26 Practical Steps to a Healthier You: Purge Your Pantry {Week 7}

For the next 26 weeks I will be sharing a different way you can become healthier in your daily life. Some of these suggestions have to do with food or exercise, others have to do with lifestyle changes, but all of them are practical and relatively easy to execute. You may already be practicing some of these habits, but hopefully you’ll be inspired by at least onePurge Your Pantry or two new ideas you can begin to implement.

Purge Your Pantry

Last week I shared with you the dangers of sugar and the shocking reality of how much we consume unconsciously on a daily basis. I challenged you to check the ingredient labels of everything you ate this past week. How did you do?

This week, I want to go one step further and challenge you to get rid of anything and everything in your kitchen pantry that threatens your health. Did you know that in order to diagnose cancer, doctors give their patients radioactive sugar. This radioactive sugar is immediately drawn to the cancer cells and lights up on the PET scan. Whether you realize it or not, your cupboard is probably full of cancer-causing ingredients. With all the issues sugar causes, and at the dose the average American consumes it, sugar is essentially a poison. You wouldn’t keep poison in your kitchen, would you?


There are three ingredients in particular that you should especially watch out for as you begin to purge your pantry of the bad. Get rid of any foods containing these ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Here are some hidden names for MSG:

“flavors” or “flavoring”, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, enzymes, glutamate, autolyzed plant protein, autolyzed yeast, barley malt, malt extract, maltodextrin, natural seasonings, protease, stock, textured protein, umami, vegetable protein extract, yeast extract, gelatin, carrageenan, glutamic acid sodium and yeast food or nutrient.

Don’t give these items to anybody else, throw them in the trash!



Though we don’t usually consider them to be “sugar,” white rice, flour, pasta, etc. actually act like sugar in our bodies. They spike our blood sugar, which triggers a spike in our insulin levels, which then triggers belly fat storage and an increase in sugar cravings and hunger. So though these carbs make you feel full temporarily, you actually end up eating more in the long-run because they don’t keep you satisfied.


I mentioned this in my previous post, but in case you missed it, here are various names that disguise the sugar in your pantry products:

high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, aspartame, splenda, agave nectar, barley malt, brown rice syrup, cane juice, cane syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, corn syrup solids, dextran, diastatic malt, diatase, ethyl maltol, fruit juice concentrates, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, molasses, panela, panocha, rice bran syrup, sorghum, treacle, tapioca syrup, etc.


If you thought you purchased a health food and you find it contains one of these ingredients, toss it. If the manufacturers are trying so hard to deceive you in the manner of sugar content, what else are they hiding?



You probably know by now that the average 20-oz soda contains 15 teaspoons of sugar. But lest you think fruit juices are a “health food,” don’t be deceived. Fructose in the form of a couple pieces of fruit a day is fine, but consuming high fructose amounts has been linked to weight gain, cardiovascular issues, and metabolic disorders. It takes about 8-9 oranges to make 1 glass of orange juice. That is a lot of fructose! And remember, though fructose may be better than other forms, it is still sugar and has negative affects. Liquid calories become belly fat, trigger insulin resistance, and make you feel hungrier. So get rid of the juice!


Now that you know what to get rid of, what is holding you back? If you don’t purge the bad, you will end up eating it. It’s inevitable. The white carbs are addicting and impossible to overcome unless you take drastic action. If you’ve been waiting for a sign that you need to get serious about your health, here it is! Get off the computer and go search your cupboards, freezer and fridge for the “perilous three,” “white plagues,” “deceitful sugars,” and “liquid hazards.” Don’t wait!

What else would you purge from your pantry?

26 Practical Steps to a Healthier You: Treat Meat Like a Condiment {Week 4}

For the next 26 weeks I will be sharing a different way you can become healthier in your daily life. Some of these suggestions have to do with food or exercise, others have to do with lifestyle changes, but all of them are practical and relatively easy to execute. You may already be practicing some of these habits, but hopefully you’ll be inspired by at least one or two new ideas you can begin to implement.


If your family was like mine growing up, you had meat at nearly every evening meal. (To this day my parents still have a decent sized portion of meat at dinner every night). In America we tend to treat meat like a staple rather than a condiment like other nations. We don’t realize what this may be doing to our long-term health.


Did you know the number-one cause of death in the U.S. in 2011 was heart disease? Saturated fat is a culprit for the widespread occurrence of this preventable, yet deadly disease as it raises the cholesterol levels in your blood which in turn increases your risk for heart disease.  Did you further know that meat is the greatest contributor to Americans’ saturated fat intake? Peggy Neu, president of the Monday Campaigns says, “Eliminating a day of meat can cut your weekly saturated fat by about 15%.” Now, I’m not saying  you should never eat meat, but simply to limit your intake. Fill up mostly on vegetables, legumes and fruit, and compliment your meal with meat rather than making it the center of your meal.


Recent Grocery Sales:
Hamburger: $3.79/lb (Costco)
Bananas: 39 cents/lb (Costco)
Apples: 89 cents/lb (Hannaford)
Spinach: $2.19/lb (Costco)
Sweet Potatoes: 69 cents/lb (Hannaford)
Mushrooms: $2.39/lb (Costco)

Looking at the above sale prices, it is clear to see the same amount of money that you’d spend on two pounds of hamburger, could be used to purchase two pounds of bananas, one pound of apples, 16 ounces of spinach, two pounds of sweet potatoes, and 16 ounces of mushrooms, instead! I’d say skipping meat for a week is a wise choice!

If you have a tight grocery budget, this one simple step could decrease your stress dramatically. It just takes a little creativity to find meatless meals, but with the Internet at your fingertips it hardly even requires that!


Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Lentil Tacos:

lentil tacos

In a medium saucepan combine:

1/2 cup water

1/4 lentils, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup chopped onion (1 small)

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, heat 8 taco shells according to package directions. Stir into lentil mixture:

1 8oz can tomato sauce

5 tsp taco seasoning mix (1/2 a package)

Bring to a boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Then, stir in:

8oz refrigerated water-packed firm tofu, drained and finely chopped

Heat through. Spoon into taco shells. Top with:

1.5 cups lettuce

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salsa (optional)

Quinoa Patties

Mexican Rice Bowl

Vegetarian Chili

Stuffed Peppers

Homemade Mac & Cheese


Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Broccoli Bars:

broccoli bars

Preheat oven to 350. Combine in medium mixing bowl:

4T olive oil

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

3 eggs

10oz frozen chopped broccoli, thawed

8oz shredded cheese

Pour mixture into a greased 9×9″ baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes uncovered until slightly browned.

Minestrone Soup

Black Bean Soup

Vegetarian Omelet

Egg Fried Rice


Baked Lentils with Cheese:

lentil dish

Preheat oven to 375. Combine in shallow 9×13″ baking dish:

1 3/4 cup, rinsed

2 cups water

1 whole bay leaf

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/8 each marjoram, sage, thyme

2 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups canned tomatoes

Cover tightly and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and stir in:

2 large carrots, sliced 1/8″ thick

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

Baked covered for 40 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in:

1 green pepper, chopped (optional)

2T finely chopped parsley

Sprinkle on top:

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes until cheese melts.

Do you have a favorite meatless meal?

26 Practical Steps to a Healthier You: Make Your Own Salad Dressing {Week 3}

For the next 26 weeks I will be sharing a different way you can become healthier in your daily life. Some of these suggestions have to do with food or exercise, others have to do with lifestyle changes, but all of them are practical and relatively easy to execute. You may already be practicing some of these habits, but hopefully you’ll be inspired by at least one or two new ideas you can begin to implement.


Do you have any idea how much salt, sugar, and other toxic ingredients are in your salad dressing?! Isn’t the point of eating salad to be healthy? Yet, we douse our greens in fat, calories, sodium… you name it.

Just recently I transitioned from buying overpriced and/or unhealthy salad dressing to making my own. I will never go back! I challenge you to try a few recipes and see how you like it.

Italian dressing

italianIn a jar, combine:
1 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder or dried minced onion
2 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried or prepared mustard
Shake well. Store tightly covered at room temperature. Shake well again before use.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

In a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl combine:
1 clove or 1/2 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup mayo (I have used vegenaise, and nayonaise)
1/2 cup rice milk (I’ve also used unsweetened coconut or almond milk)
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1/2 tsp diced fresh)
1 tsp onion powder (or 1/2 tsp minced onion)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Whisk until combined. Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the fridge. Before use, stir again.

Balsamic Dressing


6 T balsamic vinegar
4 1/2 tsp dijon mustard (I’ve also used powdered mustard)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Shake well and store at room temperature, tightly covered.

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Combine in glass jar:
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard (or powdered mustard)
1 tsp stevia (or 2 tsp sugar)

What are your favorite homemade salad dressing recipes?

ABC SUPERFOODS: Z is for Zucchini


One cup of zucchini contains 43% of the RDA of lutein, which promotes healthy eyesight. One cup also contains 10% of the RDA of dietary fiber, aiding digestion, maintaining low blood sugar, and curbing overeating. The fiber content as well as the folate, Vitamins C and A content also help to prevent cancer. Zucchini is also instrumental in preventing hyper-inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. The Vitamin C present in zucchini aids in nerve cell communication and keeps your tissues strong.

At the Market
-Zucchini is a popular staple at farmer’s markets through the summer and fall months.
-Find zucchini squash that feels heavy for its size. (The best size is about 2 inches in diameter and 6-8 inches long).
-Choose small to medium-sized zucchini that feature shiny, bright green skin.
-Avoid zucchinis that are too large or overly mature.
-Note: Soft and wrinkled ends indicates squash that is moistureless.
-Minor scratches or mild bruising is common, but avoid heavily bruised or large gashed squash.

In the Kitchen
-Store zucchini in a plastic bag inside the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
-You don’t need to peel the skin of zucchini before eating or cooking.
-Add zucchini to soups, casseroles, muffins, and stir-fry.


Zucchini Pizza Crust

8 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup flour (sub almond flour)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
3 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp basil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt

Homemade Pizza Sauce
4 large tomatoes, quartered
2 tbls olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 tbls fresh oregano (sub 1 tsp dried)
1 tbls fresh tyme (sub 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 550F with a pizza stone pre baking in it.
In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the squash by wrapping it up in a clean tea towel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing it out, discarding the water.
Once all of the excess moisture has been wrung out and discarded, place the shredded zucchini back into the bowl and add the cheddar cheese, flour, garlic, oregano, basil, eggs, and salt.
With your hands, incorporate all of the ingredients together.
Place the zucchini mixture onto a piece of parchment paper at least 15” in diameter, set on something solid that will make it easy to transfer into the oven.
Using your fingers, spread the zucchini crust mixture to form a circle about 14” in diameter, 1/2″ thick. Pinch the edges up so that it forms a nice crust.
Once the pizza crust has been shaped, transfer the crust on the parchment paper onto the heated pizza stone in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes or until the crust starts to brown.
Once the zucchini crust has baked for 8 minutes, transfer the pizza on the parchment paper out of the oven, onto the solid surface you used before.
Top the pizza with sauce and any additional toppings that you’d like.
Once the toppings are on, transfer the pizza on the parchment paper back onto the heated pizza stone in the oven and bake for an additional 4 minutes.
In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, and salt.
Bring to a boil, breaking up the tomato. Lower the heat, then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Once simmered, puree all of the ingredients in a blender.

Recipe taken from My Humble Kitchen.

ABC SUPERFOODS: Y is for Yellow Squash

Yellow Squash

Did you know that the manganese in yellow squash can help to alleviate PMS symptoms?! In one clinical study, women who consumed greater amounts of the mineral manganese reported fewer cramps and mood swings during their monthly cycle! Yellow squash has zero cholesterol and is low in carbohydrates and calories. This alone makes it a heart healthy choice for those worried about heart disease. Do you need to increase your intake of any of the following: fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, copper, magnesium, folate, or phosphorus? If so, yellow squash is rich in all 7 of these vitamins and minerals. These essential nutrients prevent the onset of cataracts, osteoporosis, and strokes. The high beta-carotene content of this vegetable also helps to prevent cancer.

At the Market
-In the summer months yellow squash is available in any grocery store, at farmer’s markets, and at roadside vegetable stands at very reasonable prices.
-Avoid any squash that have gashes, soft spots, or mold.
-Find squash with a hard rind.
-Good squash should feel heavy for its size.

In the Kitchen
-Store squash in a dry, cool place with decent circulation.
-Add yellow squash to soups, salads, and casseroles, or stir-fry for a nutritional boost.
-Substitute yellow squash for carrots the next time you make carrot cake.
-Marinate and cook yellow squash on the grill.


Pan Grilled Summer Squash

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 medium yellow squash, cut in 1 inch diagonal slices
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped onions
1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1 inch diagonal slices

yellow squash
In a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-heat, warm the oil until hot. Add the squash, zucchini, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the slices are nicely browned. Stir in the salt and pepper.

Recipe taken from Full Circle.

ABC SUPERFOODS: X is for Xigua


I will give $5 to the person who can guess what a xigua is! Just kidding. But seriously, I had to do a little research to find out what they were myself! A Xigua is another word for “watermelon.” Can you guess the record weight for the largest watermelon grown? It was grown in 1990 in Tennessee and weighed 262 pounds!

Did you know that the lightly-colored flesh of the watermelon (closer to the rind) is just as nutrient-rich as the juicy-red flesh in the center of the melon. No matter how you slice it, watermelon is an all-around great superfood! It is an excellent source of Vitamins C and A and contains more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable! Lycopene is important because it neutralizes free radicals which cause damage to our bodies. Do you workout often? If so, you should definitely eat watermelon as it replenishes the electrolytes, sodium and potassium that we lose through perspiration. It also has a special cooling effect on our bodies and provides us with needed energy through its Vitamin B content. This delicious fruit has been known for reducing the risk for rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, asthma, and heart disease.

At the Market
-The fresher, the better. Buy local if possible!
-Find a melon that is free from obvious blemishes or bruises.
-Look for a melon that is symmetrical in shape (not lopsided or narrower on one end than the other).
-Remember, the darker the melon, the more ripe it will be.
-A good juicy watermelon should be heavy for its size (92% of the melon is made up of water).
-Take a look at the bottom of the melon for the “ground spot” where it sat growing in the sun. This spot should be creamy yellow, not white. If it is, this may be a sign it was picked too soon.

In the Kitchen
-Did you know every part of a watermelon is edible?!
-Refrigerate your watermelon only after it has been cut and wrapped in plastic (but note that refrigeration decreases the melon’s texture and flavor).
-Store whole melons slightly cooler than room temperature.
-Use the shell of a hollowed out watermelon to hold a “bowl” of fruit salad!
-Place popsicle sticks on the end of thick wedges of the fruit and freeze for popsicles!


Easy Xigua Salad

1/2 small watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 oz feta cheese
1/2 cup salted sunflower kernals


Combine the ingredients in a large bowl; toss. Serve immediately.

Recipe taken from Allrecipes.com

ABC SUPERFOODS: W is for Water Chestnuts

Did you know water chestnuts quench your thirst? They act as a coolant for the body, so it’s a perfect summer food. Despite its name, the water chestnut is an aquatic vegetable, not a nut. If you or someone you love has jaundice, eat water chestnuts! Due to their detoxifying properties, they are an excellent tonic for this malady. Do you have a urinary tract infection? If so, you too would benefit from eating this vegetable. Problems with nausea or indigestion are also cured by ingesting water chestnuts. Pregnant women benefit from this vegetable in many ways: this vegetable improves fetal development, helps to treat hypertension during pregnancy, and promotes mammary gland secretion of milk. It also boasts of decreasing fatigue and inflammation. In addition to all of this, 100 grams of water chestnuts have 468 mg of potassium, which is vital for proper muscle and neural functioning.

At the Market
-Water chestnuts are seasonal, but are available canned or frozen year-round. The fresh varieties, however, have double the benefits.
-Choose fresh chestnuts that are firm, without signs of shriveling.

In the Kitchen
-This vegetable can be boiled, eaten raw, or used as a filler in various dishes. Note: water chestnuts maintain their crunchy texture whether cooked or canned.
-Peel and rinse fresh water chestnuts well.
-Keep fresh chestnuts wrapped tightly in plastic for up to a week in the refrigerator.
-This vegetable is most commonly used in stir-fry dishes, but can be added to soups or salads.

Cashew Chicken Stir-fry

2 tablespoons cornstarch
⅔ cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon fresh or ground ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
½ cut chopped carrots
1 cup broccoli spears
1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts,drained
⅔ cup cashews
2 cups cooked rice

Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth, and stir in the soy sauce and ginger; set aside. Heat half of the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Stir in the chicken; cook and stir until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the wok, and set aside.
Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into the wok, and stir in the carrots, broccoli, and water chestnuts. Cook and stir until the chestnuts are hot, about 5 minutes more. Stir up the sauce to redistribute the cornstarch, then pour into the wok, and bring to a boil. Add the reserved chicken, and stir until the sauce thickens, and the chicken is hot. Sprinkle with cashews to serve.
Serve over rice.

Recipe taken from Kristen Duke Photography

What is your favorite recipe using water chestnuts?

ABC SUPERFOODS: V is for Vegetables

This week I’m doing something a little different. Instead of focusing on one vegetable in particular, I am going to give you a comparison of the best nutrient-rich vegetables you should be regularly eating.

Highest Vitamin C Content: Green & Red Peppers
Highest Vitamin A Content: Sweet Potatoes, cooked


Most Manganese: Spinach
Highest Magnesium Content: Spinach
Highest Vitamin E Content: Spinach
Most Iron: Spinach
Highest Vitamin B12 Content: Spinach
Highest Potassium Content: Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Highest Vitamin K Content: Kale
Most Copper: Kale
Most Folate/Folic Acid: Dried Seaweed
Most Protein: Broccoli


Most Fiber: Cabbage
Most Zinc: Cabbage
Most Phosphorous: Pumpkin


Most Selenium: Mushrooms
Most Niacin (Vitamin B3): Mushrooms
Most Riboflavin(Vitamin B2): Mushrooms
Highest Vitamin D Content: Mushrooms

So which Vitamins and minerals do you personally need more of? Try the foods mentioned above and you’ll be sure to meet your nutritional needs.

ABC SUPERFOODS: U is for Ugli Fruit

This fruit was accidentally discovered in Jamaica and is mainly grown there, too. Don’t let their wrinkly, uneven colored, “ugly” peel fool you. Inside, this citrus fruit tastes sweet. It is a cross between a grapefruit, orange and a tangerine. A single serving (1/2 the fruit) of Ugli provides 70% of the DV of Vitamin C. It helps promote healthy gums and boosts immunity. This fruit lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and improves gastrointestinal health. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure and preventing kidney stones.


At the Market
-This fruit is available only for a short time, from November to April.
-Select fruit that is heavy for its size.
-Smaller fruit is likely to have a better taste than larger.

In the Kitchen
-If stored at room temperature, it will keep for up to 5 days.
-If stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for 2 weeks.
-Peel like an orange, or cut in half like a grapefruit and eat the flesh with a spoon.
-Use as a substitute in any recipe requiring citrus fruit.


Ugli Fruit Smoothie

1 Ugli Fruit, Peeled and Quartered
1 banana
1/4 c. pure pineapple juice
1/4 c. milk
2 Tbs. white sugar (you can totally use honey or agave nectar)
8 ice cubes

Peel and cut up the ugli fruit – try to only keep the fleshy juicy part and not the skin around each segment – it just tastes better that way.
Peel and slice the banana.
Put the ugli fruit, banana, pineapple juice, milk and sugar into your blender and process until smooth. (or as smooth as you like – we left some random pieces of fruit in there).
Add the ice and blend again.
Pour into cups and serve immediately.

Recipe taken from Daily Dish Recipes.

How do you plan to use the Ugli fruit?

ABC SUPERFOODS: T is for Tomato

Tomatoes… Fruit or vegetable? That’s a debate I won’t get into. But more importantly, a study done at Harvard Medical School over a period of five years found that individuals who ate either tomatoes or strawberries every week had the lowest risk of dying of cancer. Tomatoes are naturally rich in Vitamins A (one medium contains 15% DV) and C (one medium contains 40% DV) and contains a pigment called lycopene. The latter may be twice as effective the cancer-fighting properties than beta-carotene. Lycopene may also help the elderly to remain active longer.

At the Market
-Look for tomatoes that are fragrant and smooth.
-Depending on the type, the color of a ripe tomato can range from pink to robust red to yellow.
-Opt for canned tomatoes in the winter, since fresh are at their worst during this time of year and tomatoes retain their nutritive value even through processing.

In the Kitchen
-Keep tomatoes at room temperature for the best flavor.
-To ripen, place tomatoes in a paper bag with a piece of ripe fruit. Avoid sunlight because it will cause them to lose flavor.
-To freeze, blanch fresh tomatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes, place into ice cold water and then drain. Chop if you would like, then place into freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to a year.
-To release more lycopene and to allow your body to absorb it better, cook fresh tomatoes in a bit of oil.


My Tomato Sauce Recipe

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp Stevia


Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes. When heated through and thoroughly stirred, serve with pasta, pizza, etc.

What is your favorite way to use tomatoes?