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Healthy Living: Grilled Foil Packets


Grilled Foil PacketsOne of my good friends recently lost about 12 pounds.

I asked him how he did it.

His reply, “I grill pretty much everything. The fat cooks off the food, but the flavor stays in.”

I didn’t run it by a dietitian, but it sounds like pretty good advice to me.

Speaking of the grill and eating healthy, I’ve been pretty obsessed with grill packets lately.

Basically, you take any combination of protein and veggies, wrap them in a foil packet, and grill them! I like doing this with seafood because it cooks up so quickly, but you can do it with chicken, pork or beef. I’d recommend cutting them into chunks or strips, though, to make sure they’re cooked through.

Some healthy combinations I love are salmon with asparagus and lemon, shrimp with bell peppers and lime, chicken with broccoli florets, and seasoned tilapia with zucchini. You can really use any combination.

Here’s the premise:

Choose a protein and some veggies. Toss lightly with extra virgin olive oil, and season with whatever you like. I like lemon pepper seasoning, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, almost all of the McCormick Grill Mates, or just sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The olive oil will help when you remove the food from the foil. Place an individual serving on a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold the foil over the top and side of the dish, leaving a little space. Seal tightly on every end. Grill for several minutes, and then flip (make sure the foil is tightly sealed so nothing leaks and causes a flare-up). Grill until cooked through. Let packets rest before opening them.



Healthy Living: Scream for Ice Cream


Scream for Ice CreamJuly is National Ice Cream Month, and what better way to celebrate than with a big bowl of your favorite flavor?

I grew up firmly a hot fudge girl, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to really love a fruit topping on my ice cream.

Frozen fruit can be used to make a delicious ice cream topping.

You can literally take fresh fruit, like blueberries, sliced peaches, frozen hulled strawberries or chunks of mango, and drop them into a bowl of old-fashioned vanilla (or chocolate, or cookies and cream, or whatever you like!)

You can also make a compote or berry sauce for your favorite flavor! I love mixed berries on top of vanilla with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts.

Fruit Compote

Ingredients:
3 cups frozen fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries or cherries
3 Tbs orange juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp raw sugar

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the mixture bubbles, reduce heat slightly and let the fruit cook down.

Continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes, occasionally smashing the fruit with a spoon as it breaks down.

Remove from heat, and transfer to a clean jar to cool completely. Seal the jar and store in the refrigerator.

Reheat and pour over ice cream.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 22, Calories from Fat: 2, Fat: 0 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1 mg, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 0 g.

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Healthy Living: Dill Cucumber Bites


Dill Cucumber BitesDill is one of those spices that I think is highly underrated.

I remember when we had a guest for dinner who ended up taking over the kitchen (which does not sit well with me, by the way) and coating our beautiful ribeyes with dill.

As much as I didn’t like his interference, it was delicious.

Now, I will admit that I didn’t pursue the use of dried dill on my steaks, but I do use it liberally on salmon, in potato salad and in other savory dishes. Dill has a fresh, earthy flavor that reminds me of clean, summer grasses and bright flavors.

This snack is low in carbs, but it is high in protein and flavor. The fat from the cream cheese keeps you satisfied, and the tomato adds a bright burst of summer flavor.

Dill Cucumber Bites

Ingredients:
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
3/4 cup whipped cream cheese
1 Tbs dried dill
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Whip cream cheese with dried dill. Slice cherry tomatoes into halves. Toss with sea salt and pepper. Place a dollop of dilled cream cheese onto each cucumber round, and top with a cherry tomato half. Chill and serve.

Makes 12.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 20, Calories from Fat: 2, Fat: 0 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 1 mg, Sodium: 80 mg, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Watermelon


WatermelonI bought the cutest, personal-sized watermelon at Brookshire’s today.

Other than tasting great and being easy to handle in a small, personal size, watermelon is a healthy summer fruit and a wonderful option for staying hydrated this summer.

Each bite of watermelon contains about 92 percent water and 6 percent sugar. That’s really not that much sugar, all things considered.

Watermelon has a lot of lycopene, which supports cardiovascular health. You’ll get the most lycopene when the flesh of the watermelon is dark red.

Watermelons also have properties that make them wonderful for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support. They also contain a lot of vitamin C, about 16 percent of the recommended daily value. In addition, vitamins B6 and A are also found in abundance in watermelon. There’s also some potassium, while the fruit is very low in calories and is fat-free.

I love adding a few cubes of frozen watermelon to my water, and then enjoying the cool, refreshing flavor as they chill my water.



Healthy Living: Paddleboarding


Paddleboarding	A few summers ago when we were on our annual beach vacation, my siblings and I rented paddleboards, and we took them out in the Back Bay in Sandbridge, Virginia.

The Back Bay is calm, much calmer than the ocean, for sure. It has ripples and eddies and swells, but nothing like the vigorous waves of the Atlantic. It was the perfect place to learn how to paddleboard. None of us had ever attempted it before.

I’ll tell you that I was nervous. I had no idea how I was going to get from a crouching position to a standing position on the board.

Basically, paddleboarding is as simple as standing on a heavy board similar to a surfboard and paddling to move yourself forward, backward or in a direction with one oar, similar to what you’d use in a rowboat.

My lithe and nimble sisters and sisters-in-law hopped right onto their boards. I took it a little more slowly. You kneel on the board, plant your hands in front of you, lift with your legs into a standing position, and then slowly stand upright. The board is pretty heavy and weighted, so you need less balance than you’d think. That’s not to say you don’t have to stay balanced, but it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined.

We headed out into the open water with the breezes at our back and the smell of ocean air wafting over the sea grasses. We paddled out to a duck blind, circled it and raced around it. We all had the hang of the boards.

Paddleboarding builds great core strength. You need it to maintain balance. It also works your legs because you are also using them to stay erect and your arms as you paddle.

To me, it was a great way to relax and get exercise at the same time. The water is my happy place, so the serenity and stillness of gliding through the water was good for the body and soul.

After about two hours, we were worn out but not tired enough for my sister-in-law, a devout yogi, to execute a backbend and handstand on her board.

I stuck to standing without falling.

So many lakes and rivers have paddleboards for rent now. Try it today! I recommend it for any skill or fitness level or age (as long as you’re a proficient swimmer). Always wear your life vest!



Healthy Living: June is National Dairy Month


June is National Dairy MonthThe slogan “Milk, It Does A Body Good” has been around for a long time for a good reason: Dairy does your body good!

Not just milk but yogurt, cheeses and other dairy products are also essential for strong bones, great teeth and good gut health.

Dairy products provide you with calcium, which (when consumed in a dairy product) is easily processed by the body. Dairy projects also provide you with vitamin D and protein, both essential for strong bones and muscles.

Cultured dairy products, like yogurt, infuse your system with probiotics that are essential for good gut health.

Dairy products are also a good source of potassium, vitamin D and iron.

Simply put, dairy is good for every part of your body!



Healthy Living: Kids’ Summer Breakfasts


Kids’ Summer BreakfastsSummers can be tough.

I still have to go to work, but my kids don’t have to go to school.

They’ve hit the age where they’re old enough not to need summer day camp, so they stay home during the day. They spend their hours running or biking (being certain to text me before they leave and as soon as they get home), working through the job list I leave every morning, playing outside with the kids down the street, and probably playing too many video games, truth be told.

I can’t always control what they do during the day, but I can make sure they have a good breakfast to start the day.

They are often still asleep when I leave, so I make sure to stock up on things they can prepare themselves that will give them energy and nutrition to have a great summer.

Some of those things include whole grain Bagel Thins with peanut butter, Greek yogurt with diced fruit and granola, homemade breakfast burritos (if you wrap them in foil, they stay warm for a pretty long time), homemade sausage rolls (same foil trick applies) and all kinds of fruit bars.

These are their favorite.

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients:
For the strawberry bars:
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbs sugar, divided
10 oz fresh strawberries, chopped

For the glaze: (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides.

Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Swirl in the melted butter, and stir until it forms crumbs and the dry ingredients are moistened. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. Press the rest into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

Spread about 1/2 the strawberries over the crust. Sprinkle with the cornstarch, lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Top with remaining berries and the remaining sugar. Spread the topping crumbs over the strawberries. It’s fine to have fruit showing through.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the fruit bubbles and topping is golden. Cool completely.

For the topping, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk; whisk until smooth. Add more milk if you want the glaze to have a thinner consistency. Drizzle bars with glaze. Slice and serve.

Makes 16

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 115, Calories from Fat: 43, Fat: 5 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 12 mg, Sodium: 68 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Sunscreen


SunscreenIf you’ve ever read the famous newspaper column or heard the song, for that matter, you know that if you learn one thing in life, it’s to always wear sunscreen.

Sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, thus greatly reducing your chances of skin cancer.

When should you wear sunscreen?

That’s easy: at all times.

Really? Even during the winter months or on cloudy days?

You betcha.

Your skin can still be damaged on a winter or dreary day. Trust me; I’ve gotten sunburned in February.

Look for a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or higher. The number means the amount of time you should be protected from the sun versus not wearing any at all. For instance, if you apply an SPF 30, you should be protected 30 times longer than you would be without sunscreen, in theory.

In reality, sunscreen itself can only work up to a certain amount. If you’re going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, consider putting on long-sleeves, and covering your legs and your head with a hat, which will protect your face. Don’t forget your ears. Spray them liberally with sunscreen to prevent them from burning.

If you’re on the beach, outside at a festival or sporting event, or doing other outdoor activities, you’ll want to reapply about two ounces of sunscreen every 90 minutes, more if you’re swimming or sweating heavily.

Apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before going outside. Don’t forget your lips! Buy a lip balm with a high SPF rating and reapply frequently. If you’re outside, store sunscreen in a cooler bag to keep it from melting and making a mess during frequent use.

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Healthy Living: 100-Mile Challenge


100-Mile ChallengeSummer vacation is almost here for area students, and you know what that means: sleeping late, no school lunches to fix and a lot of lazy days sitting around not doing much of anything aside from playing video games.

At least, that’s how it tends to go in our house.

My sons are old enough that they’ve aged out of summer day camps and activities like that, but they’re not old enough for summer jobs. Two summers ago, they devised their own plan that would keep them active, give them something to do each day, and give them a goal to work toward. They called it the “100-Mile Challenge.”

The point was to travel 100 miles by the end of summer vacation, either by walking, running, jogging or riding their bikes. We clocked off a 2.1-mile loop in our neighborhood, one I felt safe enough letting them do without me. It didn’t involve any main roads and stuck to the neighborhood. While it still made me a little nervous, (because let’s face it, in this day and age you can’t be too careful) the benefits seemed to outweigh the risks.

Most days, I’d say at least five a week, they’d embark on their 2.1-mile jaunt. If they were riding their bikes, they’d generally do the “loop” twice for 4.2 miles. Keeping this pace, they were each able to hit 100 miles the week before school started again.

They loved the competition (truth be told, my younger son finished his 100 miles before his older brother). They also stayed in shape and had some fun. They quickly learned that in the heat of the summer, they’d better pry themselves out of bed at a reasonable hour before it got too hot to run. My older son realized that he needed to stay in shape all year, not just the summer, to keep up with his brother who plays soccer 11 months out of the year. They both learned that cross-training, combining the bike with running, was the smart way to use different muscles and combat fatigue.

Plus, they just had fun.

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Healthy Living: Steel-Cut Oats


Steel-Cut OatsSteel-cut oats are like regular oatmeal but cut with steel.

Also, not really.

Okay, so they might be cut with steel, but that’s not why they’re called “steel-cut” oats.

Steel-cut oats are actually whole oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces. What’s a “groat,” you ask? The whole hull of an oat. So, steel-cut oats differ from rolled or old-fashioned oats simply in that they are not pressed into a round shape.

In a side-by-side comparison of steel-cut oats to rolled oats, steel-cut oats have 20 fewer calories per 1/4 cup, but they are completely equal in protein and carbohydrates. Steel-cut oats have no sugar, compared to 1 gram for rolled oats. They have identical amounts of fat, calcium and iron.

The point of steel-cut oats, really, is that they are less-processed. However, to get the health benefits, be sure to buy them without all the sugary mix-ins like flavorings and sweeteners.

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