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Grilled Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Dressing

I don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen cooking dinner in the winter. There is nothing more inviting to me than the smell of something braising in the oven for hours on end. In the summer though, I’m totally about quick meals. Not only quick meals, but light meals.

These grilled chicken gyros with tzatziki dressing were a breeze to whip up – it only took me about 20 minutes to make the marinade and dressing, then I was back to playing soccer outside with my boys. A few hours later I quickly grilled the chicken and assembled the gyros for dinner.

I’m pretty sure there’s nothing authentic about these gyros, but they’re delicious! The chicken is so tender from the yogurt marinade, and while the tzatkizi dressing isn’t a traditional tzatziki sauce, I prefer the runnier consistency to drizzle over the gyros. It also makes for a great Greek salad dressing.

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Healthier Homemade Blueberry Nutrigrain Bars

Sure, Nutrigrain Bars sound healthy, but they’re loaded with sugar and a bunch of other things I can’t pronounce. And of course my kids love them. So I did some research on the internet to find a healthier homemade recipe for nutrigrain bars. I looked at recipe after recipe and was surprised that so many of them still used a lot of sugar and butter. After pulling from a ton of recipes, I think I came up with a pretty healthy version of my kids’ beloved nutrigrain bars. I even let them help me measure ingredients and run the blender. Give them a try and see what your kids think!

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Boosting Mom’s Metabolism (by intern blogger, Katherine)

Do You Ever Envy Your Kids Fast Metabolism?

kid bread

Last week I went to a seminar about how to boost your metabolism, led by certified Health Coach and mother of two, Raquel Guzman. As a mom, Guzman knows that when life gets busy, moms fall to the bottom of the list.  Especially when it comes to health and wellness.  She offered 7 steps that provide a good overview for not only increasing metabolism but working toward better overall health.  An added benefit is the example it sets for the kiddos in the house.  Here, I’ve shared these steps and I hope you find them as insightful as I did!

7 Steps to a Faster Metabolism:

1. Sleep

WHY:  When your body gets the sleep it needs, 7- 8 hours a night, it functions more efficiently; this means that your digestion system works better too.

TIP: When you put down your kids for their afternoon nap, don’t hesitate to nap too! Or, go to bed early two nights out of the week. Put it in your calendar and try to make it part of your to-do list.

2.  Eat Real Whole Food – This is food that comes from the earth; not processed food.

WHY: Minerals and nutrients are our bodies’ fuel. Think: Live food, live body. Processed food however, lack these vital minerals and nutrients.

TIP: Visit your local farmers market and cook a few meals ahead of time for the week ahead. This way, when Friday night yawning begins, you can grab the Quinoa you made on Monday for dinner, instead of indulging in pizza. Get the kids involved by having them choose their favorite vegetables and fruits at the store and let them help you cook!

farmers market

3. Drinking Water

WHY: Hydrating your body help digestion!

TIP: Keep reusable water bottles all over the house: in your bedroom, the kitchen, living room, wherever. This way, you can always be drinking! Have each member of your family have their own color water bottle. Also, begin and end your day with a glass of water.

4. Don’t Skip Meals

WHY: When you skip meals, your body thinks it is going into starvation mode and holds onto fat.

TIP: Remind yourself that food is fuel! This also teaches your children that skipping meals should not be a norm and helps them form life long healthy habits.

5. Don’t Crash Diet

WHY: Crash dieting hurts your metabolism over time. Even if you lose those 5 pounds for an event, later you may gain them back and not be able to lose them due to a warn out metabolism.

TIP: Instead of crash dieting to fit into a certain size dress, go for the bigger size and ignore the number. Pick out a dress that you love not because of size but design. Bring your daughter to the store and have her pick out a few dresses to wear for you.

relax

6. Stress Reduction

WHY: Stress takes away blood from the core of your body that helps with digestion and moves it to your limbs to get ready for “fight”. Fighting as in ready to run away from the lion that is about to attack you, such as the problems the first human beings on earth had.

TIP: Keep a stress jar in your house. Inside, write 30 activities to do that help you and your family de-stress. Once a day, ask one of your kids to pick out of the jar and enjoy de- stress time with the family.

7. Chew!

WHY: Digestion begins in the mouth! Take the time to slow down, chew, and enjoy your food.

TIP: Try to chew each bite 20 times.

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MEGAN MONDAY: How Dental Health Is Just As Important As Eating A Healthy Diet

toothbrushGrowing up my entire life with a mom who is also a hardcore dental hygienist has engrained healthy dental habits since I think I could formulate memories in my brain.  I recall the very thorough tooth brushing routine from a young age to even getting caught at age 8 with a pack of non-sugarless gum stashed under my bed (and the fear of God I had once I knew I could never outsmart my mom with sneaking sugary snacks and candies in our home).  While this may have cramped my sweet-tooth sugar addiction that I inherited from my dad, I am thankful that I was raised with such stringent and careful dental care, as I can still boast being cavity-free at age 33.

As parents, we strive to do everything right for our kids – feed them healthy, bathe them, keep them safe, raise them with morals and love, etc.  Something else to add to the list (regardless of our own state of dental affairs) is aiming to keep our kids’ teeth and mouths as healthy as possible, too, for the link to dental health and overall health is astonishing.  My mom would tell me how if we let dangerous bacteria grow in our mouths, it can actually lead to heart problems and rampant infections throughout the body… and I finally really made the whole connection once I went back to school to study holistic health and nutrition.  It is shocking to know how many body systems are connected to and affected by our dental health.  For new parents out there, ensuring good dental health practices starts before babies even get teeth; for those of us with young kids, now is the time to start making sure we pay even closer attention to the many ways we can support optimal dental health; and as adults, it’s time we take a look at our own habits to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and setting a good example for our little ones (even if you just hate going to the dentist).

Think about it – many things happen in the mouth: the start of digestion, the introduction of many pathogens, speech, some breathing…. So it’s important to keep this area of the body clean and healthy so it can optimally function.  Did you know that dental disease is one of the leading causes of childhood health ailments?  According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association:

“   Tooth decay affects more than one quarter of children ages two to five, half of those ages 12 to 15 and countless adults in the United States. In fact, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children; five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. “

Lots of bacteria naturally exist in our mouths – this is how digestion begins.  Enzymes and bacteria help to start break down food chemically.  However, if the wrong foods are eaten, like sugar or refined carbohydrate foods that break down into sugar, the sugar acts as a feeding frenzy for bacteria ON the teeth, which eventually leads to inflammation and the decay or breakdown of healthy enamel, which protects the teeth and keeps them strong.  Additionally, this bacteria builds up over time, causing bad breath and leads to infection, which then takes away important infection-fighting cells from other parts of the body where they are needed to combat a problem area that is easily avoidable.  As the immune system kicks into high gear to attack the bacteria and infection in the mouth, this leads to prolonged inflammation, which as I’ve stated before, is never healthy for the body.  Over time, this inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold teeth in place, which eventually results in moderate to severe gum disease, known as gingivitis (moderate) and periodontitis (severe).  While this is more commonly known as an adult dental issue, it is becoming more and more common in children, most likely due to the increase in sugary foods and drinks (and overall lack of a healthy diet).  As parents, we need to be extra concerned about this, as this chronic inflammation in the mouth linked to poor dental health can also cause problems in the rest of the body such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic infections
  • Digestive issues
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • An imbalance in body pH and chemistry
  • Hormone disturbance
  • Interference with sugar regulation and metabolism

THE DIABETES CONNECTION: According to Pamela McClain, DDS, President of the American Academy of Periodontology, the working relationship between diabetes and periodontitis may be the strongest of all the connections between the mouth and body. Inflammation that starts in the mouth seems to weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar. People with diabetes have trouble processing sugar because of a lack of insulin, the hormone that converts sugar into energy.  “Periodontal disease further complicates diabetes because the inflammation impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin,” Dr. McClain says.  To further complicate matters, diabetes and periodontitis have a two-way relationship. High blood sugar provides ideal conditions for infection to grow, including gum infections. Fortunately you can use the gum disease-diabetes relationship to your favor: managing one can help bring the other under control.

THE HEART-HEALTH CONNECTION: Dr. Sally Cram, DDS notes that while the reasons are not fully understood, it’s clear that gum disease and heart disease often go hand in hand. Up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66% of people with no heart disease. The two conditions have several risk factors in common, such as smoking (in teens and adults), unhealthy diet, and excess weight.  This is important to get a grasp on from an early age, as any form of heart disease prevention is key.  “The theory is that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels,” says Dr. Cram. This can increase the risk for heart attack in a number of ways: inflamed blood vessels allow less blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body, raising blood pressure. “There’s also a greater risk that fatty plaque will break off the wall of a blood vessel and travel to the heart or the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke,” Cram explains.

OVERALL HEALTH: It’s a known fact that infections stemming in the mouth (either due to decay or gum disease) can quickly spread to other areas of the body.  In children, this can deteriorate their health even faster, as their bodies are more susceptible to illness and their organs and bodies are still developing.  Some scientific research has even noted that poor dental health can affect brain function, behavior/mood, and overall development.  If the body is too busy trying to constantly fight off a baseline infection or bacterial invasion, it does not have enough resources to focus on what it needs to.  Why subject our children to that?

A GREAT SUMMARY BY KIDSORALHEALTH.COM: Dental disease is the most common chronic disease of early childhood. Cavities and decay in baby teeth can also spread to permanent teeth, causing painful and costly damage.  But you can prevent this! Regular preventive care and a healthy diet can help prevent decay.

Healthy baby teeth:

  • Allow your child to chew and eat properly.
  • Help your child speak clearly.
  • Shape your baby’s face.
  • Guide adult teeth into place.

Dental decay in baby teeth affects your child’s overall health:

  • Cavities can be painful.
  • Cavities can interfere with your child’s ability to eat well.
  • Dental disease can affect your child’s overall health and development.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Earliest prevention is key.  Starting before babies get their teeth is best, but starting at any stage is better than not doing anything at all.

  • Start cleaning baby’s gums before teeth come in.  You can do this with a wet and clean washcloth (preferably not washed with detergents that are full of dyes, perfumes, and other chemicals) or an infant toothbrush that has soft, rubbery bristles (babies may even like to gnaw on this by themselves!).  You can do so using just plain water or a fluoride free toothpaste because in all honesty, through my research, babies and young children should not be ingesting fluoride and don’t know how to spit toothpaste out effectively enough at this age (I highly recommend Weleda brand…and about the fluoride issue…I’m not condemning fluoride altogether… I just don’t think young babies and children should be ingesting it; this is different than using preventative treatments at an appropriate age.).  This action brushes away bacteria that can build up on gums that can eventually lead to a gum infection or a breeding ground of bacteria for teeth coming in, which can even delay teeth coming in and/or make it very painful for babies.
  • Once teeth come in, brush at least twice a day.  Yes, twice.  (I know some of you are probably thinking, “I can barely get the toothbrush in my kid’s mouth once a day… no or less twice!”)  While I know this may not be the easiest feat for all children, like anything else, repetition and consistency builds understanding and will lead to an easier time doing so.  I brush my son’s teeth either right when he gets up/after he eats breakfast and definitely before bed.  I even make sure to brush his teeth after he’s had milk or anything with natural sugar (like fruit or any food that can get lodged in his teeth) before a nap, as I do not want any food sitting in his teeth and mouth while sleeping.  Yes, there are definitely days when he is more cooperative… and days when I can barely get the toothbrush in his mouth.  However, if I don’t even try, that’s a missed opportunity…and it teaches him that he can win with his behavior, which is not something you want to allow early on.  Here are some tips to make teeth brushing time more productive and less like a scene from Braveheart:
    • Make it a game – have your child use your toothbrush and have them brush your teeth while you brush his/hers.  It’s amazing how engaged kids can get when they feel like they are part of the action.  Besides, it helps them build the skill to do for themselves when they get older.
    • Aim for brushing at least two minutes each time.  To help your child brush for the correct amount of time, try setting an egg timer or listening to a song.
    • You can even make up a tooth-brushing dance.  C’mon… you know you have the disco skills.
    • If that fails, you can try a cool-looking toothbrush or find a toy your child can play with to distract him/her while you brush.
  • It is important to brush all tooth surfaces, including the gums, backs of teeth and even the tongue.
  • Be aware that many medications can cause dental issues.  Medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics (not like you’d be giving these to your young kids anyway…but as they get older) — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
  • One of the BIGGEST offenders is children’s Tylenol or ibuprofen – these formulas are LOADED with sugar (to disguise the taste)…and are often given MOST when children are TEETHING.  You give this to your child when teething à you may not brush afterward thinking it will hurt teething teeth à a sugary mess is coated and left on the gums and teeth….need I type further?  Two ways around this: be sure to brush after administering these meds if given OR you can actually use non-child formula in low dose (you will have to check with your pediatrician first to correlate dosage [it will be in line with what children’s versions are] and break up the pills to create the dose…crush the pill and add to a yogurt/fruit mix or any other food to disguise the taste.  Again, check with your pediatrician first to make sure dosing is done properly.
  • Once two      teeth come in next to each other, you should begin flossing.  That’s right.  Flossing baby teeth.  Bacteria LOVES to hang out and build up      between teeth, so teaching flossing early will promote this practice to be      carried over into childhood, teenage years, and adult dental health      care.  There are many cool “flosser”      products out there to make flossing easier and cooler in those tiny      mouths.  You can ask your dentist      for suggestions, too.  Flossing helps remove pieces of      food that get stuck between teeth and under gums, reaching places the      toothbrush can’t.
  • One of the greatest ways to help      dental health – eat a healthy diet and limit      between-meal snacks.  Limiting sugar      is KEY.  Like I have mentioned      before in my article on carbs/sugar… you need to READ LABELS and really      check to see how much sugar is in the food you are feeding your      family.  Shockingly, many “healthy      snacks” have sugar contents in the amounts of 12-15g per serving…which in      my opinion, is HUGE!  Snacks like      flavored yogurts, “fruit snacks”, milks, ice cream, ice pops, etc. are      LOADED with sugar… to the tune of over 20g in some cases.  Um, that is how much added sugars max      your child should be getting a day.   Now think about what all of that sugar      is doing on the surfaces of the teeth.       Awesome.  Rather, load your      food arsenal up with cut up fruits and veggies (yes, fruit has sugar, but      natural sugar, not refined sugar), lots of fiber, and omegas!  High amounts of omegas help dental      health in that they reduce inflammation and allow your body to break      sugars down better.  Offer a variety of foods from the five major food groups: fruits,      vegetables, dairy, grains and meat/poultry/fish. Avoid sugary beverages,      such as soda, juice and sports drinks, and snacks that contain high      amounts of sugar. Each time you eat or drink something with sugar, harmful      acids attack your teeth for at least 20 minutes. Repeat attacks can lead      to tooth decay.
  • Never      put your baby or child to sleep with a bottle of milk, juice, or any other      drink that contains sugar.  If your      child needs fluids in bed, make it water.       The sugars will pool in the mouth and decay teeth like crazy.  Believe it or not, but milk has a decent      amount of sugar in it (naturally….but in some cases…ADDED with some      brands…blech….READ LABELS!).
  • Children      should not eat or suck on high-acid containing fruits or foods like lemons – while it may be      cute to catch the puckered-face picture of a baby’s first taste of      a lemon, the acids in these foods break down the enamel coating on teeth,      making them more susceptible to decay.       Foods like citrus fruits and pineapple have higher acid amounts;      just be careful and maybe offer these foods when children are older and      have more developed enamel on their teeth (or brush teeth afterward to      prevent the acid from eating away at teeth).
  • Replace      toothbrushes every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.  Be sure to wash toothbrushes off with      hot water after each use and store in a place where they are not exposed      to lots of germs.
  • Schedule regular      dental checkups.  Ideally, a baby’s      first birthday (or when they get teeth) is recommended for a first dental      visit, but for many individuals, by the time children are two is a great      time to have teeth examined.       Besides, the earlier children are brought, the more comfortable      they will be in the future (hopefully).       While this may be hard for some families that do not have dental      insurance, check with your dentist to see if they can offer a payment plan      that will work.  Taking care of your      oral health is one of the best investments in your overall health.
  • Many dentists recommend the      application of sealants on children’s teeth to help prevent cavities.  Dr. Galeone, DDS notes, “The application      of fissure sealants to the teeth can help prevent dental decay. A fissure      sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material applied to the pits and      grooves of children’s teeth.  They      are especially recommended for those children with a history of tooth      decay.”  Some critics say sealants      can expose children to BPA levels… but in my personal opinion, I would      rather protect against cavities that way than deal with tooth decay and      potentially using amalgam fillings, which leach incredible amounts of      mercury into the human body for the entire time they are present in the      mouth (which for most people, is the rest of their lives).

Here’s to bright, healthy smiles for EVERYONE in your family.  I can personally attest that learning healthy oral hygiene habits from an early age helped me obtain optimal dental health, which impacts every other system in your body.  Besides, who wants to sit in the dentist chair having fillings?  Help your child onto this healthy dental path as soon as possible.

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

 

 

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Roasted Blueberry Quinoa Salad

What to do with a huge tub of blueberries sitting in my refrigerator? Last week I made a blueberry crisp, which was amazing. While it wasn’t full of too many unhealthy ingredients, I thought about trying to “healthify” it a little bit more. Then the healthy part of my brain nudged the unhealthy part of my brain and made me realize that I should just make something that is healthier than dessert to begin with. I wasn’t in a trial and error kind of mood anyway, and who knows how that healthy blueberry crisp would have turned out!

I’m a sucker for a grain salad. Greens and grains can work as a side dish or as a main dish. Throw in some roasted fruit? Even better. So I decided to roast those blueberries and use half of them to make a dressing for the salad. I threw the other half in the salad with a few extra fresh blueberries, some mixed greens, red onion, and feta cheese. Serve some toasted pita on the side and you have a filling, healthy summer meal.

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MEGAN MONDAY: Ch-ch-ch-Chia….Cha-Ching with These Healthy Superfood Seeds

chiaThinking back to the first time I heard about the ability to eat chia seeds brings a fond visual of my face contorted with an expression resembling that of, “What the?!?!”  I wasn’t comprehending that the seeds I used to smear on my Chia Pet or Chia Head were actually a delicious, anti-oxidant-packed, and nutritious superfood.  These native South American seeds have been a staple to the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations….and even more interesting, there are and have been groups of adventure runners and warriors who survived solely on chia seeds for weeks on end while trekking through the wilderness (if you’re looking for a cool book to read that touches more on this topic of tribal runners, check out, “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall).  Many endurance athletes now use crushed chia seed powder as a source of fuel before, during, and after races to replenish nutrient stores.  Believe it or not, you could live entirely off of chia seeds because they have 19 amino acids, with all of the essential amino acids except taurine.  I found chia seeds as an awesomely easy and tasty way to add omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein (4 grams per 2 tablespoons!), antioxidants, and minerals (namely calcium) into my diet with the added benefits of filling me up, keeping me full, and pulling dangerous toxins out of my intestinal tract.  Chia seeds actually have more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and even more antioxidants than blueberries.  The best part?  Your kids (and other family members) will probably like them, too!  Because they have such a mild taste (if any, at all), you can incorporate chia seeds into yogurt, puddings, oatmeal, drinks, or sprinkled on top of pretty much anything, with salads and cereal being my top pick.  A note of advice in advance – chia seeds are hydrophyllic (meaning they absorb water) – that hold around 10 times their weight in water.  They will absorb much of the liquid they come into contact with and become gelatinous (jelly-like) in texture after sitting in moisture for a bit, so be sure to store them in a dry place and know that if you mix with anything liquid and let them sit for a bit, you will feel little slimy chia seeds (which may bother some people, although the taste does not change).

OMEGA-3 POWER: Chai seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3s.  The omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds are one of their best health benefits.  Packed with 5 grams of omega-3s in only 2 tablespoons, you can add a hefty amount to your daily regimen without having to take supplements.   Chia seeds’ lipid (fat) breakdown is composed of 60% omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids (specifically, of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA).  What better way to get inflammation-reducing, cholesterol-reducing, cognitive-boosting, and heart-protecting goodness into your family?

 

BETTER THAN FLAX SEEDS? We hear so much about flax seeds as the seeds of choice for omegas, which don’t get me wrong – they are a great healthy choice – but flax seeds need to be ground in order to be of any benefit (flax seeds will pass right through your body unless they are ground) and they need to be used within optimally 72 hours before they can go rancid.  Chia seeds, on the other hand, can stay fresh for much longer periods of time and they do not need to be ground in order for your body to digest and utilize it.  Chia seeds also contain higher amounts of omega-3s per serving than flax, making them more nutrient-dense.

 

FIBER AND GUT CLEANING: As we know, fiber is important and we want as much of it in our diets.  Fiber helps reduce inflammation in the body, lower cholesterol, and keep our bowels healthy (while pushing toxins out that we don’t want hanging out in our body too long).  Making sure our families eat lots of fiber through the day is not too easy to do, however.  You’ll like this fact about chia seeds – they are an excellent source of fiber – 10 grams in only 2 tablespoons!!!  That’s 1/3 of your daily recommended intake!  How easy is that?!?!  With chia seeds being hydrophyllic, this is helpful, especially for athletes, as it will help with hydration during exercise and periods of extended activity.  If you eat the chia seeds raw (which most people do), they form a gel in your stomach and intestines (from absorbing surrounding fluids).  Some researchers believe that this gel helps coat the stomach and slows down the absorption of sugars and even calories at a fast rate – which keeps you fuller longer and helps to prevent the sugar crashes often associated with an imbalance of consumption.  Chia seeds can play an important role in regulating insulin levels. They can reduce insulin resistance and decrease abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood.

Most importantly about chia seeds being hydrophyllic, they absorb harmful toxins from your digestive tract and safely and smoothly removes them from your system.  With the high fiber content and ability to absorb, think of chia seeds as a great way to flush your system clean.  Now do it every day and you will feel great knowing toxins are not building up in your system as easily.  Want to feel fuller longer?  Do your kids complain about being hungry the second after they eat something?  Chia seeds could help with that.  Satiety is the feeling of being full and satisfied, which helps lower food cravings between meals.  The combination of protein, fiber and the gelling action of chia seeds when mixed with liquids all contribute to their satiating effects.

 

With chia seeds being hydrophyllic and possessing a gel-like form after absorbing fluids, they can also be used as an egg replacement (which is perfect for families who have individuals who have egg allergies or sensitivities).  The outer layer of chia seeds that swells when mixed with liquids to form a gel can be used in place of eggs to lower cholesterol and increase the nutrient content of foods and baked goods. To make the egg replacement, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes.

 

NATURALLY GLUTEN & GRAIN FREE: Gluten sensitive or suffering from Celiac disease?  Concerned about too much gluten in your family’s diet?  No worries here with chia seeds, as they naturally do not contain any gluten or grains.  If you are gluten-free, definitely consider adding this nutritional powerhouse to your diet to boost nutrient intake, which can be of a challenge at times when going gluten-free.

 

ANTIOXIDANT POWER: Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer. The high antioxidant content also helps them have a long shelf life. They last almost two years without refrigeration (this is great for stocking up on them when they go on sale!).

 

MINERALS AND VITAMINS! Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 18 % of the DRI for calcium (205 mg), 35 % for phosphorus, 24 % for magnesium and about 50 % for manganese.  These nutrients help you prevent hypertension and are important for energy metabolism and a part of DNA synthesis.  In addition, chia seeds contain vitamins A, B, E, and D, and other minerals including potassium, sulphur, iron, iodine, copper, zinc, sodium, magnesium, niacin, thiamine, and silicon.

 

If these reasons weren’t enough for you to try or start using chia seeds, perhaps some of these easy recipes and uses will be:

 

(Courtesy of Wellness Mama for this recipe, which I make often and enjoy)

Need an easy recipe for kids to be involved in making and love to eat?

  • Homemade chia seed pudding! 
    • 2 cups of coconut milk or other milk
    • 1/2 cup chia seeds 
    • 2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder (or to taste)(optional)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon or more sweetener of choice (optional)- We use honey or a few drops of stevia

Put in a blender and blend until smooth. Will thicken in about 10 minutes in the fridge.

There are endless flavor variations. You can omit the cocoa powder and vanilla and add a cup of strawberries for a strawberry version, or add cinnamon and nutmeg for a Chai Chia Pudding.

  • Homemade chia seed flour – Need a flour replacement?  Try chia seed flour!  Simply place a bunch of chia seeds in a blender, nut grinder, or food processor and blend until into a powder form.
  • Thicken meatballs or meatloaf (or anything, really) with chia seeds instead of breadcrumbs.  Use a couple of tablespoons per pound of meat instead of breadcrumbs.
  • Kid-friendly energy gel – mix a few tablespoons of chia seeds with coconut water and let sit for about 15 minutes until it forms a gel.  No need for sugar or additives… kids love it and it will give sustained energy without all of the garbage in processed products!
  • Use as breading – tired of using breadcrumbs to coat meat and fish?  Use chia seeds instead!  They crisp up nice and the flavor complements anything! (Plus, it’s healthier!)
  • Sprout some chia seeds for fun… or for a snack! Watch the chia seeds grow like they would as a Chia Pet, but make fun alternative growing mediums.  You can also eat sprouted chia seeds as a healthy snack or addition to a salad or sandwich/wrap.
  • Awesome energy cracker recipe (courtesy of http://www.ohsheglows.com):

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chia seeds*
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepita seeds (or pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp grated sweet onion
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 325F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix the seeds together. In a small bowl, mix the water, grated garlic, and grated onion. Whisk well. Pour the water mixture onto the seeds and stir until thick and combined. Season with salt, and optional spices or fresh herbs if you wish.

3. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet with the back of a spoon until it’s less than 1/4 inch thick. Not to worry if a couple parts become too thin, you can just patch them up.

4. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, slice into crackers, carefully flip onto other side with a spatula. Bake for another 30 minutes, watching closely after about 25 minutes. The bottoms will be lightly golden in color. Allow to cool completely on the pan. Store in a container.

Note: See the bottom of this post for where you can purchase chia seeds.

Nutritional Info: (per cracker, makes 22 large crackers): 77 kcals, 6 grams fat, 4 grams carbs, 0 grams sugar, 3 grams fiber, 3 gram protein.

 

Convinced yet?  Share some of your chia seed ideas in the comments below!  We would love to hear how this awesome treat from nature is best used by our fans!

 

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Turkey Sliders

I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that I love a good cheeseburger.  Well, any cheeseburger, really.  I’m also a huge fan of turkey burgers, but depending on what you put in them, they’re not any healthier than a regular burger.  I’ll often make turkey burgers using just lean ground turkey, curry powder, and red onion, which are always popular around my house.  I’ve been meaning to try another version though, so it was as if the stars aligned when I spotted a recipe for hummus turkey sliders the other day.  Adding hummus to turkey burgers?  Genius!

The hummus isn’t that noticeable in the burgers, but it does make them super moist.  While they were really good, I think they could also benefit from some additional herbs and/or spices.  Feel free to experiment – add some garlic, try a different flavor of hummus, or add some fresh dill.  The options are endless!

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What To Do With 16 Summer Squash?

Two days ago I picked up my (very heavy) CSA box from the designated location near my house.  Sometimes I let my daughters help me carry it to the car.  But not today.  Though I could have used the help, I was mostly just trying to survive the trek down the driveway, keeping everything and everyone in tact.  When I got home, I was not surprised to find a head of cabbage (heavy), 3 pints of blueberries surrounded by 6 ears of corn (moderately heavy) and 16 summer squash (seriously?!)

Now what?

The blessing of a CSA is a-ma-zing food.  Seriously.  The part of me that is overwhelmed by what to do (and I’ve already confessed my apprehension to you before) is often hushed by the sound of fresh veggies simmering on my stove or the tumbling mounds of blueberries falling out of my cup of oatmeal every morning.  The curse of the CSA is the tick-tock of the expiration date and the looming reminder that in 7 days I have another hefty load coming my way.

During my best weeks, I prepare soups and sauces, muffins and pancakes, full of delicious, vitamin-packed freshness.  During my worst weeks, I’m chopping up lettuce in pieces that are too big and throwing it in marinara sauce only to have my children scream “I don’t like salad” before throwing them on the floor.  Fantastic.

This week, seeing 16 squash overwhelmed me.  So I took to our Facebook page where several very helpful people gave me quick, easy ideas.  I started with muffins, since we love them as a family and it’s a process my daughters love to help with.

My sister sent me a great recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie (and how could I resist that!) for “Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins” found here: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/04/25/chocolate-chip-zucchini-bread-muffins/

I altered the recipe to fit my own preferences and ingredients on hand.  It looked something like this:

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

1 1/2C whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 C evaporated cane juice

1/2 C mini dark chocolate chunks

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 C coconut oil

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 C zucchini grated

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a mini muffin pan with olive oil spray.  Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.  Combine all wet ingredients in a second bowl.  Mix wet ingredients into dry and immediately portion into mini muffin pan.  Bake 19 minutes and cool before eating (if that’s even possible…since it’s not in my house)choc chip zucchini 2

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Pineapple Pork Kebabs with Israeli Couscous

While watching the news the other night, I learned we are in the midst of our third heat wave of the summer. Since it’s only the middle of July, that pretty much means back-to-back heat waves. Actually, it’s more like one loooong heat wave. But it’s not like I needed the weatherman to tell me that. All I have to do is step outside and I instantly start to melt. But this is what we all crave in the middle of February, right?

I haven’t caught the obligatory “trying to fry an egg on the sidewalk” segment on the news yet, but I’m tempted to try it so that I don’t have to turn on my stove in the morning and create extra heat in my kitchen. Which is why I’ve been grilling a lot lately (although I still melt while I’m standing over the grill). At least I’m rewarded by the air conditioning and a great meal when I finally make it back inside.

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The Buzz about Bee Products (The “Original Superfoods”)

beesYou may have seen products like raw honey or royal jelly in the store and have wondered, “What the?!” What makes honey “raw”?  Who would even want to eat something called “royal jelly”?  (And no, it’s not affiliated with Kate Middleton’s breakfast preferences)  You’re not alone if you’re a little confused about the buzz around these bee products that have actually been used for centuries as natural healers and health builders.  I have been using bee products for years and love them.  *A NOTE OF CAUTION – Children under the age of 1 should not eat honey due to the risk of honey potentially being contaminated with botulism (although this is rare in cases of raw honey that has been harvested from a reliable and responsible bee farmer).

There is a great quote that superfoodie David Wolfe quoted about the work ethic of bees: “No bees, no honey; no work, no money.”  These amazing creatures work endlessly to not only provide food for their colony, but to help pollinate the flowers, fruits, and vegetables across the world.  There’s concern over the recent unfortunate condition bees are facing of possibly being eradicated by use of pesticides and the world of GMO agriculture (this is a whole separate issue I can go into another time).  What’s important to know is that if these revered insects become endangered, no or less extinct, our entire food supply could follow destruction, for without bees, there is little to no pollination.  The products bees provide us are so rich in nutrients that they are considered superfoods across the globe.  Things such as honey, bee pollen, bee propolis, and royal jelly are sacred in many homes.  The only food that comes close to bee products in overall richness of history and legend is chocolate (cacao).  Bee products are considered one of the greatest sources for concentrated nutrition, as they are rich in micronutrients, trace elements, minerals, and antioxidants, to name a few benefits.

I also make sure to buy organic bee products from non-large commercial honey companies, as they mistreat bees (yes, this is possible!).  Bees are often mistreated by corporate honeymakers, which includes feeding the bees high fructose corn syrup (rather than leaving a portion of their own honey to consume), smoking out the hives, and spraying toxic nicotine-based pesticides on the plants/trees from which the bees gather pollen.

Health Benefits of Bee Products (SOURCE: “Superfoods” by David Wolfe):

HONEY – (it’s recommended to buy packaged in glass in its organic, raw, unfiltered state [this means it’s not processed and heated, like most commercial honeys on the store shelves…and why buying fresh, RAW honey is better – cooked honey has no enzymes.)

  • Is made from the nectar that bees sip from flower blossoms.
  • Considered to be a universal medicine, sweetener, and nutrient source.
  • Some natural, unrefined honeys have been shown to have antifungal, antibiotic, and antiviral effects.
  • Rich in minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and enzymes.
  • Has wonderful moisture-retaining properties.
  • Honey can be taken with other mineral-rich foods to increase mineral absorption.
  • Provides the body with a very digestible and soothing form of sugar (energy).
  • It’s considered one of the greatest healing foods.  Here are some things honey has been known to help treat and even cure:
    • Diarrhea, ulcers, infections, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastrointestinal problems, and staph infections.
    • Due to its antibiotic effects, honey also helps treat these infections diseases: anthrax, diphtheria, urinary tract infections, ear infections, meningitis, respiratory infections, sinusitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, infected animal bites, typhoid, dysentery, abscesses, boils, impetigo, tooth decay (ironic!), scarlet fever, sore throat, and cholera.
    • Honey can also heal topical wounds from scrapes to skin ulcers and surgical wounds!
  • Special note: aside from children under the age of 1 (with honey), individuals with blood sugar disorders, cancer, and Candida should stay away from honey, agave, sucanat, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, or any sweeteners of any kind because these can adversely affect the health condition.

BEE POLLEN – (this can be found in the refrigerated section of health food stores, normally near the probiotics; bee pollen should be kept refrigerated to preserve freshness).  Bee pollen is safe to give to children (unless they have a severe allergy to bees, in which you want to clear with a doctor first to be sure, as sometimes it may illicit an allergic response in some cases).

  • Is a source of 18 vitamins (including nearly all B vitamins, except B12), as well as C, D, and E; carotenes (including xanthophyll and beta-carotene), lecithin/choline, all 22 essential amino acids, 14 fatty acids (including essential fatty acids), 11 carbohydrates (ranging from polysaccharides to simple sugars), and nucleic acids such as RNA & DNA.
  • Is an alkaline food, so it balances out levels of acid in the body (too acidic levels have been found to lead to cancer and other degenerative diseases of the body).
  • Has high levels of antioxidants.
  • Is the most complete superfood in nature.  This means it contains all 22 essential amino acids and is loaded with vitamin B-9.
  • Bee pollen reduces the production of histamine, which in turn helps neutralize many allergies.
  • Bee pollen increases strength, endurance, energy, and speed.  It provides a quicker recovery from exercise and helps to return the heart rate to normal.  It also helps to improve endurance for repeat exertion, which is why so many athletes rely on bee pollen as part of their nutrition.
  • Bee pollen helps increase muscle growth and definition (The British Sports Council studied increases in strength by as high as 40-50% in those taking bee pollen regularly.)
  • Is a delicious (I can attest to this… I take bee pollen everyday), energy-rich source of complete protein.  It is approximately 25% protein and one of the richest sources of bioavailable protein in nature.  Gram for gram, pollen contains an estimated 5-7 times MORE protein than meat, eggs, or cheese (and it’s in a predigested form, so the body can readily utilize it).
  • There is an impressive amount of B vitamins in bee pollen, which in turn helps build-up our defense against stressors to the body.  It even helps reverse aging and wrinkling.  Many people use it to help clear acne (since I have been taking bee pollen, my adult acne disappeared).
  • Minerals and elements such as calcium, copper gold, iodine, iron, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sulfur, sodium, and zinc are all present in pollen.
    • Bee pollen can be mixed with honey or royal jelly, or consumed by itself as a snack.  You can also blend bee pollen into smoothies or recipes that do not require heating.

BEE PROPOLIS – (this is the substance full of bioflavonoids that seals the hive and serves as the protector of the hive; it’s a waxy substance that is normally made and sold into extracts mixed with alcohol or glycerine)

  • Is highly medicinal and supports the immune system.
  • Is an antibacterial substance that is collected and used by bees.
  • The bioflavonoids present in propolis help heal, repair damage, and prevent disease.  They also lend powerful antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
  • Propolis is a rich source of minerals, amino acids, fats, vitamins C and E, pro-vitamin A, and vitamin B-complex.
  • Is rich in bioflavonoids and amino acids, which help mend and strengthen blood vessels and capillaries.

ROYAL JELLY – is a thick, milky substance that determines a queen bee from otherwise ordinary larvae; it’s a combination of pollen and honey.

  • It’s known to be rejuvenating to the body and helps regenerate cells, thus aiding in inhibiting the aging process due to its B5 and B-vitamin content.  Amino acids, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and manganese are also present in royal jelly.
  • Is the second-richest natural source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).
  • Contains as much as 50% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 14% fat.
  • It helps maintain skin tone and vitality.
  • Royal jelly is a powerful energy supplement, with its stimulating effect compared to caffeine, but without the negative side effects.
  • Is known to help alleviate arthritis pain.
  • Has been used to effectively treat depression.
  • Royal jelly is the richest source of acetylcholine (an important fluid in the regulation of nerve impulses between nerve fibers, which enhances our ability to think clearly) and so effective in this area that it’s known to help those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Did you know that Ancient Egypt is where our present-day beekeeping sciences began?  The Egyptians were among the first peoples on Earth to keep bees (as documented throughout the country in ancient cultural artifacts) and offered honey and bee pollen to the gods.  Interestingly enough, honey products have also been broadly used in Greco-Roman civilization, as found repeatedly noted in the Iliad and Odyssey, in addition to being staples at the ancient Olympic games of Greece, where they were used as food, beverage, body, and skincare.  As if that isn’t cool enough, check out these facts about bee products (excerpt SOURCE: “Superfoods” by David Wolfe):

  • Honeybees are the only insects that produce food for humans.
  • Bees produce the only food that will never spoil.  Edible honey has been found in Egyptian tombs.
  • Honeybees visit about two million flowers to make one pound jar of honey.
  • The brain of a worker honeybee is about a cubic millimeter but has the densest neurological tissue of any animal.
  • Bees have a magnetic band around their brains to help them navigate.
  • A bee travels an average of 1,600 round trips in order to produce one ounce of honey; up to 6 miles per trip.  To produce 2 pounds of honey, bees travel a distance equal to 4 times around the Earth.
  • Bees are the chief engineers of cross-pollination.
  • A hive of bees flies 55,000 miles to make one jar of honey.
  • An average worker bee makes 1/12 tablespoon of honey in her life.
  • All worker bees are female. (eh hem)
  • Bees communicate to one another by dancing, which they can understand even in complete darkness.
  • A queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs in one day – at a rate of 5 or 6 a minute.  That is equal to 175-200 thousand eggs annually.
  • One hive may hold up to 80,000 bees – one queen, a few hundred drones (males), and the rest are female workers.
  • One gallon of honey equals the combined bee flight distance of going to the moon and back.
  • Bees fly an average of 13-15 MPH.
  • Bees from the same hive visit about 225,000 flowers per day.  One single bee typically visits between 50 and 1,000 flowers a day, but can visit up to several thousand.
  • A bee’s life span ranges from 3-6 weeks.

Here’s a recipe for snack balls utilizing bee products.  Beeware…they are delicious (har har har)

 

In a food processor, lightly blend and then place mixture in a bowl:

¼-1/2 cup dried berries of your choice (i.e. mulberries)

1 cup hempseed or chia seeds (preferably hempseeds)

 

Add to bowl:

8 oz. raw coconut butter (not oil)

½ cup shredded dried coconut flakes

1 tsp. cinnamon powder

¼-1/2 tsp. sea salt

½ cup cacao nibs or cacao powder

3-4 tablespoons bee pollen

1 tablespoon royal jelly

¼ cup coconut oil

(depending on sweetness desired, between 1-3 TBS raw honey)

Scrapings of 2-3 raw vanilla beans (if not available, 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract will work)

 

Mix all ingredients together by hand until it reaches the consistency of cookie dough.  You can always add a splash of filtered water or more coconut oil to help everything stick together better.

Then roll dough into golf-ball size balls and they can be dipped in the following toppings:

Coconut flakes

Cinnamon powder

Cacao nibs

Cacao powder

Bee pollen

 

I was astonished to learn how beneficial bee products can be to one’s health, which is why I started using them regularly in my home.  I can honestly say, I am a firm believer in the healthy properties bee products promote and hope that you are able to find a resourceful use for them, too (even if it’s switching to organic raw honey versus commercialized processed honey).

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

 

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