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Healthy Holiday Choices

Part of enjoying a fulfilling holiday season is making choices that encourage and uplift your spirits. As you celebrate this year keep a few of these healthy choices in mind.

Have those special items like stuffing and pie, since you may not typically have them any other time of year. Then skip the foods you could have on a regular basis like potato dishes and rolls. Keep your portions in moderation and try to have a colorful plate. This will ensure you’re getting a variety of vegetables, fruits, and protein.

This often leads to overeating and blood sugar imbalances. Have several little snacks throughout the day with vegetables and fruit. By having healthy snacks you can help stabilize your mood and have more energy.

If you know festive holiday drinks and desserts are going to be part of your evening, plan extra exercise time before or after big events. Also, be sure to drink one glass of water after every holiday beverage. By establishing a mental plan you’re more likely to find balance and moderation with your food choices.

Some people find it helpful to keep a lifestyle journal with notes about meals and exercise. Others find that stepping on the scale every few days is a way to have a reality check during the holidays. December 29th is National Get on the Scales Day. This is a good time to check in on your body composition. The holiday season is a time where many people let their guard down concerning healthy choices. This simple act of getting on the scale can help you stay in touch with your weight.  It can take months to lose the 5 pounds that are easily gained in a few weeks.

Holiday time is about connecting with those you hold most dear. Don’t let food or bad habits be the focus. Take a deep breath and listen to the loved ones around you, even if that looks different this year.

Prepare Your Pantry

Being prepared for extra time at home is wise during this season of life. However, it’s very different than hoarding or excessive impulse buying. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds us that our food supply chains remain strong. However, it leaves many people asking how much is enough to be prepared? The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that people keep enough food, medicine, and personal essentials to make it through two weeks. That way if quarantine or isolation is necessary you are prepared to spend that time at home safely.

Here are foods to keep stocked for a healthy pantry:

Healthy items such as olive oil, nuts, dried fruits, your favorite dried spices, beans, and nut butters are a must to have on hand. Canned or boxed soups, protein bars, and a variety of canned produce would also come in handy.  

When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables consider buying ones that last longer such as squash, apples, oranges, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

The best grains to keep stocked would be oats, quinoa, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta.

When it comes to protein, two weeks of meat should fit in most freezers but eggs are an excellent choice for a quality lean protein that has an extended shelf life. 

3 Tips for Making Vegetables Taste Great

Getting the necessary 2-3 cups of veggies per day can be difficult to achieve for many people. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only 10% of American adults actually consume enough vegetables. A common response for people who don’t get enough veggies is that they don’t enjoy the taste.  Some find that eating another salad becomes a bit repetitive. The good news is you can increase your vegetable intake by using a variety of different cooking methods. Fresh herbs, spices, and a good sauce can liven up any entree. Here are three tips for making veggies taste great. 

Boiled or plain steamed vegetables tend to lack flavor. Oven roasting, sautéing, grilling and air frying bring out the best in any given vegetable. Oven roasting can be done year-round. Simply set your oven to 400 degrees, then season your veggies with olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast until golden on the edges. Air frying is a popular new trend. This allows veggies to gain a crisp fried taste without all the calories and fat.  

Chances are any recipe you really love has a lot of seasoning and flavor enhancers like herbs. Natural dried spices and seasonal fresh herbs go a long way in making a dish satisfying and complete. Choose a flavor profile you enjoy like Indian spices, Mexican, Italian, or Greek. Keep your favorites well-stocked at home so you can marinate vegetables and season them while sautéing or roasting. Choosing a cooking oil that has been infused with herbs can also bring a new dimension of flavor.  

Vegetables can be added to a variety of traditional recipes like lasagna, soups, meatloaf, casseroles, smoothies, and egg bakes. Many people even make cauliflower-based pizza crust. When vegetables are cut into small pieces it’s amazing how they can be cooked into a multitude of hot dishes. Adding a generous amount of sautéed spinach to a spaghetti sauce and lasagna can make the recipe more flavorful and filling. Small pieces of broccoli can be added to meatloaf and extra veggies like carrots and cauliflower make a great stew.  

So if you find that you don’t eat enough vegetables because they don’t suit your taste buds try some new seasoning, a new cooking method, or add them to your favorite hot dish. Our bodies need the valuable nutrients and antioxidants offered through vegetables. Finding a new love for natural foods like vegetables is a great way to boost your immune system and take steps towards disease prevention.

What to Eat in October?

When crisp cool air sets in it’s time to start shifting your meal plan to the comforting and delicious foods of autumn. Pumpkins and apples might come to mind when you think of seasonal fall foods but the list of produce at the peak of freshness in October is very long. Get your oven ready for roasting because this is the time for Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, just to name a few. When it comes to fruit, oranges, figs, cranberries, and grapes top the list in October. Some might argue that October is one of the best months for seasonal fruit and veggies.  

Regional and seasonal foods not only taste better, but they are also more cost-effective. Local varieties of root vegetables like beets, parsnips, and sweet potatoes are readily available in stores and they’re loaded with antioxidants. The added nutrients make you feel full and satisfied without excess calories. Stone fruits such as plums and peaches are in season until the end of October. The high level of anthocyanins in these fruits help boost your immune system and fight off illness. It’s time to celebrate the flavors of autumn with classic recipes from Clearly including cranberry and butternut squash quinoa salad and pumpkin soup.

Mason Jar Meals

When it comes to preparing meals in advance it’s always nice to find fun ways to put a spin on classic go-to recipes. Mason jars add a rustic charm and delight to anything they hold. They can make food more appealing and colorful, while also providing a pre-portioned easily microwaveable container.

Here are 5 unique combinations to mix up in a mason jar:

  1. Quinoa salad. Add a vinaigrette dressing to the bottom, then add tomatoes, cucumber, quinoa, and feta cheese. Pour contents onto a plate when you’re ready to enjoy a healthy lunch or dinner.
  2. Overnight oats with chia seeds and fruit. Mix old flashed oats with chia seeds and almond milk. Add your favorite fruit to the top of the oat mixture.
  3. Taco salad. Place salsa, sour cream, taco meat, rice, tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce in a jar. Secure the lid and you’re ready for a hearty salad on the go.
  4. Stir fry veggies and shrimp. Pre-sauté your favorite frozen or fresh stir fry veggies with added shrimp. Add pre-cooked vegetables, rice, soy sauce and shrimp to a jar then reheat in the microwave before serving.
  5. Layered lasagna. Place pre-made meat sauce, ricotta cheese, any shape cooked noodles, wilted spinach, and mozzarella cheese in a jar. Reheat, mix and enjoy!

Health Benefits of Coffee

Is coffee good for you?

This question is routinely asked because coffee has been a staple in the American diet for so long. However, the thinking surrounding coffee has changed over the years. What we now call a coffee bean is actually a stone fruit seed.  This natural food is full of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients. Recent studies show that coffee can increase your brain functioning and boost your mood. So it’s no surprise that coffee is considered one of the world’s most popular beverages. 

One of the most controversial yet important components of coffee is its caffeine content. Caffeine is a stimulant that when consumed in moderation can increase your metabolic rate.  This helps you burn fat more effectively and helps increase adrenaline levels. Moderate coffee drinking is considered about 3 cups of black coffee per day. It’s important to remember that coffee offers most of its health benefits when consumed in moderation with a balanced diet and exercise. A regular morning cup of joe can decrease your risk of type two diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and colorectal cancer. Coffee can be good for the heart, mind, and soul.

Consider adding organic coffee to your routine to help fight climate change and add a deeper array of antioxidants to your body. 

5 Health Benefits of Spicy Foods

Whether you like a bold spicy flavor or you love the fiery heat of chili peppers you will be delighted to know that many spicy foods have surprising health benefits. Even if you are not a fan of the three-alarm hot feeling in your mouth many other spices like ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic offer metabolic and heart health benefits.

Here are 5 reasons to add a little more spice to your life: 

Weight Loss
Many studies show that the magic behind a metabolic increase from food is a compound called capsaicin, which has a thermogenic effect by increasing your core temperature. The thermic effect of food causes your body to burn more calories for about 20 minutes after eating spicy food. 

Lower Bad Cholesterol
Chili peppers can reduce some of the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol. Capsaicin helps fight inflammation, which is a risk factor for heart disease, allowing blood to flow more freely throughout your body. 

Improves Digestion
Ginger, chili, and other spices can reduce inflammation, which is often an immune reaction that causes swelling.  Therefore, many health professionals believe inflammation is a big part of digestive discomfort. Turmeric in particular has a component called curcumin, which has shown promise in relieving irritable bowel syndrome.  

Kills Bacteria
Spices like cumin, curry, and turmeric have powerful antioxidants that help combat bad bacteria in the body.  
Spices not only provide added flavor to the food they also add nutrients and disease-fighting properties. Next time you’re roasting vegetables, cooking up a pork chop or making hamburgers considering adding a few extra sprinkles of your favorite spice.

Summer Asian Slaw with Ginger Peanut Dressing

3 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups carrots, julienned
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup edamame, shelled (optional)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped

For the Ginger Peanut Dressing:
1/4 cup Clearly Organic Honey
1/4 cup Clearly Organic Olive Oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Clearly Organic Peanut Butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon Clearly Ground Ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

In a mason jar with a lid add all of the ingredients for the ginger peanut dressing. Be sure the peanut butter is at room temperature so it will blend in well. Secure the lid to the jar and shake well until ingredients are evenly distributed. Set dressing aside while chopping veggies for the slaw.

Shred or finely chop green and purple cabbage. Place cabbage in a large salad bowl. Add julienned carrots and sliced red pepper. Add shelled edamame beans (You can use frozen edamame and heat in the microwave) to the salad bowl. Add green onions, cilantro, and chopped peanuts to the slaw mix.

About 30 minutes before serving add dressing to the slaw mix. Gently toss slaw to evenly distribute dressing. Add a few more dry roasted peanuts if desired just before serving.

Cooking for One 

Whether you live alone or you have different food preferences than your family, it can be difficult to be creative in the kitchen when you are only making meals for yourself. However, with the right tips and tools, it can be possible to cook up delicious single-serving meals that will help eliminate food waste and endless leftovers. Here are five tips that will help liven up any meal plan.  

  1. Use one ingredient in different ways. When you cook a batch of rice, quinoa or any ancient grain don’t be afraid to use a half cup for a savory side dish, another half cup mixed into a salad or some cooked grains with sautéed vegetables in a stir fry.  
  2. Go to the bulk bins to customize quantities. Although the bulk bins are called “bulk” they also allow you to select small portions of unique seeds, grains, nuts, and flour.  
  3. Planning is key. To avoid wandering down the aisles and grabbing what looks good, meal planning can provide focus at the grocery store.  
  4. Frozen fruit and veggies are great options. Use frozen fruit for smoothies or oatmeal. Utilize what you need then put the rest back in the freezer.  
  5. Go to the seafood and meat counter. Instead of purchasing big packages of meat or fish, you can simply get one pork chop, one fish filet or one chicken breast. 

When cooking single-serving meals you should prioritize making balanced and colorful options. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner delicious vegetable and protein-based selections can leave you feeling full and satisfied all day long.

Making the Perfect Picnic Lunch

When the weather is beautiful it seems only fitting to plan a picnic. Whether you’re heading out on a sunny day for lunch or planning a meal under the stars, here are a few simple tips to make your picnic relaxing and enjoyable.

  1. Plan a menu. There are no right and wrong foods to bring to a picnic but it’s certainly more convenient to plan dishes that travel well and can be made in advance. Try to avoid foods that need a lot of cutting or extra utensils. Ideally, plan finger foods and items that just need a fork. Veggie pasta salads and fruit salad are healthy examples of items that can be packed in a reusable container and easily transported. Nuts are great portable snacks to bring along. Plus, they don’t crush as easily as chips.  Try these recipes:

Picnic Pasta Salad

Honey Lime Fruit Salad

  1. Do your prep work at home. Planning to chop vegetables or fruit at your picnic site can get complicated and messy. Once your food is prepared arrange your containers and beverages that need to go in a cooler together. Bringing a cooler bag or small insulated tote can make transporting your items easier. Have a separate canvas bag for dry goods and food that can be kept at room temperature.
  2. Skip disposable packaging if possible. It’s more environmentally friendly to bring reusable plates and cutlery. Use parchment and twine for sandwiches versus plastic wrap and throwaway containers. Cloth napkins can add colorful practicality to outdoor dining. Sustainable packaging is also an attractive way to display your foods.
  3. Bring a few simple supplies to be comfortable and festive. A blanket, a few throw pillows (if desired), and a small tray or wood cutting board so you have a flat surface to set cups and plates. When you arrive at your picnic area place your tray or cutting board in the middle to act as a makeshift table.
  4. Enjoy your surroundings. Picnics can take place anywhere. You can be in your backyard, the local park, lakefront or oceanfront. Just be sure to stop and take a moment to enjoy the people and nature surrounding you.

Courtesy of Best Choice Brand