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Healthy Living: Kidney Health


Kidney HealthNext week (March 12) is International World Kidney Day, and healthy kidneys are important to keeping your body free of toxins and waste.

Every day, your two kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine, composed of wastes and extra fluid.

To keep them healthy, you have to be able to manage a healthy lifestyle and control diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The National Kidney Disease Education Program offers these tips to kidneys healthy:

  • Keep your blood pressure at the target set by your healthcare provider. For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg. This can delay or prevent kidney failure.
  • If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose level.
  • Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.
  • Take medicines the way your provider tells you to take them.
  • Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.
  • Choose foods that are healthy for your heart: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole-grains and low-fat dairy foods.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • If you smoke, take steps to quit. Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse.
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Healthy Living: Healthy Mushroom Soup


Healthy Mushroom SoupI was one of those weird kids who loved spinach and mushrooms.

My boys didn’t take to either vegetable readily, and even, as old as they are now, still struggle with both. I can get them to eat raw baby spinach, but mushrooms? Forgeddaboudit!

Mushrooms are meaty, but they are super low in calories. They are dense and filling, but they have zero fat or carbohydrates.

In addition to having protein, they can help fight disease as well, with antioxidants and beneficial dietary fibers such as chitin and beta-glucans. Mushrooms contain just as high an antioxidant capacity as carrots, tomatoes, green and red peppers, pumpkins, green beans and zucchini. They also contain vitamin D.

Studies have shown that Type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and Type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. The fiber, potassium and vitamin C content in mushrooms all contribute to cardiovascular health. Potassium and sodium work together in the body to help regulate blood pressure.

Try this soup for a low-cal, low-fat, filling meal. You can swap out the butter for the equivalent amount of coconut oil, if you’d like.

Healthy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup onions, sliced
1 cup sliced leeks, halved and sliced
3/4 cup celery, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 lb assorted mushrooms, rinsed and thickly sliced
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Directions:
Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, leeks, celery and garlic. Cook and stir until tender but not browned, approximately 10 minutes. Add thyme, mushrooms, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Heat until at a soft boil, then turn down to low heat. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat, ladle into bowls and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 106, Calories from Fat: 45, Fat: 5 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 1139 mg, Potassium: 654 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 6 g

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Healthy Living: No Fad Diets


No Fad DietsI overheard my 13-year-old son on the phone last week.

“If you eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for 20 days, you’ll lose 20 pounds,” someone told him.

I yanked that phone right out of his hands, and a long discussion followed about what is healthy and what is not.

Fad diets are not healthy.

Cutting out food groups is not healthy.

Losing 20 pounds in 20 days (a fifth of his body weight) is not healthy.

It made me sad that we even had to have the conversation. As someone who has struggled with weight my entire life, I didn’t want my son to be stained with the stigma of food, and fad or yo-yo diets. He’s not heavy; he’s at that awkward 13-year-old stage when his body is transforming. I don’t want him to be uncomfortable with himself.

We could be better at home about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our meals. A meatless meal can be a great thing, but his growing body needs good protein as well. We could eat fruit for dessert instead of ice cream.

The next morning, I let him help me pack his lunch. I explained to him that lean turkey was brain food and would help him stay full in the afternoon. I talked about how whole-grain bread is a complex carbohydrate, which fuels his body and gives him energy during the day. We talked about how mustard added a lot of flavor without fat. He added fresh baby spinach and tomato slices to his sandwich. We then packed two kiwis and a small, 1-ounce bag of Takis chips because it’s okay to have a treat now and again.

When he comes home again, we’ll have a dialogue about meal planning and healthy choices.

No fad diets in this house.



Healthy Living: Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad


Sesame Ginger Quinoa SaladMardi Gras is just around the corner, and this festive – and healthy – salad is the perfect way to celebrate. It brings in all the colors of the festivities – purples, golds and greens, and it is a healthy oasis in the sea of excess.

This hearty salad can easily be a main dish as it includes cooked quinoa for protein and fiber, while being vegan and gluten-free. At only 331 calories, each bowl offers 13 grams of protein and seven grams of fiber.

Plus, did I mention it’s pretty?

I’m a huge carnivore, so I try to get protein from alternate sources as often as I can. The quinoa is filling and adds protein, and the edamame adds protein as well. Sure, you can serve this as a side dish to a meat main course, but why would you want to?

Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups shelled frozen edamame
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup red cabbage, chopped
2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs rice vinegar
3 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
1 Tbs sesame seeds

Directions:
Place the quinoa, water and salt in a covered pot. Heat on high until it boils then lower the heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and the water is absorbed.

Pour the quinoa into a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the frozen edamame, carrots, peppers and cabbage.

In a small bowl, make the dressing by mixing the sesame oil, rice vinegar, minced ginger and sesame seeds.

Pour the dressing over the quinoa and veggies; mix thoroughly.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 331, Calories from Fat: 122, Fat: 13.5 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 195 mg, Potassium: 769 mg, Carbohydrates: 40 g, Fiber: 7.2 g, Sugar: 4.5 g, Protein: 12.8 g

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Healthy Living: Body Weight Exercises


Body Weight ExercisesAt the beginning of the year, I read an article saying that “body weight resistance” exercises would be the “it” workout in 2015.

I guess if we can have a Hollywood “it” girl and guy, and Pantone can declare the “it” color of the year (It’s Marsala this year, by the way), we can have an “it” exercise.

It turns out that after I did a little research, body weight resistance exercises are vastly preferred by a lot of area trainers.

This simply means using your own body weight as resistance when you work out. Push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, planks, sit-ups, leg lifts and the like are all body weight resistance exercises.

There are no pushing machines at the gym or lifting dumbbells that your body can’t handle. It’s free; you don’t need anything beyond what God gave you, and you can work out anywhere.

My 11-year-old told me recently that he wanted to start “lifting weights” for upper body strength. Well, weight-lifting really isn’t recommended for an 11-year-old, but body weight resistance exercises are fine. He’s been doing push-ups, dips, planks and burpees, and he is having a great time with it.

So, if part of your New Year’s resolution was to get back in shape, start with what you have at home: your own body.



Healthy Living: Dark Chocolate


Dark ChocolateFebruary is American Heart Month, which is when we focus on good cardiovascular health. Programs like Go Red for Women highlight the fact that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women.

February is also Valentine’s Day, which is when we love to give chocolate to people we care about.

Well, did you know that dark chocolate is actually heart-healthy?

Dark chocolate, with 70 percent or higher cocoa content, can be a good source of resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). Both are essential to heart health. Flavanal, a plant antioxidant, helps widen blood vessels and increases blood flow in the brain.

Studies show that daily consumption of dark chocolate lowered people’s blood pressure an average of two to three points.

Now, don’t think you can just eat a lot of dark chocolate candy bars; the sugar and fat contents of candy are counterproductive. You can mix a concentrated cocoa powder into a drink and take it that way.

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HEALTHY LIVING: 5-Minute Strawberry Frozen Yogurt


5-Minute Strawberry Frozen YogurtI spent a little too much time over the holidays sampling treats. Hershey kiss cookies. Cherry ice box cookies. Pecan pie. Eggnog milkshakes.

They were delicious but come with a price!

My kids ate a few too many treats, too, so we’re all going to be more conservative in the new year.

I love this recipe. It’s so fast, so easy and so healthy. I use non-fat yogurt because I can’t taste the difference. You can also use non-fat vanilla yogurt, too. I mostly use Greek yogurt with this recipe, which ups the protein content significantly.

I’ve swapped out the strawberries for peaches, and I have no doubt blueberries would work as well. Just make sure they’re frozen.

This recipe is easy to double and triple, and obviously it stores well in your freezer.

The sugars are natural, and the fruit boosts antioxidants during the winter, while the yogurt provides calcium and protein.

5-Minute Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 cups frozen strawberries
3 Tbs agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup plain yogurt (non-fat or full fat)
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Add the frozen strawberries, agave nectar (or honey), yogurt and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy, about 5 minutes.

Serve the frozen yogurt immediately, or transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 114, Calories from Fat: 0, Fat: 0 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 1 mg, Sodium: 24 mg, Potassium: 13 mg, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 24 g, Protein: 2 g

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HEALTHY LIVING: Chicken Avocado Burritos


Chicken Avocado BurritosIt’s that time of year.

You know what time! That time when we all try to get healthy again and renew our commitment to fitness and proper nutrition.

If you’re like me, you work at it hard for the first few weeks, but then slack off. I think the secret is moderation, at least it is for me. If I eat nothing but salads for weeks on end, I promise you I’m going to end up binging on the biggest plate of Mexican food known to man. So, I take it slowly. I try to eat healthier versions of the things I love, like the burritos. You can even bake them instead to save having to use the extra oil. You can cut back on the cheese and use low-fat sour cream, as well. I never recommend using low-fat cheese. It doesn’t melt right and leaves a weird aftertaste, in my opinion. Just use less of it.

The avocado provides heart-healthy fats and the chicken, of course, is lean protein.

Chicken Avocado Burritos
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbs mustard
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
1 avocado, diced
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
4 large tortillas
4 Tbs sour cream
1 Tbs oil

Directions:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan. Place chicken breasts sprinkled with salt and pepper in pan, and roast for about 5 minutes on each side. Spread 1 tablespoon mustard over each chicken breast, add about 1/4 cup water and cook covered for a few more minutes.

Cut cooked chicken into thin strips. Mix the chicken, cheese, cilantro and the diced avocados.

Spread 1 tablespoon sour cream on each tortilla; add 1/4 of the mixture then form a roll.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil into a pan and place all four tortillas on the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on medium- high heat. Flip on the other side; cook for another 2 minutes or until the tortillas are golden.

Serve warm.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 390, Calories from Fat: 220, Fat: 24 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 73 mg, Sodium: 130 mg, Potassium: 518 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 0.7 g, Protein: 28 g.

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Healthy Living: Avocado Pasta


Avocado PastaAvocados remind me of summertime, and that’s always a good thing in the throes of winter.

They’re so fresh and bright as well as a good source of protein and heart-healthy fats that they’re a perfect pairing with pasta.

When you throw in some tomatoes (which are high in antioxidants) and basil (which has anti-inflammatory effects and is a great source of vitamin A), this is a good mid-winter meal to fight off colds and winter’s aches and pains.

The avocado makes a decadent coating for the pasta, and while this is a rich dish, you can eat it without qualms because it’s super-healthy as well.

Avocado Pasta

Ingredients:
12 oz whole-wheat spaghetti
2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

Directions:
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.

To make the avocado sauce, combine avocados, basil, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, avocado sauce, cherry tomatoes and corn. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 481, Calories from Fat: 334, Fat: 37 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 13 mg, Potassium: 682 mg, Carbohydrates: 37 g, Fiber: 12 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 8 g.

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Healthy Living: No-Bean Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili


There doesn’t have to beNo-Bean Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili any debate on whether or not this chili should have beans because you don’t even miss them with all the other delicious and healthy flavors blended in.

This is the time of year when we tend to get worn down, exposed to germs and, horror of horrors during the holiday season, we get sick!

This chili is packed with vitamins and antioxidants to help you ward off colds and other illnesses, and to help you stay healthy during the holidays. As a plus, this chili won’t force a trip to the closet to find the stretchy pants!

Turkey is a lean and flavorful alternative to ground beef in this recipe. Turkey contains less fat than ground beef, and at 54 calories an ounce, it packs eight grams of protein and a lot of potassium.

Sweet potatoes are often called nature’s “perfect” food. At 114 calories per cup, sweet potatoes provide 337 percent of the daily recommended allowance for vitamin A, a good supply of potassium and 15 percent of the USRDA for vitamin B-6.

No-Bean Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 5

Ingredients:
20 oz lean ground turkey
kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (10 oz) can Rotel Mild Tomatoes with Green Chilies
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
fresh cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
In a large skillet, brown turkey over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks into smaller pieces; season with salt and cumin.

When meat is browned and cooked through, add onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes over medium heat. Add Rotel, sweet potatoes, tomato sauce, water, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and bay leaf. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are soft and cooked through. Add 1/4 cup water, if needed. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Calories Per Serving: 215, Fat: 8 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 81 mg, Sodium: 557 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 24 g.

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