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Friday, May 20, 2016

Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home

Awesome Reasons to Eat Family Meals at Home

Life is often hectic, and filled with responsibilities. Nonetheless, the ritual of eating meals around the kitchen or dining room table can help you and your loved ones feel centered, nourished, and energized. Whether it’s your nuclear family, your life partner or roommate, or a group of congenial friends, eating meals at home together is salve for the spirit, and does wonders for wellness.

 A consistent habit of eating meals together bolsters everyone’s sense of well-being. According to data collected in the National Survey of Children’s Health, 48% of youth surveyed ate a meal together with their families every day during the previous week. Additional studies show that children who knew a lot about their family history, through family meals and other interactions, had a closer relationship to family members, higher self-esteem, were less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and had a greater sense of control over their own lives.

Gathering with folks to break bread is a relaxing, restorative social function. It’s a great time to put aside electronic devices and daily tasks temporarily. Partaking in regular family meals establishes a tradition of unity as well as provides an opportunity to hone communication skills. Mealtime talk demonstrates by example the “how-to” of polite, effective conversation. Each person involved will have the experience of taking turns to share the happenings of the day, light moments, and the joys and sorrows of being part of the human race.

Slow Roasted Black Eyed Peas, Roasted Carrots, Greens and Sprouts

Research indicates that home cooked meals reap mighty nutritional benefits. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has found meals and snacks based on food prepared away from home contained more calories per meal than those based on at-home food. Away-from-home food was also higher in ingredients that Americans over-consume (sodium, sugar, and saturated fat) and lower in nutrients that Americans under consume (calcium, fiber, and iron).

Although it requires planning, know how, and time to assemble and serve a healthy meal at home, you and your family or friends can share responsibility for prepping meals, setting the table, and clean up. When you consciously choose to incorporate a variety of fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and fruit into meals served at home, you and your loved ones will get back on the wellness track. Purchase these foods at the peak of freshness and you’ll get more of the body’s daily requirement for vitamins, protein, minerals, complex carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, fiber, water, and antioxidants. Menu planning and cooking food for oneself and others are positive life skills. It’s good training for both youngsters and oldsters. The first group grows up and the second may lose a partner through divorce or death. Both kinds of individuals often need to fend for themselves as they live on their own.  

You can design a more relaxing ambiance for healthy eating and good communication at home than in many restaurants. When you eat at a fast food place or even a moderately priced restaurant, more than likely you will be bombarded by loud music or offensive smells like excessive perfume or rancid cooking oils. Perhaps your serenity is disturbed by people at a nearby table, who shout into their cell phones or are accompanied by a crying baby.

At home, you can regulate the air conditioning or heat to your liking, you won’t get a rush job, or be served by ineffective or rude wait staff. Although there are no large-scale studies to show that it’s more cost effective to dine at home, I’ve found that if I plan ahead, buy sale items and in-season, local produce, and freeze what I can’t use for another meal, I save money and time shopping and cooking. An informal study I conducted indicates that all those interviewed do think it makes good sense to eat more meals at home. Here’s a link comparing time and money saving of a Fast Food Meal vs. a Home-cooked One.

If you eat at home, there’s no need to drive to an out of the way location or get tied up in traffic, before you can eat that meal. Even if you pick a restaurant that’s close-by, it’s hard to assure the cook doesn’t add too much oil, salt, sugar, or processed ingredients rather than serve a low sodium, low fat, whole food meal.

Family connections require attention to sustain them. Make it a point to eat at least one meal together daily, and you will automatically reserve a place in your busy schedule for shared time. Often, it’s the only time when you and your loved ones aren’t rushing to get somewhere else. Make family meals as uncomplicated as possible. To give them a festive flair, serve foods on dinner wear instead of paper plates. You don’t need a special occasion to use a tablecloth and cloth napkins. Decorate your home with flowers and candles to celebrate the next birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other special occasion, when you might have been tempted in the past to eat out. A delicious home cooked meal conveys caring and interest in the people you cook for.
When you and your family eat nourishing food at home, it broadcasts a positive message about warm sentiments and a passion for good health. For fun, gather individual family members together each week, when no one has to leave early. Stay in your pajamas, and each help prepare a meal that includes lean protein and complete carbohydrates, instead of fattening bacon, home fries, and eggs. Before too long, you’ll realize your clothing has gotten looser and it's much more cozy to stay put, than it is to drag yourself out in that rainstorm, heat, or other inclement weather to have a meal in a restaurant. Celebrate the joy of eating the earth’s bounty at home with family and friends. Nurture your body, mind, and spirit by entertaining and eating healthfully at home more often.
The quotation for today follows:
“To make changes like this more widespread we need action both cultural and political. The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.” Mark Bittman
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Smart Ways to Green Your Lifestyle

Earth Day is tomorrow, and I've been reviewing possible ways to double up on my efforts to live greener. I assure you most of my eco-friendly ideas can be implemented easily, but make a big difference in protecting the air, water, soil, and living beings in a world that struggles to retain its quality of life.

Unless each of us takes a more active role to halt global warming, we and the planet are in deep trouble. 

Even if you don't think this is true, the steps I suggest saves money, conserves natural resources, and are simple to accomplish.

Start from where you are today. When you embark on a green adventure, you're sure to find that many of these actions simplify living by removing clutter from your office, home, and mind. Join the green crowd and make behavioral changes that you and your family can be proud about.

1. Curtail impulse spending by being more mindful and shopping with a list. Make new purchases only if you really need the item. This practice reduces the amount of clutter you accumulate and cuts down on the amount of junk that’s eventually dumped into a landfill. 

2. Plant a tree. This action fights global warming big time, by taking carbon dioxide from the air and cuts down on both heating and cooling costs. Trees also hold the earth in place, prevents soil erosion, runoff, and improves water quality. Trees make your home more desirable, adding as much as 15% to its resale value.

3. Study labels. Don't assume that if a household product is marked "natural" or "green" it is.  Commercial cleaning products can contain limonene (the chemical that gives it a lemon scent). This toxic chemical hurts the lining of your lungs and environment, when it enters the air and water stream. Lemon scented dusting polish can react with other gases in the air to make formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Choose fragrance free products or mix up a homemade, environmentally safe olive oil or jojoba oil scent- free furniture polish instead. Buy minimally packaged biodegradable ingredients in bulk. Products made from these ingredients can be stored indefinitely, conserving gasoline, time, energy, and money.

4. Switch from chemical cleaning agents to household staples like soap and water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and elbow grease. Here's an excellent recipe for homemade lemon oil furniture duster and polish from Annie B. Bond.  Lemon Oil Furniture Duster and Polish

5. Carry a reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle instead of reaching for a one-use plastic bottle. Our landfills are overflowing with toxic additives from plastic bottles. Plastic doesn't biodegrade for at least a thousand years. Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. That figure doesn't include the oil needed for bringing those bottles to market and the gas you use to get it to your home or office. If you drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day from the tap, it costs about 49 cents per year; that same amount of bottled water is about $1,400. Here's more about H2O. How to Save Water, Money, and Empower Yourself

6. Reuse, recycle, and conserve daily. Carry reusable shopping bags to the market, department stores, specialty shops or anywhere and everywhere you shop. If you do use plastic bags for veggies and fruit, reuse them (wash and air dry after each use). Hang clothes to dry. Use cloth instead of paper to mop up spills, dust, diaper baby, and to replace paper napkins, etc. Here's an example of one way I re-use and recycle.

6. Join up with Leonardo DiCaprio and many of us, who agree that climate change is occurring at an alarming, accelerated pace. We believe it's important for us as individuals and in groups to work to reduce our carbon footprint. Here's a link to a blog post I wrote about the topic last year. Divest from Fossil Fuels/Reinvest in Eco-friendly Ones. Here's a link to the DiCaprio Foundation, that addresses the same issue. Leonardo DiCaprio Joins-More-than-400-Institutions-Pledging-to-Divest-from-Fossil-Fuels/.

7. Take an earth-saving moment to reflect about how many new ways you can live greener.  Read this post, published a few weeks ago, for additional ideas.  Eat Less Meat and Save Our Planet.

Did you pick up a new green tip or two today? Please comment below. The more we exchange ideas the better off the planet will be! 

The quote for today is from Robert Swan, Explorer and Environmentalist:

“The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it ... The last great exploration on earth is to survive on earth. So as I gaze out the window into my future, I hope to see Antarctica in my midst. I only hope that our children’s children will see it in theirs too. When you gaze out of the window into your future, what do you see?"

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Eat Less Meat and Save the Planet

Eat Less Meat and Save Our Planet

Do you realize how much your food choices matter? Not only do they impact your health and sense of well-being, reducing your consumption of meat by half and eventually switching over to a 100% whole food low fat plant based diet, will make a major contribution to your wellness and the planet’s survival as an inhabitable place to live.

I’ll show you why my research, common sense, ethical and spiritual considerations, and environmental power of this lifestyle change are key reasons to eat less or no meat.

In her Paper, “Food Matters How What We Eat Affects Our Health and the Planet” by Roni Neff PhD., Research and Policy Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) states, “Many of the leading public health threats of our day—including climate change, environmental contamination and resource depletion, hunger and malnutrition, and the obesity epidemic—have strong roots in the current food and agriculture system.” "Food Matters"

To expand on this, here’s an excerpt from a report published in 2009 by Worldwatch Institute. Animal agriculture contributes more to greenhouse gases than the global transportation sector—that’s every single car, bus, plane, train, etc. on this earth. It reads, “Livestock currently amounts to 18 percent of the global warming effect—an even larger contribution than the transportation sector worldwide.” The document, by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang is available here:

A report from Florida International University researcher Brian Machovina confirms, "Reducing animal-based product consumption is realistic if we can offer delicious, convenient, plant-based foods that people want to eat." He continues, “Growing crops, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and soy protein would increase the number of food calories available for people by as much as 70 percent on the agricultural lands currently in use. Soybeans contain twice the protein of beef, pork or chicken, and 10 times more protein than whole milk.” Cultivating produce requires less land than what is used to raise livestock. In an article by Evelyn Perez, see what this research mentioned above shows. "Eat less meat, save the planet"

The World Health Organization (WHO) is getting into the act too. In November, 2015, WHO announced that they were classifying processed meat as a carcinogenic and red meat as "possibly carcinogenic," and the amount and frequency of meat consumption today is alarming. 

We need to cut consumption of meat at least to half, as a start. Even if there were no health concerns like the fact that 17% of all commercial cow meat has been injected with growth hormones and even more is laden with pesticide residue, ethical reasons are plentiful. Untold numbers of people are hungry and starving in the world. Terrible conditions for raising animals prevail in commercial farms, with infringement of animal rights, and pollution from industrial factory farms etc. Raising animals for food is distasteful, for moral as well as environmental reasons. Destruction of natural resources like land, water, and soil, and rising greenhouse gas levels result from this type of operation.  Food Democracy Now Blog.

When you eat less meat, your health improves, and you cut down on medical expenses. Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet that is whole food (not processed or fast food) can save you big bucks too.

To conclude, I plant this seed.

 "A reduction in beef and other meat consumption is the most potent single act you can take to halt the destruction of our environment and preserve our natural resources. Our choices do matter. What's healthiest for each of us personally is also healthiest for the life support system of our precious, but wounded planet."

     -- John Robbinsauthor of "Diet for a New America", and President, EarthSave Foundation, Santa Cruz, California
Link to EarthSave

Before you go, please take a moment to comment on my post. Please share what you do to improve your eating habits and efforts you've made or intend to make to reduce your carbon footprint. 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Walk with Me in Tucson

I moved to Tucson from the east coast in 2001 and am thrilled I did! During the winter months of December, January, February, and March, I breathe easy and appreciate not having to shovel snow or walk in slush.

Here in my city, one that's surrounded by majestic mountain ranges, I dash out for a hike or walk in a sweater or light jacket, sweats, and my athletic shoes or hiking boots. I'm good to go.

On one day's hike, here are a few things I saw. This beautiful Palo Verde Tree.

I also saw a saguaro, prickly pear, and basked in the beauty of a perfectly clear blue sky.

On to another day, as I strolled along in Downtown Tucson, I saw this vista. It's a picture that captures one area of the city, showing one section of the Catalina Mountains in the background.

On the third day I saw this humongous figure on the University of Arizona Campus. Isn't it a neat sculpture?

On the fourth day I saw this...

It's a decorative screen gate in front of a residence. I love the scroll work. Tucson is home to many exceptional craftspeople, iron workers, and metal artists. I don't know the name of the artist of this one, but I love it.

No matter where you walk or hike in Tucson, there are interesting or beautiful things to see. Walking is a cheap exercise that can even be thrilling. All you need are a good pair of walking shoes, comfortable clothing, a sunhat and sunglasses, some time, and an adequate supply of water to keep hydrated.

Do you walk outside for exercise, entertainment, to run errands, and/or to learn about new places and things? Please share your comments about that with me below.

Walking is one of my favorite pastimes. Even when I'm grumpy at the start, breathing in fresh air, a change of scene, and mild temps lift my spirit and energize me. 

Walking grounds me to mother earth, gives me a sense that my Higher Power is with me, and introduces me to new sights. Walking also refreshes my perception of places I've visited before.

Walking often calms an overactive mind. 
Walking allows creative juices to flow.
Walking reduces stress and relieves aches and pains from sitting.
Walking briskly gets blood pumping and lungs oxygenated.
Walking without a specific destination in mind is a way to stay present and live in one moment at a time.
Walking outside provides a dose of natural Vitamin D from the sun, and is an element that helps prevent depression and promotes sound sleep.

How often do you walk outdoors and what tricks or tips do you use to get yourself going? At times, I need extra motivation to stop what I'm doing to walk. You know, those sticky times when I'm glued to my seat at my computer, and think I have too much to do and too little time. 

Please comment below with motivational ideas, tips, tricks and comments about walking. How many of you readers have ever visited Tucson and how many of you are locals? Sure would love to know more about you and your willingness to exercise outdoors.

My parting picture is of cowgirl Nancy A, outdoors at Trail Dust Town. What a hoot!

The quotation for today is:

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." Audrey Hepburn. Read more at: brainyquotes

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Broccoli, Why It's a Smart Food Choice For YOU

Broccoli, Why It's a Smart Food Choice For YOU

Stir Fry Ginger Broccoli, Carrots, Red Pepper, on Brown Basmati Rice

Broccoli is a key weapon in the dietary arsenal against serious health issues. This flowery green vegetable boosts the immune system, lowers the incidence of cataracts, supports cardiovascular health, helps with Vitamin D absorption, and contributes to bone health. Case Adams, PhD in Natural Health Sciences explains, “Researchers from Italy have recently determined that broccoli will cut inflammation within hours. And eating broccoli for just ten days will cut the body’s inflammation by more than half.”

Following are shopping tips, preparation ideas, and serving suggestions that make eating broccoli simple, delicious, economical, and nutritionally savvy.

Note: Use organic vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds whenever possible, because organic produce tastes better, is healthier for you, and doesn't pollute the planet.

Shop for broccoli at a farmers' market, health food store, or pick it fresh from your home garden. In fact, learn why growing your own broccoli sprouts (indoors year round)  is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve one’s diet. Biggest-Nutrition-Bang-for-Your-Buck/

On your food shopping run, select fresh broccoli that has dark green, tight, dense florets, or flowers. Leaves and stalk should be firm and fresh-looking too. Flash frozen broccoli is a suitable replacement, when the fresh variety looks yellow or is wilted.

Store broccoli in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator for a few days, but don't wash until ready to use. Broccoli is inexpensive and is available throughout the year in most supermarkets.

The easiest way I've found to clean and prep broccoli is to rinse it in cold water. If broccoli seems sandy, soak in cold water and rinse until clean. Use a sharp paring knife and cut across the head, below the florets. Separate each individual flower into a bite-size piece. Don't discard the stalk and leaves; they are edible. The stalk is rich in fiber and the leaves are rich in nutrients. Cut off the tough bottom part of the stalk and the hard outer covering. Chop in small pieces, as the stalk takes longer to cook than the florets.

Broccoli should retain its bright Kelly green color, even after it is cooked. Quick cooking (steaming) is the healthiest method to use, because it retains the most nutrients. Don't steam for more than 5 minutes tops. If you accidentally overcook broccoli, it tastes strong and bitter. One way to remedy this is to sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of salt or low sodium soy sauce to mask the bitter taste.  

To add a lively dimension to broccoli’s flavor, sprinkle on fresh cut dill, basil, oregano, browned minced garlic, or a seasoning blend that combines a medley of flavors. Add zing to this powerhouse of nutrition, by splashing on a teaspoon of lemon juice or a ½ teaspoon of mild flavored vinegar.

Uncooked broccoli is a crunchy addition to green salads, coleslaw, potato salad, and bean salad. Add raw pieces of broccoli including leaves and stalks to any vegetable salad.

Eat florets, leaves, and stalk of Broccoli

Broccoli is in the same plant family with cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. This green vegetable is a mighty source of folate, vitamin C, calcium, beta carotene, vitamin K and iron. "As little as 10 grams a day or 1/8 cup of chopped broccoli can have a significant effect on reducing your risk for developing cancer," advises Dr. Steven G. Pratt, author of SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life.

Meatless Monday Salad with Broccoli, Black Beans, Quinoa Tabbouleh, and Pumpkin Seeds

Here’s another simple, delicious recipe you'll love. It comes from Saveur Magazine.  Steamed Broccoli with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts.

Note: if you prefer, you can substitute cashews or walnuts. They are more economical and easier to find.

Serve broccoli often, because it makes a great addition to any meal and can be easily incorporated into a stir fry, pasta dish, soup, casserole, or stew. If it’s handled properly and not overcooked, this plant powerhouse will nourish and energize you and make you and your family sing its praises.

The quote for today follows:

 “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  ~Hippocrates

Please take a moment to comment below. Do you eat broccoli often and how do you like to serve it? Did you learn anything new about this superfood? I welcome hearing about your tips and vegan recipes that include broccoli. If you like what you see, please spread the word. Sharing is caring.

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Thanks for Visiting

Hope you enjoyed your visit and will return again. Be well. Live well. Lead a colorful life! Warm regards, Nan