Category Archives: Health

It’s Spring, Get Outside: 8 Outdoor Activities for Seniors

Have you noticed that the heat is coming on less and less in your home?  If not, just look at your last heating bill.  And in our world of cause and effect, the cause is increased outdoor temperatures and the effect SHOULD be increased outdoor activities on your part.  Outdoor activity is the panacea for cabin fever and you don’t even need to fill a prescription.

Look, I’m sure you’re aware about the benefits of regular physical activity, but what about the benefits of regular “outdoor” physical activity?  Humans have an innate connection and attraction to nature which is referred to as biophilia and too many of us attempt to resist that connection.  Yet another fact: less than 3% of America’s senior population attains the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, and that can have dangerous consequences.

Some of the benefits of outdoor activity are more obvious than others, such as increased exposure to sunlight which exposes us to vitamin D which improves brain, bone and muscle functions (just beware of overexposure…as with everything else, moderation is best).

However, studies have also shown that regular outdoor activity improves our health and well-being and improves our physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.  So, keeping all this in mind, here are eight outdoor activities we all should do more of:

  1. Tai Chi – Before you think I’m getting all “Karate Kid” on you, let me explain. Yes, tai chi began as a defensive martial art, but it has since evolved into a balletic activity of continuous, gentle movements.  It’s different from yoga in that with yoga you hold a pose (sleeping dog) for a short period of time, while with tai chi, you’re in continuous motion, albeit, at a slow pace.  Locate a “tai chi in the park” group in your area, or simply access the internet machine, learn the basics and head to your backyard.
  1. Search for gold — …with a metal detector. And no, it doesn’t have to be on a beach.  Grab your metal detector and head to the local park or historical site and you’ll be amazed at the objects that are lying around out there.  Here’s am interesting article that offers examples of successful treasure hunts and can help get you started: https://www.wired.com/2011/08/treasure-hunters/
  1. Picnics – Grab your basket, blanket, chicken salad sandwiches, your favorite companions and locate an out-of-the-way picnic spot, preferably on a level, grassy area near a babbling brook. Just ensure that getting to that spot requires some walking to get there.  You’ll be amazed how relaxing this activity is and how the conversation flows when you’re away from a screen.
  1. Yard games – Hit the backyard or park for a rousing round of horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet or badminton. These games are perfect for bringing out the competitor in all of us and can be a great way to reconnect with friends and/or family members.  Side note: I understand the safety aspect, but I truly miss “Jarts,” the yard game that involved plastic circles and metal tipped lawn darts…just sayin’.
  1. Be a tourist – even in your own hometown. Go on a historical walking tour, visit the zoo or botanical gardens or downtown area or local, state, or national parks or Civil War battlefields or any other outdoor place that interests you.
  1. Bird watch – Yeah, I know, I used this one in my fall outdoor activities post, but it’s perhaps even more relevant in the spring as birds become more active as they prepare to bring the next generation of our avian friends into the world. The few birders I know are extremely passionate about their hobby and tend to record just about every aspect of their sightings, to include the species (of course), and when, where, and under what weather conditions the sighting occurred.  This is one of those hobbies that permits various levels of immersion, but its seems to have some addictive qualities, and, in this instance, that’s not a bad thing.
  1. Gardening This activity is perfect for the spring for obvious reasons and there’s nothing more satisfying than eating delicious and healthy food you planted and cultivated yourself. And if you live in an apartment or senior community that does not offer space for this activity, move…just kidding.  There are many places that rent small plots for a nominal fee.
  1. Stroll through a local farmer’s, flea or craft markets – The larger the better. Heck, this one doesn’t even seem like an outdoor exercise, but it most certainly is.  Remember, all that’s required to reap the benefits is getting outside and slightly raising your heart and breathing rate for a moderate period of time, and wandering through a massive flea market in search of hidden treasures certainly qualifies.

One last note, try to do these activities with a group of friends or family members and do so on a regular schedule.  Also, use the group to coerce (or shame) each other to get out there and find that Baltimore Oriole, or practice tai chi like Anne Hathaway and Robert de Niro in “The Intern,” or go in search of lost jewelry, or weed the garden, or watch the handlers feed the elephants, or whack that shuttlecock around, or pack that picnic basket.  Hell, just get outside and be active.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Kale, Avocado and Chia Seeds are Out: The Top Ten Superfoods of 2017

In case you haven’t heard, 2016 superfoods are, like, so last year.  We’re well into 2017 and it’s time to update your superfood list and we here at MagicKitchen.com are here to help.

Through exhaustive and laborious research (don’t think I’ve ever done anything exhaustively and/or laboriously in my life) we’ve compiled a list of the ten most popular superfoods for 2017.  Some we’re sure you’ve heard of before (watermelon seeds) and some, while having been around for all of eternity, are just having their nutritional values “discovered” (sumac, maringa & the alien sounding sacha inchi nuts).

Remember, this is just a superficial description of each, for more information, simply “Google” each one.  And without further ado, here they are:

  1. Watermelon seeds – These things are on just about every superfood site I visited during my laborious and exhaustive research and each site claimed they will not sprout and grow in your tummy if eaten. They do, however, provide mad nutritional benefits if eaten only after they sprout (outside your stomach) and are shelled prior to being eaten.  Not to worry, you don’t have to do that yourself as they can be purchased that way.  As for their nutritional benefits, they offer ten grams of protein per ounce, and are chock full of vitamin B, magnesium and both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  1. Raw cacao nibs – A synonym for “nibs” would be bits or pieces. Just think of this as chocolate without all the other stuff, especially sugar.  Raw cacao contains numerous flavonoids which serve as an anti-inflammatory and support both the cardiovascular and nervous systems.  Flavonoids also provide many fruits and veggies with their rich colors, such as the vibrant red of raspberries.  Other nutrients contained within cacao include magnesium and riboflavin.
  1. Buckwheat – No, not the lovable character from Our Gang/The Little Rascals that Eddie Murphy immortalized in Saturday Night Live skits from the 1980s, but the gluten-free flour substitute used to make pancakes, among other things. Buckwheat (there’s actually no wheat in buckwheat.  It’s a fruit seed.) is a great source of vegetarian protein, dietary fiber, and manganese.  It’s also been shown to help control blood sugar levels and protect against heart disease.
  1. Purple Vegetables – And not just eggplants and beets, but corn, carrots, and asparagus too. Why?  Well, it goes back to those antioxidants called flavonoids that provide these veggies with their color that the musician Prince (RIP) most certainly ate in large amounts.  These flavonoids help lower the risk of high blood pressure, reduce inflammation and support brain health and since they’re also rich in vitamin A they support eye health as well.
  1. Chaga mushrooms – Usually found in dried or powder form, chaga isn’t a true mushroom, but a fungus that grows on birch trees…before you gross out, remember, all mushrooms are, technically, a fungus. Derived from the Russian word for “mushroom,” chaga contains over 200 phytonutrients and flavonoids that support the immune system.  Other nutrients contained in chaga (which is often used to make tea or coffee) are B and D vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and pantothenic acid.

  1. Sacha inchi nuts – AKA Incan peanuts as they’re found in the Peruvian highlands. These plant seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins A and E.  These nutrients have been shown to control blood glucose levels, lower LDL cholesterol levels and support brain and heart health.

 

  1. Jackfruit – As opposed to a jackass (sorry, couldn’t resist). The tropical, starchy, fibrous jackfruit is the largest fruit on the globe.  A single jackfruit can weigh in at more than 100 pounds.  It can be used by vegetarians, or even carnivores and omnivores for that matter, as a meat substitute (Mmmmm, jackfruit steak).  It tends to absorb the flavor of what it’s cooked with and provides its consumer with various flavonoids, protein, potassium, fiber, vitamins B and A, and iron.
  1. Maringa – The tiny leaves of the maringa tree, native to India but also found in Africa, Asia and South and Central America, are showing up in smoothies all over the Western world and with good reason. They are a very nutrient dense source of vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, protein, potassium and antioxidants that combat stress causing free radicals within the body.
  1. Sumac – This Middle Eastern spice (not the “poison” version we deal with in the U.S.) has a tart and salty taste and has been found to be stuffed full of antioxidants and serves as a great salt substitute as well. These free radical neutralizing, anti-inflammatory antioxidants also promote heart health. Many simply sprinkle the red powder on their salads, pasta or rice, but others use it to flavor their meat and fish as well.
  1. Black Currants – The tart berry, not a dark running river or stream of electricity…get it?…were once thought to spread a fungus that killed pine trees (that’s not the case). They’re most often used in jams, jellies, juices, and health drinks and contain what all the other foods on this list do…antioxidants, but they also possess vitamins C, A and E, gamma-linolenic acid, and anthocyanins.  These nutrients help support healthy immune and cardiovascular systems.

So, after writing this, I immediately made and consumed a purple carrot, black currant, maringa, sumac, buckwheat, raw cacao, sacha inchi nut, watermelon seed, chaga mushroom, and jackfruit smoothie and soon after developed the combined superpowers of the Hulk, Spiderman and Wonder Woman.  Individual results may vary.

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March is National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month is upon us yet, again. Yes, March is here already. It seems like yesterday I was just reminiscing about great foods for Fall. At that point, I was taken back to when I was a kid and all the unhealthy things we would eat. When I was little, it didn’t matter if it wasn’t good for me. I just wanted it to taste good. Food from the county fair, Halloween, and football never seemed to be healthy. Funnell cakes, chocolate candy in my Halloween bag, and chili dogs were all yummy. They certainly weren’t pictured on the Food Pyramid.

I have to admit that the chili dogs weren’t just something I’d get only during football season. There was this great little family run country store out by my grandparent’s house. We’d go there as a treat and order a chili dog, fries, and a soda. The drinks were in glass bottles, right inside a frosty cooler. The sounds of deep fat fryers and the POP! of a refrigerated cooler door can take me back to those moments in an instant. I didn’t care how many calories and fat I was ingesting on those days. Nutrition? Who cared? It’s a different story these days.

Why was it ok then? Probably two reasons. First, we only ate like that a couple of times a year, and sodas were treats we’d get maybe once a week. Two, as kids we were way more active, out on the streets until sundown, playing and running around. But that can cause problems later in life, when we get more sedentary and still eat the same bad things. So learning good nutrition young is the focus.

Nutrition is thought of as the way food is brought in and turned into energy for the body. We seem to do all we can and discover ways to either stay healthy or get that way. Exercise and having an optimal body weight are key components to being healthy. The essence of this year’s National Month of Nutrition is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”, focusing on the fact that we are ultimately responsible for our own nutritional needs and we have the tools necessary to achieve optimal nutrition.

One of the best tools out there these days are premade meal delivery services. My favorite is Magickitchen.com. They have a large variety of meals for all types of nutritional needs. It doesn’t matter if you are focusing on just eating healthier or if you need special meals for medical purposes such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or renal dietary needs. They do all the cooking for you. The main tools you will need are an oven and microwave.

What is on your plate these days? The USDA has a great look at the history of what they have suggested to fill your plate since 1916 ( https://www.choosemyplate.gov/brief-history-usda-food-guides).

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This Valentine’s Day, Start Taking Care of Your Heart

This Valentine’s Day, Start Taking Care of Your Heart

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far…wait, that’s another story…humans believed that the heart was the center of all our emotions.  This had to do with the fact that the heart, more-or- less, is in the center of our bodies and that all roads, or blood vessels, seemed to lead there.

Since many considered love to be the strongest emotion of them all (come on, who among us hasn’t done something stupid due to love?), the heart began to be written about as the seat of love…see: ”I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest.” – Beatrice to Benedict in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for just one example.

Since then, we’ve become more enlightened as to the true function of the heart, perhaps as a result of the Enlightenment…perhaps not.  It serves one vitally important purpose and one purpose only, to pump oxygenated blood to all our muscles and organs and it does this by beating an incredible 115,000 times every day!  Since your heart health is a matter of life or death, perhaps we should take better care of it and here are five tips to do just that.

  1. Quit or don’t start smoking. The chemicals found in commercial tobacco products damage your heart and blood vessels by causing a narrowing of the arteries due to plaque build up.  This restricts the flow of that oxygenated blood to all those muscles and organs.  Smoking also causes carbon monoxide to force out some of the oxygen in your blood.  Both effects increase your blood pressure and cause your heart to work harder to  deliver the necessary amount of oxygen to your body.
  1. Get moving. No surprise here, regular aerobic exercise (defined as at least 30 minutes most days of the week) is good for your heart and helps control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight.  I seem to remember some physics law from high school that said something about bodies at rest tend to stay at rest…yada, yada, yada.  So just apply that rule to your body as well.  It’s tough to get that sedentary body of yours (mine too) up and moving, but once you do, it’s easy to keep it moving for at least 30 minutes…I think that rule has a second part about bodies in motion tend to stay in motion.  I’ll Google it later.
  1. Maintain a heart healthy diet. No surprise here either…fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fiber, lean meats and fish, these are some of your heart’s favorite things.  Salt, sugar (especially processed), trans and saturated fats, these are NOT some of your heart’s favorite things.  One way to avoid these things is to read food labels on a regular basis and learn the recommended daily allowances.  For example, vegetable juice, what most consider to be a healthy drink, can have up to 700 milligrams of salt per 8 ounces.  The FDA recommends we consume no more than 2,300 mgs of salt per day.  Read those labels!
  1. Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Those who do not have higher risks of obesity, heart attack, diabetes, and depression.  I can remember when my kids were cute little babies and not the crazed tweens they are now, my wife and I made sleep a priority in their lives (model parents, right?  Probably not).  Come hell or high water, they went to sleep at the same time every night.  No late night, drunken parties for them, ever.  If you’re not getting that 7-9 hours every night, you might want to reconsider your priorities.  Just sayin’…a phrase my adorable tweeners keep repeating.
  1. Stay or get social. Ok, this one is a bit of a surprise.  Numerous studies have linked loneliness to depression and physical health problems.  One Swedish study conducted by Ikea (I jest, of course) followed 17,000 people and found that the ones with the fewest number of social contacts had a 50% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.  So what’s going on here?  Medical and psychological professionals believe that friends and family serve as stress relievers, which helps control your blood pressure, which is good for your heart as well.

Interested in reading more?  Here’s MagicKitchen.com’s link to other articles that deal with maintaining good heart health: http://www.magickitchen.com/news/heart.html

 

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February is American Heart Month

It was 1964 when Lyndon B. Johnson established the month of February as the official American Heart Month. Medicine has come a long way since that decision was made. Doctors were making the connection between heart disease and contributing factors such as high cholesterol, smoking, and not living an active lifestyle.

These days, medical professionals recommend exercise, a healthy diet, and medication to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. There are still too many people suffering from heart disease. The traditions to raise awareness remain firmly in place. Although it’s been 53 years since LBJ initiated the American Heart Month, some individuals aren’t aware of how to support the cause. The following list provides excellent ways to show support for heart health.

  • Wear Red – The National Wear Red Day® for 2017 is Friday, February 3rd. This day is dedicated to raising awareness for heart health in women. An astounding 1 out of 3 deaths in women are a result of stroke or heart disease. Wearing red on February 3rd will signify your support for the women with heart disease and stroke.
  • Donate, Donate, Donate – One of the best ways to contribute to the fight for a healthy heart is by donating. There isn’t just one place to help fund the cause. There are actually several. National Wear Red Day® has a site set up to “funraise”.

    The American Heart Association® provides two ways to give and three different types of gifts. You can make a donation on the Donate Heart Getting the kids involved is also a great way. Jump Rope for Heart is actually sponsored by the American Heart Association®. Encourage your child’s school to take part. Information on how to be a heart hero is located on the Jump Rope for Heart site.

  • Education – Learning all you can about heart health should be a priority. Starting with your diet is ideal. Look for healthy recipes and meal plans. Magickitchen.com provides low fat and low sodium meals that are not only heart healthy, but delicious as well. Discover the signs and symptoms of heart disease and how to reduce the risks. Ask your doctor for more information or visit the American Heart Association®.
  • Take Action – Taking action in your life to prevent stroke and heart disease is one of the best gifts to give yourself and loved ones this February. Work with a nutritionist for ways to improve your eating habits. Implement an exercise program to get that heart pumping.

    Giving blood also improves your heart health, which isn’t a well-known fact. When you donate blood, you reduce the excess iron in your blood and it promotes healthy blood flow. The American Red Cross is in need of blood. Now is a great time to help not only the recipient of your blood, but also your heart.

  • Spread the Word – Since you’ve decided to be an advocate of healthy hearts, how should you spread the word? Talk to your friends and family. Get them in on the fun. Use your social media accounts. Tweet about it and use the #AmericanHeartMonth hashtag. Send ecards to your friends and family that promote the cause and have fun with it! Visit You’re the Cure for more ways to take action for healthy hearts.

Too many lives have been taken due to stroke and heart disease. Our medical community is taking long strides all the time to work towards prevention and awareness for healthier hearts. February is upon us and is the designated as the American Heart Month. How do you plan to participate and take part this month?

 

 

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Super Healthy Eating Ideas for the Super Busy (aka all of us)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before, from friends, spouse and especially from my inner-monologue (if you have an inner-dialogue, seek professional help).  And what I’ve heard from these people this person (me) with delusions of self-importance is, “I’m waaaay too busy to take time out of my day to prepare, cook and serve a healthy meal for myself, let alone my annoying loving family.”  Well, at the risk of sounding slightly vulgar and eloquent at the same time, that’s a load of nonsense.

To prove my last statement, here are 10 simple, easy and quick ideas…I’m reluctant to use the term “recipe” as it usually elicits audible groans and thoughts of, “recipes = time (which I don’t have) + effort (which I can’t waste on cooking due to my hectic schedule).  And while these ideas call for ingredients and instructions, they’re kept to a minimum and written in an easy to understand narrative style.  Yeah, I know, that sounds like a load of claptrap, but I’m the author and I’m going with “ideas.”

ground-turkey-noodles-IMG_3995-(2)1. Portion controlled meals from MagicKitchen.com

Hey, look, no ingredients or instructions required here!  Well, apart from microwave and enjoy.  MagicKitchen eliminates the shopping, prep, and cooking with our healthy, yummy (yes, I said yummy) portion controlled meals that come in 11 different meal packs, including 2 dedicated to breakfast, and dozens of individual choices.  Check them out here: http://www.magickitchen.com/menu/MKMWL.html

2. Pina colada yogurt parfaits

Ok, three simple ingredients required for this one: Greek yogurt, pineapple, and shaved coconut.  Simply slap some Greek yogurt in your favorite wine glass (or leave it in the container, like my lazy a$$) and throw in some fresh pineapple and coconut and consume.  The sweetness of the fruit balances out the bitterness of the yogurt quite nicely and you’re getting some proteins as well.

3. Peanut butter breakfast toast

pb-toast-chiaDo I really need to list the ingredients and instructions for toast?  I thought not.  Just slather some peanut butter (or almond butter) on your whole-wheat toast and top with banana slices, blueberries, raspberries, chia seeds, etc.  Just be sure to push the toppings into the peanut/almond butter as this will hold them in place when you invariably tip the toast up to eat.  My dogs were quite unhappy when I learned this little trick.

4. Broiled grapefruit with honey and brown sugar

Yes, “broiled.”  Ok, here come the dreaded instructions…ingredients are listed in the title.  Halve a grapefruit, broil for 4-6 minutes and top with honey, brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon.  See what I did there, snuck in an extra ingredient…don’t freak.  The grapefruit gets just slightly crunchy on top and the heat melds the honey, sugar and cinnamon into a delicious syrup.

5. Easy roasted sweet potatoes

Or yams?  There is a difference, isn’t there?  Anyway, nuke (see: microwave) your sweet potato 6-7 minutes after stabbing it with a fork a few times.  Halve it, segment each half into ½-inch squares without cutting through the skin…if you measure each square, seek professional help.  Place a few slices of butter in between the cubes, sprinkle with some Parmesan and then broil for 6-12 minutes depending on desired crispiness.  Then, garnish with some chives and a dollop of sour cream and chow down.

Thanks to Savory Simple for photo and recipe.
Thanks to Savory Simple for photo and recipe.

6. Open-faced grilled cheese with a fried egg

Yeah, I know, this title needs some work, bit unwieldy, isn’t it?  Regardless, this one’s simple too.  Butter a side of whole-wheat bread, place butter-side down in frying ban and top with a slice of Swiss cheese, roasted red pepper, and arugula leaves.  Cook about 4 minutes.  Fry an egg to your specifications (sunny side up, over easy, over hard…you’re in charge) and place it upon your recently cooked, open-faced grilled cheese and gorge or delicately consume…you’re in charge.

7. Turkey and hummus club sandwich

If you haven’t shopped for hummus lately, you’ll be surprised at all the flavors now offered, garlic, red pepper, chili sauce…this ain’t your bubbe’s hummus.  Anyway, purchase your preferred flavor, or mix your own if you’re the ambitious type, slap it on some bread, add a few slices of turkey and arugula and voila, turkey and hummus club.

8. Risotto cakes

Ok, I’m not going to explain how to make risotto in order to adhere to my claim I made at the start of this blog…I’m sneaky that way.  Deal with it.  After your risotto has cooled, mash it into patties about 2-inches in diameter, press in some bread crumbs and then fry in some olive oil for about 5 minutes per side.  They can then be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months and enjoyed later.  Simply warm in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes if they came out of the fridge, or 30-35 if you froze the little suckers.  Serve over some arugula with a little parmesan and a spritz of lemon juice.  They’re also great as a snack on their own or as an appetizer.

9. Crispy ham and egg cups

Ham and Egg cups from Addicted to Recipes
Ham and Egg cups from Addicted to Recipes

Spray a standard sized muffin pan with that non-stick stuff and then line it with a slice of your favorite ham…yes, the edges of the ham are supposed to hang over.  Then plop an egg in each ham-lined cup and bake until the whites are cooked solid but the yolk is still a bit runny…about 13 minutes.  Then season with some salt, pepper, chopped basil, scallions or parsley, or go crazy and use all five!

10. Mini oatmeal cakes

Break out the muffin pan again and place a paper muffin liner in each cup.  Then fill each with your favorite oatmeal, mixed with milk to your desired consistency.  Then top with chopped walnuts, or dried cranberries, or blueberries or anything else you like to mix into your oatmeal.  Just be sure to press your topping down into the oatmeal.  Then bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  These little cakes of joy can then be taken on the go and enjoyed wherever.

There you go my hectic, harried and hurried friends.  Ten solutions on how to eat healthy while pulling your hair out.  Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you, or your family, need to settle for fast food.  Anyone who tells you any different is simply feeding you balderdash.  And wouldn’t you rather have food?

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Quit Messin’ Around: How to Eat Healthier in 2017

Yes, devoted reader, it’s time to set yourself up for failure once again by making a non-specific (eat healthier) and unattainable (cut out ALL junk food) New Year’s resolution.  Those two reasons, setting broad and impossible to achieve goals, are why 92% of all resolutions made are doomed to failure.

Look, a resolution is nothing more than a goal and we (or someone else…think boss or significant other) set goals for ourselves all the time, either in our professional or private lives.  And the rules for goal-setting also apply to end-of-year resolution-setting, and they are: make your goal/resolution as specific as possible and make it attainable.  Therefore, let’s combine those two rules with your vague resolution to eat better in 2017.

vegetables-449950_640Rule number one: make your “eating better” resolution as specific as possible.  Instead of “I resolve (sounds like you’re on the floor of the Senate) to eat better in 2017,” resolve to “eat five helpings of fruits and vegetables most days of the week…that would be four or more for the numerically challenged out there like your esteemed author.  Why only “most” days of the week?  DUH!…remember rule number two…make your goal achievable.

Or how about printing a list of healthy “superfoods” you’ve never eaten and resolving to try at least one item on that list every week of 2017?  Better yet, turn it into a checklist, then, check each item off and make a few notes about that item, such as “If anyone is trying to torture me for information, just threaten me with Brussels sprouts and I’ll tell them everything.”

Ok, last example of a specific goal: “I resolve to eat at least one meal per day that contains

Flaxseed
Flaxseed

no processed foods.” Like a meal comprised of roast chicken and potatoes with a side of green beans.  In fact, we here at MagicKitchen offer a number of meals that fit this category in our portion controlled and signature meals sections.  It’s a great way to keep your resolution as we do most of the work, all that’s required of you is to heat and enjoy!

Rule number two: make your goal achievable, but not too easily achievable, there must be an element of resolve (hence the term “resolution”) and sacrifice involved.  Please don’t resolve to adopt a diet of nothing but kale, honey and quinoa for all of 2017.  My guess is that you’re going to fall off the wagon with that resolution.  How about, “I resolve to

substitute either kale, honey, or quinoa for an unhealthy item I usually eat at least every other day.  Or if you can’t stand kale, (which is perfectly understandable), try one of these new superfoods for 2017.  And then track each time you make that substitution on a calendar.

Here are a few other tips to help you achieve your specific resolution that involves eating healthier in 2017:

  • Take a grocery list to the supermarket and stick to it.
  • Choose fresh or frozen food over canned.
  • Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna with Green Beans from MagicKitchen.com
    Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna with Green Beans from MagicKitchen.com

    Plan ahead by making menus and, as with the rule above, stick to them!

  • Don’t drink your calories…stay away from the sugary drinks.
  • Patrol the edges of your grocery store where the fresh produce, meats, dairy and whole grains are located.
  • Try out MagicKitchen.com complete meals for a change of pace. No rules, no sign-ups, no commitments required, try one or many.
  • Eat a lot of different colors when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
  • Replace dessert with fruit or at least add fruit to your dessert.
  • Accept the fact that you’re going to backslide a few times during the year…get over it and then get back on the horse or wagon or both. I’m not sure which.
  • Publicize your resolution to all who are willing to listen and tell them to nag you throughout the year. Also, write it down and stick it to both the doors of your fridge and pantry.
  • Finally, remember that doing something towards attaining or keeping your resolution is better than quitting and doing nothing…little steps matter!

So, good luck as you resolve to eat healthier in 2017 and remember to follow the two main rules (and various tips) and perhaps you’ll be part of the 8% that successfully stick to their resolutions through the entire year. May your New Year be a healthy and happy one!

 

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Holiday Tips for Seniors

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when families come together to spend the Winter Holidays celebrating. In November, we enjoy a huge meal giving thanks for the truly wonderful people and things in our lives.

This is quickly followed by another family gathering complete with gift giving and delicious goodies in abundance. In spite of all the festivities, families can’t always manage to be together due to large distances, financial hindrances, or illnesses. These things certainly don’t mean our friends or families are pushed by the wayside. On the contrary, we tend to go out of our way to make loved ones feel loved, needed, and thought of during these special days.

Some of the most important people need our help the most during the Holiday Season. They are the elderly citizens of our communities. Here are some great tips and gifts for Seniors and their caregivers for the 2016 Holidays.

  1. walkingparkLooking Good, Feeling Good – We all seem to feel better when we look better. This is at any age, but it is especially true for the elderly. Gift certificates for a beauty treatment or to a barber shop can be just what is needed! Having a fresh hair cut or a beautifully coiffed style can put a spring in the step of aging family members.
  2. A Health Evaluation – This is the perfect time to really evaluate the health of your older family members. Some things to consider when determining how safe they are, include – if they are experiencing things such as memory loss or mobility problems, can they take care of themselves (i.e. bathing, eating, drinking, staying warm, etc.), can they take their medicine regularly, if they can safely drive, and how high are their spirits? Keep in mind that sometimes elderly people are reluctant to give any information letting on that they can’t handle daily life like they used to. Look for clues and signs when talking to them.
  3. Take a Load Off – Many miles can really put a strain on you when you’re concerned about your parents or senior friends. Meal time can be especially difficult. A perfect way to pitch in from across the country is by having healthy meals delivered to them. holiday-dinnerThis will enable you to feel like you’ve contributed to an important part of their day. Any meal can be delivered through MagicKitchen.com. There are many choices on the website from specialized dishes for particular dietary needs to comforting soups and delectable desserts. They will be sure to become favorites quickly.
  4. Give Great Gifts – Sometimes it is a challenge deciding what to gift to the mature members of your family or close friends. Perfect options include: meal delivery (see #3), a photo album of memories from the early days of their lives until the present, consider a clock with large numbers for the days when their eyes aren’t at peak performance, warm socks with a non-skid surface on the bottom, a bird feeder can bring many hours of delight…step out of the box and make it a hummingbird feeder.
  5. senior-man-on-laptop-smallThe Greatest Gift of All – This year, why not give the greatest gift of all to those wise, aging people in your life…the gift of your time. It can be something as simple as a phone call or a card you dropped in the mail for those miles away. Make sure to include all preparations for the festivities, as if they were going to be there with you. If these wonderful seniors are going to be joining you for the holidays, include their opinions and allow them to spend the time helping with the decorations or baking. Even if they have physical limitations, engage them in conversation and describe what you are doing. Ask them to tell the stories of their childhood at this time of year. Please, don’t forget to thank them. This will mean the world to them!

As you gather your family together this year, try to create new memories and traditions that all ages can participate in. Make sure to include some where the youngest are making memories with the oldest. These will carry in the hearts of all your loved ones for years to come. It is certainly time for our country to join together to care and love one another.

Wishing you and yours a Happy, Healthy holidays!

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Sweat the Small Stuff: 5 Small Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Life.

Yeah, I know the quote is usually “DON’T sweat the small stuff,” but sometimes the small stuff matters.  If you think about it, our entire lives are comprised of “small stuff,” in the form of the thousands of decisions we make on a daily basis.  Should I eat just one more?  Binge watch The Walking Dead or work on the house?  Wear these yoga pants or not?  Hit the snooze again?

These seemingly small decisions add up and become who we are.  So why not make a few small decisions that, when done consistently, can actually improve your life for the better?  That’s what I thought, you have no argument…and “I don’t have the time” counts as no argument.

  1. pedometerGet (and use) a pedometer – But just don’t wear it around and look at the total at the end of your day. Set benchmarks (or goals if you prefer) and break them!  Make small bets with your friends, family and coworkers.  For example: “I’ll bet all of you a tarantula that I take more steps than you over the weekend.”  Or create a contest with a prize for the winner.  For example: “whoever takes the most steps today gets the last MagicKitchen.com Panna Cotta.” Of course, there are plenty of pedometer apps for your phone, too.
  1. Breathe deep…the gathering gloom (sorry, I regressed to my teenage years when I kept trying to figure out those strange lyrics to “Nights in White Satin”). Research has shown that deep breathing exercises (just 5 minutes a day) reduces stress producing hormone levels, decreases anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and improves sleep.
  1. scrabbleDo a crossword, or Sudoku, or play Scrabble – In other words, exercise your brain as if it were a muscle (Is it a muscle? Or an organ?…Does it matter?). No, it doesn’t matter.  The brain ACTS like a muscle and the more you exercise it, the more efficient it gets.  Of course, the obverse is also true.  Your brain will atrophy like any other muscle if it remains sedentary for an extended period of time.  Studies have shown brain exercises can extend its cognitive reserve…aka its ability to withstand damage due to aging, such as dementia.  Learning new things, such as a musical instrument or foreign language does the trick as well.
  1. Read nutrition labels – Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to your nutrition (sorry for contradicting so many popular idioms in this post). Your body knows what you’re putting in it even if you keep it from your mind and the results (good or bad) happen regardless.  You might set that Snickers bar aside when you find out it has 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 30 grams of sugar and contains trans fat.  Look at it this way, after eating that Snickers, you’ll have to run about 2.5 miles to burn it off (and that doesn’t even take into account the effects of the saturated and trans fat consumed).
  1. hug2Hug someone…just make sure it’s consensual. The hugging of loved ones reduces stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and releases anti-depressant hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin.  Regular hugging has also been shown to aid in healing and recovering from illness.  Hugs also increase self-esteem, ease tension, teach the concepts of giving and receiving, and encourage empathy and understanding.  All these benefits apply equally to the hugger we well as the huggee.

So, to recap: work the heck out of that pedometer, breathe deep the gathering gloom (or just do deep breathing exercises), work the heck out of your brain, flip it over and read that nutrition label, and get and give plenty of hugs…and don’t forget to do all these things on a consistent basis.

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Trouble at Blue Apron

blue-apron1The rumor mill and news agencies are twittering away about the problems multi-billion dollar start-up Blue Apron is having. As we keep our ear to the ground regarding food safety and nutrition, we couldn’t help hearing the news.

In case you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t heard of Blue Apron, let me bring you up to date. They are the company who sends you a box with all the ingredients for making several meals, along with the recipe cards for doing so. Everything is packaged so that you get exactly as much coconut milk or butter as you need to create the meal. Just dump it into the pan according to their directions.

They were founded in 2012, and already they deliver 8 million meals per year. That’s a huge growth spurt, and like most adolescents, they’re having growing pains.

Most of the reports have to do with violence and predatory behavior between employees,  including bomb threats being called in at their Richmond warehouse.

There have been at least four people arrested, and employees have complained of being punched, groped, bitten and even choked by other employees at various times. Bomb threats have been reported as well.

There are some complaints about the work environment as well.  People are hired, fired and quit regularly, causing some chaos.

Buzzfeed’s report states, “All told, interviews with 14 former employees describe a chaotic, stressful environment where employees work long days for wages starting at $12 an hour bagging cilantro or assembling boxes in a warehouse kept at a temperature below 40 degrees.”

The same facility in Richmond has been visited multiple times by OSHA officials, and some complaints have been registered as to employees’ safety. Buzzfeed adds, “In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Blue Apron said it appealed some of these violations and the case has “yet to be fully resolved.””

So all is not rosy in Blue Apron land.

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger.

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