Archive | Healthy tips

Healthy Pantry Essentials

NutsChances are that you stock up on some of the popular standards found in most pantries such as seasonings and dry pasta, but I thought I would share with you my favorite pantry essentials for healthy eating. I think it’s important to have good ingredients and supplies on hand as it helps ease the confusion around meal times. If you have healthy food on hand, guess what….you will eat healthy and make good decisions. Below are some of my pantry essentials.

1. Oils. Of course old faithful olive oil is always within arms reach, but I also try to have others on hand such as avocado, sesame, coconut, and different flavors of olive oil. Avocado oil has a high smoking point so it’s great for cooking on medium to high heat because the oil doesn’t break down as easy and lose its nutrients. It also dissolves well in a light vinaigrette or it can be drizzled on top of fish and vegetables for added flavor and extra health benefits. Coconut oil is chock full of nutrients and can help with digestion, immunity and bone health. Sesame oil is has been around for thousands of years and it delivers an Asian flare to dishes. I love using it in vegetable dishes, stir fries, and chicken breasts. It has anti-inflammatory properties, zinc, and fiber to name a few health boosts it provides.  Flavors such as garlic, lemon and even bacon flavored olive oil can really dress up a dish so I encourage you to give them a try.

2. Raw nuts. It’s best to buy raw nuts rather than salted because the sodium that salted nuts can harbor is far too high. I always have bags of walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios in my pantry. It’s so easy to grab a handful and snack on them to curb hunger. They’re full of healthy fats (don’t worry the good kind that helps promote heart health), protein and antioxidants. They can be roasted in the oven for a few minutes on 350 with a little oil and seasoned to your liking if you don’t like them raw. They burn quick though so watch them closely. Throw them in a baggie and store in your purse or car for a quick fix. They can be thrown in smoothies, on top of salads or crushed and crusted onto fish or meat.

3. Organic Tea. I always have multiple boxes of organic tea available to me when I want the soothing comfort of a warm mug in my hand. Tea and especially green tea are a great alternative to coffee. I quit coffee about 3 months ago and I feel better ever since doing so. Tea has a boatload of antioxidants along with other energy boosting properties! There are so many benefits to being an avid tea drinker. It’s important to purchase organic tea because tea leaves are some of the most susceptible crops when it comes to pesticides. My favorite brands are Numi and Yogi.

4. Beans. Oh the magical fruit is truly magical. I always have various kinds of beans on hand because with the quick opening of a can, a BPA-free can of course, they can be added to a dish to add heartiness and fiber. I like cannellini, garbanzo, great northern and normal and refried black beans. I also have dried beans on-hand sometimes too. They’re simple to prep….ready for it….throw them in a bowl with water and soak overnight. That’s it.

5. Jarred Organic Spaghetti Sauce. I try and buy any tomato product organic as tomatoes have loads of pesticides on them otherwise. Even after rinsing tomatoes, their thin skin can still have dozens of pesticides hanging out.  These products include pizza sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spaghetti sauce to name a handful. How easy is it to grab a jar of sauce and make a quick pasta dish when you’re short on time or to add it to stuffed peppers. I also use spaghetti sauce for homemade tortilla pizzas.

6. Organic Stock/Broth. Right now in my pantry I have 5 cartons of vegetable and chicken stock. You never know when a recipe will call for a few cups of stock and to me a bouillon cube just doesn’t cut it. Not only do I use the stock for recipes, but if I’m feeling under the weather, I like to sip on chicken broth just like I would a cup of tea. It helps soothe me and I begin to feel better. Be sure to check the ingredients in your stock because sometimes even organic broth can sneak in unwanted ingredients such as oil, sugar and “natural flavors.” Look for a broth that has minimal ingredients and doesn’t contain the old red flag of “natural flavors.” I like the brands Pacific and Imagine, but even liking those brands I still read the labels. Sometimes a chicken broth is legit, but then the vegetable broth is unacceptable even if made by the same brand name. General rule of thumb – always read labels.

7. Grains. Having an arsenal of healthy grains that can be cooked and added to dishes contributes to a healthy, well-stocked pantry. It’s helpful to prep grains earlier in the week to store in the fridge so you don’t have an excuse to not include them in your diet. A couple scoopfuls can be thrown into basically anything for added fiber, protein and minerals. Grains keep you full longer which helps keep you satisfied between meals. I personally like to eat grains for breakfast and lunch and they can be purchased frozen as well. Trader Joe’s has frozen brown rice and quinoa that I love to cook with every week. Within 4 minutes in the microwave, I can have a cup of either one and it just makes life so much easier. So if you don’t want to stock up on grains in your pantry, I highly recommend frozen products to keep in your freezer for last minute additions to a meal.

8. Snacks. We don’t always want to walk into the kitchen and have to prepare or cook something, especially when we’re really hungry. We want to just be able to look in the pantry and grab something quick, me included. To combat the urge to eat crap food, I really don’t buy it. Instead I have healthier alternatives around so that if I do want something quick, I’m not worried about the ingredients. I always have bags of tortilla chips, packets of Justin’s almond butter, jars of salsa, crackers I approve of, air-popped popcorn, KIND bars, and trail mix for a quick fix. I have this same mentality when I travel. I carry healthier snacks with me so I don’t have to cave and buy something overpriced at the airport that has zero nutritional value.
 

These are just some of my favorite staples. I would love to know if you have pantry essentials that you like to keep on hand. Comment below 🙂

 

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5 “Health” Food Products to Avoid

So once again I am traveling. It’s all about family this time as the husband and I are headed back to Wisconsin and New England to visit both sides of the fam. So far it’s been an awesome trip of catching up, relaxing and enjoying cooler temps. I didn’t want to leave you guys hanging while I’m bopping around on vacation so I have a special treat…guest blogger, Cara, from shopOrganic has kindly accepted the offer to post in my absence today. shopOrganic is an awesome company that believes organic food and natural products are better for our bodies, better for our communities and better for the planet. Enjoy this post below! 

 This week Tia has graciously handed over the keys to Desert Healthy to shopOrganic while she’s on vacation. We promise we’ll take good care of you and share with you some of the best tips we have for your healthy lifestyle. One of our most shared blog posts was the one below – helping people make sense of ‘healthy’ food products that really aren’t healthy at all. We hope you learn something new!healthy food

Living a healthy lifestyle means that there is always something new to learn, something else to avoid, something else to add to your diet. It can be confusing, even frustrating at times. We know that unhealthy foods (sugar, processed foods, chemicals, additives etc.) are the reason why people are sicker and even fatter than ever before. Yet marketers are constantly bombarding us with the latest ‘health food’ product. How do you know what’s really good for you and what’s just junk food disguising itself as healthy? Check out some of these so-called health food products that may have had you fooled.

5 ‘Health Food’ Products to Avoid

1. Vitaminwater

A better name for this product should really be “Sugarwater” because the first two ingredients in Vitaminwater are actually sugar and water. The particular kind of sugar they use in Vitaminwater is called crystalline fructose, a processed sweetener that has been linked to health problems. The sugar content of this drink is disturbingly high. If you drink a bottle of Vitaminwater, you are ingesting 33 grams of sugar – that’s a little over 8 teaspoons in one serving (every 4g of sugar is equal to 1 tsp)! The “vitamins” in Vitaminwater, are not really vitamins that are beneficial to the body. They are synthetic, meaning they are made by man, and they are not the same vitamins our body can utilize as if we were getting them from our food. For much healthier options check out these recipes:

 

2. FroYo (Frozen Yogurt Shops)

They’re everywhere these days and they are so enticing but please don’t do it, don’t give into the hype! Frozen yogurt is a highly processed product.

I know, it’s so sad, I can actually hear hearts breaking all across the country. These cute little frozen yogurt shops that keep popping up everywhere you turn make it sound like a healthy alternative…but don’t be fooled. Just because it’s “yogurt” does not mean it’s healthy. So, even though these little shops are fun and cute they are still serving highly processed dairy products with harmful additives like these:

  • Guar gum
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sodium citrate
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Cellulose gum
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Carrageenan
  • Aspartame
  • Red Dye 40

Eek!!! That’s just to name a few! These are actually the ingredients I saw at our local FroYo shop.

What do you do instead? Instead get yourself some good plain Greek yogurt (Greek works best because it’s nice and thick) and instead of being sweetened with chemicals you can sweeten with maple syrup, raw honey or Stevia. And if you feel you’re missing out on the fun topping assortments they have at those shops, make your own little assortment using chopped nuts (pecans are my favorite), seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower), dark chocolate, granola, dried and or fresh fruits.

 

3. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

Regular and reduced-fat peanut butter contain about the same amount of calories, but the reduced-fat variety has more added sugar. When food manufacturers take out the fat, they need to add something to make that product taste good so they often add sugar. The truth is that fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does! Don’t be scared of fat. Every cell in our body depends on fat, good fats that is, and peanut butter is a natural source of this healthy fat “monounsaturated”.

Instead look for an organic peanut butter and if you want to sweeten it, stir in a bit of honey or maple syrup.

 

4. Energy Bars

Convenience does come at a cost. So many conventional energy bars are nothing more than candy bars with a few nutrients thrown in (which are most likely synthetic) and contain ingredients are bad for you like soy protein, gluten, chemicals, preservatives and other nasty hard-to-pronounce fillers.

There is good news here. There are some good energy/protein bars out there, you just have to read the ingredients list. A good rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients the better. Another good alternative to these energy bars is to make your own.

 

5. Fooled by Fat Free

Often times we see products labeled Fat Free and we automatically think that these products are healthier choices than the ones without that label. Trust me, I know, I’ve been there too. Unfortunately that’s not really the case. If you think about it, if all the fat is removed from something, a lot of the taste of the product will be removed along with it (because good fat just tastes yummy). So what do the big food giants do to compensate? They add other ingredients like sugars, flours, chemicals, fillers and salt. These ingredients add the flavor back in, while keeping the calorie count high.

Fat free may sound like a healthy choice, but the reality is that our bodies need fat. And it’s not so much the amount of fat you eat that’s important it’s really the type of fat. Remember, there are good fats, and bad fats! When it comes to your health you need to be consuming the good fats which are things like coconut oil, ghee, raw nuts, avocados, and pastured free-range eggs.
 

There are many more junk foods masquerading around looking like health foods, which other ones have you been fooled by?

 

 

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Tips for a Healthy 4th of July Weekend

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The Fourth of July holiday is always a super fun filled day/weekend of family, friends, food, drinks and fireworks. You can still enjoy all of the above without sacrificing the healthy habits you have been working so hard to maintain. Enjoying a holiday and making healthy choices CAN be accomplished! See some of my tips below.

  • Indulge, but be conscientious. If you want slathered ribs along with Granny’s mac & cheese at a BBQ later in the day, don’t panic. Enjoy the meat & mac, but pay attention to the portion you are eating and try not to head back for seconds. Also be sure to load up on a healthy breakfast and lunch full of nutrition & fiber so that you stay full longer until the main event. Try eating meals such as:
     
    BREAKFASTavocado toast with a fried egg, steel cut oatmeal or quinoa with a touch of maple syrup & fruit, veggie loaded frittata, or greek yogurt with honey & mixed nuts
     
    LUNCH – tortilla pizza stacked with vegetables, salad with shredded chicken & black beans, a whole grain wrap with chicken and veggies, or sweet potato chili

 

  • Easy on the finger foods. All those trips to the garage buffet can add up quick. If you do want to snack a little, grab a small plate and fill it up with the veggie and fruit tray options, low fat cheeses or the chips & salsa. Limit yourself to one plate so that you have enough calories to spare for dinner.

 

 

  • Hydrate! If you drink alcohol, be sure to alternate an 8 oz. glass of water in between cocktails. It’s so easy to get dehydrated when drinking and especially if you’re going to be out in the sun.

 

 

  • Instead of standing around in the pool, get a game of pool volleyball or basketball going. Grab a football and toss it back and forth with someone. Swim some laps or play with the kiddos. Just move.

The fourth of July is a time to celebrate and be with the ones you care about most. Now go and make some healthy memories this weekend 🙂

If you are looking for some delicious crowd-pleasing recipes for the party you are hosting or attending, check out these links below.

Strawberry Watermelon Popsicles
Easy Baba Ganoush
Caprese Grilled Chicken
Hawaiian Turkey Burgers
Lemon and Dill Barbecue Salmon Kabobs
Easy Grilled Vegetables
Pink Grapefruit Margarita

 

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