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Posts tagged ‘healthy’


by Logan

Health Benefits From Eating Dinner Together

Eating at a table, surrounded by your family may seem as something as foreign to you as aliens. But it also might be something you are already doing.  But studies are showing that there is a developmental and health benefit to having family dinner a few times a week.

As a teenager, I hated eating a meal with my parents. That was usually the time that I got in trouble about my poor grades or something that I did wrong. But, I also remember getting praised for the good things that I did and our family even solved some family crisis around the dinner table. fo

Also, when sitting around the dinner table, I was much more likely to get a better meal. When my parents cooked, I was getting some meat, vegetables, breads, milks, and other necessary daily vitamins. Eating around the table really provided a good baseline for nutrition.

Now, was every meal a perfectly balanced nutritional masterpiece?  Of course not.  But you are allowed a few indulges every once in a while.

While nutritional benefits are great, the social and relationships advantages are immense. Really, a family that eats together, is far better off than a family that doesn’t. Of course this isn’t an across the board statement. There are plenty of good families that don’t eat together and they survive. There are plenty of families that eat together all the time, that don’t survive. But, on average, it is a great things.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits

1.)     Forms a connection

When you take time to listen to your family, you form a strong bond with them. This is a great time to learn how everyone’s day went. A connection is especially important between spouses and children and parents. Both sides want the other side to listen and give feed back.  Plans are made and goals can be set.  Then, at a later time, they can be reevaluated and changes can be made.  A sense of security and love can be formed.

2.)     Helps you relax

After a long day of work, or school, or watching the kids, or whatever…this time can help you relax. You sit back and enjoy each other’s company.  You learn something and are others are listening to you. You can discuss the day and sort of release some bent up tension.

3.)     Solves problems

Problems arise in families all the time. Dinner time can be a moment to identify the problem and make solutions. Skipping this moment can have lasting effects. A problem that could have been solved early in the process, no may take days and weeks to solve.

4.)     A great teaching moment

This moment can provide time to discuss things like manners and behavior around the dinner table. Open discussion can happen on expectations and what worked and didn’t about a specific incident or moment.  Often we are busy with sports, homework, television, or something else. Eating time provides a few moments where important things can happen.

5.)     A great time to have some fun

Dinner time is a great time to laugh and enjoy what others are saying. Jokes and fun times are routine around the dinner table. My own children love to hear my work stories and the awesome things that happen. More than once, I’ve had milk pouring from my nose on the funny things that they have said.

 

Overall, eating together provides both mental and nutritional well being. It can be overstated the importance of that time that is spent. Often, if used in a good way, then more than just a good meal can occur. Opportunities to try new food and get input from your children is priceless. Eating together is such a good boost to your health.  Don’t miss this chance.


by Logan

Which is more expensive – Healthy Foods or Bad Foods?

If you are like most people I know, food and you have a weird relationship in your life. On one hand, you love to eat it. On another, you hate what it does to your wallet.  But, there are some people, who see food as a necessity and are much more comfortable spending $50.00 on eating out and have trouble spending $50.00 on a pair of jeans or a shirt that is needed.

Whatever your relationship is with food, you have to admit it is expensive.  But, food also determines how healthy you are.  No matter how much you exercises or avoid the topic, a healthy person eats healthy food. This isn’t saying that we can’t indulge or even have a bad week or two. But, overall we are what we eat.

So, if this is the case, why don’t more people purchase healthy food from organic stores and such. The prevailing belief is that healthy food costs more.  This is really the basis of many things. The thing that pushes people over the top is price.

This may be the case when comparing organic tomatoes to regular tomatoes. We often see  the single extra dollar we are spending and we say to ourselves, “Healthy food is too expensive.”

But…if you were to really look at your spending; you would come to find that on average, most people spend far more on unhealthy foods than healthy foods. We purchase many foods that are high in saturated fats and added sugars.

I really think that when it comes to food, we get tunnel vision. When we are concentrating on our grocery bill, money is the primary concern. But when we are out eating, tastes, food choices, and our emotional standing plays more of an issue.

Be honest, have you ever needed a break from work or from kids and the best option was a good lunch moment with some bad food. We often exclude this little expenditure in our overall viewpoint of the cost of food.

The USDA looked into this very argument. They compared near 4,500 different types of food both healthy and less healthy.  They compared price per calorie, edible weight, and average portion size.

If the researcher is based on edible weight and price per portion – it is easy to see that healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, yogurt and other healthy foods are more affordable than roast beef, chicken, or canned tuna.

When it comes to price per calorie – healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are slightly more expensive than chocolate, candy, ice cream, and chips.  But barely. The interesting thing is that based on the edible weight – the cost is about the same.  The discounts that are given at stores are largely due to the desire to sell more foods. Vegetables and Fruits don’t last forever on the shelves as does most candy and ice cream. That should tell you something right there.

How to overall improve your diet and save money

Money is often lost due to lack of preparation. If we don’t bring food with us to lunch – we tend to spend large amounts of money for food that is unhealthy. Fast foods are often the haven for the unprepared.

1.)      Plan meals ahead of time to cut out cost

2.)      When cooking – make leftovers and minimize waste. An entire meal could be saved and not wasted in some cases.

3.)       Since meats are so expensive – use other items as the main course and meats as a side to the meal.

4.)       Buy fruits in season – they tend to be less expensive

5.)      Build a garden.  Save money by planting a garden. This pushes you to eat the food that you’ve grown.

 

Food prices are increasing dramatically. Be more conscious of good food and good prices. Planning is really the key.  Good and healthy food is well within our reach, both price wise and availability.


by Logan

Want a Healthy Morning, Choose Orange Juice

If it is early in the morning and you are searching through your fridge, what is the most likely drink that you will pull out. Many drink chocolate milk, a soda, milk.  But the most common fruit juice that will be consumed in the morning is Orange Juice.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. The chance are that within the last week, you’ve had a few servings of orange juice. I know that I have.   On average, a consumer, drink 3 times more orange juice than the next closest juice – apple juice.

But, you might be asking yourself, besides the great taste, is their any health value to orange juice.

Compared to soda this is an easy yes. But you’d be surprised on how much of a health benefit there really is.  Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits that can be seen.

Improved Blood Pressure

A study that was published last year, indicated that a daily glass of orange juice could have improved effects in diastolic blood pressure.   The exact method is very scientific. In essences it illustrates that orange juices has many vitamins and minerals. One such, affects the small blood vessels and could improve the blood pressure.

Orange juice has also been linked to decreasing the risk of a patient in having a cardiovascular event.

Decrease of Bad Cholesterol

Bad cholesterol can be overproduced by the body or consumed through our eating habits. Orange juice is believed to help combat high cholesterol.

By doing so, the bad cholesterol can not subsequently attach to our arteries. In essence, we are helping to protect our heart from excess cholesterol.

Prevention of Neural Tube Defects

This condition is a serious condition where problems in the spinal cord and brain are seen in a new born. Folate or Folic Acid is the vitamin that when missing, causes Neural Tube Defect also refereed to as  a congenital defect because it happens before birth.  A daily dose of orange juice can provide a portion of the necessary daily dose of Folate.

Great Source of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important a vitamin to prevent and protect against sickness, aging tissue, early aging, and tissue damage, among others.  Vitamin C can not be produced in the body. Therefore, it must be added to the body through external means. Consumption of Orange juice is a great source of this essential vitamin.

Protection against excess Inflammation

Additional studies have looked at the results of inflammatory responses within the body. This doesn’t look at or mean from injury, like a twisted ankle. But inflammatory responses means injury and in certain cases, inflammation can cause ill effects in the body.

Orange juice can prevent or control a measure of the inflammation. This again points to some of the minerals and vitamins inside orange juice.

Protection against Kidney Stones

It has been looked at as a prevention method, though not completely, against reforming certain kidney stones. This appears to be a preventative measure and it can not help current kidney stones. Those who drink orange juice, more than any other citrus juices are at less of a risk for kidney stones.

Remember to Drink in Moderation

More isn’t always better, especially when it come to orange juice.  Drinking 5 cups of orange juice or more, won’t necessarily mean better health. Moderation is the key. 1-2 cups of orange juice a day is quite satisfactory for maximal health benefit.

In addition, excess drinking can lead to diarrhea, weight gain, and other problems.

Teeth or dental issues can result. Acidity in the orange juice can cause cavities and teeth decay.

With or Without Pulp

This is an interesting question that relates more to a heartburn issues. There are many people who can not drink pulp due to burning in stomach. IT is also being debated whether pulp is better for your health. So far, nothing indicates one is better than the other, outside of prevention of heartburn.

Overall, remember Orange Juice appears to be a healthy choice.


by Michael

Your Year to Healthy

As we jump into the new year, many of us have set resolutions to hit the gym and make this year our year to get fit. As a recent Exercise Science graduate, I commend you for that and encourage you to never surrender the fight! With that in mind, there are a few tips that I will suggest to make your workout “work out” just a little bit better for you.

First of all, it is important to decide what your goals are for going to the gym. Are you going to lose weight? Maybe just get more in shape so that you don’t get winded playing with the kids? Or could it be to just feel better physically and/or mentally? Decide before you start so that you have a real and measurable goal to work toward during your year. It also makes the gym seem less intimidating when you know what you are going to do when you get there. And remember, it is easy to slack off when you aren’t pushing yourself to achieve something.

Second, set a regular time to go to the gym. Whether it is the early hours before the rest of the world is awake, during a lunch break, right after work, or the late night hours of the undead, make your time to go. When you try to squeeze a workout into your day “whenever you have time”, chances are it isn’t going to happen. Sorry to break that news to you. Half of the battle for your health is just getting there. I promise you that once you’re there and the endorphins are flowing, you’ll be glad you made that time to go. Set a time and stick to it.

Third, build a workout that doesn’t require a “buddy”. I have tried to work out with friends, roommates, and even my wife, only to find that life happens and for one reason or another they can’t make it. It is vital in making this your year to get in the car and go it alone. Pack your headphones and your strappy arm thing for your iPod and head to the gym. Create a workout that requires only you to complete it. And who knows? You may make a friend at the gym that is there regularly to spot you when lifting or to race you to the top of the hill on the stationary bicycles.

Fourth, make your time at the gym a reasonable amount of time. Unless you are a personal trainer or you are getting paid to pump iron, you don’t have all the time in the world to spend at the gym. You have a life and the gym is only meant to increase the quality of that life, not become it. Your body will respond to shorter, regular workouts far better than lengthy, sporadic bouts with weights. Try to keep your workout in the 30-60 minute range. That’s enough time to get your heart rate up and utilize fat in your body as energy.

Last of all, find exercises you like and don’t push yourself too hard. Let’s face it, treadmills just aren’t meant for everybody. It’s ok to try a different cardio machine until you find one that works for you. There are a number of different weight machines and free weights available at most gyms to give you a variety of lifts to try. When you decide on what you like, start out low and build up over time. You don’t want to start your year off with an injury that puts you out of commission. Be smart when setting your limits and you’ll love the burn every time you feel it.

Practice these simple steps and your resolution will turn into a part of your day that you can’t live without. Remember, this is your year to healthy.


by James Tuck

Affordable Health Insurance Quotes

Millions of Americans have discovered that health insurance is one expense they cannot fit into their monthly budget. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 34 percent of the 45 million uninsured families in the U.S. have incomes above, in some cases well above, the poverty line. Many of these same families do not meet the low-income guidelines that would qualify them for state healthcare assistance. In this environment, families must practice preventative care, maintain savings so that they can pay for medical care out-of-pocket, and shop for affordable health insurance policies that can provide at least some level of coverage. The following ideas can help individuals and families get quotes for health insurance that fits into their budget without completely breaking the bank.

1. Scale back coverage levels. Many people start looking for health insurance that covers as much as possible, including every office visit, prescriptions and more. The cost of this type of policy becomes unaffordable very quickly for people with children or pre-existing conditions. Instead, look for affordable health insurance quotes online on policies that require the policyholder to pay for smaller, routine expenses out-of-pocket, while providing coverage for the larger expenses such as emergency room visits, necessary surgery and hospital stays.

2. Shop around and get several quotes. The time it takes to contact various health insurers and get quotes could be worth hundreds of dollars each month off the price of a health insurance policy, so the effort makes this step well worth doing. Look for online sites that can provide quotes from several health insurers at once, and make sure to select the same options for each quote. Every insurance company uses a different formula for assigning risk to an individual’s health profile, which results in a variety of price quotes for the same coverage from different companies. Some health insurance sites also have tools that allow consumers to compare policies from different providers and find the best features for the lowest price.

3. Increase the insurance policy deductible. One of the easiest ways to get more affordable health insurance quotes is to agree to a higher deductible or copays. Each consumer needs to weigh out-of-pocket costs and the frequency of their doctor visits against the cost of paying higher premiums for a smaller-deductible insurance policy that covers these things. Paying $50 for a doctor visit three to four times per year makes more sense than paying $100 per month extra for a policy that covers routine doctor visits.

4. Sign up for a health insurance policy while young and healthy. Insurance companies base their rates on each individual’s probability of needing medical services in the future. For individuals that have pre-existing conditions, regular health insurance can become very expensive.

5. Buy health insurance through an employer. Fewer employers are offering health insurance these days, or they have scaled back from paying 100 percent of the costs to requiring employees to subsidize their plans. For consumers that have failed to find cheap quotes on independent health insurance policies, switching jobs to an employer that offers good benefits might offer a solution. Additionally, certain groups and associations, such as the Rotary Club, AAA or professional teacher and accountant organizations, offer group health insurance plans for people who do not have employer health insurance benefits. Investigate these policies carefully, because the coverage targets the average person’s needs and may not include coverage for certain pre-existing conditions.

6. Consumers can also find out about low-cost health insurance options through local Social Services offices after exhausting other options. Social Services may be able to offer information on health insurance companies that have lower quotes and premiums than most, or companies that cater to families with certain needs.

Many families put off getting proper medical care because of their lack of health insurance. This includes preventative care and yearly exams, making it harder to catch disease in its early stages and more expensive to treat it once the person finally seeks medical care. The more often people demand affordable health insurance quotes, the more companies and the government will listen. Affordable healthcare is not yet a reality for every family, but hopefully the future will bring changes in healthcare policy and cost controls that can make health insurance more affordable for everyone, regardless of their income.


by Logan

Are You Healthy? Part II

This is part II of, “Are you Healthy?”

In Part I we looked at Factors 1-4 of the complete picture of being healthy.  As a reminder they are:  1.) Control over your diet.   2.)  Ability to perform daily activities.  3.)  Emotional well being.  And 4.) Mind Activities.

The next 6 items will complete the factors that should be considered when determining if we are indeed healthy.  Surprisingly, or not, our happiness can often be linked to our health.  But, health isn’t just in our exercise and out diet. Let’s take a look.

5.)    Meditation/Spirituality

This is a form of mental balance. We all know that balance is the key. Reflection, concentration, and sometime mind numbness are all manners which the body, soul, and mind can rejuvenate.  Don’t overlook this important ingredient.  Religion can play a part in happiness and your health.  Spirituality is another aspect of balance.

6.)     Routine Physical Exams

See a medical provider.  This is key.  If something is going wrong – like diabetes, cancer, asthma, and a list of other medical conditions. No matter how much you are doing some of the other things, you will end up being unhealthy.  Visits to a health care professional can reduce some of the health issues that plague our society. They give recommendations, enlightenment, and professional judgment that will, in many cases, save your life.

7.)     Exercising

Muscle movement, breathing, and the release of energy are essential of a healthy being. Sweat, movement, joint use, better bowel movements are all possibilities when it comes to exercise. As we set manageable goals and reach them, our confidence and performance improves. We become healthier.

8.)     Vitamins

As we age and as we improve our health, certain vitamins can become helpful for us to reach or maximum or potential.  Be careful with what you find. Research and become familiar. Don’t listen to every “professional” that give you advice.

9.)     Well balanced meals

Having control over our food is great. But we also need to choose better. We can meal plan to maximize the nutritional value of what we eat. Are we going to make mistakes?  Of course!  Is it hard to right the ship, it might be. But remember, after you’ve had a terrible meal, you can make a change as soon as your next meal or snack.

10.)   Motivation

Success comes with motivation. Failure occurs with the lack of motivation. Your health will be directly proportional to your motivation. If you wake every day and say, “oh no!” Someday you will wake and say, “Why didn’t I?” Learn what motivates you. In some cases this will be easy, and in most cases it won’t. Motivation may change over time.  But you need to always be searching for it.

 

A healthy individual may live to they age a hundred. But so may an unhealthy person. The chances are though; it will be much harder to do so, if you aren’t healthy.  But happiness must also come into play. Being healthy can afford you an emotional, healthy and often spiritual balance and because of this health, you can transcend a level of happiness.

So my suggestion is to take each of the 10 categories and rank yourself from 1 to 10 and see how healthy you really are.  Things like motivation and control over your food may seem like a yes or no answer, but dive deeper into a week or a month and see how you turn out. We’ll all have a bad day or two.  Let’s always remember to take a long look at the bigger picture of health.


by Logan

Are You Healthy? Part I

This is a very interesting question, one where the answers might surprise you. This discussion will be divided into two posts. Please look at both to see the Ten Factors of Being Healthy.

Imagine the five healthiest males and females you can think of. Would they be healthy for the same reasons?  What does “being healthy” actually mean?

A healthy person is expected to live a long life full of happiness. But how exactly is that accomplished? Food and exercise alone!?! There are several aspects of your health – including health, emotionally and spiritually.

Can a fit person be unhealthy because they are not emotionally healthy?

Can someone be called healthy who is completely happy but who has a severe medical condition.  For me, this changes a lot about what is healthy?

Every year, new diets come out that promise a new you.  A change in your weight and a better outlook on life are preached by almost anyone you can think of.

Therefore, I believe that healthiness is a level of understanding. There are tons of aspects that come into it.  I’ve broken these down into ten important factors.  When looked at, as a whole, our chances of being healthy and happy are greatly improved.

Let’s look at Ten Things that can factor into your health:

1.)     Control over your diet

The question here is who controls who.  As we look at our foods and beverages we often overlook our cravings and secret stashes. Is it unhealthy to sneak a bowl of ice cream every once in awhile. It certainly isn’t. But if this becomes a daily battle, then a measure of unhealthiness comes into play.  What are your fatal food sins?

2.)     Ability to perform daily activities

Daily activities include washing yourself, preparing your own foods, walking down stairs, getting your clothes on, and much more. Think about it…you’re not even close to healthy if these things are difficult. Medical issues, accidents, injuries, and a list of other things may prevent you from doing this.  Some of these reasons are surmountable and some are not. But if you work hard, maybe you can see some improvement in this area.

3.)     Emotional well being

One of the areas that is often overlooked is the emotional well being of an individual. The problem here is where do we draw the line of normal?  Because you are female or male and cry occasionally, this doesn’t say that you aren’t healthy. It doesn’t even say that you are emotional stable. But, often we protect emotional by saying that it is our personality to be emotional.  Whatever is normal for you, this is what is most important. Then try to do things that improve your emotional well being. As anyone can improve their running time in the one mile run, so can we all improve or emotional stability.

4.)     Mind Activities

You’ve heard that the mind is a muscle so use it!  This is especially true when considering your level of healthiness. If you are stagnate in improving your mental capability, you are risking that all will turn to mush.   This also pushes us to find a hobby that can allow us to improve. It doesn’t always need to be something that affects our mind like chess or word puzzles. Guitar, singing, dancing, and many other hobbies, allow our minds to shine.

 

My next blog post will look at the next 6 factors.  They aren’t things that should be overlooked when considering if we are indeed healthy.


by Christel Swasey

Do You Think Health When You Think Exercise?

Do you have a negative attitude about exercising? What do you think of when you think of exercising?  Do you think of suffering, sweating, panting, feeling pain in your lungs, a stitch in your side, sore joints and blisters?  Do you think that after this suffering, you also have to endure dieting to match the pain?   Or, like my oh-so-nutty and dear, chubby friend, do you think you have to lose weight before you can exercise without embarrassment?  Stop the insanity.  Nobody cares but you.  Just do it!

Think of the euphoria of those after-exercise endorphins being released; think of the just-exercised fresh looking complexion you’ll face in the mirror, and the spring in your step when your muscles are stronger, and then think of the fact that this simple act, exercise, repeated consistently, can add years to your life.  Think of the fact that exercise lowers cholesterol (preventing heart disease and heart attacks) and it improves mood (even in small amounts) and it improves metabolism, bone health, and beauty– to name just a few reasons to exercise.

Are you, like so many people, a victim of false beliefs, such as believing you must exercise very intensely and for long amounts of time, or achieve the perfect body weight, to get health benefits from exercise?  (None of these are true; recent studies show that moderate walking for about thirty minutes, three to four days a week, has huge benefits for anyone, regardless of weight or age.)

Because exercise is the antidote for so many illnesses, both physical and mental, we should do more of it.  But because we live in a society where cars, elevators, computers, factories, and drive-throughs make us move less and sit more, it’s not easy to work it into our daily lives.

Experts are suggesting simple changes, more and more.   If  you don’t like the weights or the aerobics classes at the local gym, why not try a new sport?  Swimming, golfing, hiking, or roller skating can be really fun at any age: why not try a new sport? What’s stopping you?

When I began to run, years ago, I was a total non-runner.  My friend taught me that the trick is not to go for speed, but for time.  I’d run for three minutes, and then walk the rest of the time.  The next day, I’d run for four minutes, and then walk the rest of the time.  The following day, I’d run for five minutes, and then walk.  I’d never go backwards, and I’d never speed up.

And that simple bit of advice worked for me.  I ended up running a half marathon without stopping to walk once.  No lie.

If nothing else works for you, rely on walking.  It is the simplest, most portable, most inexpensive, most sociable and long lasting sport I can think of.

Walk around the block; walk your dog, walk your baby in the stroller, walk with a neighbor, walk with your cell phone friend across the continent, walk alone– just walk!

Being health is an important thing to keep up. It is also important to keep up on what cheap health insurance you can obtain. Use the form above to find the cheapest health insurance quotes and policies.


by Christel Swasey

New Year’s Resolutions: Two Healthy Weeks of Family Dinners

It’s not easy to make a New Year’s resolution happen.  Yet, every year, we try.  This year’s no different.

One of my resolutions is to speed walk for thirty minutes, four days a week.  (Today the weather was so nice, and the baby fell asleep in his stroller, so I ended up speedwalking for an hour and a half.  So far, so good!)

Another resolution I’ve set for this year is to cook and eat for heart health.  I want to decrease the amount of high-cholesterol (meat-based) and high-sugar (not whole-grain-based) cooking that I do.  I want to start by leaving all the sludge-for-our-arteries kinds of foods at the grocery store where they belong, not in our refrigerator or in our pantry, where they will end up in our bodies.  I think that if I buy it for guests or for the kids, I will end up ingesting it myself.  So:

I have made a list of meals for the first two weeks of 2012.  My criteria include quick preparation time, as few ingredients as possible, no highly expensive ingredients, lower sugar content, high fiber and nutrient content, no white flour content, and low-or-no meat content.  I also want to offer the family dessert every day, but a healthier style of desserts that we’ve been practicing in the past.

Here’s what I have come up with.  And, just so you know, I’m really doing this; I have my actual shopping list written for the ingredients I don’t already have at home.

Here it is:

 

  • Asparagus and Parmesan Risotto — with fruit and berry salad for dessert
  • Whole wheat pasta with homemade spaghetti sauce — poached vanilla apples for dessert
  • Corn tortilla enchiladas (bean and cheese) — hot fruit soup for dessert
  • Homemade salsa and whole wheat quesadillas — grapes and nuts for dessert
  • Fat-free shake-n-bake chicken, and baked potatoes with chive sauce  –sugarfree jello for dessert
  • Black bean wraps with the leftover salsa on top –fruit and nut salad for dessert
  • Zucchini, Leek, and egg-whites quiche  — sugarfree rootbeer floats for dessert
  • Roasted stuffed red peppers  —grapes and low fat cheese for dessert
  • Pasta primavera with whole wheat pasta and fresh herbs —  chocolate covered raisins and dried berries for dessert
  • Minestrone with homemade 100% whole wheat rolls  — baked pears with cinnamon sauce for dessert
  • Pineapple and mandarin chicken stir fry  — frozen chocolate covered bananas for dessert
  • Sweet potato waffles with berries  — no dessert
  • Spinach mushroom omelettes  — fresh berries with fat free cream for dessert
  • Lentil chili and cornbread  — 100% fruit- fruit leather for dessert

Doesn’t that sound good?

I am determined not to get discouraged if I don’t perfectly fulfill my resolutions.   If we end up with sugared up, high-cholesterol restaurant pizza one day because I don’t have time to cook, it’s okay.  We are aiming for improvement, and not immediate perfection.  The more we learn about health, and the more we attempt to put into actual practice our new knowledge of what changes actually prevent disease and create well-being, the better off our families will eventually be.

Our families are the most important thing to us. Protect them with family health insurance.


by Christel Swasey

From the Healthy Recipe Collection: Better Than Shrek Soup

I accidentally made Shrek Soup.  For a party.  Oh, it was scary, the night before, when I realized that the delicious soup that I had concocted appeared so brown and gluey.  My 14-year-old daughter said, “Mom, it tastes good but it looks like something Shrek would eat.”

Note to self:  If you add carrots to potato leek soup, do not puree any of them, as the orange carrots mix with the green leeks, turning the soup an ugly brown.)

In preparation for this holiday party, in which forty people were going to come to dine at my small house (which actually fits about eight people, tops) I had asked three of my guests to bring pots of soup.  I’d planned to make the fourth pot, and to bake rolls and cookies, and it would be a bread-and-soup based, simple, hearty feast.

I had planned to serve my guests what I thought was a fool-proof potato leek soup, the rich and creamy and irresistible version with a secret ingredient of whipping cream, but then: two things happened:

a) Because I had tried to wing the recipe and not read the recipe, it turned out badly the night before so I didn’t dare serve it to guests.

b)  After the fact, my conscience got the better of me.  Leeks and cream taste great, but the antioxidants in the leeks don’t cancel out the fat and cholesterol in the whipping cream, contrary to popular thought.

So, I searched for a healthy soup online and found one.  It had to be different from the three soup flavors my friends had told me they were going to bring.  And I had to run to the store, get the ingredients, and make it quickly.

So, the healthiest, easiest, yummiest-sounding soup that I found was on the Mayo Clinic’s website.  It’s a minestrone that they’ve improved by using unsalted chicken broth and fresh tomatoes rather than canned tomatoes, limiting  the sodium content.  I doubled this recipe and I also quadrupled the amount of pasta, so that the soup would feed more people.  I also added the beans and pasta separately, because I fear overcooked pasta.

It turned out perfectly.  We still have leftovers, three days later.  I just warmed some up for lunch and it is wonderful!

The good thing about making a healthy choice (like serving the Mayo Clinic Minestrone, rather than high-fat –although admittedly delectable– potato leek cream soup) is that you can fill up on this nutrient-packed soup and will end up eating fewer pieces of fudge (or whatever else your heart desires but gets clogged and sludged by.)

So, here’s a great idea for a holiday gathering.

My version of The Mayo Clinic’s Minestrone:

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

2 carrots, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

8 cups fat-free, unsalted chicken broth

4 large tomatoes, chopped

1 cup chopped spinach

3 cans canned beans (I used 1 chickpeas and 2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed)

1 and 1/2 cup uncooked small shell pasta

2 small zucchinis, diced

5 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

DIRECTIONS:  (My version)

In a large saucepan, I heated the olive oil over low to medium heat.  Next, I added the onion, celery and carrots and sauteed 5 minutes.   Then I added garlic and continued cooking for another3 minutes. I stirred in broth, tomatoes, spinach, and zucchini. While it boiled very briefly, and then simmered, I cooked the pasta separately.  Last, I added the beans and the pasta and fresh basil, just before serving.

Click Here To Check Out The Mayo Clinic’s Version of the Minestrone

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