Tip of the Week
You just dropped the little one off at school, your husband’s car broke, so you just dropped him off too. The to do list begins: grocery store, home to unload the groceries, clean house, back to school to pick the little one up, help with homework, get dinner, bath time, and so on. Did I for get to mention work in the midst of the chaos that you call your day? That’s life for most of us.
How can we simplify our over-scheduled and crazy day to day lives? Well, it’s hard! In most American homes, both parents work, leaving less time to do the day to day activities of keeping your house and family in order. In general, we spend less time together as a family.
In my house, one of the most important parts of our insanely crazy days is dinner time. It is one of the few times we re-connect as a family. When you start to break down communication as a family, you start to run into problems. We need to check in once in a while and take inventory of how our kids’ and spouses lives are, and you’re your own. When you slow down to talk about your day or week, it’s easier to stay connected.
So, “how,” you may ask, “do I get dinner on the table after my crazy day and still have time to re-connect?” I realize that getting dinner on the table is itself a task at times. This does not mean you should be calling the nearest pizza place or stopping at the golden arches on your way home. You – yes you – can make a relatively healthy, easy meal in a short amount of time. Here are a few things I make when times are crunched, but I want to have something kind of healthy to offer the family:
Bean and cheese quesadillas with fruit on the side
Take 2 tortillas (whole wheat (for finer) if your family will have it. Spread one side with a low fat refried bean (black or pinto work well). Sprinkle cheese and put the other tortilla on top. In a frying pan on medium heat – no oil or butter needed – put your quesadilla down, flip it till the tortilla is brown and everything is meted and warmed. Serve with a side of fruit and salsa. Voila…dinner in 5 minutes!
This works because the many households have cheese, tortillas and canned beans on hand. The beans offer a ton of fiber and protein which means your meal will be more filling. The cheese is just plain good, but it offers a bit of calcium. The fruit and salsa round the meal off.
Mini Turkey Meatloaves
Take ½ pound of lean ground turkey. Add a liberal amount of steak seasoning (I use Montreal Steak Seasoning – probably around 2 tablespoons) and Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tablespoon). Add ¼ c dried breadcrumbs and one whisked up egg. Combine it together with your hands and divide it into 3 or 4. Free form it into mini loaves. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Top with a mixture of ketchup and BBQ sauce (just combine equal parts), and bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with a side of steamed veggies and bread or rice.
This works because ground turkey is typically lean, but a great source of protein. The flavor comes from the ingredients you add, not the meat. Rounding it off with a yummy veggie and starch such as bread or rice makes it a meal. My kids love the meatloaves because I make them just their size. I like them because I can whip them together in no time, and give the kids a bath while they are baking!
My Favorite Chicken Marinade
I usually throw in a handful of fresh thyme leaves, fresh sage leaves, juice of 1 lemon and its’ lemon zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil (enough for how much chicken you are using). Salt and pepper each side of your chicken, and place it in this marinade for 15-30 minutes and thrown on the grill, or in a baking dish and bake off. You can also make the marinade, add the chicken and throw it in the freezer to use later. Just thaw out and use accordingly.
- On days you have a tiny bit of extra time, make meals that you can freeze. Just be sure to prepare them properly and seal them up good to prevent contamination in your freezer, and so your food doesn’t get freezer burned.
- Good Frozen Dinner Meals: mini meatloaves (see recipe above), lasagna (pick your favorite recipe and make 2!), pasta sauce, etc. All these meals can usually be taken out in the morning and thrown into the oven when you get home. When it comes to the meatloaves, you are better off thawing them in the fridge.
- Good Frozen Breakfast Meals: pancakes and waffles (when I make these for the kids on the weekend, I double or triple the batch and reheat them from the freezer in the microwave)
I hope this gets you started. Just remember that sitting down for dinner as a family to re-connect does not mean you have to be a stop at the drive through. With a few ingredients from your pantry and a little creativity, you can whip up easy go to meals in a pinch. Enjoy and slow down!
Health Tip of the Week
You have heard over and over that keeping your body healthy is beneficial to just about everything related to your physical being. Well, here is another reason to keep your body healthy. It keeps your mind sharp too!
As early as your 20s, you can begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make fewer of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. As you age, these small changes can begin to have significant affects on your memory by changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to remember stored information. While you cannot stop the aging process, you can help your brain by exercising it and eating healthy.
To exercise your brain, you will have to actively learn, try and/or experience new things. When you learn something new, whether it is a piece of information, an activity, etc., your brain literally grows. It forms new synaptic connections between your neurons. These connections are the “key” to intelligence, memory and information processing. The more connections you have, the better!!
What are some foods that can help keep your mind healthy? Start with whole foods. That means anything not processed. It comes off a tree or in the ground. Fruits and veggies are a great start! The best brain foods are complex carbohydrates. Because the molecules in complex carbohydrates are long, it takes longer for the intestines to break them down into the simple sugars the body can use. Because of this, they provide a source of steady energy rather than a surge followed by a plunge.* Below is a list of “good” brain food and “bad” brain foods:
Good Brain Foods
Avocados, Bananas, Lean Beef, Brewer's yeast , Broccoli , Brown rice , Brussels sprouts, Cantaloupe, Cheese, Chicken, Collard greens, Eggs, Flaxseed oil, Legumes, Milk, Oatmeal, Oranges, Peanut butter, Peas, Potatoes, Romaine lettuce, Salmon, Soybeans, Spinach, Tuna, Turkey, Wheat germ, and Yogurt
Bad Brain Foods
Alcohol, Artificial food colorings, Artificial sweeteners, Colas, Corn syrup, Frostings, High-sugar "drinks,” Hydrogenated fats, Junk sugars, Nicotine, Overeating, White bread
Check out this interesting article on yahoo health. It covers more of the best and worst brain foods. It is fascinating how food can affect your brain!
What happens if you don’t keep your mind healthy? While this certainly not the inevitable, it is a serious possibility that many people face today. What is it? Alzheimer’s disease! Alzheimer's is a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).
My Great-Grandmommy had Alzheimer's disease. Growing up, I saw her get worse and worse until she eventually lost all ability to remember anyone/anything around her. On the other hand, my Grandmommy, her daughter, is still ticking away sharp as a tack at 72!! The difference? While it is not scenically proven (in my family, anyway), my Grandmommy is extremely active, walking and working out at the senior center 3-5 days a week. She eats a balanced/mostly whole foods diet, and she constantly does things like crosswords, sodoku, reads, goes to museums, etc.
While I am no scientist, I am convinced that keeping your mind sharp is as simple as moving and learning. One may not completely eliminate the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s, but it won’t hurt to try! Now go out and learn something!!
The key is to learn new things, not just revisit old ones.
* Saltman, Paul, Joeal Gurin, and Ira Mothner. The University of California San Diego Nutrition Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Have you tried Kohlrabi?
My cousin Rocio recently shared her recipe for a delicious summer coleslaw with the items from her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box – one of which was Kohlrabi. It was so good, we just had to share!
- 2 ½ cups of Kohlrabi, peeled and shredded (with the protective larger skin removed in medium to large size bulbs, small kohlrabi bulbs generally do not need to be peeled)
- ½ cup of shredded Turnips
- ½ cup of shredded Carrots
- ½ head of Cabbage
- 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil Mayo
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Use a cheese grater or food processor to shred the peeled kholrabi, turnips and carrots. You can do it the old fashioned way, with a simple knife, but the grater and food processor will save you a lot of time. A mandolin slicer was used to shred the cabbage.
Combine all the shredded veggies in a large bowl.
The veggies release enough water to make the mayo combination nice and creamy. You can add mayo, salt and pepper to taste.
Why do we love this simple recipe? The ingredients are good for you!
Carrots – are high in Vitamin A and beta carotene, fiber, calcium, potassium and other trace minerals.
Kholrabi – are high in vitamins A and C and minerals potassium and calcium.
Turnips – are good source for vitamin C, potassium and calcium.
What is Kohlrabi?
These tasty green or purple colored turnips can be eaten raw or cooked and are similar in taste to broccolli stems. The folks over at Green Earth Institute give this unusual looking veggie a big thumbs up.
“With only 36 calories, one cup of raw kohlrabi has nearly 5 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of Potassium. Kohlrabi contains important phytochemicals such as indoles, sulforaphane and isothiocynates. Indoles are believed to be potentially significant anti-cancer compounds and are found in other cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. These plant compounds are not destroyed in cooking, and the bioactivity of indoles may actually be increased by cooking.”
To learn more about this fun veggie and try in some recipes, visit:
Tip of the Week
3 months ago I lost my Father-in-Law to pancreatic cancer at the age of 60, and 4 years ago, I lost my Mom to colon cancer at the age of 46. Cancer is becoming an increasing problem all over the world. It has touched my life closer than I wanted, but in away, it has been a blessing. I have learned more about cancer than I ever wanted to know, but this knowledge has allowed me to change the way that I live and eat. I feel like the knowledge that I have gained will hopefully benefit my children, and maybe inspire you to learn a little more too.
What is cancer? Cancer is a disease defined by a normal cell mutating and multiplying out of control. The best way I have heard it explained, is that cancer is like rust. Once a piece of metal begins to get rusty, it takes no time at all for the rust to spread and destroy the original piece of metal. That’s what happens to a healthy cell. It mutates, then spread to other healthy cells. Left untreated, it (the cancer) will take over and eventually kill its host (the person).
According to the National Cancer Institute, 80% of all cancers are caused by factors that have been identified and can potentially be controlled. Colon, breast and prostate cancers are believed be linked to an unhealthy diet. People with these cancers typically have diets that are high in meat and fat.
In parts of the world where more whole grains, fruits, beans, veggies and nuts are eaten, cancer rates are much lower. Many of the foods that are considered healthy – such as fruits, veggies and grains - offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc. Animal products, on the other hand, are thought to release carcinogenic compounds and are believed to increase cancer risk. I am not suggesting becoming vegetarian, but limiting the amount you consume is a good start.
An important thing to note is cancer and the Latino community – just as the Latino population is growing, so are its’ cancer rates. Latina women in particular have a lower survival rate for breast and cervical cancer than Whites. To learn more about how cancer is impacting the Latino community, see the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics and Latinos 2009-2011.
So, what can you do to decrease your chances of getting a cancer?
Cancer Prevention Tips
First, educate yourself and know your family history. If someone in your family has or had cancer, you NEED to know so that you can get checked. My Mom died at 46, but they believed she began to develop polyps in her early 30s. It takes polyps 5-10 years to become cancerous. So, had she been checked early on, they could have removed these polyps and she may still be here. She’s not, and now I know what I need to do. Get checked in my early 30s – not when the standard 50 year-old check is recommended.
Second, you can change and/or improve your diet. Like I mentioned earlier, diets rich in grains, fruits, beans, veggies and nuts are good diets! The less that these foods have been processed - cooked, peeled, mixed with other ingredients - the better they are for you! These types of food are also high in fiber. A diet rich in fiber is key because it helps keep your digestive system clean. Fiber is also found in whole grains, but it’s not found in meat, dairy and white rice…..or most desserts! For additional ideas on how to incorporate fiber and more fruits and veggies into your diet check out this helpful article posted by the folks at Helpguide.org.
Third, incorporate more cancer fighting foods into your diet. Have you heard of the Mediterranean Diet? It is a diet that contains many anti-cancer foods. Check out this website for a full view of what this diet consists of. Also, here is a table with some cancer fighting foods that can easily be incorporated into your life.
While there is no known singular cause to cancer, the best thing you can do to prevent it by knowing some of the “assumed” causes, and be proactive with them. Don’t smoke and minimize alcohol consumption. Eat a diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and don’t add too much additional fat. Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Bottom line, an overall healthy lifestyle may prevent cancer, while additionally helping prevent heart disease, obesity, and many other health complications.
Check out these helpful resources
Tip of the Week
Do you ever find yourself bored with making the same meals day in and day out? Maybe it’s not you. Maybe your kids are the ones who are bored with the same old meal. So, how do you mix it up and make it fun and healthy - without heading to the closest fast food joint? The key to “mixing” things up. Be creative, get involved, and have fun!
Maybe you can take a traditional lunch item, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and make “sushi” rolls instead of the traditional sandwich. You take the crusts off of a slice of wheat bread, roll it out to thin the bread out. Spread peanut, or another nut butter, followed by jam. Roll the bread up, and cut into 4 pieces. Now you have peanut butter and jelly “sushi rolls!” I did this for my boys a few days ago, and they thought it was hilarious.
What about you? Are you completely bored with your turkey sandwich or salad? Try turning your sandwiches into a healthy wraps. Take a whole wheat tortilla, spread it with a low fat seasoned cream cheese or dressing, and add your favorite sandwich ingredients. Roll it up and cut in two. Make your “boring” salad into an awesome chopped salad! I take my everyday romaine and favorite salad vegetables and chop it really small– like you get at a restaurant - add a bit of crumbled feta (it is lower in fat that most cheeses), some dressing, and voila! To me, things that come wrapped or chopped up really small just make food taste better.
You can also try getting involved with your food. Sounds weird, but seriously! For example, grow some of your own vegetables and/or herbs. If you have children, have them garden with you. My boys “help” by throwing all my garden dirt out of the garden. It may be a little messy, and not exactly helpful, but they are outside with me having fun, and seeing how certain foods are grown. It is a really neat way to learn about the food you are going to eat, and it makes you appreciate the hard work that goes into producing your food. It is an extremely fulfilling feeling to eat what you grow.
So many times we feel that if we can’t make this crazy elaborate meal, then what’s the point? Sometimes even the simplest of meals, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, can be made fun by being creative. Experiment with your food. When I was younger, my Mom, a single mom of 6 kids, didn't have time to make anything from scratch. So, my mom got creative. One of the many ways she did that was making cookies from a cake mix! She wanted something quick and easy, and not a lot of ingredients. Natural food stores carry healthier cake mixes that work well with this trick. My sister, who is a single working mom, makes these all the time because they are cheap, easy, and sooooo yummy!!
Food is what sustains us. It is here to nourish us, not stress us out and make us unhealthy. It should be enjoyable and fun to make! I found this really cool book called “Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won’t Trade” by Sandra Nissenberg and Barbara Pearl. While it is geared toward children, I think that some of the recipes and ideas in this book can be used for adults too! Try to mix things up at home, and stock your kitchen with “go to” items that will allow to make meals quickly and creatively! Check out this article on vidacoco.com to help you get started. Just have fun with your food!!!
Healthy Snacking (Part 1)
Whether you have kids or not, make a snack basket you or the kids can grab from at any time or when you are on the go. I got this idea from a friend of mine and I LOVE it!
The snacks are portioned out and it saves time. If you have kids, you can be confident that they have relatively healthy snacks to go help themselves to, and if you don’t, you have ready pre-portioned snacks for yourself!
I use whole apples, boxes of raisins, snack baggies full of cheerios, dried fruit, almonds and trail mix. You may also want to add low-fat pretzels, ginger snaps and flavored rice cakes. You can keep your basket in your pantry or countertop where your children can easily reach it. In addition to your snack basket – which mostly contains grain based snacks – it’s a good idea to keep lots of fruits and veggies on hand for snacking. Keep fruit, veggies and dairy items for snacking in a designated drawer or shelf in your fridge for your kids.
If you have read my “Why Organic” article, you have a pretty good idea of why going organic may be beneficial for you and to your family. However, if you are not convinced, or just want more information, please read on.
What is Organic?
Organic crops are not treated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Animals on organic farms are not given hormones and drugs to promote more rapid growth. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not used on any organic farms.
What does this mean for me?
To “go organic” means better health for you and your family. It also means that farm animals will be treated better and we will be protecting our earth. But how much of an impact can you personally make by purchasing organic food, and how can I afford this “new” way of eating?
If we can increase organic food sales to 10% by the end of the year, the increase will improve the health of millions of people, especially infants, children, and the elderly. Ideally, this translates into less healthcare costs (due to fewer chemicals in our food sources and into our bodies), and as organics become more common staples in the American diet, organic food costs will go down.
How can I help reach the goal?
1At the grocery store, purchase 1 organic food item out of every 10 food items you put into your shopping basket.
2At home, make 1 organic meal out of every 10 meals you eat.
Organic food is safer and more nutritious than conventional food. It is safer because it contains fewer and much less risky pesticides. It is more nutritious because most of the time it has more vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting antioxidants.
Organic fresh fruits and vegetables often taste better. They are usually picked when they are riper. They are served fresher and travel fewer miles from the field to your table. Organic milk and meat, cheeses and yogurt, breads, tomato sauces, jams, coffee, and drinks also often have deeper flavors and richer colors. This is because of the way organic farmers manage their crops and their animals.
New science suggests that when foods have more flavors per bite they often contain higher levels of antioxidants. When we consume certain antioxidants, they promote both good health and a sense of fullness. This helps keep our caloric intake in line with our energy needs.
PREGNANT WOMEN, INFANTS, & CHILDREN
It is especially important for pregnant women, infants, and children to eat organic food. When mothers and children eat organic food, they can almost totally avoid the pesticides most likely to cause developmental problems. This is important because through age 16 a child’s brain and nervous system are still developing. Consumption of these chemicals can trigger developmental abnormalities, some with lifelong consequences.
How to I Start?
Start with Fresh Produce: Always shop in the fresh fruits and vegetables section of the market. Be sure to seek out organic foods that meet the needs of all family members throughout the day. Many of the major grocery store chains offer their own brand of organic food. This is great because they tend to be cheaper!
Shop in Season: It always makes sense to look for in season local fruits and vegetables. They are likely to be fresher and tastier–and a better bargain – especially if you can get them at your local framer’s market. In the late fall and winter months when a lot of produce is imported, it is especially important to look for organic.
Go Local: Local food tends to be picked riper and sold fresher. It tastes better, and uses far less energy in support of “food miles.” Plus, some research has found that there is an increased pesticide risk from imported produce.
Prioritize your Purchases: Want to know more about the fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest and least pesticide risks? Check out the reference guide from the “Why Organic” article. Go organic on a few things you use the most. It may not be practical or financially feasible to go organic all the way. (Source: Environmental Working Group)
Upgrade your Snacks: Dried fruits are a great way to replace a high-fat or sugary snack with a nutritious antioxidant-packed treat. Unsweetened fruit juices are also a good way to make sure kids get their recommended 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Organic nuts deliver both antioxidants and fiber and can be enjoyed in so many ways.
Buy In Bulk: Look for organic cereals, pasta, rice, flour, and other goods in bulk. Buying organic food in bulk usually brings down the price to about what you would pay for conventional food.
Practical Note: Costco carries organic peanut butter, milk, chocolate milk for the kids, cereal, hormone free ground turkey and chicken (By Foster Farms), etc. Just take a bit more time to look, but you will get a better deal.
Shop for Color: Want more antioxidant and flavor bang for your food dollar? A good rule of thumb; go for the ketchup, tomato sauce, pesto, salsa, and jams with the deepest, richest colors.
Convert your favorite recipe: If you have a favorite recipe—and we know you must—try purchasing organic ingredients in place of the old standbys. If you cannot make the whole recipe organic, that’s okay. Just try to convert the “worse” items in your recipe to the organic version.
Visit a Farm: Get to know your local farms. Talk to farmers about their agriculture practices—notice the connection to the food once it arrives at your table in meal form. Farm visits are also great experiences for kids!
organic-center.org The nation’s clearinghouse for hard-core science and studies highlighting why organic products are a healthier dietary choice. • Free downloadable reports • E-newsletter on the latest research • Verified facts about organic products
allorganiclinks.com If you are looking for anything organic, this is the place! This is a directory of organic resources from A–Z. Favorite categories include: • Food • Health & Beauty • Home & Garden • Reference • Shopping
organic.org A consumer-friendly site offering fun tips for organic living and the latest and greatest in product news. • Easy-to-Read Articles • Blog • Recipes • Product Reviews • Just for Kids • Newsletters & More!
DRGreene.com A great website to learn more about kid’s health!
- 1 Tblsp canola oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, grated
- 1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 1/2 cups corn, frozen (thawed) or fresh
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 corn tortillas, quartered
- 1 19-ounce can mild red or green enchilada sauce
- 1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are heated through, about 3 minutes.
- Scatter half the tortilla pieces in the pan. Top with half the vegetable mixture, half the enchilada sauce and half the cheese. Repeat with one more layer of tortillas, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil. Bake the casserole for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more.
Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 3 and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
Nutritional Information: Per serving: 243 calories; 10 g fat (5 g sat, 4 g mono); 23 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrates; 9 g protein; 5 g fiber; 338 mg sodium; 267 mg potassium.