Tag: vegetables

Healthy New Year! Top Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Holiday weight gain is a widely accepted fact of life, causing many to hopelessly give up and give in to the temptation of high-calorie treats that seem to lurk around every festive corner. But accepting rather than fighting poor habits throughout the holidays can set anyone on the path to dietary disruption and bad health.

As we get older, every ounce of weight gain matters, and can seem impossible to lose, making it especially important to keep a close eye on calories. Luckily, there are many easy ways to prevent the sabotage of all your fitness plan progress.

Below are some top tips to help anyone avoid the trap of holiday weight gain.

 

1. Retain the Routine—

Yes, you’re on vacation. No, this doesn’t have to mean you should take a break from the gym, yoga classes or whatever form of exercise you generally work into every week.

Sticking with your workout regimen can keep your metabolism moving and help you burn extra calories; something you might really appreciate later when faced with a plate of holiday cookies.

And don’t be afraid to go heavier on exercises that burn more calories during the holidays to offset the extra intake.

 

2. Step Away from the Buffet—

When hanging out at social events, it’s easy to get caught in a conversation while standing near the buffet table if you’re grazing randomly, so purposefully grab a plate, make your selections, and move away from the food area.

This will help you be aware of exactly how much you eat, while removing the temptation to have “just one more” cookie or chip with dip as you stand mindlessly chatting and nibbling.

 

3. Make Friends with the Vegetables—

At every holiday party, there is a generally a plethora of sugary baked goods and salty snacks, with a sad, neglected vegetable tray sitting alone and ignored somewhere on the table.

Find that lonely tray of vegetables and load up your plate with these fiber and nutrition-packed beauties, because they’re going to fill you up without a lot of calories while fueling your body with vitamins and minerals.

Remember to go easy on the dip, and eat all of the veggies before moving on to the more calorie-dense foods.

 

4. Protein is Your Pal—

In addition to vegetables, lean protein in its various forms is a great way to fill up and stay full without fattening carbohydrates.

Look for shrimp, chicken or any other versions of protein that aren’t covered in heavy sauce, and add these to your vegetable bounty for a healthy holiday meal.

 

5. More Sleep, Less Stress—

Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases weight gain, especially around the middle. It can be difficult when you feel like you have one million things to do, but making sleep a priority is definitely worth it.

Cortisol is also known for breaking down muscle, and muscle loss lowers metabolism, making it especially important to get the sleep you need during the food-filled holidays.

 

6. Wonderful Water—

Feelings of dehydration can mimic hunger, making it important to remain hydrated at all times to prevent pointless snacking.

Dehydration can also lower the metabolism and increase inflammation levels in the body, both of which lead to weight gain. Some experts recommend alternating a glass of water between every adult beverage to prevent the dehydrating diuretic effects of alcohol.

Drinking water before meals has also been shown to create a feeling of fullness that can help promote weight loss, so before you head out to that holiday party: drink up!

 

7. Do the Shopping Shuffle—

Buying gifts online can be more convenient, but if you want to sneak in a little extra exercise while you take care of holiday-related errands, go to the actual stores and walk around.

Worried about missing an online deal? Many stores will match online competitor prices, so be sure to take a device with you that allows Internet access, or print out the best price you can find to show store employees.

 

8. Saving Calories is Sabotage—

Don’t make the mistake of trying to starve yourself all day to “save calories” for the holiday party later. This will only drop your metabolism down into starvation mode, and set you up to overeat late in the day, which is the worst time to overindulge if you’re trying to stay trim.

Instead of starving, eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and if the party you’ll be attending isn’t a dinner party, consider eating your final meal of the day before you go to keep the snacking to a minimum.

 

Focusing on the humanity, kindness and goodwill of the season (rather than trying to figure out how much food you can stuff into your face in a few weeks) is also a helpful way to avoid holiday weight gain. The holidays may involve a lot of food, but they really aren’t ultimately about food at all, are they? If you can keep this philosophy in mind, and use the smart tips above, you can keep your diet and fitness program on track to have a healthy New Year!

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Give Peas a Chance: 5 Fast Ways to Help Kids Learn to Love Vegetables

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Maybe it’s because they have so many more meal options than we did growing up, or maybe they’re just being kids, but it seems like many children today have a very limited list of foods they’re willing to eat. Not only can this be frustrating for parents, it can be unhealthy for growing kids who need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow.

While parents know we’re supposed to get a certain amount of healthy foods into our kids every day, it can be hard for vegetables to compete with comfort food favorites like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. Luckily, there are things we can do to make the vegetables more kid-friendly, and we’re going to discuss them below.

Here are 5 easy ways to get kids to try (and maybe even enjoy) healthy foods:

 

1. Quietly Cauliflower—

The secret undercover agent of the vegetable world, cauliflower can be cooked, mashed and blended with butter or cheese to resemble and taste very similar to mashed potatoes.

Adults on low-carb diets already know about this amazing substitution for the starchier dish it so closely resembles, but children are used to seeing cauliflower on veggie trays in its raw and somewhat pungent-smelling form.

If your children are extremely particular, you can try blending mashed cauliflower half and half with potatoes to gradually get them used to the flavor. And don’t forget that this vegetable can be added to casseroles, or covered with cheese and baked to create a delicious cauliflower gratin.

 

2. Marinara is Magnificent—

With a strong tomato base to hide other flavors, shredded or pureed carrots, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable that sounds good can be added to this popular red sauce (especially if it has ground turkey or beef added as well to hide the texture).

Pasta primavera is another tried and tested way to get children to enjoy vegetables, so don’t forget that a good, creamy butter sauce can also convince a picky kid to give veggies a chance.

 

3. Macaroni and More—

Macaroni and cheese sits firmly at the top of many people’s favorite food lists, but the deliciousness of this dish doesn’t have to stop with cheese, and neither does the nutrition.

This is because it’s easy to add finely chopped broccoli, steamed spinach, diced tomatoes, or any other vegetables you’d like, thanks to the strong cheese flavor that both covers and compliments pretty much anything you add to it.

Experts have discovered it can take more than 10 times of tasting a food to decide whether or not we like it, making macaroni and cheese a great way to help a child develop an appreciation for nutritious foods without even realizing it.

 

4. Meat You in the Garden—

Unless you’re a vegetarian, meat can be a great way to work vegetables into your diet via meatloaf, meatballs, and meat sauces.

Veggie burgers, either made entirely from vegetarian sources, or meat with pureed and finely diced vegetables mixed into the patties is another method used by resourceful parents to encourage kids to eat healthily.

The addition of a hamburger bun and condiments further serves to add to the illusion of an all-meat burger, allowing families to add baked fries and skip the fast food for a healthier homemade alternative.

 

5. The Secret Baker—

Everybody loves zucchini bread, right?  And carrot cake is a classic favorite dessert. So what’s weird about adding pureed cauliflower, carrots or spinach to chocolate cake or spice muffins?

Cauliflower is bland, carrots are a surprisingly sweet vegetable, and spinach has a mellow taste that goes unnoticed when paired with stronger flavors. Give it a try, get creative, and never fear: It can be a little secret between you and us, and we promise we’ll never tell.

Be sure to blend all well-cooked vegetables you’re adding to a baked good into a smooth paste to avoid textural discovery of your well-hidden nutrition, and nobody will ever know the difference.

 

The above tips are ways to disguise the flavor of vegetables and conceal them within foods kids already love in hopes that children will eventually grow to enjoy the flavors they’re subconsciously tasting.

But the best way to help kids learn to love vegetables is to lead by example; by eating them with meals openly and positively. By using the tips above, and making a point of enjoying them in front of your children, you can take the mystery out of these nutritional superfoods to help your children learn to love vegetables.

After School Specials: Super Snack Ideas for Healthy, Happy Kids

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When kids get home from school, they’re a few hours past lunch time, hungry and needing a snack to tide them over until dinner. But chips, crackers and other simple carbohydrates can be a waste of calories that could have instead provided growing children with the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and strong.

So what’s the solution? Healthy snacks, of course. By feeding kids the right foods after school, you can make sure that every calorie counts; and when snacks are properly prepared, even the pickiest little one will eat fruits and vegetables instead of empty starches.

Below are some creative ways to make good nutrition tasty and appealing so kids will snack on real food instead of junk.

 

1. Freeze the Fruit—

Dieting women have known for years that frozen grapes make a refreshing, low-fat replacement for ice cream, but any fruit can be frozen if your children like cold treats.

Mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas and peaches can all be frozen to create a healthy snack that tastes great with a dollop of Greek yogurt for added protein.

If you have a high-power blender, frozen bananas can be turned into a treat with a surprisingly similar texture to soft serve ice cream, with peanut butter, cocoa powder, assorted fruits or other natural flavors added if desired.

 

2. Prep the Veggies—

Often, we have the celery, carrot sticks, fresh broccoli and cauliflower sitting in the refrigerator drawer, waiting to be used, but we forget to prepare it in time for snacks.

Rather than waiting until you have hungry children clamoring at your feet, cut up fresh vegetables during the day and place them in a sealed container with a bit of cold water to retain moisture.

When kids get home from school, instead of grabbing salty, processed nibbles, you can give freshly sliced vegetables with ranch dip or hummus to snack on.

 

3. Find the Fruit Bowl—

This seems like an obvious, classic way to promote healthful eating, and many of us grew up with a bowl of fruit on the table for quick snacking.

But our world has become much more convenience-minded in the last few decades, making many reach for chips, crackers and other processed junk foods instead of that good old apple we used to enjoy.

To get back into this great habit, buy apples, oranges, nectarines, peaches, bananas and other kid-friendly foods, wash and dry so they’re ready to eat, and keep the bowl within constant reach of little hands.

Children don’t get to control much in their lives, and being given the option to grab something from the fruit bowl whenever they want will make them happy. And if they lose their appetite for dinner because they had too much fruit… is that really a bad thing?

 

4. Mix It Up—

Kids love variety and choices, and a really healthy, fun way to give them this is with homemade trail mixes in individual servings they can grab and go, making your life easier.

Use sandwich bags to blend assorted nuts, dried fruits (without added sugar) like raisins, cranberries, blueberries and banana chips or apple rings. Some grocery stores now carry dried blueberries, mango, papaya and even dried kiwi, so get creative.

If you have a picky child, allowing them to help make multiple bags of their own special blend of trail mix can also encourage them to want to eat their creations.

 

5. Smoothie Sailing—

A great way to get fruits and vegetables into kids without a fuss is by making icy smoothies in the blender that taste like a shake, but are actually nutritious.

By adding dairy milk, almond milk, or yogurt, you’ll give children valuable calcium needed for growing bones.

Mild vegetables like carrots and spinach can also be juiced for fruit smoothies to increase the vitamin content as long as berries, oranges or apples are added to sweeten it up.

 

6. English Pizzas—

English muffin halves make adorable mini-pizzas when toasted and covered with marinara sauce, and kids love the novelty of having their very own pizza to top with shredded cheese and vegetables.

Have the vegetable toppings diced before kids get home so they’ll be ready to go, and muffins pre-toasted. All kids will have to do is spread the sauce, add the cheese and veggies, and let a grown-up microwave or bake pizzas in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Use whole grain muffins to increase the fiber and nutritional content of this fresh, fun treat.

 

Snack time doesn’t have to be junk food time: it can actually be a great way to get fruits, vegetables and other nutritious fare into kids’ diets in a completely delicious way. Use the after-school snack tips above, or find other innovative ideas to replace empty calories with wholesome, healthful and enjoyable foods your kids will love.