Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods

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March is National Nutrition Month, a yearly campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What a great opportunity to make better food choices and to develop healthy eating habits. The theme this year is Personalize Your Plate.

The month presents an excellent opportunity as well to me as a health blogger. Because I post in Journey once a week, the month long event breaks down naturally into four connected posts.

This week I lead off with Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods. I provide a sampling of the best, most nutritious foods to add to your shopping list.

The rest of the month looks like this:

  • week two – shopping tips for highly nutritious foods. I’ll show you my shopping list and where I shop and the actual cost of the nutritious food I’m purchasing
  • week three – meal planning and food prep.  During this week you get a peek at the meals I create with the foods I purchased the week before
  • week four – the transformative power of food and nutrition. Tips for creating and continuing a healthy lifestyle get featured this week.

Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods title meme

Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods

This week’s goal focuses on encouraging better food choices. The typical American diet includes high levels of sugar, fats, meats, eggs, cheese and processed foods. Additionally, we often sacrifice nutrition for convenience by stopping for fast food on the way home after a busy day.

And yet, nutrition is extremely important. What we put into our bodies, fuels our bodies. Highly nutritious foods helps the body and all its systems function better and maintain health. Poor quality foods contribute to the breaking down of the body and its systems, creating diseases and disorders.

We’d never put poor quality gasoline into our vehicles and expect them to operate well. And yet daily we consume low quality foods without a thought for how our bodies are affected by our choices.

I divided nutritious foods into categories. And, I am plant based. In good conscious I can’t recommend animal products. If you don’t feel ready to eliminate meat from your diet, include chicken or wild caught salmon in several meals during the week. I highly encourage you to go meatless as often as possible. Eggs feed viruses while dairy products create inflammation in the body and increase mucous production.

Veggies

A diet rich in vegetables lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes, prevents some types of cancer, eases digestive problems and improves eye health. Vegetables provide fiber, valuable vitamins and minerals, colors, textures and flavors. They are low in calories, sodium and cholesterol. Their antioxidants combat inflammation and diseases.

Choose from the following vegetables:

  • dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale
  • potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • radishes
  • mushrooms
  • cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage
  • celery
  • onions and garlic
  • peppers – green, red, yellow and orange
  • asparagus
  • cucumbers
  • radishes
Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods veggies
Eat a variety of nutritious foods – veggies

Fruits

In recent years, people feared eating much fruit, due to the misconception that the sugar in fruit is the same as refined sugar. It’s not. The natural fructose and glucose found in fruit are different from refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Fruit digests quickly. And like veggies, fruit is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants and flavonoids. A diet high in fruit reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, inflammation and diabetes. Fruit fights disease. They make great snacks instead of cookies, chips or fast food.

Choose from the following fruits:

  • bananas
  • apples
  • melons
  • berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and blackberries
  • cherries
  • avocadoes
  • kiwis
  • figs
  • dates
  • grapes
  • lemons and limes
  • oranges and tangerines
  • mangoes
  • papayas
  • pears
  • pomegranates
Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods fruit
Eat a variety of nutritious foods – fruits

Legumes

Legumes of all kinds provide necessary fiber, protein, B vitamins, folate, calcium and zinc. They are low fat.  Beans are similar to meat, nutrition wise, without the saturated fats.

Legumes reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. They also help lower blood pressure and triglycerides.

Choose from the following legumes:

  • chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans
  • lentils
  • peas
  • kidney beans
  • black beans
  • pinto beans
  • navy beans
  • black eyed peas
  • purple hull beans
Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods purple hull beans
Eat a variety of nutritious foods – purple hull beans

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds provide fiber, vitamins, protein, healthy fats including omega-3s, iron, zinc and niacin.

These small powerhouses are rich in antioxidants that prevent cell damage and reduce the risks for inflammation and disease. They help lower cholesterol and triglycerides and blood sugar levels.

Choose from these nuts and seeds:

  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • cashews
  • pumpkins seeds
  • chia seeds
Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods walnuts
Eat a variety of nutritious foods – walnuts

Grains

Grains are a bit trickier. Some people, like me, don’t tolerate wheat and other grains containing gluten. Include wheat, cautiously, if you don’t show symptoms of gluten intolerance.

Healthy grains provide important nutrients, fiber and B vitamins. They improve heart health, lower the risk of strokes, support healthy digestion, help maintain weight and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Pastas made from brown rice are a healthy alternative to wheat pastas.

Choose from the following grains:

  • oats
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods oats
Eat a variety of nutritious foods – oats

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices provide valuable nutrients, antioxidants and health benefits. Use aromatic herbs and spices for cooking. The rest make excellent health boosting teas. Herbs and spices lower the risk for heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. They contain anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.

Choose from the following herbs and spices:

  • aromatic herbs including thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaf, sage and oregano
  • cilantro
  • turmeric
  • ginger
  • cat’s claw
  • nettle leaf
  • lemon balm
  • rose hips
Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods sage
Eat a variety of nutritious foods – sage

Create Your Shopping List

As you plan meals for next week, choose from the list of highly nutritious foods and include as many as possible. Concentrate on veggies and fruits first and then add in legumes, grains, herbs, nuts and seeds.

As I plan my meals for next week, I am doing the same, incorporating as many of the listed foods as possible.

Watch for next week’s post of the shopping trip to see which foods I purchase for the meals for week three.

Let’s eat healthier, together!

Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods meal prep
Kale, navy beans, brown rice and onion.

 

Find these herbs at Amazon:

 


 

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Heart Healthy Snacks

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During American Heart Month in February, I’ve focused on posts that promote cardiovascular health. Heart Health Tips offers simple and yet important ways to take care of the heart. Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats provides an easy to prepare recipe featuring a food that supports heart health. And Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health shows that practicing kindness is good for health, including the cardiovascular system.

Today’s post lists suggestions for heart healthy snacks. Doctors agree that a plant based lifestyle and the Mediterranean diet both support heart health. These diets…or a combination of the two…decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and offer protection for the heart.

When thinking about the best heart healthy snacks, focus on these three vital factors: fiber, unsaturated fatty acids or omega-3s and antioxidants.

Heart Healthy Snacks title meme

Apples + Unsweetened Nut Butter

High fiber fruits like apples, paired with a no sugar added nut butter, checks all the boxes for heart friendly nutrients and antioxidants. Choose a red skinned apple for even more benefits and leave the peeling on.

Apples offer bioactive polyphenols and soluable fiber that’s proven to boost cardiovascular health. Skip nut butters loaded with sugar. Instead, choose a natural peanut butter, such as Crazy Richard’s. Or look for no sugar added almond or cashew butter.

Heart Healthy Snacks apples
Heart healthy snacks – apples with cashew butter

Hummus + Crunchy Veggies

Traditionally made from chickpeas, delicious creamy hummus provides antioxidants that protect the heart and blood vessels.

Create a snack or a meal from hummus and crunchy, fiber rich vegetables such as celery, carrots, red, orange, yellow or green sweet peppers and cucumbers. These veggies add vitamins A and C to the diet along with more antioxidants.

Heart Healthy Snacks hummus
Heart healthy snacks – hummus with crunchy veggies

Avocado Toast + Fruit

Considered a fruit, rather than a vegetable, avocadoes are a rich source of good-for-you fatty acids and anti-inflammatory compounds that help thin the blood naturally.

Top multi-grain, gluten free toast with sliced or mashed avocado. Eat along with fresh berries, apple or orange slices or chunks of melon. Berries are full of antioxidants and plant compounds that protect heart valves and ventricles and dissolve plaque within veins and arteries.

Heart Healthy Snacks avocado toast
Heart healthy snacks – avocado toast with fruit

Non GMO Popcorn + Turmeric

Popcorn is a fiber rich snack option. Just look for non GMO varieties to reduce the risk of inflammation. Create a healthy twist on this traditional snack by sprinkling on the powerful healing spice turmeric.

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric’s curcumin protects the whole cardiovascular system. Plus it lowers bad cholesterol while raising the good.

Heart Healthy Snacks popcorn
Heart healthy snacks – non GMO popcorn and turmeric

Nuts or Seeds + Raisins or Dried Cranberries

Nuts and seeds contain fiber, omega-3s and antioxidants, making them excellent for heart health. Create your own trail mix by combining a variety of unsalted seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, hemp or chia and nuts such as almonds or walnuts with unsweetened dried coconut, raisins or dried cranberries.

Raisins, which are dried grapes, provide iron and polyphenals that benefit the heart. Dried cranberries are high in antioxidants that heal cardiovascular disease and arteriosclerosis.

Heart Healthy Snacks nuts and raisins
Heart healthy snacks – nuts, seeds, raisins and dried cranberries

Frozen Banana Dessert

Also called Banana Nice Dream, create this snack using ripe, frozen bananas. Blend in a high speed blender until the frozen banana chunks become a smooth and creamy “ice cream”. Bananas offer fiber, antioxidants and nutrients that boost heart health.

Add frozen wild blueberries or frozen grapes to create fun variations of this yummy dessert. Or top the treat with fresh berries.

Heart Healthy Snacks banana nice dream
Heart healthy snacks – frozen banana dessert

Chia Pudding + Berries

Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, vitamins E and B complex, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. They are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than any other food and especially beneficial for chronic inflammation and heart disease.

Chia pudding is so simple to make. Combine 1 cup dairy free milk, such as almond milk, with 1/4 cup of chia seeds in a mason jar or container with a lid. Cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator. Add berries, nuts or sliced fruit and enjoy.

Heart Healthy Snacks chia pudding
Heart healthy snacks – chia pudding with berries

Oatmeal + Fruit + Nuts

No longer just for breakfast, oatmeal is a fiber rich food long promoted for its heart health benefits. Oats lower bad cholesterol and protect the heart against oxidation.

Make overnight oats and enjoy for breakfast or for an anytime snack. Combine in a small mason jar:

  • 1/3 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/3 cup dairy free milk, such as almond or coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup dairy free plain yogurt, such as coconut milk yogurt
  • fresh fruit of choice…berries make an excellent addition
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • add 1/4 tsp cinnamon if desired

Cover jar and place in the refrigerator the night before. Open and eat right from the jar the next morning.

Heart Healthy Snacks oatmeal
Heart healthy snacks – oatmeal

Sweet Potato Fries + Avocado Dip

This superfood offers an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that nourish the body and protect the heart. Try sweet potatoes as a heart healthy snack by slicing them into a bowl and adding a small amount of olive oil,  a teaspoon of onion powder, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of paprika and dashes of sea salt and black pepper. Coat fries then place in a single layer on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, turning fries halfway through baking time.

Enjoy sweet potato fries with this easy avocado dip. Combine in a blender 1 ripe avocado, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/4 cup plain non dairy yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Blend until smooth and serve immediately.

Heart Healthy Snack sweet potato fries
Heart healthy snacks – sweet potato fries

Make Snacks Count

The next time you head to the kitchen, hungry for a snack, make the conscious choice to make the snack count. Rather than mindlessly eating, intentionally create snacks that boost heart health and contribute to overall wellness.

Did you discover a new snack to try?

Heart Healthy Snacks smoothie bowl
Heart healthy snack – bonus snack…smoothie bowl with fruit, nuts and chia seeds

Heart Healthy Amazon Finds:

 


 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health

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February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day, a holiday created to encourage all of us to show kindness to others. When we practice kindness, we display the qualities of friendliness, generosity, empathy and compassion.

There’s evidence that kindness not only benefits the receiver, it brings benefits to the giver as well.

Kindness and empathy help us relate to other people and develop positive connections with family, friends, pets and even strangers that we encounter. Besides improving personal relationships, kindness can actually make us healthier.

Check out these eight ways kindness boosts health.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health title meme

Kindness Releases Serotonin

Acts of kindness release serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Serotonin does amazing things for the body. It stabilizes mood and produces feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Serotonin helps brain cells and central nervous system cells communicate with each other. Additionally, it aids sleeping, eating and digestion.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health releases serotonin
Eight ways kindness boosts health – releases serotonin

Kindness Eases Anxiety

Occasional anxiety isn’t harmful. It can help us meet a deadline or prepare the body for action with a flight or fight response. However, chronic anxiety causes feelings of doom, panic attacks, depression, headaches, breathing disorders, irritability and muscles aches and pains.

Kindness helps ease anxiety by focusing on others rather than ourselves. When we help others, even in small ways, the “thinking” side of the brain takes a break and the creative side engages, which contributes to less anxiety and a calming of the body.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health eases anxiety
Eight ways kindness boosts health – eases anxiety

Kindness Lowers Stress

Similarly, kindness lowers stress and the effects it has on the body. When we get outside of our own lives, by showing kindness to others, the body releases endorphins. These polypeptides made by the pituitary gland and central nervous system help the body relax. They reduce pain as well.

Helping others causes feelings of satisfaction, known as “helper’s high”, because of the pleasure effect associated with endorphins.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health reduces stress
Eight ways kindness boosts health – reduces stress

Kindness Releases Oxytocin

Practicing kindness releases another powerful hormone, often referred to as the “love hormone”. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter as well, associated with empathy, trust, sensuality and relationship building.

Oxytocin benefits heart health by lowering blood pressure and expanding blood vessels. And, studies show that oxytocin is addictive. Once the body finds a source for it, it does not forget. When practicing kindness releases oxytocin and we feel good as a result, we are encouraged to do it again…and again. Kindness is a wonderfully addictive habit to acquire.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health heart health
Eight ways kindness boosts health – heart health

Kindness Lowers Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an invader, such as bacteria or an infection. However, chronic inflammation is a major contributor to poor health. It leads to diabetes, cancer, pain, obesity, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis and a category of diseases known as autoimmune disorders.

The oxytocin produced as a result of kindness lowers inflammation throughout the body, which helps prevent diseases.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health lowers inflammation
Eight ways kindness boosts health – lowers inflammation

Kindness Prolongs Life

Amazingly, kindness creates longevity by strengthening relationships. Those healthy relationships contribute to a positive mental outlook and improved heart health, which in turn lead to a longer, happier life.

Studies show that we have a 24% lower risk of early death when we practice kindness toward others and volunteer our time and skills to benefit others.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health longevity
Eight ways kindness boosts health – longevity

Kindness Returns to Us

Although this benefit may seem way “out there” to some, I can personally attest to the truth of it. Kindness sent out, returns to the sender. Kindness is often likened to the waves that ripple outward, when a pebble is dropped into water. Those waves continue on, as energy. And eventually…or sometimes quickly…those waves come back to the sender.

Another way of thinking of it is this: we reap what we sow. When we plant seeds of kindness, kindness grows and we harvest the blessings of it. When we plant seeds of discord or unkindness, that’s what grows and we harvest that whether we want to or not.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon so many times, and I’ll bet you have too. I let a car cut in front of me, in a line of traffic. And a short time later, a car gives me the same grace. Or, I practice random kindness to a stranger and then a stranger shows kindness to me. These experiences build trust and deepen feelings of wellbeing, which brings to us all the other benefits listed here.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health it comes back
Eight ways kindness boosts health – it comes back to the sender

Kindness Fosters Self Care

Practicing kindness can create a sense of purpose in life. And when we have a sense of purpose, when we enjoy what we do, we tend to take better care of ourselves. Kindness to others results in kindness to ourselves in the form of self care and preventative health care.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health self kindness
Eight ways kindness boosts health – self care

Start a Kindness Habit

Rather than practice kindness for one day, consider these ways to start a kindness habit:

  • Keep a running list of people you know that might need assistance and ways you can help. Running errands for a shut-in, walking the neighbor’s dog, checking in on loved ones and sending encouraging texts to friends are all simple ways to help.
  • Raise your awareness throughout the day, watching for opportunities to offer kindness. Smile at people, even while wearing a mask during the pandemic. Your eyes convey the smile. Acknowledge people by thanking them for doing their jobs. Compliment others. When you look for ways to practice kindness, you’ll find them.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Gratitude helps us think kind thoughts, about others, about ourselves, about circumstances.
  • Try a kindness challenge…for seven days, for 14 days, for 30 days. Every day do one random act of kindness. Go beyond your comfort zone. Have fun.

Practice kindness today. Practice kindness everyday. It’s good for others, good for the world and good for you.

Eight Ways Kindness Boosts Health be kind to all kinds
Be kind to all kinds.

Check out this inspiring book by David Hamilton, The Five Side Effects of Kindness.

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

February is American Heart Month. It serves as a reminder to take care of our hearts by adopting proactive practices that prevent coronary disease. Check out Heart Health Tips, for ways you can live a healthier life.

Oats support heart health. They provide necessary fiber and reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and protecting against oxidation.

I’ve eaten oatmeal since my childhood. Recently I upped my game. I tried overnight oats for the first time. And today, I made my first batch of baked oats. You will love this delicious lemon blueberry baked oats recipe. And it is plant based, of course!

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats title meme

The Goodness of Oats

A bowl of hot oatmeal, on a frosty morning, starts the day right. However, I love variety and trying new things. Overnight oats offer convenience and endless possibilities. Click the link above for the basic recipe. Then create fun and flavorful overnight oats using different fruits and additions.

Baked oats offer even more options. And they are so good they double as breakfast or a healthy snack. I love blueberries, however substitute blackberries, strawberries or raspberries if desired. Or swap out the berries and lemon for diced apples and cinnamon.

I used gluten free oats. If you don’t have a gluten sensitivity, regular oats are fine. This recipe is vegan and refined sugar free. I adapted it from several recipes that I discovered online.

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats ready to eat

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats

This versatile recipe comes together in minutes and delivers a delicious flavor combo.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups gluten free oats
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup dairy free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries or substitute frozen blueberries
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp lemon extract
  • 4 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place oats in a bowl. Add boiling water and stir to combine. Allow oats to soak for two minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Spoon mixture into an 8X8 lightly greased baking dish.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean or mostly clean. Serve warm with a spoonful of dairy free yogurt. Store left overs in fridge and reheat or eat cold. Makes 4 servings.
Keyword Baked Oats, Blueberry, Lemon

 

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats into the oven
Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats – ready to go into the oven

Tips for Making Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats

Oats are naturally gluten free. However, they are typically processed in facilities with other products that contain gluten. Look for packages of oats that specify gluten free, meaning they were prepped in a facility without contamination with other products.

Substitute frozen blueberries for fresh, if desired. Likewise, substitute fresh lemon zest for lemon extract. The lemon flavoring is subtle and pairs well with the semi-tart blueberries. Adjust maple syrup for more or less sweetness. I used four tablespoons, with a mildly sweet result. And I buy the Silk brand dairy free yogurt at my local Walmart neighborhood market.

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats out of the oven
Fresh from the oven, lemon blueberry baked oats.

The Test Taste

I tested the recipe this afternoon, after lunch. Greg and I didn’t wait for breakfast time tomorrow. We chose to sample the lemon blueberry baked oats fresh from the oven. Greg added a dollop of frozen coconut whip to his bowl of baked oats and I spooned on a small amount of dairy free vanilla yogurt.

The recipe receives a thumbs up from both of us! It tastes as good as it smells, as it bakes. The texture is soft and slightly chewy with a hint of sweetness. And that lemon blueberry combo is perfect!

I know what’s for breakfast tomorrow. I’ll warm up the baked oats and savor them again. What a wonderful, healthy breakfast for cold winter mornings. I look forward to trying different versions such as apple cinnamon.

Have you made baked oats yet?

Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats spoonful of goodness
Lemon Blueberry Baked Oats – a spoonful of goodness

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Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Heart Health Tips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

February, the month of love, is also American Heart Month. For 57 years, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association have worked to raise awareness about heart health during this month. And for good reason. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US.

The focus this month is on preventing heart disease by adopting a heart healthy lifestyle. Did you know that there are many steps we can take, to protect our hearts and prevent coronary disease? The ultimate form of self care involves creating better health and wellness in our lives and being an example to others so that they can do the same.

Check out these heart health tips and take charge of your wellbeing.

Heart Health Tips title meme

Lose the Belly Fat

Research links excess belly fat to higher risks for heart disease. That extra weight around the middle raises blood pressure and creates unhealthy blood lipids. Targeting belly fat loss is a two step process. Eat a better diet, with more fruits and vegetables, and exercise for at least 15 minutes daily.

Use a smaller plate for meals and fill most of that plate with wholesome, plant based foods. Focus on including leafy greens, berries, brown rice, oats, quinoa, avocados, beans, walnuts and tomatoes.

Heart Health Tips belly
Heart Health Tips – lose the belly fat

Add Fiber to Diet

In addition to more fresh produce and wholesome grains, include more fiber in meals. A diet rich in soluble fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and boosts heart heath. Add beans, apples, pears, nuts, oats and avocados to daily meals and snacks. Create a meatless red beans and rice dish. Add avocados to a leafy green salad full of chopped veggies. Top a bowl of oatmeal with diced apples or pears. And a small handful of nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, make a great mid-afternoon snack.

Heart Health Tips fiber
Heart Health Tips – add more fiber

Pet Therapy

Pets not only offer companionship and unconditional love, they provide many health benefits. One of those benefits is better heart and lung health. Walking or playing with pets improves cardio health. And just having a pet and loving it lowers stress and blood pressure and decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Studies shows that pet owners even tend to live longer. If you are looking for a new pet, I suggest contacting your local pet shelter or rescue and adopting from there.

Heart Health Tips pets
Heart Health Tips – pet therapy

Don’t Smoke

One of the best ways to protect the heart and prevent disease is to stop smoking. Or, never start the habit! Cigarettes contain ingredients that, when they burn, generate poisonous chemicals. At least 60 of those are linked to cancer.

Smoking damages the lungs and the entire cardiovascular system. Blood vessels tighten and restrict blood flow. It also raises blood pressure, weakens vessel walls and increases the risk of blood clots, which contribute to strokes. And smoking endangers those around you. Second hand smoke carries the same risks for non-smokers as it does for smokers.

Heart Health Tips no smoking
Heart Health Tips – no smoking

Don’t Have Idle Hands

Engaging in activities that keep the hands busy helps the mind to relax and unwind. And lowering stress is good for the heart. Try knitting, coloring or making crafts. Work a jigsaw puzzle, cook or bake, or try woodworking. Gardening is one of my favorite ways to ease my mind while keeping my hands busy. Even sorting and folding clothes while watching television soothes the mind…as long as the television show itself doesn’t create stress!

Heart Health Tips knitting
Heart Health Tips – don’t have idle hands

Reduce Salt Intake

Reducing salt intake to half a teaspoon a day significantly lowers the risk of heart disease. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, which are high in sodium. The body requires a small amount of salt, however too much contributes to high blood pressure, which is linked to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

One way to control the amount of salt in meals is to cook at home. And try a salt substitute, such as Mrs. Dash, if you already have high blood pressure.

Heart Health Tips salt
Heart Health Tips – reduce salt intake

Enjoy a Glass of Red Wine

Enjoying an occasional glass of red wine helps raise good cholesterol. Wine also helps prevent blood clots and artery damage. And it contains antioxidants that fight inflammation, promote longevity and protect against heart disease. Just don’t overdo it. Drinking in moderation is key.

For those who don’t enjoy a glass of wine, try a cup of hot green tea instead. It is very beneficial to heart health as well. Green tea is linked to lower risks of angina and heart attacks.

Heart Health Tips wine
Heart Health Tips – enjoy a glass of red wine

Eat Dark Chocolate

With that glass of wine, or cup of green tea, savor a piece of rich, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains heart healthy flavonoids that help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease. Like wine, enjoy dark chocolate in moderation and avoid the sweeter milk chocolate all together.

Heart Healthy Tips chocolate
Heart Healthy Tips – Eat dark chocolate

Laugh Out Loud

Surprisingly, laughter has many benefits, including heart health. Robust laughter lowers stress hormones, decreases inflammation in blood vessels and arteries and raises good cholesterol. Laughter is good medicine, indeed! Bring more of it into your life by watching funny movies, reading joke books and spending time with the children in your family. Kids are naturally funny. Watch comedians online or attend a comedy show. Giggle over those cute animal videos on YouTube. And smile, signaling to your body that you are ready for a good laugh.

Heart Health Tips laugh
Heart Health Tips – laugh out loud

Don’t Sit Too Long

A sedentary lifestyle, where one sits for long periods of time, is detrimental to overall wellbeing and especially to heart health. In fact, researchers warn that sitting too much, for too long, shortens life.

Take frequent breaks, if you must sit for hours during the day. Every 60 minutes, get up, stretch and move around for a couple of minutes. Use lunch breaks to eat a healthy lunch and then walk for the time remaining.

So many are working at home currently. It’s just as important to take breaks there as well. Walk to the kitchen and drink a glass of water. Take the dog out for a stroll around the backyard. Play with the kids. Hop on a stationary bike and pedal for 10 minutes. Break up the day with short bursts of activity.

Heart Health Tips sitting
Heart Health Tips – don’t sit too long

Get Your Moves On

To counterbalance sitting for long periods of time and to boost heart health, move the body. After a day of sitting, even with those frequent short breaks, plan a longer time of activity in the evening. Or if you work at home, take longer breaks if possible and get at least 15 minutes of activity in before returning to the computer.

There are so many ways to incorporate more movement into the day, raising heart rate and increasing respiration. Take the stairs rather than an elevator. Park farther from the store and walk. Enjoy nature trails. Turn up the music while doing household chores and ramp up your movements. Play with the kids and really get into their games and activities. Take the dog for a walk through the neighborhood. And dance for your heart. Catch an online Zumba class or get your moves on in the privacy of your own home. Just move…every day.

Heart Health Tips dance
Heart Health Tips – get your moves on

Practice Yoga

Yoga, or stretching, improves flexibility, balance and core strength. It also boosts heart health by reducing stress and anxiety and relaxing the body. If yoga is new to you, find a YouTube channel with an instructor or buy a yoga DVD and mat from Amazon. Yoga is a beautiful way to begin the day and set the intention for greater health and wellness.

Heart Health Tips yoga
Heart Health Tips – practice yoga

Healthy Heart Healthy Life

These tips don’t require a lot of effort or time yet they help to ensure a longer, healthier life. For the month of February, create a plan that incorporates practices that improve heart health and prevent coronary disease. Meal planning makes it easy to include heart healthy foods. And block out time during the day for moving the body.

A positive outlook on health and life is important too. Stress and anxiety are major contributors to heart disease. One of the best ways to be healthier is to make choices that contribute to wellbeing. When we feel better, and see positive results from our choices, we continue to do better. As a result, we more readily take the steps necessary to stay healthy. I hope these tips help you on your journey toward better health…and a better life.

Heart Health Tips fruit

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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

Healthy Fried Apples

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Today I noticed I had several apples that needed to be eaten…soon. I’d already purchased a new bag of red skinned apples. What could I do with these three that appeared a bit past their prime?

I have a wonderful fresh applesauce recipe. However, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and fresh snow on the ground, something warm and fragrant appealed to me more.

I came up with a simple solution…healthy fried apples.

Healthy Fried Apples title meme

An Apple a Day

We know how beneficial apples are. They play a crucial role in fighting inflammation of all kinds, calming the systems of the body by reducing viral and bacterial loads that inflame the body. In addition, the phytochemicals in apples feed the neurons of the brain and increase electrical activity. That makes them brain food!

Red skinned apples are especially beneficial. The pigments that create that rosy color have anti-obesity properties and strengthen the digestive system. They are the best colon cleanser. Pectin from an apple rids the intestinal tract of bacteria, viruses, yeast and mold. It also helps to eliminate debris that clogs pockets in the intestines.

And yet, we often turn to an unhealthy treat when hungry for a snack. Or we drizzle apples with caramel, pop them into pies or turn them into a side loaded with butter and sugar. Think about those restaurant style fried apples. We may think a side of fried apples is a healthier choice, but it isn’t.

This easy recipe does not contain refined sugar or butter. It’s vegan and gluten free. And it makes an excellent side dish, stand alone meal or simple dessert.

Healthy Fried Apples diced
Healthy Fried Apples – diced honeycrisp apples

Recipe for Healthy Fried Apples

Healthy Fried Apples

Healthy Fried Apples

Warm and fragrant healthy fried apples for a side or a simple dessert
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 Servings

Ingredients
  

  • 4 red skinned apples, cored and diced
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Instructions
 

  • In a large non stick skillet, add diced apples and water. Stir over medium heat for 1 minute. Cover and cook apples for 4 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples are softened and water absorbed.
  • Add coconut oil to skillet. Continue to cook and stir apples for 5 minutes.
  • Add maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla, combining with apples to coat. Cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes, until apples are cooked through completely. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings as a side or 2 servings for main course or dessert.
Keyword Fried Apples
Healthy Fried Apples in the pan
Healthy Fried Apples – stirring and cooking with water

Tips for Healthy Fried Apples

Here are a few tips for creating your own apple side.

Add a bit more water, if needed, while cooking. With medium heat I had no problem with apples sticking to the pan.

Check apples every minute while they are cooking, covered. Stir and cover again.

Omit coconut oil, if desired. Add more water instead, as needed. Or add a tablespoon of plant based butter.

Feel free to add a sprinkle of nutmeg along with the cinnamon.

Top healthy fried apples with walnuts or raisins, if serving as dessert.

I enjoyed these wonderful fried apples so much that they became my lunch today. And they truly were perfect for a cold, overcast day. The mouth watering aroma as they cooked warmed me before I even took my first bite!

Plus, as I prepared this dish, another recipe idea came to mind featuring fried apples. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Healthy Fried Apples
Healthy Fried Apples ready to eat.

Learn more about the benefits of apples and other foods in Anthony William’s book below. Click photo to purchase on Amazon.

 

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Vegan Overnight Oatmeal

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For the last four and a half years, my daily breakfast consists of celery juice and a fruit smoothie. At least, most of the time it does. Occasionally, during the colder winter months, I’ll substitute a bowl of hot oatmeal for the smoothie.

I grew up eating stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal, with added milk and sweetener. As one who avoids animals products, sugar and gluten, my oatmeal today is healthier. Gluten free oats, no sugar and no dairy milk. For convenience I typically use packets of organic, gluten free oatmeal.

For several years I’ve wanted to try vegan overnight oatmeal, a breakfast recipe prepared the night before and then popped into the refrigerator until morning. I finally did so, with the awareness that January is National Oatmeal Month. Last night I prepped my first two vegan overnight oatmeal jars and Greg and I enjoyed them for breakfast this morning, after our celery juice.

They are so easy to make.

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal title meme

 

Simple Wholesome Ingredients

After researching overnight oatmeal I discovered the basic recipe consists of two ingredients: oatmeal, in my case gluten free, and a liquid. I used plant based milk.

Oatmeal

Start with half a cup of rolled oats, also considered the “old fashioned” kind of oatmeal. I prefer gluten free oats, due to a gluten sensitivity. If you tolerate regular oatmeal, use that. (Not sure if you are gluten intolerant? Check out these eight symptoms.)

Plant Based Milk

Add two thirds cup of plant based milk of choice. I used unsweetened almond milk. Unsweetened coconut milk or unsweetened almond/coconut milk works too.

The combined milk and oats chilling overnight creates a creamy, ready to eat oatmeal by morning, as the oats absorb the milk.

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal into the fridge
Vegan Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal ready to go into the fridge.

Add Additional Ingredients

After combining the two main ingredients, the fun begins. Add fresh berries, bananas or other fruit, about one fourth to half a cup. Include walnuts or pecans…a couple of tablespoons. Love raisins? Add those. Any kind of fruit, chopped into small pieces works.

If using apples, add a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Need a little sweetening? Skip the processed sugar. Add chopped dates or a spoonful of pure maple syrup.

Chia seeds add protein and help the oats set up. Sugar free nut butters add flavor and protein as well. Play around with the foods that you like and create your own delicious flavor combos. Just start with half a cup of uncooked rolled oats and two thirds cup of plant based milk as the base.

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal prepped
Prepped vegan overnight oatmeal…apple cinnamon and blueberry.
Vegan Overnight Oatmeal Blueberry

Vegan Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal

This quick breakfast comes together in minutes and then sets up in the refrigerator overnight.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 1 Serving

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened plant based milk such as almond
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Instructions
 

  • Combine oats and plant based milk in a container such as a small mason jar or bowl. Stir well.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Cover container with lid or cloth and chill at least four hours in the refrigerator.
  • In the morning, stir oatmeal. Heat, if desired, in microwave for one minute. Or warm in pan on the stove. Or eat oatmeal cold. Add additional fruit for topping, if desired. Makes one serving.
Keyword Overnight Oatmeal, Vegan

 

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal ready to eat
Vegan overnight oatmeal chilled and ready to eat.

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal Tips

For the apple cinnamon oatmeal, I made the recipe the same as the blueberry except that I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon and replaced the blueberries with half a cup of chopped apple. Next time I’ll toss in a tablespoon of chopped walnuts.

These 8 ounce mason jars, with lids, are the perfect containers.

For creamier oatmeal, use a bit more milk. Or slightly reduce the amount of liquid and add two or three tablespoons of plant based yogurt.

Try fun combinations such a banana and peanut butter oatmeal or mixed berries and unsweetened shredded coconut or chocolate and almonds. Use two to three tablespoons of cocoa powder. How about pumpkin oatmeal? Add one third cup of pumpkin puree, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a tablespoon each of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.

Eat the oatmeal cold, straight from the fridge or warm it to take the chill off. You don’t need to cook the oatmeal, just warm it. I placed my blueberry oatmeal in the microwave for 6o seconds.

Delicious Breakfast

I enjoyed the vegan overnight oatmeal this morning for breakfast! It was creamy and delicious with semi-tart pops of blueberry flavor. And vegan style, overnight oats are healthy too and just as filling, I discovered, as the steaming bowls of oatmeal my mother made.

Although I’ll continue to drink a fruit smoothie most mornings, the overnight oatmeal is perfect for a weekend breakfast. I look forward to trying out a variety of flavor combos!

Have you tried overnight oats?

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal Blueberry
Vegan blueberry overnight oatmeal.

Make Vegan Overnight Oatmeal with these finds from Amazon:

 


 

 

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Winter Health Tips

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Winter brings with it cold frosty days, snowfall in some areas and long nights perfect for snuggling under warm blankets. It can also bring its own unique set of health challenges. Enjoy the winter months and feel your best with these winter health tips.

Winter Health Tips title meme

Winter Health Tips

Following these simple winter health tips helps to ensure wellbeing during the year’s coldest months. Being indoors more, colds and viruses, drier air due to heating and cloudy, overcast days all contribute to health challenges. We aren’t at the mercy of the weather or the shorter, colder days however. Taking proactive, preventative steps goes a long way toward experiencing a healthier winter.

Get Enough Exercise

Like many animals, it feels like we want to go into hibernation mode when temperatures drop. We tend to eat more and move less. Exercise is one of the best ways to combat that sluggish feeling and keep energy levels high. Even on colder, snowy days a brief walk outdoors does wonders. Some of my most beautiful walks ever took place as snow fell around me.

When the weather just doesn’t permit walking outside, move exercise indoors. Do aerobics, dance to music, ride a stationery bike, do yoga, stretch. Studies show that just 11 minutes of exercise a day improves health and extends life. Make a game out of getting those 11 minutes of exercise in each day. Use a tracking app or keep a simple notebook detailing your success.

Winter Health Tips exercise
Winter Health Tips – get enough exercise

Beware the Winter Blues

For many people shorter days with less sunshine causes a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. It’s not uncommon during the winter to feel sluggish, however those winter blues can become a depression that lasts for months.

Up to 20% of the population experience varying degrees of SAD. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include weariness, anxiety, depression, craving carbohydrates, irritability, weight gain and avoidance of social situations.

However, help is available. Sunlight decreases the symptoms of SAD. On sunny days try to spend short periods of time outdoors. Vitamin D helps too. And check out this post for foods that ease seasonal affective disorder, naturally. Stay connected to friends and family through texts, phone calls and facetime. If depression worsens seek professional help.

Winter Health Tips sunlight
Winter Health Tips – sunlight to beat the blues

Supplement with Vitamin D

Speaking of vitamin D, try adding a daily supplement to help prevent SAD and to boost the immune system. Vitamin D also supports healthy bones and teeth, improves brain health, aids the nervous system, contributes to lung function and heart health, decreases risk of flu, and regulates insulin levels. Just don’t think more is better with this supplement. Stick to 5000 IU a day for the best results.

Winter Health Tips vitamin e
Winter Health Tips – take a vitamin E supplement daily

Include Colorful Foods

During the winter months, take advantage of colorful, seasonal fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals. Citrus fruits such as oranges, clementines and grapefruits add vitamin C. Winter squashes and sweet potatoes are rich with vitamin A. Check out the produce section of the grocery store at the beginning of your shopping trip and load up on fresh fruits and veggies. See how many colorful foods you can eat in a day. Your body will thank you for it with improved health and increased immunity.

Winter Health Tips seasonal foods
Winter Health Tips – eat colorful foods

Drink Plenty of Water

During the warmer months, we naturally drink more water. It’s easy during the colder months to skimp on water because we don’t feel as thirsty. Try adding citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes or oranges to a pitcher of water and set the intention of emptying the pitcher by the end of the day.

According to Anthony William, author of Life Changing Foods, citrus fruits added to water are ultra-hydrating and electrolyte producing because they are a top source of mineral salts and trace mineral salts. Plus they contribute highly absorbable vitamin C. In addition, lemons provide bioactive calcium. The phytochemicals called limonoids actually bond the vitamin C and calcium together, so where one goes in the body, the other tags along.

Winter Health Tips water
Winter Health Tips – drink enough water

Add Herbal Teas

One of my favorite practices, winter or otherwise, is afternoon tea. Those hot cups of herbal tea are especially soothing on cold winter days. Including a cup…or two…of herbal tea a day helps with hydration and provides a wealth of health benefits.

I often say “there’s an herb for that”. And there truly is. Upset stomach? A cup of hot peppermint tea soothes it. Need to unwind? Try a cup of chamomile. Feel a cold coming on? Drink a cup of nettle tea.

Here is a list of the absolute best herbal teas for cold and flu season. If you don’t think you’ll like hot tea I suggest you try it anyway. If hot tea still isn’t your “cup of tea”, steep the herbs in hot water, chill in the fridge and pour tea over ice.

Winter Health Tip herbal teas
Winter Health Tips – add herbal teas

Pamper the Skin

This time of year, with cold temperatures outdoors and hot dry air circulating indoors, many experience dry winter skin. Limit showers and baths to no more than ten minutes, if skin feels tight, dry or itchy. And use warm water rather than hot. Blot skin dry with a towel then slather on a high quality skin moisturizer. Hydrate the skin by drinking enough water and herbal teas. A cold water humidifier in the home helps to soothe dry skin as well.

Winter Health Tips skin care
Winter Health Tips – pamper the skin

Fight Germs

We all learned the importance of this tip last year. Winter brings with it more cold and flu viruses. Wash hands frequently, using the 20 second rule. Sing “Happy Birthday” while you wash hands with warm water and soap. An alcohol based hand sanitizer works well if soap and water aren’t available. And boost the immune system with sunlight, vitamin D and fresh fruits and vegetables. Add a high quality vitamin C supplement daily and keep elderberry syrup on hand. Take as directed at the first hint of a cold. Herbal teas are wonderful as well for their immune building properties. And of course, while COVID is still a threat this winter, wear a mask and observe social distancing if you must go out, wash hands and use hand sanitizer after excursions. Stay home as much as possible.

Winter Health Tips wash hands
Winter Health Tips – fight germs

Practice Self Care

Winter is a time for intense self care. With colder weather keeping us indoors, we can learn to really focus in on our bodies, emotions and needs. Creating healthy habits is a form of self care. So is moving our bodies. Go to sleep earlier. Nap in the afternoon, preferably in a patch of sunlight streaming in through the window. Reflect. Journal. Write down your thoughts.

Winter is also a time to prepare for the warmer months. Write down goals. Dream big dreams. Make plans. Learn a new language. Read. Enjoy a hobby. Try new things. Cook healthy meals. Get rid of clutter. Whatever brings you joy, do those things.

Winter Health Tips self care
Winter Health Tips – practice intense self care

Have a Cozy and Healthy Winter

I hope these simple tips give you ideas for increasing your health and wellbeing this winter. It’s the coziest time of the year. May you stay warm and well and safe and use these months to create health habits that take you into spring and beyond.

Winter Health Tips

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Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

Vegan Spinach Lasagna

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Prior to becoming plant based, I made a mean lasagna. Loaded with four cheeses, a homemade meat sauce, eggs, and wheat noodles, this lasagna took hours to make. It tasted good to me back then, although now I cringe when I think about what I fed my body.

I haven’t eaten lasagna for more than four years…until this past Christmas Day. One of my 63 birthday activities, the words on this slip of paper read “Create a new dish for Christmas dinner”. I’d already decided to look for a vegan lasagna recipe. I found one, from Simply Quinoa, that I adapted slightly. Check out the original recipe HERE.

I LOVED this easy to prepare vegan spinach lasagna. Read on for the recipe and tips on making this dish for your next special meal or weekend dinner.

Vegan Spinach Lasagna title meme

Vegan Spinach Lasagna Recipe

Simple to make and absolutely delicious, this lasagna features gluten free noodles, fresh spinach, store bought marinara sauce and two vegan cheeses made from almond milk.

Vegan Spinach Lasagna ready to eat

Vegan Spinach Lasagna

Quick and easy vegan spinach lasagna is perfect for a weekend or special meal
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pkg gluten free lasagna noodles
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 15 oz jar marinara sauce (I use sugar free)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan ricotta
  • 1 bag shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pan, add gluten free lasagna noodles to boiling water. Return to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and turn off heat. Let set for 14 minutes. Drain and run cold water over cooked noodles.
  • While noodles cook, wilt spinach. Place spinach in a large pan or skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of water and cook and stir over medium high heat. Spinach will wilt and reduce in volume. Remove from heat.
  • In a 9X13 pan, add a small amount of marinara sauce to bottom of pan. Layer rest of ingredients: lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, shredded cheese, spinach, Italian seasoning, sauce. Continue to layer (I made three layers), ending with marinara sauce and the last of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let lasagna stand for 10 minutes. Cut and serve. Makes 8 large servings.
Keyword Spinach Lasagna, Vegan

Tips for Making Vegan Spinach Lasagna

The Spinach

I’ve made this lasagna twice already. It’s that good. Both times I wilted the spinach, which is very easy to do and takes about a minute. I purchase a large bag of fresh spinach. The last time I prepared the recipe, I divided the spinach into two batches and wilted each separately. It was easier to manage the spinach that way. The spinach really does reduce in size as it wilts. Drain any liquid off before layering.

 

Vegan Spinach Lasagna fresh
Fresh spinach ready to wilt.
Vegan Spinach Lasagna wilted
Wilted spinach for vegan spinach lasagna.

Assembling the Lasagna

Layering the lasagna is the fun part. With the ingredients listed above, I’m able to make three layers. Adding a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the pan keeps the noodles from sticking.

I use gluten free brown rice noodles. My favorite marinara sauce is the Paul Newman brand. It’s sugar free and available at Wal-Mart or health conscious grocery stores. And I purchase both vegan cheeses at Natural Grocers.

Doing the layers, I’ve found one package of gluten free brown rice noodles is perfect. Assemble the ingredients, spreading them out as you layer, and finish with the last of the marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. No need to cover the dish when baking.

Vegan Spinach Lasagna ready to bake
Vegan Spinach Lasagna – ready to bake
Vegan Spinach Lasagna baked
Vegan Spinach Lasagna out of the oven.

The Taste Test

I served this lasagna at a very small family Christmas dinner. We all loved it, even the non-vegans. In fact, I believe I like it better than my old lasagna that I used to make, and that’s saying something!

The vegan cheese is not heavy and yet adds a creaminess to the dish. And I love the added spinach. It adds a wonderful flavor plus it’s so good for me. Best of all, I like that this recipe comes together quickly…prepped, baked and ready to eat in about an hour.

I could easily eat this lasagna every week! Served with steamed or roasted veggies and a big chopped salad, it makes a filling and satisfying meal. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe too!

Vegan Spinach Lasagna ready to eat
Vegan Spinach Lasagna – ready to eat

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Is It a Fruit?

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The last two years I’ve celebrated my January 9th birthday in a unique way. I write activities on slips of paper, place them in a jar and draw one out each day. The number of activities corresponds to the number of years in my upcoming birthday. I’ll turn 63 on my birthday so I placed 63 activities into the jar.

One activity that I drew out led to interesting research. It read: “Only eat fruit for a day”. I’m plant based, since July of 2016, so eating lots of fruits and veggies is common for me. In planning my menu for the day, however, I wondered which foods were really fruits…and which were really vegetables. I knew, for example, that tomatoes, while eaten as a vegetable, are actually fruit. What else is commonly called a vegetable, when in actuality it is a fruit?

I was intrigued by what I found. You might be too.

Is it a fruit? Check out these foods that might surprise you.

Is it a fruit title meme

Food Classifications

What classifies a food as a fruit or vegetable?

A fruit, by definition, is “anything that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds into the world.” Vegetables, on the other hand, “are any edible part of a plant including stems, leaves or roots.”

The difference, then, are the seeds. Cut open an apple and there are the seeds. The flesh of the apple is a container for them. Cut open a potato and there are no seeds.

The following foods are commonly thought of and consumed as vegetables, when botanically, they are fruits.

Tomatoes

Although we all learned as kids that tomatoes are a fruit, that fact has long been debated.

Back in 1893 a case even went before the Supreme Court to determine which the tomato was. A Manhattan food seller argued that he should not pay a vegetable tariff on imported tomatoes, since they were a fruit and not a vegetable. The tariff fees for fruits were much lower. He lost the case when the court ruled that people prepared and ate tomatoes like a vegetable, not a fruit. The court added that tomatoes, like vegetables, are primarily served as part of the dinner’s main course while fruits, generally, are considered dessert.

Verdict: tomatoes are a fruit most often served as a vegetable.

Is It a Fruit tomatoes
Is is a fruit – tomatoes

Pumpkins

If you’ve ever cut into a pumpkin, to cook one or to create a jack-o-lantern, you’ve seen the seeds. Pumpkins, and all gourds, are fruits. Another common characteristic of fruits is that they begin as a flower. The flowers require pollination and then follows growth, development and ripening of the fruit.

Is It a Fruit pumpkins
Is it a fruit – pumpkins

Peppers

Peppers, from the sweet bell pepper to the spicy jalapeno, are produced on a flowering plant and contain seeds. They are fruits.

Is It a Fruit peppers
Are peppers a fruit or vegetable?

Cucumbers

This easily grown plant is a member of the gourd family, like pumpkins. Their vines produce flowers and the cucumber contains seeds. It is a fruit.

Is It a Fruit cucumber
Is it a fruit – cucumber

Zucchini

This summer squash is also a member of the gourd family, making it a fruit as well. Yellow squash falls into the same category as do winter squashes such as butternut and acorn.

Is It a Fruit zucchini
Is zucchini a fruit?

Eggplant

It surprises some to learn that eggplants are actually considered berries! And that places eggplants in the fruit category.

Is It a Fruit eggplant
Is it a fruit – eggplant

Avocado

The avocado, a primary ingredient in guacamole, is a single seeded berry, not a vegetable. And like berries, avocadoes do well in desserts such as chocolate mousse or as a fat replacement in baked goods.

Is It a Fruit avocado
Is  the avocado a fruit or vegetable?

Peas

Technically, peas are not a vegetable and they aren’t the fruit either. The pods the peas form in are the fruits and the peas are the seeds. Categorically, peas are in the fruit family.

Is It a Fruit peas
Is it a fruit – peas

Green Beans

Similar to peas, the green bean is the pod holding the seeds, making them fruit. In this case, we eat the pod and the seeds.

Is It a Fruit green beans
Are green beans a fruit?

Beans

Beans are a member of the legume family, like peas. They are the seeds tucked within pods, making them fruit. Typically we “shuck” the beans out of the pods and eat them that way.

Is It a Fruit beans
Is it a fruit – beans

Okra

Okra pods are also the fruit, with the seeds contained within. However, we eat the whole fruit, pod and seeds. Okra, excellent fried or in stews and gumbos, is a member of the mallow family.

Is It a Fruit okra
Is okra a fruit?

Olives

Olives grow on trees and they are categorized as fruits. Specifically, they are stone fruits like peaches, mangoes and dates.

Is It a Fruit olives
Is it a fruit – olives

Rhubarb

The only instance I could find of a vegetable mistaken for a fruit is the rhubarb plant. This perennial, often baked into pies due to its sweet flavor, is technically a vegetable. This is because only the plant’s stems are edible.

Rhubarb
It’s NOT a fruit – rhubarb

There Are More Fruits Than I Realized

As I researched fruits and vegetables, I discovered there are more fruits than I realized! This proved good news for my “only eat fruit” day. My options expanded beyond apples, bananas and blueberries.

And while I ate plenty of the usual fruits on that day, I brought in fruits disguised as vegetables. For lunch I enjoyed a healthy and delicious orange, avocado, green olive salad with Thai chili pickles…cucumbers.

Are you surprised to learn that some of your favorite vegetables are actually fruits? Which one surprised you the most?

Fruit Salad
Fruit salad

 


 

 

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