healthy eating

Make sure your meals are "colorful"

Go for color when choosing fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables offer many refreshing and tasty choices. They are also a smart pick because they are low in calories and high in vitamins, mineral, and fiber.

Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants which may help prevent some diseases. These antioxidant compounds have been shown in studies to help reduce both the effects of bad cholesterol and the risk of cancer. 

To help protect against illness, choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables - the more colorful, the better.

Red = cranberries. Fresh or dried, cranberries are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.  Raspberries and strawberries. They are high in vitamin C.

Orange = sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots. They contain vitamin A, which helps the skin block infection-causing germs. 

Yellow = corn and green spinach. They boast carotenoids, which are being studied for potential heart-protecting benefits. 

Purple = grape juice. It’s loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.

In addition to choosing an array of beautifully colored fruit and vegetables to help keep you healthy, be sure to supplement your diet with 1st Step Pro Wellness liquid vitamins.

Foods That Strangely Resemble The Body Parts They’re Good For

I can't take credit for writing this, but I do think it is worth sharing. I have seen this before and was delighted when I came across it again today. Enjoy.

There’s no question that maintaining a nutritious diet can help keep your body healthy. But when it comes to which foods can specifically benefit which body parts, science remains surprisingly sketchy. But nature gives us a big clue as to what foods help what part of our body!

Here are 10 foods that mirror the body parts they provide nutrients for—for example, brain-boosting walnuts actually look like a brain. Coincidence? Maybe. Though these healthy foods are beneficial to the whole body, the list below is a fun reminder of what to eat to target specific areas. Remember, most of these foods are more beneficial when eaten raw.

  • A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. According to science, eating carrots greatly enhances blood flow to the eyes. Carrot gets their orange color from a plant chemical called beta-carotene, which reduces the risk of developing cataracts. The chemical also protects against macular degeneration an age-related sight problem that affects one in four individuals over the age of 65. If one tries to pop a pill of beta-carotene it doesn’t have the same effect, says scientists at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA.
  • A Tomato has four chambers and is red in color, so also the heart is red and has four chambers. Research has confirmed that tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and it is indeed pure heart and blood food.
  • Grapes resembles the alveoli of the lungs. The lungs are made of branches of ever-smaller airways that finish up with tiny branches of tissue called alveoli. These structures allow oxygen to pass from the lungs to the blood stream. A diet high in fresh grapes has shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer and emphysema. Grape seeds also contain a chemical called proanthocyanidin, which is thought to reduce the severity of asthma triggered by allergy. One reason that premature babies struggle to survive is that, these alveoli do not begin to form until 23 to 24 week of pregnancy.
  • A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are similar to those of the neo-cortex. Scientists claim that walnuts help in developing over three dozen neuron-transmitters within the brain enhancing the signaling and encouraging new messaging link between the brain cells. Walnuts help warding off dementia. They also extract and break down the protein based plaques associated with Alzheimer’s diseases, according to a study by Dr. James Joseph of Tuft University in Boston.
  • Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and are shaped exactly like the human kidneys (hence their name). Kidney beans provide a variety of minerals and vitamins, and so are generally beneficial for your health. If your kidneys are healthy, kidney beans can -- when consumed as part of a balanced diet -- contribute to your kidney health. If your kidneys are diseased, you might need to moderate your intake of kidney beans.
  • Celery, Rhubarb, Bok-choy and more look just like bones structure. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are made up of 23% sodium and these foods have sodium in them. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.
  • Avocados and Pears are good for the health and functioning of the womb and cervix of the female and look just like these organs. Modern research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances the birth hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and can even prevent cervical cancer. It even takes exactly nine months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit, just like a human baby! There are said to be over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods.
  • Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Studies have shown that Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the sperm count as well as overcoming male sterility.
  • Sweet Potatoes resemble the pancreas and can actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics. The oblong sweet potato bears a strong resemblance to the pancreas, and also promotes healthy function in the organ. "Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which is a potent antioxidant that protects all tissues of the body, including the pancreas, from damage associated with cancer or aging," says Somer.
  • Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries. An Italian study found that women whose diets included a lot of olive oil had a 30% lower risk of ovarian cancer. The reasons are unclear, but the healthy fats in the oil may help suppress genes predisposed to causing cancer.
  • Grapefruits, Oranges, and other citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts. The similarity between round citrus fruits––like lemons and grapefruit––and breasts may be more than coincidental. "Grapefruit contains substances called limonoids, which have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer in lab animals and in human breast cells," says Dr. Moulavi.
  • Eating a Banana will cheer you up and put a smile on your face. This popular fruit contains a protein called tryptophan, when digested it gets converted into a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is a mood regulating chemical in the brain. Banana can be termed as an antidepressant drug, since it adjusts the level of serotonin production in the brain.
  • Onions look like the body's cells. Research shows onions clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. 
  • Ginger looks like the stomach and it also aids in digestion. Indians and Chinese have been using it for over 5000 years to calm stomach and cure nausea, and motion sickness. It also slows down the growth rate of bowel tumors.
  • A Mushrooms when sliced in half resembles the shape of the human ear. Mushrooms improve hearing abilities, since they contain Vitamin D, which is healthy for bones, especially the 3 tiny bones in the ear that transmit sound to the brain.
  • And finally, Broccoli – the close-up of tiny green tips on a broccoli head looks like 100 of cancer cells. A team of researchers at US National Cancer Institute found a weekly serving of broccoli was enough to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 45%.

Kudos to the Cucumber!

Tis the season for cucumbers and other vine vegetables. Living in South Texas, vine vegetables grow in abundance because of the intense heat. This summer I had a bumper crop of vegetables - especially cucumbers. In an attempt to use all of the cucumbers,  I've been experimenting with recipes and adding cucumbers to everything. One of my favorite concoctions is "pepino" pico de gallo.

Traditional pico de gallo made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and serrano pepper is not only festive and delicious but also very healthy. The tomatoes are full of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects the body from some types of cancer and also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber, and iron. The onions can lower the risk for stomach cancer, improve breathing, fight bacteria and improve cholesterol while the cilantro and serrano peppers both contain antioxidants. So by itself, pico de gallo is always a healthy choice.

My twist to the traditional pico de gallo is to add not only cucumbers but also green bell peppers, red bell peppers, and yellow bell peppers.

The cucumbers are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-cancer properties. They are cool and refreshing and best of all, have only 16 calories per one cup serving!

So, when you are in the mood for something, different, healthy, and delicious, try the following recipe:

  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup cilantro chopped (or more to taste!)
  • 2 -3  serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime
  • salt to taste
  • Mix all ingredients, refrigerate before serving. This can be used as a relish on almost anything, or serve with baked corn chips.

Transforming Traditional Pizza

Let’s not deny it, we all love PIZZA! The cheesier, saucier, meatier the better. However, as expected, pizza is generally high in fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Not to mention, most sauces are full of sugar.

The good news is there are healthy alternatives to the traditional unhealthy pizza. These alternatives are easily substituted, and the pizza still tastes good. If you are a pizza lover, but you don’t love the guilt that comes with indulging in that triangular decadence, try these tricks for a healthier pizza.

Frozen: Check the nutrition label for sodium, fat, and calories. Pick a pizza with lower numbers.
Restaurant or delivery: Order a thin-crust pizza with light cheese to cut down on calories. Limit meat to one topping to keep sodium in check – no more “meat lovers”. Try a vegetable only pizza. You’ll be surprised at how good the vegetables taste.
Homemade: Make personal pizzas at home on pita bread or whole-wheat English muffins. Top with vegetables, low-sodium sauce, and low-fat cheese.

Or, may I suggest this recipe for a healthy alternative:

1. Lay out several whole-wheat crackers.
2. Place a piece of baby spinach and a slice of tomato on half of the crackers.
3. On the rest of the crackers, place a few small pieces of cooked chunks of skinless chicken or low- sodium ham.
4. Sprinkle all of the crackers with your favorite shredded cheese.
5. Put the “pizzas” in the microwave and heat until the cheese is melted, around 30 seconds.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Eating healthy isn’t about giving up your favorite foods; it’s about finding healthy substitutes that are not only good - but good for you.

Eating Clean on a Budget

I know it sounds impossible, but I can assure you it’s not! I agree that it is unfair that we have to pay more for healthy food than for junk, but that is something that we just have to grit our teeth and bear. Just the other day I found a 10 pack of little bear-shaped cookies for $1 but had to spend about $5 on a bag of little oranges for my kids. This is when we have to decide where our priorities are and how badly we really want to make a change in the way we eat.

My husband and I don’t go out to eat that much; we choose to spend extra money for healthy groceries and therefore sacrifice a weekly dinner out. One meal for two people at a restaurant can easily cost $50. Think of how much that can buy at the store - definitely more than one meal. Even eating fast food can cost more than a homemade meal. We have three children and just to take them to a fast food restaurant is at least $20. For $20 at the store, I can buy five pounds worth of chicken, a marinade, a two liter bottle of sparkling water, a bag of vegetables for steaming, four sweet potatoes, and probably get back some change.

Let’s say you have a $100 budget and need to buy groceries for a week for you and your significant other. Here is a sample meal plan and grocery list that will keep you under budget:

Meal 1- 2 scrambled eggs, ½ cup oatmeal
Meal 2- 1 can tuna, 2 rice cakes, 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
Meal 3- 4-6 oz. chicken breast, ½ cup cooked brown rice, 1 cup steamed veggies
Meal 4- 1st Step Pro-Wellness shake and 1 banana
Meal 5- 4-6 oz. marinated chicken breast, 1 small sweet potato, 1 cup veggies
Meal 6- 10 almonds, 2 boiled eggs

*7 lb. of chicken (1.99/lb.) = $14 *14 bananas= $2.50
*2 Large bags frozen veggies ($7.50 each )= $15 *2 Bottles Marinade= $5
*Oatmeal = $3 *14 sweet potatoes= $7
*14 cans tuna ($.68 each) = $9.52 *bag of almonds= $8
*2 pkg. rice cakes = $4 *5 dozen eggs = $9
*Peanut butter = $3 *Bag of brown rice = $3
*1st Step Pro Wellness Protein Powder = $17

That makes a grand total of $100.02! Not too shabby.

There is a good rule of thumb when purchasing food: fresh is better than frozen, and frozen is better than canned. Depending on what your budget is, we all understand that you just have to make the best decisions possible. Just remember, eating clean is essential to losing weight, but most importantly, being healthy.

What's in a Calorie?

They’re so small, but they add up so quickly. I would go over the technical definition of calories, the chemistry of a calorie, and calories versus kilocalories (which is what we actually use to quantify our food) but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just say that a calorie is measured as the amount of food energy per unit of mass. Calories equal energy.

Grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates have caloric values. Fat has nine calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrates have four each. This means that something with five grams of fat, 20 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of protein would have 165 total calories (45+80+40).

If you want to lose weight, your calories consumed must be less than the calories burned. Three thousand five hundred calories equal a pound. So if you want to lose a pound a week then you need to cut an average of five hundred calories a day from what you consume, or burn an extra 500 in the gym (or some combination of the two like consuming 250 less and burn 250 more at the gym).

To figure out how many calories that you need to consume, you must first determine how many calories a day you burn. To get a rough estimate of how many calories you burn a day, you need to figure out how many you burn in the gym (several heart rate monitors can do that) and what your BMR is.

Basal metabolic rate, also known as BMR, is the minimum number of calories that your body burns to function. Basically it is the number of calories burned in a 24 hour period if you stayed in bed the entire time. Many websites can help you get a rough estimate. Obviously you don’t always know how many calories you burn outside of the gym doing regular every day activities so that’ll be a little extra.

You can see now that you can use calories to your advantage. They no longer have to be a hindrance, but a tool that you can use and manipulate in order to reach your goals.