Is Your Salad Good or Bad?

Salads are often thought of as something bland and boring you have to eat when you’re on a diet. Fast food restaurants have cashed in on this mindset by offering taste-tempting salads that are anything but boring. Unfortunately, they’re also anything but diet friendly, as many of these creations pack more fat and calories than some of the burger and french fry combinations.

But this doesn’t mean that all salads are either boring or diet busters. With the right ingredients, a salad can make a delicious, healthy meal that hits all the right food groups.

Greens are good, but some are better
Of course, having lettuce as a base for your salad is nothing new. But other dark leafy vegetables, such as kale, chard and spinach, would be perfect for a healthy salad. They have lots of flavor and are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Fat – the bad

Where a good salad often goes wrong is when it’s covered in store-bought dressing, deep-fried croutons or chicken that has been breaded, fried or saturated with a high-fat sauce. This is the type of salad you often find at fast food or chain restaurants. However, most places do have healthier options that contain mainly fresh vegetables and lean grilled or broiled meats. Just be sure to steer clear of creamy dressings made from unhealthy oils and chemicals, or skip the dressing altogether.

Fat – the good

What’s surprising to most people is that not all fats are bad. We actually need high-quality fats to help our bodies absorb certain nutrients. These can be added to your salad in the form of eggs, avocados, coconut or olive oil, and other similar ingredients.

Make your own

The easiest way to make sure you’re getting the most nutrition out of your salad is to make it yourself. It’s also the best way to make sure your salad will be a flavorful meal that you’ll really enjoy. Try experimenting with different combinations of all your favorite fresh vegetables and lean proteins. Just be sure to choose organic vegetables and grass-fed proteins to avoid adding pesticides or other toxic chemicals to your healthy meal.

Dress it up

Dressings are often used to add flavor to salads that may not be all that fresh or are lacking quality ingredients. But salads made from fresh and flavorful organic ingredients are often more delicious without added dressings. If you feel the need to add a little something to top of your salad, try mixing up your own dressing using fresh organic herbs and spices with a little olive or coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.

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Prepare to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

We hear it all the time. Everyone should eat more fruits and vegetables. In fact, the Center for Disease Control suggests that eating a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables could lower the risk of certain diseases. So why is it that we often reach for a sugary snack or other high-calorie foods when we’re in a hurry and hunger strikes?

More often than not, it comes down to convenience. You try to eat healthy, but when you’re crunched for time it just seems easier to grab a granola bar (which are often high in fat and sugar) or rip open a bag of chips.

Busy shouldn’t mean unhealthy

It doesn’t help that today’s food manufacturers are well-aware of our busy lifestyles. They cash in on our need for eating on the go by selling bite-sized snack foods in individual-serving sized packages. While this sounds great, it makes us far more likely to keep a few packs of high-sodium cheese crackers or miniature sandwich cookies in our gym bags, instead of a banana or an apple.

While there are some companies that offer pre-cut fruits or veggies, they are often much more expensive than buying the whole fruit and may even contain preservatives to keep them fresher longer.

Fortunately, with a little preparation, eating more fruits and vegetables isn’t that difficult, and it can even be less costly than some of those pre-packaged snacks.

A better plan

The key is to plan ahead. Yes, you will need to spend a little time in the kitchen, but it is well worth the effort and will quickly become part of your regular routine.

Start by heading to the produce section of your favorite grocery store or a nearby farmers’ market. Take a look around to see what types of fruits and vegetables they offer, and be sure to look for any special sales they may be having. Buying featured sale items or produce that’s in season is a great way to keep your costs down and will also help you add variety to your diet, as the sale items are likely to change each week.

Another way to keep costs down is to only buy as much as you think you will eat within a few days to a week. Because fresh produce doesn’t contain any preservatives, it doesn’t have as long of a shelf life as most pre-packaged snacks.

Take stock to avoid waste

Once you get your items home, take a quick inventory of your purchase and make a plan for how/when you’ll be eating each item. If you just throw everything in the fridge, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be throwing it all in the garbage next week. But don’t worry, putting a plan together is simple.

For breakfast, fresh blueberries can be used for your morning cereal without much prep work at all. Just wash and store them in the fridge and grab a handful each morning.

For lunch, instead of having those single-serve bags of chips with your sandwich, cut green peppers into wedges or slice carrots into sticks and pack them in sandwich bags. They’ll stay fresh in the fridge for the work week, so you can just grab a bag or two when you pack your lunch.

For dinner or an evening snack, slice a pineapple into cubes and store it in a container in the fridge. They’ll go great with your favorite rice dish, or put some on a skewer if you’ll be firing up the grill. They also make a great evening snack when you feel like something sweet but want to keep it healthy.

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Grow at Home

With people becoming increasingly intent on living a healthy lifestyle, there is a growing trend of individuals starting their own vegetable garden. A container vegetable garden is one of the best choices for garden lovers who want to grow some fresh vegetables during the summer but may have little yard space or simply don’t need a large garden area to grow a few fresh vegetables during the summer. If you want to enjoy some fresh vegetables and don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it, one of the easiest ways is to grow a container vegetable garden. Container vegetable gardens are becoming more and more popular. It is a great way to know exactly where and how your vegetables are grown.

Here are 6 easy steps to get your garden started:

  1. Collect containers. You need large enough containers to provide adequate soil to the roots of growing vegetables (a well cleaned 10 gallon paint bucket works great). Stay away from metal containers or dark coloured pots, they will attract too much heat and the roots of the vegetables will cook.

    Purchase enough potting soil to fill the container. It is more efficient to purchase potting soil rather than using dirt from the yard. Potting soil already has the correct PH adjusted for growing plants and allows for plants to breathe because it doesn’t compact down. Add in some slow release fertilizer into the soil too to help your plants continue to flourish and grow.

  2. Decide on the plants you want to grow. The best potting vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, lettuce, onions, green pole beans, broccoli and many more. Talk to your local garden store staff for their recommendations.
  3. Make sure to provide adequate drainage. Be sure to make some holes in the bottom of your container to allow for drainage of the soil while your plants are growing. Without this, your plants will develop root rot and end up dying.
  4. Pick the right location. Most vegetables require full sun for at least six hours a day. You will need to locate your vegetable container in a suitably warm, sunny position. But remember, you need a good mix. Too much sun and heat can also be bad. Consider colder spots, shady areas and cooler temperature too. Many vegetables do not like the cold, especially frost. Bring them indoors on cold nights or cover them with garden fleece.
  5. Now it is time to plant. Fill your container with soil, almost up to the top. Leave approximately 2 to 3 inches from the rim. Dig out 1 to 3 holes into the soil in which to plant your chosen plants. After planting, fill with soil and tamp down around the roots to provide stability. Water the new garden well.

Be sure to check your plants every day to see if they need water. As they grow, they will require more and more hydration to thrive.

Vegetable container gardening can bring joy and bounty. The simple pleasure of biting into a tomato still warm from the sun, picked and eaten on the spot, is almost unbeatable. You can grow just about any vegetable in a container garden and you can also save some serious bucks by growing your own vegetable container gardens. Whatever your reason for growing a container garden, it will be an enjoyable, tasty experience.

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Lose Weight with Seasonal Vegetables

Most research shows that eating fresh vegetables is much better than eating canned or frozen ones. This is because they are fresh and therefore, still retain most of their ‘goodness’. Seasonal vegetables are also cheaper than other vegetables, which means you can stay healthy and lose weight on a budget.  It can be more of a challenge to find familiar vegetables in winter, but I’ll list below some of the best seasonal vegetables for this time of year and ways to prepare/use them.

Let’s start with the good old brussel sprout. Love them or hate them, these are going to make a big appearance this time of year. They are packed full of goodness and flavor. They taste particularly divine when boiled. If you find their flavor too strong, coat in a tiny bit of pancetta, rosemary and crumbled chestnuts. Smear them in a tiny bit of butter in order to allow the mixture to stick.

White cabbage is another favorite for this time of year. You can use white cabbage in a soup or a pie.

Both leeks and potatoes will have hit their peek around this time. There are many dishes that incorporate leeks, potatoes or both. A leek and potato pie is always a good bet! Remember to eat your potatoes in moderation since they are high in carbohydrates. Avoid frying as this adds to their calorie content – boil or bake them instead.

One of the vegetables which seems to hit its peak around this time of year but gets very little attention is kale. Try incorporating kale into your diet for the high amount of vitamins and minerals it provides. It may take a bit of effort to find good kale recipes, but trust me, it is worth it. You might also go to your local Whole Foods market  and look in their produce section for bagged “kale salad”.  It’s already put together with shredded carrots!

Finally, carrots and cauliflower are found in abundance this time of year, and can be combined to make a tasty vegetable stew or vegetable curry. Rich in goodness as well!

As you can see, there are a lot of seasonal vegetables to choose from to help you lose weight. All of them taste fantastic, and all of them will make a great side dish to whatever food you are eating.

The best way to lose weight is to combine a diet high in fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains with regular CONSISTENT exercise.  If you need a little push on the exercise part, consider signing up for a one-week free trial at a lifeSport Fitness boot camp in San Jose, Los Gatos or Campbell!


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