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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.

Did You Know? Chocolate is Good for You!

This is one piece of advice that we’re happy to give: chocolate is good for you! Not all chocolate, and moderation is key, but dark, 70 percent cacao or higher chocolate (as well as unsweetened cocoa), has been shown in study after study to be healthy.

Chocolate is Good for Your Heart

Since February is heart health month, it’s worth noting that daily chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in some high-risk patients, according to a 2012 study in the journal BMJ.

Cocoa also has outstanding vascular health and cancer fighting properties, due to the phytochemicals used in the chocolate production process, according to resent findings. These chemicals may improve blood circulatory function such as blood vessel health, slow blood clotting and improve insulin resistance.

The secret behind chocolate’s powerful health benefits is cacao, which is packed with flavonoids and theobromine. But cacao on its own is bitter and chalky, so milk and sugar are typically added to maked it more palatable. When recommending chocolate, we’re not talking about processed, junky candy bars, or even milk chocolate. We’re talking about the pure stuff – as pure as possible (some 90% bars are excellent), and no chocolate binges please! An ounce a day is perfect.

Why Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

Our love for chocolate goes back much further than Valentine’s Day treats. The Aztec’s referred to chocolate as “the food of the gods”. As a Valentine’s Day tie-in, the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, believed chocolate was an aphrodisiac. Christopher Columbus enjoyed this ancient American When chocolate first made it to Europe, it was a luxury product only enjoyed by the wealthy aristocrats. Later on, production efficiencies made it more affordable for the rest of the population by companies like Cadbury in England and Hershey in the U.S. The heart-shaped box of chocolates was an idea Richard Cadbury introduced in 1861. Now it’s a delicious Valentine’s Day favorite!

Chocolaty Recipes

If you’re looking for a recipe to make for Valentine’s Day, look no further – we have a wonderful chocolate cake recipe for you: a rich, moist chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry, made with unsweetened cocoa and raspberry Greek yogurt. Decadent AND healthy – just the way we like it. Happy Valentine’s Day!

5 Superfoods for a Heart-Healthy Diet

February is Heart Health Month and a great time to refocus on one of the most important things we can do for ourselves – keeping our hearts as healthy as possible. Fortunately, when it comes to heart health, diet plays a major role, which is indeed good news, because it means that we actually have control over our heart’s health.

What is a Heart-Healthy Diet?

Generally, a heart-healthy diet is a diet that helps you lose weight, and lower your “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Regardless of specific foods, try to always choose whole, natural foods and avoid processed foods as much as you can. Processed foods often contain trans fats, which are extremely damaging to the heart; they also often contain cheap, potentially rancid vegetable oils, too much sugar, too much salt, and preservatives. None of that is good news for your heart, and being so palatable, these foods are also more likely to cause you to overeat. Our advice? Don’t keep them in the house, and you won’t be tempted.

Heart-Healthy Foods

Here are five superfoods that are especially potent when it comes to protecting your heart:

1. Wild-caught cold water fish. Whether it’s salmon, herring or sardines, cold-water fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of abnormal heartbeats, decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of plaque, and lower blood pressure.

Remember that due to mercury content found in fish, they should be eaten in moderation.

2. Dairy. For years, we’ve been told that saturated fats are unhealthy. But newer research shows that dairy fat can reduce the risk of heart attack. Dairy foods, such as Greek yogurt (LINK to Voskos homepage) contain a number of potentially beneficial substances, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, noted the researchers. They have also been shown to increase people’s levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

3. Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts. These contain plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, magnesium and folate. A handful is all it takes – nuts are very calorie-dense, but a small amount will keep you satiated for a long time, thanks to their healthy fat content.

4. Red wine. We’ve all heard about the French Paradox, and it seems to be at least partly explained by the French high consumption of red wine.  Red wine contains flavonoids, which can improve “good” HDL cholesterol. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it with wine – a 5oz glass with dinner each night is just right.

5. Berries, especially blueberries. Berries are loaded with potent antioxidants, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber. How wonderful it is that these tasty little treats are also so very heart healthy!

The list above highlights just a few of the heart-healthy foods that we should all incorporate into our diets. There are many more (fresh vegetables, for example!), but the above list, and staying away from junk foods, is a good place to start.



5 Easy and Filling Snack Ideas that Won’t Break The Diet

We’ve all been there – the midmorning slump that sends us straight to the vending machine, or that annoying afternoon exhaustion that can only be relieved, it seems, with a Grande Latte and a Snickers Bar.

Snacking is fine – in fact, many nutritionists say that five or six small meals a day are better for most of us than the traditional three square meals. Eating smaller meals more often should help you avoid the food coma typical to large meals, is easier on the digestive system, and helps provide you with steady levels of energy throughout the day. That is, as long as your snacks are sensible!

High Protein/High Fiber Snacks are the Best!
The best snacks are around 200 calories – not so small that they won’t satisfy, and not so large that they’ll cause you to break your diet; and they combine a protein and a healthy fat, to help you stay fuller for longer. The worst snacks, obviously, are sugary, empty-calorie-type snacks. Those will provide energy in the short term, but they tend to be high in calories and will send your blood sugar into a nasty roller coaster.

So ditch that Snickers Bar (it’s a yummy occasional treat but not a great everyday snack) and let’s look at a few ideas for snacks that are healthy, filling, and won’t break your diet.

1. An ounce of cubed sharp cheddar and a medium apple. This filling snack provides you with about 180 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat (6g saturated). Bonus: you’ll also get 20% of your daily calcium needs.

2. A cup of plain nonfat VOSKOS® Greek yogurt, mixed with a tablespoon of softened creamy peanut butter. This 190-calorie snack contains 22 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium requirement.

3. A hardboiled egg, 10 large baby carrots and 1/4 cup dip made with VOSKOS nonfat plain Greek yogurt. This healthy snack contains 160 filling calories and provides you with 12 grams of protein and 450% of your vitamin A requirements.

4. Apple slices are extra yummy when dipped into vanilla or honey flavored VOSKOS® and sprinkled with cinnamon. This 211-calorie snack contains 16 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium needs.

5. Ants on a log aren’t just for kids! Spread a tablespoon of almond butter on 1/2 cup of celery strips, and dot the almond butter with 2 tablespoons of raisins. This 150-calorie snack will keep you satiated, thanks to the combination of healthy fat from the almond butter and fiber from the celery.

The best way to make sure your snacks are healthy and nutritious is to plan ahead. Don’t wait until the next snack attack! Fill your fridge with pre-portioned healthy snacks and stay full without breaking your diet or succumbing to the vending machine.

Kick-Start Your Diet With Protein In The Morning

You know that “healthy” breakfast that leaves you RAVENOUS by 10:30am? Yes, we’re talking about that yummy cereal. Even the whole-grain one converts into sugar almost immediately in your body, as do the granola bar and the breakfast cookies.

These high-carb breakfasts are delicious, but they do not fill you up. Like anything high in carbohydrates, they cause fluctuations in blood sugar that can leave you exhausted and hungry mid-morning, hours before lunch.

Choose a Healthy Breakfast Over a Sugary Breakfast
Too many of us deal with these blood sugar lows by reaching for yet more sugar – grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine (worst case scenario), or even having a piece of fruit – a much better option, but fruit are still high in sugar, which means more of that sugar roller coaster going on in your body.

If you’re tired of the sugar roller coaster and the endless cravings, and would like to try something new, we have one word for you: protein. A breakfast high in protein will not just keep you fuller for longer and help you avoid dips in blood sugar levels – it can also help kick start your weight loss, because while a high-carb meal raises your insulin levels, and insulin is a fat storage hormone, a high-protein meal won’t have the same insulin-raising effect.

High-Protein Breakfast Ideas
So what can you have for breakfast that’s high in protein and yummy? A cup of thick, creamy Greek yogurt is ideal – even better if you add a handful of nuts, because the combination of the protein in the yogurt and the healthy fat found in nuts is extra satiating.

Eggs are another great option for a protein-rich breakfast. These baked egg and bacon muffins can be prepared in advance and quickly reheated in the microwave, providing you with 16 grams of yummy protein per muffin.

If you find it difficult to give up classic breakfast foods, try high-protein versions of them. For example, two of these Greek yogurt banana pancakes will provide you with 10 grams of protein and just 200 calories.

Replacing the typical high-carb breakfast with a more substantial and filling protein-rich breakfast will leave you satiated, curb cravings, and will likely eliminate the need for a midmorning snack. If you do feel that you need something to tide you over until lunchtime, have more protein – a cup of yogurt, a hardboiled egg or an ounce of cheddar. It’s fine to add a piece of fruit too, but be sure to mitigate the effects of the fructose by adding protein to each of your meals and snacks.

Holiday Traditions from Our Voskos® Friends

Every year, we visit all of our family members between New Year’s and January 6th, which is Christmas on the Orthodox calendar, as part of our family’s holiday tradition. While the elderly stay home awaiting visits, younger family members are out and about, paying visits, bearing gifts. It’s a great way to make sure no one feels lonely during the holidays.

When we asked our Facebook fans to share their own family holiday traditions, we were deeply moved by the responses. Our wonderful fans shared stories of having fun together, savoring old recipes, exchanging meaningful gifts, helping the needy, and – above all – spending time together with family, which is really what the holidays are all about.

Here are some of their beautiful stories:

Special Christmas Eve Gift Surprise
“We have a gift under the tree for my son, specifically to open on Christmas Eve night. It contains a movie, hot cocoa mix, some snacks, a pair of new Christmas pajamas, and A little package of reindeer food (bird seed) to sprinkle before we go to sleep. After dinner we spend the night as a family until our eyes get heavy waiting for Santa.”
–Shawna M.

Christmas Performances for the Family
“Every year we have a Christmas Eve Party at my Grandma’s house and we practice a play and perform it. My grandma has a sunken-in living room, and the stairs that lead to the main floor make a prefect stage. We also sing Christmas solos and my uncle gives a presentation on a projection screen. The food is great! It is also the perfect opportunity to exchange all our gifts for the next day.”
–Heather G.

Gathering Generations for Christmas
“My entire Family gathers here, we are now four generations ages five to seventy-nine. This year, we are so fortunate to once again be around little ones as they discover Santa’s gifts. The house will be filled will laughter, love, Christmas Spirit and pure joy.”
–Kimberly S.

Spending Christmas Visiting Our Family
“Our holiday tradition is to spend it together. We do Christmas Eve with my husband’s family, then we open up presents on Christmas morning at our house, lastly we head to my in-laws for breakfast and presents. Then on to my mom and dad’s house for Christmas day. I love having a big family! Pure chaos but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We host New Year’s Eve for friends and the kids and always leave the tree up for Orthodox Christmas. We will be remembering my mother-in-law this year as well.”
–Serena S.

Treats for Santa’s Reindeer and A Christmas Story
“On Christmas Eve we make “reindeer food” and sprinkle it on the lawn. Then we sit down and watch the first running of the 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS. While the movie is on, we allow the kids to open one gift each.”
–Shari M.

Find the Christmas Pickle!
“We have a pickle ornament that doesn’t get put on the tree until Christmas Eve. The first child who finds the ornament on Christmas morning gets a special present. My mother said it was a German holiday tradition.”
–Cloi R.

A Christmas Story and Yummy Christmas Casserole
“We always watch The Christmas Story while decorating the tree, make a breakfast casserole for Christmas morning, and not sure if it is tradition or coincidence, but we pass out under the tree in the morning because we wake up so early (5:30am)!”
–Claire S.

Magic Christmas Lights!
“My kids use their Christmas “magic” by saying Christmas things to turn our Christmas lights on every night (which is done by a remote control switch) and they have to say something extra special for the lights to turn on, which is nice because some nights they fight over who will have the most magic, and other nights the Christmas magic happens and they allow each other a first turn.”
–Davis P.

Starting Our Own Traditions
“We moved away from our families four years ago and our baby will turn one three days after Christmas, so we are still figuring out what family traditions we want to start with her. One of my own personal traditions is to always hang a stocking ornament with the name “Major” on it nearest the star at the top because Major was the dog I spent my first ten years of life with, and I will always miss and love him.”
–Renee R.

Fun Fondue Christmas Dinner
“We’ve replaced the traditional Christmas dinner with fondue. It’s a great way to get the family together around the table, eating and laughing. We mix it up with hot oil for meats and vegetables, then a dessert fondue follows.”
–Rhonda E.

Working on Puzzles as a Family and Other Traditions
puzzle-traditionWe have unique New Year’s Eve traditions that came from my house growing up and we now do with our family. Important components are: build a puzzle together as a group, eat pot pies, (English) crackers to pop and share jokes, wear hats, watch movies, and spend the time together as a family rather than out at parties. Here’s a picture of me working on the puzzle last year!
–Anne L.

Volunteering on Christmas
“We volunteer at the soup kitchen. Makes a very different Christmas experience.”
–Hanna O.

Holiday Goodies
“Every year I invite family over to enjoy homemade posole and tamales for dinner, and send them off with fresh baked goodie trays of homemade biscochitos, fudge and banana bread mini loaves!”
–Cipriana S.

Keeping Christmas Going
“We try to make the holiday season last as long as possible. On Christmas day, we choose one present to “save” until New Years Eve. Exactly at midnight we all open our gifts. I’ve been doing this since I was little and it’s a fun way to keep the holiday cheer going.”
–Dayna K.

South American Holiday Traditions
“We make tamales, which are originally from Venezuela – it’s a South American holiday tradition and we love to prepare them together as a family. They are delicious!”
–Anthony Y.

Calling Family on Christmas
“My family is all over the wor
ld – Germany, England, Australia, Costa Rica… the list goes on. I call all of them to wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I prefer calling rather than sending a card because I love hearing their voices and news.”
–Violet D.

Our Christmas Parranda
“Every year my dad plays his congas to Spanish music. In Puerto Rico that was a tradition that was done with all of our families, neighbors and friends (called a Parranda) as they would come from house to house with songs. We now do it smaller, but still do it.”
–Jamie K.

Focusing on Giving During Christmas
“Instead of buying a lot of gifts, we purchase items through Samaritan’s purse gift catalog and give livestock, food and medicines to those in need, and give in honor of our family members.”
–Katie B.

Teaching the Children
“To help my children (when they were younger) grasp the concept of not being ‘greedy’ about gifts, we had them prepare a ‘wish list’ from which we chose to purchase 3 gifts. We taught them that Jesus was given 3 gifts from the Magi–they never argued. They also received a stocking full of treats and small items.”
–Susan J.

Christmas Coffee Cake with a Surprise!
“Every year, my sister bakes THE best coffee cake for Christmas Day breakfast. The person who finishes a slice with a number 1 on the bottom of their plate, is the first to get to open a present!”
–Jo R.

Celebrating Different Cultural Holiday Traditions
“Living in multicultural Los Angeles, I celebrate Christmas the night of Dec 24th with my Catholic friends, and my wife’s family the night of Jan 5th. Two rounds of gifts for me – and 2 rounds of gift giving of course!”
–William C.

Orthodox Christmas Traditions
“I’m Armenian, so I celebrate Orthodox Christmas, with a special dinner the night of the 5th – salty smoked fish and spinach/parsley/cilantro quiche with rice. Yum!”
–Artemis D.

Traditional Kieflies Cookies
“For my husband, Christmas is about eating kieflies. They are a very labor and time-intensive cookie, and when his grandmother got too old to make them, we took over. For the past ten years or so we set aside one weekend in December to make them and give as gifts to the rest of the family.”
–Lisa F.

Favorite Movie and Caroling
“I like to watch the film ‘Love Actually’ and spend time with my Rotary club friends. The holidays are a great time to serve others too – we like to go caroling at the local retirement home. The residents are so amazing and it is so fun to sing!”
–Jack R.

Remembering Simpler Christmases
“When we first got married, money was really tight. All of our gifts were homemade and a few things from the $1 store. 20+ years later and we still make at least one homemade gift and we still buy each other a gift from the dollar store. :)”
–Lori C.

Christmas Dinner with the Local Officers
“Every year we have a Christmas Party for our children on December 23rd. My stepdaughter is married to a police officer. Every year we invite all officers on duty to stop by on their dinner break and have dinner with us. It is something they look forward to every year.”
–Kaye N.

Giving to Another Family During the Holidays
“Our holiday tradition is to adopt a needy family each year and make their Christmas special. Giving is the best feeling ever!”
–Susan Q.

Neighborhood Sidewalk Luminaries
holiday decorationsOur holiday tradition is to set up luminaries along the curbs and sidewalks in the neighborhood. It looks beautiful, and neighbors gather on Christmas Eve to light the candles and mingle.
–Danny W.

Do you have a unique family holiday tradition? Please share it in the comments.

3 Favorite Healthy Holiday Dessert Recipes

It can be so easy to splurge during the holidays, especially when it comes to desserts! You can save on precious holiday calories by preparing healthier versions of your favorite holiday sweets with VOSKOS® Greek Yogurt. Did you know that most of the VOSKOS® Greek Yogurt products are fat free? This makes it a delicious, and health-conscious addition to your favorite recipes. Check out our 3 favorite healthier holiday dessert recipes this season. You’ll be able to enjoy yourself without that extra guilt that comes after the holidays.

Greek Yogurt Vanilla Cupcakes – Bring these delicious cupcakes to family gatherings or your office potluck and you will be very popular! These tasty cupcakes are made with whole-wheat flour and VOSKOS® Vanilla Greek Yogurt. They offer plenty of sweet, delectable flavor and have only 5.6 g of fat per cupcake thanks in part to the fat free yogurt. Decorate with red and green sprinkles, and your holiday dessert creation is done!

VOSKOS® Pumpkin Cheesecake – Let’s face it, anything pumpkin-flavored during the holidays is always a huge hit and our recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake does not disappoint. All you need is a pre-made pie crust (or you can even use individual molds), nonfat cream cheese, VOSKOS® Plain Greek Yogurt and canned pumpkin pie filling. This cheesecake is incredibly easy to make and weighs in at only 152 calories per serving.

Honey-Pumpkin French Toast – If you are planning a Christmas brunch or traditionally make a special Christmas breakfast, then this Honey-Pumpkin French Toast is the perfect thing. This recipe is so rich in flavor and wonderfully sweet it’s like dessert for breakfast–without the hefty calories. It’s also very simple to make, all you need is a ½ cup of nonfat VOSKOS® Honey Greek Yogurt, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons honey and pumpkin pie spice—that’s it! All you have to do is mix the ingredients and make as you would regular French toast. Rich honey and spiced pumpkin make the perfect holiday flavor pair.

With these desserts, you don’t have to miss out on all of the holiday food and fun—we’ve taken the hard work out of eating healthy. Your family and friends will love the sweet-tasting decadence of these healthier holiday versions, and so will you. Happy holidays from our kitchen to yours!