All Categories - Julie's Healthy Living
 
Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural plant pigments called "carotenoids." Beta-carotene found in this color group is converted to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes. It is particularly helpful in warding off macular degeneration--an eye disorder common in older adults and seniors. Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and can improve immune system function. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C and folate, a B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.

Some examples of the orange/yellow group include:

* Apricots--One of the best sources of beta-carotene. One fresh apricot provides almost the daily recommended dose of vitamin A. Additionally, canned apricots are three times higher in the vitamin because the process of heating them breaks down the cell walls thereby releasing more beta-carotene. When using any canned fruit always check your ingredients and aim for ones with no added sugars. Apricots are also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

* Butternut squash--A rich source of beta carotene, along with vitamins C, B3 and B6, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. One of the easiest ways to bring out the flavor is to roast the squash. Simply cut into chunks, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper; place on foiled lined baking sheet on 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, turning them halfway through so they get crispy on all edges.

* Cantaloupe--Excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Good source of potassium and B vitamins, folate and fiber. While you can use cantaloupe in recipes and even freeze it into popsicles, my favorite way to have cantaloupe is cut in a bowl and served with a fork. Dig in. :)

* Carrots--High in beta-carotene. Roasted, raw, baked into dishes, puree them and add to homemade mac and cheese (the kids will never know). Touted for it's importance of eye health, the breakdown of carrots helps to improve your night vision.

* Grapefruit--Please see Red Foods under Pink Grapefruit for information. ALL grapefruit is a rich source of vitamin C.

* Lemons--A gem in the world of cooking. The juice of one lemon contains about one-third your daily need of vitamin C. Sprinkle a dash of lemon juice on apples, avocados or a bowl of fruit salad to prevent browning from oxidation while keeping your dishes pretty. Lemons can also be used as a household cleaner--just dip a cut lemon in salt for a gentle abrasive cleaner for your stainless steel pots and pans or sinks. Use lemon without salt on aluminum to brighten it up. Take used lemons to freshen up the garbage disposal.

* Mangoes--Beta-carotene (vitamin A when converted by the body) and vitamin C (starting to see a pattern in all the orange fruits/vegetables here). Mangoes are indigenous to India and found in subtropical and tropical regions. In some areas of the US they can be hard to come by at a fair price. However, when they are in season (spring is when they are at their peak) you can usually find them at a better price. They are great eaten alone, but I like to mix mine with avocado, tomato, jalapeno and some red peppers to serve with brown rice or quinoa.

* Nectarine/Peaches--I am grouping these together because nutritionally speaking they are virtually the same. The main difference here is the skin--nectarines are smooth while peaches are fuzzy. Excellent source of vitamin C. To ripen the fruit place in a paper bag (this also works for pears), loosely wrapped at room temperature. They will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Again, most fruits can be used in cooking, but I prefer to use peaches and/or nectarines as a grab and go snack.

* Oranges--NOW we come to yours truly favorite fruit on the planet. I am a lover of most fruits and vegetables (some more than others), but HANDS DOWN, the beautiful round juicy taste of sunshine has a warm place in my heart. I would be lying if I didn't say that citrus was one of my reasons for moving to Florida. Sadly, since the 2004 Hurricane Season when the area was hit with four of them (two on the west coast/two here on the east coast) our oranges have not been up to snuff. In addition, canker disease and most recently the freeze in January/February have really hurt the citrus industry and our Florida growers. Even with that I still can't get enough of oranges and if I have to I buy California navels to get me through the season. They aren't the same, but they'll suffice. And with so many different varieties in the orange family to choose from you can never get bored:
Clementines: the clementine is a seedless mandarin.
Kumquats: the kumquat is like a citrus fruit and has an edible skin. It is the most well known of the sort fortunella which is closely related to Citrus.
Mandarins: type of small orange with loose skin. The mandarin got its name because it was exploited by high-ranking government officials in China (mandarins).
Minneolas: are a crossing between a tangerine and a grapefruit commonly referred to as the Honeybell. They are in season for only six weeks (mid-January to end of February). While they are available from south of the border regions other times of the year they really are best bought and enjoyed during their peak season. While true of all fruit--it is especially so with these.
Oranges: There are different types of oranges: navel oranges, Valencia oranges and blood oranges are the most cultivated races.
Tangelos: a tangelo is a crossing between a tangerine, a grapefruit and an orange. A specific kind of tangelo is the Ugli which is described further on this page.
Satsuma: a very special seedling from Japan. Its skin is a bit tighter than the clementine and it doesn't have seeds as well.
Tangerines: a tangerine is an orange-red mandarin with a particular citrus taste. Can be peeled manually.

* Papayas--Quite simply the papaya from a nutritional standpoint is tops in the fruit world. Lower in calories and 33% higher in vitamin C than oranges. Higher in potassium and vitamin C than apples. Papayas are also a valuable source of vitamin E. Papaya seeds are edible and can give a peppery flavor to sauces and salad dressings.

* Pear--Good source of fiber, vitamin K (essential for blood clotting), vitamin C and copper. Allow pears to ripen on the counter at room temperature. To quicken the ripening process place in a paper bag. Once ripened pears are only good for a few days. Many different varieties include the Bosc, D'anjou, Bartlett. They are great to use for sauces, in salads and you can caramelize them for a sweet dessert. :)

* Yellow peppers--Can be used in any recipe that calls for peppers to add color and flavor to the meal. A rich source of potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin B6.

* Pineapple--Fresh or canned, raw or cooked, pineapple can be enjoyed so many ways. Fruit cocktail salad, diced on your pizza, used as a marinade, grilled on skewers with other fruit for a dessert treat. Pineapples are a great source of vitamin C.

* Pumpkin--One of the two vegetables I have tried time and time again and just can't get my taste buds to agree. I admit that I can't really share on how to use pumpkin in any form except for carving on Hallows Eve. Of course there is the ever popular pumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced chai lattes at Starbucks, but that is the vast extent of my knowledge on this bright orange gourd. What I can tell you is this: Pumpkin has more beta-carotene per half cup serving than any other orange food on this list.

* Rutabagas--Often overlooked in the Western world, the rutabaga is a delicious root vegetable often referred to as the cousin of the more popular turnip. Excellent source of vitamin A and potassium. Use rutabaga anytime a recipe calls for roasted root vegetables. Planted during the summer, they are best bought in late autumn for peak flavor.

* Yellow summer or winter squash--Another vegetable perfect for roasting or putting in a hearty fall stew. High in vitamin C and manganese they are also a good source of potassium, vitamin A, and folate.

* Sweet corn--Corn gets a bum rap for being a 'starchy' vegetable. While it is now available year round, to get the best tasting corn you want to get your pickings at the beginning of summer. Because heat will turn the corn to starch you want to store corn (preferably in their husks) in a cold place until ready to use. It is best to use corn the same day you buy. To test the freshness of corn, pull back the husk and puncture a kernel with a fingernail. If a milky white substance appears, the corn is fresh. Also attempt to buy corn still in their husk as it is fresher than the packaged, hulled corn. Recipe for perfect corn on the cob:
1. Fill a large stockpot halfway with unsalted water and bring to a rolling boil.
2. Add corn on the cob (husk and cornsilk removed) to the boiling water.
3. Let water return to a full boil.
4. Cover pot and immediately turn off heat.
5. Let covered pot sit undisturbed on the burner for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Remove corn and serve hot with your choice of butter, margarine, salt, and/or other seasoning.

* Sweet potatoes--This is number two. I have eaten sweet potatoes in just about every way they can be cooked and I just can't get my taste buds to agree. Mashed, baked, oven baked 'fries', deep fried fries, even mixed in with other ingredients in recipes and this many years later I still don't eat them. However, I do recognize that many people love them (including my husband). If you love them and regularly eat them you are getting high doses of vitamin A and beta-carotene. They are also a good source of potassium.

Stay tuned for Green Foods coming next week.
 
Part Two of my on-going Rainbow Series. Enjoy the bounty of fruits and vegetables from the red family.

Red fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called "lycopene" or "anthocyanins." Lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, for example, may help reduce risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer.

Anthocyanins in strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and other fruits and vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Antioxidants are linked with keeping our hearts healthy.

These are some examples of the red group:

* Red apples--We've all heard the phrase about apples so I won't bother repeating it here. What you may not know about apples is that they are a good source of vitamin C and contain up to 4 g of fiber depending on the size. One of my favorite recipes for red apples is to take a cut up apple and mix with plain low-fat yogurt, sprinkle of cinnamon and dash of vanilla extract.
* Beets--An excellent source of folate, magnesium and potassium. Beets can be roasted, pureed in soup (borscht), served cold as part of a salad.
* Red cabbage--Most commonly used in salads and coleslaw. Excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
* Cherries--contain powerful anti-oxidants in addition to beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate. Cherries are great when eaten on their own, but pair beautifully in dishes. Visit http://www.choosecherries.com/ for more information and recipes using cherries.
* Cranberries--Cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber and the essential dietary mineral, manganese. Visit http://www.cranberries.org/ for more information and recipes using cranberries.
* Pink grapefruits--Good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber and the antioxident lycopene. Also known to help lower cholesterol. Caution must be exercised for people who are taking certain types of drugs for serious interactions. The list includes calcium channel blockers, specific antidepressants, and cholesterol lowering statins. Make sure to check with your doctor.
* Pomegranates--High in potassium and vitamin C. Visit http://www.pomegranates.org/home.shtml for instructions on how to cut, recipes and more information. I have only recently had enough nerve to conquer my fear of the pomegranate. The little amount of work that goes into extracting the seeds is worth the effort.
* Red grapes--The heart-healthy antioxidant, resveratrol, is found in the skins of the red grapes. Grape juice, red wine (in moderation--no more than 10 oz. a day for men, 5 oz. for women) or just eating ripe grapes will yield the health benefits. Raisins are also a good way to get resveratrol into the diet.
* Red peppers--There are red bell peppers which are richer in taste (and excellent when roasted) than their green counterparts; however, I'm going to discuss my favorite red pepper, the cayenne, also called the chili pepper. Abundant in capsicum creating spice, chili peppers are often dried and pulverized into the fine cayenne pepper. You can also buy them whole and add them for heat to soups, stews or even a spicy cornbread. Spicy foods have been shown to help weight loss for several reasons. Spicy foods help to rev up the metabolism. People also tend to eat slower when eating spicy foods giving the brain a chance to register food consumption. By slowing down how fast we eat, we keep from getting that over-stuffed feeling that comes at the end of some meals. They are also high in vitamin A.
* Red potatoes--The same benefits as their white counterparts, I enjoy using red potatoes in salads and roasted.
* Radishes--Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. One cup is about 20 calories of good carbohydrates. Most commonly used in America in salads, this is a popular root vegetable used in many European dishes.
* Raspberries--Chockful of many vitamins and nutrients; Raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, with 30 mg per serving of 1 cup, manganese and dietary fiber. Contents of B vitamins 1-3, folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron are also considerable in raspberries. Guy and I enjoy a berry mix on our oatmeal every morning. I also enjoying mixing berries in yogurt with walnuts as a dessert.
* Rhubarb--The crisp stalks of rhubarb plants are a rich source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. Rhubarb requires sweetness to counteract the tartness. It is commonly served as a sauce over ice cream and/or combined with strawberries in desserts, jams, jellies and beverages.
* Strawberries--A good source of vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. The possibilities for strawberries are endless. You can use fresh or frozen strawberries in smoothies, cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles. Strawberries can be cooked into sauces, paired with meat dishes, added to salads, and of course, strawberry shortcake for dessert.
* Tomatoes--Whereas many fruits and vegetables diminish in nutritional quality and content the longer they are cooked, the processing of the tomatoes increases the concentration of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth. Lycopene is a fat soluble substance so serving tomato dishes rich in heart healthy oils is a good way to get a dose. Other ways are pasteurized tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato soup and even ketchup. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin B.
* Watermelon--Watermelon is about 92% water by weight, can act as a mild diuretic, good source of vitamin C, and high levels of beta carotene. The easiest way to eat watermelon is to just slice and enjoy on a hot summer day. However, for a refreshing change try a Watermelon Granita:

Ingredients:
6 cups seedless watermelon chunks or balls (about a 4 lb with rind)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 Tbsp frest lime juice (1/2 lime)
1/2 cup ginger ale

Method:
1. Puree watermelon, lemon juice, and lime juice in blender. Slowly pour in ginger ale.
2. Freeze in 8" X 8" baking pan. During freezing, rake with fork or stir with whisk (be sure to scrape sides of pan) every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours or until nearly frozen but not completely solid. Rake with fork and serve. Makes four servings.

Nutritional Information per serving (about 1 1/4 cups): 82 calories, 1 g protein, 21 g carbs, 1 g fiber, .5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium
 
This is the first article in a series called 'Rainbow Eating'. It's not my idea; however, I enjoy the simplicity of the premise. The products in all of these articles fall into the fruits and vegetables sections of The Food Pyramid. The more colorful the products, the higher the vitamin and nutrient content which in turn makes for a healthier meal. However, today I want to focus on the absence of color in our food choices.

White foods in general have gotten a bad rap because when people think white the first image is white flour, rice and pasta. However, not all white colored foods are created equal.

White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called "anthoxanthins." They may contain health-promoting chemicals such as allicin, which may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. Some members of the white group, such as bananas and potatoes, are good sources of the mineral potassium, too.

Some examples of the white group include:
--Bananas contain considerable amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium. Because of the potassium, many athletes enjoy a post workout banana to replenish lost electrolytes.
--Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. Tastes great roasted with oil and red pepper flakes.
--Garlic: In test tube studies garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. However, these actions are less clear in humans. Studies have claimed that garlic can lower cholesterol, high blood pressure and help the prostate in men. Personally, I just eat it because it tastes yummy. Roasted garlic is especially delicious. You can add garlic to virtually any meal.
--Ginger: A spice used in many meals. Also has medicinal qualities. It works as an anti-inflammatory and treats nausea created by motion sickness and morning sickness. It is contraindicated for people with gallstones and has a possible interaction with some medications, so check with your doctor before consuming.
--Jícama is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber. It is composed of 86-90% water; it contains only trace amounts of protein and lipids. It pairs well in cooking with chilli powder, cilantro, ginger, lemon, lime, oranges, red onion, salsa, sesame oil and soy sauce. Also grilled fish is a good food to combine with it.
--Mushrooms: Though mushrooms are commonly thought to have little nutritional value, many species are high in fiber and provide vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, cobalamins, ascorbic acid.
--Onions: They contain chemical compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties such as quercetin.
--Parsnips: The parsnip is richer in vitamins and minerals than its close relative, the carrot. It is particularly rich in potassium with 600 mg per 100 g. The parsnip is also a good source of dietary fiber. A close relative of the carrot parsnips are tasty when drizzled with oil and maple syrup and roasted in the oven.
--Potatoes: Especially their skins are chockful of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. They are not the devil when eaten in moderation. While they are a starchy vegetable they are a nice treat when tossed with oil and seasons and roasted or baked until crispy. A medium size potato contains approximately 150 calories and is virtually fat free.
--Turnips: The turnip's root is high only in Vitamin C. The green leaves of the turnip top ("turnip greens") are a good source of Vitamin A, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and calcium. Turnip greens are are also high in lutein, which is good for eye health, particularly macular degeneration.

Two white foods that don't fall into the fruit or vegetable family, but deserve mention here:
--Cannellini Beans: Excellent source of fiber and protein. Add them to beans, stews or simply saute with olive oil and fresh rosemary for a side treat.
--Pine Nuts: High in manganese, a mineral important for your metabolism and bone health. Toast them and toss with salads, soups or pasta to add crunch with benefit.
 
Water--essential for all life function. No living organism can survive without water. You will die without this vital resource. Our bodies are comprised mostly of water--55-78% depending on body size. We lose water from the minute our feet hit the deck first thing in the morning. Water escapes the body through urine, feces, sweat and water vapor when we breathe. Therefore we must replenish this resource as the day progresses. There is so much information out there concerning water intake that it tends to confuse people as to how much we should really be drinking. I'm here to help debunk the myths.

So how much water do we really need?
The old standard was eight 8-ounce glasses a day for a total of 64 ounces. Then it came out that we should be drinking half of our body weight in ounces of water. That was actually suggested by a company that sells bottled water as a marketing plan to get people to drink more; therefore, buying more bottles. I'll get to bottled water shortly. What people don't seem to account for when factoring their daily water is how many other liquids they are drinking or what foods they consume. If you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables then you are consuming up to 20% water through your food consumption. The juicier the fruit and/or vegetable the more water content.

What counts as liquid hydration?
For those of you who really have a hard time getting water down, rejoice, there are other liquids to hydrate you besides plain water. To spruce up plain water add cucumber slices and fresh mint, citrus slices or some strawberries with pomegranate seeds. Next is herbal teas that have not been sweetened. Last is 100% fruit or vegetable juice that has no added sugars.

What about other drinks?
Coffee, black tea and cocoa all contain purins, toxins that are eliminated from the body by sweat or urine in the form of uric acid. The water consumed with these drinks is what flushes the toxins out of the body. Milk is not a drink, it is a food and as such digestion is incomplete by adults. Alcohol also acts as a body dehydrator. I am reserving soft drinks for their own topic.

Why are soft drinks not recommended by 4 out of 5 doctors?
Simply put, they're poison. There is nothing good about soda. People who drink even ONE can of regular sugar soda a day raise their risk of Type II Diabetes by 68%. Most regular sodas contain 150 calories per 12 ounce can. Most people I know guzzle the 20 oz. bottles. At approximately 300 calories a day that would be 2100 calories a week of pure sugar and no nutrition. If that isn't enough to make you think twice about picking up soda here's another factoid. People who consume soda also put themselves at higher risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. Soda also creates air in the colon slowing down digestion which is what leads to feeling bloated. This is true even with the diet soda. Diet soda is the lesser of the two evils when it comes to the waistline, but still has an impact. Studies have shown that people who consume artificial sweeteners tend to have more sugar cravings than people who don't. Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, fructose, maltodextrin and dextrose are all added sugars found in food and drinks. The most common one in diet soda is aspartame (brand name Nutrasweet) or sucralose (brand name Splenda). The chemicals act on the sensor of the brain that tricks it into thinking it's gotten sugar, but it hasn't and therefore continues to crave the real thing. The artificial sweeteners cause a spike in blood sugar which lead to food cravings in an attempt to get what the body really needs. It becomes a vicious cycle. I am not telling you to give up soda, just giving you the information so you can make your own choice. And now I jump down from the soapbox.

How do I know if I'm drinking enough?
The BEST way to determine your hydration level is by looking at the color or your urine. The first urine will always be the darkest of the day. As the day progresses keep an eye on the change in color. If it is still a dark yellow than you are dehydrated. A light yellow urine color typically signifies a very healthy urine. The light straw yellow urine will have a low odor, few bubbles in the urine, little to no foam in urine, and have a clear urine consistency. If you urine color is very clear, it is showing a high concentration of water and a lower concentration of actual waste. This could mean you are very well hydrated, but a low concentration of waste is not necessarily a good thing. What this means is that you need to pee more in order to get rid the waste your body doesn't need. Which is why people who over hydrate find themselves in the bathroom 20 times a day.

Bottled versus Filtered Tap Water?
This is a personal choice that all families make. For some of you bottled water may be your only option depending on where you live. In MOST cases though, people live in an area where filtered tap water is suitable for drinking, yet people spend hundreds of dollars a year on cases of bottled water. What is the benefit? Turns out, not much, if any. From the editors at Men's Health Magazine:

Four Truths About Bottled Water

1. You may actually be drinking tap water
Case in point: Dasani, a Coca-Cola product. Despite its exotic-sounding name, Dasani is simply purified tap water that’s had minerals added back in. For example, if your Dasani water was bottled at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Philadelphia, you’re drinking Philly tap water. But it’s not the only brand of water that relies on city pipes to provide its product. About 25 percent of all bottled water is taken from municipal water sources, including Pepsi’s Aquafina.

2. Bottled water isn’t always pure
Scan the labels of the leading brands and you see variations on the words “pure” and “natural” and “pristine” over and over again. And when a Cornell University marketing class studied consumer perceptions of bottled water, they found that people thought it was cleaner, with less bacteria. But that may not actually be true. For example, in a 4-year review that included the testing of 1,000 bottles of water, the Natural Resources Defense Council—one the country’s most ardent environmental crusaders—found that “about 22 percent of the brands we tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits.”

3. It’s not clear where the plastic container ends and the drink begins
Turns out, when certain plastics are heated at a high temperature, chemicals from the plastics may leach into container’s contents. So there’s been a flurry of speculation recently as to whether the amounts of these chemicals are actually harmful, and whether this is even a concern when it comes to water bottles—which aren’t likely to be placed in boiling water or even a microwave. While the jury is still out on realistic health ramifications, it seems that, yes, small amounts of chemicals from PET water bottles such as antimony—a semi-metal that’s thought to be toxic in large doses—can accumulate the longer bottled water is stored in a hot environment. Which, of course, is probably a good reason to avoid storing bottled water in your garage for six months—or better yet, to just reach for tap instead.

4. Our country’s high demand for oil isn’t just due to long commutes
Most water bottles are composed of a plastic called polyethylene terepthalate (PET). Now, to make PET, you need crude oil. Specifically, 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of PET water bottles ever year, estimate University of Louisville scientists. No wonder the per ounce cost of bottled water rivals that of gasoline. What’s more, 86 percent of 30 billion PET water bottles sold annually are tossed in the trash, instead of being recycled, according to data from the Container Recycling Institute. That’s a lot of waste—waste that will outlive you, your children, and your children’s children. You see, PET bottles take 400 to 1000 years to degrade. Which begs the question: If our current rate of consumption continues, where will we put all of this discarded plastic?

A personal note on the water issue and where I stand:
I live in Vero Beach, Florida. A sleepy little town on the Treasure Coast about 10 miles from the Atlantic. I love my home, but the tap water is just awful. It's not undrinkable in the sense that it is dangerous for consumption. It just tastes awful. But really, what can I expect for living on land built over a swamp. For years my husband and I poured money into bottled water. In addition to all the money we were spending I started to get concerned about the waste and the contamination from the plastic. Call me crazy if you will, but I care about the environment. It weighed heavily on my mind that we were depositing up to or more than 100 bottles a month in the recycling bin. Grant you I do recycle, but that's still A LOT of plastic and I can't always be sure all bottles make it to the recycling center. So my reasons for switching to filtered tap water were fueled by many reasons, not the least of which is the money we've saved.

On Earth Day 2008, which happened to be a happy coincidence, I invested in a Brita filtration system. Because we do drink so much water I got the largest pitcher they sell--144 ounces, which came with one filter and then I purchased a three pack special that contained a bonus filter. Altogether I spent $65 for the pitcher and the five filters, which lasted us more than a year. That was almost two years ago. We have saved almost $400. I use a double lined stainless steel for the same reason I gave up my plastic water bottle habit. The same fossil fuels and chemicals are found in the reusable plastic bottles that are in the throw away bottles. Again, I am not telling you what to do, just passing along information for you to make your own decisions.

I do understand what it's like to get into the habit of drinking water. I was a Diet Coke/Coke Zero addict. I drank both of them almost exclusively. Rarely did I drink water except on the hottest of summer days. Little by little I replaced the soda with water and now water is my habit. I don't only drink it because I know it's the best choice for me physically. I drink it because I like the way is tastes and nothing quenches my thirst better.

Drinking water does the body good!!!
 
Unless you have a legitimate medical reason not to engage in physical activity you should be aiming to move for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. This should be done for your overall health and not just the benefits to your waistline.

In addition to maintaining a healthy weight exercise is good for your mental health, gives you energy, can improve your sex life, promotes better sleep and help combat chronic illnesses/disease. So with all of these benefits, why does it seem to be the one thing that people just don't do?

Hands down, the NUMBER ONE excuse I hear from people is that they just don't have the time. Simply put, that is just not true. Again, I'm a big fan of lists. Here are several ways to get in exercise no matter how short of time you are.

1. Studies have shown that three 10-minute sessions are just as effective as one 30 minute session. On the days where you are just running from one appointment or meeting to another it is still possible. For those that have jobs with regular lunch breaks. Use 20 minutes to eat your meal--a lot easier when you bring it from home. Not only do you save money, but you give yourself a 10 minute window to take a brisk walk after you eat. If you work in an office building with a stairwell you can even use those to give you even more of a boost. Not only a great way to squeeze in 10 minutes, but it will help to ward off the 3 p.m. afternoon slump that takes you to the vending machine.

2. Use stairs wherever possible instead of escalators or elevators.

3. Park further away from all of the entrances of buildings you frequent. People should aim to get 10,000 steps a day which is roughly the equivalent of five miles. The way to track your steps is with a pedometer. Keep in mind you get what you pay for and it's worth spending in the 10-30 dollar range for a decent one. People who wear pedometers, on average, walk more than people who don't. All those steps add up for your heart and waistline to positive results.

4. How much time do you spend watching television each night or playing on the computer? I understand, because I do in fact spend a lot of time in front of the television while also on the computer. However, I also take the time away from the computer to get my routine done for the day. Shows can be recorded or in most cases viewed online these days. There is no reason to say I can't go to that class or a 30-minute after dinner walk because I'll miss (fill in the blank).

5. During the times that you are watching your shows you can use the commercial breaks for simple calisthenics. Jumping jacks, toe touches, ab twists, jumping rope (you don't need the actual rope), march in place, crunches, squats, lunges. This list goes on and on.....

6. When you are waiting on line anywhere you can do calf raises. Don't worry if anybody is looking at you. People aren't thinking about you as much as you think they are. You should see me with my iPod on shuffle through the aisles at Winn Dixie. I'm dancing and bopping my head to the music. I'm having a grand ole time while doing something I truly enjoy. I don't care what anyone is thinking when they catch a glimpse. I hope they're thinking,'NOW, there's someone who loves life.'

7. Which brings me to my last point. No matter what kind of movement you are doing you have to make it FUN!!!! That's right, FUN!!!! If it's not something you enjoy then you aren't going to continue. When it comes to exercise I tell people to find something they really love that also burns calories. If you have fun you won't think of it as 'exercise' and the more likely you are to stick with the routine. Also be willing to try things that you think might be fun. You never know what you may discover.

A personal note, a confession if you will. I STILL don't love to exercise. I don't. I love to workout others, but I still struggle some days with doing my own workouts. That doesn't mean I don't do them, it just means that some days I struggle to get off the couch. The biggest part of the equation for me was my last point. I had to find ways to make exercise fun as well as challenging. So on the days where I really don't want to I go for a walk. It's amazing what five minutes does to my attitude. I also found other ways to look at my activity in a way that I didn't associate necessarily as exercise. I'm all for positive mind tricks. Here below are my favorite ways to combine exercise/fun to keep myself in top shape from mental to physical health.

Riding my adult tricycle that I named 'Harley' is not exercise. It's transportation. I totaled my car on New Year's Eve 2008. My husband's car died three weeks later. We can not afford two vehicles and he needs a car for his job; therefore, 'Harley' became my main wheels. She weighs 77 pounds and has a cart that I use to carry my goods. I've had her just under a year. She has been ridden in rainstorms, freezing cold, wind gusts up to 30 mph, 22 miles round trip in one day and almost 800 miles--all by me. What fun she and I have had. We go to the library, feed the Palomino horses, the park to lock her up and take the bus to the beach, restaurants, meetings, the grocery store and last but not least, the roller skating rink almost every Wednesday night.

AH, Roller Skating. NOT exercise for me. It's my mental health well being cardiovascular anger management get it all out for two hours session. I began roller skating at the age of six. I went skating pretty much every weekend of my life until I was 18 or 19. Then I just stopped. In December 2005, I went to our local rink. It was the first time I had been on skates in 15 years. I got on that floor and I never stopped. I forgot how much fun I used to have when I was skating. Now when it's Wednesday and for the rare reason I can't or don't go I feel it all week. It's not only a skate session, but also one of my only social outlets. I have many acquaintances that I see every week that just makes it more fun. When I am skating all is right with the world.

Last but not least, Belly Dancing. This is a class I used to go to regularly when it was offered for free at the library; however, budget cuts were made and some programs went by the wayside. Belly Dancing was the first one cut. The instructor set up shop elsewhere, but had to start charging a fee and being out of work not something I could afford. However, now I am in a position where I can go twice a month so I am going to start again this Monday. Definitely does not feel like exercise. Belly Dancing is a way to connect with my inner sensual side and celebrate being a woman in a positive way with a group of women who are there for the same reasons. It is one of the most empowering hours I spend with myself in a group.

Take an exercise class that sounds like fun. Get together regularly with a friend and become walking buddies. Remember some of the things you did when you were younger that you had fun doing and rediscover them. The main objective is to just get moving and keep moving on a consistent basis. Your mental and physical health depend on you making the choice to move. You are worth the time to invest in you.
 
You can't change what you don't acknowledge.--Dr. Phil McGraw

This is true in any area of your life. In the weight loss journey this is true of keeping a food journal. It is absolutely imperative to get an understanding of what you are consuming. People who struggle with their weight tend to suffer from what I refer to as food amnesia. Before I got serious about losing weight I would forget what I had for breakfast, if I even ate breakfast, by the time I sat down to dinner. Never-mind all the bites, licks and tastes throughout my day and lunch. It wasn't until I started keeping a detailed journal that I realized how much damage I was doing to myself. Not just the weight, but my health. While keeping a food journal is recommended by every weight loss expert out there it seems to be the one part of the journey that people have the most difficulty in following through. I've heard all the excuses of not keeping one, but there is no excuse. If you are serious about this journey, then you will take the necessary steps to achieve your goals. There are also many people who argue with me that it's too hard to keep a daily journal. For whatever reasons they can justify, they skip this all important part. The definition of insanity--doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. It really boils down to taking responsibility for your actions.

I can't emphasize how important I feel this part of the journey is in regards to your overall success. One of the biggest comments I hear about keeping a journal is: 'I don't want to have to write down my food every day for the rest of my life.' I'm not asking you to do this every day for the rest of your life. I'm asking you to do this for one day. Just today.

The first thing I tell new clients is that for the first week I want you to eat like you usually do. Yep, that's right. I don't want any drastic changes made in the first week of starting out. This may seem counterproductive to losing; however, it goes back to the first statement in this note. You have to take account of what you are really doing before you can begin to see the changes that need to be made. I don't tell them to track the calories or points (Weight Watchers members), just the food. This gives you a starting point.

Not tracking food you've eaten doesn't negate the calories you consume. Bites, licks and tastes can and will add up. The only way to KNOW what you are eating day in and day out is to write it down. This seems to be much easier said than done for masses of people. It truthfully is the only way to learn your habits. But there is so much more to this than just tracking your food. Food is only part of the equation. For those of us who turn to food for reasons other than nutrition it is important to learn what our triggers are in order to change the pattern.

Once my clients are in the regular habit of writing down their food I have them go to a free calorie tracking site. There are many of them, but my top three picks are:
1. The Daily Plate (www.thedailyplate.com)
2. Sparkpeople (www.sparkpeople.com)
3. Fitday (www.fitday.com)

These sites not only give you a place to chart your food and exercise, but they all contain a diary section. I feel that WHY we eat is just as important as WHAT we are eating. If you don't get to the why behind your eating, you will continue to eat. When you track your meals don't only track your calories. Notice the time. Are you eating because your body is truly hungry? If it has been less than four hours, chances are you aren't really needing food. So what is sending you to the pantry? Are you bored, stressed, angry, upset? Becoming a conscious, mindful eater will help you change your patterns. If hunger isn't the problem, then food isn't the solution. If you are being triggered by emotion to eat then deal with the emotion by staying out of the kitchen. Call a friend, go for a walk, punch a pillow, cry, scream. Then when you are done you can write in your daily journal about how you handled the situation without turning to the food as the answer. That's what I call a non-scale victory worthy of celebration.
 
IT IS POSSIBLE!!!!! :)

One of the top arguments I hear from people is how much more expensive it is to eat healthy. When I factor in how many doctor's appointments I avoid (except my yearly check-ups), the medications I no longer have to buy, the peaceful sleep I experience, the energy to get through my days, then I can argue that eating healthy is worth the price. However, the price doesn't have to put you in the poor house.

These days it seems that people are living on even stricter budgets than ever before. It is just a reality of the times we are currently living. And now a confession from me...

Until New Year's Eve 2008, we didn't have a strict food budget and ate out at least once, sometimes twice a week. I ate at restaurants more than Guy even while losing weight. We both had our paper routes, Guy was working full-time at Domino's and I was still working there two nights a week. We are real homebodies. We don't spend a lot of money on outside entertainment or anywhere else; therefore, we were able to enjoy eating out at restaurants regularly. Also, even though I knew how to cook and did it well, it wasn't something that I enjoyed doing. Oh what a difference a year can make.

I was in a car accident on New Year's Eve (for the record, no alcohol was involved) that totaled my vehicle. I drove head-on into a parked SUV at 30 mph. I broke my two bottom front teeth resulting in root canals and damaged my right shoulder. I also put myself out of work. You can't deliver papers or pizza without a car. Therefore, we became a one income household. My job instantly became homemaker. I took it as my responsibility to figure out ways we could save money. This is also a new concept for me. I have always been a spender who lives in the moment. I have emotionally and financially paid for the choices I have made. However, my choices don't only impact me. This may seem like an obvious statement, but unless you live alone, the choices you make will impact those around you. It took me a long time to realize this fact of life.

While I know many people had a rough 2009, I can honestly say it was one of the better years of my life. Being unemployed became a blessing in disguise. I know that people don't necessarily want to hear that, but for me it's the truth. It boils down to attitude. I learned new ways to live and it has made me happier and healthier in so many ways. It may have been thrust upon me; however, the changes I've made are lasting. These tricks can work for all size families; however, we are a family of two. Lenny, our boarder, occasionally has dinner with us, but this hardly causes a dent in our food cost. A very long introduction, but I am nothing if not thorough in my reasons for the choices I make.

These are tricks that I have gotten from varied sources including Foodie with Family (http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/blog/), Shape, Cooking Light, cookbooks, newspapers, articles from Sparkpeople (http://www.sparkpeople.com/index.asp), Dr. Oz and my own research. Since most people love lists I will present my tricks in that format. Please feel free to add your own money saving tips to the list. I request that they be real tips to help others.

Some of my tricks for saving money:
1. I plan my meals for just a few days at a time. One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was shopping twice a month. There are lots of schools of thought on this point. I share what works for me. I take inventory of my pantry, freezer and refrigerator before I go to the store. More than once, just by looking through what I already had I was able to skip the store. All too often in the past I threw out food that had gone bad simply because I forgot it was in the house. The other scenario, I would go shopping with the intent of cooking all these meals and then cop out and go for take out or fast food.
Bottom line: I think before I shop. I find a recipe or create my own from what I have before I go out.

2. Guy and I go shopping once a week to every 10 days at Sam's Club. Buyer beware for shopping in bulk. Not all of the bargains are bargains, but if you comparison shop you can save quite a bit of money. I do not list prices here as they vary greatly from region to region. Another note: not all items are available in all regions. This is what we get at our Sam's Club.
Quick Cooking [not instant] Quaker Oatmeal (100+ servings), Frozen Berries, Broccoli and Green Beans (frozen vegetables and berries have been shown to be just as nutritious as fresh), canned All Natural Hunts Tomatoes and Tomato Paste, Amy's Organic Soups, Nature's Own Double Fiber Bread, Arnolds 100% Whole Wheat Thins, Boca Burgers, Fresh Produce--varies by season--right now it's mostly citrus and bananas, Olive and Canola Oil, Ground Turkey, Whole Chickens and pieces (thighs and breasts). There is more to the list, but that is a sampling.
Bottom line: You can save money buying in bulk, just be logical and educate yourself. It's not saving you money if you throw out the product before you can use it up. This is true no matter how many people live in the house.

3. I use my adult tricycle to go to the Winn Dixie as needed for ingredients to round out recipes--even if I had a car I would use the bike to save money. It's a mile round trip and my cart can hold quite a bit. Just another way I save money and reduce my carbon footprint. I have a customer rewards card for Winn Dixie. I save money buying items on sale, store brands and sticking with natural, whole foods. In 2009, I saved more than $400 by paying attention to my weekly circular ads for the three main grocery stores. A lesson I learned when I really started paying attention. It's more expensive to eat processed, premade items, then it is cooking from scratch. In the hustle bustle world we live in, so many people want to save time in the kitchen. I save time by spending a little time planning menus as well as stocking items that can be thrown together for quick meals. Then I take what time I need to execute my plan.
Bottom line: Shop wise. Only use coupons for items that you normally buy. Look for specials and stock up.

4. I can't stress this point strongly enough. In these trying times it is more important than ever to stretch our resources. One of the most cost effective ways to do this is cooking at home. An average family of four will spend up to $50 in a sit down restaurant after drinks, desserts and tip. That will serve them for one meal. OR you can spend the same $50 and have countless meal possibilities. To me this doesn't really leave room for argument. For those who don't think you have time--It takes just as long, if not longer, to get all the kids together, get to a restaurant, order, wait for your food. This is true if you order pizza delivery as well. In the thirty to forty minutes you are waiting for that pizza you could have made dinner for the family for a fraction of the cost. For those of you who are losing weight, the only way you guarantee what you are eating is if you cook it yourself.
Bottom line: Save your money and eat at home. If you don't know how to cook, learn. It's not hard. Start with simple recipes with minimal ingredients. Learn how to make your families favorites in a different way. If you don't have money to buy cookbooks, check them out of the library.

5. One of my favorite ways to save money is using my slow cooker and freezer. This involves a little planning, but oh, the joy of slow cooking. Most recipes take less than 30 minutes to prep and get in the cooker. Turn it on and forget about it. Depending on your family size full meals will serve you for days. I make tomato sauce, casseroles, lasagnas, stews, chilis. The possibilities are endless. Not to mention, most slow cooked recipes lend themselves to freezing. More bang for the buck. I also use my slow cooker to prep dried beans which I freeze and use the same way I would canned.
Bottom line: Use your slow cooker and see the savings add up.

6. I never go shopping without a list. I find recipes I want to make, review what I have, make a list of what I need and stick to my list. I also don't go shopping when I'm hungry. This stops me from impulse shopping.

7. Merely a suggestion that works for us, but I know won't work for many of your homes. Start one day a week and work up to more. Find meatless recipes. Beans, whole grains, pastas and vegetables make wonderful meals that are healthy, filling AND cost effective.

8. Almost if not all meals can be doubled. Leftovers can be used for lunch the next day, dinner the next night or frozen for a meal at a later date.

These are tricks that work for me. In an effort to save money, an amazing thing happened as well, I rediscovered a love for cooking. According to the USDA Cost of Living plan I should be spending $350 a month for my family of two on their thrifty scale. I knew I was saving money. I didn't realize how much until I found this chart. (Thank you Rebecca for the link to this site). http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2009/CostofFoodJun09.pdf
Because I believe in full disclosure--our monthly food budget is $200. This includes Sam's Club, Winn-Dixie and the occasional stop at Publix. Some months we spend less. Feeding us as healthy as I can while also saving money makes me happier than having someone else do the work for me.
 
I purposely capitalized the letter d in the word diet to emphasize my point. A confession: I despise the word 'diet' in the context in which it is commonly used in language today.

There are many definitions of this word, yet it seems that it has become synonymous with losing weight.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/diet+

For those that don't click the above link, the first definition on the list defines diet as food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health.

I was ALWAYS on a diet. Since my teens I was 'watching what I eat', depriving myself of foods I love, pills, starvation, Atkins, South Beach, etc. You name it, I've researched it and in many cases, tried them for myself. It was when I stopped using diet as a verb and put the emphasis on the idea as a noun that I began losing the weight.

My diet is the food that I use to fuel my day. Food does not have control over me. It does not feed me if I am not hungry. I have learned to listen to my body. I don't eat by the time on the clock. This is learned behavior that has taken me years to develop. Now I am in the habit of eating every three to four hours. Small meals around 300-350 calories. I base what I eat and how I eat on what I'm going to be doing for the next three to four hours of my life. My breakfast almost never changes. However, I don't always have a mid-morning snack. Lunch is almost always my largest meal of the day. I usually workout after my lunch. I have a post workout snack and light dinner. If I'm in need of a snack after dinner then I reach for fruit, but most of the time I just sip my tea after dinner. This is my diet. A balanced way of eating for the effects it has on my health.

No magic, no secrets. Just healthful, sensible eating after years of struggling to reach an unrealistic ideal. I no longer view food as my enemy. I LOVE to eat, experiment with food and remake old favorites in a healthier fashion. The world of food has endless possibilities. My diet is a drastic change than the way I ate even three years ago, but it works with the lifestyle I choose to live. You are the only one responsible for creating the life that you want. That includes what happens in the kitchen.

Eating is something that should not be dreaded. It should not be something that induces feelings of guilt, anger or disappointment. Food does not have that power over you unless you give it permission. Take back the control. Educate yourself about what you are really eating. Be honest about the reasons why you are eating. As I always say--If hunger is not the problem, then food isn't the solution. Food is meant to nourish the body and soul. Put food in it's proper place and let your diet be in conjunction with the life you want to live.
 
A common scenario: It's after dinner and the kids are settled in for the night. You curl up on the couch to catch up on your DVR shows or read a book. Something is missing. You go to the kitchen and start rummaging through the freezer, fridge or pantry to find something to nibble. Never mind that you just ate dinner an hour ago and your body isn't really craving food. Chances are you are bored or trying to fill a void that food won't fill.

Now that is not to say that nighttime snacking is off limits. There will be movie nights and/or game nights with the family, gatherings with friends and legitimate hunger pangs that lead you to snack after dinner. However, there are a few tricks that can make nighttime snacking a real treat instead of something that induces later feelings of guilt. Also, dessert seems to be a common thing in many homes. It's the way to signal that dinner is done and the kitchen is closed for the night. I am not in any way suggesting that people change these routines. What I am suggesting is changing the way we snack so we can still achieve our goals.

Things that I do to help with the nighttime munchies. Please feel free to use any of these suggestions.

Hot tea--My favorite thing to do when I start to get the after dinner cravings is to steep a cup of tea. I was a HUGE coffee drinker for years, then I switched to tea. I still drink both; however, more and more I reach for the tea. The picture above is the collection of Bigelow Teas that I get at Sam's Club. I pay 7.86 for 74 tea bags. I only share this little tidbit to show that having healthy choices in your home does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Really hard to argue with 10.5 cents for a cup of tea. Nine out of ten times the tea trick works for me, but I know that not everyone is a tea drinker, so for you I offer these strategies.

Chewing gum--sugar free of course ;). The commercials you see for Extra Gum may be marketing ploys; however, I know for a fact that chewing gum DOES work. NOTHING tastes good after you've been chewing gum, especially the mint flavored gums. Minty gum provides a double appetite trick--peppermint and spearmint aromas are known natural appetite suppressants.

Fruit. Just about any variety of fresh fruit will do. Fruit is a great substitute for sweets. Naturally sweet by mother nature, fruit will not spike your blood sugar or devastate your hard work at the gym. In addition, fruit contains vitamins, nutrients, fiber and water thereby filling you up for little calories.

Popcorn. More bang for your buck than a bag of potato chips. Make sure you air pop it or do it on the stove top with a tablespoon or two of canola oil. Don't drown the popcorn in salt. Mrs. Dash seasonings are a great no-sodium substitute to pump up the flavor. Bonus to popcorn--a good way to sneak in a serving of whole grains. Popcorn is about 15 calories a cup for air popped and about 50 calories when popped with the oil. Again, little calories to fill you up and not defeat your efforts.

Dark Chocolate--proceed with caution. If you are prone to binges when you bring chocolate into your home then I suggest not having chocolate in your home. If you are someone who enjoys chocolate in moderation then I recommended making the switch to dark chocolate. The higher the cacao content the better for you. Dark chocolate contains flavanoids and antioxidants that are heart healthy in the proper portion size. A recommended serving for most brands is 1 oz. It sounds like such a small amount. I am a self-confessed chocoholic, so I never thought 1 oz. would satisfy my chocolate love. I was wrong. Because dark chocolate is bitter, a little goes a long way. To keep myself in check I buy a bag of the Green and Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate 70%--they are individually wrapped pieces. Four pieces are 1 oz. so I feel like I'm spoiling myself when the whole treat is about 200 calories. :)

My last suggestion---brush your teeth. Again, NOTHING tastes good with a minty fresh mouth except maybe a glass of water.
 
It's a cliche phrase that you've heard thousands of times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You should never skip your breakfast. Yet, from working with clients and talking to many people I've come to discover that this is a huge issue for many of you.

Let me start out by saying that I was one of those people who skipped breakfast. I used to pride myself on the fact that I could run on nicotine and caffeine for up to 12 hours before putting food in my body. That's how severe I put my body signals out of whack. My body became accustomed to the abuse that I didn't understand the damage I was doing, not only to my waistline, but more importantly my overall health.

The best way I can describe this is to paint a picture: Imagine that your body is a car. If you go out into your driveway first thing in the morning and there is no gas in the tank you can crank the starter all you want, but the car is staying put. Well essentially that is what you are doing to your body. You are putting the car in drive with nothing to keep it running. You are literally running your body on fumes. Food is the fuel that the body uses to keep it running at optimal efficiency. By running the body on fumes you are hanging onto the unwanted fat because you are telling the body that you need it for later use. This creates a vicious cycle. Let's break the cycle.

First, let's look at the word and break it down: BREAK FAST. Ideally, you have stopped eating within a few hours of your bedtime. Again, this is not a waistline issue, rather a health issue. Our stomachs do not run on a clock. Your belly doesn't know if it's 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. This is especially true of people working third shifts or people in nursing, firefighters, police, etc. who work 12 hours on/12 hours off. The body has to function during your waking hours, whatever they are. The reason you should ideally stop eating within a few hours of sleep is that the body starts to slow in all of it's functions as you lay down. This includes your digestion. If you eat a large meal within hours of sleeping your body starts an internal struggle. You are in a state of relaxation, your body temperature, heart rate and respiration are all slowing down and cooling off to get ready for sleep while the intestines are busy at work trying to do their job. It can lead to restless sleep and irregularity. Therefore, I highly recommend that people try to stop eating within a few hours of sleeping.

If you have stopped eating with two hours of sleeping and are getting a minimum of six hours of sleep a night than your body has now gone eight hours without food. If you then hit the ground running with no fuel and wait another four to five hours before eating you have literally starved your body for up to 12 hours. By the time you get to lunch you are ravenous and eat more throughout the rest of the day to make up for the calorie deficit you made in skipping breakfast.

Researchers from the National Weight Control Registry, a database of more than 3,000 people who have lost at least 60 pounds and kept it off for an average of 6 years, found that eating breakfast every day was a weight control strategy for 78% of the people in the registry.

It has also been proven that people who eat breakfast every day consume less calories and aren't as prone to nighttime snacking as their counterparts who skipped breakfast. I am living proof of that fact. Breakfast gets your metabolism going, gives you energy, prevents mid-morning slump, makes your brain function better and stabilizes your blood sugar to keep from the spikes that drive our hunger.

The top two excuses I hear from people as to why they skip their breakfast are:
1. I don't have time to make a healthy breakfast.
2. Eating breakfast makes me sick to my stomach or any variation there of that idea.

Does either one sound familiar to you?

Time is a factor in this hustle and bustle world we live in today. However, with just a little bit of planning you can have a quick on the go healthy breakfast every day of the week. What I have often found is that one plays into the other as well. People have gotten carried away in society with portion sizes thereby skewing what the idea of what breakfast should be. Breakfast is not an all you can eat buffet. While breakfast should be your biggest meal of the day I will settle for getting food in your body. From this day forward you should make it a point to have SOMETHING for breakfast. I'm not talking about that giant muffin along with your Starbucks Latte or a drive-thru window delicacy. I'm talking about a healthy meal that combines fat, fiber and protein to satiate your appetite while keeping your blood sugar level to get through your morning routine.

Dr. Oz suggests having an automatic meal for breakfast thereby eliminating the endless choices and stopping the mad rush every morning. I happen to agree. Taking the guesswork out of what is usually one of the busiest times in the day for most households gives you one less thing to figure out.

Breakfast ideas for busy households--a little planning required. A few hours on a Sunday afternoon and you can have breakfast five days a week.
--Make a batch of breakfast burritos: scramble eggs (or egg beaters if you prefer) with tomatoes, onions, peppers, salt and pepper; place filling in tortillas and freeze in individual bags; reheat the next morning for about 30-60 seconds and grab a piece of fruit on your way out the door
--Hard boil a dozen eggs and keep them in a marked container in the fridge; grab one or two with a piece of fruit and a cup of yogurt
--Cup of yogurt and piece of whole wheat toast with peanut or almond butter
--For those of you that just can't stomach food in the morning try making yourself a smoothie--fruit, milk, ice in a blender--add some protein and/or ground flaxseed powder and a piece of dry or lightly buttered toast

All four of the ideas listed take less than five minutes if you put the planning to work for you. There is no excuse to skip breakfast. Your body will thank you for your effort.