll also look  and feel better when you exercise and eat a healthy diet on a regular basis, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

I admit it!  I am a chocolate lover!  Almost every night after dinner I want just a little something to satisfy my sweet tooth.  Now I think most health professionals (which I am not) would tell me to break the habit and to not eat dessert at all.  Dessert should be a once in a while, special occasion thing.  Well even though I agree with that for the most part – I still have a sweet tooth to satisfy and life is too short!

So what is my compromise? One or two squares of high quality dark chocolate a night.  A few things to note:  true dark chocolate needs to be of high quality and made up of at least 70% cocoa and portion control is the key.  One or two squares at the most. 

Why is dark chocolate healthy?  Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, has been shown to help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels, and can help stimulate endorphin production, which makes us feel happy.

But one thing to remember, eating too much of anything, even healthy dark chocolate, can lead to weight gain which would cancel out any of the health benefits chocolate has to offer.  So go ahead – indulge – but just a little!