Category Archives: Health

MagicKitchen.com: The Ultimate Holiday Stress Reliever.

Let’s begin this post by discussing the primary causes of stress for most people during the upcoming holiday season.  After researching these causes on numerous and varied sites on the internet machine, from women’s magazines (apparently, men do not suffer from holiday induced stress as none of the articles I read were located on men’s magazine sites) to health sites, I think I can sum them up in one word…”too.”  That one short word that is often confused with its even shorter homophonic buddy, “to,” was the most common word I encountered during my virtual travels.

When Americans are asked why they feel increased levels of stress during the period from Halloween through New Year’s Day, invariably, the word “too” is used multiple times in their responses.  Too much shopping to do, too much travel, I spend too much money, too many parties, too much entertaining, too much cooking, too much work, too much time with family, stores are too crowded, I eat and drink too much, I’m too exhausted, I’m too hungover, I gain too much weight, my expectations are too high…you get the point.  Well, we here at MagicKitchen.com have a way to keep your stress at a manageable level.

For those of you out there who claim the holidays involve too much shopping, too much entertaining and too much cooking, let us take the all those “toos” out of your world (for some reason, spell check wanted to change “toos” into “toes” and that would totally change the meaning, don’t you think?).  MagicKitchen.com allows you to shop for your holiday meals from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas while enjoying your favorite latte (and avoid those crowds at the mall and grocery store that are way too big.) Simply peruse our special Thanksgiving meal section or visit our a la carte or complete meal menus and make your selections for whatever holiday shindig (how, exactly, is “shindig” a synonym for “party?” The English language is weird.) you’re hosting or attending.

Our certified chefs will then do all the cooking for you using the freshest ingredients…so much for too much cooking.  Next, your meal will be flash frozen to lock in freshness and taste, packed in dry ice and then delivered right to your door.  Imagine, an entire meal of a whole turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, veggies and desert delivered to your front door…one less thing to be stressed out about.

All that’s required of you is to then place our (now your) delicious food in your freezer until the big day and then simply heat it up and serve it to your guests…no mess, no stress.  You have now freed up time in your busy holiday schedule to spend as you desire.  We would suggest you use that time to relax, binge watch your favorite show (Stranger Things seems to be the series du jour right now), spend time with family, learn a new language (ok, that might be a stretch), get outside, grab a movie, tell your friends about MagicKitchen.com (see how I slipped that in there?), read, or engage in your favorite stress reliever.  So there you go, we’ve just removed a couple “toos” from your holidays.

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10 Foods That are High in Iron

Iron is a healthy part of a balanced diet.  Iron helps to move oxygen around the body,  and plays a part in muscle function and building DNA. Of course, for women of a certain age, making sure we get enough iron is important.

Most of us think we get iron from red meat, and that’s true, but it’s not the only source.  Here are some other sources for those of us who aren’t crazy about eating meat.

Keep in mind- plant based iron is harder for the body to absorb. Vitamin C helps that process, so eating a plant high in vitamin C at the same time will aid in absorption.

 

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Avoid it Like the Plague…Fast Food that is

Yeah, I know, we’re all pressed for time in our hectic, supersonic lives.  We’ve got work, hobbies, kids to chauffeur around, Netflix series to watch and two world leaders caught up in a middle school insult fight to monitor.  Who has time to cook?  And look, the place with the giant burger, or golden arches, or cute red-headed girl, or bucket of chicken out front has a drive-thru!  What could be more convenient?

People seem to think that eating fast food is inevitable for the harried and harassed American. There are, in fact, viable, healthy alternatives if you just plan ahead and are willing to spend a few extra minutes in pursuit of fewer calories, less fat and more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Since this post deals with those alternatives, I won’t overwhelm you with caloric fast food horror stories.  If you’re interested in the nutritional info for various fats…oops, I mean fast food chains, they all now provide it online.  Now, on to those fast food alternatives previously mentioned.

  • Fast casual dining at places that offer numerous healthy alternatives such as Panera Bread, Chipotle and Pei Wei Asian Diner. All three offer wholesome, non-GMO ingredients in their salads, soups, and entrees and ordering and receiving your food takes about as long as a backed-up fast food drive thru.  Heck, go nuts and actually sit down with family and friends and enjoy both a healthy meal and healthy conversation.
  • The supermarket prepared foods area/deli. Enter any large grocery store, find their prepared foods area, buffet, deli, smorgasbord, or whatever that particular store calls it and prepare to be amazed at the selection.  Most offer fresh salads, soups, sandwiches, cooked veggies, and grilled meats and fish.  Hell, the one by my house even offers sushi!  You’re sure to find healthy foods that are enjoyed by every/all members of your family.  Just load up the prepared packaging, check out, drive home, serve and enjoy.  Gives new meaning to the notion of fast food.
  • Purchased or home made frozen meals. Yes, of course MagicKitchen.com can help out immensely here.  Have an especially hectic week coming up?  With a little pre-planning you can have a wide selection of nutritious and delicious frozen entrees, sides and desserts chillin’ in your freezer to be used whenever needed.  And as I’m sure you already know, we here at MagicKitchen.com offer dishes that meet just about any nutritional need, from diabetic friendly to gluten free.  Of course, you could prepare, cook and freeze your own dishes, but who has time for that?  I mean, really.
  • Breakfast smoothies. Just ensure that each one has good carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat (of the unsaturated variety).  One of my favorites includes fresh berries, a few leafy greens, almond milk and butter, pea protein, rolled oats and just a smidge of cinnamon and ginger.  Voilá!  Breakfast is served.
  • Pack your own. Get an insulated lunch satchel and a few refreezeable (is that a word?) ice packs and you’re ready to take your healthy foods on the road.  And if you have access to a magical microwave machine, you’ve just expanded your food options exponentially.
  • Local farmer’s markets. Aside from locally grown veggies, many farmer’s markets now include prepared dishes, such as pasta, salads, soups and breads and cheeses.  Check out one near you and see what they have to offer.  You can grab some beets, kale, spaghetti squash and a prepared dinner all at one stop.

So the next time you or someone in your orbit is seduced by the sights and smells of a fast food joint, resist the urge and get yourself to one of the alternatives listed above as fast as humanly possible.  How many times it takes to break the fast food addiction varies by individual, but like any addiction, once it’s defeated you’re a better person for it.  Stay strong!

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What Are Your Kids in College Eating?

What Are Your Kids in College Eating? Couch pizza, convenience store chili dogs, and every kind of fast food imaginable, such as fried chicken that’s more “fried” than chicken, roast beef sandwiches with enough beef to choke a starving tiger, and 1,000 calorie milk shakes…that’s the most likely answer.

But wait!  There’s more.  A recent survey found the most common dorm foods included: instant Ramen noodles, candy, instant mac & cheese, cereal, chips and microwave popcorn…and that doesn’t even include the beverages consumed like soda, those ubiquitous energy drinks and potent potables (I’m a huge Jeopardy! Fan…I’m geeky that way).

Needless to say, the above paragraph does not convey an image of nutritious eating.  But let’s take a closer look at the nutritional content of some of the above- mentioned items.

Ramen Noodles: Each package of this dried soup stock and noodles contains about, depending upon your delicious flavor selection, 380 calories, 7 grams of fat, 790 milligrams of sodium (or 33% of your recommended daily allowance), 26 grams of carbs and two flavor enhancers known as disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.  On the bright side it does contain 8% of your rda of iron.

Microwave popcorn: A standard bag of inflatable popcorn…sidebar (I was pre-law in college for a month): remember jiffy pop and watching that silver foil magically expand on your stove top, in the era before microwaves, as the popcorn, well, popped?…and then being heartbroken when you realized it was burned?  Good times.  Anyway, a bag of nukeable popcorn has roughly 465 calories, 26 grams of fat (or 40% of your rda and some bags contain trans fat which is terrible for you), 665 milligrams of sodium (28% of your rda), and 50 grams of carbs.  The positive: 342 milligrams of potassium, 9 grams of fiber (it is corn, alter all) and 10% of your rda for iron.

Arby’s Classic Roast Beef Sandwich: Yeah, this place has the meat alright.  I decided to list the “classic” rather than the ginormous Half Pound Beef and Cheddar or the Mount Italy Sandwich to be kind.  So, this average-sized sandwich has 370 calories, 14 grams of fat (to include 5 grams of saturated fat and .5 gram of trans fat), 50 milligrams of cholesterol, and a whopping 1,150 milligrams of sodium.  And if you’re looking for protein, this is for you as it contains 23 grams.

Three pieces of KFC original recipe chicken: Ok, I’ve got to admit that this one even surprised me and I tend to pride myself about knowing nutritional information.  One breast, thigh, and drumstick combines for 800 calories, 48 grams of fat, a massive 275 grams of cholesterol (92% of your rda), and an even more massive 2,530 milligrams of sodium (or 105% of your rda).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the items listed above are the nutritional items they lack.  Where are the vitamins and minerals?  Where are the antioxidants?  Where are the things that grow on trees, vines or in the ground?  You know where you can get those things for your nutritionally starved college student?  Yeah, you saw this one coming…MagicKitchen.com of course.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids in college ate healthy once a week or so?  Damn straight, it would be nice, for them and you!  And the food is so good, they’d totally forget that it’s good for them as well.  As always, we’ll deliver to just about any address, be it a dorm, apartment, frat, sorority or commune.   After all, a parent’s job never ends, even after they leave the nest.

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12 Foods that are High in Potassium

If you’re having leg cramps, people will say, “Eat a banana!”. Why? Bananas are widely thought to have a lot of potassium, and leg cramps can come from a lack of that mineral. Leg cramps can come from a variety of sources, including dehydration, overuse of muscles, magnesium deficiency, abnormal nerve activity, sudden loss of blood to the muscle, or, as with most things, getting older.  (Tendons tend to shorten with age, which can cause nighttime cramping.)

So the wisdom of eating a banana for cramps is suspect. However, potassium is a very important mineral. It regulates heart electrical activity and controls fluid balances in the body. And yes, it regulates muscle electrical activity as well.

Know what foods have the most potassium is also important to those who have diabetes or kidney disease. People with diabetes often have decreased kidney function, and can’t excrete potassium as we normally do. So people with diabetes and/or kidney disease need to eat foods that are NOT high in potassium.

So what 12 foods are highest in that important mineral? Here they are, with mg of potassium per serving.

 

 

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Senior Rules for a Safe and Happy Summer

Of course, the seniors to which I refer in the title are those of the “well-aged” variety rather than those who are about to enter their last year of high school or college.  As discussed in too much detail in my last post, summer in the northern hemisphere begins in the wee hours of the morning on June 21 and it is, by all accounts, the most joyous of seasons for most.  However, summer can pose a few heat-related dangers, especially for seniors.

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating body temperature.  That’s why many older people tend to enjoy being in a warmer climate than younger folks.  As anecdotal evidence, I refer you, once again, to Seinfeld.  In episode three of season three (“The Pen”), Elaine is forced to beg Jerry’s elderly parents to turn on the air conditioning in their Florida condo as the previous night she complained to Jerry, “I’m sweating here.  I’m in bed…sweating.”

The next day, Jerry’s mom relents, but isn’t even sure she knows how to work the air conditioning.  As a result of this lessened ability to regulate temperature, many seniors fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and/or heat exhaustion.  So here are a few tips to keep in mind as the mercury (I figure most people reading this post can remember mercury thermometers) begins to rise this summer.

  • Use the frickin’ air conditioning if you have it. Electric bill be damned.  If you don’t have A/C, then on extremely hot and humid days go someplace that has it and isn’t afraid to crank it.  It matters not where you go…a friend’s place, the mall, a museum, the movies, a library are all good choices.  You’ll be amazed what a few hours out of the heat can do for your overworked body.
  • Avoid too much time in the sun especially if you’re engaged in strenuous activity like yard work or exercise. And if you’re just lounging in the glorious sun, don’t forget to slather on plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 759, or those cool, box-like sunglasses that offer UV protection.
  • Get the heat out of a hot kitchen, or if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen…choose whatever cliché you like, just avoid cooking on hot days and simply pop a delicious meal from MagicKitchen.com into the microwave machine which generates no heat at all. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to keep a few MagicKitchen.com meals in your freezer for those scorchers that you know are coming if they haven’t arrived already.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate BEFORE you get thirsty, because if you wait until the thirst arrives, you’re already dehydrated. And try to avoid “hydrating’ with alcohol or caffeinated drinks as they work as diuretics and serve to hasten dehydration.
  • Don’t just drink cool water, get in some, whether it’s a cool bath, shower, lake, pool, ocean, river…whatever. The cool water will help cool your blood which circulates throughout your body.  Another quick cooling off method is to run cold water over the inside of your wrists.  This area has a large number of blood vessels that run close to the surface and that cold water will cool all that blood as it circulates through your body.
  • Communicate often with friends and family to let them know you’re doing fine and staying cool on hot days. Use whatever method you, and they, are comfortable with, telephone, cell phone, Twitter, Snapchat…you get that idea.
  • Watch the humidity level. I’ve heard Arizona is hot, but it’s a dry heat.  That, however, is not the case in many places within our country.  High humidity levels are dangerous to us due to the fact that it causes our body’s cooling mechanism, sweating, not to work effectively.  The reason we perspire is to send liquid to the surface so that it can evaporate, thus, cooling our bodies.  When it’s excessively humid, that sweat on our skin’s surface doesn’t evaporate due to the high-water content in the atmosphere.  As a result, our bodies work harder to try and stay cool, placing more stress on our bodies, primarily on the heart.  So when the humidity’s up, keep your activity level down.

I’m not implying that you should cloister yourself in an air conditioned room for the entire summer.  I’m just giving you the same warning that Sergeant Esterhaus gave his officers after briefings on Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

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Foods that are Low in Carbs

A low carb diet is a good lifestyle choice. Studies show it is a healthy way to lose weight, and for many it is a great way to keep weight off. Diet and exercise together are the best way to keep yourself fit and ward off disease. Here are many low carb food choices you can make.

 

Most low-carb diets suggest limiting carbohydrate intake to between 50 to 150 grams per day, depending on the diet. Most low carb diets for weight loss start with extremely low carbohydrate intake,  in the range of 20-25 grams per day. That lasts for a couple of weeks, then rises to 60 to 90 grams per day for continued weight loss.

Things to be aware of with low carb diets

Especially if you are used to eating a lot of high-carb items and sugary foods. Your body will crave them like crazy for the first three weeks or so. Your body is going into a state called ketosis, which starts to use your fat for energy. This can cause bad breath, so stock up on sugar-and-carb-free mints.

You may experience… how can we put it delicately… trouble with your digestive tract. Drink lots of water. Lots and lots of water.

If your body is used to a lot of carbs, you may experience something called the “Keto flu”. You might feel fatigued, and have muscle weakness. It will go away within a week or so.

If you do eat a lot of carbs and sweets, it will be easier on your body and will power to do a pre-diet slowdown. Start eating fewer carbs every day for a week or so, to get your body used to fewer carbs. Then the first two weeks won’t be potentially painful.

We wish you luck on your low carb lifestyle. For many people, it’s the key to taking weight off and keeping it off!

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Home Safety Tips for Seniors

It’s just a fact of life: as we age we become less, shall we say…agile, nimble, sprightly, dexterous…choose any synonym for quick and spry you like, we simply don’t move the way we used to.  We also develop certain ailments that require certain medications and if we continue to live independently as we reach our “senior” years, certain accommodations must be made to these simple facts of life.  As I continually tell my kids, “Getting old generally sucks, but you can make some minor adjustments to make it suck less.”

Let’s just accept the fact that accommodations must be made for our continued seniorly independence and those accommodations must be made for the sake of safety.  Given that the number one cause of injuries among seniors is from falls (falls are also the number one cause of fatal injuries), the following tips will focus on how to avoid them.  Simply stated, do whatever you need to do to avoid falls within and without your home. The other area of concern for seniors is that of medicine and ensuring that they take the proper amount…think Goldilocks here, neither too much nor too little, but the proper amount.

Tips to “fall-proof” your home

  • Add rails and grab bars where needed. The two main problem areas here are stairs and the bathroom.  Yes, this will probably require the assistance of either a contractor or someone with carpentry skills, but isn’t your safety worth it?  Along stairways, both interior and exterior, handrails should line both sides and both should be used, especially when descending.  In the bathroom, rails should be added in and around the tub/shower and around the toilet to prevent slipping and to assist with sitting and standing.
  • Remove excess clutter throughout the home. “Clutter,” in this instance, refers to anything that could be a tripping hazard and can include shoes (while not on your feet), magazines, pet toys, books, clothes, and trash in any form.  “Everything has a place and there’s a place for everything,” as my dad is still fond of telling me when I leave one of his tools in a place other than where it’s supposed to be.  It’s simple.  Keep your floors free from junk and you’ll greatly improve your odds of staying upright.
  • Watch those throw rugs and floor surfaces. Ensure that all rugs are properly secured to the floor to prevent them slipping from underfoot and avoid the use of slippery cleaning solutions on hardwood and tile floors.
  • Install non-slip surfaces in the tub and/or shower. Actually, this rule applies to people of all ages, not just seniors.  Water, soap/shampoo and a slick, smooth surface is a recipe for disaster, seriously.  It matters not whether you use simple non-slip strips or cute little fishies and duckies, just put them in place.
  • Light dark/dim places, inside and out. It really, really, really, really, helps if you can see where you’re walking…really.  Replace burned out or dim bulbs throughout your home and add additional lighting if there’s any question regarding proper illumination.  Oh yeah, leave some lights on during the night, especially in the bathroom.
  • Consider wearing a medical alert system with fall detection. Some come GPS equipped to ensure fallen seniors are quickly located and they are relatively inexpensive, usually under $50.

A few more safety tips

  • Create and use a system for your meds. There’s an app(lication) for that.  If you’re comfortable using a smart phone, download a medication reminder app.  It’s the next best thing to a nagging spouse.  Or use a pill box, or a pocket calendar, or link taking your meds to a daily activity (wake up, teeth brushing, eating), or use your friends and family members.  Also, keep an up-to-date list of your current meds, to include name, dosage, number of refills, and strength.
  • If you haven’t already, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home. And change the batteries every time you alter the clocks for daylight savings time.
  • Eat well and stay hydrated. MagicKitchen.com can sure help you here.  As we’ve discussed in previous posts, as we age our nutritional needs change.  Ensure you’re getting the RDA of all essential vitamins and minerals through eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins.  As for hydration, there’s a simple test to determine if you’re properly hydrated.  If you’re urine is clear, you’re good, if it’s eye-blinding neon yellow, you’re dehydrated and need some liquid.

Getting old doesn’t necessarily mean you must give up your independence.  However, there’s no doubt that our bodies change as we age and some accommodations must be made due to this fact…so don’t be a “stubborn old codger,” as my mom likes to call my dad, and make them!

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Common Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

It seems that many people believe that some sort of special diet with exotic foods is required to “eat healthy.”  We go out of our way to locate and drive to so called specialty stores to find strange foods that we discovered in some online article that extolls the nutritional virtues of these foods we can’t pronounce (like spirulina, harissa and cupuaca).

And, often times, we pay exorbitant amounts of money to purchase these foods when we could gain the same health benefits from far more common and less expensive alternatives.  Since you seem skeptical, here are five examples of foods found in every local grocery store that offer numerous health benefits.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes – There isn’t a more common food than tomatoes, is there?  These semi-round spheres of fruity goodness (yes, they are considered a fruit) are chock full of nutritional nutritioness that provide numerous health benefits.  They contain all four major antioxidants (alpha and beta carotene, lutein and lycopene) which are concentrated in their peels and provide them with their rich red color.  Studies have found that the regular consumption of tomatoes can reduce the risk of stroke and prostrate and pancreatic cancers due to the presence of these antioxidants.

Raisins – Also known as concentrated grapes, raisins possess plenty of B vitamins, iron, potassium, carbs and fiber.  Dietary iron is primarily used by our bodies to transport oxygen, via red blood cells, to our various muscles and brain.  It also supports our immune system, aids with metabolism and assists in the building of amino acids.  The potassium in raisins has been shown to lower blood pressure by limiting the effects of sodium.  Its fiber, half of which is soluble fiber, helps to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.  And while the reputation of carbohydrates has recently been drug through the mud, they are very necessary for energy and many endurance athletes (yours truly included) substitute raisins for sport gels in order to avoid processed sugars.

Grapefruit – This low-cal, high nutrient fruit contains plenty of vitamins C and A, fiber, and the antioxidants beta-carotene, lycopene and flavanones.  Studies suggest that these nutrients reduce blood pressure, LDL (or bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  They also provide a boost to our immune systems, stabilize our blood sugar levels and prevent insulin resistance whereby our cells stop responding to insulin which can lead to type 2 diabetes.  The fiber contained within grapefruit can also provide appetite control as it slows the rate at which our stomachs empty which causes us to feel full for longer periods of time.

Yogurt – One of the key elements contained within yogurt are probiotics or “friendly” bacteria that improves our digestive health and can help with constipation, diarrhea (side note: I could never spell “diarrhea” without spell check) and inflammatory bowel disease.  Yogurt also naturally contains plenty of calcium and many manufacturers add vitamin D, both of which are necessary for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.  Finally, yogurt also contains plenty of protein that assists with muscle recovery and creation.  One last piece of advice: use plain yogurt and add natural flavoring, such as berries and other fruit as many manufacturers add tons of unnecessary sugar, even the one with the “fruit on the bottom.”

Ginger – The Asian spice, not the British Spice…Girl (you knew I couldn’t go a whole post without a lame joke).  And yes, I realize that ginger is somewhat exotic as it originates from Asia, but its been here for centuries and its been used for medicinal purposes in Asia and India for longer than that.  The active ingredient in ginger is a volatile oil known, appropriately, as gingerol.  It is why, when we were children and had an upset stomach, our moms gave us ginger ale, which, for me, was a very rare treat and almost made vomiting worth it (side note II: ginger ale came from the practice of British pubs placing out bowls of ground ginger for the patorns to sprinkle in their beers).  Gingerol, it seems, eliminates excess gas within our digestive tracts and eases symptoms associated with motion sickness, such as dizziness and nausea.  Gingerol is also an anti-inflammatory which can lessen the pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as improve mobility in the affected areas.

So, next time you’re contemplating a trip to a specialty grocery store for some durian or chayote, check yourself before you wreck yourself and stop by the local shop for a few tomatoes, grapefruit, boxes of raisins, some plain yogurt and ground ginger.  Your body will thank you for it.

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