Tag Archives: diet

Reasons & Recipes To Make The Lowly Legume Your New BFF

18 Feb

ImageFunny sounding name, don’t you think? It always got more than a few snickers in grade school as our teacher robotically recited the food groups as part of the state mandated curriculum. We never really knew what it meant; in fact if you ask most adults, they are equally ignorant. Turns out one of every kids favorite dishes, baked beans, is actually the mysterious legume.

Fast forward to the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when the power-grid went down plunging several states and Canadian provinces into darkness for days, taking other utilities and gas stations down with it. Like many, I was sent home early from work and soon found myself at the local supermarket. Anything refrigerated or frozen had been sealed off from the panicked shoppers; a 30ish woman was running up and down the aisles wailing repeatedly “what will I feed my children?” At first I though she was a total idiot but then it occurred to me, she was of a generation that was raised on prepackaged processed microwavable food and she had no clue about nutrition, meal preparation or real food. Truth be told, other than canned tuna or peanut butter, I was at a bit of loss on how I would get protein in the uncertain days or weeks ahead. That’s when I rediscovered legumes.

Turns out legumes are a major component of everything from the hummus in your pita to the refried beans in your burrito, but there is a whole world of legumes out there. For those of you who wish to get your protein from places other than the fatty toxic mix of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics infused meat of stressed-out diseased animals from factory farms; legumes provide a wonderful alternative. Legumes are also a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, cholesterol lowering fiber and slowly digestible carbohydrates, which are especially important if you are diabetic or at risk. See nutritional chart.

While legumes are available fresh, most people use the canned or dried form for convenience. Canned legumes have a shelf life of about 5 years & are packed in liquid, which make them the preferred staple for an emergency pantry when fresh water may not be available due to extreme weather conditions. Dried legumes are the least expensive, and are best for storage since they are less bulky and have a 10 year shelf life, while lacking the sodium, preservatives & chemicals used in the packaging of the canned variety. The best prices on dried legumes are usually found at Indian grocers. Dried legumes need to soak overnight and usually cooked for an hour; see cooking chart.


If you or your family is new to legumes, you may want to start out slowly. Here are some easy tasty recipes, one for each legume, that include something for everyone: dip, salad, crunchy snack, soup, side dish and main dish. Enjoy!

Make legumes your new BFF, and you will be trilled at how much it trims from your grocery bill as well as your waistline.

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Get Fit For Less

9 Jan


It’s the most popular New Year’s resolution, “get fit”, and it would have been yours had it not been for lack of coin. Well put aside your excuses, because I have a solution for every budget, interest, and ability, whether you are looking to get fit, loose weight, or just be healthier. There is also plenty of variety to keep you from getting bored and quitting. So squeeze into your spandex, lace up your tennies and let’s hit the ground running…after our warm-up stretches, of course.

  1. Free at the Library. You may know the library has no shortage of the latest health & fitness magazines, diet cookbooks, yoga DVDs, and workout music, but did you also know they have free classes? Check all your local public libraries for offerings since you are not limited to your city of residence as long as you have a valid library card.
  2. Free diet and fitness apps. There is no shortage of free apps to help keep you on motivated and on track.
  3. Free fitness videos. If you would rather see videos online, try sites like YouTube for clips on specific exercises or Hulu for full length routines.
  4. Free & cheap equipment. Whether you are looking for a treadmill, yoga ball, exercise DVD, skis, or  Wii Fit accessories, you are sure to find something free or cheap on sites like Freecycle, Craigslist, Ebay, and even Amazon. Some things are used, some new; I got new stuff free via Freecycle and used stuff cheap on Amazon, so you just have to look and ask. Craigslist lets you barter or swap. Make sure you check for recalled items, beware of shipping fees, and know the return policy. If you need to check out an item in person before buying, there are plenty of fitness resale shops.
  5. Parks & rec. This one is by far my favorite for the quality, value & variety! It is not only at the city level, but also area, state & national park systems.They offer a variety of all season, all age, all ability programs that are free or affordable priced including equipment rental. This is where you usually find sports leagues and other community activities. Most have fitness centers that rival or exceed any commercial gym or spa, complete with instructors. So whether you want to shoot hoops, learn bellydancing or how to snowshoe, there’s plenty to keep you from getting stuck in a fitness rut.
  6. Free groups. These are usually more informal. They can be anything from groups of individuals that like to go hiking with their dogs at the state park, to mall walkers, to bowlers. If you can’t find a group that fits your needs, make your own. You can find these groups on sites like MeetUp and Craigslist, but also check your local bulletin boards at your college, church or apartment complex. At my one job, we organized yoga at lunchtime, which was really popular. At another job we had a walking club. Don’t forget to use free support groups, which is not only a great place to get ideas and support to stay on track, but also meet people you can ask to join you in your exercise activities.
  7. Drop in. You can find this drop in option not only at fitness centers, but also studios for yoga, dance, and martial arts to name a few. Some let you try for free, while others charge you a pay per use free. Beware of anything that says “trial” since that means you have to cancel in order for them to stop taking from your credit or checking account, and depending on the contract, its not always as easy as it seems.
  8. Use your connections. Members can usually bring guests for free or cheap to fitness centers, city rec centers, even condo association facilities, so buddy up with one of your friends that is already a member. If you are an alum, you can usually get a great deal on use of the athletic complex if you still live near your alma mater.
  9. Alternative settings. Like city rec centers, these settings are usually much cheaper than commercial gyms. Churches have jumped on the fitness bandwagon, and while they may have been the setting for support groups for years, fitness centers are relatively new. Some owned gyms already through their affiliation with private school or ethnic social clubs. Some are open to the public, while others serve members only. Schools, especially universities are opening their fitness center doors to non students.
  10. Use your benefits. Did you know your employer or health insurance provider may offer free or discounted gym memberships? Good health is just good business. You can use your Health Savings Account as an eligible expense if you have a letter from your doctor, and most of us have at least some boarderline condition that would qualify.
  11. Gym Discounts. If you have decided to join a commercial fitness center, you may as well save some money. You can find discounts, promo codes and coupons on sites like Retail Me Not, Groupon, and Living Social. If you comparison shop, you can go with the best price, or ask your favorite gym to match it. When they offer you all the tempting extras and add-ons, just say “no”. And finally, don’t pass up the “pretty person discount”. Gyms have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to pricing, pretty, fit, and young members act as free marketing for them. People come to gyms for the hook-up as much as the workout, so if you’ve got it, work it to your advantage.

So get off the sofa and get moving; you’re starting to make the cat look like an overachiever.

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Bye-Bye Boring Oatmeal! Tips To Make This Childhood Nightmare Your New Breakfast Favorite

3 Dec

ImageThe mention of oatmeal doesn’t exactly conjure up the most pleasant of childhood memories for most people. I had a mother whose idea of cooking consisted of opening a package, then burning or boiling the contents beyond recognition. So when it came to oatmeal, it was those packets that you add hot water to; which was better than when we ran out and she made rolled oats, which was scorched wallpaper paste without the sugar and salt to make it easier to choke down.

The first time I ate real oatmeal was shortly after high school, when I strapped on a backpack and headed overseas for the first time. The family in rural Ireland that took me in the night before, asked me in the morning if I wanted “porridge”. I had no idea what that was, but I always graciously accepted what anyone offered so as not to be rude. It was delicious! Turns out porridge is steel cut oatmeal. Believe me folks, there is world of difference; steel cut oats are chewy, nutty, very tasty, and firm instead of pasty and bland like rolled oats.

I know not everyone is in the same place when it comes to dietary needs and goals. People who are given viable options can always work toward healthier choices without being overwhelmed and quitting. The benefit to flavoring oatmeal yourself is that you control the amount of fat, sugar and salt.

Since most people don’t have time to cook in the morning, I suggest you cook a batch, portion it out, freeze and take out what you need the night before to defrost. You can even cook a batch overnight in your crockpot. Another way to save time is to have your combinations portioned and package ahead of time so you can just add them to your oatmeal in the morning.

To keep from getting bored, we need variety, but it’s not always easy to think up tasty combinations. An easy way is to think of combination in the follow terms:

  • Can you spread it on toast?
  • Can you stir it into or sprinkle it over yogurt?
  • Can you stir it into coffee?
  • Can you use it to top pancakes or ice cream?

Here’s variation of a theme to give you some great ideas:

  • 1 T apple butter + milk
  • Chopped apple + chopped walnuts + vanilla rice milk + drizzle of caramel ice cream topping
  • pat of butter + 2 T apple sauce + drizzle of sugar free butter pecan pancake syrup
  • Dried apples + raisins + fat free non-dairy hazelnut coffee creamer + Cinnamon + brown sugar
  • Cinnamon apples or apple pie filling + soy milk + 1 T almond butter

Now let’s talk about the health benefits. First of all, the less the oat is processed, the more nutritional value it will have. This is especially true when it comes to glycemic index; the more it is processed, the quicker it enters your blood stream, spikes your blood sugar then drops. Think of a whole oat as “time-released energy” that is absorbed slowly over a period of time, giving you sustained energy without being hyper then sleepy.

High In Soluble Fiber. Soluble fiber inhibits the body’s absorption of the bad cholesterol LDL. The fiber also attack carcinogens as well as lower levels of estrogen in the body and this can protect the body from the development of cancer. The fiber helps you lose weight by feeling fuller longer and controlling blood sugar so you eat less, and also cleans out all the poop stuck to your intestinal walls. Oatmeal contains a certain type of fiber called beta-gluten fiber, which helps immune cells fight bacterial infection.

Full of Antioxidants. Contains avenanthramide which fights off free radicals that attack good cholesterol  HDL and keeps LDL cholesterol from oxidizing copper, which reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These antioxidants suppress the production of molecules that allow monocytes to adhere to the walls of the arteries causing hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure.

There is no limit to the creative combinations you can concoct. These combinations work great for brown rice too; I like mine with almond milk, nutmeg and cardamom. So as the temperature drops, treat yourself to something warm, filling, tasty and never ever boring!

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Is Bacon the New Ketchup?

28 Sep

ImageTwitter was all abuzz lately with rumors of a projected Aporkalypse. The summer drought has caused little piggies to go to market well before their optimum porkaliciousness, yielding less meat now and creating a paucity of pending porkers until next season. In light of this looming crisis, perhaps it’s an opportunity to rethink our relationship with the little oinkers, rather than just whine about the lack of swine.

Let’s face it, bacon isn’t exactly health food, nor did it ever claim to be so. I’m not a big meat eater, especially when it comes to pork, but not even I can resist the siren’s song of those tasty little pig strips better known as bacon. Unless you have been a sleep for the last decade, you know that most of our pork products come from horrific factory farms full of filth, disease, antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticide & GMO livestock feed, animal cruelty and corporate greed; in short, you’d be better off eating roadkill.

What to buy.

If you are going to eat pork, eat the good stuff; I say this for a number of reasons. First of all, you want to avoid all the pollutants that come in factory farm pork. Never buy prepackaged meats; if it comes in shrink-wrap, it is definitely from a factory farm. It also means that they use a cheaper curing method that causes you to lose most of your purchase in the drip tray because what you really paid for is meat plumped up with water. When you buy meat from a reputable butcher the curing process is very different, you get to eat most of what you paid for since it does not cook off, not to mention that the taste and texture is far superior.

Let me break it down for you. The cheapest bacon in my area is Aldi’s for around $4/lb. After cooking it yields only about 1/2 to 1/3 of my original purchase. If I want it soft, it is way too fatty, and if I want to cook off more of the fat, the flesh becomes like a cinder. Yuck! For about the same price per pound (surprise surprise) I can buy nicely marbled Amish raised pork from a butcher at The Westside Market with very little lost in cooking. I go even cheaper and buy the bacon ends for only $1.50/lb., which are the irregular shaped ends of the bacon slab that could not fit through the slicer. So after cooking I get about 14oz of really tasty and healthier bacon for $1.50, OR for $4 get 6oz of crappy tasting and texture bacon full of harmful chemicals. You can clearly see which one gives you better value for your money, but don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.

How to cook it.

Another way to get the most out of your bacon is to cook it in the oven in a broiler pan. In this day and age there is no reason to cook your bacon on the stovetop in a frying pan; you are not a cowboy out on the lone prairie cooking your victuals in a black cast-iron skillet over a campfire. When you cook in the oven, you don’t have to watch and turn it constantly, you don’t have the safety risks of grease fire or burns from hot grease, there’s virtually no mess, and the bacon cooks more evenly, whether you like your bacon crisp or soft. If you are not using a broiler pan, you are essentially deep frying your meat which creates that unappetizing greasy cindered result.

Bacon as a condiment.

The recommended amount of meat per meal is about the size of that person’s hand. I like to feel like I got the most out of my portion and bacon is a great way to do that; because it is so flavorful, a little goes a long way. Rather than use bacon as my meat, I use it as a condiment, like ketchup. You can enhance the flavor of a dish by adding only an ounce or less. Crumbled bacon is great on salads, baked potatoes, roasted vegetables, omelets, even as a garnish to top your soup or other meats. You get your biggest bang for your buck with legumes; a cheap form of protein, vitamins, minerals and cholesterol lowering fiber. Not only are legumes very filling, but they take on the flavor of whatever you mix in, and that’s were bacon can come in very handy. Since legumes are best slow-cooked (I use a crockpot), I dice my bacon ends, instead of crumble or shave, to preserve the texture; otherwise, it just melts away. If you are new to legumes, start with something simple, like BBQ Baked Beans or Split Pea Soup.

Cutting back on pork will improve your health, keep more money in your wallet, and put less strain on the environment. So you don’t have to break-up with pork, just rethink your relationship a little.

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Fun & Yummy Recipes For Farmer’s Market Finds

16 Aug

ImageFarmer’s Markets are a great way to support the local economy while incorporating the freshest produce into your summer menus. But you might be reluctant to take advantage of some of the greatest bargains because you can’t quite visualize what form they would take on your dinner plate. Well, wonder no more; here are some fun and yummy recipes at the ready!

Carrots: Don’t try to tell your kids carrot fries are the same as French Fries or it will be an epic fail. Instead just let them enjoy it as a tasty and fun way to eat carrots.

Turnips: Ditto. Don’t even tell them these fries are turnips.

Beets: Mmm, crunchy chips!

Loose leaf lettuce: Crunchy and light alternative to flour wraps.

Yellow squash: Everything is tastier off the grill!

Zucchini: Great as bread or muffin for breakfast, snacks or dessert.

Cabbage: Crispy and refreshing salad.

Tomatoes: These are great paired with broiled fish!

For 45 million Americans who rely on food stamps to make ends meet, most Farmers Markets now accept EBT/SNAP cards (which only makes sense since food stamps is a USDA program designed to help subsidize farmers by making food surplus available to the poor). So, in the words of the late great Julia Child, “bon appetite”!

Drizzle, Don’t Pour

31 Jul

ImageWant to lose weight and save money? Then stop treating salad dressing, pancake syrup, ketchup and other condiments like gravy, or worse, like soup. Stop and look at the fat, carbs, and calories per serving, then look at how much constitutes a serving; usually about 2 tablespoons. You may as well crack open a bottle of Karo syrup and drown your food, or pop open a can of Crisco and load on a great big heaping dollop. No one is suggesting you should deprive yourself, just be moderate. After all, they are tasty and can enhance your food; you just don’t want them to overwhelm your food and your waistline.

So what do you do about it?

  • Never set condiments on the table in their original container. If you see more, you use more. And besides, it’s just tacky.
  • Don’t use gravy boats or similar dispensers that promote pouring condiments on your food. You may as well water your flowerpots with a firehose.
  • Use condiment cups and spoons. There was a time when condiment were not just reserved for fine dining but were standard at family restaurants too. If you don’t have one, a custard cup and toddler spoon will do the trick. This method forces you to take time and effort to drizzle condiments rather than drown your food. Since there is only a limited amount available to the entire group of diners, you are more aware of your portion size since you have to leave enough for the others (don’t refill them during the meal).
  •  Use a spritzer bottle to dispense condiments, like salad dressing. Some are already available in these bottles, or you can buy and empty container in the housewares section of most stores.

This will not only cut your grocery bill, but your waistline as well.

How Eating Fiber Will Save You Money

30 Jul

ImageAlthough any fiber will have an effect, the best fiber is from fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains that are whole and raw or minimally processed. I do not recommend fiber laxative and fiber added foods because they are processed and have all sorts of undesirable ingredients added, like sugar, plus they are expensive. Buy the real stuff, it’s cheaper and tastes much better.

Save on groceries. You can grow fruits and vegetables in your own yard or container garden for free. Meat and dairy are expensive and unless you buy truly organic, you are subjected to harmful substances such as hormones, carcinogens, antibiotics, and disease. Yum, right? Animal products contain no fiber (animals have bone, plants have fiber). But you need protein, right? No problem. Legumes are packed with fiber and protein, without all that fat and cholesterol, and are available very cheap, especially in dried form.

Save on weight loss remedies. You can lose pounds quickly just by just pooping. If you don’t have enough fiber you are literally carrying around extra pounds of poop (usually 5-25 lbs) constantly. Sexy, huh?  With less poop plugging up your intestine walls, nutrients can enter the blood stream and toxins can exit, giving you more energy for exercise. Fiber helps you feel full faster and longer which means less desire to snack or overeat.

Save on medical bills. Fiber can help prevent, control or reverse a number of expensive and debilitating diseases. The first and most obvious is relief of constipation and hemorrhoids by moving feces out of the body more quickly and easily. High cholesterol and resulting ailments like heart attack and stroke, benefit from fiber in much the same way by preventing and cleaning out build up in the circulatory system. Fiber helps control blood sugar levels which is critical in preventing, managing and even reversing Diabetes. Diabetes is a really expensive disease, not just for the medications and supplies needed for daily management, but for the complications caused by the progression of the disease. The disease can be completely cured in many with Type 2 by making lifestyle changes including diet. Gallstones and kidney stones can result the release of large amount of insulin in to the blood to cope with the sugar spikes; fiber slows digestion to prevent this. Fiber can help prevent or remedy infection, especially diverticular disease, by preventing and removing build up of toxins in the colon.

So which would you rather have: tasty natural inexpensive fiber, or debilitating conditions and expensive treatments? Seems like a no-brainer to me!

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