New Year: Eat Healthy

Basically, eating clean is about sticking to whole foods that come from nature, and are as close to their natural form as possible. There are so many dramatic benefits to eating food this way: more energy, natural weight loss and glowing health. It will be easy to understand where the “you are what you eat” cliche comes from when what you’re eating is so good for you.

Deciding to Eat Clean can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to! We have a few simple tips and rules to live by when making changes in your diet to foods that are clean and simple.

Stop eating processed foods

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One of the easiest changes you can make is replacing processed meals and snacks with natural, minimally processed options. If you commit to sticking to this idea, you will find your cravings change and you’ll actually prefer natural snacks and meals. There are plenty of easy options for snacks, and you can find some ideas here! It’s also important to allow yourself to indulge in your very favorites (kettle chips anyone?!) every once in awhile (and do not feel guilty!) – it’s the easiest way to keep you from throwing in the towel because you feel like you never get to have anything “bad”.

Eat more produce

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If you feel like you’re going to feel limited on snacks without crackers and chips, remember that fruits and veggies are great to keep you feeling fuller longer. If you’re not in the habit of snacking on produce, you may find you will have to re-train your taste buds. Eventually you won’t even want that bag of chips mid-day!

Keep an eye on your salt intake

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By eliminating processed foods, you’re automatically going to reduce the amount of sodium in your foods. Make sure you’re always aware of the sodium content, and even keep your own use of salt to a minimum to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and more.

Watch out for added sugars

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Processed foods have added sugars that you may not even consider, like in breads and yogurts. The natural sugars from fruit should be your main source of sugar. Be sure to check labels and avoid added sugars as much as you can (although sometimes you just HAVE to have a cookie – again, indulge occasionally.)

Read labels, read labels, read labels

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Always check the labels for high amounts of sodium, sugar and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Low calorie content isn’t always the most important information on those labels. For more information on HOW to read labels, check this out.

Try to commit to challenging yourself to eating as clean as possible for a couple of weeks or more and see how your tastes/preferences change!

blog post_eating clean 05    For some easy recipes, tips, grocery lists and more, check out our Clean Eating board on Pinterest. Follow us for more healthy inspirations while you’re there.

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New Year: Save Money!

Who doesn’t want to save money? Taking small steps here and there can really add up, so let’s take a look at how you can save money every time you eat! That’s at least three opportunities every day to keep a little extra cash in your stash!

Buy in bulk. If you belong to a warehouse style club or have a grocery store that carries bulk items, it will cost more up front, but will save you more money in the long term usage. The key here is to buy what you know you will use, and once you get home …

Pre-portion your groceries. You certainly won’t use all 10 pounds of meat, 6 pints of berries, and 4 loaves of whole grain bread at once, so break it up into usable portions. Keep what you need for that week in the refrigerator or pantry, and freeze the other divided portions for later use.

Wrap with care. When freezing your bulk groceries, be sure to properly wrap and package them to protect against freezer burn, or risk throwing it away because it won’t taste good. Be sure to use a zip top bag made for freezers because they are thicker than other ones. On the bag, include the contents and date that it was frozen so there’s no guessing what’s inside.

Dining out. Everyone enjoys dining out from time to time, but the portions are often so large that there are leftovers. Consider ordering an appetizer or two instead to provide a variety and smaller portions, or share one entrée between two people. This can also help trim the waistline in addition to fattening up your pocketbook!

Portion size matters. Whether you’re dining out or eating at home, knowing how much food you should eat can help you save you money AND slim down. Most Americans eat more than they should, so find out how much you should be eating and buy food based on your needs, and to avoid waste. (Check out our blog on our favorite nutrition apps by clicking here to see which one best fits your needs).

Buy fresh. Fresh fruits and vegetables are tasty, nutrient dense, and more affordable than their processed counterparts. Instead of buying dried fruits or vegetables, eat them fresh and in their natural state. This also cuts down on added sugar intake, which contributes to better overall health.

Prepare for the week. Pack your food (lunch, snacks, or whatever you need) for your work day. Preparation is key, but if you can spend just a little bit of time, let’s say on Sunday for example, to make some healthy food choices and package it so you have it ready to go throughout the week (or at least part of the week, then repeat), you’ll cut down on your expenses of dining out or paying for pricey vending machine snacks. The added benefit is that if you prepare the food, you know exactly what’s in it! Just don’t forget to pack in a reusable lunch bag/box to cut down on any additional waste, and even better is if the food contents are packed in the same manner! #reduce #reuse #recycle

Water is good, but disposable is not. Staying hydrated is essential to get you through the day for all body processes, so be sure to carry a bottle with you … just make it a reusable glass, stainless steel or washable plastic bottle that you can refill instead of buying single use plastic water bottles from your store. Not only will this help you save money, but it will also help save the planet by limiting the amount of plastic bottles in our recycle centers and landfills.

Nutritional supplements. If you consume a diet that is complete and meets your daily intake needs, especially through whole, nutritious foods, you should already be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need and can skip most nutritional supplements. Cha-ching on saving money here!

If you use a budget tracker of some sort, whether it’s a checkbook, expense spreadsheet, or any type of accounting software, start tracking your food expenses to see how much you can save. And remember, every little bit counts, so start now to save big!

New Year: Get Organized!

Getting (and staying) organized doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and instead, once you’ve put things in their place, you’ll have such a sense of accomplishment and be ready to tackle what’s next! Let’s take a look at the kitchen – the meeting place of the entire house, the hub for so many activities, and probably the first and last place you visit every day.

 

So where do you get started? One step at a time, even if that means it takes a day or two to get everything done. Before you begin, think about how you use your kitchen and keep similar items together, like small appliances, pots and pans, specialty cookware, dish towels with potholders, etc. Cookware should be closest to the stove, then preparation items like mixing bowls and casserole dishes nearby, and place your serving ware, utensils and glassware to the outer most part of the kitchen since that’s the last part of meal service and easy for anyone to quickly grab without causing congestion in the kitchen. If you have time, consider pulling out everything from your cabinets and drawers, grab a stack of sticky notes and pen and write down each category, then post the note on the appropriate place where you think it belongs. This way you can quickly move the note around until it’s just right, then fill up the space! Anything you have extras of, consider donating them, or if you’re so inclined to organize the rest of your house, have a garage sale!

 

Here are some pointers on each section of the kitchen that are easy to follow and help maximize your space.

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Cabinets:

  • How many mixing bowls do you really need? In all likelihood, probably not more than four in various sizes unless, of course, you’re a baker, so start by reducing the amount of extras you have. The same applies for multiple pots and pans if you don’t use them.
  • Consider departing with mismatched and random cups that have a tendency to quickly accumulate.
  • Nest (stack) anything that will fit inside each other to free up more space, and use a thin liner or paper towel between non-stick cookware or any breakable item.
  • If it’s a specialty item, like a gravy boat, cake plateau or specialty platters that you only use a few times a year, place those at the very top of your cabinets to free up space for items you use more often.
  • Storage containers seem to hog a lot of space and lids often going missing like the elusive sock does in laundry. Pare down to just what you tend to use and any remaining storage containers will come in handy in the pantry (see below). If you have leftover lids with no match, throw them away or recycle them if your city permits disposal of the number imprinted on the plastic.
  • Find spices easier by arranging them in alphabetical order and place them on small “steps” that make it easy to see them all!
  • Get a small step ladder to allow you to more easily access hard to reach cabinet space.

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Drawers:

  • Utensil storage with multiple slots is a must. Look for ones that are adjustable so you can fit as much in it as neatly as you can. Also, if you have service for eight or more, each slot may be able to accommodate them neatly in one compartment if you ying-yang the flatware instead of stacking them all on top of each other, which can cause them to topple over.
  • If you have specialty flatware you only use for special occasions, store that in a hutch (or maybe one of the high shelves in your cabinets) so that frees up your much needed real estate.
  • It seems like everyone has a “junk drawer” that is a catch-all for everything from pens to coupons, chip clips to keys, and business cards to nails and screws that you meant to hang that picture with, but couldn’t remember where you put the nail, so you bought new ones. Sort through all of this and put things back in their rightful home, which will free up some space, then use another utensil storage container or small, shallow bins to put similar items in.

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Refrigerator & Freezer:

  • Most of us have a plethora of condiments that are only partially used, and for some reason these bottles and jars continue to grow and take over our door shelves, and maybe even encroach onto the main shelves. It’s something we all face, so go through each one to check the expiration date. If it’s expired, throw it away, unless it’s a glass jar, then consider reusing it in the pantry (see below). Next, try to be resourceful and use what condiments remain in your cooking whenever possible, and only buy more once you run out.
  • The freezer is much like the junk drawer – it’s a catch all for leftovers and grocery deals that were too hard to pass up like the buy one, get 11 free bags of corn. Great, now we have a dozen of something we may never use in our lifetime, and once we do get around it, provided that we can find it buried amongst the value priced meat, it too, is expired. Just like the condiments, check the expiration date and throw out anything past its prime. The same thing goes for anything you can visibly see is freezer burnt, which will not taste good and has lost its initial quality. It’s a good practice to vacuum seal food, or at least put in a zip top or air tight container and label it directly on the bag, or write on a piece of masking tape and stick to the container. The information should indicate the contents and date it was packaged and frozen. Most items, when properly packaged and sealed, will last about six months.
  • As both of these get cleaned out and more room is made, there will be improved cold air circulation throughout and you may be able to turn its thermostat up a degree or two since it’s not working as hard to keep everything cold, which can save a little bit of money throughout the year!

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Pantry:

  • Much like the rest of the kitchen, you’ll want to address the pantry by grouping like items together (oils, canned and boxed items by type of food, grains, cereals, chips, etc.) in order to quickly find what you need, and then place the most commonly used items at eye level then move down the shelves. All other items that are infrequently used or are excess from the cabinets should be stored at the top. Don’t forget your step ladder!
  • If you ever buy items in bulk, such as oatmeal, rice, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, etc., you can repurpose your storage containers and your empty and cleaned condiment jars and put these types of items in there, which makes it easy to see the contents and make you more inclined to use them. A label maker is great for this project by identifying the contents, which helps keep things clean and tidy!

 

Many retailers have all kinds of items for organizing your stuff, and there are even specialty stores that feature nothing but organizational tools, so once you have a plan in place, visit one of these wonderlands of orderliness and discover what will help you maintain your newfound organization!

 

Being organized helps you move more fluidly throughout your day, offers a sense of calm and order, and also allows you to be more efficient with your time. Now what do you say about tackling the garage? Maybe next weekend.

 

Our Favorite Health Apps

Many of us make a resolution to lose weight and/or stay healthy. We have some great apps (that we love!) that can help you stay on track, as well as keep things interesting and fresh. Check them out!


lose it Lose It!

Join the millions of people who have lost weight using Lose It!. As the most successful comprehensive weight loss program, Lose It! makes it easy to choose how you want to lose weight. We give you all the tools you need to track food and exercise, plan meals, and stay motivated to make smarter choices and achieve your goal. Lose It! is weight loss that fits™.

More in-depth information available on their website.

Available for download on the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play.


ingredient 1 Ingredient1

Do you know what is in your food? Ingredient1 is your personal food shopper, empowering you to discover, locate and share food tailored to you.

Explore the grocery store before you go – escape boring food routines – see the ingredients and nutritional information for the largest collection of natural, organic and specialty products before they are in your hand!

Create your FoodID and only see products tailored to your dietary needs, allergies, and flavors you love!

More in-depth information available on their website.

Available for download on the Apple iTunes Store.


foodkeeper USDA FoodKeeper

The FoodKeeper can help consumers use food while at peak quality and reduce waste. The storage times listed are intended as useful guidelines and are not hard-and-fast rules. Some foods may deteriorate more quickly while others may last longer than the times suggested. The times will vary depending on the growing conditions, harvesting techniques, manufacturing processes, transportation and distribution conditions, nature of the food, and storage temperatures. Remember to buy foods in reasonable quantities and rotate the products in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.

Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because consumers are not sure of its quality or safety. Food waste from households represents about 44% of all food waste generated in the U.S. By reducing food waste through buying appropriate quantities, storing foods properly, cooking what is needed and composting, consumers can save money and reduce the amount of food going to landfills.

More in-depth information available here.

Available for download on the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play.


Do you have a favorite app you use for staying healthy?