Woman having lunch

Meal Prep Is Not Just For Dieters

Ask most people what they are planning to do for dinner tonight and they night say, “I’m planning on ordering pizza.”

“What’s wrong with pizza?” you ask, “Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants, the cheese has source of calcium and the toppings can have a variety of health benefits.’

Well, you have a point. But have you ever looked behind the scenes at a pizza place? Unless it specifies otherwise, your favorite pizza kitchen may be making using ingredients that you ordinarily would not think of consuming, such as fatty oil and whole milk cheeses. Not that we don’t love them, but we don’t always know if Big Mama and Big Papa have your best health options in mind. They are not necessarily thinking about portion control in mind when they’re heaping that cheese on. And pizza is a relatively harmless choice. I don’t even think I have to warn you about what is in a lot of the fast food burgers. The only way you can really guarantee that you know what’s in the food you eat is to make it yourself. “Make it myself?”, you say, “you mean, shop for ingredients and actually cook them? I don’t have the time or energy.” Well. welcome to meal prep 101.

Why Should I Prep my Meals?

  1. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat on the spot. Have you ever been here? You’re working late at the office. You’re on a tight deadline. Mike, your boss, is talking about getting some Macdonalds. You would rather die. What do you do? You don’t want to be responsible for the project not being done on time because you were too much of a diva to eat a Big Mac. The solution? You whip out your tupperware container with your healthy premade meal and are halfway through it when Mike gets back with his suspicious smelling bags.
  2. It saves you money. When you buy preprepared food, your’e paying for the preparation. If you’re buying from a food truck, your’e helping them pay for the upkeep of the truck; in a restaurant, you are paying for their waitstaff ,rent, and electricity bills. When you start to do the work yourself, you cut out a lot of expenses.

Basic Tips

1. Plan your meals to contain one protein, one starch and one vegetable. Make a list of acceptable alternatives. For example:

  • Protein Options: Boneless skinless chicken breast, ground turkey, fish, avocado
  • Starch Options: Sweet potato, pasta,rice
  • Veggie Options; Spinach, green beans, peppers, tomato (choices may vary)

2. Set aside a day for shopping

3. Peel, chop and cut all veggies and fruit for the week so they are ready to grab for a snack or to add to your lunch box.

4. Prep your protein and meat: Keep meat preparation down to a minimum. Use seasonings instead of a marinade or make a huge quantity of different types of marinated turkey or chicken at once and freeze them. You can use them in tacos or throw them in a salad. Hard boil eggs. Make homemade burgers and freeze them.

Think you can handle it? It may seem a like a lot of work at first, but you will be the epitome of cool when it comes to meal time, and you won’t have to worry about asking the waitress to put the dressing on the side.

Happy woman with outstretched arms outside

Moving, Eating, Being, Thinking

Happiness finally seems to be getting a fair shake.  Didn’t it seem like years ago, we thought that anything that made us happy couldn’t possibly be good for us?  Weren’t we brought up on sayings like, “If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t working”, or “It’s not love if it doesn’t hurt.”  Isn’t it time that we bring an end to this self punishing philosophy?  Isn’t it time we admitted that some things that we like can be good for us?  Aren’t we tired of being miserable?  (Cue shouts of, “Go, girl” and “Amen!’)

It seems like its getting more and more obvious that we don’t always have to suffer and deprive ourselves to reach our goals.  Happiness may not pay the bills, but it seems like it could take us into a ripe old age.  Here’s to being happy and healthy!

Eating
Eat fewer calories, but more food.  That sounds like happiness to me!) Load on the greens and the beans.  Take a second helping of (fresh fruit.  Skip the burgers and cream sauce and pile on the whole grains.  You’ll end up with less calories, more antioxidants and longer, happier lives. Dr. Bradley Wilcox of the Pacific Health Institute in Honolulu says, “People in Okimawa eat more food by weight than people who eat a Western style diet.” The result?  Their risk for dementia, heart attacks, strokes and cancer are among the lowest in the world.

Woman exercising

Moving
Exercise can help to give you better quality of life and slow down the aging process.  In fact, you don’t even have to work that hard! (Happy now?)  A University of Florida study showed that healthy people aged 65 to 85 who did low intensity exercises had a drop in free radical damage while high intensity exercisers had a slight increase! For protecting the heart and arteries, just walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes a day, along with resistance training and aerobic exercise can do the trick.

Being
Find something interesting to do.  So, admit it.  We all love to relax.  We love to sit back and watch the tube and put our feet up. Well, that may sound appetizing, but if you’re better off doing something slightly more meaningful. People who pursue their interests develop better coping mechanisms and tend to be more optimistic and live longer.

Also, connect with friends and family.  Science journal prove that having friends changes the biochemistry of the brain and strengthen immunity.  Being alone, causes the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol to rise which can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and sleep problems.  BTW:  Marriage can add seven years to a man’s life and three to a woman’s.  Can’t live with ’em?  Pets can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

Woman solving a crossword

Thinking
Just like our bodies, our brain needs exercise to stay healthy.  Reading, doing crossword puzzles and writing are all ways of lowering risk of mental decline.  Also, it has been proven that using your brain can actually up your “cognitive reserve.”  That means that you get a kind of bonus of extra neurons and pathways in your brain that make them function longer.  Our brain muscles are just like all the other muscles in our bodies; the more we use them, the healthier and more flexible they’ll be! So be happy, live healthy and be your best, most beautiful self!  Cheers!

Woman drinking tea

There's a Tea For That

You decide to do the afternoon date. You’re really not that sure about this guy, or gal, so you want to meet at a neutral place.  You decide that no alcohol should be involved and that this not to be an expensive place.  A costly dinner may leave you feeling beholden to him/her and you want to be prepared to split the check if necessary.  He/she suggests a trendy tea house in your neighborhood. You will meet there.

You arrive at the place.  He/she asks you what you would like. You look up at the menu and are horrified.  There are at least 50  different brands of tea and you haven’t heard of half of them.  What do you do?  If you order the plain tea, will you appear too boring, not enough of a risk taker, or should you order something you never heard of? Will he/she think you want to dive into bed with him/her If you order something too exotic? What will your tea say about you? What if you order something you hate  and have to “accidentally” spill it when he/she goes to the restroom?  Well, have no fear.  Here is a small guide to the different types of tea and their benefits.

Black Tea
Making up about 75 % of all tea consumption, black tea is made from the leaves of the”camellia sinensis” plant, which are rolled and fermented.  It has a slightly bitter flavor and contains the most caffeine, about 40 mgs a cup. (May not want to have too much on the first date.)  It is packed with antioxidants called theaflavins and thearubigans which can lower cholesterol.  Research shows that drinking three of more cups of black tea will reduce the risk of a stroke by 21%.

Green Tea
Because the leaves used in green tea are heat treated and dried right after they are picked, the fermentation process is halted.  This gives it a more delicate flavor than black tea.  Green tea contains about 25 mgs of caffeine per cup.  Perhaps most commonly associated with health benefits, green tea contains catechins known to ward off everything from cancer to heart disease.  A daily cup can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 10%.

oolong tea

Oolong Tea
Fermented for a shorter time than black tea, oolong tea has a richer taste.  It has about 30 mgs of caffeine per cup and may aid in weight loss and contains an enzyme that dissolves dietary fat.  One study showed that women who drank oolong tea burned slightly more calories over a 2 hr period than those who drank water.  (Got your new workout routine?)

White Tea
White tea has a mild flavor and less caffeine than other varieties, about 15 mgs. It does wonders for the cardiovascular  system, fights cancer and may help people with diabetes, improving glucose tolerance and reducing bad cholesterol.  FYI:  Loose tea may contain more antioxidants than tea in bags.

Flavored Tea
Yum! Flavored tea generally has the health flavors of the others, but if flavored with superfruits, like blueberries (Blueberry tea?  Anyone had this?) may have even more antioxidants.  But, a word to the wise, skip the bottled varieties.  They notoriously contain extra sugar and are watered down, reducing the health benefits.

So, now that you know the skinny, what will you choose?  Which type of tea are you?  Let us know!

Woman eating healthy food

Eating Healthy on 2,500 Calories

Two thousand and five-hundred calories every day might seem like a lot of food (or it might not, it really depends on your mental concepts of such things), but for a respectable portion of the population, it’s actually an appropriate target. Specifically, sedentary men ages 19 to 30, moderately active men ages 31 to 50, active men over 50, and very active women of various ages all may need approximately 2,500 calories in their diet.

But of course, it’s not as simple as calorie-counting, regardless of the target number. Not all calories are created equal, and to eat healthily, you need to balance things properly. Let’s talk about how to do that.

Lean Proteins
Protein is essential for everyone, and lean protein is the best you can get in this regard. On 2,500 calories a day, you need approximately 6.5 ounces of protein a day. An ounce of protein can be found in an ounce of seafood, poultry, lean red meats, an egg, ¼ cup of tofu, ½ an ounce of seeds and/or nuts, and a tablespoon of peanut butter, roughly speaking.

Woman having food rich in fiber.

Lots of Fiber
Also incredibly important is fiber. Following a 2,500 calorie plan, you should get 3 ¼ cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruits a day. Variety is key here, and generally, dark, leafy greens and vibrant red and purple fruits are best. For conversion purposes, half a cup of dried fruit is equal to one cup fresh fruit or fruit juice (no added sugar!), and 2 cups of leafy greens roughly equals one cup of other vegetables

Opt for Healthy Fats
For every source of trans fat and saturated fat, there’s plenty of alternatives. That said, healthy fats are still fats, and shouldn’t be over-consumed regardless. You want about 7 teaspoons of oil a day on a 2,500 plan; any extra is going to interfere with your heart health. Olive oils, coconut oil (in moderation; it is still a saturated fat), and avocado oil are just a few examples of healthier fats.

You Don’t Actually Need Dairy
It’s a common misconception that dairy is a basic food group and essential for good nutrition. This is actually quite false, and humans are not really designed to consume any kind of milk once they stop breastfeeding. That said, we’ve evolved to tolerate dairy, and in moderation, it’s not necessarily harmful (unless you’re lactose-intolerant, of course), so there’s nothing wrong with having a little as a treat now and then, but don’t get tricked into thinking it’s essential.

Soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk are a few examples of tasty non-dairy milk alternatives, and can help you avoid the saturated fats of many dairy products or if you can’t tolerate lactose. Skim milk also features less lactose, which might be okay if your lactose intolerance is mild or moderate (as opposed to severe), and it also, of course, contains less fat.

Baked eggplant with tomato and garlic

Clean Eating Tips

One interesting approach to nutrition that’s rising in popularity recently is called simply “clean eating.” And certainly, if it could help keep you healthy both before and after your wedding day, it’s worth a try, right? Well, we’re here to examine and evaluate this trend to give you the information you need to make healthy choices, and to decide if clean eating is worth pursuing.

But What Is it, Exactly?
Of course, before we can go any further, we need to define what clean eating actually is. In essence, the basic tenets of clean eating are eating five to six times a day (three meals and two to three small snacks), choose organic, clean foods whenever possible, and drink at least two liters of water a day. There are other details, like including lean protein, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate in every meal, but the three pillars of eating five-six times a day, choosing organic food, and drinking two liters of water each day are the basis of this idea. This sounds great in theory, but let’s examine it piece by piece to be sure.

Woman drinking water

Two Liters of Water
This is one realm in which clean eating is a little closer to being on-point, although of course, the truth is more complicated. How much water you should drink actually depends on your weight, location, and activity level. The rule of thumb is that you need between half an ounce and a whole ounce of water per pound you weight, every day. For example, a 150-pound person should drink between 75-150 ounces of water per day. The hotter and more arid your climate, the closer to the upper end of the range you’ll be. Likewise, the more exercise you get, the closer to the top you’ll be.

Eating Five to Six Times a Day
The idea here is that eating more often and in smaller portions is both better for weight loss and healthier in general because you’re spreading out calorie intake throughout the day and keeping your metabolism running smoothly. Sadly, the science does not agree here. Studies actually indicate there is no significant impact whatsoever to the frequency of eating, and that, in fact, eating more often makes you want to eat more.

Avocado sandwich

Organic Foods
Similarly, the need for the foods to be organic (and, by extension, GMO-free) in clean eating is not borne out by actual scientific knowledge. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are largely a positive development, and allow crops to be fortified with necessary nutrients, more reliably protected from diseases, and be produced more cheaply. On the other hand, organic growing is volatile and has a huge chance of failure or of infested crops, because of the restrictions on pesticide use that organic growing entails. In short, while there are some legitimate concerns with the agricultural industry, organic food is not the answer and generally has no benefit to your health.

All that said, this one is pretty close to the mark. The majority of the other tenets of clean eating are highly questionable, though. Just eat a healthy, varied diet, with proteins, simple and complex carbohydrates, fruits, and lots of leafy greens and other vegetables, and you should be fine.

Woman measuring waist with tape measure

Pre-Wedding Weight Loss Tips

It’s easy to get caught up in all the glamor, perfectionism, and stress tied to a wedding ceremony, and it’s easy to fixate on how many eyes will be on you, how there will be no way to prevent them from seeing your “bad” side, etc, etc, etc.

Try not to focus on all that too much. There are better reasons to want to revamp your diet and exercise, like staying healthy and starting positive life habits now that can last the rest of your life, and make your marriage happier and healthier too.

So let’s talk about pre-wedding health ideas, including but not limited to weight loss.

Reconsider Your Diet
No, we don’t mean that kind of diet, but rather the literal meaning of the word “diet,” which is quite simply, what you eat. Strict diets are very rarely a good idea. Instead, just try to eat plenty of dark, leafy greens and some fruits, and make sure you get complex carbohydrates, not just simple ones. Lean protein is also desirable in moderation, and limit your high-fat, high-sodium, high-carb snacks. Don’t cut them out entirely, just indulge sparingly, maybe a small portion a couple times a day at most. And that bag of potato chips? Don’t take the whole bag with you to the bedroom to snack, pour a small amount into a bowl to regulate yourself.

Further, keep water handy all the time and sip whenever thirsty. Monitoring how much you drink isn’t actually necessary as long as you keep it close by at all times, meaning when you feel the need to take a sip, you can. That makes a huge difference in preventing dehydration.

Cardio

Start a Cardio Routine
It’s recommended you get 20 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day, or at least several times a week. We recommend aiming for 20 minutes a day for three days a week, with the eventual goal of reaching a half-hour of exercise five times a week (though it is worthy of note, cardio, unlike weight training, is safe to do seven days a week if you want to). Every week, add a day, or five minutes, or both, until you hit the target of 30 minutes five days a week.

The possibilities here are nearly endless. Jog around the block, use a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or other cardio machine, go for a bike ride, swim laps, take up a martial art, there’s so many ways to go about it. Pick the one that suits you best and stick with it!

Remember to Love Yourself
Last, but most definitely not least, don’t forget to love yourself. This is more important than anything else, to be perfectly honest, because if you love yourself and cultivate your inner beauty, it can take a huge load of stress away from the need for everything to be “perfect.” You WILL look great in that dress no matter your shape, size, or weight, and anyone who disagrees can shove it, so focus less on meeting a socially imposed standard of beauty and perfection, and focus instead on loving yourself. With your wedding day coming up, it’s important to realize that loving yourself is just as important as loving others, and while you and your spouse may love each other to death, loving yourself is equally necessary.

Salad

Meatless Monday

When it comes to dieting, it can be frustrating and overwhelming to figure out what works for you. Elimination diets are extremely popular, but when not done carefully, they can actually be detrimental to your health. If you have ever thought about trying a vegetarian diet, but aren’t quite sure if you can commit to the total elimination of meat, try easy into it. Meatless Monday is not a new phenomenon, but it can be a refreshing way to change your diet in a way that you can really stick to! Why go meatless?

It’s Good for the Environment
Cutting down on the amount of meat you eat, even when it is only one day each week, can actually help the environment. Relying a little less on meat will cut down on how much water is used to make the food you buy. You will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If more and more people start embracing meatless Monday, it could make a real difference!

It’s Good for Your Health
Replacing a fatty protein with a lean protein once, or a few times, a week is going to help you lose weight, and it is better for your heart. Practicing meatless Monday is said to help you live longer because you get some of the benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, but putting less pressure on yourself to majorly restrict your diet right away is a huge benefit. It is really difficult for most people to cut out meat entirely right away, so joining meatless Mondays makes it really easy to stick to your plan, and a lot of people are trying it, so you aren’t alone!

Easy Way to Mix Up Your Menu
It’s very easy, but never fun, to fall into a repetitive, mundane rut when it comes to food. It can become difficult to come up with affordable, easy to cook options that you have the energy to make after work. Increasing the number of veggies you eat can really help get you out of your rut! There are tons of recipes out there that involve spicing up vegetables to create a filling, flavorful meal.

Dedicating one day a week to try out a vegetarian diet has many benefits. Just make sure you are planning your menu carefully so you aren’t cutting out protein with the meat! It’s easy to get enough protein as a vegetarian, but if you are trying it out for a day, don’t forget to add it to your meals!

Woman making a smoothie

Four Components of a Healthy Lifestyle

The word “healthy” gets tossed around a lot, and carries connotations of salads, treadmills, and so-called “health foods” or “superfoods” (many of which are called such by rather spurious allegations). But what does it actually mean?

Merriam Webster defines the word “healthy” as “good for your health,” but that’s also pretty vague. What’s generally meant in common parlance when something is called “healthy” is that it will be conducive to your body functioning efficiently and as it was meant to. Things that are healthy are part of a greater picture of being healthy, which means keeping your body running smoothly with few problems or complications, and in the long term, means keeping your body going for a long, happy life.

But how to accomplish this? There’s so much information, misinformation, conflicting information, good information, bad information, spurious information, questionable but maybe good information…you get the idea. There are a lot of ideas out there on what is and isn’t healthy, but rest easy, because it’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. In fact, there are four habits in particular that, if cultivated, will have you living and feeling healthy, and they’re not that hard.

Woman smoking

First, Don’t Smoke
Or, if you’re currently a smoker, quit. Seriously, you need to quit. Don’t just move to e-cigarettes, stop consuming anything with nicotine in it entirely (using an e-cigarette to vape nicotine-free flavored water is okay). Cigarettes are of course the worst offender because you get awful things like tar and fiberglass in your lungs in addition to nicotine, but even though e-cigarettes dispose of those additives, nicotine is still really harmful to your health. If you want to live a long, healthy life without serious complications, and to have nice skin, you need to work on quitting. We know it’s hard, but you can do it.

Next, Eat Well
An ideal and healthful diet includes lots of dark, leafy greens, some fruits, a good source of protein, but not too much, never too much meat (a little is okay), and plenty of fiber, among other things. A daily multivitamin is also recommended. Minimize junk foods high in saturated fats, and avoid trans fats like the plague, except as a VERY occasional treat, at most. Limit sugar consumption and don’t overdo it on caffeine (some caffeine is okay, but don’t exceed about 400 mg, which translates to 3-5 cups of coffee a day, depending on the variety).

Woman exercising

Third, Exercise Moderately
You don’t want to overdo it, as that can have its own negative repercussions, but a vigorous cardiovascular activity that raises your heart rate substantially for around a half-hour a day is ideal. Strength training is fine (but be careful!) if you want to, but not necessary for good health.

Finally, Keep Your Body Fat Percentage in Check
This is one to talk to your doctor about to get more specifics and advice. Generally, if you’re following the above three rules, you’re probably fine, but it’s good to check just to be sure. Body fat percentage is a much more reliable measure of overall physical health than BMI, because its measures how much of your body is fat, as opposed to a highly fallible ratio of height to weight. If your BMI is too high or too low, ask your doctor about ways to get it back on track.

Woman enjoying the sun in the grass

One a Day for Health

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We have all heard the phrase, and we know it’s about more than just apples! Making healthy choices every day can be hard, but consistently doing things each day to make healthy habits is the best thing you can do for your physical and mental health. There are all kinds of little things you can do each day to help you lead a healthier lifestyle!

Woman drinking water

Drink Water!
Whether you think 8 cups, a gallon, or some other amount is best, drinking one glass of water in the morning is a perfectly simple way to get ahead for the day. Whatever your goal is, starting your day with one glass of water down is going to make it so much easy to reach it!

Start Your Day with Green Tea
Green tea has caffeine, so it is a great choice for a morning pick-me-up. Unlike coffee, green tea can actually help you stay hydrated, as well as give you a boost of energy. Green tea also jump starts your metabolism and is rich in antioxidants- who wouldn’t want to add this stuff in their routine?

Woman exercising

Do Something Active for At Least 30 Minutes
This can be anything! Even going for a short walk can boost your energy and metabolism. Doing yoga, going for a bike ride, exploring your neighborhood, or taking a spin class are also great ways to be more active every day. Mix it up and try new things so you stay motivated and excited to get your 30 minutes (or more) of activity every day!

Replace One Unhealthy Food with a Healthy One
Dieting is hard. It’s certainly not fun to always be thinking about what you eat, more specifically what you can’t eat. A simple way to ease into making better diet choices is to simply replace one unhealthy food with something more nutritious each day, and working up from there if you choose. This could be as simple as choosing a good old-fashioned coffee instead of a sugary coffee drink, or skipping the pop tart and opting for a smoothie in the morning. This method keeps dieting from getting overwhelming and breaks it down to each meal or snack. Creating good habits that are satisfying and manageable is really the only way to turn a diet into a lifestyle change.

Woman drinking wine

Drink a Glass of Wine!
This one is our favorite. It is no secret now, after new studies have shown all of the possible benefits of resveratrol, that drinking wine can actually be healthy. This antioxidant just so happens to be found in the skins of red grapes, so when we drink wine, we are getting a healthy dose of resveratrol, which can improve heart health, protect your cells from damaging free radicals, and prevent muscle fatigue!

Making an effort to add healthy habits to your daily routine can work wonders when it comes to improving your overall health. The best part is, as you can tell by this list, not every healthy habit is going to be difficult or unpleasant! Some are downright fun (thank you resveratrol)! So don’t ditch the apples, but there are tons of other little things you can do each day for your health!

Grapes in a vineyard

Organically Grown Grapes and Wine

Organic is one of the major buzzwords right now in all areas of life from products you use in your bathroom right down to your kitchen table. However, the title of organic can be confusing at times, and as a consumer, you want to know what you’re paying for. Although organic wine is not a hugely popular item in the United States, there are many winegrowers that are dedicated to producing organically grown grapes on sustainable vineyards. It would be a natural assumption that organically grown grapes produce organic wine, and if you think this you are right – to an extent. Read below to find out what organically grown grapes are and what types of wine these grapes can produce.

What are Organically Grown Grapes?
Like any other food item, in order for grapes to be labeled as organic, they must be grown in accordance with the principles of organic farming. In conventional wine growing, chemical fertilizers are used to protect the vines and to promote larger yields. The chemicals that are sprayed onto the fruits are also absorbed by the soil and they make their way into the leaves and the grapes being grown, meaning that these chemicals ultimately make it into the wine. Those who support organically grown grapes say that not only do these chemicals destroy the soil and surrounding land, but they also remove some of the very unique and distinct flavors that accompany grapes.

Growing grapes organically provides a unique set of challenges to winemakers. For these growers to be the most successful, they must choose the correct type of wine for the growing environment and region. One of the major concerns in growing organic grapes is the presence of mildew and rot pressures, because grapes affected by these factors will not be able to be used in the production of wine.

What is Organic Wine?
In the most basic definition, organic wine is any wine that is produced using organically grown grapes. However, there are some various legal definitions that can be quite confusing to many consumers. Currently, the only effective preservatives that allow wines to last for substantial periods of time are “non-organic.” This means that a wine can be made from organically grown grapes, but still not be considered an organic wine. The difference between organic and non-organic wines lies in the use of sulfites. Many winemakers use sulfites in very small quantities to preserve the wine and to give it a longer shelf life, but a true organic wine in the United States may not contain any added sulfites. If a wine has added sulfites, but is produced using grapes that have been grown organically, then the label may read “wine made from organic grapes.”

Growing grapes organically requires extreme patience, commitment and dedication, and many winemakers are taking up this challenge. Pick up a bottle of organic wine, or wine made from organic grapes and see how you like the taste of grapes produced responsibly and wine made without sulfites.