Healthy Habit Thursdays: Give Your Kitchen a Health Makeover

Genre scene, woman in kitchen peeling vegetables

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

What do you think are the dirtiest, most germ-laden areas in your home?

Most people would probably say the bathroom or the kitchen.

Interestingly enough, studies reveal items like your television remote, cell phone and computer keyboard are actually the culprits!

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/08/ten-most-germy-places-in-the-home/

How many of you lifted your fingertips off the keyboard just now? 🙂

No worries…you can easily clean it by turning it upside down and gently shaking to release any crumbs…then wipe with a cotton ball slightly damp with alcohol or special computer cleaning fluid and finish with an antibacterial wipe.  Clean each key…the black ones are dirty even if you can’t see the bacteria. 🙂  For more detailed information: http://www.ehow.com/how_2215315_clean-computer-keyboard.html

Even though some research has put computer keyboards, TV remotes and cell phones at the top of the germ hot-spot list, the kitchen is not far behind.

So what can you do to insure that your kitchen is a safe place to prepare and store food for your family?

Here are 6 simple steps to give your kitchen a Health Makeover!

1.   Always start with freshly washed hands when preparing or serving food…then wash hands, utensils, countertops and cutting boards, especially after touching raw meat or poultry.

2.  Promptly refrigerate leftovers…bacteria can grow at room temperature.

3.  Switch to glass food containers because some plastics contain chemicals that leech into the food.

4.  Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and remove outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage.

5.  Wash off the tops of cans before opening…you never know who or what was crawling on the merchandise in the store warehouse.

6.  Rinse off your can opener after each use…and give it a good wash on a regular basis.

Young children love to help in the kitchen…mixing and measuring give them a sense of competence…one of the building blocks in the formation of a positive self-image.  If you are looking for fantastic fun-filled cooking activities, check out SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING, available right now at half-price on my website. 

Don’t forget, Mother’s Day is coming sooner than you think (May 8th)…why not grab a copy for a special mom or grand-mom in your life.  And maybe one for yourself!  It’s a gift that provides 100’s of fun-filled educational activities…and answers the question…what are we going to do today?

IBS, GERD and CHILD-FRIENDLY CARROT CAKE

Carrot cake in pan

Image via Wikipedia

Have you had to give up many of the foods you LOVE because of medical conditions like GERD or IBS?

Did you resolve to start the New Year eating in a healthier manner?

Are you looking for a nutritious and delicious dessert to serve to your family?

If any of the above applies to you, here is the PERFECT CARROT CAKE recipe.  Easy to prepare and easy on the stomach, this child-friendly recipe is so yummy, you will want to serve it to company…and so high in nutrition, you will not hesitate to serve it to your family.  Check out the ingredients and you will find 4 of the SUPER FOODS recommended by health experts. (I’ve underlined them in the ingredient list)  And, as if that isn’t enough to get you started on this recipe, the preparation is easy-peasy and your kids will enjoy helping you measure and mix.

So, what are you waiting for?

 

PERFECT CARROT CAKE FOR 2011

You will need: 1½ cups unbleached white flour, 1½ tsp baking powder, Âľ tsp baking soda, Âľ cup white sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 egg lightly beaten, ½ cup canola oil, 1 tsp vanilla, zest of one orange, ÂĽ cup brown sugar, 2 cups grated carrots (I use a pound package of peeled baby carrots). Âľ cup pineapple chunks with ÂĽ – ½ cup of the juice (I use pineapple canned in its own juice – no added sugar). 2 large bowls, blender to chop carrots and pineapple, Bundt pan sprayed with canola oil.

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl (a whisk works great) and set aside. 
  2. Mix 1 lightly beaten egg (I substitute egg beaters), canola oil, zest of an orange (you can use a fine hand grater to grate the zest from the orange…and this is one of those items that SHOULD be organic if at all possible as you are using the outer peel), vanilla and brown sugar in another large bowl…I use a wooden spoon.
  3. Chop or grate carrots (I use a blender…you could use a food processor or do it with a hand grater).
  4. If you are using a blender or food processor, add the pineapple chunks and the juice from the can.  If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you could purchase crushed pineapple in a can instead of the chunks.  You can blend or food process to a fairly smooth consistency or you can leave the carrots and pineapple in a more chopped state…your choice.
  5. Add the carrot/pineapple to the bowl with the egg mixture and mix well.
  6. Add this mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix gently until well-mixed.
  7. Pour into the lightly greased Bundt pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  9. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

10. When cool, turn over onto a dinner-sized plate.

11. I cover the cake with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge.  It can keep for about a week…but it won’t last that long. J

The great thing about this recipe is that it is very forgiving…a little more or a little less of any of the ingredients and the cake still turns out GREAT.  In fact, I once realized I didn’t have any pineapple AFTER I had started making the cake.  I substituted applesauce and it was delicious.  Another time I found that I had run out of baking powder…I added a little more baking soda and the cake still looked and tasted wonderful.  I’d love to know if you try this recipe…let me know how it turned out!

Super Foods for a Super You in 2011

This image shows a display of healthy foods on...

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Next time you are shopping in your local supermarket, think about putting some of these super foods in your cart.  Each one on the list provides important health benefits for you and your family. 

  1. Apples
  2. Avocado
  3. Beans
  4. Broccoli
  5. Carrots
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Dark Chocolate
  8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  9. Garlic
  10. Honey
  11. Kiwi Fruit
  12. Low Fat Yogurt
  13. Oats
  14. Onions
  15. Oranges
  16. Pineapple
  17. Pomegranates
  18. Pumpkin
  19. Soy
  20. Spinach
  21. Tea
  22. Tomatoes
  23. Turkey
  24. Walnuts
  25. Wild Salmon

If some of these foods are unfamiliar, why not resolve to try a new food every week.  There are many online recipe sites you can go to: http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Main.aspx and http://www.foodnetwork.com/ are two excellent sites to start at.  Your local library probably has a wonderful selection of cookbooks that you can borrow for free.  Of course, there are some people who just LOVE cookbooks (like me and my sister) and enjoy collecting them because we love seeing how many ways there are to make a particular dish.   If reading this makes you smile in recognition, a trip to new and used bookstores, as well as garage or tag sales can result in finding a cookbook treasure.

How about a dinner menu that’s beautiful to look at, delicious to taste, and contains several of the super foods…so you know it will be bursting with health benefits for you and your family.  Let your children help you prepare the meal and you will reap several other benefits: fussy eaters often eat what they have helped prepare and children gain confidence and develop competence when they master kitchen tasks and skills.

 GRILLED SALMON WITH ORANGE SLICES

You will need: 1 lb salmon fillet, 1 Tb olive oil, 1 Tb dried dill (you can substitute basil or thyme), 1 Tb honey, 1 orange

  • Wash the salmon fillet and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Mix the olive oil, honey and dill in small bowl and brush some on the salmon, reserving the rest for basting.
  • Heat the grill and place the fillet, skin side up, on the grill.
  • Grill on low for 5 minutes, turn and baste with the oil/honey/dill sauce.
  • Grill an additional 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  • Slice the orange and use it to garnish each serving of salmon.

This should feed 4 people…add some steamed broccoli and multigrain rolls for a Super Food Extravaganza!

Tomorrow…some more reasons to serve your family Super Foods…and the best Carrot Cake recipe ever!

5 Simple Steps to a Happier, Healthier 2011

5 Simple Steps to a Happier, Healthier 2011

The great thing about the New Year is that it gives us the opportunity to make a fresh start…in just about anything!  I know that at the end of every December, I sit down, look back over my progress (or lack of it) and make a list of resolutions that I hope will help me do better.  Many people don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions…but they work for me.  We can make broad, sweeping resolutions like EAT HEALTHIER…and we can make more specific resolutions such as I WILL STOP EATING BEFORE I FEEL FULL.

“To insure good health, eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness and maintain an interest in life.” William Londen

So here are my 5 simple steps to a happier, healthier 2011.

  1. Eat Lightly: many of us eat too much of the wrong things…nutritionists recommend eating 6 small meals a day instead of 3 big ones.  In addition, make every meal count by using more fresh foods instead of highly processed ones.  Should you buy organic?  Yes, if you can.  The most important foods to buy organic are meat (including beef, pork and poultry), milk (and other dairy products), eggs, peaches, nectarines,, apples, bell peppers, celery, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, pears, potatoes, coffee, and baby foods and juices.  If you are a parent, you are probably the one who decides what to buy and what to serve.  For 2011, I am going to resolve to buy organic when I purchase the above items.
  2. Breathe Deeply: I know it’s hard to find the time to exercise, especially when you work, take care of a home and family and have lots of other things that take your time and energy.  However, moving at least 30 minutes a day will provide great health benefits…and make you feel more positive.  Resolve to be more healthy and more positive for your children and for yourself.  Dance while you clean the house or take a walk while listening to great music.  Get together with a friend and exercise together with a new tape in your living room if you don’t have the time or money to go to a gym.  In addition, take time every day to meditate…even if it is just for 5 minutes.  It will refresh and renew your spirit.  For 2011, I am going to resolve to walk a mile twice a week, do my 30 minute low impact aerobic exercises four times a week and meditate 5 minutes EVERY day.
  3. Live Moderately: This rule applies to all aspects of our lives…eating, drinking, sleeping, surfing the Internet. J  I think if people would get enough rest…and eat, drink, exercise and pursue all other activities in moderation, the soaring medical costs in this country would decline.  The cells in our bodies repair themselves during restful sleep…and people tend to gain weight if they are sleep deprived.  For 2011, I am going to resolve to do less computer work so that I can get to bed at a reasonable hour so that I can sleep the required 7-8 hours.  
  4. Cultivate Cheerfulness:  Doesn’t it lift your spirits when someone greets you cheerfully, in a store, on the street or on the phone?  Thinking and acting cheerfully does have a positive effect…on EVERYONE!  Cultivating cheerfulness does not mean ignoring problems or pretending that everything is rosy when it is not.  If something is troubling you, please share it with someone who cares about you.  Set in motion steps that will change the situation.  If it is a situation that can’t be changed, join a support group or ask for help.  For 2011, I am going to resolve to let others know how much I appreciate their help and encouragement.
  5. Maintain An Interest In Life:  Isn’t it amazing when we see elderly people who get college degrees after they have retired from a life-long career?  Or middle-school children who raise money for the children in a village that is situated thousands of miles from where they live? How can you maintain an interest in life?  Read a book about something you always wanted to find out about, volunteer in a local school or hospital, reach outside your normal routine to help someone…the possibilities are endless.  For 2011, I am going to resolve to reach out and volunteer in our local schools by reading stories and doing craft projects with the Pre-K and kindergarten classes.

So there you have it…my 5 simple steps to a happier healthier 2011. 

Are you making New Year’s resolutions this year?  I’d love to hear them if you are!

Happy Holidays to All and may the coming Year bring Peace to at least some parts of the World!

How to Eat Healthy This Holiday Season

This is a diagram depicting the rise of overwe...

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We’re coming into that dangerous season of overeating, oversnacking and going overboard when it comes to what we put in our mouths.  As parents, not only should we oversee what our children are eating…we should also try to be good role models.  I actually LOVE junk food…and work really hard to keep most of it out of the house because I know that if it is easily available, it will be eaten by me.   There are a few suggestions I have that work for me…I hope they work for you also.

  • Plan your weekly menus ahead of time…when we get busy as most of us are, failing to plan in this area is almost guaranteed to equal planning to fail.  Fast-food, take-out or frozen TV dinners may have their place on occasion…but if you put aside 30 minutes a week to plan some basic well-balanced meals, your family will be eating more healthfully most of the time.  This also allows you to maximize on weekly specials at your local stores.  And, it gives you more time for other things…like time to read a book or take a bubble bath.
  • Choose one morning or one afternoon or one evening a week to turn on your oven and use it to prepare casseroles, a roast chicken, baked potatoes, healthy cookies/cakes/muffins.  If you are able to put aside several hours on one day for this task, the rest of the week will be a breeze.  Refrigerate or freeze what you have prepared and you will have healthy, ready-made meals for most of the week.
  • Include your family in the planning and preparing…picky or fussy eaters often eat what they help prepare.  Children LOVE helping in the kitchen…it builds their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Think about portions…I truly believe that the large, super-sized meals that many of us eat, at home and in restaurants, are one of the largest contributing factors of childhood obesity.  Just because the cereal bowl can hold 2 or 3 cups of cereal doesn’t mean we should fill it to the top…if you read the portion size on the box of cereal, you’ll see it says 1/2 to 1 cup, depending on the type of cereal.  Dinner plates are really large…maybe you can use smaller plates when serving.
  • Remember to keep hydrated…I know that when I get busy, I forget to drink enough water…and then I think I am hungry and eat a couple of cookies, at 100 calories each, when what my body really wants is a glass of water.  With NO calories!  Also, try to nix the soda…full of empty calories and not much else except a college education for your dentist’s children.
  • Plan to have healthy snacks ready for hungry children and yourself between meals like carrot sticks and humus or apple slices and almond butter.  Again, if we don’t plan ahead, we will probably grab the first thing we see…and that might be cookies or chips.
  • If it works with your schedule, try eating 6 smaller meals, instead of the traditional 3.  When we are REALLY hungry, we tend to eat more than we should because we eat quickly and our internal hunger regulator doesn’t have time to kick in to tell us we are full.  And, on the subject of full, try to stop eating BEFORE you feel full…if you feel full, you’ve had too much.  This always happens to me when I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet…and I am never a happy camper afterwards.
  • Make sure you do allow yourself and your family some special food treats that are part of your holiday traditions or customs…denying oneself EVERYTHING we love is a sure way to feel deprived…and that often leads to overeating, oversnacking and going overboard.  I actually have a small ice-cream (made with fat-free frozen yogurt, a handful of homemade granola and a few almonds) every night after dinner.  I look forward to it and enjoy it immensely…it is my reward to myself for a good day’s work…and, so far, I haven’t had to hide the scale.

3 top creative snacks for your child’s lunchbox

Sometimes as parents we have to be magicians in order to insure that our children pull out healthy snacks from their lunch boxes.  Whether your child goes to a daycare or preschool facility or is home with you, it’s important that he be eating healthy, nutritious foods…both at mealtimes and for snacks.

If the facility provides the snacks and meals, it’s crucial to find out what is being served.  And, if you are not happy, please don’t hesitate to make suggestions and, if necessary, band together with other parents to work towards upgrading the menus and ingredients used.

On the other hand, if you are providing the food that fills the breakfast plate, lunchbox and dinner table, you are in total control of what your child is eating.  This can be a daunting task…but it is wonderful because you can pick and choose the best ingredients and most healthful recipes.

Our children look forward to snacks…we can help fight the current trends of increased child-obesity, dental decay and juvenile diabetes by making those snacks high in nutrition and fiber and low in sugar and fat.

Here are three top creative snacks for your child’s lunchbox.  You and your child can spend some quality time together, making these simple, delicious and healthful treats.

I. PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

You will need: 1/4 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter), 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup non-fat dried milk powder, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, a large bowl and a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

  1. Mix the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until well-blended.  Then roll into small balls (about 1 tablespoon each).
  2. Roll the balls in shredded coconut and place on cookie sheet.
  3. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Place uneaten balls in a cover container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week (although they won’t remain uneaten for that long).
  5. This recipe makes about one dozen balls.  You can double or quadruple the recipe quite easily.  To go in your child’s lunchbox: wrap one or two balls in waxed paper and then put in a small sandwich baggie.

II. LION’S CANDY

You will need: 1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter), 1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup instant dry milk, 1 Tb honey, 1/2 cup finely chopped raisins (or dates or other dried fruit), 1/2 tsp cocoa (optional) and a large bowl.

  1. Blend together nut butter and ground sunflower seeds.
  2. Stir in dry milk, honey and dried fruit.  Mix well (with hands, if necessary).
  3. If the mixture is too dry, add some liquid milk; if too wet, add more dry milk.
  4. Form into teaspoon-sized balls.  If desired, roll in cocoa powder.
  5. Makes about 2 dozen balls.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  To send in your child’s lunchbox, wrap 1 or 2 balls in waxed paper and put in a small sandwich baggie.

III. RAINBOW VEGGIE STICKS WITH NUTTY DIP

You will need: Assortment of colorful vegetables such as green and red peppers, carrots, zucchini and celery (use your imagination), 1/2 cup almonds (or other nuts), blender or food processor, small container and a large container.

  1. Wash the vegetables and cut in sticks.
  2. Grind the nuts.  Add a little olive oil or canola oil if the dip is too dry.
  3. Store the cut vegetables in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  4. Store the nut butter in a small covered container in the refrigerator.
  5. To send in your child’s lunchbox, put an assortment of the rainbow-colored vegetable sticks in a small sandwich baggie and put a tablespoon of the nut butter in a small covered container.

Chef Ann Cooper, director of nutritional services at Berkeley Unified School District and co-author of Lunch Lessons, has great ideas about our children’s nutrition and offers tips on how to improve it: www.thelunchbox.org. 

You can also find more information about healthy living and nutritious eating at: www.betternutrition.com and www.deliciousliving.com.

How to keep your house clean and green

You are probably going through your child’s clothes right now, weeding out the items that have been outgrown.  Perhaps we can apply that same  concept to our cleaning supply shelf.  Haven’t we outgrown the toxic-to-our-children-and-the planet, chemical-laden glass cleaners, bathroom scrubs and dusting sprays.  I looked in my cleaning supply cabinet the other day and I was horrified to find cans and bottles of cleaning supplies that I don’t use anymore (having gone “cleaning green” a while back), but had not gotten around to trashing.  And throwing this stuff out is a whole other issue…you can’t (or shouldn’t) just dump these items in the garbage.  Many communities have drop off locations or special dates where residents can bring these toxic supplies for safe removal – I wonder if there is any safe way to dispose of some of this stuff.

Cleaning green is not difficult – and in addition to being so much better for your family’s health and the planet’s survival, it is also CHEAPER!  White vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice…the triumverate of being green and clean!

Here are a few simple “recipes” for some basic cleaning solutions:

  • GLASS/HARD SURFACE CLEANER: Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar with a gallon of water.  Soak your cloth, ring it out and wipe surfaces.  Dry with a clean cloth.
  • FABRIC SOFTENER: Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to final rinse cycle of your washing machine.
  • DUSTING MAGIC: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 tsp olive oil in a clean glass jar or spray bottle.  Apply a little to your dusting cloth and wipe down your wooden furniture.
  • ALL-PURPOSE CLEANSER: Mix 1/2 cup pure soap (such as Castile), 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 gallon hot water for dishes, countertops, floors and walls.
  • BATHROOM TUB AND TILE CLEANER: Combine 1 part water and 3 parts baking soda for an awesome grout and soap scum cleaner.

Now, I’m not saying you should leave these cleaning supplies around for your preschooler to play with.  However, unless your child drinks the bucket of all-purpose cleanser or sprays the dusting magic solution in his eyes, you will be able to rest a lot easier as your house shines and you, your family and the planet take a breath of less polluted air.  One person can make a difference.  Why not get started?

Please post comments with your own green cleaning solutions.