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healthy tip of the week – green spring cleaners

This tip of the week is coming a little late!  I have had this post half written since Sunday, but just never got around to finish it up.  Better late than never!

Healthy Tip of the Week – Green Spring Cleaners

Cleaning products are filled with chemicals that are harmful for our bodies, our homes, and our environment!  If you scan the back of your name brand bathroom cleaner, I bet that you won’t know many of the ingredients listed.

More and more green products are showing up on our shelves these days, but is everyone buying them?  And, are they really all natural as they say they are?  I haven’t done enough research on that topic to speculate, however, I have read some studies which indicate that not all natural products are as earth friendly as they say they are.

I have used many of the greener products out there myself, and some definitely work better than others.  In particular, I have used the Method and Seventh Generation brands on numerous occasions.  But, even though I like these products, I’d prefer to mix up my own cleaning products if I can.  This way, I know exactly what I am breathing in and cleaning my kitchen sink with.

I spent some time over the weekend mixing up some green dish soap and all purpose spray.  I searched for a few recipes and researched what ingredients did what, and decided on the following mixes!

All Purpose Cleaner

from Gorgeously Green, recipe found here (ps – I have this book, and love it!!)

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure castile soap (peppermint is a favorite)
  • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 20 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 drops of lavender or lemongrass essential oil (I used orange)

Mix all ingredients together and shake!

I used my old Method bottles for storage.  At some point, I will make pretty labels!

Dish Soap

found here plus a few additions

  • 2 cups pure castile soap (I used peppermint)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 6 drops essential oil (I used orange)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vinegar

Combine two cups of liquid castile soap and 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup of warm water.  Add a few drops of essential oils and lemon juice for a pleasant scent.   Mix well and place in a bottle.  At first I put this into my plastic Method dish soap bottle, but decided on a fancier glass bottle instead!  Make sure to shake the soap well each time before using.

I just love the way this soap smells!  Very pepperminty!

After a few hours, the soap did eventually all mix together, and has stayed that way for the past week.

I have been using these products all week, and am happy to say that they work great!  The all purpose cleaner made my mirrors and windows sparkle, and the dish soap surprisingly got my dishes cleaner that the previous soap I was using!  I am psyched!

Purchasing the products to make these cleaners is definitely a little pricey, however, I barely put a dent in any of those products to make my spray and soap.  It will last for awhile!

Have you ever made any cleaning products at home?  Please share!

healthy lap of the week – drinking on the run

Healthy/Fitness Lap of the Week – Drinking on the Run!

With spring in full swing, and the weather getting nicer and warmer each day (knock on wood!), it is important to make sure that you are well hydrated for your workouts.

(Source)

Water constitutes about 60% of our body weight and basically sustains life.  Each and every cell in our body needs water to function well, and to provide energy.  The list below contains just a few of the phenomenal things water does for us:

  • Carries nutrients and waste products through the body
  • Acts as a solvent for minerals (i.e., sodium and potassium)
  • Acts as a lubricant and cushion
  • Maintains blood volume
  • Helps the body regulate temperature

The last fact, ‘helps the body regulate temperature’, is extremely important, especially in the warmer weather (and even in a heated gym in the winter).  Your body can overheat more easily because the temperature outside is so much warmer.  You will feel yourself getting thirstier and start sweating more quickly and easily than in the winter months.

Your body produces sweat to help regulate your body’s temperature, but without providing your body with proper hydration, it will cause you to become dehydrated thus increasing your body temp.   Dehydration can cause many things, but some common symptoms include fatigue, weakness and dizziness.  In some servere cases, it can be fatal.

(Source)

To prevent hydration, you should drink water every single day!  If you feel thirsty, then your body is trying to tell you that you are on your way to being dehydrated.  Aim to drink before the onset of thirst.  You do not only have to drink water, orange juice and other juices will help as well.  My favorite is coconut water!

During your workouts, try to drink something as well, whether is be water or a sports drink.  Too many liquids will weigh you down, but a few sips here and there will help to replenish what your body is loosing and provide an increase in energy.  Most likely, you will only need to replace your electrolytes if you workout for over 60 minutes, or it is a very hot day.  And, after your workout, make sure to replenish what you have lost.

Water is an integral part of our bodies, so give your body what it needs!

healthy lap of the week – should you buy organic?

Healthy Lap of the Week – Should You Buy Organic?

This is a question that seems to come up a lot these days, and sometimes people just don’t know what to do.  Everyone has their own opinion on the subject, but below are my thoughts on the subject.

(Source)

What is organic? Organic fruits and vegetables are grown with natural fertilizers like mulch, and compost. The farmers rotate crops to reduce pests and disease and they also weed the fields by hand. This ensures that the food is all natural without any chemicals.  When it comes to animals, they must be reared without the routine use of antibiotics and growth hormones and fed a diet of organic foods.

Organic products are often a lot more expensive because of the care that organic farmers give to their animals, fruits and vegetables.  Becoming a certified organic farmer is a long, expensive process, so many farmers just don’t have the time or money to go through with it.  But, that does not mean that their products are not technically organic, since they do not use any chemicals and/or antibiotics.

(Source)

I always buy organic meat, eggs and dairy.  I feel better when I buy them because I know that the animals were treated better, and I know that the products that I am buying do not contain traces of antibiotics.  You have probably noticed that I do not eat a lot of meat, eggs or milk for similar reasons.

As for produce, I always try to buy local.  In the spring, summer and fall, I visit farmers markets as often as possible (and this year, we joined a local CSA), and ask the farmers how they grow their produce.  Usually, since they are small farms, they care for their fruits and vegetables and do not use chemicals on anything!  Just because they do not have a certified organic label, does not mean that they do not obide by the organic ‘rules’.  Make sure you ask around.

Winter months make it harder.  In the Northeast, farmers markets are hard to come by, therefore, I find myself at my local markets or Whole Foods.  I usually tend to buy organic at grocery stores because I have no idea where the conventional produce is coming from.  It just makes me and my body feel better.  However, it does get expensive, so when I am tight on cash, I often pick and choose which items I purchase organic, and which I do not.

Below is a list to help you out while grocery shopping.  If grown conventionally, the fruits and vegetables listed below have been found to have high levels of pesticides even after being washed, so these are a priority for buying organic (for me).  Most of them are thin-skinned, making them very susceptible to contamination. Usually, produce with thicker skins retain less pesticide residues. (Source)

  • Peaches and Nectarines: Peaches require a large amount of pesticides to grow conventionally and have extremely delicate skin, making them the top organic fruit pick – with nectarines not far behind.
  • Apples: Apples are the second priority when choosing organic produce, as their pesticide loads consistently test high.
  • Bell Peppers:  Bell peppers are the number one vegetable to buy organic. They have thin skins and are heavily sprayed with insecticides.
  • Celery: Celery lacks a protective outer layer and needs many different chemicals for conventional growth, making it number two on the list of vegetables to buy organic.
  • Strawberries: Strawberries rank high on the organic priority list. They are treated with very large amounts of pesticides, including fungicides. When purchased out-of-season, they probably come from a country with inadequate pesticide regulations.  Ewww!!
  • Cherries: Cherries continually rank high for pesticide contamination.
  • Lettuce and Spinach: Lettuce and spinach are often found to have high levels of various pesticides – sometimes very potent types.
  • Imported Grapes: Imported grapes are likely to have higher pesticide levels than domestic. Vineyards may be sprayed with a number of different pesticides throughout the growing season. Because grapes have a permeable skin, even peeling will not eliminate the residues.
  • Pears: Pears consistently show high levels of pesticides when tested.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes are at high risk for pesticide contamination and may also be affected by chemicals, such as fungicides, in the surrounding soil.
  • So, there you have it!  I found this list on a website awhile back, and have done some other looking about the top foods to purchase organic, but every list out there has these top items on it.  I always purchase these items organic, unless I am at a farmers market, or get produce from a local CSA.

    Have fun shopping!

    post race tips

    Good morning!  If you are reading this, wish me luck while I am running the NYC Half Marathon!  It starts bright and early this morning at 7:35 sharp, so I want to be at the starting line by 7am at the latest.

    While I run, I thought I would give you some tips on post-race stretching and nutrition.  It is just as important, if not more important, to stretch and eat well after a race because your body is so worn down from the long run.

    I usually am not so worried about what I eat pre-race at this point because I have done quite a few long runs and races to know what works for my body.  I pretty much eat the same as I normally do, with a few more carbs thrown in the 3 days before the run (research shows that what you eat 3 days before a long run or endurance event is the most important!).  Then, on race morning I either have a bowl of oatmeal, and english muffin or toast with peanut butter and banana (with lots of water, of course!).  It hasn’t failed me yet!

    After the run, I really try to fuel my body well because I know that it needs a lot of nurturing and nutrients to replenish my worn out muscles to help them recover.

    5 Post-race Tips

    1. Rehydrate: This may be the single most important thing to do immediately after an endurance event.  If you do nothing else: rehydrate, rehydrate, rehydrate!  Make sure to drink plenty of water, but also try to drink some kind of sports drink as well.  My sports drink of choice?  Coconut water!  As you know from reading my blog, I am not in to the artificial sports drinks out there.  Coconut water is all natural, good for you, and delicious.  Another awesome recovery drink?  Chocolate milk!  It contains mainly carbs, but healthy protein to fuel your muscles as well.

    2.  Stretch: This is the next most important thing, which you can do while you are rehydrating!  When you run long distances, your muscles shorten.  You probably notice this after performing any exercise for a length of time – It is harder to walk because your stride is not as long.  Even though people do not like to take the time to stretch, it is extremely important to do so because you want to stretch those shortened muscles to help lengthen them again.  By doing this, it decreases your suseptability to injury immensly.  Aim to stretch within 1 hour after you cross the finish line, and try to get in a small stetch session every 2-3 hours for the next day or so (or until your tightness subsides).  Perform static stretches (take the muscle to point of tension and hold for 1 minute).  Make sure to stretch your entire body, not just your legs – your whole body got you through that run, not just your legs!

    3. Ice Bath:  If you can, take an ice bath as soon as you get home.  If you are not close to home, try to put a few ice packs on your legs.  An ice bath will reduce your aches and pains and promote a much quicker recovery.  When you plunge into the cold water, blood is drained from your working muscles, removing any lactic acid with it.  Try to sit for 5-10 minutes!  When you get out, new, fresh blood will flow back into those muscles with more oxygen and lots of nutrients (which brings me to my next tip…).

    4. Get Your Nutrients:  What you eat post-race, is so important.  Your body is completely work down and your muscles need healthy fuel in order to recover.  Everyone feels differently after an endurance event, some may only be able to stomach something small, which others crave a huge meal, but ultimately everyone needs to replace their glycogen stores!  Try to get something high in carbs into your body right away, such an 1/2 bagel or a banana (which are often given out to runners).  Once you feel like eating a meal, make sure that you get as many nutrients in as you can and keep that up for a few days after the event as well.  Your body will not recover over night!!

    5. Feel Accomplished: You just ran a half marathon!  Feel great about yourself!  (And, make sure to let everyone know what you just accomplished!) 🙂

    See you all after the race!

    fitness lap of the week – change up your workouts

    Fitness Lap of the Week – Change Up Your Workouts!

    If you are trying to loose weight, changing up your workout routine may be just as important as working out!  This is also important to remember if you are not trying to lose weight.

    Your body is extremely smart and will eventually start to count on certain workouts throughout the week.  If you are a runner and go out for a moderate paced 5-mile run each day, your body will get used to your routine and it will become easier and easier.  You will find that you stop seeing results, that you get bored or that you are just not challanged anymore.

    (Source)

    I am a runner, and mainly run for my cardio, however I change up my runs each and every day.  I do a few easy to moderate runs each week to make sure that I am not overworking my body, but I also throw in a few days of speedwork or a hilly run.  I also make sure to cross train at least once per week (I love spinning classes!).  I find that is helps me both mentally and physically.  Check out my fitness page for a variety of treadmill workouts and tips to change things up.

    If you prefer to walk or run or bike, that is great!  You can stick with your routine, however, try to walk farther and faster one day or pick a hilly route to challenge different leg muscles.  You can do the same with cycling.

    Another way to change up your routine is to add weight lifting.  I have mentioned the benefits of weight lifting before, and I will say it again.  It is really important to get in a few sessions each week to keep your muscles and bones strong.  It will help you now and in the future.  Stick with one part of your body each day, or do a full body routine once a week.  If you pick different muscles to use each time, you will keep your body guessing, which is ultimately what we want to get stronger and leaner!

    healthy lap of the week – change up your greens

    Healthy Lap of the Week – Change up your Greens!

    (Source)

    Incorporating vegetables into your diet is important to make sure that you consume the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to survive.  However, it is also important to vary the vegetables that you eat!  Many people buy the same things every week at the grocery store.  I used to be guilty of this.  I would buy spinach, peppers and brocolli every single week!  But, I got so sick of them.

    The reason that I was getting so sick of eating the same vegetables week after week, was because my body was craving other nutrients that I could not get from my spinach, peppers or brocolli!  My new plan of attack at the grocery store is to purchase items that are on sale.  This way, I am buying different veggies each week and my body is getting all of the necessary nutrients it craves and requires.

    Different vegetables contain different nutrients.  This is especially true with greens.  There are so many varieties of greens in the produce section these days, many of which customers have not even heard of.  Try to incorporate a different leafy green into your diet each week.

    Recipe websites, such as 101cookbooks.com, epicurious.com and allrecipes.com, allow you to search for recipes by vegetable.  I have found recipes using these sites multiple times!  And, they all have turned out delicious.  Before heading to the grocery store for the week, look up some recipes using a new vegetable that you would like to try.  Your body will love you – you’ll get some different nutrients and keep your mind and body guessing.  This will also keep you from getting bored with your ‘go-to’ recipes.

    Here are  some examples of dark green leafy vegetables, the nutrients that they contain and the best way to eat them (Source):

    • Arugula has a peppery taste and is rich in vitamins A, C, and calcium.  It can be eaten raw in salads or added to stir-fry, soups, and pasta sauces.
    •  Broccoli has both soft florets and crunchy stalks, and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and fiber.  It can be eaten raw or steamed, sautéed or added to a casserole.
    •  Collard Greens have a mild flavor and are rich in vitamins A, C and K, folate, fiber, and calcium. The best way to prepare them is to boil them briefly and then add to a soup or stir-fry. You can also eat collard greens as a side dish. Just add your favorite seasoning and enjoy!
    •  Dandelion Greens have a bitter, tangy flavor and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best when steamed or eaten raw in salad.
    •  Kale has a slightly bitter, cabbage-like flavor and is rich in vitamins A, C and K. Kale is tasty when added to soups, stir-fries, and sauces.  Or, when made into Kale Chips!
    •  Mustard Greens have a peppery or spicy flavor and are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and calcium. They are delicious when eaten raw in salads or in stir-fries and soups.
    •  Romaine Lettuce is a nutrient rich lettuce that is high is vitamins A, C, and K, and folate. It is best when eaten raw in salads, sandwiches or wraps.
    •  Spinach has a sweet flavor and is rich in vitamins A and K, folate, and iron. It tastes great eaten raw in salads or steamed.
    •  Swiss Chard tastes similar to spinach and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, potassium and iron. It is best stir-fried or eaten raw in salads.

    Most importantly, have fun trying these new greens and new recipes!

    healthy lap of the week – eat more chocolate!

    Healthy Lap of the Week – Eat More Chocolate!

    You may think that I am crazy, but I have been reading the book Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe and Shazzie.  It is unbelievable what raw chocolate (cacao) can do for your health.

     

    Now, I’m not saying that eating any chocolate bar will benefit your health.  It needs to be natural, raw chocolate (or dark chocolate).  So, don’t go out and buy a case of Snickers bars!

    All chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are the seeds of the cacao fruit.  Once removed from their pods, they taste like rich dark chocolate (with a bitterness) because that is what they really are!  Which is why dark chocolate is the best type that you can eat.  Most good, high quality dark chocolate is minimally processed.

    Chocolate (and the cacao fruit) grows on trees! (Source)

    The cacao beans are found inside of the fruit, which is ripe once colorful. (Source)

    They are found inside of the pods. (Source)

    And removed for chocolate production! (Source)

    The cacao bean contains numerous antioxidants, more than anything else, including red wine and green tea which have been shown to contain many antioxidants themselves.  However, in order to gain the antioxidants from chocolate, it needs to be eaten as dark chocolate or in it’s natural state (ie. raw cacao nibs or powder).  It has also been shown that consuming chocolate and milk together, greatly decreases the amount of antioxidants that your body can absorb.  Therefore, milk chocolate is a no-no, and so is drinking a big glass of milk with your chocolate bar.  I frequently add raw cacao powder and/or nibs to my smoothies.  Not only am I getting a delicious chocolate drink, but I am also getting the many great benefits of raw chocolate.

    Raw Cacao Nibs are delicious when added to smoothies (without milk!!) and cookies! (Source)

     

    Surprisingly, chocolate is shown to decrease your appetite.  Many people believe that chocolate is linked to obesity (which is true because of all of the artificially produced candy bars out there), however, if eaten correctly, chocolate is actually proven to be a natural weight loss drug!  If you look at many weight loss products on the market today, more often than not, there is cacao somewhere in the ingredient list because it will suppress your appetite.

    Chocolate also contains the following benefits:

    • It has high levels of magnesium, which over 80% of Americans are deficient in.  We need magnesium for heart health, muscle relaxation and to increase our brainpower.
    • It has high amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA), which makes us happy!  Happy people have noticeably higher levels of PEA in their brains.
    • It also contains anandamide and tryptophan, which are both mood-enhancing nutrients that our bodies need.

    “Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cacao bean, the nut that all chocolate is made from. The cacao bean has always been and will always be Nature’s #1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cacao beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food.”
    David Wolfe, co-author of Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About The World’s Greatest Food.

    You can purchase cacao powder and nibs in many natural food stores these days, including whole foods.  I love the Navitas Naturals brand, but anything will do!

     

    If you need any other reasons to keep eating chocolate, definitely check out this book!  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll be giving you lots of tidbits here and there until I do!  It has a lot of great looking recipes to try too, but they are all raw, so that needs to be your thing!

    Happy Eating! 🙂