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7 Ways to Make your Salad Healthier

A typical restaurant salad is a work of visual art, for sure, but it’s often way too big. By the time you take into account the croutons, cheese and salad dressing, it’s not unheard of for a restaurant salad to reach 1000 calories or more!

Here are some ways to modify that heavy weight and bring a salad down to what it should be – great nutritional fuel for your body.

1. Why not start by dividing the salad in half and taking the other half home? A simple fix to a large portion, not just for salads by the way, and then an opportunity to enjoy it a second time.

2. Asking for the dressing on the side allows you to control the amount you consume. Do you eat the salad for the dressing? More and more people simply skip the dressing; enjoying the flavor of each bite with no cover up.

3. Olive Oil and Vinegars make wonderful dressing and are usually available as an option one can self- serve. Commercial dressings are full of heavily processed oils, sugar, and preservatives, and are best avoided.

4. If you enjoy ranch-type salad dressings, consider using a Greek Yogurt ranch dressing instead of the heavy, oily traditional ranch.

5. Ditch the Croutons – they are no more than empty calories, added carbs, and are often made with those same unhealthy industrial oils.

6. Go for the best salad greens. One of the hidden pleasures of a salad is the anti-oxidant rich dark, green leafies such as kale, spinach, and romaine; nutrient rich, fuller in flavor, and supply more chewing satisfaction. In comparison, Iceberg lettuce is nutrient poor.

7. When salad is your entire meal, adding protein to the mix will give you a sense of being satiated and contented. Hard- boiled egg, water-packed tuna, or a chicken breast are all great options.

8. Sprinkle on some sunflower seeds, about 3 tablespoons of high energy, nutrient dense power food. Rich in Vitamin E, magnesium, B vitamins and fiber, they will add not just crunch to your salad, but also nutritional benefits.

With just a few easy modifications, salads can become a powerful source of healthy energy – while still being delicious!

Six Great Protein Sources

Proteins are essential for survival, energy and well-being. Our human bodies cannot produce all the needed proteins or amino acids to maximize our health, so we need to consume those in our diet.

Proteins build muscle, strengthen bones, and provide essential amino acids vital to metabolism. They keep our bodies healthy and functional, and they also keep us full and satiated for longer than carbs.

Here are six great ways to add more protein to your diet:

1.Greek Yogurt: A fermented, smooth source of Protein which aids the digestive track and boosts metabolism. Packed with live Probiotics, Greek yogurt is an energy efficient fuel for health.

2. Eggs: 7 grams of useable protein in a very low calorie, nutrient dense gem. Scientists now tell us this is a perfectly matched protein – cholesterol balanced. Eggs are disease fighters and essential for eye health, keeping away macular degeneration and blindness.

3. Fish: Deep water, cold, wild fish has 23g of useable protein and is a valuable resource of magnesium, vitamins A, D, E, & K, and Omega 3 fatty acids, for heart health. Fish expands in the mouth when chewed allowing the metabolism to begin working quickly; one feels full and satisfied sooner. Providing excellent brain development and nourishment, fish does come with a caution about mercury toxicity, so limit your portions to three times per week and avoid the most contaminated fish (usually large ones such as swordfish and certain types of tuna).

4. Beef: Pastured beef consumed in moderation is a heavy duty Protein source. It supplies zinc, the full range of Vitamin B’s, including excellent amounts of B12. A serving of pastured lean beef substantially lowers stroke risk and provides an absorbable source of Vitamin D.

5. Chicken: Boneless, skinless, chicken breast is a low fat, versatile choice of Protein. Tasty, free-range chickens are readily available and are easy to prepare in stir fries, curries and soups, boosting the immune system.

6. Soy: Once thought to be a rich source of Protein; highly processed Soy has been linked to thyroid problems and liver disease. Soy is best when in a fermented state such as soy sauce, tempeh or miso and it should be consumed sparingly or as unprocessed edamame beans.

Proteins activate our genetic programing, maintain cell health and maximize our energy. They are also delicious and filling!

7 Superfoods To Start Eating Now

We all know to avoid junk food. That’s easy (well, at least in theory!). To be healthy, stay away from empty-calorie processed food (such as those tempting vending machine selections) and choose real food – wholesome and homemade, with real ingredients that you can actually pronounce.

But what if you could take healthy eating to a whole new level? What if you could use certain foods almost as medicine, to protect yourself, at least to some extent, from serious diseases such as heart disease and cancer?

We used to think of foods in terms of their macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and in terms of vitamins and minerals. But as science keeps evolving, we are discovering that some components of food may actually play an important role in helping our immune system and decreasing the risk of cancer.

Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants, especially brightly colored fruit and vegetables. They protect plants against disease. When we eat these fruit and vegetables, we too receive some protection against disease.

Prebiotics and Probiotics
We now know that our gut health influences our general health and well being, and so foods that support gut health – prebiotics (such as the resistant starch found in cooked and cooled potatoes) and probiotics (found in high-quality yogurt) are also essential to our health.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce tumor development in breast and prostate cancer. We must get omega-3 fatty acids from foods – our body cannot make them.

So, in addition to avoiding junk and choosing whole foods, try to incorporate the following superfoods into your diet:

1. Eat a variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruit, including tomatoes, oranges, broccoli, carrots, spinach and berries.

2. When cooking, use onions and garlic – both contain Allicin, a phytochemical that blocks toxins.

3. Seafood, especially cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are omega-3 enriched eggs and milk.

4. Drink tea (black and green) and red wine – both contain flavanoids, thought to protect against cancer and heart disease.

5. Enjoy high-quality yogurt that contains live and active cultures – the living organisms that convert milk to yogurt during fermentation. These organisms adjust the microflora in our intestines, help digestion and strengthen our immune function.

6. Enjoy potato salad (made with Greek yogurt of course!) and sushi. Potatoes and rice, when cooked and cooled down, develop gut-beneficial resistant starch.

7. When it’s time for dessert, choose dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher)– it contains flavanoids.

As you can see, superfoods are not just healthy – they are also yummy! Berries, dark chocolate, Greek yogurt and seafood – what’s not to like? So next time you’re at the grocery store, be mindful of what you place in your cart, and make sure empty calories are replaced by these nutritional powerhouses.

5 Yummy Ways to Consume Probiotics

Probiotics are small organisms that help maintain the natural balance of organisms in our digestive tract. They have been considered as important immune system builders for centuries, and are used to help with chronic problems such immune system disorders, IBS, bloating & gas, bacteria overgrowth, antibiotic recovery and stress relief.

But you don’t have to wait until a problem manifests itself to start consuming probiotics! Regular consumption of probiotics can naturally boost your immune system and improve your digestion.

Here are some easy and tasty ways to enjoy Probiotics:

1. Greek Yogurt is probably the tastiest way to enjoy probiotics! Creamy and smooth, it is a tongue and taste delight. Even plain, it calms the digestive tract and produces a contented, satisfied feeling. But not all yogurts are created equal, so watch out for yogurts filled with artificial ingredients. Instead, for maximum benefits, pick natural yogurts that state “live and active cultures” on the container.

2. Sauerkraut is an Eastern European cabbage dish of fermented cabbage. It’s easy to make and store (just search online for fermented sauerkraut recipes). Traditionally prepared sauerkraut is crisp and much more flavorful than the limp, tired canned sauerkraut we’re all familiar with! Any other fermented vegetable will work, including fermented pickles – those rely on a long, natural fermentation process rather than on vinegar.

3. Kimchi (pronounces kim-Chee), a Korean side dish of spicy cabbage, which has been fermented with red chili flakes, is a popular way in Korea to enjoy Probiotics. Kimchi is found in nearly every lunch box in Asian schools as it boosts the immune system and keeps kids healthy. You can find kimchi in Asian markets and in health food stores.

4. Miso Soup. Popular in Japan, miso is often used in traditional Japanese medicine and in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Miso is made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley. Add a tablespoon of miso to a cup of hot water to make a quick, probiotic-rich broth.

5. Kombucha is a traditional fermented tea from Asia, said to increase energy and help with the stomach’s natural digestion. It’s been gaining popularity n the west and can be found in many health food stores. Kombucha is fermented and comes as a tangy–fizzy drink, or you can make it in your own kitchen with the purchase of a starter.

To enjoy the full benefits of probiotics, consume them regularly, and allow at least 2 weeks for their effect to become noticeable.

5 Easy Tips for Getting a Bikini Body without Crash Dieting

Spring is in the air, and many of us are worried about wearing lighter clothing, and especially about all-revealing swimwear. There’s still time though – two or three months before it gets really hot. Take advantage of this time and make gradual changes that will not just help you look better, but also become healthier.

1. Do not go on a crash diet. It’s tempting to eat 1,000 calories per day for 2 weeks, but please resist the temptation. You will lose weight on such a diet, but most of it will be water weight and muscle loss. You will lose very little fat if you starve yourself, and the weight will likely go back up as soon as you stop. You won’t just be hungry and cranky – you will actually mess up your metabolism, causing it to screech to a halt, so the next time you try to lose weight, it will be nearly impossible.

2. Don’t go on ANY diet. Crash diets are especially harmful, but any diet is not a good idea. “A diet” is a temporary thing; it’s all about short-time deprivation in return for immediate gratification. But when it comes to weight loss, immediate gratification is usually followed by a rapid weight gain when the diet is over. Instead of “dieting,” work to change your eating habits for life. This will result in slow, gradual weight loss, but that weight loss would be fat, not muscle, and you’ll be far more likely to keep the weight off for good.

3. Eliminate one bad habit every 2 weeks. Just eliminating sugary soda could result in an effortless weight loss of 15 – 60 pounds per year! The same goes for that daily cup of grande latte. Even with reduced fat milk and no added sugar you’re looking at 200 extra calories per day – these do add up.

4. Add one good habit every two weeks. You could start with choosing the stairs over the elevator or escalator. Even if your office is on the 10th floor, you could still take the elevator up to the 7th floor, then climb the rest. Another good idea would be to always park away from the entrance – at the mall, at the office, when running errands. These extra steps you take WILL add up!

5. Eat fewer carbohydrates, and more protein and healthy fats. Carbs are fattening. They cause your insulin, the fat-storage hormone, to spike. They also cause cravings and make you feel hungrier. Protein and fat, on the other hand, are satiating and will not have the same effect on your insulin production and on your blood sugar as carbs. Start gradually, replacing one high-carb meal a day with a protein-rich meal. For example, instead of having a bagel with cream cheese with your tall latte, have a cup of plain Greek yogurt mixed with a handful of berries and a handful of nuts (those will add healthy fats), with some black coffee. You’ll feel satiated for longer, and won’t suffer the typical midmorning slump.

It may seem easier to get that bikini body by crash dieting, but crash diets always backfire. As a long-term strategy, it’s much better to work on gradually changing your habits. Over the course of the next 2-3 months, the scale WILL reward your efforts ; the weight lost will be fat, not water or muscle, and you’ll be far more likely to keep it off.

5 Easy Ways to De-Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month, and that’s a very good thing indeed, because being aware of the constant stress modern life brings and doing something about it is one of the best things we can do to become healthier.

Never Ending Stress is Bad for Us

Modern life is filled with low-grade, unrelenting stress (deadlines to meet, bad traffic, difficult boss or coworkers, juggling work and family), while humans have evolved to cope with brief periods of intense stress (escaping a wild animal). This constant modern stress is very hard on us, and is the cause behind many modern ailments, including high blood pressure, insomnia, migraines and more.

How to Manage Stress

It’s extremely important that we learn to manage stress. It can literally save our lives. Here are five ways to de-stress:

1. Eliminate stressors. This is probably the best way to manage stress. Take a long, hard look at your life and assess what are the things that cause you stress. Then figure out which of those you can eliminate. Good examples are toxic friends, and volunteering for too many activities at your kids’ schools.

A daily commute and a stressful job are harder to eliminate, but if possible, see if you can telecommute once a week, and if your job is causing you a great deal of stress, it might be a good idea to at least interview and see if you can find something better.

2. Breathe Deeply. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress. When your body is under chronic stress, your cortisol levels are constantly high, which makes you susceptible to disease. A short session of slowly, deeply inhaling and exhaling has been shown to lower cortisol levels AND blood pressure.

3. Exercise. Exercise boosts endorphins, helps you forget your troubles (even if just for a short while) and relieves stress. Combine exercise with music, also a proven relaxer, for an even greater impact. One of us here at VOSKOS loves her daily walks – 30 blissful minutes of walking in the sun, listening to music and NOT thinking about work!

4. Go outside. Speaking of the sun, sunlight is a great stress reliever. We’ve been taught to avoid the sun at all costs, but 20 minutes of sun exposure per day are actually very good for us. Sun exposure decreases melatonin, the sleep hormone, and increases serotonin, which promotes feelings of happiness. Think about how good it is to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin – just thinking about it is relaxing!

5. Take a Nap. If you can incorporate a short, 20-minute nap into your early afternoon, go for it. Just like deep breathing, napping reduces cortisol levels. It can provide a very welcome reboot to a stressful day. Just make sure you keep your nap short, so it doesn’t interfere with a good night’s sleep.

There are many more ways to relax, including meditation, massage, and adopting a pet. Find what works for you, and incorporate it into your day.

10 Time-Saving Tips for Healthy Eating

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be time-consuming! If you keep reaching for unhealthy options (fast food, the vending machine, frozen dinners, take out) because you’re just too busy to cook every night, here are a few tips to help you eat better even if you don’t have 2 hours a day to spend on preparing food:

1. Cook in batches. A great way to enjoy home-cooked meals every day is to cook on the weekend, and pre-portion the food into several daily meals. We like to cook a big pot of chili, for example – add lots of veggies and beans and you can easily enjoy it for at least two nights. (When serving, don’t forget a dollop of creamy VOSKOS – it’s just as good as sour cream!)

2. Eat breakfast for dinner. Breakfast for dinner can be a quick, healthy option. For example, 2 eggs with whole-grain toast, and a cup of VOSKOS Greek yogurt with fruit and a handful of nuts make a delicious, filling, healthy dinner.

3. Prepare your snacks in advance. To avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks, it’s a good idea to always have healthy snacks on hand. It only takes 10 minutes to cut some fresh veggies or fruit, pre-portion cheese and pretzels into individual bags, or boil some eggs.

4. Use a slow cooker. Slow cookers are ideal for long workdays! Prep the food the night before. In the morning, just throw everything in the slow cooker and set on low. When you get home at night, the most amazing smell will fill the house, and your dinner will be ready!

5. Transform leftovers. Last night’s dinner can make a tasty lunch today when you turn it into a sandwich, a wrap, or a salad. We try to always double recipes, intentionally creating leftovers for lunches.

6. Make quick stir-fries. When you use leftover chicken and frozen veggies or pre-shredded coleslaw, a stir-fried meal can be ready in 10 minutes, especially if you cook a big pot of brown rice on the weekend and pre-portion it.

7. Eat more shrimp. Shrimp cook in 5 minutes (plus 5 minutes to defrost them if they’re frozen)! Simply saute some vegetables in olive oil until crisp; add the shrimp and spices and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque. Serve over the aforementioned pre-cooked brown rice.

8. Buy healthy “fast food.” Rotisserie chicken is a great example. It’s delicious, affordable, and a huge time-saver. Serve it with steamed veggies for dinner, then turn the leftovers into a chicken salad for lunch the next day.

9. If you do end up using a frozen dinner, add lots of veggies. Veggies steam in 5 minutes in the microwave. Add 2-3 cups of steamed veggies to a frozen dinner to make it not just healthier, but also more filling.

10. Make cleanup a breeze. Cook fish and chicken in foil packets or in parchment paper. You’ll have less mess, and juicier food.

No more excuses! Even if you’re seriously pressed for time, with just a little advance planning, you can save time AND eat healthfully.

5 Daily Habits that Can Add Years to Your Life

Want to live longer? We all do probably, but it’s not just about living longer – it’s mostly about living longer with a high quality of life. Here are five habits to incorporate into your daily life, that could end up helping you not just live longer, but live better. These are not major changes – in fact we deliberately focused here on small, manageable changes – but over the long run, they can translate into calories saves, energy burned, and a longer, healthier life.

1. Replace one junky snack with a healthy one. Sure, we could just say “eat better” or “eat healthy,” but that’s too vague and can get overwhelming. Instead, we suggest making a small change in your daily routine and replacing one not-so-healthy snack (such as a candy bar) with a wholesome, healthy snack such as VOSKOS Greek Yogurt, hard boiled eggs, a cheese stick, a piece of fruit, or fresh-cut veggies.

2. Use the stairs. Ultimately, your goal is to be as active as possible. Our bodies are meant to move throughout the day – our ancestors did not sit at their desk typing on their keyboard all day long, and our bodies are no different than theirs. The more movement you get the better, but let’s start with a small change – use the stairs whenever you get the choice between an elevator or an escalator and stairs. Even if your office is on the 15th floor, take the elevator up to the 11th floor, then take the stairs!

3. Get 10-20 minutes of sunlight per day. We’ve grown so accustomed to hiding from the sun, that we might be overdoing it. Sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D, which protects us from certain cancers. It also supports our immune system and our mood. To get those 10 minutes of unprotected sunlight exposure, you could take a walk during lunch, which would also help you get more exercise! If you absolutely can’t get more sun exposure during the day, talk to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement.

4. Relax. In the context of our stressful modern life, the word “relax” sounds like a dream. But knowing how to relax is extremely important. Stress can wreak havoc on almost every system in your body, so knowing how to relax can literally prolong your life. You don’t need to spend hours in a relaxed state to get the benefit of relaxation – a couple daily sessions of deep breathing, or even a quick afternoon catnap, can do the trick.

5. Connect with family and friends. By “connect,” we mean in person. The Internet and social media are great, but human psyche is still the same as it was 1,000 and even 10,000 years ago, which means we still crave face-to-face contact and gentle touch. A family dinner can achieve this, as well as hugging a lot and taking the time to talk with your partner. If you live alone, make regular plans to meet with friends, and consider adopting a pet – pets, especially dogs, truly are a person’s best friends.

These small changes to your daily habits can add years to your life. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the things you know you should change to become healthier! Start small, and hey, if even the above list seems like too much, make just one change – it can still make a very real difference.