5 Small Lifestyle Changes For Better Health……With Lasting Results

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How are your New Year Resolutions going?  Are you still a regular at the gym?  Are you eating healthier?  Are you being more positive and getting your sleep?  If you’re like many, by February, those good intentions for improved health begin to fall by the wayside. Well, all is definitely not lost.  Drastic lifestyle changes may be tempting but can be tough to maintain after a few weeks.  A more realistic approach is to make a few small and easy to follow changes that are more likely to become a part of your daily routine.  These healthy habits add up to a noticeable improvement in your overall health.

1.  DRINK MORE WATER

Water is a necessity for almost every organ in your body to work at his prime level.  It’s also great for beautiful and healthy skin, hair and nails.  To meet the recommended 8 cups of water per day it’s important to track how much you are drinking during a regular day.  If you’re drinking less than 8 (I know I was), try scheduling times to get in the rest.  For example, a glass of water before your morning coffee or tea really kicks off your day and gets your digestion revved up.  Try carrying a refillable water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day.  Often thirst is mistaken for hunger.  Therefore, drinking more water can actually decrease your appetite allowing you to consume less calories…..BONUS!

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Infusing your water with fruit and herbs makes a refreshing and visually appealing drink that’s easy to make in batches and keep on hand.  Make it by soaking the ingredients in a pitcher for 6 hours or overnight.  The longer you soak the ingredients, the stronger the flavor will be.  Cut the fruit into thin slices to expose more surface area to the water to help the flavors meld.  Squeeze the fruit and muddle the herbs to release even more of their flavor directly into the water.

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My favorites fruits include lemons, oranges, strawberries and pineapple.  For herbs I like mint, a pinch of basil, ginger and rosemary.  My favorite veggie infusion is definitely cucumber.

 

2.  EAT WHOLE GRAINS

Whole grains are actually the seeds of the grains.  Wheat, corn and oats are the usual suspects.  They provide fiber, are packed with energy-producing complex carbohydrates and several essential vitamins and minerals.  Refined grains, on the other hand, have been stripped of many nutrients through the milling process.  Also, the healthy outer shells of the seeds have been removed.  Easy changes like eating whole grain bread and pasta and brown rice instead of their white varieties really incorporate whole grains into your diet.  Plus they taste great, really hearty and satisfying.  Here are some of my most favorite whole grains:

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QUINOA (pronounced “keen-wa”).  It’s a versatile, gluten-free whole grain that’s great as a side dish or a main course.  Learn all about it here.

 

 

kale_farro_saladFARRO.  It’s another ancient grain, like quinoa, but it has a more rice-like texture.  It’s a nutritional powerhouse with a unique nutty flavor.  Farro was a mainstay in the diet of ancient Romans.  It is high in fiber and a good source of iron and protein.  It is easily digested making the nutrients easily absorbed into the body.  Try two of my favorite farro recipes here and here.

 

3.  EAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

fruits.jpgOne great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet is by making smoothies for quick energy-rich breakfasts and snacks.  Berries, bananas and citrus fruits are all great smoothie choices but for an extra nutritional boost try adding spinach, kale or cucumbers.  The fruit masks the flavors of the veggies.

If you avoid fruits and veggies because of the prep work they require, try making them more convenient by washing and cutting them up at the beginning of the week and storing them in bulk in airtight containers in the fridge.  veggies.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

4.  EAT HEALTHIER FATS

avocado.2Fat has always been thought of as bad, especially when you’re trying to get healthy.  However, fat is an important part of the diet when it comes from the right sources.  Saturated fats and trans fats are mainly found in cream, butter and processed oils.  They raise cholesterol levels and therefore can increase the risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, come from vegetables and natural oils and are an important source of energy that can actually improve cholesterol levels.  Try replacing butter and fatty red meats with healthier alternatives such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and chicken.   Nuts.jpg

 

 

 

 

5.  EAT LEAN PROTEIN

canstockphoto4433902Lean protein is heart healthy and key for remaining satisfied and energized for long periods of time.  Since protein is vital for building muscle, this nutrient is highly effective when paired with exercise.  Fish, chicken and turkey are great protein choices.  White meat is generally a bit leaner than dark meat and removing the skin can help cut down on calories.  Baked, steamed, roasted and grilled are the healthiest cooking methods for your lean proteins.

There’s no better time than then the present to resolve to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle.  Do you have a positive change that you’ve made to your overall health?  As always, I’d love to hear about it.  Here’s to a healthy and happy 2015……..

The Veggetti Spiral Slicer

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Is the Veggetti Spiral Slicer on your Christmas list?  No you say?  Well, it should be!  This little kitchen gadget may have a very naughty sounding name but it’s definitely on the nice list.  It takes ordinary zucchini, carrots, yellow squash and cucumbers and turns them into beautiful curly noodles and spirals either thin or thick cut.

I have been very impressed with the Veggetti but I’ll admit I haven’t tried any other spiral slicers.  There are several models on the market but the Veggetti was inexpensive, $14.99, and came recommended by my friend who is a true foodie so I knew it must be good!

It did not disappoint.  I’ve made only a couple of dishes so far but both of them have turned out really delicious.  The Veggetti works great and does what it promises.  Take a look for yourself….

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Stay tuned for my zucchini noodle recipes, they’re easy, healthy and really yummy.  I hope Santa puts a Veggetti in your stocking this Christmas.

 

A lime shortage, say it’s not so!!!

 

limes.weddingWhat is with the ridiculous price of limes?  Well, apparently, there’s a lime shortage in the US.  I’m panicked, it’s my very favorite citrus fruit.  I mean, it has so many uses; fish marinade, vinaigrettes, guacamole, flavoring for water and club soda, squeezed on top of my taco and of course, that sweet elixir of life…the Margarita!!!  I mean, lime juice and tequila is as magical a combination as peanut butter and jelly!

Apparently Mexico, the leading producer of limes to the US, has had some flooding due to winter storms.  They have also had a tree disease.  Both of these events have compromised the lime crops.  So with limited production, the price of limes has risen considerably.  Now, limes are in demand in the US and Mexico and the Mexican drug cartel has been hijacking lime trucks at the border.

So, with Cinco de Mayo just days away we will not only celebrate Mexican heritage but also the fact that, if you’re lucky, you’re drinking a Margarita made with fresh squeezed lime juice, not lemon juice!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI truly do love Margaritas.  But I love the good ones, the natural ones with fresh squeezed lime juice, hold the sugary mix PLEASE!!  The photo above is from my wedding.  After the rehearsal dinner my bridesmaids, my Mom and myself juiced limes for a really long time.  The morning of my wedding I made 40 quarts of homemade Margaritas.  We served them during cocktail hour in the ice sculpted lime bowl shown in the picture.  They definitely got the party started!!

I even decorated with limes at the wedding, hundreds of them.

 

Safe cooking temperatures for meat

I am asked frequently to what temperature meat is to be cook to for optimum safety and the removal of harmful bacteria.  I, too, often wonder and second guess myself on this topic.  I certainly hate over-cooking meat but I want to serve safe food to my family.  First and foremost, invest in a simple instant read meat thermometer, it’s an essential kitchen tool.  Secondly, rest time matters.  When meat rests, it can actually increase in temperature up to 30 degrees!!!  I found this shocking,  It has however, explained why my beef often fails to be medium rare and comes out medium to even medium well…not good. I’ve researched and come up with a good, easy to read and complete guide that I’ve included here.  It is from www.foodsafety.gov.  I hope this helps you, as it helped me.

From www.foodsafety.gov

Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Use this chart and a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature. Remember, you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

Why the Rest Time is Important

After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

Category Food Temperature (°F)  Rest Time 
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
Turkey, Chicken 165 None
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb Steaks, roasts, chops 145 3 minutes
Poultry Chicken & Turkey, whole 165 None
Poultry breasts, roasts 165 None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings 165 None
Duck & Goose 165 None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
Pork and Ham Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat) 140 None
Eggs & Egg Dishes Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm None
Egg dishes 160 None
Leftovers & Casseroles Leftovers 165 None
Casseroles 165 None
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque. None
Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells open during cooking. None
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm. None

 

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