Tips to Add More Fiber to Your Diet

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With the rampant occurrence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in our society, we’ve had to take a hard look at our eating habits and how they are affecting our health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease accounted for nearly one in every four deaths that occurred in the United States in 2006. The ironic thing about heart disease is that it is completely preventable through proper lifestyle habits. Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, is basically caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, preventing blood flow to major organs, including the heart. It’s been proven that a diet high in fiber can play a big role in preventing heart disease, as it blocks the body from absorbing fat and cholesterol in food.

So, we all know that fiber is great for our health, but how can we get enough of it? Here are a few simple tips to help you add more fiber to your everyday diet:

1.  Choose Brown Carbs over White Carbs

This is a simple rule of thumb that can help you make an easy choice between whole grains and refined carbohydrates. When you do your grocery shopping, opt for brown rice over white rice, choose whole wheat pasta over traditional pasta, and purchase whole grain bread over white bread. There might be a small price difference between these items, but the small added cost is definitely worth your health. If you do a lot of cooking with flour at home (bread, rolls, pizza crust, etc), choose to use whole-wheat flour over refined white flour, or if you prefer to keep the taste same, choose to use half whole-wheat flour and half white flour. Not only will these choices provide you with more fiber, but because they provide your body with more nutrients, you will probably eat less and stay full longer.

2. Re-Vamp Your Breakfast

Eating a wholesome breakfast can really set the tone for healthy eating habits during the rest of the day. A lot of people have strong preferences in what they have for breakfast, and a lot of that depends on how much time is available to eat in the morning. Even if you’re dead-set on keeping cold cereal as your breakfast staple, you can still make healthy choices that are high in fiber. Instead of choosing cereals with high sugar content and virtually no other nutritional value, opt for more whole-grain options like frosted shredded wheat or bran flakes. There are even specific brands that specialize in producing high-fiber cereals, so you could also try those as well.

If you’re open to trying something completely new for breakfast, consider hot cereals like rolled oats or steel cut oats. Combined with fresh fruit, this can be a great high-fiber option that will keep you full until lunchtime.

3. Snack Smart

Most snack foods on the market are considered “empty calories,” as they provide little nutrition for the amount of calories they contain (think soda, potato chips, crackers, etc). The next time you get the urge to munch, try making simple substitutions like fruits and vegetables instead of sugary, salty, or fatty snacks. If you’re fighting a sweet tooth, opt for raspberries, strawberries, and apple, or a pear, as they all have high fiber along with other valuable nutrients. If you’re looking for something crunchy and/or salty, try carrots, celery, or broccoli.

Guest author, Erika, is a nutrition guru and loves educating people about how to make healthy lifestyle choices. Erika works as a freelance writer for Davis Vision, one of the leading providers of cataract surgery and LASIK in Utah.

Tips For a Healthy Pregnancy

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The “secrets” of a healthy pregnancy are out there for everyone to see. While there are no guarantees, every woman knows what she can do to stay healthy while she is expecting a baby – eating a varied and responsible diet, exercising regularly, finding good prenatal care and going to the doctor when any problem arises. But there are some lesser-known steps you can take that will benefit you and your baby alike too. What are they?

Keep hydrated

Dehydration causes a myriad of problems, whether you are pregnant or not. Morning sickness, one of the most common pregnancy signs in the first trimester, makes dehydration more likely. Even without morning sickness, many women don’t drink enough clear fluids. Staying hydrated lessens your chances of being constipated, having diarrhea (yes, really!), having those horrible pregnancy headaches, and even of suffering from water retention (edema). Lots of expectant moms have swollen ankles due to edema, and while it may seem counter-intuitive that drinking more makes water retention go away, proper hydration really does relieve edema. Heartburn, too, can be caused by a lack of hydration.

Natural vitamins and minerals

Every pregnant mom is advised to take a prenatal supplement containing all the vitamins and minerals she needs. This advice certainly makes sense in a world where most peoples’ diets don’t meet all their nutritional needs, but the real thing is still better. Besides eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and consuming foods from all major food groups, sipping herbal teas can give you a great boost in vitamins and minerals. Nettle leaf tea, for example, is rich in iron, calcium, potassium and sulphur. And you’ll also find vitamins A, C, D and K in there. Great stuff!

Regular exercise

Yes, we know that you know pregnant women should exercise regularly. But we’ll mention it anyway, because regular exercise helps with much more than weight loss after pregnancy. If you are in shape, you may be setting yourself for an easier labor and delivery. Exercise – especially a workout that you really enjoy – alleviates stress, which will be good for you and your baby. And if you spend time outdoors while exercising, there are even more advantages; higher levels of vitamin D, a lower chance of depression, and sometimes even relief from such pregnancy ailments as morning sickness and headaches.

Choose your healthcare provider wisely

Having the right healthcare provider is extremely important – and this refers to both the medical and the personal side of things. Research your prenatal care options and interview several healthcare professionals before you make your final choice. Depending on your wishes and your pregnancy, this may be a high-risk OB, a homebirth midwife, a family practice doctor, or anyone else you feel comfortable with. As long as you have done your research, you will make the right decision.

There is no one “recipe” for a healthy pregnancy, and complications do happen sometimes. Usually, having a good dose of common sense – and honoring your intuition – is all that is needed to get through those nine months successfully and healthily.

Olivia blogs about women’s health at Trying To Conceive. If you are trying to get pregnant, her free ovulation calendar can help you track your most fertile days.

Healthy Holiday Recipes

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Apple DessertI’ll be the first to admit that I’m mildly obsessed with health and nutrition. Eating well and taking care of my body is important to me. That being said, holiday season food is my kryptonite. If I let myself, I can single-handedly finish off the basket of rolls at Thanksgiving and don’t get me started on the Christmas cookies. It’s a problem.

In an attempt to save the bread basket, I like to prepare a few “healthy” dishes each year—so that if I indulge in them, I won’t feel quite as bad. If you can relate to this feeling, read on for a few of my favorite healthy holiday recipes. Having a few healthy alternatives available and practicing self-control will lead to a delicious holiday season—without the food-hangover the next morning.

Chestnut Soup

This creamy, delicious soup is high in protein and vitamin C and an excellent source of fiber and iron. So you can enjoy guilt-free. Be sure to purchase peeled chestnuts, not candied chestnuts which are used in baking.

Ingredients:

-          One 7-8 ounce jar roasted chestnuts

-          2 cups vegetable stock (watch the sodium count when deciding what to buy)

-          1 onion, chopped

-          2 carrots, peeled and chopped

-          2 stalks of celery, chopped

-          1 cup whole milk

-          Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.      Saute the onion in butter until soft. Add broth, chestnuts, carrots, and celery.

2.      Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until carrots are soft.

3.      Let the soup cool, then blend or puree in food processor.

4.      Just before eating, whisk in milk, then reheat. Do not let the soup boil.

5.      Add a sprinkle of fresh or dried cranberries if you like.

Aunt Ellen’s Green Beans

This super simple recipe was introduced to me by my lovely (and also health-conscious) aunt. Substitute this baby for the green bean casserole and save yourself hundreds of calories.

Ingredients:

-          1 lb fresh green beans

-          2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

-          2 Tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard (or your favorite tangy mustard)

-          Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.      Trim green beans—a great task for little helpers.

2.      Fill a bowl with ice water, set to the side.

3.      Cook beans in a large pot of salted boiling water just until crisp-tender; about 3-4 minutes.

4.      Drain beans and transfer to ice water. Drain well in colander and pat dry.

5.      Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat. Saute the green beans with mustard and salt and pepper to taste, stirring until heated through; about 4 minutes.

Apple Crumble Bars

This fabulous recipe was adapted from one of my favorite food bloggers, Chocolate Covered Katie. Forget the apple pie, these delicious bars are always a hit. Plus at about 120 calories a bar, you can afford to have two!

Ingredients:

-          1.5 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or white flour, spelt, or oat flour)

-          ½ teaspoon baking powder

-          ¼ teaspoon salt

-          ½ cup brown sugar

-          1 Stevia packet

-          1 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

-          ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons cold vegan butter (I suggest Smart Balance Light for a low-cal version)

-          2 tablespoons nondairy milk (I like almond milk)

-          2 cups peeled, chopped apple

-          2 teaspoons cornstarch

-          3 tablespoons maple syrup

-          1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.      In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, Stevia, cinnamon, and butter. Break the butter up well so that small crumbles form.

3.      Scoop 2/3 of the dough into a 4 x 7, oiled glass dish and press down firmly.

4.      In separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients.

5.      Layer the apple mixture on the dough in the dish. Top with the remainder of the dough and press down slightly.

6.      Bake for 45 minutes.

7.      Store uncovered for a crispy crust. If you prefer a soft crust, cover completely with saran wrap.

Enjoy the holiday season, one bite at a time!

Guest author, Maggie, truly is a self-described health nut and loves cooking up delicious healthy alternatives to traditional foods. Outside of the kitchen, Maggie is a writer for a discount socks supplier, specializing in athletic socks—which come in handy for her other passions, running and biking!

 
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