3 Healthy Substitutes for Thanksgiving Dinner

Photo credit: Public Domain

Thanksgiving is a day when we eat a lot of food. Sure, spending time with the family is wonderful, and catching up with old friends is great. But then again, there’s nothing quite like Thanksgiving dinner topped off with pumpkin pie.

Food Network (foodnetwork.com) is one of many sites that offer numerous healthy recipes to introduce to your Thanksgiving table. If there’s one food that everyone’s Thanksgiving has in common, it’s potatoes. Sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, candied yams and roast potatoes. These are the easier substitutions you can make.

Candied yams are integral to any Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s packed with sugar and it’s not great for the diet. Consider opting for glazed sweet potatoes instead.

Say Goodbye to Candied Yams

Rather than layering your sweet potatoes with marshmallows, choose honey, cinnamon, and walnuts. For every 5 sweet potatoes, use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ cup of honey, 2/3 cup of apricot nectar, and a tablespoon of cornstarch.

Boil your sweet potatoes and slice when tender, cook the rest of the ingredients over a high heat and bring them to a boil.

Once the mixture thickens, pour it over the yams and then top with a ½ cup of chopped nuts. Bake for half an hour at 350 degrees.

Mashed Potatoes Are a Thing of the Past

Mashed potatoes are a must, but instead try mashed butternut casserole.

You’ll need 8 cups of butternut squash cut into cubes, 1.5 cups of diced sweet onion, an 1/8 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, a tablespoon of light butter, a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt, 3 wedges of laughing cow cheese and 3 slices of turkey bacon.

Cook the bacon till it’s crispy, then crumble it and set aside for later use. Add the onion, butter, cayenne pepper and a ¼ teaspoon of salt to a pan and stir for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir until caramelized. Remove from heat.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the squash and cook until tender. Drain it and mash it in a large bowl, add the garlic, salt, cheese and pepper and mix it well Spread the mixture into an 8×8 baking pan and top with the caramelized onions and the crumbled bacon. Bake it for around 15 minutes.

Boxed Stuffing Isn’t a Necessity

Instead, consider making a vegetarian cornbread stuffing.

You’ll need 2 diced leeks, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, finely chopped celery stalks (8), cored and diced apples (3), a cup of chopped pecans, a tablespoon of poultry seasoning, one large beaten egg, 4 cups of gluten-free cornbread (crumbled), a quart cup of port/sherry, plus pepper and salt to taste.

Start by heating the olive oil over medium heat and add leeks to sauté till slightly golden. Add the apple and celery one at a time and cook for three minutes after each new ingredient is introduced.

Add the pecans and seasonings and sauté for another two minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Add 2 tablespoons of port/sherry and cook for a minute. Set the mixture aside and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

Put the cornbread in a large bowl and mix in the remaining port/sherry, egg, and veggies in the bowl and mix. Transfer it to a baking dish and cover, place it in a preheated oven (350 F) and bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes for browning.

Thanksgiving can be healthy and delicious without much more effort!

 

 

Simple Nutrition Secrets for Surviving the Holidays

Photo credit: Smastronardo CC-BY-SA 4.0

You need to consume more protein to burn fat. Protein isn’t just for building muscle. It’s for burning fat, too. A good way to keep holiday weight gain at bay is to greatly increase your protein intake over the holiday season. While protein helps build and preserve muscle, it also helps to control your appetite as well as boost your metabolism.

Eating more protein to burn fat was confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high protein diet (just over one gram per pound of body-weight per day) while the second group consumed a protein diet near equal to that of the RDA.

The group eating the high protein diet burned more fat than the group consuming protein near equal to the RDA. One reason for the ability of protein to burn fat could be an increased “thermic” effect. The thermic effect of the RDA group was elevated 16% after eating. However, in the high protein group the thermic effect increased a lot after eating, almost 3-times that of the RDA group. This thermic effect of digesting your food peaks approximately one hour after eating.

By adding more protein to each meal, you increase your metabolism. Your body requires more energy (i.e. calories) to process protein than it does carbohydrates.

So go ahead and indulge a little in those high protein holiday foods such as the deviled eggs, shrimp cocktails and of course the holiday turkey!

Here are some good protein-rich food sources:

  • Whey protein
  • Eggs (Deviled during the holiday season)
  • Egg whites
  • Chicken breasts
  • Turkey breasts
  • Lean beef
  • Fish (tuna, salmon, shrimp cocktail)
  • Protein bars
  • Egg protein powder
  • Casein (cottage cheese)
  • Milk or Almond Milk

Post-Workout Shake:

A post-workout shake will help you get the right protein and the right carbs at the right time – immediately after your workout. You can prepare your post-workout shake before you hit the gym, stick it in a thermos and take it with you to store in your locker.

Simply choose your favorite whole food protein shake or whey protein shake, add a cup of frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), and then mix in a blender. You can alter how much of the powder and fruit you use to get the appropriate number of calories you want as well as shake thickness.

Or, you can try this version of the fat-burning post-workout shake:

Add 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of orange juice, a scoop of your favorite protein shake, one serving of creatine, and then finish with a cup of frozen fruit. You can alter this any number of ways to suit your taste buds. You could add banana, or even some yogurt, which will also make the shake a little thicker in its consistency.

Want to indulge in some of those great holiday treats like pie? Instead of having it after a big holiday meal, save the dessert for post-workout. Have a serving of a good whey protein powder with water for your protein and then have that piece of apple or pumpkin pie.

Happy Holidays!

Are You Suffering From Brain Fog?

Photo credit: Shannan Muskopf [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Almost everyone experiences brain fog from time to time. So, what exactly is brain fog? It’s a condition where you feel a general lack of mental clarity. You may feel forgetful, confused, or have trouble concentrating. Various factors may lead to brain fog, such as nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalance, stress, sleep disorders, or environmental toxins. Once you understand why you are suffering from brain fog, you can take proactive steps to fix it.

Here are five possible reasons you are suffering from brain fog –

Poor Nutrition

Eating a diet filled with highly processed foods, aka junk foods, will leave you feeling foggy. There isn’t much, if any, nutrition left in these foods after they’ve been stripped of their natural state, taking this and that out and adding in more chemicals than we can count to come up with something that will stay on the shelf indefinitely.

When you put bad gas in your car, it makes your car sputter, cut out, and just run poorly. Well, think of highly processed foods as lousy fuel for your body.

Get more fresh whole foods into your diet to combat brain fog. Eat organic as often as possible and fill your body with the goodness that comes from real food.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Leading a life without much movement can cause brain fog because your brain isn’t getting what it needs to be sharp and alert.

Your brain needs oxygen and vital nutrients, which are carried to it through the bloodstream. If you don’t get your blood pumping to increase blood flow through exercise, your brain lacks the very things it needs to do its job correctly. Exercise improves brain function, so get off the couch. Even a quick 10-minute walk will go a long way towards improving your brain power.

Toxic Buildup

Our bodies can get polluted from chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. If you don’t eat healthily and get some exercise, these toxins can build up, causing your body and brain to function at sub-optimal levels.

Detoxifying can be an unpleasant experience the first time because we’re stirring up all the crud that has built up over our lifetime. The more often you do this, the easier it becomes, and you will feel the effects of having a cleaner body and a clearer mind.

Stress

Chronic stress is another factor that can lead to physical and mental problems. Stress elevates a hormone in your body called cortisol that causes inflammation in your brain and body. Chronic inflammation can cause many health issues, including fatigue, damaged brain cells, depression, weight gain, and glucose imbalance.

Finding an outlet for your stress would be immensely helpful, such as adding an exercise regimen to release endorphins in your brain, which cause you to feel good; it can even help you shed unwanted weight. You can also choose to pamper yourself by taking a hot bath, getting a massage, meditating, or trying yoga.

Dehydration

If you don’t consume enough water, you may suffer from dehydration.
Water can help flush the waste and toxins out of your body that can accumulate in your intestinal tract.

Try to consume at least 8 cups of water per day. An easy way to incorporate more water into your day is to drink a full glass upon rising and another before each meal. For advanced hydration and flavor, a healthy sports drink will do the trick.

If you find yourself feeling foggy regularly, chances are good you’re suffering from one or all of these issues. Get some exercise, eat better, drink lots of water and release your stress, and you’ll feel sharper in no time.

Resources

Bolero Advanced Hydration

http://www.gobolero.com

Protect Young Athletes From Dehydration

Photo Credit: Derrik Mealiffe CC-BY-SA 2.0

Many children play sports outdoors during the summer. Dehydration can be a risk when the weather is hot, and the kids are playing. Children who engage in vigorous exercises such as running, baseball, softball, and soccer can become dehydrated quickly. Protective clothing and padding can contribute to dehydration and overheating by holding in heat and preventing the evaporation of sweat. Children who may be especially susceptible to heat-related illness include those who are overweight, rarely exercise, have a condition like diabetes, and children who have recently had a cold or flu. Dehydration can increase the risk of heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. Most team coaches are trained to prevent dehydration by providing water and drinks to restore electrolyte balance in young athletes but don’t rely entirely on your child’s coach. There are steps you can and should take to make sure your child remains hydrated during a game.

Make sure that your child drinks plenty of water before and during a game or practice session. Take your own bottled water and sports drinks to the game or practice, and make sure that your child hydrates at each break in the game. Learn the warning signs of dehydration and take action immediately if you think a child may be succumbing to a heat-related illness. Dehydration symptoms include a dry mouth, headache, thirst, cramps, dizziness, and fatigue. Ensure your child knows how to recognize the signs of dehydration and report symptoms to the coach or you immediately. Dehydration can result in confusion and loss of consciousness if left untreated.  

You can easily prevent dehydration by providing children with plenty of water or healthy electrolyte drinks before, during, and after practice and games. Talk with your child’s team coach about dehydration prevention and the warning signs of dehydration. Games and training sessions should be canceled or moved indoors when the temperature and humidity are high.

Resources

Bolero Advanced Hydration

http://www.gobolero.com

Laughing for Health? Laugh Harder and Live Longer!

Photo credit: Eric Ward from Provo, UT, USA (Laughing) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

There is a reason why laughter is considered to be the best medicine. When you are laughing, you are not just amused by a joke or a funny situation; you are actually laughing for health benefits. There are several important benefits of laughter. Laughter reduces stress and relaxes the whole body. A hearty laughter can keep the body calm for as long as 45 minutes, as it is extremely conducive to the overall development of the immune system. It also helps the body to generate infection-fighting antibodies by reducing the level of stress hormones and improving resistance to diseases. Laughing for health is the best way to keep medicines and chemical drugs at bay. You wouldn’t need any other drug to make you feel good, as laughter has its own high. Laughing reduces stress and triggers endorphins that make us feel good about ourselves and render us generally perky. By laughing hard, you are actually improving your blood flow and fending off cardiovascular diseases.

Healthy Body, Sound Mind

Health is not just what the physical body reflects. An overall healthy body entails a healthy mind and favorable interaction in society. Laughter is believed to be a panacea for every biological, mental and social condition. If you are laughing for health, you are also securing your social bonds. Laughing with other people is a great way of bonding and sharing happy thoughts. Isn’t that everything we need to lead a healthy life? Besides, it improves your mood and develops the body’s and the mind’s resilience towards adverse conditions.

Generating Laughter

Unfortunately, in today’s world, laughter has to be generated in laughing clubs and other therapeutic centers. People visit these places and forcefully laugh to enhance their biological processes. This practice can be extremely therapeutic, but it is essentially very sad. Laughing for health has become a prescribed medication as more and more people are falling prey to sedentary and depressing urban lifestyles. The best way to laugh is with your friends and family. If you don’t know how to get your kicks, start watching your favorite sitcom or read a comic book. The serious dearth of laughter in urban places has triggered a number of stand-up comedy cafes and laughter shows. You should not have to look for a reason to laugh, just do it. Laughter is highly contagious and can make a huge difference in your daily life. Laugh to live.

 

 

Dancing is a Fun and Exciting Way to Lose Weight

Lose weight dancing!

Lose weight dancing! Doesn’t it sound fun? Dancing is beneficial for many more reasons than one. It’s not only a fast way to lose weight, but it’s fun and allows you to learn a new skill that will simply catapult your social quotient. Dancing as a form of exercise is also much less monotonous than boring gym routines.

Dance is not just a seductive movement of the body aimed to charm a room full of people, or merely an art form designed to express oneself. Dance is so much more; it’s a way of life, and a way of attaining perfection in the body and the soul.

 

Benefits of Dancing for Weight Loss

There are many ways in which dancing promotes weight loss. Here are a few of them:

  • A lot of people stop exercising because it becomes monotonous and boring. With dancing, that does not really happen and many people are able to stay on track and achieve their weight loss goals.
  • While we lose weight dancing, we also acquire a new skill that helps us to gain greater self-confidence and self-worth.
  • Some people may find traditional workouts like sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups strenuous and hard on the muscles. Dancing, on the other hand, is relaxing and helps burn a lot of calories.
  • Apart from losing weight, dancing also helps develop concentration, patience and relieves stress.

Types of Dance Workouts

These popular dance workouts can be done at home with videos or taken with a group of friends at a fitness class.

  • Fusion dance is for those who are not biased to any particular form of dance. This dance form takes the good parts of many other dance forms, along with their own innovative steps and makes your workout time worthwhile. Highly recommended for people who get bored quickly.
  • Piloxing is a blend of Pilates, boxing and dance. Ideal for those looking to burn calories fast, as well as build and tone muscles. Recommended for the sporty individual.
  • Ballet is an art and fitness routine fused together. Apart from sculpting a svelte figure, it increases flexibility like no other forms of exercise. It also helps in personality development by promoting gracefulness.
  • Zumba is a high energetic Latin inspired dance routine that includes cardio workouts in its routine.

The benefits of dancing for weight loss are endless. Most gyms nowadays offer variety of packages to help you lose weight dancing. Research the form of dance that you like and select a package accordingly, or you can simply tune into the home dance videos and dance your calories away.

 

Mother’s Day Sweets

800px-Chocolate_Cake_Flourless_(1) Living a  healthy lifestyle and eating healthy food doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional sweet indulgence. It’s Mother’s Day! That box of chocolates is calling your name! Can you eat sweets and still manage your diet? Yes, you can. As long as you eat sweets in moderation and occasionally, you can enjoy decadent chocolates, cakes, and cookies.

Dark chocolate is not only a decadent treat; it’s a healthy one too. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids can help improve your heart health and decrease your blood pressure. Walnuts increase the heart health power of this sweet by adding beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, you can have 2 or 3 of those delicious dark chocolate-covered walnut treats.

Love milkshakes and ice cream? You know milkshakes are loaded with calories and fat. You can enjoy all the delicious flavors of a milkshake but with far fewer calories by substituting regular milk with 1 percent milk. Add some plain low-fat yogurt and your favorite fresh fruit, such as blueberries or strawberries, for a fruity flavor explosion. You will also benefit from the antioxidants found in fresh fruits and get a good dose of your daily vitamin and fiber requirements.

If you are going out to dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day, many restaurants offer low-fat treats. If you must have that slice of chocolate cake, forego the ice cream and whipped topping. Take small bites and savor each one. You don’t have to finish that dessert either. Share it with that special someone who is treating you to dinner.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Want To Lose Weight Faster? Try These Workouts

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Exercise is one of the most important factors for a healthy lifestyle. If you want to lose weight fast, then it’s essential that you choose the right workouts for the best results. Workouts are also needed to both tone muscle and keep the mind and body healthy.

The idea of ‘working out’ doesn’t have to incorporate a session at the gym. The term ‘workout’ means “a practice or exercise to improve one’s fitness,” or “a session of vigorous physical training.” So any kind of intensive activity can be classed as a workout.

 

Here are some excellent workouts to try if you want to lose weight faster.

  • Walking. This might sound like it is too simple for to be called a ‘workout’, but if you currently have a sedentary lifestyle, then walking can be ideal. Walking has been described as a low-intensity activity to lose weight. It should be possible to burn up to 360 calories in 45 minutes. This means that walking 45 minutes per day a person can lose around a pound a week.
  • Swimming. Swimming is a great way to lose extra pounds. Depending on the type of swimming, a person can burn between 450 and 700 calories an hour. This is a low impact workout as the body isn’t subject to the bumps and strains of lifting weights or running. It’s a good form of exercise for people with other health issues like obesity, arthritis, and asthma.
  • Kettlebells. What are they? Cast iron balls that have a single handle. The interesting aspect of using kettlebells in a workout is that, because the weight isn’t distributed evenly, the body has to work to counterbalance kettlebell’s weight. Kettlebell workouts can burn around 400 calories in about 20 minutes. In terms of cardiovascular benefits, a workout with a kettlebell can be the equivalent to running six miles.
  • Jumping/skipping rope. This shouldn’t be resigned to the school playground. A jumping rope workout can help you burn up to 800 calories in an hour. Just 10 minutes of this type of workout is the same as running a mile. There are more than just cardiovascular benefits to using a jumping rope. It’s also a great way to improve endurance, coordination, and agility. It’s more intensive that other workouts, but this means that you don’t have to do it as long.
  • Squats. Squats burn fat fast and build muscle. Squat exercises use most of the muscles in the body. Why is this important? The more muscle mass a person has, the better his metabolism, and therefore calories will be burned faster. Squat workouts can be used with or without weights, therefore perfect for either home exercising or at the gym.
  • Lunges. These can be performed at home and no equipment is needed. They are great exercises to tone your lower body, but more importantly they great for burning calories. It’s estimated that a person can burn around 275 calories in a 30-minute workout. There are various types of lunges, even ‘explosive lunges.’
  • Bicycling is another low-impact, high-rewards activity for losing weight. Depending on how fast a person cycles and the type of terrain, it is possible to burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour. Cycling can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. For example, you could cycle to work or use the bicycle for leisure time. If that’s not possible, then most gyms have cycles.
  • Running. This is the ‘classic’ workout for losing weight. Running is great for strengthening muscle, improving the cardiovascular system and is generally good for the whole body and mind. It only requires a good pair of running shoes and a music player to help you keep pace. Even better is to use high-intensity interval running. This involves short bursts of running at top speed, then a slowing the pace before the next burst.

5 Powerful Spices and Herbs to Increase Metabolism

Photo credit: I, [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When you’re trying to get healthy, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest of fad diets, exercise tools, and the like that can cost you a lot of time, money, and leave you feeling frustrated. Thankfully, with the modern spread of information, it’s a lot easier to research and find which things work for people so that you can reach your health goals. The primary focus of this article is to reveal a few powerful spices and herbs to increase metabolism and improve health.

Ginseng

This famous herb has been associated with energy and metabolism for 2000 years. Its presence in tea has made ginseng tea a favorite among people looking to promote a more energetic lifestyle, and studies have shown that ginseng can greatly help with weight loss if consumed every day for a sustained period. Ginseng was also found to have a favorable effect on insulin sensitivity, making it a good choice for people who deal with diabetes.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a staple ingredient in Indian cuisine, which is notoriously spicy-and health-enhancing. This powerful spice contains anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce arthritis symptoms and improve other chronic inflammatory conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, also helps to burn fat, promote proper metabolism, aids digestion, and corrects bile deficiencies and excesses.

Cayenne Pepper

In the last few hundred years, there have been a number of tonics that have employed the use of capsaicin, the active or hot ingredient in cayenne pepper to help treat various ailments. Today, science has uncovered more of the specifics in the way that we can use this powerful agent to reduce caloric intake, shrink fat tissues, and clean the vascular system. Research has discovered that it can stimulate thermogenesis, which is the process of metabolizing fats to generate heat. In fact, the Global Healing Center mentioned that eating hot peppers, such as Cayenne, can increase your metabolism by as much as 25%.

Cinnamon

People have had a strong love of cinnamon for quite some time due to its festive flavoring and associations with holiday time, but this powerful spice has many other advantages. Research has shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels substantially, in addition to increasing glucose metabolism by more than 18 times the regular amount. This means that it helps to make your metabolism more efficient, which is also ideal for people who have diabetes or might be close to becoming diabetic.

Mustard

People tend to think of mustard as simply a condiment, but it’s been shown that less than a teaspoon of mustard seeds can increase your metabolic rate 20 -25% for several hours after eating, which could result in roughly 50 calories being burned per hour.

If you use these herbs and spices for weight loss on a regular basis, you will gradually see and feel the difference in your overall health and well-being.

 

5 Simple Ways to Smarter, Healthier Eating

Photo credit: Jeff Krugh, CC BY-SA 4.0

The last few centuries have seen a lot of technological advances for us as a species. One of those significant advances was to change the way we farm and produce food. It used to be a deeply personal experience. We grew our own food, preserved it, hunted, and bartered with our community for the items we could not provide for ourselves. These days the majority get their food from huge factory farms. These farms are so massive in scale and the contamination factor so great that they often sterilize our food to make it safe for consumption. We have effectively removed ourselves from the process and become reliant on corporations to make our food choices for us. The rise of obesity, diabetes, and numerous other health problems indicates that we need to regain control of our food choices. Here are some simple ways to immediately improve what you eat:

1. Eat grass-fed and pastured meat and eggs. Factory farms mistreat their animals and feed them substandard food. When you consume an unhealthy animal, you’re not providing adequate nutrition to your own body. Animals allowed to graze and eat a diet natural to them are leaner than their “fattened” counterparts, they have more omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re more nutrient-dense.

2. Ferment your food. The fermentation process inactivates most of the anti-nutrients in certain foods so that they are easier to digest, and our body can make better use of their nutrients. Fermentation also creates healthy live bacteria and yeast. Our digestive system needs these beneficial bacteria to form a balance and to do its job effectively. You can ferment many foods in your own home for little money. Try starting with a simple vegetable ferment by soaking vegetables in a salt brine. You can ferment almost any vegetable like peppers, cauliflower, beets, cucumbers, carrots, or asparagus – the list goes on.  

If you choose not to ferment your food at home, visit your local grocery store and purchase fermented veggies, snacks, or drinks. Be sure to check the ingredients list for “Live and Active Cultures” or “Live Active Cultures.” The healthiest products will be those that list the different strains of live probiotics by name, such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, and should mention how many millions of cultures are within.

3. Consume raw, pastured dairy. If you can get raw dairy in your location, it’s well worth the investment in your health. Raw dairy has healthy bacteria and numerous vitamins and nutrients that are destroyed during the pasteurization process associated with conventional milk. Many people with milk allergies find that they can’t drink regular milk, but they can consume raw. Use raw milk to make healthier versions of yogurt, butter, and kefir.

4. Shop the farmer’s market for local foods. Supermarket foods often travel weeks to get to you, and they’re less than fresh by the time they reach your plate. The nutrient loss associated with these foods is significant. Farmer’s markets usually have fruits and veggies picked that same day, and you would do better to shop there. For more fresh local produce, look into CSAs or visit your local farms yourself.

5. Grow your own or pick your own. Many people are reluctant or unsure of how to grow their own food, but they don’t have to be. Start by selecting one or two items you eat a lot of and planting those in pots or raised beds. Use seed or even buy starter plants from a local nursery. Growing your own tomatoes or strawberries, for instance, is a great start to being more self-sufficient. If you don’t have the resources or the time to grow your own food, you can still harvest fresh produce at local pick-your-own farms. These farms allow you to walk the rows of their crops and pick your own food. Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, pumpkins, apples, sweet corn, squash, and beans are examples of popular pick your crops.