It’s not good for you, don’t buy into the hype!

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Hello, my friends! Here’s what I’m feeling passionate about these days. Let me back up, last weekend Danielle was home and she was drinking a bottle of Minute Maid cranberry apple raspberry juice. It surprised me to see her drink that kind of thing because she and Jac are pretty well-trained in healthy eating from hanging out with me their entire lives. I commented that this particular drink was not a healthy choice for her. She looked at the label and was appalled to see how much sugar it contained. Let me show you the label so you will see for yourself.

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58 grams of sugar per serving! And there are two servings in a bottle! Now I don’t know about you but I could drink an entire bottle at one time if I was really thirsty. That’s 116 grams of sugar in the bottle. It’s not even that big a bottle.

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So when Danielle looked at the back of the bottle and realized how much sugar she was consuming in this “fruit juice” she said, “Mom, you need to write about this to help make people aware of the hidden sugar in fruit juice.” I thought that was a great idea so here I am today to talk to you about fruit juice, and to give you some healthy alternatives.

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Now you might say, “Why do I care about how much sugar I’m consuming?” That’s a great question and I’ll answer that for you. Because sugar leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In short, it’s the worst thing you can eat (or drink). And it’s in EVERYTHING! The second ingredient in this “juice” is high fructose corn syrup, AKA sugar. AKA, the worst form of sugar you can consume. This is not a healthy drink folks, in fact, it’s just as bad if not worse than soda pop.

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“What about 100% fruit juice”, you might ask, “that surely can’t be bad for you.” Wellll…. it actually is and here’s why. The juice from a piece of fruit is the most sugary part of the fruit, granted a natural form of sugar, but still very sweet. Now say you are eating the whole piece of fruit, like an orange or an apple. You would only eat one of them, right? But the problem with fruit juice is that you can drink the equivalent of 4 or 5 pieces of fruit, which is a lot of sugar. And when you eat a piece of fruit you get all of the fiber from the pulp and skin, which is super good for you and helps absorb the sugar. If you drink the juice you get no pulp or fiber. In conclusion, it’s always better to eat a whole piece of fruit than to drink the juice of said fruit.

Now I know that most people don’t just drink water with lemon all the time like I do, you want to drink something with flavor (I hear that all the time). Here are my suggestions for drinks with FLAVOR.

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Juice your own– Use a blender instead of a juicer to get all of the pulp from the fruit. That will help you to get the fiber you need. Also, don’t drink more juice than if you were eating the whole fruit. For instance, an orange typically contains half a cup of juice, so your intake should be no more than a half cup of FRESHLY SQUEEZED orange juice at a time.

Use fruit to sweeten– Instead of drinking pure fruit juice, add fruit juice to sweeten vegetable juice. Unlike fruit, vegetables are excellent to drink in juice form because it allows for faster, better digestion of the veggies. Fruit juice can be added to vegetable juice which will add sweetness and more nutrients. That’s a win-win!

Bai drinks– I always advocate fresh and homemade in favor of store bought products, however, I do like Bai brand beverages if you must drink something store bought. Most of their drinks are flavored with a combination of erythritol and organic stevia extract, which are natural sweeteners that have no calories or effect on blood sugar, ie safe for diabetics to drink. The drinks contain only 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar. Bai drinks are made from coffeefruit, the fruit from which coffee is extracted. It is full of antioxidants and polyphenols- lots of good, healthy stuff. Because of the coffeefruit it contains caffeine, about as much as a cup of green tea, so it gives you a little lift without giving you a total caffeine buzz. Bai drinks are gluten free, have a low glycemic index, non-gmo, kosher, vegan and soy free. As far as a store bought product is concerned, it’s pretty fabulous!

I tried the bubbles product in the Peru pineapple flavor. I am extremely sensitive to sugar substitutes so I was interested to see how I felt after I drank this one. It is slightly sweeter tasting to me than a drink that contains sugar, which is due to the stevia. Stevia is not sweet, but it makes your taste buds think that what you’re consuming is actually sweet when it’s not, as such to me it is sweeter than real sugar is. I probably thought it was sweeter than normal because I only drink water during the day. I liked the flavor of the drink, I really like pineapple and thought it had a nice, delicate pineapple flavor. It was fizzy but not super carbonated so that was pleasant. It didn’t have a lingering artificial aftertaste like some beverages not sweetened with sugar. All in all, I liked it a lot and would definitely drink it again if I wanted something besides water.

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I still feel the best option is filtered water infused with lemon, orange, lime, etc, but I know a lot of you need to drink something with more pizazz than water, so I’ve given you some suggestions to help you drink healthier. Make your own juice using a blender to get all the pulp, add fruit juice to vegetable juice as a natural sweetener, or drink a healthy store bought beverage like Bai if you need a drink with more flavor than water. Any of these are healthier options than the “fruit drink” full of high fructose corn syrup that Danielle was innocently drinking, or 100% fruit juice or of course soda pop. What you drink really matters to your overall health, so please pay attention because it can make a big difference. Drinking healthy beverages like the ones I’ve suggested can help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

Eating Healthy Starts with this! Part Deux

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Good day, my friends! I’m now going to continue my healthy eating post by telling you the second thing you need to eat healthily at home. The first as you recall if you read part one, was a pantry stocked with lovely items to help you cook healthy meals. The second essential is a well stocked refrigerator/freezer. Or in my case refrigerators/freezers because I have two, one in my kitchen and one in the garage. They are both important to my healthy cooking strategy so I’ll talk about how I use them both. Again, please don’t judge my fridge organization or cleanliness, just the contents! In addition, all food mentioned is organic whenever possible.

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Fridge Essentials

1. Liquids for drinking- We don’t drink soda pop and I don’t have any in the house. Instead, I keep the fridge stocked with filtered alkaline water, chocolate milk, almond milk, healthy juices with no sugar or corn syrup, and half and half for my coffee.

2. Yogurt and hummus- We always have these two items, though I usually make my own hummus, for healthy snacking.

3. Cooking ingredients- I always have minced garlic, olives, parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon and regular mustard, ketchup, salsa, hot sauces, and pickles to help add flavor to my meals.

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4. Vegetables and fruits- The vegetables I usually have on hand are romaine lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and peppers. The types of fruit are grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, and watermelon. Many meals and snacks can be made from these vegetables and fruit.

5. Deli meat and cheeses- Important items here are turkey lunch meat, salami, cheddar cheese- both sliced and shredded, as well as romano cheese and parmesan for pastas.

6. Wine- no explanation needed here! 🙂

7. Eggs- Eggs are one of the things we eat often in my house. I make hard boiled eggs, fried, scrambled, poached, and egg salad. There are so many awesome dishes that can be made with eggs. Eggs are a great ingredient in other dishes as well, making them one of the most versatile items in my fridge.

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8. Leftovers- My outside fridge is mostly for leftovers, drinks and yogurt. I love leftovers and have written about that in many past posts. I eat them for lunch the next day or repurpose them into future meals. They are one of my favorite things in my fridge so don’t throw out the leftovers, this is your chance to be creative!

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Freezer Essentials-

1. Frozen vegetables- I always have frozen mixed vegetables on hand, mostly to make soups and stews, but I do like to have them for lunch sometimes.

2. Breakfast meats- We love breakfast in this house so I stock my freezer with bacon, breakfast sausage and chorizo to thaw for delicious breakfasts.

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3. Leftovers- Sometimes we don’t eat all of the leftovers in the fridge, despite my best attempts to polish them all off, and I definitely don’t want them to go to waste. I put them in the freezer, making sure to label the type of food and the date on the freezer bag, so I can ensure that when I defrost them I know what it is and how long it’s been in there. It’s so handy when I don’t have anything planned to cook. I just thaw the food item, and dinner is served!

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4. Meat- This is the heart of my outdoor freezer. I have different cuts of chicken in one section, beef in another, and lamb and pork in a separate area. I use the outdoor fridge to thaw the frozen meat a night or two before I am ready to cook, and then it’s ready to prepare.

5. Frozen fruit- I have frozen blueberries to make blueberry pancakes, and strawberries for smoothies.

Well, that’s what I consider essential for storing in the refrigerator and freezer. I hope you will stock what you like to eat and serve to your family and friends in your fridge/freezer. Eating at home is the best way to eat healthily. Eating healthy foods is the best way to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

Healthy College Meals?!

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Unfortunately true more often than not!

Unfortunately true more often than not!

Now some of you may see this topic and think that it doesn’t apply to you. After all you’re well removed from your college years and your children are a few years from being there. I guarantee you have a niece/nephew, a friend’s child, or just know someone who’s in college right now, and they could use some guidance on how to eat healthily while there. You can be very helpful to them, and believe me they need it.

IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

I know from my four years on a college campus, and from the girls experiences, that eating in a healthy way is VERY difficult to do. However, it’s not impossible and I’m here to help you! Whether you’re in the dorm, a sorority or fraternity, or an apartment it is possible to make healthy choices that provide nutrition for your body to flourish while you’re there. The pictures that precede each section are taken by Jacqueline and Danielle from healthy meals they’ve had while at Purdue.

Protein, protein, protein!

Protein, protein, protein!

1. Always go for the protein- Now I know that protein is expensive which is why most college food choices are so carb heavy. The secret is to make choices that incorporate as much protein as possible. Here, Danielle had nachos, which are readily available on most college campuses. The key though, is that she had beans, chicken, bacon, cheese, and ground beef on them, all loaded with protein. She also had strawberry yogurt- another protein filled choice. She doesn’t like very many vegetables so instead she chose orange juice and added an Emergen-C packet to it for more vitamin C. Danielle has a gluten allergy so she has the additional challenge of trying to make healthy choices and avoid gluten. Very challenging endeavor on a college campus, believe me! If you live in an apartment, nachos are very easy and inexpensive to make and the clean up is a synch!

Salads are your friend! Baked potatoes too!

Salads are your friend! Baked potatoes too!

2. Veggies, veggies, veggies- If you have a choice, always choose the vegetables. This meal was Jacqueline’s, we knew that because it included vegetables, right? It includes half of a baked potato topped with chili, bacon bits, sour cream and green onions. She also has a spinach salad with eggs, chicken breast, sunflower seeds, and chick peas. Lots of protein and vegetables give you energy and make you feel full. She needs it with all of the cheer practices and morning workouts! Jacqueline lives in a sorority so unlike Danielle, who lives in a dorm and has the advantage of all the different dining courts on campus, Jac has a more limited set of options from which to choose. However, her sorority has many fresh and healthy meals so she has really enjoyed the food available. Apartment dwellers can utilize bagged salads for a quick meal. Also, the microwave is your best friend for quickly making a baked potato or reheating the leftovers from dinners out with your parents! 🙂

Brown rice!

Brown rice!

3. Whole grain carbs are a great choice- As I’ve said in past posts, carbs are essential for our diets. However, the problem with carbs is that all carbs are NOT created equal. College students eat too many empty carbs, and I say that from experience! Bread sticks, French fries, pizza, cheesy bread, cookies, soda pop, etc, etc, etc, are all examples of carbs that have little or no nutritional value. Not only that, but because they have very little fiber they do not fill you up and you’re hungry again a little while later. This is how the “freshman 15” is gained. Also, because of the lack of nutrients, this is not a healthy way to eat, and can lead to more frequent illnesses. What Danielle has on her plate is a chicken thigh, blackened Tilapia, brown rice, yogurt with strawberries, blueberries and honey, and water with a lime. I’m really glad that she chose brown rice because as a whole grain carbohydrate, it has fiber and nutrients which will fill her up and help her to be healthy. Other examples of whole grain carbs are WHOLE WHEAT bread and pasta, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, popcorn, barley, wild rice, and bulgur to name a few.

Fish is outside the box for Danielle!

Fish is outside the box for Danielle!

4. Be flexible- To eat nutritiously you will have to be prepared to be a little more adventurous than you were when you lived at home. In the above plate, Danielle chose white fish, brown rice, stir fry veggies, yogurt with berries and water with lemon. She has only recently begun to eat fish, but because she knows she needs as much protein as possible she chose the fish and found that she really liked it. She also chose stir fry veggies which wouldn’t have been her first choice but she knows vegetables will give her nutrients and fill her up, and she does not want to fall victim to the freshman 15, so she made the healthy choice. She wants to keep looking good in that cheer uniform too! You may have to try new things, but you could find that you really like something you would’ve never tried!

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So those are my healthy college eating tips. It goes without saying that everything in moderation, from late night cheesy bread fests to alcohol, make sure you balance that with healthy eating and living. Oh, and the mom in me says to make sure you do your homework, wash your hands, and go to bed at a reasonable time! My college years were such a wonderful time of fun and hard work, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. I want everyone to enjoy this time in their lives because believe me it goes by so fast, and soon you’ll be old like me. However, if you can follow my tips you’ll be an old person who is living a life of vitality- like Valerie!