Thanks to Cheryl and Mercola for today’s guest post. I have turned to Mercola many times for information and tips on healthier living.
Could your health use a quick boost? Look no further than your local farmer’s market or organic produce section of your grocery store. Fruits and vegetables, especially when organic, are some of nature’s answers to our body’s demand for nutrients.
Just one caveat about fruit: Many varieties are high in fructose, so you do need to limit your numbers of servings. Consuming too much of any type of sugar, especially fructose, can add to your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome with unwanted consequences for your brain health and waistline.
Here are five of the healthiest fruits, many of which are lower in fructose:
Avocados are truly in a class by themselves when it comes to nutrition. Technically a fruit and not a vegetable, avocados are an outstanding source of healthy monounsaturated fats that are beneficial for heart health and cholesterol levels.
One of the best fruits you can eat, avocados also supply good amounts of fiber, vitamin K, folate, and B and C vitamins. And they have twice the potassium of bananas! Great for adding to salads raw, a study shows avocados might even help your body absorb important bioactive carotenoids from other fruits and vegetables.
These scarlet beauties contain more valuable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients than other fruits, including ellagitannins and ellagic acid. Unique to raspberries, the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value is one of the highest of all fruits.
If losing a few pounds is on your to-do list, you’ll appreciate the potential of the phytonutrient rheosmin (sometimes called raspberry ketones) found in raspberries. But don’t overdo it… raspberries have their share of fructose if you eat large enough quantities.
Tomatoes’ call to fame is for their lycopene content, a important flavonoid antioxidant. Lycopene helps protect cells, skin, and bone density. It may also help regulate heart rate and blood pressure levels.
Yet tomatoes supply a host of other nutrients, too, like fiber, vitamins A, E, C and K, as well as B vitamins, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, potassium and manganese.
Just one warning about canned tomatoes: BPA is often found in the vinyl lining of cans, especially tomatoes, which can leach into the food and adversely affect your brain, hormones and more. Ideally, freeze your own from your garden or opt for fresh.
Lemons are real vitamin C powerhouses, providing 187% of the daily value, so reach for these golden gems whenever you feel an infection coming on. Make sure you grab the real thing – fresh lemons. Bottled lemon juice can’t compare.
When you consume food with lemon, especially freshly squeezed juice, its citric acid can aid in your body’s digestion, while lemon’s multiple antioxidants promote healthy mucus membranes, skin and vision, and help protect cellular DNA and regulate your immune function.
Known in ancient Chinese medicine as Yang Tao, kiwi fruit is a natural immune booster. Kiwi packs an abundance of vitamin C content – five times greater than that of an orange! And they’re a good source of vitamins K, A and E. Kiwis do contain a fair amount of sugar, so be sure not to overindulge.
Kiwis are one of the few foods rich in vitamin B6. The B6, copper and folate in kiwi is especially important for healthy fetuses, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. These nutrients support bone growth and brain development, and help protect against birth defects and neutralizing damaging free radicals.
Fruits are easy to incorporate into your diet because they add both flavor and visual appeal. You can eat them raw, add small quantities to freshly squeezed vegetable juices or combine into a sumptuous fruit salad. Adding a limited amount of fruit to your diet, especially these ultra healthy varieties, is a great way to boost your health.
About the Author
Cheryl Malcham is a writer for Mercola.com. With a background in clinical nutrition and a driving passion for natural health, she’s always looking for ways to let nature be the guide towards a healthy lifestyle. Find out creative ways to use fresh fruits – Get your FREE Raw Food Recipes ebook here.
Bloggers love fall. Duh! The crisp air, crunchy leaves, boots and sweater weather and of course, PSLs. So it makes perfect sense to have this fitting community post and giveaway today with Ashley and friends where we’re sharing our favorite fall drinks. We hope you enjoy getting to know us and trying our favorites.
I don’t mean to be boring and cliche…but….I can’t resist a good pumpkin spice latte. I usually get it decaf with nonfat milk, 2 pumps of pumpkin and no whipped cream. I know…I took away the best part, but it is still YUMMY!!!!!
What’s your favorite fall drink?
Chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. I admit, I’m not big on chocolate, but I do love me some PB.
I recently qualified for the Reese’s Spreads Voxbox from Influenster. I was pretty excited to try this new product and even more excited to bring it home to my husband who has a
mild major obsession with peanut butter cups.
My consensus: It is gooood.
His consensus: It is amazing. It’s like crack cocaine. In fact, he was dipping his fingers right in the jar, no vehicle of Reese’s goodness required.
I started by dipping some Bugles into it, and that salty-sweet combination was just spot on.
Some other ideas I had to try eating Reese’s Spread with was to use it as a dip for chips, pretzels, bananas, celery or apples. Or, spread a layer on top of brownies, graham crackers or rice krispie treats.
I was sure that something processed like this would be suuper unhealthy, and while it’s not healthy by any means, it’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be. One serving (which is only 2 Tbsp) has 190 calories, 12 grams fat, 140 mg sodium and 19 grams sugar. Granted, with such a small serving size, you can easily start consuming more than you should, but again, it could be a lot worse, so just proceed with caution, haha.
I’m not sure I will ever go out and buy this on my own, just because we’re trying to transition to a healthier lifestyle, but for the Reese’s fanatic, it might be worth the indulgence.
I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.
Have you tried the Reese’s spreads yet and what did you think? Are you an Influenster too?
This originally appeared as a guest post on A la Maxfield. It has been repurposed and updated for publishing here. Since I originally wrote that for Nicole, I’ve learned a few more tips and tricks!
Meal planning has been such a lifesaver for me. It saves me money and time, I’m less wasteful, and it forces me to make better food choices. I’ve been meal planning for about a year now and can’t imagine not doing it. Today I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks with you!
First, let’s talk about why you should meal plan.
1) To save money. For me, by planning what we’re going to eat, and just buying the ingredients for those meals, I’m no longer buying items we’re not going to eat. I used to put anything and everything that looked good in my cart, thinking I’d figure out the meals as they come. But then I ate whatever I felt like, and often ended up getting delivery anyway because I never wanted what I had at home. Which leads me to…
2) To be less wasteful. All that food I bought and never ate because I got delivery? Yeah, it went bad and ended up in the garbage. I was wasting so much food, and for no good reason.
3) To make better use of my time. I used to stare at my cupboards and fridge, wondering what to make. And then sometimes if I decided on a certain recipe, I wouldn’t have everything I needed and I ended up at the store again getting ingredients. (Or saying eff it and getting delivery. )Having every meal planned out saves me so much time because I know what I’m making every day, and I plan ahead to have all the ingredients on hand.
4) To be healthier. In those days when I didn’t meal plan, I ate very poorly. I pretty much never got off of my college girl diet of boxed mac and cheese, frozen pizza, soda and chips. When I got married, I decided meal planning would be a good way to plan balanced nutrition into our day, and it was something both my husband and I needed.
Meal planning is one of the changes I’m most proud of as a wife because my husband has fully embraced it with me. He likes knowing what we’re having every night, and I often ask him to help plan the meals so he has input in what we both eat. He also loves to grill, and is way better at cooking meat than I am, so meal planning has helped bring us closer since we get to do it together.
How do you start meal planning?
Here’s what worked for me: To get started, make a list of all the foods/recipes that you know how to make and enjoy eating. Hop on Pinterest and find some inspiration too. Try a few new recipes and see what works. Make a list for both main dishes and sides. This will help you plan in the veggies, fruits and starches in your diet too so you can easily pair things together depending what you have on hand. Next, group your list into types of protein, listing all your chicken recipes together, and beef and pork and vegetarian meals, etc. Once you’ve assembled a “master meal list,” find a way that works for you to note your meals for the week or month. One way that works for me is to write all my meals on a small dry erase board on my fridge, like this:
Sometimes I do monthly planning and print off a blank calendar at Calendarpedia to fill out and post on the fridge.
But lately I like writing it all in my Erin Condren life planner. I have it on me all the time anyway, so it’s easy to glance it at at work or on the go and see what the plan is.
Whichever method you choose, just block off any days where you have plans and don’t need dinner (say a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant). I pick out a day or two where we’re allowed to go out to dinner as a date or order delivery in. Then, start filling in the remaining days with meals from your list.
Now that your calendar is filled up, shop smart and stock your cabinets with basic ingredients you’ll need over and over again, and watch them so you always have spices, milk, eggs, rice, shredded cheese, etc. on hand. Then make a weekly grocery list so you only have to visit the store once a week to get the special things you need like meats or any fresh veggies. You may want to be strategic with how you plan that too, so use up your fresh foods right away since things like lettuce, berries and chicken can go bad quickly. If there’s any recipes in your lineup you don’t know how to make off the top of your head, I’m a fan of pulling it up online and stashing my laptop in the corner of my kitchen to reference (while also jamming to fun party tunes of course) while cooking. Or, do as my friend Katherine does and print out every recipe you have planned and store it in a meal planning binder! It’s really just finding what works for you. Experiment for a while. You’ll find a groove, I promise!
-Make big meals on the weekends so you have leftovers for the next day or two and don’t have to cook early in the workweek. If you’re extra ambitious (and have a big freezer), make freezer meals. One weekend, I had four crockpots going in my kitchen so we could have soups and casseroles on hand for the next few weeks.
-Or, just make extra all the time! If I’m making meatloaf one night, I’ll often make an extra loaf, or batch of cheesy potato casserole, to throw in the freezer and have on hand for the days you need something in a pinch and don’t want to cook.
-Think strategically and use the ingredients you have on hand and plan to use the same protein a few days in a row (that’s where having your list grouped together is helpful). I often will have chili, tacos and meatloaf in the same week to use up all the ground beef I have and carry the leftovers into the next meal.
-Meal prep on the weekend. Chop up any veggies you need for the week, rinse fruit and portion into containers, boil eggs, assemble breakfast sandwiches, etc. Anything to make your weeknight cooking and lunch-packing easier.
-Get in the habit of always having some frozen and/or canned veggies, a box of rice or quinoa, and potato flakes on hand to fill in meals when you didn’t plan for a side. For instance, when I make spaghetti, I always pair it whatever veggie I have on hand, whether it’s a bag of salad, can of corn or bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I typically only plan my veggie or starch in when we want something special like fresh asparagus or a baked potato. Otherwise, winging your sides is 100% fine!
-Decide if you want to only plan dinners, or also breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Sometimes I do it all; sometimes I only plan dinner and hope we have leftovers for lunch and wing breakfast. My husband and I both like yogurt, so we typically each take one to work each day for breakfast, and then also throw in a banana, granola bar or muffin, depending what we have on hand. A couple days a week, I may make some refrigerator oatmeal as a special treat. The weekends are special. We either wing it and have cold cereal or eggs, or I may make a french toast casserole.
-Have some lunch fill-ins on hand. Some days you may count on having leftovers for lunch, but the recipe doesn’t make as much food as you think it will. We keep a stock of frozen burritos, canned soups, sliced cheese and lunchmeat, and fruit cups on hand to pack in a pinch.
-Lastly, watch sales and use coupons too to make the maximum impact. I sometimes change my meal plan if I see a great deal on something and stock up on it. Just never buy something you won’t use just because it’s on sale. And always have fun with it.
Do you meal plan? What tips would you add?
For the past five years or so, there is one dish that I make every single Thanksgiving, that is my no-fail, trusty recipe. A Paula Deen pumpkin cheesecake. We like it so much that I usually end up making it several times a year now, in addition to just having it as our Turkey Day dessert. Seriously guys, this is the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving spread, and it’s really easy.
Paula’s original recipe calls for a homemade crust, but I’m lazy and use a pre-made graham cracker or frozen pie crust instead to save time. Of course, over time I find more shortcuts and tweaks to fit my own taste. If you’re still looking for a dessert to make this Nov. 27, I encourage you to give this recipe a try!
2 or 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (2 works fine but 3 makes it extra cream cheesy!)
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (Paula’s suggestion; I usually just use 3 eggs)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pre-made graham cracker or frozen pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
Pour into crust. Spread evenly and bake for approx 1 hour or just lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. Stays good for a few days.
Note: I often end up with more than enough filling to fit in just one crust. If you can find a couple of mini crusts, fill them too for some extra little treats
What’s your fave Thanksgiving dessert?
Linking up with Elah Tree and Sweet Lavender Bake Shoppe one last time for the final Cooks in the Kitchen challenge. I’m feeling good that I successfully participated in all but two of the six challenges – the strawberry one was an epic fail, and I opted out of tomatoes since I really can’t stand them in much of anything, but the rest were good! To see the rest of my recipes during this challenge, check out the links below:
The ingredient for our final challenge was pears! I initially planned to be ambitious and make a complex recipe like pear tart, pear jam or poached pears … but then time got away from me and I had to do something easier and quicker. Thankfully I got the idea to use a baking mix, modify it slightly and just add pears into that and hope for the best. It worked! So here we go. My super easy pear muffin recipe. Aka, baking for lazy and/or busy people.
2 cups Hodgson Mill Insta-Bake Baking Mix (buy here) (or any other baking mix you prefer)
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 – 2/3 cup milk
1 or 2 pears, peeled and diced
1 – 2 Tsp cinnamon and/or nutmeg
Raw cane sugar, for topping
-Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray 1 muffin tin with cooking spray or insert muffin liners.
-Combine baking mix and sugar, then cut in butter using a pastry blender until crumbly.
-Mix in egg, milk, cinnamon/nutmeg and diced pears until combined.
-Spoon batter into muffin tins and top with a light sprinkle of raw cane sugar.
-Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Serve with a pat of butter or honey, warm or cold.
The cane sugar on top probably isn’t necessary, but I love the crunch it adds to each bite. You could leave it plain or use a streusel topping instead.
Makes 1 dozen.
Fun fact: I was a vegetarian for about four years. Granted college made me cave and start eating meat again, but I have always cared about animal welfare, and my sociology courses also taught me that the meat industry is actually quite harmful to the environment as well—another cause close to my heart. But, like I mentioned previously, I’ve been suffering from extreme laziness in the past 10 years or so, and meat was just easy.
Now that I’m making more of an effort to meal plan, be healthier and make better choices for many reasons, one thing I’m tyring to do more of is eat less meat in general. Which can be difficult living with a man who rejects most any non-meat meal. The key is starting small (or not frequently I should say—I fit in two or three meatless days for us a month) and finding dishes that we both like and can stand on their own.
My personal favorite meatless meal actually uses a product I found that I loved when I was a vegetarian. Morningstar Farms makes veggie crumbles, which look just like regular ground beef, and actually taste really good. I throw some in pasta sauce when we have spaghetti and garlic bread and you can’t even tell it’s not real meat.
Even just replacing a few meals a month with meatless alternatives can make a difference. Eating less meat in general can be good for your health, better for the environment and contributes less to the meat/slaughter industry. When we do eat meat now, I try to buy most of it from my local independent butcher where it costs less, is fresher and tastes better anyway.
If you’re up for the challenge, here’s a list of some meals I recommend adding to your meal rotation:
Broccoli cheese soup or casserole
Pesto pasta salad (recipe here)
Veggie stir fry or fried rice
Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
Egg salad or tuna salad
Black bean, corn and salsa scramble
Spinach eggs (recipe here)
Veggie and cheese pizza
Potato leek soup
Stuffed mushroom caps
Do you have a favorite vegetarian meal?
I don’t mean to brag, buutt… I make pretty darn good deviled eggs. Every time we grill, I make deviled eggs, and they’re often requested from friends at parties or just any time they come over. Over the years, I’ve had lots of practice at making eggs, and so I thought it was time to share my trusty recipe. I got the base instructions from my best friend’s mom, who is probably the best cook I know, and I’ve added a few things to make it my own.
Now, my eggs are of the Scandinavian variety, meaning highly delicious, but made without vinegar or relish like some are. I like to let the eggs shine, and to me, vinegar or relish just overpowers them and make my mouth pucker. No thanks.
I’ve always just boiled my eggs, but recently the Pinterest trend surfaced around baking them. Supposedly it made it easier, less messy, easier to peel and didn’t produce the gray ring. I tried this method and thought it was stupid. Even though I baked them exactly as recommended, there were some burn marks on the shell and even on the egg whites. I felt like it made the whites kind of rubbery too, so I definitely recommend sticking to the old school boiling method. It works. Add a little baking soda to the water to make the eggs easier to peel. Place them in ice-cold water to stop the cooking and make them easier to handle.
I like to set up an egg station and have one bowl ready for the egg shells/trash, another for the egg yolks, a paper towel to dry off the eggs, a plate to cut them and the tray they’ll be served on.
-Lemon or lime juice
-Salt & pepper
-Onion powder or onion salt
After you’ve boiled your eggs, slice each in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks, transferring them to a separate bowl.
Squirt a few splashes of lemon or lime juice over the yolks (this keeps them from turning color and adds a very light acidity to the eggs in place of vinegar). Using just a fork, mash up the yolks until they’re fine and crumbly.
Scoop in approx 1/2 cup of mayo, couple tablespoons mustard, few turns of S&P and onion powder or salt. All of these should be to your liking, so mix it up then add more till you think it tastes perfect. Here’s about how much I put in before mixing it all up again:
Scoop the yolk mixture into a piping bag (or just snip the end off the corner of a ziploc baggie) and fill your egg white halves with the yolk mix.
Sprinkle with paprika, and voila! Amazing deviled eggs. If you feel extra ambitious, top each with a piece of bacon. BOOM!
I’m super excited to be joining Cooks in the Kitchen with Elah Tree again, considering my recipe for last month’s challenge was an epic fail. But I am back this month, because the assigned ingredient was blueberries, and this time, I was confident in my blueberry tart recipe.
I’ve made this recipe probably at least 20 times by now. I make it all the time in the summer, for potlucks, family gatherings, etc. It’s one of my go-to dessert recipes because it’s easy and delicious. I originally used Paula Deen’s recipe, but over the years I’ve tweaked it, and now I’m so comfortable with my adaptation that I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore. This baby is all in my head.
Without further ado, here we go!
1 premade graham cracker pie crust
1 8-oz package of softened cream cheese
About half a cup heavy whipping cream
Few tablespoons powdered sugar
2 regular size containers of blueberries
2 T corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
Squirt of lemon juice
(Or replace the second list of ingredients with one can of blueberry pie filling if you’re feeling lazy.)
-Blend together your cream cheese, whipping cream and powdered sugar till it’s creamy. Taste and adjust to your preference. Add more powdered sugar till you get the sweetness you desire. I only put a little in mine since the blueberries are so sweet, and I like the cream cheese to really shine.
-Gently spread your cream cheese mixture into the pie crust. Be careful not to spread it too aggressively, or you will eff up your crust. It doesn’t have to be pretty since it gets covered later.
-Place your half-filled pie in the fridge to chill.
-Meanwhile, wash your blueberries and place in a medium-size saucepan on medium heat with half of the sugar. Stir occasionally, and after several minutes, the berries will be bright, softened and juices coming out. Add in the cornstarch, remaining sugar and squirt of lemon juice, and stir, cooking for another several minutes till the consistency looks just like regular pie filling.
-Allow the berry mixture to cool, and then spoon it over the cream cheese layer in your pie crust. (Or, plop in your canned filling at this point if you didn’t make your own.) Spread it till it’s pretty. Chill the entire pie again till you’re ready to consume it.
What is your favorite blueberry recipe?
I’ve always wanted to make a trifle, but they’ve always seemed overwhelming: the turduckens of dessert!
This past Fourth of July, I decided to finally tackle the trifle! And the good news is I found a hack for lazy people. No fancy soaked lady fingers or homemade pound cake, no whipped cream made from scratch or fruit glaze. For real, my version is easy and took no more than half an hour total. Sweet Brown ain’t got nothin’ on this recipe!
– 1 pre-packaged angel food cake
– 1 container of Cool whip
– 1 box instant pudding mix (I used vanilla, but banana would have been great too)
– Berries of choice (I used one container each of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
– Make pudding according to package directions, set in fridge.
-While pudding is chilling, cut up and rinse fruit, and cut angel food cake into bite-sized chunks.
-In your clear bowl(s), line the bottom with a row of cake. Spread a layer of pudding on top, then a layer of Cool Whip, then a layer of fruit. Repeat layers until bowl is full!
-Stuff your face with your amazing trifle.
Don’t have a fancy trifle bowl? No problem! Use any clear bowl you can get your hands on. Even a big glass measuring bowl will work just fine. Or, use several small clear punch cups and call them mini trifles. Actually, those are probably even better for serving a crowd!
Make this sucker to impress your friends and family at your next gathering … or even just for yourself during a weekend alone. No judgements here. It’s fresh and sweet and delicious and oh so summery.