7 Tips to Build Healthy Habits

With the holidays quickly approaching, it may seem like a daunting thing to try to stick to your healthy eating habits.  Here are a few habits to try to stick to not only during the holidays but everyday.  These things can have a major impact on your health and wellness!

1. Stay hydrated!  We often forget about this one, but make sure you try to get at least 6 glasses of pure water a day.  If regular water seems boring try things such as sparkling water or adding fresh fruit and vegetable slices such as oranges, grapefruit, and cucumber to your water to add fresh flavor!

2. Don’t skip meals.  While many of us are on the go, it is important not to skip meals.  This will only slow down your metabolism and cause you to overeat at your next meal.  Keep things such as almonds and pumpkin seeds in your bag as they will provide that extra boost of protein to help satisfy hunger on the go.

3. Try eating a variety of foods so that you do not become bored with your meals.  One way to do this is to select a new fruit or vegetable at the market each week so that it not only allows you to explore a new food but also provides variety.

4. Try to get about 45 minutes of physical activity a day. Yoga is a great way to fit in exercise and wind down during the holiday craze. To enter for a chance to win a free yoga session in New York City’s Jivamukti Yoga Center, click here. While this may seem like a lot for your busy schedule, you can easily break it up into increments if needed, such as taking a 20 minute walk during lunch, taking the stairs instead of elevator, and getting off of the train one stop earlier than your usual stop.

5. Take time for yourself each day.  Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, do something that helps you relax and is something you enjoy.  It could be taking a yoga class, writing in a journal, or simply reading a few pages in your new book.  This will help you become less stressed, especially during the holidays.

6. With tempting things in your house such as tortilla chips, cookies, nuts, and other snacks, one of the best things you can do is to buy serving size baggies and measure out the serving size into each individual bag.  This not only helps you avoid overeating, but it also helps you visual what an actual portion looks like.  It also makes it easy to grab when you are in a hurry or looking for a quick snack.

7. Set aside one afternoon during the week if you can to prepare most of your meals for the upcoming week.  You can make your stocks and broths, cook your meat, roast your veggies, etc. so that come the busy workweek, all you have to do is add in your fresh ingredients and seasonings.  This will save time during the week but still allow you to have those quality family meals.

Veggie Burgers: How They Stack Up

Are veggie burgers really meatless? Yes, it is exactly as the name suggests—no meat. Yet in the eyes of many meat lovers, comparing the taste and texture of veggie burgers just does not stack up to its meat counterpart. While some are made to mimic the taste, texture color and feel of meat burgers, veggie burgers aren’t just a meat substitute. Veggie burgers are available for those who may not like the taste of meat (but still want something hearty and healthy), have dietary restrictions, share different beliefs or simply just prefer the flavor and ingredients that make veggie burgers stand on its own.

Veggie Burgers

Gone are the days when veggie burgers were the lonesome, meatless option at a backyard barbecue. With the rise in vegetarianism and veganism in recent years, came an increase in consumer demand for more veggie burgers. In turn, the market for veggie burgers has also become widespread. They have successfully made their way on to fast-food menus like Burger King and McDonald’s and are even served by upscale restaurants.

For many vegetarians/vegans, people who are watching their intake of saturated fats or simply prefer the taste of it over a beef or turkey burger, veggie burgers can be a great option! However, if you have ever tried a veggie burger and are still eating veggie burgers today, odds are that you’ve probably tried many. There are dozens of varieties and flavors. Some are too dry or beany, too salty or contain fillers and tastes like cardboard. Then there are some that contain a long list of ingredients that you’ve never heard of before and probably can’t pronounce. On the other hand, there are those that contain less than 5 ingredients, contain wholesome ingredients like vegetables and grains like quinoa, which make it flavorful and savory. Let’s see how these meatless burgers stack up!

How These Veggie Burgers Stack Up

Veggie burgers can be quite delicious, and make for quick go-to lunches. But with so many options in the grocery aisles many are left to wonder, “Which brands are the best?” Not all patties are vegan or soy free. As some of the more familiar ones on the market are Amy’s Garden Burger, Boca, Morning Star, we thought we’d point out some of the ones that are lesser known and reason why we like them (in no particular order).

De Cantos

Vegan: Yes
Dairy, gluten and soy free
Fairly new to the market, these burgers deserve some spotlight.
Each burger contains 5 raw veggies and no fillers like wheat, gluten,
soy, dairy or added sugar. It is “meaty” in the sense that it is fulfilling,
but does not have a “meaty taste.” While the company delivers
locally in New Jersey, if you’re having trouble finding this product,
try looking at Whole Foods!

Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Certified Kosher
Ingredients: Carrots, Onions, String Beans, Oat Bran, Soybeans,
Zucchini, Peas, Broccoli, Corn, Soy Flakes, Spinach, Expeller Pressed
Canola Oil, Red Peppers, Arrowroot, Corn Starch, Garlic, Corn Meal,
Salt, Parsley, Black PepperSome people prefer the taste and texture of “just vegetables” in their
veggie burgers. If that’s the case, then Dr. Praeger’s is just that. Only
downside is that it may be flimsy and may not hold up as well if you’re
throwing it in the microwave. To make sure the patty holds its shape,
it’s best prepared on a grill or flat pan.

Hilary’s Eat Well

Vegan: Yes
Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, corn free, yeast free, egg free,
and nut free.
Plus side: They’re packaged in biodegradable plastic pouches!
Ingredients: Water Millet Quinoa Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
Spinach Onion Garlic Psyllium Husk Powder Arrowroot Sweet
Potato Real Salt Apple Cider Vinegar Sunflower Seed OilThis burger is packed with great spices and tastes close to a fresh
veggie burger. For those who are big on texture and don’t like to
be left wondering “Is this a veggie burger??” Well this one holds
its shape and has a balanced texture, not too chewy or soft.

 

Sunshine’s Organic Quarter Pound Original Veggie Burger

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Gluten free
Ingredients: Organic cooked brown rice, organic ground raw
sunflower seeds, organic carrots, organic spices, sea saltThis burger is rich, savory and packs a slightly nutty flavor. If you
are a fan of sunflower seeds, this is the burger for you.

Are Veggie Burgers Better for You?

When dining out, be mindful that the nutrition content of a veggie burger may vary depending on its cooking process. While the veggie patty itself may be a healthy option, as with ordering any burger at a restaurant, any fixin’s like cheese, condiments, or a side of fries alongside the bun can sometimes stack up in terms of calories and fats.

Our Favorite Veggie Burger

What’s our favorite veggie burger? Ideally, it is the one we can make ourselves!  While making veggie burgers from scratch can call for a bit of time and preparation, if you make them in big batches, you can simply freeze them and voila! You’ve got veggie burgers on the ready, made with your favorite vegetables and grains… ingredients that you yourself know and can pronounce! With a little research, you can find tons of recipes on the Internet. Or, if you want to start with an easy but homemade classic, try Portobello mushrooms. With light marinade, they can be hearty and mouthwatering.

If you haven’t found your “perfect veggie burger” and making one from scratch doesn’t sound very appetizing, don’t give up just yet! With a little patience and perhaps a lot of tastings, it’s possible to find a veggie burger that is more flavorful and delectable (if not more) as its counterpart!

A Desert Where Shopping Matters

From comparing grocery store prices to analyzing a product’s nutritional label, a weekend trip to the grocery store can turn into stressful and overwhelming task. Many of us want to eat healthier, but how can we shop for healthy foods while on a limited budget? Although price often plays a major role in influencing what we buy when we go food shopping, buying healthy foods doesn’t have to be expensive.

Many organizations are making an effort to tackle this nationwide issue by teaching nutrition education, but one organization’s unique efforts is City Harvest’s Shopping Matters, which takes place right in local grocery stores. And just like many other Americans, if money is what is keeping you from making healthy food purchases, I challenge you to think again. What if you could learn to stretch your budget, to buy and eat healthy foods? Read on to learn about the awesome efforts made by City Harvest, and the programs’ tips to get the most healthful bang for your buck.

What is Shopping Matters?

Shopping Matters is an initiative created by City Harvest in partnership with Share Our Strength. The two-hour grocery store tour is led by a qualified facilitator, who teaches the participants how to shop on a budget, read food labels, how to identify whole-grains and stretch your budget to create more than just one meal. After one hour, participants are presented with a $10 challenge to put what they’ve just learned into practice. Participants must follow specific guidelines, i.e. grain must be whole-grain bread or cereal, to buy at least one food from each food group totaling no more than $10. This part of the tour is particularly fun and exciting for the participants because it not only tests their knowledge but it offers motivation to try new foods like 2% milk rather than whole milk.

Another Kind of Desert

Can you imagine travelling 15 miles to buy a head of lettuce or some fresh fruit? Many of us are fortunate to be able to call Whole Foods or Trader Joes, our local market. With organic foods and fresh produce so readily available to us, it can be easy to forget that for many Americans, this is not the case. Imagine if the closest grocery store was too far to get to without transportation. An area where grocery stores are scarce or missing, this is called a food desert. Although there may be bodegas or take-out restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood, it would still be considered a food desert since many atimes only highly processed foods are offered. It is in these areas that poverty, obesity and health related diseases are at an all time high. City Harvest considers these factors and implements the Shopping Matters Tours in only specific neighborhoods. The tours currently take place in the following neighborhoods: 1) The South Bronx, 2) Stapleton, Staten Island 3). Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. By conducting the tours in the actual neighborhood markets like Key Foods, not only places the participants in a realistic environment, but makes the food culture relevant.

Build the Skills To Make Healthy Choices While On a Budget

A Shopping Matters Tour may not be taking place in your local market but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the tips City Harvest has to offer! Here’s the inside scoop on the skills you need to build to stretch your budget and make tasty, healthy meals for you and your family:

  • Buy Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables – Not only will your produce taste better, but during peak season fresh produce costs less.
  • Fresh, Frozen and Canned – People tend to think fresh produce is the “best” form. However, keep in mind that fresh produce often needs be used quickly and if not in season, can be expensive.  A more economical alternative is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which can cost less and is available year-round. If canned foods are on sale, they have a long shelf life and can be a good purchase. If opting to buy canned products, choose items without added sodium, low in fat, or 100% juice. If there is sodium in it, simply rinse off canned produce to reduce the sodium.  Surely every packaging has its pros and cons but by opening yourself up to fruits and vegetables in all their forms, in terms of prices, you’ll have more options to choose from.
  • Compare Prices – Use unit prices to find the best bang for your buck. The unit price shows ounce for ounce or pound by pound just how much you are paying for a particular item. For example, when comparing two bagged items of different sizes, it can help you identify just exactly which costs less.
  • Read Food Labels – Take a few seconds to check the serving size. If considering your family meals, this can be especially helpful in meal planning. Look at the calories, sodium and nutrients you will be getting from the product.
  • Read the Ingredients – Just because the bread is brown or says “multigrain” or even “100% wheat” doesn’t mean it is actually made with whole grain. Be a smart and saavy shopper and check for the first ingredient on the list. Some examples are: Whole wheat, bulgar, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice
  • Organic vs. Non-Organic – Some items need not be purchased organic. If you wish to purchase organic, check out this Dirty Dozen list for a better understanding of what items are better off organic and which ones you can do without. If cost is a factor however, getting your fruits and vegetables should be at the top of the list, even if its not organic.
  • Cut coupons and checkout weekly specials

Pizza, Pizza!

Pizza is a favorite meal of many children (and many parents, too!), but due to its often high saturated fat content and refined carbohydrates, it tends to be less than a wholesome meal. You can make some simple changes to your pizza to make it a more nutrient dense choice.

  • Switch to a whole-wheat crust. This will provide more nutrients and fiber than the traditional white crust and leave you and your kids fuller and more satisfied. Many pizzerias are now offering the whole-wheat option so be sure to ask when ordering. If whole-wheat is not available, flatbread crusts are also a good option. At home, you can make pizza dough by subbing whole-wheat flour for white. For a frozen pizza, Amy’s, DiGiorno, and other lines are beginning to carry whole-wheat pizzas. Another fun option is using whole wheat English muffins (I love Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat)—that way everyone can have their own mini personal pizza!
  • Make your sauce smart. Tomato sauce is an integral part of any good pizza and it provides many vitamins and minerals as well the phytochemical lycopene which promotes heart health. However, many sauces are high in sodium. When making pizza at home, select a sauce with no salt added. When ordering out, try a Pizza Margherita to limit the sodium.
  • Pack on the veggie toppings. Spinach, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms—the options are endless. These veggies turn your simple slice of pizza into a delicious nutritional powerhouse. This is also a good opportunity to introduce a new vegetable to your family. By serving it with a familiar food such as pizza, kids will be more open-minded to trying the new food.
  • Pick a protein. While the pizza’s cheese proves as a source of protein in the dish, pizza becomes a more balanced meal when one additional ounce of protein is added to it. This protein will help keep your family fuller longer. Select a lean protein such as grilled chicken, low-sodium ham, or grilled tofu. Limit the pepperoni and sausage slices. These meats are high in sodium and saturated fats.
  • Serve a side salad. It is easy to consume too many slices of pizza. To help you get in better touch with your hunger signals, pair your slice with a side salad, a handful of raw carrots, or a fruit salad.
  • Enjoy it with family and friends. Pizza is a food that is often served in celebration. It is a common choice at birthday parties, soccer championships, and family get-togethers. Make these events about enjoying the company of those around you rather than solely focusing on the food.

Move over TV dinners and say hi to this microwave meal.

It’s the end of August and we are all scrambling to get everything ready for the new school year. Sometimes meals become second priority. If you are lacking time and want something tasty, try Kashi’s Pesto Pasta Primavera. Add one half cup of beans (rec. no added salt) to this microwave meal and you have a balanced vegetarian lunch option with 18 grams of vegetarian protein and 14 grams of fiber.