5 Warm & Healthy Holiday Drinks

Five Warm and Healthy Drinks

Guest Post by Emily Newhook

By the time January rolls around, my warm drink repertoire could use an update. I’ve made pot after pot of Earl Grey tea and my standby recipe for hot chocolate is starting to get stale (even when I add more mini-marshmallows). Here are five healthy options to help you kick the holiday sugar coma and ward off cold season.

1.    Turmeric Tea

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Spicy, sweet, peppery – this tea is not for the faint of heart, but it may be good for the rest of you. Many of us would be more inclined to include turmeric in a vat of curry than a pot of tea, but research from the past half century corroborates the spice’s long-standing reputation as a salve for myriad health problems. Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) boasts significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could in turn help alleviate chronic diseases like arthritis and discomfort experienced by skin cancer patients. An important caveat: recipe curator Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks urges readers to use hot – not boiling – water to preserve the properties of raw honey.

2. Lemon + Honey + Ginger Tea Base

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Different variations of this recipe have proliferated rapidly throughout the blogosphere over the past few years, largely because the make-ahead tea base is essentially a one-two punch for whatever ails you as flu season sets in. The recipe lends itself to customization, but the fundamental preparation is pretty unwavering: pile sliced ginger and lemons in a mason jar, cover with honey and let the mixture set in your fridge for a few days. (Sandra’s Alaska Recipes advises a touch of cardamom for added spice.) Mix a scoop of the final product with hot water and enjoy.

3. Coconut Hot Chocolate

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Dates and coconut milk may seem like unconventional ingredients for a great cup of hot chocolate, but Kelly Brozyna’s recipe is a great option if you’re wary of sugar or dairy. Even if you’re not, consider this: coconut milk is also a great source of healthy fat (like the kinds you might find in avocados and olive oil), and dates – which substitute for the processed sugar used in most cocoa recipes – are high in dietary fiber. Make sure you have a blender on hand before you gather supplies, though.

4. Rose Petal and Vanilla Tea

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This fragrant combination of roses, vanilla and honey is a great olfactory alternative to the richer scents and flavors that usually characterize cold weather recipes. (The specialty ingredients may take a little extra time and money to procure, so you might reserve it for special occasions rather than everyday drinking.) Prep is easy – just assemble the rose petals, vanilla, honey and hot water – but give this one ample time to steep (about 30 minutes) before straining and serving.

5. Superfoods Hot Apple Cider

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Apple juice, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon – at first glance, it might sound more like a pie, but Leanne Vogel’s superfood cider gets an extra boost from spices and ingredients reputed to improve your immunity and energy levels. If you plan to follow this recipe to the letter, though, make sure you’ve got a juicer on hand. The preparation stage is a little time-intensive, but it also ensures that the final product is free of processed sugars and other energy-draining additives.

Emily Newhook is an outreach coordinator for the MHA degree program from The George Washington University, MHA@GW. Outside of work, she enjoys writing, film studies and powerlifting. Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyNewhook and Google+

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Guest Post: Guilt Free Holiday Dishes

The fall season is upon us, which means holidays filled with family gatherings are just around the corner. Besides family, what is one of the staples at your holiday get togethers? – Food!

Food not only fills the belly, but it also fills the spirit and helps to unite people. There is nothing more endearing than sharing a great meal together. However, all of those delicious treats that are served often end up leaving you feel a little guilty – and your pants feeling a little bit tighter. Enjoying great food and full bellies doesn’t mean that you have to eat foods that are high in calories. This holiday season, keep your family and friends happy – and healthy – by serving some of these guilt-free holiday dishes.

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Image Courtesy Of: Nanalena

Sweet and Savory Snacks

Instead of setting out bowls of deep fried potato chips and dips that are high in fat and calories, welcome your guests with this sweet and savory snack mix. Made with garbanzo beans, wheat cereal, raisins, dried pineapples, and honey, this snack is certainly a much healthier alternative to bags of potato chips and cheese puffs. The addition of Worcestershire sauce and chili powder adds a little hint of spiciness, which perfectly accents the sweetness of the pineapples, honey, and raisins.

Wild Rice Stuffing

Stuffing is one of those quintessential holiday side dishes. However, while the traditional version certainly is mouthwatering, it isn’t necessarily very healthy for you. For a healthier alternative that has no fat and is very low in calories, but is just as high in deliciousness, try this wild rice version. It is made with a combination of brown and wild rice, as well as mushrooms, celery, and green onions; and it takes hardly any time to whip up. Talk about a delicious, healthy holiday dish.

Tuscan Pork Loin

Is ham a main dish for your holiday affairs? If so, try substituting that cured variety for a healthier, and even tastier, Tuscan pork loin. Use a lean cut of pork loin and add garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest to give it a delicious, mouth-watering taste. Not only is this holiday main dish better for your and super tasty, but it will leave you feeling less “over” stuffed than your traditional ham dish. Oh, and it’s really easy to prepare-another added bonus.

Holiday Bark

When the dinner dishes are cleared, gather your family back around the table to satisfy their sweet tooth; but, instead of serving not-so-good for you pies, cakes, and cookies, try out a healthier sweet treat, like this holiday bark. It is made with white chocolate, as well as dried cranberries and almonds, which add a bunch of antioxidants and protein. Not only will that sweet tooth be tickled, but your family will gain the health benefits of the ingredients, as well. The holiday bark also contains much less fat and calories than a big ol’ slice of chocolate cake or pumpkin pie.

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Food certainly is one of the main ingredients of a holiday gathering. While you do want to retain the memories of a great family meal, you don’t want to retain the excess calories. This year, be more health conscious and avoid the extra weight by serving up healthier food options.

Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer and mom of three in Southern California. She loves to cook and with the holidays approaching, she knows that being more health-conscious will make for a much happier crowd. You can find more of her writing at the Candy Concepts Inc. blog.

Guest Post: The Best Post-Workout Treatments To Prevent Sore Muscles

Exercise, along with a healthy diet, is an essential part of staying in good shape. However, if you’re like many people, the soreness that accompanies a vigorous workout can keep you from really pushing yourself or even cause you to skip your workout altogether.

Unfortunately muscle soreness is a common part of working out, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised or when you start doing new exercises. While you can’t always prevent muscle soreness, there are some ideal treatments for making it a little bit more comfortable, allowing you to get back to your routine and workout faster.

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Therapeutic Massage

Massage is a great way to relax after exercise, and for most people, it actually feels very good. There are certain types of massage therapy that are ideal for post-workout muscle soreness, some of which you may not be too familiar with. Keep reading for a guide on some of the best massages to defeat muscle soreness.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is likely the type of massage you’re most familiar with. In Swedish massage, long, relatively gentle strokes are used that move with the grain of the muscle.

For many people, this helps relieve pain in a way that actually feels good. Swedish massages are also deeply relaxing for many people because there is almost no discomfort associated with the basic type of massage, even if you have sore muscles related to exercise.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is a bit different than Swedish massage, because practitioners tend to apply considerably more pressure to access deeper points in the muscle. Deep tissue massage may be somewhat uncomfortable for people since strokes go against the muscle grain.

While this can be a little uncomfortable, it does help to relieve pain after about 24 hours. For people with severe muscle soreness or injuries, who take up exercise as a way to rehab an injured muscle, deep tissue massage is often the best treatment.

Deep tissue massage isn’t for everybody, however. The best way to figure out if deep tissue massage can help you with muscle soreness is to simply try it out one time.

Epsom Salts

The use of Epsom salts has been around for a long time, and it may be a cure for muscle soreness that you’re already familiar with it. However, the use of Epsom salts has endured for so many years because it actually works!

Epsom salts are also ideal after a workout – even if you have time to get a massage after your workout. In fact, combining the two can leave you feel quite refreshed and pain free, even after a vigorous workout.

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Working out is something you know you should be doing to stay healthy, but if it’s been awhile, you know how painful the next day or two can be. While DOMS is a problem for many people, it does pass the more you work out and condition your body.

In the meantime, a therapeutic massage and home treatments like Epsom salt baths can help a great deal.

Gwen Lewis is a freelance writer in Southern California. She specializes in beauty and health topics, and enjoys a massage after a difficult workout.

Guest Post: How to Indulge Your Sweet Tooth Responsibly

Sweets are one of the most habit-forming foods, and with good reason; they taste great! The problem with indulging in sweets on a regular basis is that it causes your body to store insulin and go into a “fat storage mode”, where you’ll quickly pack on excess body fat. So, it’s not really an issue of calories, but rather an issue of how much sugar you’re consuming.

But, we all still like sweets, and sugar in reasonable and moderate amounts isn’t a bad thing, so the question is: how can we calm our sweet tooth while avoiding overdoing it in the candy aisle at the grocery store?

yogurt fruit parfaitWhile part of the challenge is portion control, the second (and probably tougher part) is figuring out where to get our sugar from and in what form. Keep in mind that fruit and berries have natural sugar, which is a far better option for you than the processed variety.

So, how can we get our sugar and maintain a healthy eating pattern? Here are a few options.

1. Vanilla Greek YogurtGreek yogurt is packed with protein, and is one of the healthier foods you can eat. Try and couple it with some fruit or granola, especially in the morning for breakfast.

Regular yogurt is a good option as well, but Greek yogurt has more protein and is going to be a healthier option if you don’t mind the different taste that it has when compared to regular yogurt.

2. Frozen Grapes and Almonds — Frozen grapes are a great treat and they’ll get you those good natural sugars that were mentioned earlier. Coupling them with almonds gives you some protein, and makes a nice snack compliment for between meals or at night.

3. Fruit Smoothies — If you have a good blender, combining a variety of fruit and berries with ice, juice or even yogurt can make an incredibly tasty and satisfying sweet treat. The combinations are virtually endless, so just take a few of your favorites along with a good organic juice and mix it up!

Try and go with organic yogurt and juices, and avoid the juice drinks that contain a high amount of sugar, which will defeat the purpose of the smoothie entirely. Orange juice is usually a pretty safe bet.

4. Dark Chocolate — Chocolate is something that a lot of people will find themselves craving, particularly the milk chocolate variety. Unfortunately, milk chocolate doesn’t offer as many antioxidants that dark chocolate contains, and the milk and extra sugar can cause your insulin levels to spike.

Dark chocolate will still satisfy your chocolate cravings, but will do so without the added sugars and with the extra antioxidants. It’s just a healthier choice overall.

5. Juice Popsicle — Make this one fun. Buy your own Popsicle trays and use some organic juice to make your own popsicles, instead of buying those sugar-packed frozen treats from the market. Not only are you saving money, but if you get to choose the juice that goes into making your popsicles, you and your kids are getting a much healthier and cheaper alternative.

Again, go with organic juices that don’t have added sugar. Pay attention to the sugar content in any juice you are considering— even in the organic juice, there’s enough sugar already. Try blueberry, blackberry and mango juices for your popsicles.

It Can Be Done

This goes to show that you can have sweets in your life without spiking your insulin levels and consuming a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates. So, the next time you’re walking down the candy display in the store looking to satisfy that sweet tooth, stick to these less sugary options.

Work some of these healthier options into your sweet cravings and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your body begins to want these instead of the other stuff. Once you get into the habit of eating fruit-based sweets, instead of bread- and sugar-based, your body will react positively, and will begin to crave the right things; just the same way it craved the wrong things before.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in Southern California who specializes in health, marketing and tech. When looking to satisfy her sweet tooth, she opts for these healthier choices. Find more tips like these by following her on Twitter and Facebook.

Body Image And Comparing Yourself to Others: Why It’s Not Worth it

I have written posts before on body image before. I’ll link some of them here:

But today I ran across a post that really spoke to me and I’ll be reblogging it below. I think it is SO important to stay on top of our mentality and outlook when it comes to our bodies and continually work to be at a mindset where you can love your body. But it’s true that sometimes the thoughts and expectations of others can hinder our own thoughts. Frances is a Seattle blogger who speaks her mind and does nothing less in this post. Please make sure to visit her blog here and read her other posts.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

 A high school classmate of mine posted something on Facebook today comparing herself to a well-known and extremely thin celebrity. The gist of the post was why bother competing if we have already lost. It is a very good question but it got me thinking about body image and the way we view ourselves as women.
 
I don’t think any female wakes up every day and thinks she is supposed to look like Barbie or Kim K or Gwyneth Paltrow. I do, however, think we wake up every day and are told that we should want to look this way. This puts us in this weird middle place where we know that the whole world is not judging us on a daily basis, watching the number of calories we take in, the number of hours we spend in the gym, and how flattering our outfits are on these rock hard Pilates bodies. No. We might be judged by the people we know, our friends, family, coworkers; and we might be judged in passing by strangers we walk by in the mall or at a restaurant, but in general we do not experience the same type of scrutiny to always look amazing as celebrities do, and yet we feel we should put ourselves through that experience.
 
Most days after showering I look at my naked body in the mirror and I see some really positive things. I have great collar bones, my back is really nice, I have a stellar ass, my legs are long and toned (even if there is a tiny bit of cellulite). But I also seem to focus on the negative aspects of my body. My stomach is not flat, my hips are too large, I have back fat that cosmetic surgeons refer to as flanks (I know this from looking up liposuction), my breasts are too small, the backs of my arms are not as toned I would like them to be, my nose is slightly crooked, my upper lip is too thin, my eyebrows are different shapes, my ankles are too skinny, and so on. Yet, with all of my imperfections, most days, I look in the mirror and can overlook the things I hate about my body. I can put on clothes and know they flatter my body. I can walk out of the house with my head held high and know that I look good.
 
The paparazzi don’t follow me around every single day, and I think that helps my self-confidence, living in the PNW doesn’t really hurt it either. But I guess my point is, who decides what is beautiful and why do we all expect to fit into the same box of beauty? Why do we even want to? We all have different hair color, eye color, skin color. We come in different shapes and sizes, so why are we trying to force ourselves to change? Of course, I am not saying to accept being overweight, or people shouldn’t get cosmetic surgery if that is what they really want, but I am saying that striving to look like a celebrity is ridiculous. Those women are paid to be beautiful whereas the rest of us are paid to show up to work every day and perform our job duties. Sure, being pretty helps me in my profession of slinging margaritas, but my job is not to be pretty.
 
Comparing ourselves to knockouts such as Jennifer Lawrence is like comparing ourselves to aliens. We seem to forget that we do not live in the same world as these beauties. Sure, we might inhabit the same planet, but we are not actually competing with them. I wake up every day having no fear that my boyfriend might one day leave me for Angelina Jolie, partly because he has never done a movie with her, but also because it is never going to happen. We spend so much time worrying about how we look and wondering why the girls that grace the covers of gossip rags have these perfect bodies while we slave away trying to maintain a reasonable BMI that we forget these starlets are freaks of nature. We forget to look around the grocery store and see the women we are actually competing with, and usually against those women, we are safe.
 
But the bigger problem is that we seem to forget we are more than just our outside appearance. For all of my physical flaws, I am pretty fucking awesome. I am smart and creative, I dance and laugh at myself, I make my friends and family laugh (usually at my own expense), and generally I am a pretty cool chick. So, while being pretty might be what gets me free drinks, being rad is what makes guys, friends, family, strangers, whoever want to continue a conversation with me. That has to count for something, and honestly I think that has to count for a lot more. I was born with this body type. I came out of my mother’s womb destined to have a pear shaped body and be mistaken for a lesbian throughout my formative years, I cannot change that. Being awesome is something I had to groom, not a lot because I was also born pretty freaking awesome, but it has been honed, slightly. That is what I think we should be focusing on. Not who looks the most like some famous actor or singer, but who can hold a conversation and have an original thought and make a joke and laugh at themselves. Maybe if we started focusing more on those things we would be jealous of how funny or smart a celebrity is instead of how thin or large breasted. And maybe it is just me, but I would rather look up to a smart person than a pretty person.
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If you have a personal story or body image perspective you want to share, please let me know! I’d love to help share your thoughts.

Guest Post: Enjoy a Healthy Vacation by Remaining Nutrition-Minded

Cole Millen is an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.”

appleWorking hard all year long to prepare your body to look great during vacation is a big effort that will reward you with looking and feeling terrific.  When many people go on vacation, they are surrounded by amazing foods that can quickly begin putting the calories back on.  To avoid this happening, consider trying out new things when it comes to your snacking and dining out options during your vacation.  You’ll discover you can maintain your current weight while also still being able to experience great foods that are healthy and satisfying.

Pack Snacks to Ward off Hunger Cravings

Packing nutritious snacks is one of the best things you can do to keep from splurging on fatty foods such as potato chips, candy bars and ice cream.  If you are going out shopping for an afternoon, consider packing dried fruit, homemade granola bars, nuts and fresh fruit.  A bag of grapes or apples will be a great thing to take along with you to the pool or the beach to get you through the afternoon until suppertime.  These are also great items to feed your family during the day without giving them foods that are loaded in sugar.

Picking the Right Hotel

Often times picking the right hotel is overlooked in your plans for staying healthy. This can be a big mistake considering it is one of the most important aspects of a healthy vacation. It is pivotal to ensure that your hotel selection can accommodate to the healthy lifestyle that you are trying to embody while you are away from home. Make sure that the hotel offers the amenities that are most important to you in helping. On a recent trip of mine I went to Sin City and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels regarding both their amenities and offerings as well as the restaurants in the area. This allowed me to plan out which restaurants I would be able to visit as well to eat both nutritiously and deliciously.

Pack Your Crock Pot and BBQ Grill

You may have never thought about packing your crock-pot to take with you on vacation.  If you can make a humorous adaptation to the motto, “Have crock pot, will travel,” you might be surprised to discover how creative you can get with your meals during vacation.  Traveling with a crock-pot is especially handy if you are traveling with your entire family.

Feeding a whole family at a restaurant for every meal can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars a day.  By taking your own basic cooking staple, you can choose to prepare healthy meals that simmer all day while you are out enjoying your vice.  When you get to the hotel in the evening, your meal will be ready!  If you are going on a more rugged type of vacation, leave the crock-pot at home and bring a miniature BBQ grill so you can roast vegetables and fish for you meals.

Watch Out for Food and Menu Labels

For the times you do choose to dine out or stop at a store to pick up some groceries, be sure to check the food labels.  If you consider purchasing a fat-free salad dressing, make sure you pay attention to the sugar content on the label.  Fat free items are often still packed with a lot of sugar and this can add on extra pounds without you even knowing it.  One salad dressing option you might consider is using a homemade salad dressing consisting of a combination of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings.  Greek yogurt is another healthy topping to add to a salad to give it a delicious flavor without all the unnecessary calories.

If you would like to write a guest post or have a topic you’d like me to write about please email me at sarah.rose.scott@gmail.com