Don’t Count Calories – Use a Master Grocery List Instead

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If trying to lose weight the conventional way hasn’t worked for you, stop counting calories and put your calculator away. Create a healthy master grocery list instead. Using a master grocery list makes shopping easier – and more fun. You don’t have to write a new grocery list every week unless you want to do it. Pick and choose the foods you want for the week from an abundance of healthy choices.

 

Even after you’ve kept the weight off, choose foods from your master list and even throw in a treat once in awhile. How often is up to you- but it’s better to keep sugary treats and processed foods out permanently or eat them once a month or a few times a year. That’s what I do. I’ll have ice cream once a month, and an occasional Dunkin’ Donut or pastry.

I have memories of visiting Albertson’s Bakery, buying and eating a pack of cherry turnovers in one day. It added a tummy bulge and ruined my teeth. If I ate one turnover a month, I wouldn’t have had those repercussions.

Sweets aren’t the only foods you should have once in awhile. You might love getting salads and meats from the deli, but even though they’re freshly made and not packaged, they may still contain too much sugar, salt and other forbidden ingredients and be packed with empty calories. You can eat anything you want as a treat now and then, unless you have a medical condition or prefer to stay a 100% clean eater at all times.

 

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Cocoa and Dark Chocolate

Here’s some good news. You can eat healthy without giving up chocolate. Now the bad news – you’ll still need to give up milk chocolate and other high-sugar, processed confections. Snack on dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. We’re talking about those fancy chocolate bars for sale at the checkout of Trader Joe’s and other good-for-you grocery stores.

Replace artificial, microwavable drinks like Instant Hot Chocolate Mix with Hershey’s 100% cacao powder instead. It’s all natural, has no sugar or preservatives, and boasts plenty of polyphenol antioxidants.  Natural cocoa is an excellent source of:

 

  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B9

If you’re used to milk chocolate, unsweetened cocoa will taste bitter the first time you drink it, but it won’t take long to get used to it.

 Vegetables

If you tend to put fresh veggies in the fridge and forget about them, frozen or canned vegetables keep longer and are still good for you. (Just check ingredients before buying.) Frozen vegetables are better than canned when it comes to additives. Fresh vegetables are the healthiest choice, but if they’re too expensive for you or they go bad before you have time to eat them, frozen and canned vegetables are better than no veggies.

Good veggies include:

  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Green Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • White Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Garlic

 

Vary your side dishes and salads by sampling exotic veggies. Oriental eggplant, tomatillo, baby pak choy, Spanish poblanos (peppers) and aji dulce are a few of the in-demand ethic vegetables you can find today. Include more yams and sweet potatoes in your diet – they contain lots of Vitamin A, biotin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, potassium and Vitamin B5!

 

 

 

 

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Fruits

 Choose from the usual suspects (and there are a lot more of them than you realize).

 

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Lemons and Limes
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Blackberries

 

You can also look into a wide selection of out of the ordinary fruits and vegetables to keep things interesting. Try mangos, papaya, tangerines, persimmons, avocados, plantains, lemongrass, guava and yucca. If you live in New York, Los Angeles or another large city, you’ll have no problem finding these and many other unusual goodies. You can even buy them online through Amazon.com.

 Grains and Breads

 

For grains and breads, there’s a whole world out there once you move past Wonder Bread. Choose from whole wheat and multigrain bread, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, steel cut oats, groat, brown rice, millet, teff and bulgur. Check health food stores and online retailers for groat, teff and other lesser-publicized grains, and brush up on your baking skills.

Make more sandwiches with sourdough bead. It’s a probiotic food containing beneficial live bacteria. Other probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, sour pickles and kefir.  Probiotics aid your digestion, and studies have shown they have natural anti-depressant qualities.

 

Dairy

Buy organic unsalted butter, lowfat milk, organic eggs, plain, unflavored yogurt (add your own fruit), and real cheese (not the packaged, sliced kind). If you’re lactose-intolerant or have other issues drinking cow’s milk, try almond, coconut, soy or rice milk. Coconut milk is the closest to cow’s milk in texture and fat content.

Spices

 Get rid of all the salt and sugar in your kitchen, except for a small amount you may need for recipes. It will be easy to develop a taste for these vitamin and antioxidant-packed alternatives –

 

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Pure Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

 

Nuts

Add nuts to plain yogurt, main dishes and salad for more crunch and more nutrients. Nuts are high in fiber, Vitamin E, polyphenol antioxidants and magnesium.

Stock up on unsalted peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, Macadamia nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds and cashews.

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Seeds

Keep pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds on hand to add to salads, main dishes and desserts. Bring some with you to work to snack on instead of candy and chips.

Beans

Save money and get more protein by buying beans, in bulk or canned.  There are dozens of beans you can buy to fix burritos, tacos, soups, side dishes and main dishes. They include:

 

  • Kidney Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • White Beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Black-eyed Peas
  • Pinto Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Yellow Beans

 

Baked beans and peanut butter aren’t as protein-packed as the beans listed above, but they’re healthier than lots of other foods. Always keep a jar of organic, non-GMO peanut butter in your cabinet to make sandwiches or spread on bagels or crackers. Read more about the health benefits of beans at The Bean Institute. 

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Lean Meat, Poultry and Fish

Choose organic meats and buy fresh from the butcher when possible. Avoid cheap “priced to sell” packaged meats, hot dogs (unless they’re turkey or chicken franks) and cured luncheon meats like pimento loaf. (Although you probably avoid pimento loaf already.)

 

  • Lean red meat with little marbling
  • Wild caught salmon
  • Skinless turkey and chicken breast
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Fresh or water-packed tuna
  • Pork chops (plenty of Vitamin B12)

 

 

Condiments

Instead of mayonnaise or butter, add one or more of the following to dishes, salads or sandwiches. Use extra virgin olive oil when cooking.

  • Salsa
  • Olive Oil
  • Cholula Hot Sauce – Made with arbol and piquin peppers and spices
  • Sriracha Chili Sauce – Made with red chili and garlic
  • Hummus – a traditional Middle Eastern paste made of ground chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic
  • Pesto – an Italian topping made of crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, Parmesan cheese and sheep’s milk cheese , blended with olive oil.

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Beverages

 Replace soda (diet and regular) with healthier choices, including that zero-calorie, hydrating stand-by, water.  Use a pitcher with a filter to store cleaned-up tap water at home, and pour the water into reusable plastic bottles. You don’t need to waste money buying bottled water at the store several times a day.

If you like coffee, you can still drink a few cups a day. Cut down on sugar and elaborate coffee drinks from Starbucks and other chains for a healthier java fix. Coffee, when consumed in moderation, protects against liver disease and reduces the risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Choose from the following beverages to increase Vitamin C, antioxidants and other nutrients in your diet while quenching your thirst.

 

  • Green Tea
  • Black Tea
  • Herbal Tea
  • Fruit Juice
  • Smoothies
  • Vegetable Juice
  • Kombucha

 

How to Cook

Steam, boil, broil, sauté, stir-fry, roast, pressure cook or microwave meat and produce – or put them in a crockpot. Most cooking methods are fine except for regular frying.

Fried foods clog arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. They inflame joints, leading to arthritis. Regular consumption of fried foods causes weight gain that contributes to diabetes and high blood pressure. Instead of high-calorie, artery-clogging fried chicken, eat roast chicken with garlic sauce.

About 95 percent of your diet should consist of whole, fresh foods, the kind your grandparents and great-grandparents ate. You don’t need to be a vegan or vegetarian to be healthy, but if that’s what you prefer, you’ll need to take supplements to make up for lack of Vitamin B12, which is only available naturally through animal products.

A note – Not all packaged foods are bad. Read ingredient lists on boxes, bags and cartons. Choose products made with natural, non-GMO ingredients.

 

Stay Active to Make the Most of Clean Eating

You’ll achieve better results from eating healthy if you have an active lifestyle and try to reduce (or at least control) daily stress. Exercise, positive thinking, meditation, fresh air and sunshine are necessary to keep your energy flowing. You don’t need to run a marathon or even go to the gym everyday to fulfill your activity quota. Walk more, do yoga, do stretches at your desk during break and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stay active consistently and it will add up

Kids in the 1960s-1980s were a lot skinnier than kids today, even though they ate McDonald’s and junk food. Why was that? They played outside after school, ate home cooked dinners at night, and spent Sundays at Grandma’s for an even bigger, home-cooked meal, featuring lots of food, but no additives or preservatives. They brought packed lunches to school and drank milk or juice with it, not soda. There wasn’t time to eat too much junk food. Mom and Grandma had other plans.

Avoid the temptation to get back into old eating habits by keeping only whole, fresh foods in your kitchen.  This makes it harder to go back to old eating habits and overindulge in processed or sugary foods. When you do eat processed or sugary foods again, you’ll really taste the difference and won’t eat as much. Eating clean foods makes you feel (and look) better.

What are some foods on your master grocery list? Let us know in the comments.

 

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Green Tea for Better Health and Fresher Breath

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No food or beverage is a miracle worker, but green tea comes close. With a host of powerful antioxidants, a moderate amount of caffeine, and traces of theobromine and theophyline, two natural stimulants, this tea provides maximum health benefits and zero calories per cup.

I discovered green tea by accident a few years ago. Not for weight loss or as a replacement for coffee, but as a panacea for bad dental health.  I’d had a tooth pulled and just come back from the dentist, so the usual brushing and flossing was out of the question.  And dried blood in the mouth doesn’t smell very good.  Even the cat backed away from me!

After doing some internet sleuthing, and discovered green tea improved your breath and neutralized bacteria in your mouth. There are even green tea mouthwashes from Colgate, Listerine and my favorite, Therabreath. You don’t need to buy green tea mouthwash to keep your breathe fresh – brewing green tea at home will give you a cleaner mouth, more energy and other benefits.

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Green tea (Camellia sinesis) has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. Highly regarded as a natural diuretic and stimulant, it’s also been used to heal wounds faster, improve digestion and lower blood pressure.

The health benefits of green tea seem too good to be true, but I can vouch for several of them.

 More Energy

Green tea has less caffeine than coffee, but its other components make up for that.  It gives you energy in a low-key, relaxed way. I started drinking green tea daily about two and a half years ago, and I can’t remember the last time I felt sluggish.

 A Healthier Mouth

 An Egyptian study showed subjects who rinsed their mouths with green tea for five minutes had reduced amounts of acid and bacteria. Drinking green tea may also guard against gum disease and banish microbes that cause bad breath. I haven’t had any cavities since making green tea my beverage of choice, although may also have a lot to do with changing my diet. (I rarely eat sugary foods or drink alcohol now.)

 Better Immunity 

Catechins (a type of antioxidant) in green tea may kill flu viruses. A cup or two of tea a day (sans milk, which can clog up your respiratory system and weaken the catechins) strengthens your immune system to protect you from common colds and the flu. And if you do catch a cold, you’ll bounce back faster.

 Reduced Appetite

 If you want to cut your appetite naturally, without resorting to diet pills, drink green tea. A Japanese study concluded catechins in green tea reduced body fatweight and waist circumference in subjects who consumed the tea over a 12 week period. I can agree with these findings. I don’t get hunger pangs for comfort food since I’ve added 2-4 cups of green tea to my daily routine.

Green tea is a thermogenic, aka a natural, fat-burning substance. Drink a few cups of green tea a day and add other thermogenic foods to your diet to stay thinner by eating well. Turkey breast, chicken breast, fish, whole-wheat bread, cayenne pepper and turmeric are just a few foods that provide essential nutrients while helping you burn fat and stunting your appetite.

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 Green Tea Vs. Matcha Green Tea

How does green tea differ from black tea? It’s not fermented, which gives the leaves more inflammation-fighting antioxidants. If you drink black tea, you’ll still experience increased energy, a better mood, and other antioxidant benefits, they just won’t be as powerful as the benefits from green tea.

Matcha green tea is even better for you than regular green tea. It’s a powder made from ground tea leaves. Tea leaves are infused into hot water, then thrown away to make regular bagged green tea. When you drink matcha green tea, you’re consuming whole tea leaves, not just brewed, steeped tea. You’ll get more antioxidants, and as much caffeine as in a cup of brewed coffee (70-140 mg). The best matcha tea brands usually come from Japan.

 

Why Is Green Tea So Healthy?

Two of the components in green tea provide innumerable health benefits.

EGCG, (Epigallocatechin gallate) is a powerful polyphenol antioxidant. It destroys free radicals to prevent inflammation and disease. An average cup of green tea contains 25-86 mg of EGCG.

The amino acid L-Theanine, relieves stress without making you sleepy, and it may aid the cardiovascular system and help prevent cancer. A non-essential amino acid, it’s not needed to make protein, but it offers strong anti-anxiety effects and helps produce dopamine in the brain.

Green Tea Protects Against Cancer and Heart Disease

Research has shown green tea protects against diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and other chronic diseases.

 Stroke

A Korean study concluded drinking 3 cups of green tea a day reduces stroke risk.  The study consisted of subjects with non-traumatic acute hemorrhagic stroke and no stroke history and control groups matched by age and gender from ages 30-84.

Cancer

Green tea helps prevent several types of cancer. The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to prevent the growth of cancer cells in the esophagus and the lungs. Studies indicate drinking green tea reduces the chance of developing pancreatic cancer. Women who drank matcha green tea or black tea had a lower risk of developing bladder cancer. Men with bladder cancer who drank green tea had a better survival rate than those who didn’t, according to a Chinese study. Another Chinese study showed women under 50 who drank 3 or more cups of green tea a day were less likely to develop breast cancer.

Diabetes

Green tea helps people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels. The catechins in green tea keep waistlines svelte, preventing the obesity that contributes to Type 2 diabetes.

High Cholesterol 

 Green tea raises good (HDL) cholesterol, according to study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Good cholesterol removes artery-clogging bad (LDL) cholesterol from the body. A high HDL cholesterol level reduces your chance of heart attack and stroke.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)   

Many people suffering from IBS can’t drink carbonated soda, alcohol or coffee without stomach upset. Green tea is a good substitute since it’s bubble-free and contains a moderate amount of caffeine.               

Alzheimer’s/Dementia

CATGE, one of the lesser-known but still potent chemicals in green tea, was shown to reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also showed EGCG prevents the development of Alzheimer’s in mice. Green tea promotes better brain function, keeping mental clarity strong and guarding against dementia.

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Any kind of green tea contains these antioxidants, but like other teas, the more expensive brands are better. You’ll reap benefits from all types of green tea except the rock-bottom, 99 cents store brands. I sometimes buy Trader Joe’s or the generic brand from Albertsons, and they pep me up fine. For maximum impact, buy Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon.  It packs a great punch better than any other bagged green teas I’ve tasted, and the lemon is from lemon peel, not lemongrass. Drinking green tea with lemon improves its antioxidant power. Add a lemon wedge to plain, hot green tea for an extra buzz and extra health benefits.

FYI: Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon contains non-GMO soy lecithin. If you want to avoid soy, check another green tea.

Drink green tea without sugar or honey, for the full, calorie-free effect.The polyphenols in green tea give it a bitter taste, which may take some getting used to if you’re a sugar junkie. Once you’re introduced to it, iced green tea is one of the most refreshing drinks you can sip on a hot, humid summer day.

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Does green tea have a downside? There aren’t any serious contraindications, but if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you should avoid drinking too many cups as it can cause insomnia, dizziness and anxiety. Some people experience stomach upset after drinking green tea. Eat a snack or meal before drinking to prevent this.

Green tea may interfere with iron absorption. If you drink lots of green tea, it’s a good idea to take an iron supplement daily. Drinking green tea shortly after eating an iron-rich meal (red meat, spinach, kale) or taking an iron supplement will reduce green tea’s antioxidant benefits. Avoid consuming iron-rich foods and green tea during the same meal to get more nutritional benefits.

If you take medication or have any chronic health issues, ask your doctor if there are any contraindications to drinking green tea.

Adding green tea to your diet may not cure all your ills, but it will definitely give you more pep, fight bad breath and whittle down your appetite.

 

Do you drink green tea? If so, have you noticed any health benefits since you started drinking it? Let us know in the comment section! 

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