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Healthy Living: Organic Apples

Organic ApplesOne day in the fall when I was growing up as a child, my mom announced an “adventure.” Adventures were the BEST. She’d whisk us off to somewhere secret, the destination unknown to us until our actual arrival. The suspense and anticipation were as much a part of the outing as the outing itself.

This particular day, we went to an apple orchard about an hour away from our house in Virginia, where you could pick your own apples and sample freshly-made apple sauce, apple butter and apple cider. The day was crisp and cool. The orchard was saturated with the hues of autumn. The air smelled like cinnamon and earthy tartness.

Picking our own apples was exhilarating. They tasted so much better, since we’d worked for them ourselves.

I get that same taste now whenever I eat an organic apple, knowing that someone else’s labor has benefitted my health.

Organic apples are grown with no chemicals or pesticides. They’re 100 percent as nature intended, just as if you’d eaten them off the tree right in the orchard.

Traditional apple orchards, grown for commercial purposes, are often heavily sprayed with pesticides, coating the leaves of the trees and the skins of your fruit. Pesticides aren’t good for you, for the workers in the orchards or for the trees themselves.

Organic apples are high in fiber, low in sugar and ready for you to eat, just like you would in an organic orchard.

Healthy Living: Fall Into Healthier Living

Fall Into Healthier LivingIt’s dark, really dark. In the late afternoon, it’s dark and it’s dark later into the morning, too. That makes me want to plop on the couch and eat all the bite-sized Heath bars left over from Halloween.

But that’s not very healthy, is it?

There are simple ways to stay healthy this time of year without a lot of effort.

First of all: drink. Water, that is. Sipping water all day keeps your metabolism activated and keeps all your organs (including your brain!) functioning at maximum capacity.

Schedule your workouts. Literally put them on your calendar like you would a conference call with the CEO. Scheduling them makes you more likely to keep them and ensures that you don’t run out of time at the end of the day.

Work out at home. You don’t have to go to a gym or walk dark streets to get a workout. Do body-weight resistance exercises in the comfort of your own living room, wearing whatever is comfortable.

Get a good night’s sleep. Remove all electronics from your bedroom (well, except maybe if you’re like me and the phone serves as your alarm clock). Studies have shown time and time again that too much engagement with electronics before bed inhibits sleep. Grab a book instead, one with pages.

Pack your snacks for the next day the night before. If you have planned snack times and healthy snacks readily available, you’re less likely to hit the vending machine or the drive-thru.

The same goes for meals. Planning them out in advance helps you with portion control and helps you take charge of what you eat!

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Healthy Living: Brussels Sprout Chips

Brussels Sprout ChipsMove over potato and slide over, kale. Brussels sprout chips are the newest fad I’ve seen from Facebook to Instagram and Twitter.

I was as dubious of Brussels sprout chips as I was of kale chips, but I figured that if I didn’t like raw kale but liked the chips, I was already a step ahead of the game since I really like Brussels sprouts.

A member of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts have a ton of vitamin K and vitamin C. They are high in folate, fiber, protein and potassium. They have high detox and antioxidant properties. Turn these into chips, and you can enjoy a crunchy, healthy snack that’s guilt-free!

Brussels Sprout Chips

15 Brussels sprouts (about 1 lb)
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste

Heat oven to 350° F. With a small sharp knife, trim bottom of each sprout, releasing the outermost layer of leaves. Pluck leaves off individually and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and a smattering of salt.

Place leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until leaves are lightly browned and crisp.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 64, Calories from Fat: 19, Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 28 mg, Potassium: 441 mg, Carbohydrates: 10 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 4 g.

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Healthy Living: Thinner Thanksgiving

Thinner ThanksgivingHalloween is just a few days behind us, and I wonder how many of us are regretting the 27 bite-sized candy bars, two packages of candy corns, one candied apple and 16 sugar cookies we’ve eaten since trick-or-treating came to a close?

Never fear, it’s not too late to begin thinking about a thinner Thanksgiving (and beyond). Experts recommend having a few tricks up your sleeve to prevent the holiday pound creep.

First, be active. It’s cooler outside, and now is a great time to get in the habit of taking a walk. Go before dusk, and plan on longer walks during daylight hours on the weekends.

Eat breakfast! It revs up your metabolism and doesn’t leave you lunging for a huge snack before lunch.

Cut calories in your holiday meals where you can by using fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy; by using sugar substitutes in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods; and by using plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes and casseroles.

Control your portions by using a lunch-sized plate. Don’t go back for seconds and skip the foods you can eat all year.

Eat slowly. Avoid the alcohol, which is empty-calories, slows your metabolism and could encourage you to eat more because you’re more relaxed and less inhibited.

Finally, focus on family and friends, not food.

Healthy Living: Truvia Brown Sugar Blend

Caramel Cheesecake BiteJust in time for baking season, Truvia has a way for you to enjoy all your favorite treats, with fewer calories!
Don’t worry about packing on the pounds this year when you’re baking with Truvia.

Truvia Brown Sugar Blend has the taste and texture of your favorite brown sugar, but with fewer calories.

Truvia itself comes in a packet and a spoonable form and contains just 3 ingredients: erythritol, stevia leaf extract and natural flavors. Truvia Brown Sugar Blend has only 5 calories per serving, almost 600 less than regular brown sugar per half cup.

Enjoy your holiday treats guilt-free this season, like this recipe for Caramel Cheesecake Bites, taken from the Truvia website.

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Healthy Living: Fall Quinoa Salad

Fall Quinoa SaladDo you realize how hard it is to find healthy recipes on your Pinterest feed during the fall season? Everything is baked, buttery and stick-to-your-ribs (and thighs) kind of fare! There are cookies and breads and casseroles galore, but salads? Not so much.

This is always a favorite fall salad of mine. It combines the flavors of fall without all the fat. Quinoa is a super food, providing protein without all the bad fats associated with meats. It also has pumpkin seeds, which are little kernels of power-packed goodness in and of themselves.

Pumpkin seeds are chock full of minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper, and they are a good source of vitamin K. They have been shown to contain phytosterols, which reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds also contain L-tryptophan, which promotes good sleep and lowers depression (and you thought your slices of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner were the only things making you sleepy). Another benefit of pumpkin seeds is that they are high in zinc, which helps protect against osteoporosis. They are also a good source of vitamins E and B, and contain 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of seeds.

Fall Quinoa Salad

3 cups butternut squash, chopped
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup rainbow quinoa, uncooked
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup red onions, finely chopped
3 Tbs pumpkin seeds, toasted
3 Tbs pecans, toasted and chopped

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Place diced squash in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil; season with cayenne, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and roast for 25 minutes or until squash is fork-tender and golden-brown.

While the squash is roasting, rinse quinoa under cold water. Place quinoa in clean water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 22 minutes.

Cool quinoa and squash.

Toss quinoa with roasted squash, cranberries, red onions, pumpkin seeds and pecans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together in a separate bowl. Pour over quinoa mixture. Chill for several hours and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 284, Calories from Fat: 178, Fat: 20 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 13 mg, Potassium: 393 mg, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 5 g.

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Healthy Living: Mayo-Free Slaw Salad

Mayo-Free Slaw SaladI don’t like mayonnaise. Paul doesn’t like mayonnaise. I do like coleslaw, and it’s such a fun complement to so many Southern dishes like barbecue or Tex-Mex recipes like tacos.

So, I went on a search for a non-mayo coleslaw.

Eliminating the mayo makes this dish healthier, too. A vinegar-based version of this dish, which gives you the acidity you need to pair with so many proteins, cuts out so much fat and so many calories. A bracing slaw salad lets you combine so many healthy veggies into one cohesive dish.

You don’t even have to use mayo.

Mayo-Free Slaw Salad

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs brown mustard
1 Tbs raw honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
3/4 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 cup English cucumber, grated
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 Tbs celery seed
salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together dressing: vinegar, mustard, honey and olive oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine thinly shredded cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, green onions and celery seed. Season with salt and pepper.

Slowly drizzle the dressing onto slaw until desired amount is reached.

Chill until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 155, Calories from Fat: 119, Fat: 13 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Potassium: 197 mg, Carbohydrates: 10 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 7 g, Protein: 1 g.

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Healthy Living: Cuban Shrimp

Cuban ShrimpMy new obsession is to travel to Cuba.

Ever since the U.S. and Cuba established a more open door policy (aided, in part, by Pope Francis), I’ve wanted to go to the country that has for so long been verboten to American tourists.

You might say my interest started in the third grade, when a boy named Christopher came to sit next to me in Mrs. Armentour’s classroom. Christopher and his family had just moved to the United States from Cuba, a country that sounded exotic and fascinating. Christopher’s father was in Cuban prison (a story I never heard mentioned again) and his mother had taken Christopher and his brother to her native United States. It was all very alluring and mysterious.

Perhaps part of Cuba’s allure is that is has been cut off from the United States for so long, during the years of Castro’s rule and subsequent domination by the Communist Party.

Cuba was discovered and claimed for Spain by our pal Christopher Columbus, although Ameri-Indian tribes inhabited the island just 93 miles off the coast of the U.S. before he arrived.

Cuba’s culture is a blend of Spanish and African, with emphasis on rich music and healthy, flavorful cuisine.

The cuisine features a lot of black beans, citrus fruits, more black beans, saffron rice, mangos and more black beans. (I happen to LOVE black beans.)

But this shrimp dish highlights the citrus flavors I conjure up when I imagine an island visit.
The hot pepper tempers the sweetness of the juices, and the spices say “island” to me! This dish gets its flavor from whole, healthy foods!

Cuban Shrimp

10 cloves garlic
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin, optional
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 lbs large to jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
kosher or sea salt, to taste

Start by making a paste of the spices, using a mortar and pestle (or a bowl and a heavy spoon). Mash the garlic, pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes until they form a chunky paste. You can also use a food processor. Whisk this into the orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and olive oil and add cumin.

Separate the sauce in half and set half aside. Add shrimp to the other half and marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (no longer or the citrus will cook the shrimp, ceviche-style).

Drain the shrimp, but reserve the marinade.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 30 seconds.

Cook an additional 2 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through. Remove to a warm platter.
Increase the heat to high and add all the sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until sauce reduces by half and thickens. Pour over shrimp and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 508, Calories from Fat: 269, Fat: 30 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 320 mg, Sodium: 331 mg, Potassium: 271 mg, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 46 g.

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Healthy Living: Pumpkin

PumpkinsIt’s that time of year for all things pumpkin.

I know you’ve seen the jokes about Pumpkin Spice everything (have you seen the new pumpkin spice M&M’s candies?), but pumpkin deserves the hype it gets this time of year.

Pumpkin (not the spiced latte version) is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Technically a gourd, pumpkin is low in calories but abundant in vitamin A and flavonoid antioxidants such as lutein, xanthin and carotenes.

Pumpkin is recommended by dieticians to control cholesterol and help in weight reduction (again, not the candied variety). Pumpkin is full of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, and has a lot of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. In addition, pumpkin seeds are a great source of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. Pumpkin seeds are also a wonderful source of protein, minerals and vitamins. Nutritionally, 100 grams of pumpkin seeds account for 559 calories; 30 grams of protein; 110 percent RDA of iron; 4,987 milligrams of niacin (31 percent of RDA); selenium (17 percent of RDA); zinc (71 percent) and no cholesterol.

Pumpkin can be baked, braised, stewed, simmered, pureed, steamed, roasted and eaten in almost any way you can imagine! If you haven’t already hopped on the pumpkin bandwagon, take a hayride with this awesome vegetable this fall.

Healthy Living: Purell Hand Sanitizer

Purell Hand SanitizerWhen my kids went back to school last week, the item at the top of each school supply list was “Purell Hand Sanitizer.”

Back-to-school means germs, germs and more germs, and Purell Hand Sanitizer helps fight the germs that might be spread from kids with colds touching the pencil sharpener then to other kids.

Purell Hand Sanitizer was invented in 1988 to help reduce the spread of germs in the healthcare and restaurant industries. There needed to be an effective way to stop the spread of germs, and keep things sanitary when soap and water were not readily available.

Purell Hand Sanitizers are effective at killing 99.99% of most common germs, and have been available to the general public since 1997. I think it’s been on every school supply list of ours since then.

My teacher friends keep bottles everywhere in their classroom. I have one on my desk at work, as does my co-worker. There’s Purell Hand Sanitizer dispensers in most public restrooms. I haven’t been into a commercial kitchen since I stopped waiting tables in college, but I imagine they’re found there as well. I have a travel-sized bottle in my purse.

Used correctly, Purell Hand Sanitizer will help keep you germ-free this fall and winter.

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