Monthly Archives: January 2020

Eat More Veggies! 7 Sneaky Ways to Get More Vegetables into Your Diet

Americans don’t eat enough vegetables. This is a commonly known fact. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only one in 10 adults are getting enough fruit and vegetables in their daily diets. Yet government guidelines recommend that adults eat at least two to three cups of vegetables per day as well as at least one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit. So, how can you change your diet and modify your cooking to make sure you’re meeting the recommended guidelines?

Maybe you aren’t a big fan of broccoli, or you aren’t sure how to prepare vegetables in an appealing way. Or maybe, like many people, you just find it inconvenient to eat all of those veggies when there are quick and easy packaged meals ready to go.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to eat enough vegetables because they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which can help keep you healthy and help fight off disease, as well as help you maintain a healthy weight.

Here are seven creative ways to incorporate vegetables into your cooking that are both easy and appetizing.

1. Make vegetable-based soups.
Soups are a great way to incorporate several vegetables at once. You can make vegetables the base of the soup by puréeing them and adding spices, meats, noodles, or more veggies. Some examples of vegetable-based soups include tomato soup, carrot soup, creamy cauliflower soup, mushroom-spinach soup, and of course classic vegetable soup. You can find some delicious soup recipes here.

2. Try Veggie Noodles.
If you crave pasta but are watching your carb intake, veggie noodles are a great low-carb alternative and a way to get in several servings of vegetables in one meal. The most common vegetables used for noodles are zucchini, carrots, spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes. You will need a spiralizer for making veggie noodles: you insert veggies into the spiralizer, and it processes them into noodle-like shapes. Veggie noodles can be eaten just like regular pasta—just add another vegetable-based sauce, such as tomato sauce, and add meat if you like. Toss in some mushrooms and onions, and you’ve met a big portion of your daily vegetable requirement.

3. Add Vegetables to Sauces.
Speaking of noodle dishes, another easy way to increase vegetable intake is by adding them to sauces. When cooking a sauce, such as a marinara sauce, just add in other veggies like chopped onions, carrots, peppers, or spinach. You can also puree other vegetables to make them into a sauce on their own, such as butternut squash or spinach.

4. Use Cauliflower for Carbs.
Cauliflower pizza is all the rage right now. With the popularity of gluten-free and low-carb diets, substituting cauliflower for flour-based crusts allows you to still enjoy pizza, plus it adds in a full serving of vegetables. Blend more veggies into your pizza sauce or add them as toppings for a veggie-rich meal.

Cauliflower rice is another carb alternative and can be substituted for regular white or brown rice. You can use either a food processor or box grater to make cauliflower rice. It’s even easier to cook than regular rice, either on the stove top or in the microwave. You can serve it as a side or use it as a base for other recipes that mix in meat and other vegetables.

5. Blend Veggies into Smoothies.
Smoothies are a really easy way to eat more vegetables and are especially appealing if you have picky kids. They won’t even be able to taste the vegetables or know they are in these yummy drinks! Blending in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale with fruits such as mangoes, strawberries, bananas, and peaches packs both fruits and veggies into one sweet, icy drink that you or your kids can have for a quick breakfast-on-the-go or for an anytime snack.

6. Try a Lettuce Wrap.
Using lettuce or other leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach as a wrap instead of a bun or tortilla is one of the easiest ways to eat more vegetables. They can be used for several types of dishes including bunless hamburgers or hot dogs, or a low-carb sandwich.

7. Make a Veggie Omelet.
Omelets don’t have to just be for breakfast, plus they’re an easy way to sneak in more veggies. Almost any type of vegetable tastes good in an omelet, but the most popular ones are mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. Add in some cheese and/or meat for a filling meal.

By getting creative with using vegetables in your cooking, you’ll be able to increase your daily intake and learn to love eating vegetables.

 

 

 

Eating Right for Gut Health

Everyone experiences digestive problems from time to time. Symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation and abdominal discomfort are common and can be caused by a variety of things including diet, age, health conditions, and certain medications. But when digestive distress becomes a constant problem and interferes with your day-to-day life, it may be time to reexamine your diet and make some changes that can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms and lead to better digestive health.

Scientists have discovered in recent years that in addition to improved digestive health,  the GI system is linked to many other aspects of health from immunity to emotional health to chronic illnesses including cancer and Type 2 diabetes. This link is believed to lie in the microbiome—the bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the stomach and intestines.

It’s important to note that persistent digestive problems should always be checked by your doctor. If you’ve been cleared medically of any underlying health conditions, then changing your diet can help regulate digestion and improve your overall gut health.

The Big Three
Improving gut health revolves around three major sources: foods containing fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, or a combination of all three.

  • Fiber, found in plant-based foods, aids in digestion as it helps regulate the speed at which food moves through your gut.
  • Probiotics in foods are live microorganisms or so-called “good bacteria.” These foods are created through the fermentation process and can encourage a healthy digestive tract.
  • Prebiotics are necessary for probiotics to work in helping the flora in your gut to flourish.

While there are a lot of over-the-counter probiotic/prebiotic supplements available on the market, these types of supplements are not well-regulated, so you don’t know if you’re actually getting what is on the label. It is much more beneficial to get these nutrients through food rather than supplements. The best foods for all three sources are whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.

Focus on Fiber.
Most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. The recommended daily amount of fiber for women is 25 grams and 38 grams for men. Increasing the fiber in your diet should be done gradually, especially if you aren’t already eating a lot of fibrous foods, because adding too much too quickly can cause cramping and gas. By increasing your fiber intake gradually, digestive symptoms should also gradually improve.

To increase your daily fiber intake, eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and try adding more of these particular foods to your diet:

  • Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, and white beans
  • Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Whole grains such as barley, bran, and bulgur

Promote Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Research on probiotics and prebiotics is relatively new, so there is currently no specific recommendation for daily intake. Eating a variety of foods containing probiotics several times a week can help regulate digestion and ease mild digestive symptoms.

The best sources of probiotic foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Cheeses – Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, cottage cheese

Prebiotics are found in fiber-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, although not all plant-based foods contain prebiotics. Some of the best sources include bananas, nuts, whole wheat, and corn.

By revamping your diet to include more of these foods that promote a healthy gut, you can lessen or eliminate symptoms of digestive distress and improve overall health.

 

Exercise 101: Starting an Exercise Program for the New Year

If you’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to start an exercise program, you’re not alone. The majority of New Year’s resolutions are fitness-related, with 65 percent of those who make resolutions vowing to exercise more, according to Inc. com. Perhaps you aren’t just wanting to exercise more or run a 5K, but instead, you’ve never really exercised much before and want to start being more active, but aren’t sure where to begin.

Here are some tips to get you started on an exercise program so you can make a lifestyle change, and not just burn out after a couple of weeks and quit by the end of January.

Get a checkup.
Before beginning any sort of exercise program, it’s important to check with your doctor first. If you’ve been inactive for a while or are over 45, you should consult a doctor to make sure you don’t have any underlying health conditions or limitations that could put you at risk for injury during exercise.

Choose an activity you enjoy.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily have to mean a strict, time-consuming workout at the gym. There are so many different types of exercise that it’s best to start with something you enjoy doing, so there’s a better chance you’ll stick to it. You can always try something new later on after your fitness has improved. Activities such as walking, dancing, biking and even gardening are good ways to get started moving, especially if you’ve led a mostly sedentary lifestyle in recent years.

How much exercise?
For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. If you can’t do a full 30 minutes, even as little as 5-10 minutes will still offer benefits, and you can increase the duration as your fitness level improves.

As a long-term goal, the American College of Sports Medicine’s current recommendations for physical activity include at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. You can achieve the 150 minutes any way that works best for you—for example, you can work out for 30 minutes five days per week, or do a 40-minute workout every other day.

Set realistic goals.
Create an exercise plan that has clear, achievable steps and goals. For example, set goals to exercise for 30 minutes three times per week to begin. After a few weeks of sticking to that plan, increase to four days and increase the duration of how long you exercise. Continue to build on this type of schedule as your fitness improves. Once you’re exercising regularly for as many days as you can, you can also set more long-term goals, such as completing a 5K.

Create a habit.
You are more likely to stick to an exercise program if you can make it a regular habit. If you schedule your workout at the same time every day, such as after or before work, you’ll be more likely to stick to it long term. Use your online calendar or a print calendar to schedule your workouts into your day just like you would other appointments. Set reminders on your phone or use fitness trackers if that keeps you motivated.

Stay hydrated.
Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to keep your body properly hydrated. If you’re exercising in hot temperatures, it’s also important to replenish fluids during exercise, and always drink water after you finish your workout to help your body recover.

Warm up and cool down.
Be sure to always warm up before each workout. Stretching your muscles will help prevent injury, increase flexibility, and help reduce muscle soreness after working out. Similarly, cooling down after a workout is equally important. Light walking or stretching after a workout can help return your breathing to normal and help reduce muscle soreness.

Listen to your body.
If you’re just beginning and are not used to strenuous exercise, start slowly and pay attention to your body’s limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort during a workout, stop and rest before continuing. By starting slowly and building up the intensity of your workouts over time, you’re more likely to stick with it and less likely to injure yourself.

Reward yourself.
Regular exercise has all kinds of wonderful benefits for our bodies including increased energy, improved sleep, improved emotional health, weight loss, and improved overall health. But these types of benefits are long-term rewards. To motivate yourself to stick with an exercise program long term so you will reap these types of health benefits, it’s important to give yourself short-term rewards when you reach a fitness goal or even after completing a week of workouts. These rewards can be anything you enjoy such as a hot bath, watching a show on Netflix, a manicure/pedicure, a new pair of sneakers or new workout clothes. Just make sure you only allow yourself the reward after you exercise.