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To Your Health!

7 steps to healthier -- and happier -- holidays

The holiday season is traditionally about thankfulness and the celebration of life, unity, love, peace and harmony in the company of family and friends.

Unfortunately, holiday celebrations and food -- usually too much food -- go hand-in-hand. Not just any food, but traditional holiday fare rich in butter, cream and sugar -- mostly unhealthy empty calories -- that rob you of nutrition and can make you gain more than ten pounds in just a few weeks. Between office parties, family gatherings and the fatty, sugary nature of holiday foods, you may find yourself challenged by constant temptation.

But you don't have to fall victim to this annual assault on your health. Nor do you have to deprive yourself of the enjoyment of your favorite holiday foods. The key is to have a plan and eat with strategy.

Here are seven tips to help you both enjoy holiday food -- and stay healthy all the while:

1. Never arrive at a holiday get-together hungry. Before a family visit or company office party, eat some fresh fruit, a few raw nuts, a light sandwich or a fruit smoothie -- and drink lots of water. That way, you can enjoy the food without wanting to gorge yourself.

2. Make exercise part of your annual holiday traditions. A recent study found that regular exercise is more effective for weight management than calorie restriction. When visiting others, think about whether the trip could be made on foot, rather than in the car. Take the whole family on walks through the town to see Christmas decorations, or holiday events. Instead of sitting there watching football, why not also play the game? Do your shopping on foot, and use stairs instead of escalators when possible. Start a tradition of outdoor winter activity, such as building snowmen, inner-tubing, cross country skiing -- whatever is possible in your area. No snow? Go on family bike rides, or hiking. Choose a healthy activity everyone enjoys, and do lots of it every year as part of your tradition.

3. When it comes to portions, think small and healthy! Studies show that people are satisfied with less if they start out with less on their plates to begin with. Use the smallest plate possible, then fill it with half of what you think you want.

4. Favor healthier options. Think about the relative healthiness of what's on the table, and serve yourself accordingly, and the healthiest options first. Always start with salads, fruits and vegetables, and then move on to other richer and heartier foods. By the time you get to the truly toxic fare, you won't want to overdo it.

5. Just say no to unhealthy gifts. Candy canes, conventional chocolates -- don't even get me started on fruitcake -- so many traditional holiday gifts are bad for you. What kind of gift is that? The holidays are an opportunity for you to share with loved ones just how delicious healthy foods can be. There are healthier, organic alternatives to just about every holiday gift, from food gift baskets to traditional cakes. The best food gift, Amira Elganhowever, is one you've made yourself. And if you receive an unhealthy gift, you don't have to eat it. Remember: It's the thought that counts.

6. Don't count on dieting later. Too many of us throw our knowledge about health -- and our resolve to stay healthy -- out the window just because it's the holidays. Part of that tradition is making a New Year's resolution to diet and lose the holiday pounds "next year." Unfortunately, both the gorging and the dieting are unhealthy. It's better not to go off the deep end in the first place. Don't use some future diet as a reason why you can stuff yourself during the holidays. If you know you're not going to diet later, you'll be less likely to lose control now.

7. Drink smart. Take it easy on the booze, the sugary drinks and fatty beverages like eggnog. Just because it's liquid doesn't mean it's not bad for you. Drink plenty of water before and during holiday meals, eat slowly and stop eating before you feel completely full. You’ll feel better, lighter and happier, rather than bloated, dull and sluggish.

Happy and healthy holidays to you all!

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WORDS OF WISDOM
Be Thankful

"Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don't know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you're tired and weary
Because it means you've made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

~ Author Unknown ~
 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Processed Organic Foods

I don’t like using or eating processed foods of any kind -- not even organic processed soy foods. Generally, processed foods are overly refined and devoid of real nutrients. Organic soy products are not a whole lot better for you than their slaughterhouse equivalents.

I strongly believe that ingredients in home cooked meals should be fresh, wholesome and “real” or “pure.” Food should be truly made “from scratch” to maximize the nutritional content while minimizing or eliminating unhealthful fats, additives and chemicals present in foods sold in restaurants and supermarkets.

From a different perspective, however, diet improvements are relative to current dietary habits and many people who currently eat diets consisting of overly processed junk food with a heavy intake of meat can benefit from eating some of the better organic soy processed food alternatives.

Counter to my personal beliefs, but with the understanding that not one diet fits all, I’ve created a recipe that calls for a processed soy product as requested by some of my readers. The Tofurky Italian sweet sausage is definitely a tasty and healthier alternative to real sausage. For those looking to ease into a transition from meat to a reduced or cholesterol free diet, I must admit, that certain soy processed items are a more sensible choice than other junk food alternatives. The Tofurky soy sausage for instance is made with organic soy and contains no GMO’s, which I definitely appreciate. When the option is to eat at McDonald’s or make a quick meal a home using organic processed soy products, there is no contest -- the better choice is obvious.
 

GOING GREEN
The Color of Money

A new bank called New Resource Bank is now open for business in the San Francisco Bay Area where there seems to be a lot of interest in green businesses. The bank’s shareholders “believe that economic prosperity goes hand-in-hand with efficiency and sustainability.” The bank’s focus is to support businesses that operate with a sense of stewardship for the environment promoting sustainable practices. New Resource Bank is also leading by example with its own office building using recycled and renewable materials and low-energy consumption lighting.
 

GOOD THINGS IN STORE
Making the World a Better Place

Meet Scott Nash, the owner of My Organic Market (MOM's) grocery stores on the East Coast. His stores focus on not only selling high-quality organic products but also helping the environment in innovative ways.

For example, Nash's stores provide incentives to employees who want to be environmentally conscious. Eligible employees can receive $3,000 if they buy a hybrid vehicle that gets 45 miles per gallon or more. His customers can receive free re-usable shopping bags. Twice a year, customers get their car tire air pressure optimized while they shop, which promotes better gas mileage. Nash’s goal is open stores nationally, and I certainly look forward to becoming his customer someday.
 

RESEARCH DEVELOPMENTS
B-Vitamin Deficiency Hits Athletes

According to a study conducted by the Oregon State University, physically active athletes who don't get sufficient B-vitamins may be underperforming during intense physical activities and not effectively healing afterwards.

B-vitamins include niacin, folic acid, biotin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, B-12 and are essential in the conversion of proteins and carbohydrates into fuel or energy. B-vitamins are also vital for the body's ability to produce and repair cells as well as build the immunity system to prevent and fend off against disease. The researchers add that current recommended daily allowances of B-vitamins may not be adequate for highly active athletes.

Foods rich in B-vitamins include:

• Dark green vegetables
• Leafy green vegetables
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole grains such wheat, oats, quinoa, spelt
• Beans and peas
• Citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins, lemons
• Dairy products
• Poultry, seafood, meat and eggs

 

To keep up with vegetarian, organic and health-related research news on a daily basis, check out my Vegetarian Organic Life Blog.

 

VEGETARIAN ORGANIC RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Quick and Yummy Tofu Trio
(vegan) Serves 4 to 6



Click on the picture for a closer look!

Although I’m not fond of processed soy products such as the Tofurky Sweet Italian Sausage, many people do enjoy them as a healthier alternative to the real thing. By popular demand, here's a high protein dish featuring an Italian style soy sausage with tempeh and baked tofu. This savory dish will fully satisfy those who crave meals that are hearty and flavorful but cholesterol free.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onions
6 fresh garlic cloves, pressed or minced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 cups tempeh, finely crumbled (3-grain variety)
2 cups baked tofu, cubed (savory flavor)
2 cups Tofurky sweet Italian sausages, diced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped (or dried basil)
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon rosemary
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large pan, heat safflower or canola oil and olive over low heat. Add onions and garlic sautéing for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add celery and red bell peppers sautéing for 5 more minutes.

2. Add tempeh, tofu, Tofurky sausage, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes stirring well and continuing to sauté for 10 more minutes over medium heat. Stir frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

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