In Anticipation…

SnowI wasn’t happy to wake this morning to find everything covered with snow AGAIN…and it was still coming down.  Looking on the bright side, at least it wasn’t more than 6 inches – manageable but still took over an hour to shovel… by myself.  What’s with the groundhog though, who said “oh yeah, Spring is right around the corner?” 

 Thankfully I was able to enjoy my morning coffee in peace before heading off through the snow to the hairdresser.  New stylists always frighten me.  I’m never certain how my hair will turn out.  But I had a coupon; the salon was rated well so I thought, “what the heck?”  The cut and color were perfect; the styling, not so much.  Another experience to keep in mind.  At least with a good cut, I can style it as I like.

Detox Diet FoodsThe best part of the day was heading off to the grocery store to gather all my ingredients for the 3-Day Detox Cleanse I’m beginning tomorrow…with DH as my partner.  This is the first time he’s actually agreeing to any type of diet or exercise regimen.  I’m impressed (on the surface.)  The bill was around $90, I had some ingredients at home already and it was for two people; total cost about $15 per person per day.  Pretty good I’d say.Receipt 

Tonight however, we slid to the dark side, knowing full well we’d be deprived of our wildest desires (solid foods, especially breads and chocolate) for 3 full days!  We ate with complete abandon…fried flounder, brown rice, spinach and mushrooms.  The dessert, chocolate fudge ice cream (albeit low sugar) , was the highlight!

 We’re going to enjoy the remainder of the evening, relaxing on the couch, switching between World Cup Baseball and movies on the big screen, accompanied by snuggly, warm furry creatures, as the fire crackles in the background.

 Tomorrow begins an experiment of will, determination and perseverance.  Let’s see who folds first!

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Eager for Spring: Fresh Omelets and Salads

“Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

IMG_0355The past few days have been hectic but for no particular reason.  Ever have those kinds of days where you do LOTS of NOTHING and by the end of the day, you’re exhausted but feel you didn’t get anything worthwhile accomplished?  Made me long for the peace and serenity of Hawaii.

I can’t wait for Spring and am tired of making the same old meals every day.  Checking the fridge I found lots of fresh veggies just calling out to me. I usually don’t buy such a variety, since it’s only the two of us now and I’m the only one who really eats vegetables.  But I’m very happy I had them on hand.

These meals were healthy, tasty, satisfying and best of all, easy to make. 

 Egg White_Spinach_Mushroom Omelet

Egg White, Spinach and Mushroom Omelet

Ingredients:

·       3 egg whites

·       1 tbsp skim milk

·       ½ tsp Italian herbs (or your choice)

·       Freshly ground black pepper

·       1 cup chopped fresh spinach

·       ¼ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

·       1 tbsp reduced-fat cheese, shredded (I used Sargento Low Fat 4-Cheese Italian; can also substitute Parmesan if desired.)

Preparation:

1.    Whisk egg whites, milk and herbs together in a small bowl.

2.    Spray small skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium heat.

3.    Add mushrooms to pan and sauté 1-2 minutes.  Add spinach.

4.    As soon as spinach begins to wilt, pour egg white mixture over vegetables.

5.    When edges of mixture begin to set, lift sides and gently tilt skillet to allow remaining liquid to flow underneath.

6.    When egg white mixture is fully cooked, sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

7.    Fold omelet in half and serve immediately.

Avocado_Tuna Salad

 Avocado and Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

·       1 avocado

·       1 can ( 5oz.) tuna in water, drained

·       2 cups romaine lettuce

·       6 grape tomatoes, halved

·       1 cup sliced, peeled cucumber

·       2 hard-boiled egg whites, sliced

·       1 peeled carrot, grated or julienned

·       ½ lemon, squeezed, juice

·       2 tbsp. lite honey mustard dressing

Preparation:

1.    Slice avocado, remove pit and scoop contents into small bowl.  Add drained tuna and blend both together with fork.

2.    Add tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled egg whites and carrots over lettuce. 

3.    Mound avocado and tuna mixture on top.

4.    Sprinkle lemon juice and dressing over top as desired.

 Enough for 2 servings.

I hope you try one of these for your next meal.  They’re a nice change and make me eager for Spring!  Bon Appetit!

Some Food Fun on Valentine’s Day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all! 

 Many couples celebrate this day by going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, however this year we decided to spend some quiet time at home, just the two of us.  Our daughter is away at college.  I sent her a nice “care package” last week filled with lots of goodies for the holiday to let her know we miss her. 010

 

Since we were staying home, I thought I’d have a little fun with food today.  Instead of making the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I’d play around in the kitchen.  Okay, so the food wasn’t really gourmet fare, but it was fun to make, healthy to eat and totally satisfying (especially the dessert!)

 Happy banana strawberry smoothie

A strawberry-banana smoothie was perfect for breakfast.  Even the food was smiling (before I wielded my paring knife!)  Made with non-fat yogurt and a drizzle of Agave, this frothy breakfast was delicious, filling and less than 300 calories (based on an average serving.)

 

By the time lunch came along, we weren’t that hungry.  I had some cantaloupe chunks and walnut halves while I made my husband a nice little turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with a mug of hot skim chocolate milk.    

 

???????????????????????????????For dinner, I decided to make a Shrimp and Broccoli dish which was delicious, easy to prepare and wholesome.  I served the shrimp over a bed of brown rice and a small green salad with lemon squeeze on the side to round out the meal.  Before marinating the shrimp for about 15 minutes in a mixture of soy, garlic and ginger, I put together another heart-shaped happy face for the holiday!

 

???????????????????????????????Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to splurge on dessert and make some of my husband’s favorite cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip, as I spelled out a loving message.  A couple of these delightful chocolate sensations with a nice warm cup of tea really hit the spot.  We plan to spend the remainder of the evening relaxing by the fire. 

 I hope everyone gave and received lots of love today.  And if you have pets, I hope you gave them lots of extra love today too!  Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, you know…

From CameraPhone 008

“We love the things we love for what they are.” ~ Robert Frost

Gastronomic Coupling

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~ Virginia Woolf

February is American Heart Month as well as the time we celebrate lovers on Valentine’s Day. So what’s more appropriate than talking about food pairs for health! Physicians, nutritionists and dietitians alike tout the benefit of eating certain foods in combination for maximum health benefit. I’ve personally found combining specific foods satisfying as well as nutritious.

Below are some of the food combinations called “Dynamic Duos”* … for a good reason!

green tea_lemonGreen Tea + Lemon = A Healthier Heart

Green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks, thanks to catechins, the brew’s powerful antioxidants. But studies show only about 20 percent of these healthful compounds are available for our bodies to absorb. The good news: Recently, when scientists added lemon juice to green tea, the availability of health-enhancing catechins skyrocketed to a whopping 80 percent.

Stay-Well Strategy: After brewing yourself a cup of green tea, squeeze in the juice of one whole lemon (you can also use an orange, lime or grapefruit, all runners-up in the study). Don’t want to DIY? Look for bottled green teas that list “ascorbic acid” (also known as vitamin C) among their ingredients. Scientists say the vitamin C in citrus fruits can also improve catechin absorption.

broccoli tomatoBroccoli + Tomatoes = Cancer Control

Broccoli and tomatoes are both cancer-fighting all-stars, but research reveals eating them together may offer even more protection. In a recent study, scientists found consuming tomato and broccoli at the same time was more effective at slowing the growth of cancerous prostate tumors than eating either vegetable alone.

Stay-Well Strategy: The amount of produce used in the study translates to about one and a half cups of broccoli and two and a half cups of fresh tomato (or one cup of tomato sauce). To tap into their potent powers, order a pizza generously topped with broccoli or sprinkle some florets over your next plate of spaghetti.

Red Bell Peppers + Black Beans = Improved Immunity

Eating more meatless meals lately to do your heart (and the planet) a favor? You’ll absorb more immune-boosting plant iron by adding in some red bell peppers. That’s because the iron in picks like beans exists in a form called non-heme iron that’s harder for your body to absorb than the iron found in red meat (heme iron). But, adding a dose of vitamin C-rich produce like red peppers converts the iron into a type that’s easier for the body to use, explains registered dietitian Heidi McIndoo, author of the book, When to Eat What.

Stay-Well Strategy: In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women absorbed nearly three times more iron from their meal by adding just 63 milligrams of vitamin C. This amount translates into about a half cup of chopped red bell peppers. To tap into their healing powers, toss these health-enhancing peppers into your next pot of chili.

eggs mangoEggs + Mango = A Firmer Facade

Want to improve the overall look and strength of your skin? Try consuming this power couple. Eggs are naturally rich in two special amino acids (building blocks of protein) that are essential for the formation of skin-plumping collagen. “And foods rich in vitamin C, like mango, work with these acids to boost collagen production. This helps build back lost stores in the body, which can significantly improve the appearance of skin,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Stay-Well Strategy: To give a boost to your next breakfast, pair an omelet with a cup of fresh mango chunks, which supply nearly an entire day’s supply of vitamin C.

Green Tea + Black Pepper = A Whittled Waistline

Forget drastic diets: At your next meal, sip a cup of green tea and shake some black pepper over your entree. “A study recently found that the combo boosts the absorption of EGCG, a key antioxidant in tea tied to calorie burning, by a whopping 130 percent,” explains registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, author of the new book Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. Bonus: According to research published in Nutrition Journal, people who drank green tea with their meal reported feeling more full and were less likely to want a second helping than those who drank plain water. Experts say the compounds in green tea can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness.

Stay-Well Strategy: Studies say as little as a half-teaspoon of black pepper can increase the absorption of tea’s beneficial compounds, so brew a cup of tea to sip, then take out your mill and get grinding!

kale radicchioRadicchio + Kale = A Stronger Skeleton

Cup for cup, kale is the king of calcium (it contains three times more than spinach). However, food scientists say you’ll soak up even more of this bone-building mineral by combining kale with some radicchio. Why? The crimson veggie is a rich source of inulin, a carbohydrate that naturally enhances calcium absorption in the intestines, according to a recent study in the journal Nutrition Research.

Stay-Well Strategy: To shore up your skeleton, toss these tasty greens together in a salad.

avacado romaineAvocado + Green Salad = Complexion Protection

You’ll absorb more skin-protecting plant compounds called carotenoids from your veggie salad by adding a little avocado. “Carotenoids reduce free radical damage to effectively protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays,” explains Glassman. In a recent study at Ohio State University, people who ate avocado in their salad of lettuce, spinach, and carrots absorbed up to 15 times more carotenoids than those who didn’t eat their salads with avocado. Studies show carotenoids require some fat to be optimally absorbed by the body, which means avocados, which contain solid stores of healthful monounsaturated fats, healthfully fit the bill.

Stay-Well Strategy: To nab this nutrition perk, slice a half of an avocado into your next green salad.

Yogurt + Bran Cereal = Better Digestion

This breakfast is a natural immunity booster. Full of good bacteria, yogurt acts as a probiotic. It encourages healthy bacteria to flourish in your digestive tract, keeping sickness-causing bugs at bay. But probiotics work even better when paired with the prebiotics found in wheat bran. Why? Prebiotics act as nourishment for probiotics, helping them better thrive in the gut so they can do their immunity-boosting magic, says registered dietitian Dave Grotto, author of the book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Stay-Well Strategy: To get in on this good-gut action, first look for probiotic-rich yogurts that sport the label “live and active cultures.” Then, mix one cup of this yogurt with three quarters of a cup of wheat bran cereal.

Apricots + Almonds = A Tip-Top Ticker

This power pair helps prevents LDL “bad” cholesterol from oxidizing, a process that happens whenever LDL reacts with free radicals. “And oxidized LDL is harmful because it encourages dangerous plaque build-up in the arteries,” explains registered dietitian Elaine Magee, author of the book, Food Synergy. But, in a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers found that the phytochemicals in almonds reduced LDL oxidation when paired with the antioxidant vitamins E and C, both of which are found abundantly in apricots.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a satisfying, heart-healthy snack, combine a quarter-cup each of dried apricots and raw almonds.

yogurt blueberriesYogurt + Blueberries = A Stronger Body

Spoon up this tasty snack after a sweaty workout. The reason: Research reveals blueberries possess brain-boosting benefits to keep you better focused during your fitness routine, while yogurt’s hefty stores of protein help repair the little tears in your muscles that naturally occur during exercise. As if that’s not enough, the carbs in both the yogurt and fruit naturally replenish your muscles with glycogen, a stored form of energy (dipping too low in glycogen can quickly trigger fatigue). Yogurt’s protein also stimulates a hormone that transports those energizing carbs into your muscles to give your next workout more get-up and go.

Stay-Well Strategy: If you’re doing intense exercise and need to be at the top of your game, be especially speedy about eating this recovery snack. Why? Your body’s most efficient at stashing away glycogen in the first 15 minutes after your workout, says Magee

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil + Tomatoes = Disease Defense

Tomatoes boast all four major carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) plus three potent antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C) that may help fight cancer and heart disease. “You’ll absorb more of these protective chemicals if you eat them with olive oil,” says Magee. “It’s high in healthy monounsaturated fats and slows digestion so you can soak up more of them.”

Stay-Well Strategy: Mix a little olive oil in your next marinara. You’ll get a bigger phytochemical punch with cooked tomatoes (leave the skin on, since it’s loaded with them). Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form, so it contains the most beneficial compounds, says Magee. Just store it away from heat and light to prevent it from going rancid.

oatmeal strawberriesOatmeal + Strawberries = A Healthier Heart

Oats contain two important phytochemicals called avenanthramides and phenolic acids. These compounds have been shown in research to work synergistically with vitamin C to reduce the harmful effects of “bad” LDL cholesterol and help prevent the plaque build-up that can lead to heart attacks, says Magee.

Stay-Well Strategy: Enjoy a half cup of sliced strawberries with your morning bowl of oatmeal.

Cinnamon + Whole Grain Toast = Increased Energy and Speedier Slimming

Sprinkling on this spice may help keep your blood sugar at a healthier level, which prevents dips in your energy and spikes in your hunger level, says Sass. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon was found to slow the rate of stomach emptying after meals and reduce the rise in blood sugar after meals to negate more noshing later.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a healthier version of that childhood staple, cinnamon toast, use whole grain bread, trans-free margarine and a study-backed teaspoon of cinnamon. Note: Experts say you’ll nab more protective compounds if your cinnamon is fresh: Whole sticks last up to a year, ground cinnamon for six months.

garlic onionsGarlic + Onions = Head to Toe Protection

These aromatic veggies both contain a number of organosulfur compounds; heart-healthy plant chemicals that help keep arteries flexible and free of plaque, says Magee. Some of these compounds have even been studied for their power to detoxify carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the body. Eating both at the same time means you’re “covering your bases” and boosting your chances of getting more of these healthful compounds, she says.

Stay-Well Strategy: Cooked together, they make a delicious base for soups and sauces or simply sauté veggies like broccoli in a mix of olive oil, garlic, and onions.

Enjoy your “coupling” … you’ll love the results!

*Material reprinted from ivillage.com by Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D.

Caution: Eat Your Fruits and Veggies – with Care

fruits and veggiesYears of trying to get my family to eat more fruits and vegetables were hopeless.  Like many frustrated mothers, I considered pulling out my hair but thought better of it.  Their ambivalence would not deter me from eating all the fruits and vegetables I could manage.  That was until I discovered some combinations could react seriously with certain medications I was taking.  Another question I had dealt with eating specific foods in combination with others.

Before I embarked on a new healthy eating plan several months ago, these issues didn’t concern me.  An abundance of contradictory opinions on the internet had my head spinning.  Trial and error would be fine had I not been taking medication.  No; better to ask an expert and I wasn’t about to fork over dough for an unnecessary doctor’s visit.  I had other professional sources; family and my BFF.  good bad carbs

 “Eating meals and snacks that include both proteins and carbohydrates prevent episodes of hyper and hypoglycemia and stabilizes blood sugar” says food and nutrition expert Diane Pisciotto, RD of Suffolk County’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services in NY.  “Food-combining diets of the past are no longer considered advantageous.”  Pisciotto agrees with current USDA guidelines which suggest eating a daily diet of 50% complex carbohydrates, 20% lean protein and 30% fats and avoiding processed foods, sugary snacks and trans fats.My Plate

Balance and moderation, keys to a healthy lifestyle, are not new concepts.  Depending on specific medical conditions, some fruits or vegetables may best be avoided or should be consumed in moderation.  For example, diabetics should eat fruits low in carbohydrates (<15 grams) to avoid a blood level spike.  It’s best to discuss dietary recommendations with your physician or dietitian first.

grapefruit-and-drugsIf you take prescription medications, be aware that certain fruits, specifically citrus fruits, may cause dangerous drug interactions.  Grapefruit and orange juices are popular breakfast beverages in the American diet.  However grapefruit juice in particular, can wreak havoc if consumed with specific medications, causing too much of the drugs’ active ingredient to be absorbed.  This can result in damage to your muscles or liver.

Pharmacology expert Peter Donohue, MS, RPh at Winthrop University Hospital in NY confirms “Grapefruit juice has serious interactions when combined with certain medications for the treatment of anxiety, depression, seizures, cholesterol and hypertension, to name a few.”  For example, grapefruit juice contains a compound which affects an intestinal enzyme responsible for the absorption of some medications.  Apparently this news has been circulating for several years but has made a comeback in recent months.   Thankfully, my medications are not on the “avoid grapefruit while taking these” list. I’m a happy camper.

As Ben Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Talk with your doctor.  Know your medications.  Watch what you eat.  Get adequate sleep. Tack on getting plenty of exercise and you’ll have a prescription for a healthy life.

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”  ~ Doug Larson