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Staying Healthy During Flu Season

sneezingThe flu season is under way in Wisconsin and confirmed cases have been reported. While the best way to stay healthy this flu season is to get vaccinated, there are some other things you can do to protect yourself.

Here are a few:

1.  Practice good hand hygiene. Encourage everyone in your family to practice regular handwashing, especially after using the bathroom, before and after handling or eating food and after coming in from the outdoors. Handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.

2.  Take cover. Get into the habit of sneezing into your inner elbow. If you have a tissue, cover your nose and mouth with it when you sneeze or cough.

3.  Don’t touch. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.

4.  Replace and wash items. Buy a new toothbrush after a cold or other illness. Wash your bedding at least once a week, especially pillow covers. Wash gloves, scarves and any other attire that covers your face or mouth. This is helpful in keeping germs away.

5.  Stay hydrated. Dry nasal passages make it easier for the flu virus to breed, so its important to drink plenty of fluids. Water is a natural moisturizer for the inside of your body. Aim for eight cups of water a day. Swap out fizzy carbonated drinks for herbal tea. Increase your fluid intake if you are on a high-fiber or high-protein diet. Continue Reading »

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup

butternut squash soupBeing lactose intolerant I have to watch my consumption of dairy. As much as I like cream based soups, they don’t like me. So whenever I come across a smooth textured hearty soup that does not call for cream, I get a little excited.  This recipe caught my eye as it calls for an in-season ingredient (squash) and one of my other favorite ingredients, ginger.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and halved*
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons (1-inch) slices fresh chives
  • Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a roasting pan or jelly-roll pan; toss well. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool 10 minutes.
  3. Place half of squash mixture and half of broth in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with chives and pepper, if desired.

Yields six 2/3 cup servings.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories:   112
Total fat:   2.5 grams
Saturated fat:   0.4 grams
Monounsaturated fat:   1.7 grams
Polyunsaturated fat:   0.3 grams
Protein:   3.3 grams
Carbohydrate:   22.4 grams
Fiber:   3.6 grams
Cholesterol:   0 mg
Sodium:   266 mg

*shallots: are similar to onions and garlic. They can be used like an onion, however grows in a bunch like garlic.  They have a milder taste than most onion

Recipe from: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-butternut-squash-shallot-soup-10000001854009/

Delicious (and Healthy!) Football Snacks

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/globevisions/

Winter marks the season for building snowmen, having snowball fights and Super Bowl parties, where friends and family get together to cheer on their favorite team. Along with the cheering, there is a lot of eating. However, there are many ways to enjoy tasty and healthy snacks as we watch our team move the ball down the field.

 

Think healthy fats.
Consider an assortment of nuts served alongside dried fruit such as apricots, dried pineapple, raisins, cherries, etc. Throw in some dark chocolate dipped nuts, too.

Display a variety of olives on a platter. Consider Greek Kalamata olives, Green Spanish olives, garlic stuffed olives, red pepper stuffed olives and the sort.

Add color to your snacks by making guacamole, or try something new like a Mexican layer dip, which incorporates layers of black beans (or refried beans), shredded low-fat cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes with green chilis, Greek plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream, chopped avocado (or guacamole). Serve with whole grain tortilla chips.

 

Include fruit.
A fruit salad is not only nutritious, but also tasty and easy to make. Combine apples, pears, pomegranates, watermelon, cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, pineapple, kiwis, or whatever fruit you prefer for a wonderful and colorful sweet snack.

Make a fruit pizza. Use low-fat vanilla yogurt for the sauce and arrange pieces of fruit on top of it on a low-fat pie crust. Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes and enjoy!

Fruit kabobs can be a great hit as well, with fruit such as pineapple and nectarines caramelizing quite nicely when grilled.

 

Don’t forget the veggies.
Place a variety of colorful veggies such as orange baby carrots, white cauliflower florets, and green celery sticks on a platter. Serve with hummus, a chickpea dip.

Bruschetta can be a wonderful addition to any party. Slice up some tomato slices and place on top of pieces of grilled French bread that has been rubbed with garlic and topped with some olive oil. Next place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese. Top with a fresh basil leaf for a wonderful appetizer, Italian style. You can also make a tomato salad with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil, tossed in light vinaigrette and serve over grilled bread.

Salsa with whole grain tortilla chips is an all-time favorite.

Stuffed mushroom caps.

Kale crisps are unbelievably tasty. Simply remove the washed and dried kale leaves from their stem and tear into bite-size pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

Serve protein like a pro.
Serve an assortment of meatballs with a variety of sauces. Use lean ground beef, or white breast ground turkey. Combine with cooked rice or Panko bread crumbs and add spices. For Italian meatballs, use oregano and serve with a tomato-base sauce; for Asian style meatballs, use ginger and sesame seeds or green onions and serve with teriyaki or soy sauce. Experiment with different spices to make your own creation.

Sliders are quite popular and can be made very easily. Once again, consider using ground turkey or lean ground beef. Serve on whole wheat flat bread for an interesting change.

Consider mixing avocado with shredded chicken and sautéed onions for a variation on the classic chicken salad. The avocado adds healthy fat to this traditional salad and allows you to cut down on the amount of mayonnaise used. Serve with whole wheat pita bread.

 

Don’t forget the beverages.
Smoothies can be a great hit at any party. Simply mix yogurt, a little bit of juice and fruit such as mango, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, etc. for a healthy and refreshing drink. Kids will love this!

Have pitchers of fruit and vegetable infused water. Earlier in the day, wash and cut up lemon in slices and place in a pitcher full of water. Cover and let stand. You can also use cucumber slices. Do the same with orange slices.

Above all, remind your guests to drink responsibly if you plan to offer alcoholic drinks.

With some planning and creative thinking, you can enjoy delicious and healthy offerings at any Super Bowl party.

Add color to your lunches

Looking for a way to liven up your lunch? Here are some ideas for making your midday meal colorful and healthy.

Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, avocado, celery, peppers and carrots. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soy beans). Drizzle with low-fat dressing. Fruits like mandarin oranges, apples, pears, dried cranberries also add color and nutrition to salads.

Looking to add more vegetables to your meal? Roast and combine them with low-fat cheese, hummus or avocado, and wrap it all in a whole wheat tortilla. Add an extra cup of frozen veggies to your soup. Microwave and enjoy a cupful of antioxidant rich soup. Colorize your baked potato by adding beans, salsa, broccoli and low-fat cheese.

To incorporate more legumes into your lunch, think about hummus, falafel, baked beans and black beans. For a protein boost, include a small handful of walnuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts or even soy nuts in your lunch. For low fat dairy options, include a small carton of milk or yogurt. Continue Reading »

Tracking Your Path to Success in Weight Loss

 

Many people are interested in losing weight. Eating less, starting an exercise program and limiting fatty foods are strategies that many people utilize to reach their weight loss goal.

One strategy to help individuals lose and keep off the weight is to track what and how much they eat. Tracking also helps individuals start and consistently maintain an exercise routine. For example, pedometers track how many steps a person takes in a day, while keeping a food journal allows them to view their daily food intake.

Food journals have come a long way from the pen and paper version. The tediously written food logs that were very time consuming to complete are long gone. Today there is a myriad of weight-management applications at our disposal. These food and nutrition programs are available online, and the apps are available on smartphones or tablets.

Some apps are more user friendly than others, and in order to know which one would work best you may have to try a few before deciding on one. Basically, the apps allow you to enter the foods you eat on a daily basis, giving you access to an enormous database of foods to choose from. Some allow you to track your consumption of water, your physical activity and your weight as well as other measurements such as waist circumference. At the end of the day a daily report on calories and nutrients consumed as well as other variables is available for viewing.

However, like buying a new car in which you have a choice of one with standard features or one with more bells and whistles, some weight management apps have more to offer than others. For example, some apps will provide additional information about specific nutrients like sodium or saturated fats, while others simply report on calories, fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Many apps provide an opportunity for social support. You can sign in to join a ‘community’ or ‘team’ – groups of people sharing a same goal or having something in common. “Mommies over 40,” for example, brings together mothers over the age of 40 while “Healthy Hearts” is a group of people with heart health issues that support each other, share information and learn from each other. These teams may have a blog where each team member can communicate or share resources with other members of the group, communicate about events, etc. It provides support and a means to reach out to others who may be struggling or experiencing the same things as you.

Research suggests that establishing a support network can be extremely beneficial for successful weight loss. Online supports groups can be very helpful to many.

To learn more about these apps, a review of the 10 most popular free weight management apps is available through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to this review, some of the top free weight management apps include Myfitnesspal.com, Caloriecount.com and Sparkpeople.com along with many more that were reviewed.

As you work toward achieving a health goal, it may help to track your efforts. Weight management apps allow you to see how well you are doing regarding nutrition and fitness and provide you the opportunity to make corrective actions quickly if needed.

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

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