Eat the Rainbow: The Benefits of a Colorful Diet

We have all heard the phrase “eat the colors of the rainbow”. In other words, eat as many different colored foods as possible (think fruits and vegetables, not gummy bears and jelly beans). Of course this makes sense. Eating the colors of the rainbow ensures that you are eating a variety of foods. This means that you are likely consuming a variety of nutrients. But when you eat the colors of the rainbow you are consuming more than just a few vitamins and minerals.

The rich colors in fruits and vegetables are provided by many of the Phytonutrients they contain. When it comes to plants, phytonutrients help to protect against predators and natural elements. When we consume plants we consume their protective nutrients, which then help to shield us from various diseases and conditions. For example, the deep red, purple, and blue colors of berries, apples, and grapes come from a phytonutrient called anthocyanin. It is believed that anthocyanin protects against certain forms of cancer. Another would be carotenoids. Carotenoids are responsible for some of the bright yellow, orange, and red varieties of fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are believed to protect our vision and help prevent heart disease.

With words like anthocyanin, carotenoids, and phytonutrients, it is understandable if this concept feels a bit overwhelming. The most important thing to remember is that the rich colors in fruits and vegetables give them disease fighting properties. The more colors we consume, the more protection we receive.

Although we still have a lot to learn about the disease fighting properties of fruits and vegetables, studies have shown that people consuming plant based diets have significantly lower disease rates than their non-plant eating counterparts. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go full on vegetarian to reap the benefits. Just be sure to include adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables in your diet (4-5 servings of each per day) and be sure to “eat the colors of the rainbow.”

Need tips on how to squeeze more fruits and vegetables into your day? Check out our August blog, “5-9 Servings? No Problem! 6 Easy Ways to Sneak Fruits and Vegetables into Your Day” at the link below. Happy Eating!

https://leafykiwi.com/2016/08/16/5-9-servings-no-problem-6-easy-ways-to-sneak-fruits-and-vegetables-into-your-day/

 

Stocked for Success: Essential Foods for a Healthy Kitchen

One of the biggest challenges people face when it comes to healthy eating is being able to create flavorful meals and snacks on limited time. Past blogs have focused on prepping meals ahead of time, properly storing produce, and using simple cooking tools to help make healthy living a little easier. Today’s blog is all about stocking your kitchen for success. Although any list of kitchen essentials is open to interpretation, here are a few that might be helpful if you are just getting started.

  • Garlic and Onion. Garlic and onion have a long history of being consumed for their medicinal properties. Filled to the brim with antioxidants, these flavorful foods are believed to combat everything from cholesterol to the common cold. Health benefits aside, garlic and onion are just plain tasty. They offer bold flavor profiles that help to bring a gourmet taste to just about any dish. Sautee them with veggies, toss them into pastas, use them in homemade salad dressings, or bake them with various cuts of meat for an instant flavor boost.
  • Frozen Vegetables. Frozen veggies are easy to prepare, can be made quickly, and can be stored for long periods of time in the freezer. This means that you can stock up and reach for them whenever you need a quick side or a simple snack. You can also add them to soups and toss them into pastas to instantly up the nutritional value of your meal.
  • Fresh Fruit. Fresh fruit is nature’s perfectly portioned, ready-to-eat snack. Not only are fruits filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, but most of them require zero prep work. Simply give them a good rinse and they are ready to go. Have a bowl of apples, pears, or bananas sitting on the table where they are easily visible. This will help to keep them in the forefront of your mind when you get the urge to snack. It also makes them an easy-to-grab option on your way out of the house.
  • Fresh Herbs and Seasonings. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean bland food. Much like garlic and onion, herbs and seasonings are a healthy way to add flavor to your meals. Keep your favorite varieties on hand to help spice up any food without adding a lot of work to your day. Add fresh basil leaves to your pasta, rosemary to your chicken, and dill to your salmon. The bold flavors will delight your taste buds and help you to pass on less healthy options in favor of nutrition-packed, home cooked meals.
  • Dried Fruits and Nuts. Dried fruits and nuts are a delicious and healthy snack in themselves, but they can also be added to oatmeal, tossed onto salads, or mixed into yogurt for a tasty meal that doesn’t take up too much of your time. Dried fruits and nuts provide your body with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are easy to store, have a lengthy shelf life, and do not require any prep work at all. When it comes to eating healthy, dried fruits and nuts are as easy as it gets.

Most people believe that a healthy lifestyle is all about discipline and restriction, but for many of us it has more to do with preparation and integration. In other words, prepare for healthy living and you will be more likely to live healthfully.

 

 

Lifesavers: Ways to Stay on Track Despite Your Busy Schedule

A lot of times the most difficult part about sticking to a healthy routine is simply finding the time to prepare proper meals. Many of us are constantly on the go. We have busy careers, hectic family schedules, and kids pulling us in every direction. Sometimes it can be tough to squeeze in a moment of rest, let alone cook a balanced meal. When things get hectic it can be more than tempting to pull into the nearest fast food restaurant, or reach for that family sized bag of chips. But don’t break out the Ben and Jerry’s just yet. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track even on the busiest days of the week.

  1. Break out the crock pot. Using a slow cooker reduces the cooking process down to a few easy steps. Some recipes might require a bit of light prep work, but many just require you to mix a few ingredients and hit the power button. A crock pot can be used for everything from ribs to dessert. Simply start the crock pot first thing in the morning and leave it to work its magic. By dinner time the house will be filled with the aroma of a five star restaurant and you will have a meal fit for a king. Bonus: many recipes yield large portions that leave plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.
  2. Learn to meal prep. Preparing meals ahead of time can be a life saver. Simply prepare a variety of meals on your day off and freeze them for easy-to-reheat meals throughout the week. If this sounds too overwhelming, then try cooking larger portions of food on the nights when you do have time to cook and freeze the leftovers for a convenient option on busier days. If properly stored in freezer safe containers, food can stay good in the freezer for months. This can help you to stay on track even on your most hectic days.
  3. Wash, chop, and store your produce. Much like prepping whole meals, it is important to prep produce. When it comes to saving time, it is often easier to reach for the cookies than it is to wash and chop some veggies for a salad. That’s why it is always a good idea to take the time to wash, chop, and store your produce as soon as you get home from the store. This does not include all produce of course. Some things are better left whole until ready to eat, such as apples and avocados. But items such as carrots, grapes, berries, and greens can become convenient snacks if washed and stored properly. Greens can be washed, chopped, and stored in an airtight container with a paper towel to help absorb moisture. Berries and grapes can be portioned out for a great grab-and-go snack option. Carrots can be chopped and stored along with a low fat dip for a convenient alternative to chips or other unhealthy choices. Although it might take a little extra work at the time, you will find that washing, chopping, and storing your produce is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy throughout the week.

Busy days are inevitable. When things become hectic, eating healthy often becomes the furthest thing from our minds. Sometimes the best we can do is be prepared. With tips and tricks like these, staying on track just got a little easier.

 

5-9 Servings? No Problem! 6 Easy Ways to Sneak Fruits and Vegetables into Your Day

 

Many people think that healthy eating is all about what you eliminate from your diet. Low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, sugar-free, gluten-free, and low-sodium are terms that have become a part of our everyday vocabulary. But what if it is not about what you take away, as much as it is about what you add? Most people fail to consume the recommended minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients that help fight disease and keep us going at our best. Although squeezing in the recommended 5 servings can feel like a challenge, it can actually be relatively easy. Here are six tips to help you increase your fruit and vegetable intake without rearranging your entire lifestyle.

  1. Sip on a cup of 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Juices are stripped down versions of fruits and vegetables. Through the juicing process the pulp and fiber content is removed, but a large amount of nutrients remains. Life can keep us busy and on the go, which makes juice a convenient way to knock out one fruit or vegetable serving per day. Just be sure to check the ingredient lists for added sugars. Only 100% juices count towards the 5 recommended servings. Our bodies depend on fiber to keep things moving smoothly through our digestive tracts, so be sure to substitute juice for only one serving of fruits or veggies per day and include whole foods for the rest.
  2. Add veggies to your pasta. Pasta is a great place to sneak in vegetables. Frozen or canned vegetables can be a particularly convenient option as you can mix them into your pasta during cooking, or pop them in the microwave and fold them in afterwards. Most sauces help to mask strong vegetable flavors making veggies and pasta an ideal meal for picky eaters. Mixing in vegetables also helps add fiber, which will help to fill you up and prevent you from overdoing it on the pasta.
  3. Have a salad topped with chicken or fish for lunch, or simply add a side salad to your meal. Salads are a super easy option. Many stores offer pre-washed, pre-cut veggies that simply need to be assembled at meal time. Toss them on a plate and top with your favorite dressing for an easy way to add a quick serving of vegetables to your day. Feeling adventurous? Toss in a handful of berries, a few nuts, and some goat cheese, then top with a vinaigrette for a tasty blend of flavors, a bonus fruit serving, and some healthy fat.
  4. Add fruit to your cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. Cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt are go-to breakfast foods for many people. Not only are they fast and convenient, but they can easily be taken to-go when necessary. Although not all options on the market are ideal for our health, your breakfast food of choice can instantly be improved upon with a handful of fruit. Toss in some banana slices, a healthy helping of berries, or even consider adding dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries. Whole fruit adds an abundance of nutrients with the added benefit of fiber for a meal that will stick with you through those first few hours of the day.
  5. Opt for veggies and dip instead of chips. If you are looking for a side to add to your lunch, then veggies and dip should be it. Ditch the salty chips and choose carrot sticks, raw broccoli florets, sliced bell pepper, or bite sized cherry tomatoes instead. A simple handful of your favorite raw vegetable and a spoonful of dip is all you need to perk up your midday meal and provide your body with a little more oomph to help get you through that afternoon slump.
  6. Snack on a piece of fruit between meals. Snacking is not a bad thing as long as you choose your snack wisely. Don’t rely on sugary processed foods to fill you up between meals. Instead reach for fresh fruit that will help scratch that sugar itch without causing you to crash an hour later. Simply keep an apple, pear, banana, or orange at your desk at work. Nature has provided the perfect sweet treats in the most appropriate portion sizes. Take advantage of their ease and convenience to help fulfill one of those recommended fruit servings per day.     

 

Is Healthy Eating Affordable?

Walk into any grocery store and you are likely to find an array of packaged, sugar infused foods being sold for a bargain. Make your way around the aisles and you are likely to notice that the healthier fare is marked quite a bit higher. With such a difference in price it might seem impossible to shop healthfully while maintaining a positive balance in your checking account, but there are a few tricks for staying in budget while filling your fridge with nutritionally abundant foods. Healthy eating can be affordable, but there are a few things to keep in mind while filling your grocery store cart.

The number one most important rule of thumb is to stay away from the trendy foods. Who doesn’t love goji berries and spirulina? Trendy foods, often touted as “super foods” are great if you can afford them, but when sticking to a tight budget it is perfectly okay to leave these pricier items on the shelf. Instead of spending more money on trendy items that often come in small packages, your money could be better spent on more basic items that pack a nutritional punch without eating up so much of your budget.

Rule number two is to stock up on frozen goods. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as healthy, if not more so, than their fresher counterparts. The beauty of frozen foods is that they stay good in your freezer for long periods of time. This means that if they do not get eaten right away they will still be good the following week, and the week after that. This can help cut down on waste. Frozen produce also tends to come in larger packages with a lower price tag. This makes it a great way to add nutritional value to your diet without breaking the bank.

Another great trick to healthy eating is to eat seasonally. Strawberries, for example, are a warm weather fruit. They are not readily available to most of us in the middle of January. Although we can typically find them on store shelves year round, it is important to recognize the fact they are shipped in from far off places during colder months. The further they travel, the more expensive the trip. Biting into a juicy strawberry while wearing your Snuggy, and sitting by the fireplace might seem like a great idea, but those berries are likely marked up for being out of season. Buying locally grown, seasonal produce is a great way to stay in budget. Apples, for example, are typically harvested in the fall and are likely to be a cheaper fruit option as the weather cools down. Sweet potatoes are another great choice for colder months.

When shopping on a budget it is also important to take advantage of sales and mark downs. A lot of people get into the habit of buying the same foods every week. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, mixing it up from time to time can be a great way to save a few bucks. If you usually buy spinach, but this week kale is on sale, then buy kale. Frozen broccoli has been marked down? Go ahead and stock up. Prices often change based on gas prices, crop output, and various other factors. Keeping an eye out for good deals is a great way to save a lot of money in the long run.

Buying in bulk is another great way to save money. Some items, like beans and rice, have a lengthy shelf life and can usually be found in large quantities for low prices. These items are great for bulking up meals and are a great source of plant protein and fiber. Add them to soups, or cook them up and serve them as a side dish.

Shopping healthfully may seem like an expensive venture, but if you know how to bypass the gimmicks, pay attention to sales, and stock up on bargain foods you are likely to find it as budget friendly as shopping gets. And just think how much you will save on hospital visits as you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to operate at peak performance! Good luck and happy shopping!

 

Let’s Talk Blenders

Smoothies are all the rage these days, and why wouldn’t they be? We have come to realize that smoothies are an incredibly diverse, palate pleasing entity. Want to whip yourself up a nutrient dense, dessert-like treat? Have a smoothie. Want to increase your veggie intake by making one simple diet adjustment? Have a smoothie. Increase your fruit intake? Smoothies again. Increase hydration? Smoothies take the cake on this one too. It seems that smoothies are the answer to all of our nutrient needs (well…almost). It’s hard not to love smoothies. They’re easy to make and you can throw anything in them.

Of course, when it comes to smoothies it is important to have the proper tools for the job. The primary tool in this case is a blender. Now, I know all of you smoothie enthusiasts out there will want to dive in head first and buy the biggest, fanciest blender on the market, but when getting started it might be best to keep it simple. After all, you want to make sure to choose a product you are willing to use on a regular basis. Remember, your blender won’t do you much good from inside your kitchen cabinet.

Once you are feeling ready to buy you should ask yourself a few very important questions. For instance, how much clean up are you willing to regularly commit to? Some blenders have a variety of pieces that can be time consuming to take apart and clean. Some must be hand washed, while others can be thrown in the dishwasher.

And what about size? Well, in this case my friends, size often matters. Some blenders can be quite large and bulky. If you are limited on space, then a small, more compact style might be right for you. You might even want to go with a single serve blender. These wonderfully compact blenders allow you to create quick and easy, one serving smoothies that can easily be taken to go.

If you tend to blend a lot of leafy greens into your smoothies, then you might want to pay attention to motor speed. Motor speed is expressed in watts and can range from as low as 300 to as high as 1,500. The higher the wattage, the smoother the consistency. But not so fast my friends! That smoother product comes with a price tag. The higher the horse power, the higher the price.

This brings us to another very important question. How much are you willing to spend? If money is no object, then by all means, look for the best product to meet all of your needs. If money is an issue however, start small. Ultimately, a cheaper blender will get the job done. For those just getting started I would highly recommend investing a little less money in the beginning. Take some time to practice your smoothie making skills and develop recipes. Once you establish your commitment level you can find the blender that is right for you.

~Happy blending and happy health!