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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Heart Healthy eating also is Brain Healthy eating

I recently read this information from a newsletter I got from the American Heart Association highlighting how Heart Healthy eating also is Brain Healthy eating. In truth, eating healthy is good for us, all over and in all ways. Here is what I learned-

What helps your heart can help your brain, too. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your chances of having a stroke, and it can also make a big difference in your mental abilities as you age.

In fact, getting plenty of physical activity, eating a healthy diet and other behaviors that strengthen your heart can have a profound effect on the way you think, how you act and what you remember.

“Most people don’t understand the connection between heart health and brain health, and as doctors we’re learning more every day,” said Ralph Sacco, M.D., chief of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and past president of the American Heart Association. “New studies have shown that the risk factors that can lead to heart disease and stroke, such as physical inactivity and obesity, also contribute to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.”

Here’s what happens: Those unhealthy behaviors can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels. That reduces blood flow to the brain, and leads to hardening of the arteries of the heart and the brain.

When your brain doesn’t get the blood flow it needs, it can begin to malfunction. As a result, Sacco said, you could experience problems thinking, trouble with memory, difficulty finding your way from place to place and deterioration in cognitive function. If blood flow to the brain is abruptly blocked, you could even have a stroke.

“People often associate memory loss with Alzheimer’s disease, and they think it can’t be prevented or treated,” said Sacco, the first neurologist to serve as president of the American Heart Association. “But controlling your risk factors for heart disease can make a difference in slowing its progression.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Stroke ranks fourth, and it is also a leading cause of severe, long-term disability. 

“Most of the time, like heart disease, it takes years of uncontrolled, unhealthy habits to wreak havoc on your brain, so it’s important to think about healthy habits as early as childhood and maintain them through adulthood and middle age,” Sacco said. “Many of these unhealthy behaviors translate to high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol by the time you’re in your 50s.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Daughter's Weekly Crockpot Recipe- Tuscan Pot-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb


My daughter tried out a crockpot recipe from our new Best-Ever Slow Cooking cookbook last night. She went for a recipe with an Italian flair- Tuscan Pot-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb. It was a riot shopping for the ingredients. First challenge was getting the butcher to cut a 3 lbs piece of Lamb shoulder. It is a very European cut of meat to cook in a stew. He needed some convincing that I really wanted shoulder meat. Then I had on the list "rinded smoked bacon". I asked the butcher if there was a difference between "rinded" bacon and bacon we get from the grocery store. To his credit he called someone and surfed the term on his iPhone. We decided I was safe to use "regular" bacon although pork belly would work as well. Good news is that all the ingredients worked well in the recipe. It was fun to have the adventure of figuring these ingredients out! Our middle son is now home with us for a week so we splurged with this recipe. His favorite meat is lamb. The calories were higher than we normally plan- 710 cal. We then completed the meal with a slice of European whole wheat bread I got at the bakery for 132 cal per slice and 1 cup of mixed berries for 64 cal. This is not an everyday menu. We had a light lunch of salad for 290 cal in order to offset the big dinner. It was worth it. A delicious dinner that made us feel we were in Tuscany! Our son was impressed with his sister's cooking! A definite repeat for another special night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

From the Grill- Peppered Turkey Burger


There are so many different types of burgers we can create that are healthy and tasty. As you can probably tell from this blog, I love variety! We prepared an old favorite this past weekend- Peppered Turkey Burger (300 cal). It is packed full of good things for us. It includes watercress both in the burger and on top (remember this is one of the spring veggies I wrote about that is so good for us). It also uses yogurt instead of mayonnaise. I use Greek yogurt which is even better! We paired the burger with Sweet Potato Shoestring Fries (187 cal) and Marinated Cucumber, Mushroom and Onion Salad (49 cal) for a complete meal for 536 calories. So summery and satisfying. A definite repeat!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Apps for Health #2

The second App I thought was interesting is called Fooducate. How often have we all tried to understand the ingredients on the side of a box and whether they are bad for us or not? This App should help us decipher the "ingredient code" -


Fooducate Plus
Why you want it: Confused by ingredient lists, nutrition labels, food claims et al.? Use this app to learn what’s really in the food you buy and make smarter shopping choices instantly. Created by dietitians, this app -- Appstore’s 2011 Best of the iPhone Health & Fitness category -- stores over 200,000 unique food products ranging from Trader Joe’s broccoli to Pillsbury Premium Cake Mix. You can look up or scan the UPC codes with your camera to find out just what evils lurk in that box of cookies or bag of chips you were considering (i.e. trans-fats, excessive sugars, additives and preservatives, questionable food colorings). It also rates items in easy to understand terms (i.e. the broccoli got an A, the cake mix, a D). Chances are you’ll never shop the same once you download this app -- you’ll also find that what makes it to the checkout line in your basket is a heckuva lot healthier. Time to get Fooducated!
Download it now: $3.99 for iPhone, on iTunes; Free for Android, on Google Play


Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Fruit Great for Weight Loss--Pineapple


Pineapple has become so available in grocery stores. They may not taste like the ones freshly harvested on a tropical island, but, if you pick right, you can have a very tasty one in your own home. You can chunk it or cut it in wheels or, as we like to do, cut it in wedges. It is a beautiful color, has substantive texture and a sweet & juicy flavor...and for only 82 calories per cup! It also happens to be healthy for you. Here is what I found out from iVillage- 

 “Although pineapple is slightly higher in fructose (natural fruit sugar) than most produce, it’s still light. One cup of cubed chunks contains just 82 calories, making it a much better sweet treat than, say, ice cream,” says Goodson. Bonus: Pineapple is also an excellent source of bromelain, an enzyme that’s been shown to reduce the inflammation that can contribute to diseases like arthritis and cancer, and to aid digestion, too -- which is why it's been used for centuries to soothe stomach woes.

Pineapple can complete a meal easily from accompanying wraps to salads to grilled meats and vegetables. It can also be added to many recipes. An easy and low calorie add-on to a healthy meal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Frozen Fruit Salad- Easy and Refreshing!


As the weather gets hotter and hotter I look for easy and refreshing recipes. The less I have to turn on stoves and ovens, the better. I found a frozen fruit salad recipe in the Complete Cooking Light Cookbook (page 389) that incorporates fresh fruit. There is no refined sugar added, the sweetness comes from the fruit juices. It is visually interesting and has a great texture and taste. It is a recipe you can do ahead and have handy in your freezer for a lunch or dinner. Each serving has 121 calories. Here is the recipe-

1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
1 1/2 cups sliced ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1 1/2 cups grapefruit sections (about 2 large grapefruit)
1 1/2 chopped fresh pineapple (you can also use canned chunks in natural juices)
1 3/4 cups pineapple juice
1/3 cup thawed orange juice concentrate

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Cover and freeze 4 hours or until firm. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes or until slightly thawed before serving. Yield: 8 servings. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review- Best-Ever Slow Cooking by Catherine Atkinson and Jenni Fleetwood


I went shopping for my husbands birthday at a bookstore. This is always a dangerous errand for me because I love browsing books, especially cookbooks! Then when there is one that I find interesting AND it is on sale, it is virtually irresistible to me. This was true last week. I succumbed and bought the Best-Ever Slow Cooking cookbook by Catherine Atkinson and Jenni Fleetwood. It is a creative and comprehensive cookbook with elegant recipes for every season. As my daughter continues to do well with her crockpot cooking, I thought it was time to expand our horizons and see what was ultimately possible using this amazing cooking device. I was swept away by the myriad of around-the-world recipes in this cookbook from Pigeons in Stout to Mediterreanean Duck with Harissa and Saffron  to Coconut, Tomato and Lentil Dhal to Moussaka to Pork Chow Mein...to name just a few! And the recipes provide a step-by-step direction and also include the calories and nutritional information. It is going to be a lot of fun trying out so many interesting recipes!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

30 Years of Marriage - A Partnership With Passion

Our Favorite Photo From Our 25th Anniversary Trip to Paris

There is nothing healthier for us as people than having a successful marriage. My husband and I have been married 30 years today. Over the years people have asked us how we have succeeded at staying married. According to the statistics, we have definitely beaten the odds. First-off I think people in relationships need to stay humble and also not take anything for granted. The person you know today may not be the same person 10 years from now. We all keep changing. That should be a good thing, not a bad thing. My husband and I have both had multiple careers at this point in our lives. Whenever I have wanted a change, my husband has always been supportive of me, and I of him. I am actually fascinated to watch my husband embrace new passions and take on new challenges. It allows us to refresh ourselves and our marriage even though we have now known each other for over 40 years.

We have had a lot of challenges in our lives over those 40 plus years. Many of them very dramatic. Some traumatic. We have never seen each other as the enemy during the hard times but instead as partners and team mates facing the challenge together. Life is hard enough as it is, the last thing I need is someone I am fighting with as I am out there in the world confronting the lions, tigers and bears.

I know I am blessed. I married my best friend who happens to be handsome, funny, sexy, loving, a fabulous dad, good dancer, highly intelligent and fully engaged in life. He is up for the adventure. He also seems to like and love me too!

Have we had our challenges? You bet. But I think it is how you approach those challenges that frames the health of the marriage. Are we still working on making ourselves and our marriage even better? You bet. I am amazed, to tell you the truth, that after all these years, we are actually getting better, not worse at communicating. This can definitely enhance a relationship. It has definitely improved ours.

I am one lucky woman. The best part is, I know it. I count my blessings, that just keep coming, that I had the chance and instinct to marry the perfect man for me. Here's to at least another 30 years together!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Reason to Work Out- "Coregasms"

I came across an article which made me smile, giggle a bit, and then made me realize I had actually had a similar thought on my own about why women are fanatics about doing certain exercising. Turns out women do in fact experience sexual pleasure through exercise alone, according to a recent article in The Week. The best trigger seems to be working out the core abdominal muscles.

Researchers at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute surveyed hundreds of women who reported they experience sexual pleasure (coregasms) during exercise. Besides experiencing a coregasm while doing abs workouts, women also shared they experienced them while doing weight lifting, yoga, biking, spinning, running or hiking. A few women even mentioned having a coregasm while mopping!

When I started spinning in January, before I tore my meniscus, I experienced the pounding on the bike seat first hand. I remember mentioning, jokingly, to the women next to me that I thought I now had an insight on why so many women like spinning...because of the vaginal stimulation during the constant transitions as a part of spinning class. Now that I think about it, I think she smiled knowingly...

It seems strange to me that with all the information we have about how working out is great for our health, or moods and, now, our sexual pleasures, that we have such a hard time finding time to do it...I think we need to work on our priorities, don't you? :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day- Living a Healthier Life Thanks to my Children


I know myself to be a very lucky mom. I have three wonderful children each of whom I love, admire and like very much. We often think of parenthood as a one way street...we give and our kids take. I have come to realize this is so not the truth with me. My children are actually the ones who are responsible for so many of the changes, the good ones, I have made in my life. They are also the source for the greatest joys in my life. They have fostered the desire in me to become a better person...and mom. My journey to becoming a healthier person and living a healthier lifestyle germinated with the challenges my children gave me to care about my weight and health. They inspire me to do my best. They are terrific cheerleaders. Here's how they support me every bite and step of the way-

My daughter has come on board with wanting to learn how to cook healthy recipes. You might have read some of my reviews about the recent healthy crockpot recipes she has tried out. She has also accompanied me regularly to go work out at the "Y" and does the 5K & 10K walks with me.

My middle son will go on bike rides and hikes with me when he is in town. He is always willing to try out my new healthy recipes and give his feedback. He, as well as my oldest son, give me gifts to support my healthy activities.

My oldest son, who is in medical school, is great at sharing new science information with me. He makes me think about what the consequences are for the actions we take, good or bad, with our bodies and minds. When I send him food he is always game to give me his thoughts.

We all share the love of discovery. They are genuinely interested in what I am up to and are eager to support me in my efforts. They have also helped me through some of my challenges, like my "bum" knee. Helping to keep me on track. Seeing each of them live a healthy lifestyle themselves is perhaps the biggest inspiration.

I have always said I am the luckiest mom in the world because not only do I love my children with all my heart but I also like them as the most interesting, engaged and caring people I know. Mother's Day is truly everyday for me.

HAPPY, HEALTHY MOTHER'S DAY!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Herb Hummus- great for wraps, pizzas, a dip for veggies & pastas!

I am always on the look out for tasty dips that are healthy and not too caloric. Good ones can add interest to a meal or an appetizer, keeping us from getting bored with the "same-old-same-old". Getting bored with your food is a definite danger zone for staying on track and eating healthy. Committing to finding and providing variety and being ever creative with our food has been proven to be the key to successfully maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I found a delicious herb hummus that can also be used as a pesto. It is light and flavorful...perfect for spring and summer menus. The recipe is as follows:

Herb Hummus/Pesto-

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice $
2 tablespoons Tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, drained
2 garlic cloves

Place all ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth, scraping sides of processor bowl occasionally. Yield: 1 2/3 Cups; serving size 1 tablespoon for 21 calories per serving.


My new favorite habit is drinking a Bud Light (Golden Wheat) and eating carrots with this dip at the evening "cocktail hour", before I start fixing dinner (Beer- 118 cal, dip- 2T at 42 cal and 1/2 Cup carrots at 25 cal= 185 total calories). It is delicious and satisfying and adds a moment of transition in the day between my day and my evening activities. I like it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Exercising with My Daughter


I mentioned in my Mother's Day blog that my daughter works out with me regularly. Here is a photo of us in action when we were at the "Y" last week. As you have probably noticed from previous photos and blogs, my daughter is in a wheelchair. She was born with Spina Bifida. This means the way she can exercise is a little different. One way we can both get a great workout is to do a variety of medicine ball (non-latex, of course!) exercises together. We pass the ball back and forth from various pivots. We also toss this 10 lbs. ball back and forth from different vantage points and distances. We are both sweating nicely by the end of our work out together! Our bodies do not limit us, only our limiting thoughts and imagination! All of us can be engaged in a healthy lifestyle, we just need to support each other on the journey. Right?


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Daughter's Crockpot Recipe this week- Chicken with Figs & Lemon


I am so glad that the powers that be have decided that dark meat is good for us...if it is skinned, of course! My daughter prepared Chicken with Figs & Lemon (431 cal) this week in our crockpot which uses skinned chicken thighs. It is a recipe we found in our Cooking Light Slow Cooker cookbook and then also found it online for all of you to use. This is an easy recipe to prepare and although rich in flavor is not a heavy dish. We served it with 1/2 cup couscous (118 cal) and a simple tossed green salad (45 cal) for a complete meal with 594 calories. I also enjoyed a Beck's Light beer (64 cal) to complete our Saturday night meal. It was a delicious and satisfying meal. A definite repeat as voted by each of us!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Apps for Health

I came across a new reference for Apps at iVIllage that can help us with our exercising, healthier eating and overall lifestyle choices. The first app I thought was worth passing along is-



GYMPACT

Why you want it: If the fact that you’re wasting money on a gym membership that doesn’t get used isn’t enough motivation to get your butt into some spandex, then download GymPact -- it will actually give you money if you do workout. It works like this: each week you make a commitment to show up at your designated gym for a certain number of days. Then you set your stakes. For every day you fall short of your goal that week, you will be charged your wager (most people start with $10, but you can charge yourself up to $50 per missed workout). All the money you are charged goes into a pool of money funded by people (like you) who have let life (read: Happy Hour) derail their quest for rock-hard abs. When you show up at the gym, you check in via your phone (a la Foursquare) and you get paid out from that pool -- every time! Now that’s incentive.
Download it now: Free for iPhone and iPad, on iTunes


Friday, May 4, 2012

Great Healthy Living Quote #20

Great Healthy Living Quote #20


Jumpstart Your Livliga Lifestyle with our Get Started Guide!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Watching Movies-- good for our health!


One of the favorite things we love to do after a busy day is to curl up on the couch and watch a movie as a family. It is a way to unwind, be together yet not demand too much from each other and our weary brains and bodies. It is relaxing and rejuvenating. Since it is one of those pleasures I think of a bit as a "guilty pleasure", because I am not working out or heavily involved in an intellectual exchange, I thought maybe I should find out if in fact, there is some merit to watching movies and that might actually translate into being a healthy activity. Yes, I was searching for some scientific justification! It turns out I found some!

There is a whole field called "Cinema Therapy" which is a method to help people get over hurdles and face certain challenges in their lives by viewing movies. Movies can be very therapeutic. This I have known for a long time. When I need a good cry, I pick one of my all time favorite movies like...An Affair to Remember...if I want to believe in the world again and know that the good guys can win I watch The Net (Sandra Bullock) or King Arthur (Keira Knightley) or The Italian Job (Charlize Theron); then there are the romantic movies, I have a very long list of those!...it includes the classic Romancing the Stone (Kathleen Turner) and newer movies like The Holiday (Cameron Diaz) and Something's Gotta Give (Diane Keaton).

The other part of watching movies that is therapeutic for us, it turns out, is the food we eat. As I recently found out, popcorn is not only a good source of fiber but is also packed full of polyphenols (antioxidants). Then there is the chocolate. Pair the popcorn with a bit of Dark chocolate and you are surely curing what ails you!

So, after a hard day of work and exercise, relaxing and watching a movie can add to our mental and physical health. I am loving it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Handy Stuff You Can Turn into a Homemade Workout


I love when someone spends time to remind us of how it does not require a membership to a gym or a lot of money or the right work out clothes or equipment to get in a good work out. Recently I came across a fun series showing how you could get a good workout by buying everyday household items for less than $20 for a homemade work out. I loved it and thought I would share some of the ideas. Even if, like me, you have a membership to a gym, these ideas can help spice up your routine, help you manage a workout despite a crazy day, or can help solve the problem of how to workout when you traveling or are on vacation. We don't have to get stuck on the idea that a work out only means one thing or has to be done in a certain way. These can even be presented as a fun activity to do with your kids! Good ideas to store in the back of your mind for a rain day. The first idea:

paper plates-
Paper or plastic? Both can work for a dollar-store version of the Gliding Sliding Disc. “Paper plate exercises work best on a non-carpeted indoor surface,” says Syd Hoffmann, health and wellness expert and author of All Day Energy. “Start with lunges -- side, back, front, diagonal lunges, curtsy lunges behind -- with one paper plate under the foot that is moving.” Instead of stepping into the lunge positions, you slide the foot in and out -- you’ll add a new stability challenge to your workouts while toning your lower body. More advanced exercisers can try hover jacks: Assuming a “plank” position (which is like the “up” part of a pushup), with plates under both feet, simultaneously slide the feet apart and back together for an inner/outer thigh blast.