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Healthy Living: Healthy Fats


Healthy FatsIf those two words don’t seem to go together to you, you’re not alone.

When I first heard of a “low carb, high fat” diet, I thought to myself, “That’s a heart attack waiting to happen.”

Then, I realized that you’re not eating your body weight in Cheetos and ice cream; you’re opting for HEALTHY fats and HEALTHY carbohydrates.

Healthy fats include things like olive oil, avocados and nut butters. Healthy fats are great for your skin and hair, and they keep you feeling full longer. They’re also good for your heart.

Monounsaturated fats, like the ones found in olive oil and avocados, raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, nuts, seeds and avocados are good sources of healthy fats. Salmon is another good source of healthy fats.

Healthy fats help your body absorb nutrients, and they help your food digest more effectively.

Don’t go overboard, though. Fat is fat. Read labels and pay attention to serving sizes! Remember that a serving size of almonds is an ounce, not a can.



Healthy Living: Super Simple Marinara Sauce


Super Simple Marinara SauceSummer is the perfect time to make a healthy and hearty marinara sauce, using the freshest of summer vegetables and herbs.

It comes together quickly, and it is so fresh and tasty that simmering and stirring on a stove all day is not required (but it sure smells great if you do!).

Right now, tomatoes are at their peak, so grab some for your sauce today. You could also use a hybrid combination of fresh and canned like I do.

The beauty of a marinara sauce is that you can combine any herbs you like, not just limiting yourself to what’s traditional. Everything is at the peak of freshness and flavor right now.

Today, I have some simmering with Cuban oregano from my friend’s garden. She gave me a sprig last week that I’m trying to root hydroponically, but in the meantime, it smelled too good not to use. I also have fresh basil from my garden as well as locally grown onions and tomatoes.

I like a chunky marinara, but you could always give this a whirl in the food processor if you want it to be smoother.

The tomatoes are full of antioxidants and cancer-fighting agents. Make a huge batch of this, and freeze what you don’t use for later use.

Toss with a rigatoni pasta, or serve over slices of eggplant (my plan).

Super Simple Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:
1 lb local tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
2 oz tomato paste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450° F. Spread tomatoes and onions on a baking sheet. Roast until the edges turn dark, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a large pot.

Add garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Process in food processor until smooth, if desired.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 57, Calories from Fat: 5, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 406 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 7 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Zucchini Lasagna Rolls


Zucchini Lasagna RollsI may have mentioned (97 times) that I’m eating low-carb.

I resisted trying to modify any kind of pasta dish because, let’s face it, pasta is pasta, and I’m Italian and we don’t mess with pasta.

However, this dish is an exception. I didn’t really go into it thinking of it as a pasta dish; I went in with the full knowledge I was eating a vegetable, not a piece of pasta. I also knew that swapping out the pasta for a veggie was so much healthier for me.

I grilled my zucchini on the grill instead of in the grill pan because I love the smoky flavor that you get from a grill. You can do either. I also rewrote the original recipe will full-fat ingredients. If you want to substitute lower-fat ricotta, cottage and mozzarella cheeses, you can certainly do that as well.

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

Ingredients:
8 oz ricotta cheese
4 oz cottage cheese
3 Tbs parmesan cheese
2 Tbs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs fresh basil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper, to taste
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 8 (1/4-inch thick) slices
1 mild Italian turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
For the filling, stir together ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, salt, garlic, red pepper and black pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

For the zucchini, spray slices with nonstick cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Prepare grill pan to medium heat. Grill zucchini for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until flexible but still firm. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Spray a casserole or other dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread 1/4 cup marinara evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Blot zucchini dry. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the zucchini, and spread in an even layer. Top with a tablespoon of cooked sausage crumbles. Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Place seam-side down in prepared pan.

Top with remaining marinara and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 184, Calories from Fat: 97, Fat: 11 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 33 mg, Sodium: 597 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Healthy Living: Pokemon Go


Pokemon GoYes, yes, I know people have fallen down cliffs, tripped on snakes and stepped out into traffic, but we have common sense and know how to take advantage of a gaming app that gets you out and moving.

Pokemon Go, if somehow you haven’t heard of it, is an app for your phone where you chase Pokemon figures to different locations and “catch” them, earning points, fighting battles, gaining strength and moving ahead to win the game.

Emphasis on moving.

No matter the downsides to the game (because some people can make anything good bad), this is a great way to get out and active with your kids.

I went out with my kids the other evening (supervision is key because no one wants their kids wandering around alone). We ended up walking five miles that night, just chasing little animated critters. While we were out (our local park and running trail seemed to have a lot of things to catch!), we saw lots of other families out chasing Pokemon. Not only were they out walking, but they were talking, laughing, joking and having fun. Yes, we also saw people with their faces buried in their electronic devices, but they were still out walking.

We found several landmarks in our town that we didn’t know existed, including a beautiful fountain that we pegged as a great location for a future picnic.

It was fun. We laughed a lot, and we walked a lot. We got moving as a family and had a good time. That was a win in my book.



Healthy Living: Disinfecting Wipes


Disinfecting WipesA few years ago, I was working in an office when pretty much everyone contracted the flu.

Not the “Oh, I have the flu” because your stomach got upset one night flu but the diagnosed, Type A flu that you need rest and a couple of days off of work.

Did my co-workers take those days off? No, they did not. Major pet peeve. Don’t even get me started. The flu spread around the office like wildfire. I was lucky enough, at the time, to have my own office with a door that closed, and I took full advantage of that closed door; let me tell you. When people, sick people, did come into my office, I’d whip out my container of disinfectant wipes and wipe down everything that person had touched: the chair, my desk, a pen, even the door knobs, door casings and the door itself.

I did not get the flu.

Disinfectant wipes are a great product to keep in your car, your office, your house and even your purse because who loves to touch the handle of grocery carts after 79 other people have handled them that day, maybe even after blowing their nose or shaking hands with a person who was sick.

At home, I also wipe down everything after someone in my family has been sick.

At work, I wipe frequently because I just don’t always have control over who comes into my office. Besides, for my day job, a lot of kids come through my office who have serious illnesses. I want to protect them, too.

Disinfectant wipes come in handy dispensers or travel packs for places like your car or your purse.

Pick some up today, and grab an extra package or two to send to school with your child.

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Healthy Living: Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Broccoli


Garlic-Parmesan Roasted BroccoliI LOVE broccoli, but I get so tired of just steaming it and plopping it onto my plate.

Broccoli is super healthy. It’s rich in vitamin D, which helps keeps our metabolism in balance. It’s also rich in vitamins A and K.

Broccoli helps the body detox. We all want that unwanted sludge out of our bodies, don’t we? Broccoli helps move unwanted contaminants from our systems. It’s a great antioxidant with its concentrated vitamin C. Broccoli has the most vitamin C of any of the cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli also has concentrated lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, other powerful antioxidants.

If you steam or roast broccoli, the fiber provides a benefit against cholesterol. Using heat to start to break down the fibers helps your body use it more effectively than if you eat it raw.

It’s great for your heart as an anti-inflammatory and how it lowers cholesterol. It’s also good to support eye health and to help regenerate sun-damaged skin.

Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Ingredients:
24 oz (about 5 cups) broccoli florets
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
juice of 1 lemon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil or coat with nonstick spray.

Spread broccoli florets in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and garlic; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan and lemon juice, and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 162, Fat: 11 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 14 mg, Sodium: 213 mg, Carbohydrates: 9 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 9 g.

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Healthy Living: Water


WaterI know I write about this frequently; it’s something I really struggle with.

I read today that the current recommendation for water intake is 80 ounces for an adult. I’ve also read studies which say to drink half your body weight in ounces. Either way, I bet that’s a lot more water than most Americans consume during the day, especially since nothing with caffeine or sugar counts as a “water” drink, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that unsweet tea equals water.

Basically, I have to trick myself into drinking more water.

I love the sparkling waters. They are calorie-free, sugar-free and fizzy, which I love. It reminds me of the years I lived in Europe, and any time you ordered water at a restaurant, they brought you the fizzy variety. It was probably also during that time period that I began to eschew ice. La Croix makes a variety of flavors, including lime, lemon, grapefruit and berry. Lime is my favorite.

Another trick is that every time I use the restroom, I have to chug 10 ounces after washing my hands. Sorry if that was too much information, but it works on getting the water down. I’m not likely to keep a bottle nearby to sip from, so chugging it works for me.

When I do keep a bottle of water handy, I try to flavor it with something. Chunks of watermelon, slices of cucumber or slices of strawberry are my favorite, but you could use any fruit or veggie you want.

I keep a 32-ounce bottle of water with cucumber in the refrigerator overnight, and my goal is to drink the whole thing before I leave for work in the morning. It’s so refreshing first thing in the morning, and it really helps to wake me up.

Another trick is to drink an equal amount of water for every caffeinated beverage you drink. This helps keep you hydrated.

So in theory, if I drink 32 ounces before work and another 16 ounces with my coffee (because I drink two cups of coffee), I’m more than halfway to my goal before lunch!



There is Always a Way


There is Always a WayThere is a phrase I often use when life throws a curveball: “There is always a way to make it work.”  Things may not happen as practically as you want, nor does it happen quite in the time frame in which you’d want it.

You know what? That’s okay.

Embrace your challenges, accept that curveball, and swing your bat with all of your might. What comes out of it – that dedication, passion and persistence – may be even better than what you’d imagined.

A challenge faced daily is exercise. Those of you working in a cubicle environment know it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you’re at a desk all day. In my observations, I’ve found many ways people have used to stay active during work hours.

One of my coworkers sits on a large exercise ball half the day to help with core and legs. Another few have “stand up” desks. No chairs means always upright and always moving! There are several people that, when traveling to and fro, will take a different path back to keep things fresh or put in a few more steps than they would have otherwise. On your break, walk around. Go to your coworker’s office to speak face-to-face rather than by e-mail or phone.

Also, try going to the gym before work. You’ll not only have fit in your main exercise for the day, but it keeps your metabolism going at a higher speed throughout the day and you’ll be more awake and in a better mood! I’ve highly considered a desk cycle (pedals you cycle under the desk) or a kneeling posture chair which helps to keep your spine aligned and helps strengthen back and abdominal muscles.

If these aren’t for you, there are simple chair exercises you can do that will help. Examples include:

  • Leg extensions – hold legs up one at a time underneath desk, alternating pointed and flexed toes. This also works abs! Do 15 reps.
  • Leg toning – legs straight, cross one over the other and raise off floor. Press top leg down on the other, creating resistance. Do 5 reps and repeat with opposite legs crossed.
  • Abdominal contractions – contract abs for five second intervals, leaning slightly into a crunch. Contract all then go by sections in a circle then all again. This gets easier the more times you do it.

There is always a way to make it work. There is always time to make time to do it. As a personal challenge, I will begin these myself right…now. You should, too! Rep 1 complete already for me. Have you started yet?

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Healthy Living: Cinnamon Apple Chips


Cinnamon Apple ChipsSo far this summer, I’m losing the battle with my kids and fruit consumption, and this practically breaks my heart. There is nothing better than summer fruits.

It also begs the question: If my kids aren’t eating the abundance of fruit I’m leaving in the basket on the kitchen counter, what do they do with the fruit I pack them EVERY DAY in their school lunches? I’m not sure I want to know.

Since I’m often gone in the morning before they wake up for the day, I leave a note. Every day, the note says, among other things, “Eat some fruit. Drink a lot of water!”

My kids aren’t listening. I had to resort to a toddler tactic: turn the fruit into a fun snack.

They helped me make these, and they devoured them. That figures.

Sometimes, though, it’s whatever it takes!

Cinnamon Apple Chips

Ingredients:
4 apples, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tsp granulated sugar, if needed
nonstick cooking spray

Directions:
Preheat oven to 200° F. Slice the apples and place them in a large bowl. Toss with cinnamon and sugar, if using. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the apples on the pan in a single layer, so they are not touching.

Bake 2 to 3 hours until the chips are dry but soft. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container or zipper-lock bag for up to 4 days.

Serves 2

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 210, Calories from Fat: 6, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 4 mg, Carbohydrates: 56 g, Fiber: 10 g, Sugar: 42 g, Protein: 1 g.

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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.



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