8 Super Hideable Healthfoods

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By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Integrative Wellness Counselor and Founder of See Kids Thrive & Eden Life Ministries

So, we understand a healthy diet is critical to our growth and wellbeing.  No need to sugar-coat it anymore.  The Standard American Diet is a slow poison that’s killing us.  We know we need to be getting more fruits and veggies (especially now that the daily rec’s are 7-13 servings a day [16-18 for athletic types]).  Yet, between time and taste buds, we find it incredibly difficult to get NEAR that much.  

What on earth is a mother to do?  Right?  

Well, I guess you could duct tape them to a chair and threaten those wee little tots with a lifetime of slop’n’biscuits if they don’t make those peas vanish STAT!  

OR, you could spare yourself the drama and the chaos (and maybe the fun of it) and opt to help their bodies grow to appreciate those fresh fruits and veggies by slipping some extras under the radar.  

Get crafty with these easy to hide foods that “power up” any meal.

 

Avocados

To some, these creamy, dreamy babies are perfect with anything sweet, savory, spicy, tart… okay, with everything.  To some others, that green, mushy madness is a straight no-go.  

While we love avocadoes sliced, diced and straight off the spoon, we also love their versatility (along with their incredible health benefits).  Try mashed avocadoes in place of mayo in wraps and sandwiches; drop it in a food processor with some cacao and raw honey/agave for a chocolate pudding that will rock your world, or throw it in the blender to make a decadently creamy smoothie or shake.  

Zucchini

This summer beauty is delicious raw or cooked but the waxy texture of zucchini and squash can be a little off-putting to some.  Mix things up by throwing thin slices on a pizza or mixing it into pasta.  Spiralize it and use it in place of pasta in spaghetti or fettuccine.  Slice it lengthwise and layer it into a lasagna.  Slice and bake them into Zucchini Chips or puree them and bake them into cookies, muffins and {sweet} breads.

Beans

Beans beans, good for the heart; the more you eat, the more you… Hey, knock that off!

I love beans and always seem to find ways to incorporate them into all sorts of things.  So, you kid doesn’t always like straight beans… who cares?  There are LOTS of scrumptious ways to enjoy them.  One of my kids’ favorites right now is to enjoy them in salad blends that would remind you of, say, a fish or chicken salad but without all the meat’n’mayo action.  Instead of mayo, you simply use a combination of tahini, cider or wine vinegar and a touch of maple and salt.  Instead of the meat, you coarsely mash your drained beans in a medium bowl with a fork or spud-masher.  Sauce it up with your mayo substitute and mix up the flavor with some of your favorite combos such as minced carrots and celery, sweet pepper and scallions, or cranberries and walnuts (drop the crazy-brow – it’s absolutely delicious in a chickpea salad).

Add a bean mash to wraps, paninis and other handhelds or sweeten the deal by incorporating them into cookies, brownies or truffles.  

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato or Apples

These harvest time favorites seldom need hiding as they truly shine on their own.  Still, where you’re looking to slip in a little extra of these nutritional powerhouses, you just may find yourself having a little too much fun with all the recipes that allow you to incorporate them.  Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Apple purees can be incorporated into brownies; used in place of oils or liquids in cookies, breads, pancakes and waffles; or whipped into a deliciously festive fall soup.  Drop them in the blender for smoothies or for a fun twist on your favorite pasta sauces.

Broccoli

You may wonder how on earth you’re going to get those tell-tale florets on that plate all “incognito” but fret not, my dear, fret not.

While most reach no further than the cheese drawer to bring the broc, there really are so many more healthy ways to enjoy it.  Case in point: pasta sauce.  Open blender, drop in favorite organic sauce and some steamed or frozen-but-thawed broccoli florets and puree away.  Dump in saucepan to heat and you are in business!  Like pesto?  Break out the mini-chopper and pulse in some broccoli.  Dips & spreads?  Broccoli!  Cake?  You guessed it!  Broccoli!  Wait…what?  Okay, kidding, don’t put it in a cake.  (Though, I’m sure if you’re like some Cupcake Wars star, you could pull it off.  Otherwise, let’s just not go there…)  Hey…you can use them for broccoli and sweet potato cakes!

Pizza, stir-fry, ramen, soup…  So many possibilities for these green gems and even some for their stems as many markets are now also offering broccoli slaw mix which turns into an out of this world side dish when dressed in a maple balsamic vinaigrette with cranberries and walnuts.

Cauliflower

Yes, there really are more ways to enjoy it than steamed and drowning in cheddar.  

Serve cauliflower up buffalo-style.  Throw it on a pizza or whip it up as a hash.  Throw it in the blender for a delicious, creamy, low-cal retake on a classic alfredo sauce.  Pulse it into cauliflower rice or to make up a delectably dippable batch of cauli-tots.

As much as I’d love to keep going here, all this food talk is making me a little hungry and I happen to be sitting right next to the kitchen.  So, yeah, um… your turn!  What are some of your favorite ways to get those extra fruits and veggies in throughout your day?

 

Sock Rockin’ Fall-to-Winter Minestrone

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Ingredients

Good olive oil

1/4-1/2 cup Dry-Packed Sundried Tomatoes, Chopped, optional

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) carrots (3 carrots)

2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)

2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) peeled butternut squash

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves OR 1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 (26-ounce) can or box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi

8 cups organic vegetable stock

1 large bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup good dry white wine

2 tablespoons pesto (may substitute for 1-2 tbsp dried basil, adjusting for taste)

Fresh Grated Asiago, optional, for serving

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, the bay leaf, thyme, sundried tomatoes, a strong pinch of salt, and fresh cracked pepper to the pot.  If using dried basil instead of the pesto, you’ll want to add that now as well.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, I add more vegetable stock.

Shut off the heat, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cover and let set about 5 minutes, jjust until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto.

Sprinkled with fresh Asiago or a sprinkling of Nutritional Yeast, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.
NOTE:  If making ahead of time, stop just before adding the spinach.  When ready to serve, heat the soup back to a simmer, shut off heat and complete the remaining steps.

How to Stop Flushing Your Money Down the Loo on Dietary Supplements

By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Integrative Wellness Counselor and Founder of See Kids Thrive & Eden Life Ministries

With growing demand for nutritional supplements, there are literally thousands of products on the market with countless new brands ever trying to breach this lucrative industry.  

If you’re like the majority, you may just be standing there scratching your head, wondering “What’s the difference?”  Many people simply want to cut the crapola and get down to business – Which are the best supplements to take?

The thing is, it’s not just about which products are the best but which are also the safest and most effective.  Some sources are a complete rip-off at best and flat toxic at worst.  In fact, GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart have been implicated by New York’s Attorney General  and others for selling fraudulent supplements.  As their report stated, these supplements were found “to be fake or highly adulterated and contaminated.”

I get it.  It can be easy to get sucked in by crafty sales pitches and deep “discounts” that make you feel like you’re getting a really good bang for your buck.  Quite frankly, we’re sick of you being cheated and lied to.

Here are some of the things that we look for in selecting top quality products to help you realize your greatest health ambitions.

Nutrient Form

Calcium is calcium.  Right?  Wrong!

If you’ve ever checked the back of the bottle, you may have noticed that many nutrients have parentheticals next to the nutrient.  For example, the bottle might say “Potassium (as potassium aspartate)”

Read labels carefully to see what nutrient forms are included.   

For some nutrients, such as Vitamin E and beta-carotene, you want to make sure you’re getting natural, not synthetic, forms.

Minerals also come in various forms.  Elemental minerals, such as those found in soil, are not readily absorbed, so manufacturers typically bind them to amino acids or other substances that our bodies are able to take in. These are known as “chelated” minerals, and have names such as “Magnesium Biglycinate Chelate” on the back label.

In general, most forms of minerals are acceptable, but there are some differences in bioavailability based on your health status. The most common form of calcium—calcium carbonate—for example, is found in many supplements because it’s cheap though it isn’t well absorbed by most people, especially those who are deficient in hydrochloric acid.

Quality supplements from quality sources are key for getting top value for your dollar.

Dosage Level

Once you’ve determined which form you’re looking for, you’ll want to check the label for dosage level.  On the surface, Bottle A containing 60 caps for $20 may seem a better buy than Bottle B containing 30 caps for $18.  However, if the dosage for Bottle A is 2 caps daily and Bottle B’s is 1 daily, B may actually the better buy.

Be sure to check the dosage – serving size and amount per serving, as well as the suggested use (whether you should be taking it once, twice or thrice a day…).  You want to make sure the product has enough of the active ingredients or nutrients to actually improve your health.  

For example, an arthritis supplement may boast a slew of excellent ingredients, including 500 mg of glucosamine sulfate. This may sound great until you learn clinical trials have shown that the amount of glucosamine sulfate needed to produce a beneficial effect is actually three times that —1,500 mg.  So, in reality, it’s not going to do you much good unless you’re taking more of it to bridge the gap.

Some products boast a wide range of really good ingredients, leading you to believe you’ve really got all you need right there in that one bottle.  However, when you look at the labels, you may find that each ingredient is provided in such small amounts that they couldn’t possibly have a therapeutic effect.  A laundry list of ingredients can also complicate the body’s ability to absorb and utilize each ingredient as it tries to determine exactly what it’s digesting.

Some blends are good and may actually work synergistically, boosting bioavailability of key nutrients.  Check the label to determine how much you’re actually getting of what to determine whether you’re really getting your money’s worth.

Keep it simple.  Keep it clean.  Keep it real.

Reputable Manufacturers

Nutritional supplements are big business, and thousands of companies are in the market.  You want to be sure you’re getting your product from a company that can be trusted.  Avoid supplements and foods that come from countries with poor regulations and standards.

Solid, reputable nutritional supplement manufacturers formulate supplements based on scientific research, buy the best raw materials and pay independent labs to make sure their products meet label claims and contain no contaminants.

It is perfectly reasonable to contact a supplement manufacturer and ask for verification of quality. Good companies have product specs, research supporting their formulas and laboratory assays stating that their ingredients are free of contaminants and true to dosage claims made on the labels. Some of this information is available on company websites but some other companies will make you dig for it.

Price

We’re all looking to save money, but understand that price has some bearing on quality.  For example, most B-12 supplements are in the form of the cheap, synthetic cyanocobalamin (cyano- because it’s bound to a cyanide molecule).  Methylcobalamin tends to cost more but comes without the toxins and is much more readily assimilated and utilized by the body.

Cheaper supplements may be more affordable but are they really providing the value you want out of something you’re going to be putting into your body daily?

Do not purchase dirt-cheap or mail-order brands without carefully studying labels and learning something about the company!  Manufacturers of discount products have to save money somewhere, and they may do it by using inadequate dosages, improper nutrient forms or other cost-cutting measures.

You can get information like this from organizations that evaluate consumer products. One that specializes in nutritional supplements is Consumerlab.com. They review a wide variety of nutritional categories, make general recommendations, test products for quality and potency—and post all of this information on their website.

Seals of Approval

Some organizations offer “seals of approval” for products that pass their evaluation requirements.  Many of these organizations are reputable—although a few are simply rubber stamps for a fee. However, virtually all of them require manufacturers to pay thousands of dollars per year to use their seal on products and in advertising, and smaller, less well-known or prolific companies may not be able to afford the fee even though they deserve the seal.

Seals of approval from Consumerlab.com, the Natural Products Association (NPA), the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and others are indicative that the products are the best supplements to take. However, the absence of such a seal is not a real reflection on quality, either good or bad.

Expiration Dates

Always look for an expiration date. While some nutrients, such as calcium and other minerals, maintain their potency for several years, others like vitamins B and C have a significantly shorter shelf life. The FDA doesn’t require expiration dates on supplement bottles, so many companies don’t provide them. We do not recommend buying such products.

Past expiry doesn’t render all products useless as it simply guarantees potency up to that date.  Still, you want to make sure you’re getting the best quality possible.

Look for Label Red Flags

Look for “red flags” on labels—sugar, artificial coloring and flavoring, preservatives, and additives such as shellac, chlorine and other chemicals should be avoided.

Above all, don’t be afraid to seek help when shopping for the best supplements to take. Ask questions of a nutrition-minded physician, a nutritionist, a well-educated naturopath or health-food store employees. Just make sure the advice you get isn’t tainted or tilted but comes from a source you know you can trust.

DISCLAIMER: This information is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are “generally informational” and not specifically applicable to any individual’s medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

Sources:

http://www.drwhitaker.com/choosing-the-best-supplements-to-take/

http://mamavation.com/2014/09/toxic-vitamins-how-to-pick-a-supplement-thats-clean-for-your-family.html

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/new-york-attorney-general-targets-supplements-at-major-retailers/?_r=0

http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/fake-herbal-supplements-walmart/2015/02/03/id/622342/

http://www.naturalnews.com/032766_cyanocobalamin_vitamin_B-12.html

Squeaky Clean…Naturally

Toxin-free Need Not Be Expensive!

Article by Dr. Claire Ann Morris, N.D.  Visit her online at ClaireMorrisND.com.

 Chemicals are toxins. All diseases can be sourced to toxins and/or nutritional deficiencies.

 If you clean with harmful chemicals in detergents/cleaners you buy at discount stores, your family is at risk for cancer, mental illness, dementia in old age, asthma, eczema, colds, flu, and more. If you wash your clothes in chemicals, they can be absorbed through the skin. If it’s on your furniture, it reaches hands, mouths and eyes.  If it’s on the dishes, you and your family are ingesting it.

These build up slowly in the body. Our bodies are not designed to fight off as many toxins as we are exposed to. Newton Labs states, “A kindergartener today has been exposed to more toxins than a man in a lifetime 100 years ago.”

For a safer home, try these toxin-free cleaning recipes.

ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER

Vinegar solution: 9 parts water, 1 part white vinegar. Add essential oils to mask the smell of vinegar.

 For particularly nasty messes, such as cleaning up a counter-top after handling raw meat, spray straight white vinegar on the surface, and follow with a spray of hydrogen peroxide to knock out virtually all germs.

FLOOR CLEANER

Try baking soda and a dash of borax. For shine use a water-diluted vinegar rinse.  Don’t worry.  The smell quickly fades.  Still, a few drops of most any essential oil can be used; lavender or orange oil work great!

SANITIZER

1 pint pure grain alcohol/vodka and 3 quarts water

*Can be applied using a spray bottle or a mop.

TILE CLEANER

A recent Environmental Working Group (EWG) report found the popular cleanser Comet contained 146 air contaminants, including seven chemicals linked to cancer, two chemicals linked to reproductive damage, and two chemicals that interfere with hormones. Three of the chemicals EWG detected—formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene—are components of gasoline. To avoid these, make your own scrubbing paste:  ½ cup baking soda, Liquid soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s peppermint), and 5 to 10 drops of pure essential oil of lavender, tea tree oil, or rosemary (optional)

Place baking soda in a bowl, slowly pour in liquid soap, stirring until it looks like frosting. Add optional essential oils. Scoop onto a sponge, scrub, and rinse. You can also try cutting a lemon in half and using that as a scrubber.

OVEN CLEANER

2 cups hot water, 1 Tablespoon natural dish liquid, and 1 teaspoon borax

Mix the ingredients, spray on a spill, let sit for 20 minutes, and wipe off with a clean cloth. For handling an extra-greasy mess, wipe off as much loose goop as possible first with crumpled newspaper, then use the spray.

Use Orange TKO orange rind cleaner to annihilate older, caked-on spills.

WINDOW CLEANER

¼ cup vinegar, ½ teaspoon natural liquid soap like Dr. Bronner’s, and 2 cups water

Put all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to blend.  Squeegee of or use old newspaper to prevent streaking.

FOR THE LAUNDRY

In a bucket (with a lid) add a box of borax and 15 or so drops of any essential oil you like. Roll it around to mix. Seal and store.  You may add baking soda as a fabric softener, if you like.

Use ½ cup of this homemade detergent per load.

One of my favorite products is Orange TKO.  It is useful for cleaning countertops, floors, hard water stains, paint stains as well as brush & roller clean-up, toilet bowls, laundry, ovens, carpet stains, permanent felt marker, gum, candle and crayon wax, and jewelry.  Use in your garden and on your pets, silk plants, windows, mirrors, appliances, chandeliers, dusting furniture, chrome, stainless steel… And on just about anything else you want to shine!

7 Fitness Faux Pas & How to Flip the Switch

By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Integrative Wellness Counselor and Founder of See Kids Thrive & Eden Life Ministries

Coasting Through Cardio

Some days it can be all too easy to let that brain just zone out and slip into neutral on a jog or in an aerobic exercise we’re doing for the umpteenth time.  To increase your fitness, you’ll need to venture out of that comfort zone at least a couple times a week to the point where you get winded and can feel that heart pounding.

Try adding some variation with HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training).  {*Be sure you’re cleared medically/physically here first.}. You don’t have to invest in any particular program to do this.  For example, after warming up 10 minutes on a treadmill, you can bump up the speed or incline for 30-60 seconds, then recover 1-3 minutes and repeat.  Keep alternating for 10-20 minutes, then cool down.  Over time, you can increase your intensity or the duration of your intervals.

Betrothing Your Strength Routine

If you do the same routine over and over, your muscles eventually just adapt and your results plateau, as each exercise only stimulates a limited number of muscle fibers.

Challenge your muscles from a variety of angles by adding or alternating moves periodically.  Try learning an additional 2-3 moves or machines.  Be sure you take advantage of trainers and resources to teach you how to do the moves correctly to prevent injury and achieve better results.  You want to expand your repertoire enough to change it out completely every 6-8 weeks.

Exercising Too Hard Too Often

If you don’t rest enough between cardio and strength workouts, your results will start to suffer.  This was a big one for me when I was about 18.  I thought I had to workout every day and felt like if I didn’t, I’d be right back to where I started and I was not about to let that happen.  The problem was, once I’d hit the wall, I fell out of routine pretty well altogether and it was years before I brought myself back around to it.

Lifting the Wrong Amount of Weight

Yes, there’s actually a science to achieving your desired results with strength training.  If you’re weights are too light, you get any stronger.  If the weights are too heavy, you’ll compromise proper form and increase the risk of injury.  Lifting too heavy actually cheats the target muscle group by forcing your body to recruit other muscle groups to compensate and complete the task.

In general, you want to use less weight and more reps to lean out and increase endurance; more weight and less reps to increase strength.

Increase the weight to boost bone density, muscle mass and tone.  For significant strength building, perform 4-6 reps per set at a way that challenges the muscle group sufficiently while still allowing you to complete the full move.  For more moderate strength building, decrease the weight but go to 8-12 reps per set.  You should be choosing weights that you struggle to lift through the final few reps but not so heavy that your form fails.  If you breezed through your final rep easily enough, try increasing your weights by 5-10% per set until you reach the weight that’s right for you.  You may find that as you increase the weight, you have to decrease the reps.  This is fine so long as the muscle is fatigued by the final rep.

Doing Reps Incorrectly

A quick way to sabotage your fitness plans are to do your reps incompletely, too quickly or with bad form.  Examples of this would be in doing push-ups where you don’t go all the way down but rather just kindly get about 30% motion on those elbows (incompletely),  or when you use the joints more like springs and just bounce from one rep to the next (too quickly), or when you have that butt way up in the air or slumping to the floor (bad form).  

Doing them incompletely, you don’t get the full range of motion in the move and consequently don’t work all the muscles you should be.  

Doing them too quickly robs you of results because you’re essentially using momentum, rather than strength, to complete the move.  You don’t build muscle this way.  You only cheat yourself.  

Doing them with bad form doesn’t get you results, it gets you achy and injured.  This will absolutely interfere with your fitness schedule when you’re forced to stay down for recovery.  You may get sick of hearing this from me but good form is key to good results!

Make sure you ready yourself in the proper starting position and slowly but intentionally complete the full rep.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Reap.

Using Energy Like You’re Out to Conserve It

Yeah, I caught myself doing this one enough earlier on to be sure to include it here.  When I was trying out a new routine (or knew what to expect with a more intense one I’d done before), I would find myself scaling back on the power I would bring to the moves like I was trying to save my energy to use later in the workout.  Yet, what I found was that it just led to less and less energy throughout as I was essentially telling my body to scale back and conserve.

I can’t tell you what a huge difference when I started telling myself “it’s not time to save energy, it’s time to make it!”  You’ll feel when it’s too much and that’s where it is totally okay to scale back but keep moving.  If you start cramping up or dizzy, yeah, you should probably sit down or walk it out for a minute.  What you don’t want to listen to is that voice that whines “I’m just too tired… I don’t wanna…”  That voice will suck the life out of your workout.  Stuff a sock in it and step to the plate.

If you want results, you’ve gotta bring it.

Putting Fitness in a Box

We often think that a workout has to consist of a fitness film rolling on the living room tellie or coaches slinging sweat over us as they assure us that “we can do this!!!”  Some of us love all of this and some of us hate it enough to pass on it all together.  

While these are all good and I do use them, I also don’t want you to underestimate the fitness potential found in other activities.  Some friends think I’m nuts as they watch me scramble up the oak in my backyard and I certainly get my fair share of looks as a hurl bags of mulch into my car, work my landscaping or haul the heavies.  

How about the other day when I determined to get our garage cleared out and rearranged.  Oh how my husband wished he could have seen and recorded my getting that 8ft artificial Christmas tree up into the attic.  Very large, very heavy box.  Very small opening.  The struggle was real, honey, the struggle was real!  So, no, I didn’t get in a typical workout but, no doubt about it, I worked!

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or monotonous.  Hit the trail or ride some bikes with the family.  Grab a game of tennis with a friend or bring a volleyball to the family reunion.  

There are many ways to make fitness fun and exciting, embracing it as a joy, gift and blessing that you’re able to bust those moves when so many just can’t.

Sources:

http://www.shape.com/weight-loss/tips-plans/10-fitness-faux-pas