The Vitaminwater Scam

I’ve long held that most bottled water is a scam either because it’s simply way overpriced or because it’s falsely and/or misleadingly advertised as being good for you thanks to some added ingredient gimmick its marketers came up with. In fact, I previously wrote Water: A scambuster report, which deals with the issues of cost, the amount of water you need to drink each day, and safety (as in which is safer, tap or bottled water?). So it came as no surprise to me, and with a resounding “here, here” when I learned that the Center for Science in the Public Interest  (CSPI) had sued the Coca-Cola company for “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” on its vitaminwater line of beverages.  The vitaminwater products are made by a company Coke owns called “glacéau,” which, according to the Coca Cola website is never capitalized, even at the beginning of a sentence (and neither is vitaminwater, which is also written as one word – marketing, go figure).
Needless to say, the folks at Coke had some choice words of their own about the CSPI lawsuit: “This is a ridiculous and ludicrous lawsuit. glacéau vitaminwater is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water, with labels showing calorie content.” Even their response is misleading. Try to think of a beverage that isn’t “hydrating.” And while the products do contain “essential vitamins,” the implication is that they contain most, if not all of them, which is far from true. Each of the various vitaminwater flavors contains some percentage of some mixture of some vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and/or other ingredients. You’d have to study each label individually to figure out what’s what, which is essentially what this entire lawsuit is about.
The CSPI says that “Coke markets VitaminWater [sic] as a healthful alternative to soda by labeling its several flavors with such health buzz words as “defense,” “rescue,” “energy,” and “endurance.” The company makes a wide range of dramatic claims, including that its drinks variously reduce the risk of chronic disease, reduce the risk of eye disease, promote healthy joints, and support optimal immune function. While it is true that vitamins do play various roles in the human body, the statements on VitaminWater [sic] labels go far beyond even the loose, so-called “structure/function claims” allowed by the Food and Drug Administration and cross the line into outright fraud, according to CSPI.”
In other words, the CSPI is attacking the marketing hype on the products’ bottles and website, the words that most consumers will see and read first (if not only). Coke, in its defense, says that “Consumers can readily see the nutrition facts panels on every bottle of glacéau vitaminwater, which show what’s in our product and what’s not.” In other words the fine print, so to speak – it’s not really that small, but how many people carefully and fully read the nutrition facts panels on the back compared to all those who read the promotional claims on the front?
What CSPI wants you to know is that vitaminwater contains a lot of sugar, precious little real fruit juice and a hodge-podge of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that you’d be better off consuming either through your normal diet or by taking a comprehensive daily multivitamin product. “My advice to consumers is to get your vitamins from real food,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “If you have reason to believe you have a shortcoming of one vitamin or another, perhaps take an inexpensive supplement. But don’t seek out your vitamins in sugary soft drinks like Coke’s VitaminWater [sic].”
 
Speaking of sugar, you might be interested to know that each eight ounce serving of vitaminwater contains 13 grams of sugar and provides 50 calories. Moreover, since each bottle is 20 ounces, that’s more like 32.5 grams of sugar and 125 calories. For comparison, eight ounces of classic Coke contain 27 grams of sugar, which provide 97 calories, so ounce for ounce vitaminwater’s about half as sugary as classic Coke. And according to CSPI nutritionists, “the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle of VitaminWater [sic] do more to promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to perform the advertised benefits listed on the bottles.”
 
Another thing the CSPI wants you to know is that even though vitaminwater products look for all the world as though they are juice drinks, “VitaminWater [sic] contains between zero and one percent juice, despite the full names of the drinks, which include “endurance peach mango” and “focus kiwi strawberry,” and “xxx blueberry pomegranate acai,” among others. A press release for the “xxx” drink claims its antioxidants makes the drinker “last longer” in some unspecified way; in any event, it has no blueberry, pomegranate, or acai juice, nor do the others have any cranberry, grapefruit, dragon fruit, peach, mango, kiwi, or strawberry juice.”
 
Since Coke can’t deny that its vitaminwater products contain a lot of sugar, no juice and an incomplete smattering of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they came up with this brilliant counterargument: “Filing a lawsuit is an opportunistic PR stunt. This is not about protecting the public interest. This is about grandstanding at a time when CSPI is receiving very little attention. There is no surprise that one week before the inauguration of the U.S. President, with the flurry of activity in Washington, D.C., that CSPI has chosen today to try to bring attention to themselves.” Huh? The CSPI is calling attention to itself in the midst of the activity surrounding the presidential inauguration? And that’s no surprise to Coca-Cola? No wonder they believe that vitaminwater is good for you: “Put simply, glacéau vitaminwater is a great complement to our often less-than-perfect diet with each of the different glacéau vitaminwater varieties providing a convenient, great-tasting way to get more of some of the vitamins and hydration we all need each day.”
 
Here’s another way to get “more of some of the vitamins and hydration we all need each day,” eat a balanced diet and take a complete multivitamin and mineral tablet and wash it down with a glass of tap water. If you buy generic multivitamins in large containers each tablet only costs you a few pennies and provides far more than any bottle of vitaminwater. You’ll save at least a dollar on the vitamins and the free glass of water will save you 125 calories for every bottle of vitaminwater you leave on the shelf. The choice is yours.

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Drinking Soda…So You Want to Stop?

The reasons to stop drinking soda are abundant. Whether you want to cut down on empty calories and added sugars, consume less artificial sweeteners, wean off of caffeine, or even save money, ditching soda is a great place to start.
I actually used to be a big soda drinker–the diet type in particular. Something about it being calorie-free gave me permission to drink it with reckless abandon–so I did. At one point, I consumed more soda than water throughout the course of the day.
Back in 2014 I decided I wanted to rid myself of a dependence on artificial sweeteners, so naturally I started with soda. Over the course of about a year I went from drinking 2-3 sodas per day to 2 to 3 per month. I still very much enjoy a cola with my cheeseburger and french fries, but now that I drink it so much less frequently, I have no problem treating myself to the real deal.
As a former soda-drinker myself, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I found helpful along the way for those of you who also want to get off the sweet stuff:
1. Be okay with scaling back slowly. If you drink 3+ sodas a day, switching to tap water cold turkey will most likely make every sip feel like a punishment… not to mention induce some serious caffeine withdrawal headaches. I bet you can rather painlessly replace 3 sodas per week with tap or sparkling water, though. Heck, maybe even 1 per day! Whatever the number, make it reasonable. Soda has not, and will not kill you over the next few weeks or months while you gradually get off of it. Over time, you’ll miss those first few sodas less and less and eventually you’ll be ready to cut out one or two more.
2. Get on a soda schedule. Keeping #1 in mind, jot down a schedule for weaning your soda consumption. By writing a plan, you’re thinking through and committing to a reasonable approach to drinking less. For example, if you normally drink 3 sodas per day, cut down to 2 per day for an entire month, and then 1 per day the month after. From there, you can gradually cut down even further. Allow yourself 5 per week for the 3rd month, 4 per week for the 4th month, and so on.
3. Explore tasty alternatives. Once you start cutting out soda, you’re going to want to replace it with other fluids so you don’t get dehydrated. When I first started cutting down on soda, I really missed the carbonation + flavor combo. Bored with tap water, I began exploring the wonders of sparkling water. Most of the time the carbonation alone did the trick–but when I craved a sweeter beverage, I found just a splash of juice worked wonders. 1-2 ounces of cranberry, orange or any other 100% fruit juice blend can make all the difference. Another favorite soda alternative is flavored water. Adding some cucumber slices, berries, citrus fruit or fresh mint to a pitcher of water gives it a refreshing essence of flavor.
4. Have alternatives handy. Once you find a few suitable soda alternatives, make sure they’re within reach when you get thirsty. If you just love the tingle of carbonation on your tongue,  keep your cabinets stocked with club soda, or invest in a Soda Stream or one of these more classic soda carbonators and make it yourself at home. If you like flavored water, slice up a bunch of oranges, cucumbers or rinse off some berries at the beginning of the week and make a fresh pitcher every morning. Fill up a water bottle before heading out to run those afternoon errands. If you’re prepared, when thirst strikes you’ll have one less excuse to grab for a soda. Oh, and if you’re prone to caffeine headaches, have an an anti-inflammatory on hand, or a bag of green or black tea to help ease those withdrawal pains.
5. Adopt a no soda policy. When I first decided I wanted to stop drinking soda, the first thing I did to start scaling back was adopt a “No Soda at Home” policy. It was highly effective. Seriously, if it’s not in your house you can’t drink it! This one change helped kickstart my journey to cut back. Here are some other “No Soda” policy ideas:
No Soda…
  • At work
  • On campus
  • On road trips
  • Before 5pm
  • At restaurants
  • At the movies
  • As mixers in alcoholic drinks
Try choosing one to start, and then adopt more as you feel ready.
6. Break the routine…by substituting a new one. For me, soda drinking, much like my morning cup of coffee, was a ritual. I found my daily walk to the soda machine was just as much an excuse to escape the office and chat with a co-worker as it was about getting a cold drink. Luckily I was able to convince my colleague to trade the soda for a few flights of stairs and a pit stop at the water fountain after. Think about when you habitually grab a soda and then figure out how you can change the scenario and make a healthier beverage choice. After just a few weeks your old, bad habit will likely be replaced with your healthier routine.
7. Make yourself accountable. If you’re the type of person who is motivated by accountability, telling your family, co-workers and friends that you’re giving up soda really works. When I decided to cut out soda, I told all of my girlfriends. It kept me honest when we were together, but I also found their support made a big difference. They still check up on me to this day to make sure I haven’t fallen back into my old soda habit! When you start cutting out soda, keep yourself accountable by telling people around you, and reap the benefits of having their support along the way.
8. Redefine the word “stop”. After reading the 2nd paragraph you might look at the title and think, “She still drinks soda though…” Why yes, on occasion I do! But I no longer consider myself a “soda drinker.” There’s a big difference! Just because you want to “stop drinking soda” doesn’t mean you can never enjoy one again. Maybe for you “stop” means getting down to 1 per week, say when you’re out to a nice dinner or as a lunchtime treat on Fridays. The best way to approach a long-lasting behavior change is by making it sustainable and avoiding those feelings of deprivation. If allowing yourself a soda on occasion makes you happy, by all means! In the end, it’s about making healthy habits the default and enjoying treats along the way.

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The Healing Power of Turmeric

Medical researchers are swiftly moving toward a consensus that inflammation underpins most of the chronic diseases that plague us, everything from IBD and rheumatoid arthritis, to cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric may help prevent all of them. New studies even point to the effectiveness of turmeric in keeping type 2 diabetes at bay. Since turmeric is also inexpensive, has no toxicity, and makes food taste amazing, why shouldn’t we all be using it and reaping the benefits?

What makes Tumeric so healthy?

Most of the health benefits of turmeric derive from curcumin, the compound that also gives turmeric its bright orange color. Curcumin only constitutes a few percent of the weight of turmeric, but it is a nutritional powerhouse. Curcumin is a superb antioxidant and also possesses extraordinary anti-inflammatory powers. Because so many diseases are caused, or worsened, by inflammation, curcumin’s effect on restoring health and function can be profound.

What are some of the primary medicinal uses for Tumeric and Curcumin?

Curcumin has been studied for its effectiveness in:

  • Improving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Preventing colon, pancreatic, and lung cancers
  • Lowering cholesterol and homocysteine levels
  • Protecting against Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
  • Blocking type 2 diabetes

Turmeric’s anticancerous properties

In some individuals with an inherited form of the disease, colon cancer begins with the proliferation of colorectal adenomas — polyps — that eventually become cancerous. When a moderate dose of curcumin is given to these individuals, the number of polyps is decreased, and disease progression slowed. The benefits are even greater when curcumin is combined with quercetin, a flavonoid found in onions.
Curcumin also has proven effective against prostate cancer. Epidemiological studies of prostate cancer worldwide reveal that it is rare in populations using more turmeric. In India, for example, prostate cancer is a very rare diagnosis. However, traditional Indian cooking not only uses curry, which has lots of turmeric, but also brassica (cruciferous) vegetables. The combination of the brassicas’ isothiocyanates and turmeric’s curcumin is lethal to prostate cancer cells and blocks the spread of established tumors.

Turmeric could help prevent heart disease

Curcumin blocks the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, an important step in atherosclerosis. Also, turmeric has significant vitamin B6, so it also helps reduce homocysteine while increasing HDL cholesterol. When you add it all up, that’s a lot of vital protection for your arteries.

Turmeric’s benefits for diabetes patients

Curcumin powerfully reduces blood glucose and helps cure insulin resistance, which in turn improves liver and pancreas health. Consequently, overall health, especially immune health, is also improved.

Turmeric as an herbal remedy for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Once again, epidemiological evidence suggests that in populations using the most turmeric, AD is rare. Apparently, curcumin works in several ways to combat AD:
  • Inhibiting formation of amyloid plaque.
  • Blocking proteins that degrade the myelin sheath of nerve cells
  • Turning on genes that protect the brain from oxidative damage.
With so many good reasons to add turmeric to your recipes — not to mention that it’s delicious. Why wait? Vibrant health awaits you.

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Avoid on a Diet These 13 Foods

There are many different ways to diet – some diets limit fat while others limit carbohydrates or proteins. However, no matter which diet you are on, there is one tried and true method that will always pack on the weight: Eat a lot of carbohydrates.
The reason why this happens is because the carbohydrates stimulate the excessive production of insulin in the body. This in turn then causes the body to store food eaten as fat no matter what types of food are eaten. The key to weight loss is to learn how to get the body’s biochemistry back to burning fat instead of storing fat.

Stay away from high carb foods

Most dieters continue to eat too much of the foods that are naturally high in carbohydrates. The very worst carbs you can eat are boxed and packaged foods.
Stay away from high glycemic index foods
Dieters must also always avoid high glycemic index foods. The glycemic index is a scale from 0 to 100 that rates carbohydrate foods according to how much hey raise the blood sugar levels.
 
If a food has a rating of 100, then the food is going to raise blood sugar levels drastically, and you’ll have to somehow bring them down quickly. If you don’t bring the blood sugar levels down again, weight gain will occur.
 
Why you gain weight when you’re sticking to a diet
Have you ever noticed sometimes that you eat healthy foods all day long and yet when you look down at the scale, your weight increased? This can happen for a few different reasons:
 
You eat one food in the last 18 hours that caused a spike in insulin. All that’s needed for a quick gain of weight is one bad spike in blood sugar; the effects don’t wear off until 18 hours, and if that one cheating episode became two or three, you’ll have to add more hours to the time.
The overall amount of carbohydrates in the meal is too high, past 35 grams.
The meal has no fat in it.
The meal has no protein or very little protein.
Here’s your list of absolute no-nos for your diet:
 
Bagels 
Breads 
Pastas
Chips
Potatoes 
Corn
Pies 
Cakes 
Cookies 
Candies
Flavored Yogurt  
Milkshakes and ice cream floats 
Alcoholic drinks 

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Eating Too Much Sugar? 5 Signs…

Your dentist has warned you about it. Your mother probably locked it away in a treat drawer. And you already know it’s terrible for you. Sugar. It’s everywhere. And it might even seem easy to avoid, especially if you think sweets are the primary source of sugar in your diet. But sugar lurks in unexpected places. White flour and fruit snacks, for instance, are a prime source, and even salty foods are often loaded with sugar. Sweetened drinks, too, can contain enough sugar to send you into a sugar rush that quickly causes you to crash.
All this sugar can do some pretty unpleasant things to your health. So if you’re concerned that your diet could be a culprit in an underlying health problem, check out these five common symptoms of excess sugar consumption.

1. You have mood swings

Sugar temporarily gives you a feeling of energy, but that quickly ends with a sugar crash that can feel a lot like a hangover. Over time, the highs and lows inherent to life on sugar may become less apparent to you, but they’re still there. If you struggle with mood swings, this could indicate you’re cycling in and out of a sugar rush. Facing depression or anxiety? Some evidence suggest sugar can lead to mental health problems.


2. You’re exhausted

Sugar depletes your body’s resources, leaving you feeling exhausted even when you’ve gotten plenty of sleep. If you spend half of the day waking up and feel fatigued no matter how much sleep you get, it’s time to turn a critical eye toward your diet.

3. You’re always hungry

Leptin is the chemical your body uses to help you feel full, signaling that it’s time to stop eating. Too much sugar consumption, though, can destroy leptin, interfering with your ability to feel full. If you truly feel always hungry—rather than just eating out of boredom or to cope with stress—sugar could have caused leptin to stop properly functioning, leading to chronic hunger pangs.

4. You’re gaining weight

One of the most obvious telltale signs that you’re eating too much sugar is weight gain. Even if you keep your daily caloric intake low, the body tends to pack on the pounds when there’s too much sugar circulating in your blood. Moreover, most high-sugar foods are also high in calories, so that so-called health food that’s high in sugar could be a culprit in your expanding waistline.

5. You have gastrointestinal problems

Fruit can cause diarrhea, but this isn’t because of anything unique to fruit. Fructose, the sugar most prevalent in fruit, is correlated with a host of gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and loose stools. If you’re having some trouble in the bathroom, consider whether the fuel you feed your body might also be feeding your gastrointestinal distress. 

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7 Small Tweaks to Cut Calories All Year Long

“Cutting calories” is one of the more nefarious-sounding phrases in the English language, one that might conjure images of boring salads and induce hunger pangs. But the truth is, there are plenty of easy ways to reduce your calories without making grueling sacrifices — and the efforts can really add up.

 

In general, 3,500 calories equals about one pound of fat, so if you reduce your calorie intake, you can drop some weight — to the tune of 10 pounds per year, if you cut just 100 calories per day.
Of course, everyone’s calorie needs are different, and vary by weight, age and activity level. So keep that in mind before diving in head-first. Below, I will show you how seven little tweaks can have a significant impact over the course of a year.
The average soda contains about 140 empty calories — and a scary amount of sugar. So 140 calories, 365 days a year adds up to 51,100 calories or almost 15 pounds.
Exchange your daily afternoon soda for some refreshing sparkling water, and you’ll be doing yourself a serious favor.
The average American eats three hamburgers per week, which is a lot of burgers. And, more often than not, they’re of the fast-food rather than home-cooked variety. The one positive takeaway: There’s plenty of room to improve. Going bun-less once per week saves about 150 calories, which adds up to 7,800 calories a year — just over 2 pounds.
Drinking water can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating. In fact,  drinking two cups of water (16 ounces) before a meal resulted in a 13% reduction in calorie intake. If you typically eat a 600-calorie dinner, drinking water beforehand could save you 78 calories per day — or 28,470 calories per year.
 
No, cauliflower rice isn’t a direct substitute for the real thing. But when prepared properly, it’s pretty darn good. And considering it’s a non-starchy vegetable, cauliflower rice is a low-carb, low-calorie way to supplement that weekly stir-fry. You’ll save about 160 calories every time you make the swap or 8,320 annually.

 

That dash of sugar in your morning coffee might taste good, but every teaspoon adds about 16 calories. You can try using a no-calorie sweetener like Stevia or just opt for a good, rich coffee, and skip the sweetener entirely. Here we’ll assume one teaspoon of sugar, and two cups per day, which is the national average. When you do the math, that’s about 11,680 calories a year!
Condiments are a delicious way to spruce up just about anything. But not all condiments are created equal, so check that nutrition label before you start slathering. There are 90 calories in one tablespoon of mayonnaise, which makes zero-calorie mustard the clear champion for sandwiches, burgers and other condiment-friendly foods. Make that swap two times per week, which adds up to 9,360 calories per year and watch those calories drop.
When you’re hungry, it’s tempting to shovel food into your face. But chewing more slowly — and generally being mindful of your eating — allows the body to better realize when it’s full. This can translate to less overeating, and fewer calories consumed at each meal. Normal-weight individuals reduced their calorie intake by an average of 88 calories when eating slower, as compared to the fast-eating group. Multiply that by three meals per day, 365 days a year and … that’s a ton of calories (96,360 calories to be exact).
 

 

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Should You Weigh Yourself? 3 Signs to Step Off the Scale

About a 6 years ago, I quit smoking a pack a day and eating a pint of ice cream every day instead. After six months of being fueled by cookie-dough varieties and whimsical Ben & Jerry’s choices, I ditched the frozen treats as well.
Although I was proud of finally giving up both cigarettes and mega calories, I had a new problem: the nearly 85 pounds I’d put on over six months since quitting the smokes. I set a goal, changed my eating habits to healthier options and head to the gym and started weighing myself every few days to make sure I was staying on track.
Then it was every morning, followed soon by weighing myself multiple times a day, always with a sense of dread about being “off” from where I wanted to be. If I was down even by a few ounces, I was overjoyed. But if I was up, I felt crushed.
Daily weigh-ins can be a valuable tool in understanding where you are in terms of a goal. But for me, and for many others, it can also become a source of anxiety and frustration.
Here are three signs you might want to put the scale away for at least a little while:
YOUR HAPPINESS HINGES ON A NUMBER
In other words: You felt good before you stepped on the scale and terrible after. Let’s say you committed to running five days this week and avoiding sugar. You accomplished both goals and you’re feeling bulletproof because you have more energy, you’re sleeping better and your sugar cravings are subsiding. But then you step on the scale and nothing has changed — or worse, you gained a little.
“Suddenly, all your efforts have been erased in your mind and you think, why am I even trying so hard if it’s not making a difference?” ” Even though you were feeling great results from meeting your goals, the scale seems to have diminished their impact.
“When the scale has the power to change your good emotions, that’s a sign you should ditch it”. When your outlook shifts from positive to negative, it can lead you to abandon healthy behaviors. If you’re feeling crusty after every scale session, I suggests focusing instead on different measures of progress — and setting goals that don’t have to do with your weight.
“The scale has no measure for your happiness, the gratitude you have in your life or how hard you might be working”. “If the scale starts working against you, get rid of it.”
YOU REACT BY MAKING ABRUPT AND DRASTIC CHANGES
Tweaking calorie intake based on weight-goal progress is a standard part of many weight-loss programs, especially when you take activity levels into account. You won’t eat the same amount on a day you run 10 miles as you would on a day you sit at a conference for hours.
But making dramatic changes based on what the scale reads in the morning isn’t an ideal strategy.
“Seeing an increase in weight could trigger someone to avoid eating for the day,” “Alternatively, seeing a decrease could be a trigger to overeat that day, almost as if the number is giving them permission.”
That’s one of the reasons weekly weigh-ins have been the gold standard for many weight-loss programs. They are less reflective of the kind of factors that can influence daily weigh-ins, such as sodium intake, stress and hormonal changes.
YOU START DOING MULIPLE DAILY WEIGH-INS
How often you weigh yourself is a matter of personal choice, usually based on what works best for you. For example, if you feel weighing yourself daily is a nice check-in that keeps you feeling accountable, great. But if you prefer to weigh yourself weekly because it’s a better indication of progress, that might be your strategy.
What doesn’t work? Multiple daily weigh-ins. Your weight can fluctuate quite a bit within the space of a day, sometimes between 5–7 pounds. That can be a recipe for a major freakout.
That’s why it’s important to maintain consistency if you’re doing the once-daily or one-weekly check. I advise using the same scale, at the same time of day, in the same location, wearing the same clothing. That way, you can assess weight changes with more accuracy.
THE BENEFIT OF TAKING A BREAK
After I stepped away from the scale for a while, I ended up going back with a better strategy and attitude. I chose to weigh myself weekly instead of daily, and to use that number as a guide that could help me tweak my caloric intake and activity levels — not as a set on an emotional roller coaster.
By using the scale as a tool instead of a weapon against myself, I’ve been able to include it as part of a larger range of measures that help me track my health, not just my weight. I wouldn’t say the scale is my friend. But at least it’s no longer my enemy.

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Try These Cool New Ways To Use An Ice Cube Tray

If you thought that the humble ice cube tray was only good for making, well, ice cubes, you’re in for a big surprise. It can be used for so much more. Check out these coolideas for using an ice cube tray in ways you’ve never thought possible.

Fresh Life For Herbs

We’ve all bought bundles of fresh herbs for a recipe only to end up with half of them lingering in the refrigerator until they turn into something resembling a science experiment. Save those expensive herbs by packing them into an ice cube tray, then pouring olive oil over them and freezing.

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13 Meal-Prep Hacks to Save Time in the Kitchen

We’ve all done it: stared at the fridge for a full five minutes, but then ordered pizza. “Waiting until the last minute to choose what we are eating can lead to poor choices because we really can’t make sound decisions when we are running from one place to the next and don’t have the tools to create a healthy choice.”
But if you do the cooking in advance, you’ll not only eat healthier, you’ll also save time and money, an approach to home cooking that allows you to make 15 different meals in two hours. Ready to take a stab at meal prep? Start with these 13 easy tips.

1 Cook once a week.

Pick one day a week and do the bulk — if not all — of your shopping and cooking. It might sound like a big time commitment, but doing everything at once means you only have to preheat the oven once, chop your meats and veggies once and clean your kitchen once. For instance, chopping all the ingredients for one meal takes about 10 minutes. However, chopping all your ingredients for 15 meals at once takes about 40 minutes. That’s a huge time saver! However, resist the temptation to cook two, three or four weeks in advance. Most cooked meals tend to stay fresh in your fridge for about a week.

 

2 Keep it simple.

“Try recipes that are practical, easy to follow and have familiar ingredients.” After all, you’re trying to simplify your life, not master the fine art of sushi rolling. “Make sure that you stay within your range of comfort”. “Start with recipes that only have a few steps and a few ingredients that you love.” Once you start to feel more confident in your abilities, try rotating in a slightly more complicated dish from time to time. It’ll help you expand your skill set and enjoy new recipes without adding a ton of stress.

3 Consider each food’s timeline.

Some foods are a bit more sensitive to the passing of time than are others. Berries and greens like spinach and arugula, for instance: They get mushy fast. So, it’s typically best to eat them earlier in the week. Also, if you’re prepping salads, they’ll stay crisp longer if you store any dressings and oils in a separate container. Also note that kale holds up better than thinner salad greens. When you’re ready to dig in, just drizzle and eat. Also, while you might like avocado in your salad or sliced apples for a snack, you should hold off slicing and dicing them until you’re ready to eat them.

4 Fill your freezer.

Even with meal prep as plan A, life happens. From time to time, you’ll run out of prepped food in your fridge. That’s when it’s handy to have a half-dozen prepped meals stored in your freezer. “Most meats that are already cooked can last in the freezer from two to six months. Soups also store well in the freezer, and you can split them into single servings to store for up to three months.” So grab a permanent marker and write eat-by dates on them. If you don’t want to write directly on your Tupperware, you can put the containers in freezer bags and then write the dates on them.

5 Use the slow cooker.

Whether you have a crazy schedule, don’t have much faith in your cooking abilities or just love juicy, flavor-packed dishes, slow cookers are amazing. Don’t have one? It’s time to invest. While small 2.5-quart slow cookers are good options for people who are tight on cabinet space, seven-quart ones can cook upwards of 10 meals at once. All you have to do is plug in the cooker, throw in some chopped veggies, meat, spices and liquid and walk away. Most recipes call for slow-cooking the ingredients between four and eight hours — meaning you can cook your meals while you’re out running errands, at work or even asleep.

6 Don’t dismiss frozen produce.

Bags of frozen broccoli and blueberries aren’t just convenient, they’re surprisingly nutritious. The vast majority of frozen produce is higher in antioxidants and other nutrients than is fresh produce. For instance, in the study, frozen carrots were found to have about three times the lutein and twice the beta-carotene, as well as greater levels of vitamin C and polyphenols, compared with their fresh counterparts. “They are picked at their peak of freshness and flash frozen so they don’t lose nutrition during transport from farm to store”.

7 Go ahead, repeat meals.

So what if meal prepping means you eat four Greek yogurt parfaits in a week? “It isn’t a bad thing to repeat meals, especially if it helps keep you on track and you enjoy the food you’re eating.” After all, making a big batch of a dish and dividing it up to eat throughout the week is a simple time-saver. However, to keep yourself from getting bored, you might want to mix up what meals you repeat each week. For instance, one week you may want to make a huge batch of quinoa salad and another week an enormous pot of turkey chili.

8 Don’t forget snacks!

Just because it’s called “meal” prep doesn’t mean you should only prep full-blown entrees. It can help to plan out snacks too. After all, some of the worst dietary decisions happen at work while stressed and hungry. By stocking your desk drawer with a week’s worth of snacks in single-serving containers, you can help fight the temptations.
Crackers, almonds and dried fruit are all great, nonperishable options. But resist the temptation to buy single-serving snack packs. Bite per bite, they cost more than regular-size boxes, and just because they come in 100-calorie packs doesn’t mean they’re healthy. If you have an office fridge — and trust your co-workers not to steal your food — you can also bring in perishable snacks like yogurt, cheese, baby carrots and bell pepper slices.

9 Use ingredients in multiple recipes.

For cooking newbies, shopping for exact recipes can prove helpful. But for those who are prepared to take some creative license with their food, looking for ingredients you can use in a variety of dishes can save you time and money. For example, if you buy a whole bunch of tomatoes, cook them and divide them up to use in pastas, wraps and salads. You can save on cooking time and keep from throwing away your money. “Go into the store knowing how many servings of proteins, grains and vegetables you need”. When you get home, get creative to use up everything you’ve purchased.

10 Form an assembly line.

Rather than prepping and cooking each meal individually, focus on cooking everything all at once — just do it in stages. After all, pretty much every ingredient will require some combination of washing, chopping, seasoning and cooking. So as soon as you get home from the grocery store, rinse every ingredient that needs it, and then get slicing, dicing and chopping. Next, fire up all four of your stove’s burners and use both of your oven racks to cook up to six ingredients at once. If you have more than six ingredients to cook, just rotate them in once the other ones are done. Then, all you have to do is mix and match to make your dishes.

11 Spice it up!

When you’re eating chicken three days in a row, spices are vital to beating taste-bud boredom, who uses one or more of the following in each of his meals: salt, pepper, onion, garlic and olive oil. They’re among the world’s most versatile flavoring agents and create a tasty palate for adding more herbs and spices.
A sprinkle of basil in one dish and a dash of curry in another can make two seemingly similar chicken-and-onion dishes taste wildly different. Bonus: Herbs and spices are full of health-boosting antioxidants and are great for adding flavor to meals without increasing your sodium intake. Take a stroll down the spice aisle and stock up.

12 Upgrade your kitchen tools.

Seasoned meal preppers can benefit from investing in the right tools. For instance, think about your pots and pans: Can you fit them all on your stove at the same time? If so, you can cook more food in less time.
I also recommends storing your pantry’s oils and vinegars in labeled spray and squeeze bottles for easy and lightning-fast handling. (Plus, you’re less likely to overuse calorie-dense oils if you’re spraying them rather than pouring them out of a bottle.) Resealable plastic containers can also come in handy when storing grains like rice, quinoa and couscous. On each lid, write any pertinent cooking instructions. It’s so much easier than dealing with boxes, bags and clothespins.

13 Organize your fridge.

Pack your fridge with completed meals to eat throughout week. To make it even easier, I recommend dedicating each shelf in your fridge for a different meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you want to take some thought out of the whole “What lunch should I bring to work today?” conundrum, consider labeling each meal with the date you plan to eat it. That way you can eat from the front of your fridge to the back. Plus, if you plan when you’ll eat each meal, you can make sure that each days’ proteins, grains, fruits and veggies are varied.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you currently meal prep? If so, how has it helped you eat healthier? Has it eased your cooking stress? Which of these tips are the most helpful for you? Do you have any tips to add? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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