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Healthy Traveling Tips

It’s officially summer and many of us—over 36 million Americans—have embraced international travel recently. For students and families in particular, this is the season for exciting adventures overseas. It may not be very glamorous, but, before heading off with passports in hand, how can we ensure the healthiest trip possible?

Your mother was right: plan ahead

  • Check if your health insurance goes beyond the US border. If not, it is easy to purchase a short term travel insurance policy.
  • Find out as much as you can about your destination’s health risks or dangers.
  • Most diseases are preventable. Talk it over with your doctor or see a travel doctor who specializes in such advice.
  • Be certain you have the needed vaccinations and medicines before heading out.
  • Don’t let ....

Culinary Herbs

Like most bright ideas, this one was sparked while sipping a mojito – why am I not growing mint? Well, this “little project” turned into a full-blown garden last year. So my challenge this year is to share with you how to grow some culinary herbs.

Why Growing Herbs at Home is Great…

  • It’s fun. Trust me, the smell of basil straight from the ground will take your mind on a direct flight to southern Italy.
  • It’s economical. How many times have you purchased a ginormous bunch of parsley, only to use a few sprigs? Having live plants means you can take as little (or as much) as you need, when you need it. One $3 basil plant can save you well over $20. You will waste less, and likely will use herbs more frequently since they will always be available.
  • It encourages creativity. When you have an assortment of plants begging to be used, you might take a handful of each and add it to the recipe. You can create endless combinations of herbs and spices to a variety of dishes.
  • It’s easy. Whether you have an amazing boyfriend that will yank rose bushes to make room for your gardening experiment, a balcony that sees the sun, or just a naked windowsill, you really can grow herbs anywhere.

Getting Started…

Spring cleansing - Part 2

 (Read part 1 of this ‘Spring Cleanse' series here for more on how many calories you actually need, how to track your intake, and what you need to know about fluids.)

The Cleanse…

There are thousands of books out there, everything from an intensive fasting period to a detailed 21+ day program. Pick one that seems like it would yield the highest degree of success for you, but remember these basic parameters of all detoxes and cleanses:

  • Don’t go less than 1200 calories a day. (Doing so stimulates a decrease in your metabolism, which unfortunately won’t immediately correct once the cleanse is completed. )
  • Don’t expect more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week. If you see this on the scale, it means you are losing lean muscle mass (not a brilliant idea since this tissue is most metabolically active = your best friend in the battle of the bulge) or you are under-hydrated. The goal is gradual fat loss, hydration maintenance, and preservation of lean muscle mass if you want your results to last.
  • Avoid junk (caffeine, alcohol, sodium, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and refined grains). You want to get the biggest bang for your caloric buck, so opt for whole grains, fruits and vegetables rather than processed food.
  • Assess your tendency for withdrawal. This can be from caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined grains/sugars, or simply the habit of heading for frozen yogurt on weekends.

What you should know about….

  • Caffeine:

Spring cleansing - Part 1

Spring is finally here! Finally, the opportunity to congratulate Seattle for behaving according to season, and enjoy tulips that Dougie in the spring breeze, and the first panic wave reminds you that you’ve got only a few weeks before bikini season (you get the point). Your innocent neurons automatically fire “detox diet’ and “cleanse”. Well, let me warn you that I am not a fan of the “drink maple syrup and eat lemon wedges” diet. Not because nutritionally they are a joke, but if you follow one, you morph into a mix of Tasmanian devil and Garfield, a creature with a short temper, little patience, an appetite with no boundaries, yet profound laziness.

Instead, how about something realistic with sustainable results? Here are tips to clean up your eating behaviors and make sure you are on track to tackle your goals.

Track Your Intake:

Do you know how much calories, fat, sugar, fiber, fluids, etc. you are concerned about, that you are consuming these days? This is where you need to start...

My favorite seed: Quinoa


It’s NOT a grain.

Not related to wheat at all, this nutrition superstar is related to Swiss chard and spinach. Does it really matter to argue about it? No – because typically it can substitute for any grain in a recipe.

This “new” (have you been living under a cheeseburger?) food comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. It is thought to have served as a source of sustained energy for the Incas, and one of the few staple crops that was grown at these altitudes.

It’s pronounced keen-wah

Nutritional highlights

  • Complete protein – meaning that it contains the nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are those nitrogen containing building blocks that form proteins. Over 20 exist, however there are 9 that must be obtained from the diet (your body cannot make them, hence they are “essential”).

    So what is so exciting about this complete protein thing? Typically you need to seek various food groups throughout the day* in order to obtain all nine essential amino acids so your body can form complete proteins. However quinoa delivers all nine within a single bite! Not only is quinoa a complete protein, quinoa is relatively high in protein. One cup cooked provides approximately 8g of protein!

    *Side note - the notion that you must select complementary foods (beans and grains for example) within a single meal is inaccurate; rather you need to seek various complementary foods within a single day.
  • Hypoallergenic – It doesn’t contain gluten, so it serves as a wonderful alternative for people sensitive to gluten or are gluten-intolerant. For a girl like me with a gluten-intolerant gut, this is great news!
  • Headache and cardiovascular benefits:

Focus on the Positive

This February for Heart Health Month, let's focus on the positive.

Too often when discussing eating for heart health we focus on the things we should be decreasing (sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar) rather than focusing on the many positive things we could be adding to our diets.

So what can you add to your food intake for heart health?

We know from national surveys that the majority of Americans are not consuming recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, diary, seafood, and heart healthy oils. This translates to a lack of important nutrients, such as Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and fiber.

Think of one healthful item from each category above that you could add into your diet over the month of February. Here is a list of one of my favorite foods from each category to give you some ideas.

Healthy Highlights of Chocolate

Flip the calendar to February and just like Pavlov’s dogs, you may immediately salivate for dark chocolate, bright red roses and heart shaped everything. You may think that Valentine’s day is a romantic holiday fueled by Victoria’s Secret, florists and chocolatiers, but there is a reason for everyone to celebrate this Heart Healthy Month. For the 40 plus percent of people flying solo this season (the ones that rolled eyes at the heart encircling the 14th on the office calendar), there are reasons why you too should read on and learn of the health highlights of this ‘guilty pleasure’.

First - learning the language of chocolate and discovering the nutrients hidden in this gift from earth can empower you to look beyond the diet taboo and instead intentionally enjoy the benefits chocolate has to offer (perhaps innocently on more than one occasion per year).

Within the fruit pods of the Theobroma cacao tree lie cacao beans, the preliminary form of chocolate harboring the health benefits which transform the reputation of this guilty pleasure into an innocent delight. Cacao refers to the tropical tree (see image below) and bean, and is not to be confused with the term cocoa.

There are approximately 20-60 cacao beans per pod, which are removed from their pods, undergo fermentation and then are dried, roasted, and crushed. The resulting nibs are separated from their shells. You can purchase cacao nibs at natural foods stores (Whole Foods, PCC, Madison Market). These nibs are then ground to extract cocoa butter while producing a brown paste known as chocolate liquor during the extraction process.

When further extraction is performed, the cocoa mass that results can be ground to produce unsweetened cocoa powder. Unsweetened chocolate, the most commonly recognized form of chocolate by consumers, is made by mixing heated chocolate liquor with cocoa butter and sometimes lecithin. Bittersweet, semisweet, or simply sweet chocolate has sugar, vanilla and lecithin added.

Now that you are more fluent in the language of chocolate, you can advance to learn of the nutrients and other components in chocolate contributing to its health benefits.

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