Crave: Chicken Wings with all the Fixings!

chicken wings

I’m going to let you in on a little secret…

I am actually a huge football fan.

I wasn’t always, but many of my friends are, so at some point I decided to give in and learn what it was all about.

That was a few years back, and now I look forward to all the fun during football season. The cheering for the home team, the rivalries, and, of course, the games themselves.

Here’s the tricky part…I also love all the not so healthy snacks that seem to pair up so well with sports watching.

This weekend it was chicken wings. Those oh-so-delicious little pieces of joy slathered with sauce and then dipped into ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Unfortunately, I happen to know that the sauce slathered all over those deep fried wings is as much butter as it hot sauce. Not even remotely healthy.

So, I was determined to find a better way…Here’s my recipe for healthy chicken wings:

Heavenly Hot Wings:

2 lbs chicken wings, split at the joint
¼ cup hot sauce of your choice
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash chicken wings and pat dry. Brush the wings with just a little bit of olive oil, and then season them with salt, pepper, and any of your other favorite spices. Line evenly onto a tray lined with foil or parchment paper.

Roast the wings until golden brown and crispy. About 20-25 minutes for each side.

When the wings are done you can toss them with the hot sauce in a bowl until fully coated, or just drizzle the sauce over the top.

Serve with lots of fresh celery, carrots slices, and my healthier version of blue cheese dressing:

Better Blue Cheese Dressing:

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
pinch of garlic powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
drizzle of honey (optional)

Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined. Ideally the blue cheese will be blended into the yogurt for a mostly smooth dip. The consistency may be modified with a splash of skim milk or buttermilk if it is too thick.

Touchdown!

Like your wings breaded? Here is another version of a healthy wing recipe for you:
http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410122,00.html

Does Not Compute: Pros and Cons of Modern Technology

Image thanks to blakespot

We humans have been blessed and cursed.

We are so clever, and yet, kind of dumb. It’s okay. Knowing that humans can sometimes be dumb makes humans smarter.

We’re so smart, we’ve built extra brains to do our thinking for us. They used to fill a room. Now, they barely take up space in our pockets.

I’m talking about the technology of today. I’m talking about computers.

They make so many things easier, but is easier better? Many a Sci-Fi story has prophesized the progress and problems that come with new technology, and we are living in that foretold future right now.

So, how have our inventions helped or hindered? Here are some pros and cons of modern technology…

Computers Are Your Enemy

After a long day at the job, and quite possibly a job in front of a computer, isn’t it nice to come home, microwave some frozen mac and cheese, and sit in front of your own computer for another eight hours?

No! The answer is no, it isn’t. It isn’t nice at all!

This is an example of people doing their best impression of a bear but including the technology of our modern world to be even lazier about being lazy.

Problem one was microwaving a frozen meal. You know that’s probably not good for you, and you would have more fun and a healthier dish if you made it yourself. You would at least know what was going into it, and thus, going into you, instead of trusting a factory’s label. And cooking is like art you can eat. You always wanted to be an artist, right? Everyone does.

The second issue is camping out at the computer doing God only knows what for hours on end. Meanwhile, a little voice in the back (or maybe side) of your head is listing the things you could be, should be doing. So, instead of drowning out that voice with an MMORPG, go tackle some real monsters and demons, like laundry.

Computers Are Your Friend

I think Ben Franklin said something like “Company and fish should be thrown out after three day.”

I am paraphrasing, of course, but follow me. A lot of us use the computer for company. Not good company. It’s just something to fill the void.

It is totally understandable to need an escape, but many of us have abused our digital friend. Constantly trolling your online social network is not the same as having a social life. Yes, it’s hypnotic. Plenty of hours have been vaporized in a virtual battle against whatever enemy the game maker has designed.

But it is a wonderful resource for recipes, ideas, and inspiration. The problem is when we jump down that rabbit hole instead of just peaking in and moving along.

So, the answer is to give yourself a limit. Don’t sit down with the intention of staying on the computer indefinitely. It won’t fulfill each and every dream in your head. Turn it off after two hours, max.

While you are using it, use it for good. Find what you need there, and what you need is something for your hands or mind to do. Go ahead and print it out and move on to a whole different room, task list in hand.

Computers Are Computers

We’ll never get as much satisfaction from a computer as we’d like, because as wonderful as they are, they’re a bit of an empty promise. We are people, who should be interacting with people and not machines. The machines should be used to connect the people, and then get turned off.

Should the Government Control What You Drink?

So, it happened.

Just about a month ago, the New York City Board of Health passed a rule banning the sale of large-size sodas and other sugary drinks.

They are currently banned for sale from all restaurants, concession stands, fast food places, movie theaters, and cafeterias. All sugary beverages (soda, sweetened tea, etc.) sold in these establishments are now limited to a size of 16 ounces or smaller.

The intention is to strike at a major cause of obesity by limiting access to these calorie-laden drinks.

Is this the wave of the future? Is it a pioneering move towards making us all healthier? Or is it Big Brother taking choices out of our hands?

As with everything, there are two sides to this story…

Pros:

The ban, sponsored by Mayor Bloomberg, is widely supported by medical and nutritional experts in order to help protect public health.

Banning the sale of sugary beverages over 16 ounces would make it more difficult for people to over consume their calories in liquid form. As many people do not take into account the amount of empty calories in these drinks.

The hope is that limiting the available size of these beverages could cut thousands of calories each year for the average consumer.

“You don’t feel as full when you consume calories in liquids. … These beverages are the single greatest source of added sugar in the American diet.”
-Kelly Brownell,
 director of the Rudd Center for food policy and obesity at Yale University

Cons:

There are also a number of people (most in the food and beverage industry) who are vehemently opposed to this ban.

Many of them simply think that a ban such as this one is an example of the government reaching too far into people’s lives, and that our food options/choices should ultimately be up to us.

The other major argument against the soda ban is that soda is only one part of our growing obesity issue, and that it doesn’t make sense to single it out.

“Added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages, are no more likely to cause weight gain than other sources of calories… It’s not reasonable to blame or cite one product.”
Joy Dubost, director of health for the National Restaurant Association, a Washington-based industry group

Conclusions?

Ultimately, I’m not sure how I feel about this ban, and I think that there are some valid arguments on both sides. Perhaps the best thing to come out of it is that it has gotten a lot of people talking about health and debating what we can do in this country to start fighting obesity.

What do you think?

Spice Up Your Life

spice up your life

Image thanks to Iwan Gabovitch

Chili lovers, celebrate! Curry fans, rejoice! We’ve got good news for you.

They say a little spice can do more for you than just add some kick to a meal. It might actually help keep a person’s weight down, believe it or not. Regardless, spices will enhance the healthiness of a dish as well as the flavor.

Spicy foods boost your metabolism. The reason you feel a “burn” is because of the chemical reaction going on. Your body kind of wants to get it out, and so it will speed things up to do so.

And as variety is the spice of life, life has a variety of spices. Let’s take a look at some of them now…

Chili

Well, it seems one of the responsible parties in all this is capsaicin, the component in chili peppers that gives them their pizazz. It’s a natural defense in these plants, irritating the tissue of any mammal it touches. The parts of a plant that are richest in it are the inner walls where the seeds attach.

They even have a way to measure just how spicy hot your food gets with the Scoville scale. It’s like a thermometer for that burn that goes all the way from relatively-boring bell pepper to oh-sweet-Lord-no pepper spray.  And remember, if your spicy food is too spicy, you shouldn’t go for a glass of water, as that will just make it worse. Capsaicin is insoluble in water. Remember to drink some milk, instead.

Cinnamon

Oh Cinnamon, how I do love thee. And from all the benefits it provides, cinnamon must love us back.

What can it do besides smell like Christmas, you ask? Fight candida infections with its antifungal properties, that’s what. And stabilize your blood sugar which helps your weight loss effort, that’s what else. And because it helps blood sugar levels and insulin production, that may help with some types of diabetes.

And that distinctive smell boosts your brain function, giving a jolt to cognition and memory, which is why I feel smarter around snickerdoodles.

Curry

The thing that zings in curry is curcumin (turmeric), and it has a bunch of health benefits to offer. Many scientific studies are looking for its positive effects on things like cancer and arthritis. It’s also been shown to have some anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

Need some healthy spicy recipes? Check out:
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/spicy_recipes#leaderboardad

Tricks, Not Treats: How To Survive Halloween

Image thanks to lobo235

Short people in disguises may be knocking on your door at the end of the month.

No, they aren’t coming for cash or to convert your religious beliefs. They just want candy. Lots and lots of candy.

It’s Halloween and if you are planning a night in, you might have your work cut out for you.

As the owner of a house with a door people knock on, you are obligated to provide said candy or face certain consequences – including trees decorated with toilet paper, eggs thrown at your home, or a flaming bag of something dire left on your stoop.

For some of us, having a bowl of candy by the door spells doom for our waistlines. You face this yearly responsibility to your neighborhood’s youths even though you may not want to, but you’ve got to do it, for the kids. Those terrifying kids…

Provide the treats or face the tricks, because that’s the law.

How will you do it? Do you have the willpower to avoid those candy-corned, snack sized, lollipopped temptations? It’s you versus your sweet tooth versus the devils and ghosts and monsters walking up your sidewalk in the chilled night air. Who will win?

You can, if you know the right tricks, and you don’t have to be a witch to make them work. Here’s how to survive Halloween…

It’s not for you, silly.

No one said you have to get the candy you like. Get the stuff that you’re not a big fan of. There are literally thousands of options, and you don’t have to use this day as an excuse to stock up for yourself.

You could go healthy.

Does it have to be candy? Someone needs to pass out boxes of raisins, also known as nature’s candy.

Who said it has to be edible?

Depending on your street’s demographic, you could go with crayons, or glow sticks, costume jewelry, or whatever the local dollar store has in appropriate abundance.

Or, get crafty.

Plenty of DIY sites online have fun little favors you can make on the cheap that could impress the youngin’s. Have a pre-Halloween party with some friends to make a bunch of clever trinkets. And remember on the big night that theatrics can really make or break it. That necklace isn’t some wire and string you cobbled together; it’s a good luck charm!

You have a lot of options to survive the night.

Of course, you could just leave the light off and pretend to not be home. That’s probably the easiest… if you’re too scared to face the night.

Death By Chocolate?

chocolate

Image thanks to jhritz

So, Halloween is on its way, and whether you have your costume ready or not, there’s a far more pressing issue to concern yourself with:

Is chocolate really all that bad for you?

Lordy, we love it right?

People have been enjoying the flavor since about 140 BC, believe it or not. Yeah, that’s way before the Mayans were meeting up with Spaniards.

But the sweet stuff has its stigmas. It’s hard to tell the facts from the fiction.

So is the love of chocolate a blessing or a curse?

Good Stuff

On the pro side, chocolate has antioxidants, which you may not know about but you should love. They fix and prevent all kinds of cellular damage. They may also help reduce high blood pressure and inflammation.

Another good thing about chocolate is it literally makes you feel better. It has several chemicals that induce a “feel good” state of mind. Your brain will take the tryptophan in chocolate and turn it into serotonin, which is responsible for a lot of our happy thoughts, euphoria, and confidence.  It kind of makes you feel like you’re in love, which may be why we love chocolate.

What else can chocolate do? There’s that old wives’ tale blaming chocolate for acne and blemishes… but actually, it has other antioxidants called flavonoids that will help your skin by increasing UV protection. Also it contains theobromine, which can calm a pesky cough!

Not So Good Stuff

As with most things, the benefits of chocolate get lost when you mess with the simplicity of the source material. If only we could just get a pure form of chocolate, but it isn’t easy to find without getting a lot of other stuff in it.

Typically, you’re not just getting a simple by-product of the cocoa plant. You’re getting caramel, sugar, and a bunch of other stuff better known for having drawbacks than having benefits. This adds calories to a food already high in calories! Plenty of people prefer the easier to find sweeter styles, the milk over the dark, which is an unfortunate inclination. Dark chocolate is less tampered with and has better benefits.

And those good feelings I mentioned before do have a flipside. That upswing chocolate gives can be followed by a downswing as it disperses from the body. This can cause sugar spikes and mood swings, and knock us off an even cycle.

And as with anything, eating too much will give you a belly ache. Just ask your kids after the trick-or-treating is done.

Conclusion

The best advice to take when it comes to chocolate is the same for just about anything: moderation. Try to stay with dark chocolates with 70% or more cocoa content. Go for it and indulge every so often, but don’t go overboard. After all, if Halloween was every night, it would lose its magic. So, the trick is to keep the treat a treat.

 

The 3 Biggest Winter Weight Loss Mistakes…

winter weight loss

It’s finally upon us (or many of us anyway). Looming in the shorter days and colder nights…

Can you feel it?

Fall has arrived, and winter is just around the corner.

It is a season packed with most of the major holidays starting with Halloween and continuing on through Thanksgiving and Christmas.

All of this is great, but it is also the season when a lot of us tend give up our healthy habits and manage to pack on an extra layer or two (and I don’t just mean clothes).

Here are three of the biggest winter weight loss mistakes, and how to avoid them…

Waving the white flag:

One of the biggest mistakes we can make during the colder months is to just assume that weight gain is a given. With all of the holidays and whatnot, why bother trying to stay healthy? So many people just give up and then feel awful later when they have spent months overindulging.

Try to fight this feeling. It is absolutely possible to enjoy all of the season’s festivities and to stay healthy. Your routine may need minor adjustments, but it’s nothing you can’t do. Stay positive and thoughtful about your choices, and you will make it though feeling great.

Dis-comfort food:

These chilly nights can make eating healthy seem a little more difficult. After all, eating a salad seems much less appealing when you just want to be warm and cozy. This is the time when we would all much rather eat a big warm plate of something covered with gravy.

The key is to remember to eat balanced and healthy meals. Make sure to keep eating fruits and vegetables (there are lots of delicious choices that are coming into season right now). Also, consider trying recipes that can comfort you and make you feel good, like homemade soups. These are warm, delicious, and they tend to be lower in calories than a lot of other comfort foods.

Hibernation:

I know I have been guilty of this one. The shorter and colder days sometimes make hanging out on the couch under a blanket seem far more appealing than getting up and getting exercise.

But really, now is a great time to shake it off and get physical. Regular exercise has been shown to help us keep our unhealthy cravings under control. And as an added bonus, physical activity can help to ease stress and elevate your mood (which we could all probably use during this season). So get yourself to your local rec center, stage a living room yoga class, or just put on your comfiest coat and take yourself on a nice, long walk.

Walk This Way: Adventures In Exercise

I have a project for you. You can totally do this, and maybe, just maybe, be glad you did.

Also, it’s secretly good for you. A healthy kind of good for you. Ready?

Get a map. Get a marker. Get some string and a pencil. (You can print a map up from the internet.)

On the map, find your home. Find it? Good.

Take the string and tie the pencil to one end of it. If you have the kind of map with a key that tells you inches to miles, use it to figure out how long to make the string to get two map miles. That’s where you tie the marker.

With me so far? You’ve just made a compass! Not the kind to find the North Pole, but the kind to make circles with.

Put the pencil at your house on the map. This is the center of the circle. Hold the pencil in place while you pull the marker out until the string is taught. Now, with the marker, draw a circle around your house.

Now you know how far away two miles would be from your house. If you walk from your house to the circle, boom! That’s half a work out. It’s only half because, well, you have to get back, don’t you?

This little project gets you to do two things: explore the world right outside your door and get healthier while you do it.

See if anything you need might be on the way in any direction. There’s some motivation for you. Find some destinations to walk to.

If the circle is too big for you, go ahead and shorten the string. I won’t tell. The important part is getting out there, because the seasons are changing and you don’t have a lot of time left! Go watch the leaves change color, meet some new neighbors, find a new favorite place not far from home, and as a bonus, you get exercise. (Unless your climate doesn’t have a big seasonal difference, but that’s not the point.)

Give yourself a plan. That’s your project.

Bon Voyage!

The Food Groups That I Used To Know…

food groups

When I was a kid, it was simple.

If your elementary school was producing a play about nutrition, your parents could count on you portraying one of four things: Meat, Dairy, Grain, and Fruit/ Vegetable (lumped together, I believe, because of the tomato’s withholding of empirical data and tax records). Occasionally, one child would be selected to play the farmer, but that counts as a meat. I digress…

The powers that be have decided that the world of nutrition should not be so simple, and that the only things that should come in fours are seasons, states of matter, and corners on a rectangle (Fun Fact: in the age of classical antiquity, there were only three seasons, so things have always been sketchy).

What’s the big difference? If you haven’t gotten the updates, here’s a rundown on the all new and improved food groups:

Protein Foods: Formerly Known As “Meat”

This group includes nuts, beans, eggs, and anything that had a face. They are made of amino acids, which is what our bodies are made of, so you need this stuff in whatever way you want it. Protein helps make your muscles, your hair, and the occasional cellular repairs. So if you want to grow up strong, get some.

Fruit: Sometimes They’re Vegetables

They’re still friends, but they’re just reviewing other options.

There is a difference between fruits and vegetables. Fruit is the sweet, ripe ovary of a seed-bearing plant, and they have a simple sugar known as fructose. Fruits also have lots of fiber for improving digestion, vitamins for better health, and antioxidants to keep you young.

Oh, and the deal with tomatoes? They’re a fruit, and you might be surprised by what else you’ve been mistaking for vegetables.

Vegetables: They are Never Fruits

While they do have a lot in common with fruit, what with being plants and all, veggies are herbaceous plants that have varied edible parts, such as the roots, leaves, bulbs, and so forth, depending on the case in question. Fruits are typically the sweeter of the two, and vegetables give you a bunch of other essentials, mostly minerals like iron and calcium.

Grains: I have Nothing Fun to Say about Them

What’s so good about grains? Fiber, of course, which is a big help in digestion. It also reduces risk of heart disease and is good for weight management. They also have a bunch of B vitamins that stimulate metabolism, helping your body release the energy from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Try to stick to whole grains, and avoid the processed stuff. Keep close to the source.

Dairy: Does a Body Good, They Say

This is all about milk, and things made of milk, and things not made of milk but acting as if they are, specifically being calcium-fortified soymilk. This is where calcium can be got, a lot, which your bones are begging for. It’s also got some good protein going on. And there’s the vitamin D, which helps make that calcium work better for you.

That’s your refresher. I know I made it sound like they added 50 other food groups, but they finally separated that messy fruits versus vegetables nonsense.

If you really want to know how to make these food do what they do, and how much you need of each, check out www.choosemyplate.gov.

The Good, The Bad, and The Skinny

Image thanks to BLcarnut

This is a warning to the newly trim, or those who seek a better body for all the wrong reasons: There is a dark side to losing weight. Maybe you’ve heard Yoda mention it…

I’m talking about when things go to your head, and yeah, it’s a bit of a rant. I’ll admit it.

Now, it’s one thing to make a conscious effort towards healthier living. Wanting to be fit is fine, great even, and feeling more attractive is more than okay, too. If only everyone could find the strength and determination to make some major changes. We all deserve a positive transformation and the confidence that goes with it.

But there are some people who get down to the size they want… but then go bad.

Here’s some irony that Alanis Morrisette could appreciate: As some people become more physically attractive, they become more socially obnoxious and repulsive.

Crazy, right?

Every pound they lose just moves to their heads. They became snobs, and not your run-of-the-mill snobs. Super-Monster Snobs. They stopped being good company for anyone but themselves.

For them, somehow, the weight loss process is similar to the formula that turned Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. They get dismissive, belittling, and outright mean. Somewhere, they’ve gotten the message that being skinny entitles you to be as bad as you want to be. My theory is that maybe they were bullied for their weight, and once they get slim, think it’s their turn. That’s just a wicked little cycle, isn’t it?

I know this isn’t everyone who has struggled with weight issues. Really, if you need to, then lose some weight. Get healthy. But also, be kind. Don’t lose your humanity when you lose weight, and be grateful to those who love you at any size. Being confident doesn’t mean being cold.  After all, everyone is a work in progress.

Be brilliant and beautiful, inside and out.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary.