Hailing the benefits of coriander!

Hailing the benefits of coriander!

By: Leanne Ely

Did you know that when we talk about coriander we’re talking about the seed of the coriander plant, also known as cilantro? It’s true! Coriander and cilantro are essentially the same thing. That green herb many of us call cilantro, is actually known as the coriander plant to many people around the world.

Coriander is a leafy aromatic herb that after blooming produces coriander seeds which can be purchased whole or in a powder form.

People tend to either love or hate coriander, but there is no denying that it offers a slew of health benefits. Both its leaves and seeds pack a punch in the flavor and nutrition departments.

Let’s take a look at what coriander seeds can do for us:

Salmonella protection. If you end up eating something that’s carrying salmonella-causing bacteria, enough coriander in your system can possibly prevent you from developing an illness from the offending food.

Heavy metal removal. It’s easier than you might think to ingest metals like mercury and lead. Coriander has been found to take dangerous metals like lead, aluminum and mercury right out of our bodies. Avoid being a metal head and eat coriander. It’s said that this spice can actually remove those heavy metals from your brain!

Gas prevention. A little coriander seed can settle your tummy and prevent gas.

Anti-inflammatory. Coriander can help arthritis sufferers by soothing inflamed joints. Make a tea out of coriander seeds and water and see if it brings you some relief.

UTI prevention. If you suffer from urinary tract infections, try adding some coriander to your diet.

Lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Add some coriander to your daily intake and you may find your blood sugar levels even out. You may also find that your LDL cholesterol levels decrease and your HDL (good cholesterol) levels increase.

Coriander is rich in dietary fiber, iron and magnesium. Coriander seeds can reduce menstrual flow while cilantro leaves mixed with turmeric can help treat blackheads and pimples. Coriander even works as an antihistamine!

Homegrown coriander is far superior to the packaged spice you find in stores, so if you’re a fan of the spice, why not try your hand at growing your own? It’s dead easy to grow in your own planter and when it takes, you get an herb and a spice all in one!

Now how do you go about enjoying all that coriander?

• Sprinkle some coriander into your pancake batter
• Add coriander to chickpea dishes
• Buy a pepper mill and dedicate it to coriander seeds! Leave it at the table with your pepper grinder and add this healthy spice to any foods you like
• Warm some coconut (or almond) milk and add cinnamon, honey and powdered coriander for a lovely, comforting drink

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Jumping for joy…for Bok Choy

Jumping for joy…for Bok Choy

By: Leanne Ely

Bok choy is one of my favorite vegetables. Like cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts, this mild Chinese cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable. Very common in Asian cuisine, you rarely see this delicious cabbage in other types of ethnic cooking, despite the fact that it’s grown in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Bok choy has a very delicate, slightly sweet taste and a satisfying crisp texture. It also happens to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. There is nutritional goodness in both the leaves and the stalks of this plant. Of the twenty or so different varieties of bok choy, we most often see two here in the States: traditional bok choy and “Shanghai” or baby bok choy (my favorite!).

You may have walked by bok choy in the grocery store without paying much attention to it. It really looks like all those other leafy green things! Bok choy is sold in “heads” like lettuce is and it has white stalks and dark green leaves (In Chinese, bok choy translates as “white vegetable”).

Let’s take a look at the benefits we can gain by adding bok choy to our diets:

Vitamins. Bok choy is chock full of vitamins. You’ll get lots of vitamin A, C and K with a serving of bok choy. One cup of this veggie actually gives us around half of our daily recommended dose of each of these vitamins with some folate and B6 thrown in for good measure.

Antioxidants. We know that cruciferous veggies are a great form of cancer protection. Bok choy has been found to contain 28 different antioxidant phytochemicals, the most abundant one-kaempferol-having some amazing cancer prevention properties.

Calcium. You hear me go on and on about how you don’t have to worry about getting enough calcium if you eat your green veggies. I mean it! Bok choy is high in calcium, and its calcium is absorbed better than the calcium found in other leafy greens. That’s because bok choy is quite low in oxalate, a substance that actually prevents calcium from being absorbed in the body. The human body can absorb an astonishing 54% of bok choy’s calcium. For comparison, we can absorb 5% of the calcium in spinach and 32% of the calcium found in milk.

To get the most nutrition out of your bok choy, chop it up before cooking or eating it. I know you’re not likely to chomp onto a head of bok choy, but really give those leaves and stalk a good chop to help release the antioxidants.

There are certain enzymes in bok choy that are best for us when the vegetable is eaten raw, and there are others that will be absorbed better when the bok choy is steamed and served with some fat. My best advice would be to serve this veggie a couple times a week-once in a raw salad and once in a stirfry or by featuring the bok choy in a side dish of its own!
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How about some Calcium?

How about some Calcium?

By: Leanne Ely

If your skin is looking dry, your nails are breaking more than usual and/or your teeth are starting to look a little yellow, you may be deficient in calcium.

Muscle cramping is another sign of a calcium deficiency. Also, if you’ve been experiencing more intense PMS symptoms, that’s another sign that you might need to look at upping your calcium intake.

So, what is it that calcium does in the body?

Yes, calcium is important for teeth and bones, but there’s a bigger role for calcium to play in the body. Calcium is required for every cell in your body to function properly. It’s essential for nerve and muscle function and even for weight management.

Roughly 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in your teeth and bones, but your body needs calcium to do just about anything.

After you eat something containing calcium, the mineral is absorbed by your small intestine. From there, the calcium is distributed to your bones and teeth.

If calcium levels aren’t right in the body-whether they’re too high or too low-organs will stop working. Calcium is vital and your body is smart. When you consume more calcium than you need, the excess will be absorbed by your intestines. But, if your body isn’t getting enough calcium, cells will borrow calcium from your bones. Sounds like an efficient system, but if you’re not putting enough calcium into your body, your bones will be depleted of this vital mineral and that’s what leads to osteoporosis.

How much calcium do we need?

Every day we should be taking in roughly 1000 mg of calcium. That’s for the average woman (including pregnant and nursing women) between the ages of 19 and 50, and for men aged 19-70. For children 12-18, pregnant and breastfeeding teens, the daily recommended intake of calcium is 1300 mg. For women over the age of 50 and for men over the age of 70, that recommended daily dose goes up to 1300 mg.

When you’re trying to get in more calcium, also up your intake of Vitamin D. This nutritional combo helps more calcium to be absorbed by the body. Iron, on the other hand, does not get along well with calcium. Space the intake of these two minerals out if you possibly can.

So, what foods are good sources of calcium?

Everyone knows that dairy products contain calcium. And it’s true that a lot of dairy products are also fortified with Vitamin D (to help the calcium be absorbed better). An 8 ounce serving of yogurt or milk will give you about 25% of the calcium you need for the day.

But dairy is not our only source for this important mineral and good thing because a lot of people can’t tolerate dairy or choose not to consume it. But fear not! We don’t need to be running to the store for a calcium supplement! For the majority of us, we can get all the calcium we need from our diet (dairy or not). Here are some foods you should be reaching for to up your calcium reserves:

• Salmon. Canned salmon is especially high in calcium because it contains tiny little bones. It’s also high in Vitamin D. Win-win!

• Cabbage. Most members of the cabbage family are high in absorbable calcium. Bok choy, broccoli, kale-they’re all very high in calcium.

• Turnip Greens. One cup of this green veggie, eaten raw, will give you 10% of your calcium needs for the day.

• Nuts. One serving of almonds will give you roughly 7% of your daily recommended intake of calcium and you can get about 4% of your daily recommended intake from 6 Brazil nuts.

• Herbs. Dried herbs will also give you a big calcium bang for the buck! A few pinches here and there will really add up. Savory is the herb that contains the most calcium at 85mg per tablespoon. That’s 9% of what you need for the day.

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I root for Celery Root!

I root for Celery Root!

By: Leanne Ely

Today’s Focus is on CELERY ROOT

“Beauty is only skin deep.”

I’m sure that’s what celery root says to herself every morning when she looks in the mirror because, boy oh boy, is this a nasty hairball of a root vegetable. Also referred to as celeriac, German celery, turnip-rooted celery and knob celery, this food actually isn’t the root of the celery you may have in your crisper drawer right now, but the root of a related plant.

Celery root is a gnarly-looking veggie, but it is just delicious.

It doesn’t exactly taste like the celery you’re familiar with, but it has a mild, nutty and earthy flavor that just tastes like pure freshness. Readily available from fall through spring, celery root has a long shelf life and is easy to store.

Celery root is full of anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, Vitamin K, phosphorus, calcium, copper and B vitamins.

Celery root must be peeled and after it is, it can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Grate it raw onto a salad or boil it like you would a potato and enjoy as a side dish. Roast it and purée it into a velvety soup.

Once you start looking for things to do with celery root, you’ll find tons of recipes! It’s shocking how we get stuck in a rut without even knowing it, reaching for the same familiar foods over and over again. Shake it up a little, people! Live on the wild side and put that strange looking vegetable in your grocery cart. It may become a new family favorite—you’ll never know until you give it a shot!

This vegetable is not only delicious, easy to prepare, low in calories and high in nutrients, but it’s cheap. Folks who complain that eating healthy is too expensive obviously aren’t reaching for celery root.

With so much going for it (except for its looks), I hope you’ll give this food a place on your dinner plate very soon!

Now it’s time for your Trick:

While celery root is very easy to cook and it can be braised, roasted, boiled, steamed or fried, remember not to overcook it. If you do, it will become mush. And tasteless mush at that. Fork tender is what you should aim for!

And your Tip:

Celery root is sometimes sold with its green stalks still attached to it. If you see this, buy it up! It’s a sign that the root has recently been harvested and it’s nice and fresh (which will make it easier to peel). When you get home, cut the stalks off of the root and store the two separately. The life of both parts of the plant will last longer this way. Save the stalks for your next batch of stock (keeping in mind that the flavor is stronger than the celery you’re used to).

And your Recipe:

Ginger Beet Carrot and Celery Root Juice
Juice – Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:
4 carrots
1 apple
1 thick slice gingerroot
1/2 celery root, peeled
1/2 beet
1/2 cup spinach

INSTRUCTIONS:
All ingredients are best organic. Wash and dry all ingredients, and run through the juicer one at a time. For smaller leaves, if using baby spinach, for example, bunch them together tightly to form a “solid” leaf vegetable for better juicing. Chill (if desired), stir, and enjoy!

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Why you should please ditch the margarine

Why you should please ditch the margarine

By: Leanne Ely

A while back, I shared an article giving you the skinny on fats. I gave you an overview of good fats, information about how to use them and what fats and oils I don’t recommend.

Once upon a time (in the 80s and 90s), we were told that butter was evil.

We were told that its saturated fats would clog our arteries and that we could be saved by using margarine which is made with “heart healthy oils.”

We were also told that margarine would lower blood pressure and cholesterol. And, that it would help us to lose weight; it would make us healthy.

This is not true. None of it. We certainly weren’t told that vegetable oil-based margarine would actually increase our risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

Margarine is made from vegetable oils—oils that are chemically extracted from soybeans, rapeseeds (canola oil), sunflowers, corn, safflowers, etc.

Vegetable oils really didn’t exist in the food chain until the 1900s when new technology allowed for chemical processes to extract these oils.

Think about this.

Chemical processing is required in order for these oils to exist. They come from factories where seeds from genetically modified crops (which have been treated with pesticides) are processed until they resemble oil.

In the production of canola oil, rapeseeds are heated and processed with petroleum solvents in order to extract the oil. Acid is then added to get rid of wax and other unappealing solids that come from the first process, and then there’s more heating. Chemicals are needed at this point in order to make the color a bit more appetizing. Because the smell after all this processing is quite nasty, chemical deodorants are also added.

Now, if this canola oil is to be transformed into margarine, it needs to be made solid, so it has to undergo more processing known as hydrogenation. See, unlike natural saturated fats like butter and coconut oil, which are solid at cold temperatures, vegetable oil is a liquid. So, through this hydrogenation process, transfats are born.

Let’s compare all this to the process required to make butter:

You milk a cow, let the cream separate to the top, remove the cream and shake the cream. Ta da, butter.

So, if all this talk of chemicals and processing doesn’t shy you away from putting margarine on your dinner table, let me see if I can change your mind by telling you what happens once it’s in your body.

The human body is not made to process man-made fats.

The human body is made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats. We can not be afraid of fat. We need fat. We need fat to burn fat. We need fat to make hormones and to build cells. The body needs fats, but it can only work with the fats we give it to work with.

Ever put diesel in a gasoline burning car? Doesn’t work so well, does it?

Well, when we feed our bodies vegetable oils, we’re giving it polyunsaturated fats instead of the saturated and monounsaturated fats that the body recognizes. Even though our bodies don’t know what to do with it, without a recognizable alternative, we have no choice but to use that processed oil to build and repair cells.

Polyunsaturated fats are very unstable. They easily oxidize inside the human body. When cells are made from polyunsaturated fats, they can become mutated (leading to an increased chance of cancer) and inflammation occurs. This inflammation can clog our arteries. Vegetable oils lead to an imbalance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels, which is strongly linked to cancer.

The body needs a nice equal balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. Unfortunately, lots of folks eat more Omega-6 fats than Omega 3s. This is not good.

Vegetable oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids. These fats are quite easily oxidized in the body when we’re exposed to light or heat. When skin cells are fed these fats and oils and are directly exposed to the sun . . . well, you have the perfect conditions for increased skin cancer risk.

I came across a study from the University of Sydney where mice who were fed saturated fats were totally protected from skin cancer after being irradiated. The mice in the group being fed polyunsaturated fats very quickly developed skin cancer. Later in the study, those mice who’d been fed saturated fats were given polyunsaturated fats and were again irradiated. They developed skin cancer.

Similar studies have been conducted to show a link between vegetable oil and heart disease. These studies show that there is a relationship between increased margarine consumption and increased heart attacks. Conversely, a correlation was also shown between increased butter consumption and a decline in heart attacks.

I could go on all day about this, but I think this should be enough to open your eyes enough to start thinking about using real butter instead of man-made margarine and vegetable oils.

Just get rid of it. Refer to that article I referenced before and find some alternatives you can get good and comfortable with! And don’t be afraid of butter! (Bonus points if you find grass-fed butter!)

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For meat you will praise, learn how to braise!

For meat you will praise, learn how to braise!

By: Leanne Ely

If you always seem to end up with stringy, tough meat that you can’t get a knife through (let alone your teeth), you can only blame the animal and/or the cut for so long! I firmly believe that with the right cooking method, you can turn the most humble of cuts into a star.

Braising is a very important cooking method to learn. You might remember the term “braise” from your high school home economics class as a cooking method involving liquid, but I want to help you really master this technique. Once you do, you’ll always be able to save a bit of money in your meat budget (braising makes even the cheapest, most leathery cuts tender), and you’ll be able to impress everyone around the dinner table.

The types of meat that are most suited for braising are the ones that are most fibrous with a fair amount of fat. Think of the body parts of an animal that would get the most exercise (and therefore be the most tough) as being best for braising: shoulders and legs.

Lean cuts of meat aren’t suited well for braising. Also, dark meat is better than white for this cooking method.

My favorite meat cuts for braising:

• Bone-in chicken legs and thighs
• Pork shoulder
• Pork butt
• Chuck roasts
• Brisket
• Ribs
• Veal shanks
• Lamb shanks

You can also braise vegetables. Tough, fibrous ones would be the best options here, too. Think:

• Celery
• Carrots
• Parsnips
• Cabbage
• Onions
• Beets

How to braise:

No matter what you choose to braise—cabbage, chicken or pork—,you’ll follow the same series of steps.

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Season ingredient with pepper and salt.
3. Sauté the ingredient in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven on medium heat in oil or butter. If it’s meat, you want a sear on all sides.
4. If it’s meat you’re braising, remove it from the pan and deglaze the pan by adding wine, juice or stock and scraping those golden brown bits from the bottom of the pan. If you’re braising a vegetable, this step can be skipped.
5. Return the meat to the pan and add cooking liquid (wine, stock, broth, water or a combination) so that the ingredient you’re braising is half covered in liquid.
6. Cover the cooking vessel and put it in the preheated oven.
7. Cook it until your main ingredient is perfectly tender. Depending on what you’re braising and its size, this could take anywhere from 1 hour to 5 or 6 hours.
8. Remove your ingredient from the pot and keep it warm. Skim excess fat from the cooking liquid.
9. Reduce your sauce by cooking it down over low heat until it reaches your desired thickness.

From this point, you can make a gravy from the juice and serve that with your meat if you so desire.

I like to braise meats and vegetables together for a nice and hearty one-pot meal. If you do that, too, remember that veggies will braise more quickly than a large, tough piece of meat, so add them to the pot during the last couple hours of cooking time.

Experiment with combinations of meats, vegetables and liquids to see what you like best. Think of flavors that taste good together. When I think pork, I think apple cider. When I think beef, I think red wine, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. With chicken, I think white wine.

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Cast your vote for cast iron

Cast your vote for cast iron

By: Leanne Ely

If you feel that cooking in cast iron is more your grandmother’s speed than your own, you might want to rethink that out-dated belief.

Cast iron is an efficient way to cook and it’s a healthy option, too.

I think those old-fashioned cast iron skillets deserve a place in even the most modern of kitchens.

I don’t recommend cooking in non-stick pans because of all the chemicals required to prevent food from sticking. When the surface of those non-stick pans are scratched, you’re ingesting those chemicals—chemicals linked to cancer, early menopause, liver damage and even developmental problems. Even the fumes are harmful when those pans are heated up at high temperatures.

(If you don’t want to worry about food sticking, but you can’t get into the idea of using cast iron, look for ceramic-coated pans.)

Let’s take a look at a few more reasons why cast iron is a good choice.

Heat conduction. Cast iron skillets conduct heat like a dream. You don’t get hot spots you do like with other cookware. Cast iron can also conveniently go from the top of the stove to the oven without any problem – there’s no plastic handle to worry about.

Long lasting. Cast iron—if taken care of—will last a lifetime. In fact, even with daily use, a cast iron skillet is likely to outlive you.

Use less oil. When a cast iron skillet is seasoned properly, it’s essentially non stick. That means you only need a scant amount of oil to cook with.

Fortify your food with iron. The cast iron pan you cook your steak (or eggs, or whatever!) in won’t leech out chemicals, but it will release iron. When you cook tomato sauce in a skillet, or another very acidic food like applesauce, you actually increase the iron content of that food . . . by twenty times! A newer pan leeches more iron, so if increasing your iron count is important, don’t depend on your great-grandmother’s cast iron pan to help you too much.

Now, taking care of your cast iron is important. Here’s how you can extend its life.

How to season a cast iron pan

When you bring your cast iron skillet home, put a thick layer of kosher salt on the bottom of the pan and cover that with about half an inch of cooking oil. Put some heat on under the skillet until the oil starts smoking. Then, discard the contents of the pan and rub the inside of the skillet with some paper towels until it’s nice and smooth. These steps will give you a nonstick surface forever.

How to clean a cast iron pan

Never use soap to wash your cast iron cookware. All you need to use to get your cast iron clean is some elbow grease, hot water and a stiff brush. Let it dry completely before putting it away.

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Grow your own lettuce bowl indoors

Grow your own lettuce bowl indoors

By: Leanne Ely

I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time buying produce that I can easily grow myself. At my house, we eat a lot of salad. As many of you know, I serve a large green salad with almost every meal that goes on the table. All of those heads of lettuce can add up!

So, I recently started looking into some ways to grow my own lettuce indoors and I thought I would share what I’m learning with y’all.

All you need is:

• A large round pot, about 6 inches deep (or a container of some sort with roughly the same depth)
• Organic potting soil (look for the kind with perlite in it—thats those little round white balls)
• Mesclun mix seeds (or whatever lettuce you like best)
• Water
• A sunny window

You’ll need a window that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If your lettuce doesn’t get enough sun, it will get tall and spindly and that isn’t what you want.

To grow your lettuce:

1. Fill your container to the halfway mark with soil. You can sprinkle some fertilizer on there if you want to. Moisten the soil and sprinkle a couple pinches of seeds on top. Sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds and spritz the surface with more water.

2. Water daily and keep the pot in the sun or under a grow light. The seeds should sprout up in about seven days and your first harvest should be ready in about a month.

To harvest your lettuce:

After you cut your lettuce the first time (leave the growing crowns alone!), you’ll only have to wait another two weeks for a fresh crop.

And it’s pretty much just that easy!

Fresh lettuce greens are just the best, aren’t they?

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Making dinner time family time

Making dinner time family time

By: Leanne Ely

I can’t tell you how passionately I feel about families sitting down and eating meals together. Nothing is quite as satisfying and fulfilling as preparing a nutritious meal for your loved ones and sitting around the table together to enjoy it as a family unit.

I don’t care if it’s fruit and yogurt for breakfast or roast chicken for supper, as long as you make an effort to sit down and eat as many meals as you can together. It’s a perfect way for everyone to connect with one another, and it provides a feeling of comfort and security for your children.

When my kids were little, eating at the table was not optional. I planned the meals, they would help me prepare dinner and then we would sit down together and eat. I believe that we’re as close as we are partly because I made family dinner time a priority in our lives. They knew they could talk about what was going on in their lives anytime, but dinner time was just the natural time to connect. I wouldn’t trade those minutes together for anything.

So how do you get everyone around the table together if you haven’t made a big deal of it before?

Lay down the law. You’re the boss, so make the rule. No meals in front of the TV. Period.

Involve everyone. Giving everyone mealtime chores will give you a hand, and it will make your kids feel more involved in the process, making it more likely that they’ll be keen to sit down and eat with you. Start at the grocery store by letting the kids decide which vegetables to buy. Explain the difference between organic foods and conventionally grown foods. Really start to provide your kids with an education about where their food comes from. Then, at home, depending on the ages of your children, you can have them do all kinds of things from washing and/or peeling vegetables to stirring sauces and setting the table. Trust me, they’ll be much more anxious to help prep than they will be to clean up, so perhaps you could start there!

Make it fun. It will be easier to get the kids to the table with you if you serve food they like. That’s a no-brainer. Give everyone a couple of options for dinner and hold a family vote over what gets served-majority rules! If it’s pizza night, let everyone make their own individual pie. Fajita night? Put all the toppings on the table and let everyone have at it. Veggies and roast meat? Instead of putting the food on their plates in the kitchen, bring everything to the table and let them serve themselves. Sounds crazy, but kids are more likely to eat food they put on their plates themselves.

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Easing into a cleaner lifestyle

Easing into a cleaner lifestyle

By: Leanne Ely

On the last day of the new year, tens of thousands of Americans resolved to lose weight and to get healthier in 2014.

You may be hesitant to adopt a healthier lifestyle for fear that you’ll have to change too much all at once, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Why not start now and be well on your way by the time swim suit season gets here?

Here are five tips that you can use to help ease into a cleaner diet:

Cut back on take out. By shopping for fresh ingredients and making your own meals, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor! Fast food is chock full of unhealthy fats, sodium, sugar and calories. There are also preservatives and other chemicals that our bodies could do without.
Learn to read labels. Very little good comes out of boxes where food is concerned, but if you know how to read labels, you can start making better choices. If you have to spend more than a few seconds to decipher a food’s label, then your body won’t know what to do with those unpronounceable additives either! Skip anything with flavor enhancers, flavorings or fake colors.
Stop drinking calories. Sugary coffee drinks, sodas, juices . . . they’re not good for us. They serve no nutritional purpose and they are nothing but empty calories. Reach for water to quench your thirst and you’ll be doing yourself a big favor.
Eat more vegetables. Bulk up on veggies. Eat them with every meal and don’t be stingy. I’m not talking about iceberg lettuce, either! Reach for dark leafy greens (organic, please!) like spinach and kale. Snack on carrot sticks and broccoli. Eat a rainbow each day and you’ll be amazed with the results.
Stop buying crappy food. You know which foods are not serving your health, so stop buying them. You don’t need those cookies and cakes. Those tubs of ice cream and bags of chips look good at the time, but if you bring them home, you’ll only eat them— so leave them on the store shelves!

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