Holiday Cranberry Mimosa!

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Hi friends! Thanksgiving has passed and if you’re like me, you have lots of leftover cranberries. I like cranberries sauce more and more every year, and I make a very delicious and easy cranberry sauce. I came across a Food Network show about the holidays, and in it they discussed mimosas. I had a eureka moment and thought, “Wow, what if I use my delicious cranberries to make a mimosa!” Well, I have to tell you that we have enjoyed them so much that we drink them frequently (but responsibly)! 🙂 I have included the recipe for my cranberry sauce and cranberry mimosas. They are so pretty and festive, besides being really darn good. They make a nice centerpiece to your holiday table. The cranberry sauce itself is so flavorful and bright, and with no added sugar is a healthy addition to your meals. Bon appetite!

Cranberry Sauce

  • 2 -8 ounce packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

Cranberry Mimosa

  • 1 teaspoon of cranberry sauce
  • 1 glass decent quality champagne

Put the cranberry sauce into a champagne flute. Add the champagne to the glass and give it a quick stir. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

This symptom could negatively affect your health and safety- and it’s 100% preventable!

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Healthy, life-giving water!

Healthy, life-giving water!

Hello my friends! The topic I’m going to talk to you about today came about because of my concern that my daughter, Danielle, is not drinking enough water. I was sure that was really bad for her, and I started researching what and how much we should be drinking. The results were even more shocking than I thought, and not only did I share them with Danielle, I also wanted to share them with my readers as well.

Now we all know that if you’re dying of thirst while being stranded in the desert that is really bad, right? Well, the fact that really surprised me was that if you are 1 to 2% dehydrated, which would show as symptoms of mild thirst, that can cause problems like headaches, irritability, and impaired cognition. A 2% dehydration level also leads to a 10% decrease in athletic performance, so make sure you’re hydrating before you exercise. Even more concerning, according to a recent Harvard study, more than half of American children are dehydrated and 1/4 of children do not drink water on a daily basis. Boys were 75% more likely to be inadequately hydrated than girls.

If your response is, “What’s the big deal about water, anyway?”, here’s the answer for you. Our bodies are made up of approximately 65% water, which is crucial for blood circulation, metabolism, regulation of body temperature, waste removal and detoxification.

Here’s another concern, children and the elderly have an underdeveloped thirst mechanism, which makes them more vulnerable to dehydration. Also, hunger and sugar cravings could be a sign that you are dehydrated so when you feel hungry, drink a glass of water first. Other dehydration symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, mood swings, foggy thinking and poor concentration, chills, muscle cramps, back or joint ache, dull, dry skin, pronounced wrinkles, constipation, infrequent urination, dark, concentrated urine, and bad breath.

How much water should we drink a day in order to avoid the above symptoms? The Institute of Medicine recommends women drink 2.7 liters (91 ounces) a day, and men 3.7 liters (125 ounces). I don’t walk around with a device to measure how much water I’m drinking, I use the urine rule which means that if my urine is a light yellow color I’m drinking an adequate amount of water. One thing to keep in mind though, if you’re taking a supplement containing vitamin B2 (like most multivitamins) your urine will be a bright, fluorescent yellow after you take it. In that case, use the frequency rule. A healthy person urinates 7-8 times per day so if you are urinating a lot less frequently than that or if it’s just a super small amount, up your water intake.

Here’s a scary fact about dehydration that I uncovered, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Behavior, dehydrated drivers made twice the amount of errors in a two hour drive compared to hydrated drivers. That is similar to the results of a driver who is under the influence of alcohol- yes, that’s what I said! Frightening!

Need I say more?!

Need I say more?!

A comforting thought though, is that all of this is 100% preventable by simply rehydrating yourself and your children. However, not all beverages are equal. If you’re drinking energy drinks or soda, they are high in caffeine which acts as a diuretic that can dehydrate you. Stay away from those. Also, sodas, sports drinks, fruit juices and other sweetened beverages contain processed fructose which is one of the primary causes of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. One soda per day adds as much as 15 pounds to your weight per year, and it also increases your risk of diabetes by 85%.

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Sports drinks many people believe to be more important to drink when you’re dehydrated than water because of electrolyte replacement. However, most sports drinks contain two thirds or even more sugar than sodas, usually high fructose corn syrups. They also contain artificial colors and flavors which is also not good for your health. Fructose is metabolized by the liver and is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Just like alcohol, your body turns fructose directly into fat, which cancels out the benefits of your workout.

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You may be drinking sugar free sodas or sports drinks and think you’re doing something healthy for your body, but that’s absolutely incorrect. Those sugar free drinks will contain artificial sweeteners, which may be worse for you than fructose. Also, many people think they need to drink sports drinks to replenish their electrolytes (salt) lost during exercise, but they usually just use processed salt to do that.

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Also, fruit juices are not a healthy option either. Fruit juices can contain more sugar than soda. For example, one 8 ounce glass of orange juice has 8 teaspoons of sugar, at least 50% of that is fructose. Many fruit juices contain high fructose corn syrup, just like soda. And many fruit juices are made by the same parent companies that make soda pop, so keep that in mind. Now, eating a whole fruit is hydrating like an orange or watermelon, but just remember to eat the fruit, not buy the juice from the grocery store, because the whole fruit contains a lot of fiber too.

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Ok, so what should we be drinking, you ask? Well, of course the answer is WATER. But all water is not created equally and I want to address that as well. First of all, please please please don’t drink bottled water! Those bottles are clogging up our landfills and the plastic contains industrial chemicals like bisphenol-A, bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS) and phthalates which leach from the plastic. Also, just because you’re drinking bottled water, it doesn’t mean it’s any more pure than the tap water you’re drinking, and often times it’s more contaminated.

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Tap water can have many contaminants as well, so the best choice is FILTERED tap water. And use a glass water bottle instead of a plastic one to make sure fewer contaminants get into your water. Filters are inexpensive to buy, and can be easily installed on your kitchen faucet. The best one is a reverse osmosis water filtration system because it removes almost everything bad from your water. Those systems are a bit pricier, but are definitely worth it. If you need a little flavor in your water, like Danielle does, I recommend putting an organic lemon into your water. It makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE TASTE OF THE WATER.

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Danielle drinking coconut water as I write this post!

Also, another healthy alternative I found for my family to drink is organic coconut water. It’s very hydrating and has no sugar, or artificial colors or flavors. It’s also packaged in a paper carton so it’s more environmentally friendly and there are no chemicals to leach into your beverage. It tastes a bit like a pina colada but with no sugar. It has electrolytes too and at only 43 calories per cup, is a great bang for your nutritional buck. I think it’s a great alternative for those who need a bit more after a workout.

So that’s my wisdom for the day. Get hydrated by drinking filtered water, coconut water, or whole fruit, and avoid sports drinks, fruit juices, sodas, and energy drinks. Look for frequency of urination and urine color as signs of dehydration, and be alert for the symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, thirst, etc. If you feel hungry or have a sugar craving and you’ve just eaten, make sure you have a glass of water before reaching for the cookies or candy, it could be thirst at work. Also, urge your children or elderly family members to drink more pure water, because they may not be as aware of their dehydration as you are. Every time I grab my glass of water I remind Danielle to drink her coconut water because I realize she doesn’t get the thirst signal like she should. Drinking pure water or other healthy options is SO GOOD for you, and will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

A Healthy way to Drink in the New Year!

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A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

A good glass of wine makes everything fine- Thanksgiving 2013!

So the holidays are upon us, aren’t they? 9 more days until Christmas and a little over two weeks from the big drinking holiday, New Year’s Eve. Pretty much every adult I know over 21 will ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. Being an advocate for healthy living, I wanted to let you know what I feel are the five healthiest alcoholic beverages to drink, not just on New Year’s Eve, but any time of the year. Now, healthy to me means that not only is the cocktail low in calories, but it also has positive health benefits, and it tastes good too. That’s why you won’t see VODKA TONIC on my list. Yes, it is low in calories, but other than that it basically has no nutritional value and no flavor. Hence it is not a healthy cocktail in my book.

Here’s the thing though, QUALITY IS BETTER THAN QUANTITY when it comes to the healthiness of an alcoholic beverage. No cocktail is healthy if you have more than 2 of them, and if you get to four or more than it becomes toxic to your body. So my advice to you is, BE A MODERATE DRINKER. That’s the best thing you can do for your health. With that in mind, I will share my healthy cocktail list with you.

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

Number one healthiest alcoholic drink and my personal favorite- WINE!

1. Red or White Wine- This one is one of the healthiest and my favorite so I’m going to call it the number one on the healthiest cocktail scale. First, it contains 5% of your daily nutritional requirements for iron, 9% potassium, 5% magnesium, and antioxidants like flavonoids and nonflavanoids. Resveratrol, which is a nonflavanoid, reduces blood clots and lowers bad cholesterol. Calories range from 110-130 per glass so it’s not a highly caloric option. Taste wise you have many options in flavor. Whether you like dry or sweet, red or white, you can find a flavor that pleases your palate.

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

Michelada- a recently tasted cocktail and a good one too!

2. Michelada- I recently tried one of these cocktails at a delicious Mexican restaurant near my daughters’ university and I loved it. It’s a much more interesting and flavorful twist on a Bloody Mary (which is also a healthy cocktail option for you!). It’s spicy, salty, and so refreshing! The ingredients are beer, limes, Worcestershire sauce, Valentina hot sauce, black pepper, sea salt, and ice. Now, beer is not the healthiest ingredient in a cocktail (beer= carbs), but if a light beer is used it’s not too bad since most come in at under 100 calories. The Michelada I had was made with Modelo Especial which though it isn’t a light beer is really delicious, and I only had one cocktail. I don’t even like beer but I really liked this alcoholic beverage. It also contains lime juice which has tons of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your immune system and neutralizes free radicals that damage our tissues. The hot sauce in this cocktail is made from chili peppers, which contain capsaicin (helps in fighting certain cancers). Chilis are used to aid digestion, reduce appetite, and increase metabolism. The sea salt in the drink helps replenish electrolytes, and the Worcestershire sauce has vitamin B6 (builds red blood cells and maintains nervous system function) in it from the molasses, garlic, cloves and chili pepper extract contained within the sauce. It also has antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K (protects against hemorrhaging and bone loss), and niacin, which aids in digestion. Try it, you’ll like it!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

Manhattan- not the city but the cocktail!

3. Manhattan- I’m not much of a mixed drink girl, but I know many of you are out there so in honor of all of you mixed drink fans, I’ve included the Manhattan as one of the best tasting and healthiest mixed cocktails. The ingredients are bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters. Bourbon is flavorful and only 97-110 calories per 1.5 ounces, vermouth is a wine fortified with herbs and contains 45 calories per ounce, and bitters are alleged to have restorative properties and are used to calm an upset stomach. It’s strong so only one cocktail will be plenty in this case. If you like a mixed drink, this is the one for you!

Mmmm Mimosa!

Mmmm Mimosa!

4. Mimosa/Bellini- Mimosas are champagne and orange juice, and Bellinis are champagne and peach juice. Now these are not particularly low cal drinks because of the juices, but they are delicious and satisfying, therefore one cocktail will be plenty. I had a cocktail while in Las Vegas that contained an Italian champagne called Prosecco, berry puree, and lemon juice that was delicious and so pretty. it was called Berry Prosecco Fizz so I’m including that drink in this category too. All of these drinks contain champagne, which is sweet and slightly caloric at 90-110 calories per glass, but champagne is a wine so it contains a ton of antioxidants. Orange juice and peach juice contain many vitamins and minerals that are great for you. One tip I got was to make the Mimosa with grapefruit juice instead of orange, because grapefruits have more fat burning properties than oranges do. Sounds delish to me!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

Guiness is a healthy beer!

5. Guinness- I’m not much of a beer fan as I said above, but I know many beer fans, so folks this one’s for you! Guinness is low in calories despite how thick it is, 128 calories for 12 ounces. Also, Guinness is made from more whole grains than most regular beers so it’s full of nutrients. Guinness is shown to have similar antioxidant properties to red wine, and a University of Wisconsin study showed that drinking it helps reduce blood clots and heart problems. Good deal!

Some others healthy alcoholic beverages that could’ve made my list are Sangria (wine and fruit), Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, celery, salt, pepper), and bourbon/whiskey and soda, all healthy drink choices. Remember though, that moderation is the way to go here, and please don’t excessively drink on New Year’s Eve or at any time. 2 drinks or less is the way to go, and the drinks that are on my list are so flavorful that you don’t need to drink a lot to get a delicious flavor and be satisfied. Enjoy your holidays with a healthy drink or two at the most. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Good night’s sleep? Don’t sell it cheap!

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Ahhhhhh, for an uninterrupted night of sleep!!

Ahhhhhh, for an uninterrupted night of sleep!!

I’ve been experiencing a few sleepless nights lately. You know those nights when you lie wide awake from 3 to 5 am, and then awaken feeling pretty tired in the morning? Those kinds of nights. Along with feeling tired the next day, I’ve also noticed a loss of concentration which is making the writing of this post much more difficult! So, I started thinking about the importance of a good night’s sleep and what I could do to help my readers (and myself) sleep better at night. This is what I came up with and I hope it helps you, and me!

According to a British study on Health.com, people who are sleep deprived, which is sleeping 5 hours or less per night, are at higher risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues, as well as raising the risk for diabetes, alcoholism, depression, obesity and car accidents. And a study at the University of California-Berkeley determined that to be sleep deprived affects the area of your brain that controls your moods and concentration. I say true dat to that!

The question I wonder is why do we have trouble sleeping from time to time? There are numerous factors that affect ability to sleep. Now I know my college students would agree to the number one factor affecting sleep which is STRESS. If you’ve got a big presentation or test the next day, sleep might be difficult for you that night. Another thing that can disrupt sleep is extreme temperature fluctuations and environmental noise. You know how you can be sleeping and then the room becomes uncomfortably warm or cold and you can’t sleep? I’ve definitely experienced that in my life. Or, you’re sleeping in a hotel room with a noisy air conditioning system and once you awaken you can’t get back to sleep? Yep, that’s happened to me too. Changing work schedule or jet lag can also disrupt your sleep. An additional reason, and the one I think affecting me right now, is hormonal changes due to PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause (that’s my issue). Yuck!

Oh to be able to sleep like my children, and dogs!

Oh to be able to sleep like my children, and dogs!

So what can you do about this? First, sleep experts recommend establishing a consistent bedtime routine. This is one of the most important factors in sleeping well. That means taking a warm bath before bed, or doing yoga or meditation too. Anything that says to your brain, “relax and get ready for bed” is key here. The next thing is to try to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time in the morning. This includes weekends too, which isn’t difficult for me because I have my “furry alarm clocks” to awaken me between 7:00-7:30 every morning regardless of the day. Another key factor is to get enough exercise during the day. The more physically active you are, the better you’ll sleep because of the energy you’ve expended. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it could keep you awake at night.

The next key to a good night’s sleep is to cut back on the caffeine, especially in the evening. I can’t drink coffee after dinner or it will keep me awake at night. Definitely not what I want! Limiting alcohol intake can help you sleep better at night too, did you hear that college students? 🙂 Oh and don’t watch tv or do your work on your bed, the bed should be only for sleeping and other relaxing activities. I like to read a “just for fun” book on my kindle to fall asleep, that’s not the time for a weighty political biography. Avoid big meals late in the evening because that can also disrupt your sleep.

The experts say that if you can’t fall asleep within thirty minutes of getting into bed, leave your bed and go do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Then go back to bed instead of lying there tossing and turning half the night. Another tip is to do what my dad does and get a “white noise” device to block out environmental noises that can disrupt sleep. Here’s another great tip, one way to prevent insomnia is to TAKE A NAP! Yes, I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, especially to my sister, but as I said in my previous post “Nap your way to success”, a short (10 to 20 minutes) nap lying down in a darkened room can help you sleep better at night. I’m definitely going to be doing that this afternoon! Spending time outside is another way to sleep better at night, because exposing yourself to natural light sets your natural rhythms which helps you sleep.

Jac taking a selfie with a sleeping Danielle!

Jac taking a selfie with a sleeping Danielle!

Also, dim the lights for up to an hour before you go to sleep at night. We do this while we are watching tv in the family room before we go to bed. It definitely helps us relax. Last, don’t obsess about not being able to sleep. Remember I said that the biggest reason for insomnia is stress, and the more we worry about falling asleep the more it stresses us so we have trouble falling asleep because of it.

There are natural sleep remedies that I feel are very helpful. Valerian is an herb that has a natural sedative effect and can be found in standardized extracts in health food stores. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the wake/sleep cycle and other biorhythms. It can also be found at health food stores (and in my refrigerator!). It really helps to restore sleep patterns. Supplements that can be helpful are magnesium and calcium which are sleep boosters, especially when taken together. I take a supplement called Cal Mag + by American Biologics, which contains calcium, magnesium and other helpful minerals. I take two before bed, which helps with sleep. L-theanine is an amino acid that comes from green tea and helps keep you calmly alert during the day and more deeply asleep at night. Green tea doesn’t contain enough to boost REM cycles, you need to take a supplement that contains PURE L-theanine and follow the directions on the bottle. I’ve said it before, PLEASE DON’T BUY YOUR SUPPLEMENTS AT A GROCERY STORE OR BIG BOX STORE. Only purchase from a health food store or REPUTABLE pharmacy. Also, aromatherapy can be helpful for sleep and calm, especially lavender. Spritz REAL lavender spray on your pillow before bed, or purchase a lavender filled pillow.

So that’s how to have a good, healthy night’s sleep. I’m going to practice what I’m preaching starting today to make sure my sleep improves. If you’ve got a healthy sleep tip, please feel free to share it with me, or if you try some of mine, let me know if it helps you to sleep better. When you’re well rested it will help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!