Category Archives: Healthy Living

Greek Yogurt by Voskos is a very healthy addition to your daily diet because of its natural source of protein and probiotics. Learn more about how to incorporate Voskos Greek Yogurt into a healthy lifestyle.

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.

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.

How to Keep Holiday Meals on a Budget

We all love the holidays – spending time with family and friends over good food is one of life’s pleasures, no doubt – but when you are the host, expenses can add up. Here are a few tried and tested tips from our staff and from VOSKOS® Facebook fans for keeping holiday meal expenses in check:

1. Buy in bulk. Warehouse shopping is not for everyone, but around the holidays, it makes more sense than at any other time during the year. If you buy perishables in bulk, divide them into portions and freeze what you won’t be using immediately.

2. Buy on sale and use coupons. If you’re vigilant, you could end up with products that are almost free, when you combine sales with coupons. Start clipping coupons a couple of weeks before your shopping trip and watch out for sales.

3. Stretch the meal with sides. Veggies and grains are delicious, and generally cost less than meat. By all means roast that turkey, but accompany it with a variety of sides (most can be made in advance and reheated), such as green bean casserole, quinoa pilaf, herbed mashed sweet potatoes and arugula and green bean salad.

4. Ask for help. Thanks to VOSKOS® Facebook fan Mirrissa Purnell for this tip! Mirrissa says, “Everybody brings a dish” – indeed, family and friends will be happy to each bring a dish, so assign a few sides and desserts to guests and focus on the turkey and on just a few sides. This will not just help with the cost of the meal, it will also help reduce your stress, and guests will feel better knowing they took part of the shared meal.

5. Don’t go overboard. A dear friend of mine is a wonderful hostess. She always prepares way too much food (and it’s all delicious!), then at the very last minute she panics, thinking there isn’t enough, and makes a big pot of rice. :) Unless you intentionally want leftovers, resist the temptation to prepare too much food – everyone today is diet-conscious and no one wants to stuff themselves silly anyway.

Remember: the point of holiday meals is spending time with family and friends – not gorging on lots of expensive food.

What Does The Thanksgiving Meal Mean To You?

Today, we asked our Facebook fans to share with us what’s their favorite Thanksgiving dish, and why. The results were so emotional, so moving, that we just had to share them here. They beautifully highlight the fact that Thanksgiving recipes are not just about nourishment, but about loved ones and cherished family memories. Here are some of the best responses we received:

  • Green bean casserole is my favorite. It is just so warm and comforting. It is my must have dish with the winter holidays. – Amber Campbell
  • Homemade Au Gratin potatoes w/ Leeks! It reminds my of my Grandmother. – Meg Tucker
  • My favorite Thanksgiving dish is this wonderful cranberry coffee cake my mom makes. We used to dump a can of congealed cranberry on a plate because cranberries at Thanksgiving was just a tradition and nobody wanted to knock a slice off the old can shaped cranberries, so when I said why don’t we just forgo the tradition of serving and not eating the cranberries this year she decided to kick it up a notch and make something yummy with them instead. They definitely get eaten now! – Angelique Drummond
  • My Mom’s Broccoli Casserole! She has made it every holiday for as long as I can remember & it’s just a comforting food to me! – Angie Newsome
  • The stuffing has always been my favorite….it’s an old family recipe that I’ve never had stuffed in anyone else’s turkey…it’s made with cracker crumbs instead of bread crumbs or cornmeal…..i just love it! it always brings me back to my childhood. – Louise Baloun
  • Lemon meringue pie is my favorite. not made much the rest of the year, it was my grandpa’s favorite. – Lydia Banther
  • The turkey because my husband cooks it perfectly, nice and moist! – Katie Bourret
  • My Mothers stuffing! It’s just a bread stuffing nothing fancy but the tastes brings me back to my childhood Thanksgivings being around the table as a child when my Dad and my oldest sister were still with us. – Donna Armeli
  • Oyster dressing…my Grandmother makes it with love and only on Thanksgiving! – Michele Cupp
  • My great grandmas yeast rolls. They are so good and a family tradition. She passed 8 1/2 years ago and we still make them. – Amy Klinebough
  • Sweet potatoes – Mom makes them like nobody else. They’re just locally grown sweet potatoes, butter, a little salt, and brown sugar. Very simple, & so delicious. Then she tops them with a mix of nuts and yummy stuff that makes this amazing crispy crust on the top. They are, by far, the most delicious part of thanksgiving dinner. – Michele Malone
  • Sweet potato casserole. One of my favorite dishes my mom makes — it always makes me miss home.. but it’s great to be back and brings back so many memories. – Rachael Garfinkle
  • My favorite Thanksgiving dish is my grandmother’s homemade chicken and noodles. She makes the noodles by hand and they are SO much tastier than store-bought noodles! They are very simple to make too- beat 4 eggs together with 2 T water. In a separate large bowl, mix 3 c. flour, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t baking powder. Stir in the eggs and mix until a soft dough forms. Roll out the dough into a very thin layer on a floured surface. Cut into strips and let them dry before cooking. My grandma has been bringing this dish to Thanksgiving dinner ever since I was a young child… yum! – Stacey Amstutz
  • Stuffing, because it is something that my Mom made and I would always help her make it when I was a child. I still follow her recipe, and it has turned into my family’s favorite dish. – Tina Brown
  • Stuffing, because it is a family recipe that has been handed down through generations. It’s delicious! – Dayna Kidle

What’s YOUR favorite Thanksgiving dish and what memories does it bring back? We’d love to know.

5 Reasons Dairy is Good for You

Despite recent trends to avoid dairy (such as the Paleo diet), there are several good reasons for people who are not lactose intolerant or sensitive to casein (the protein in milk) to keep enjoying dairy products. Dairy products have been shown in many studies to have major health benefits, including:

Strong bones. Osteoporosis, or the loss of bone mass, has become a major health problem in recent years. Studies show that calcium is crucial for building strong bones in childhood and adolescence and to maintain bone health in adulthood. Milk, yogurt and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, so make sure you consume two to three servings of dairy each day. A serving of dairy can be a glass of milk, a cup of yogurt or 1.5oz hard cheese (such as cheddar).

Heart health. For years, we’ve been told that saturated fats are unhealthy. But newer research actually shows that dairy fat can reduce the risk of heart attack. Dairy foods 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.

Blood pressure. Another interesting study found that the regular consumption of low-fat dairy can lower blood pressure. It appears that this benefit is independent of the calcium found in dairy. Instead, the researchers say potassium and magnesium found in dairy products may be partly responsible for their study results.

Diabetes. Diabetes has become an epidemic in recent years. That’s why we were excited to learn that a natural substance found in dairy products appears to protect against diabetes. Trans-palmitoleic acid is present in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter but cannot be made by the body. The study found that higher levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were linked with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. People with the highest levels cut their risk by 60 percent!

Colon cancer. Other studies have shown that dairy products may help protect against colon cancer. Again, it seems that the benefit is not just because of the calcium found in dairy, so simply taking a calcium supplement won’t necessarily have the same benefits, and could actually be a problem.

Even if you’re lactose intolerant, and cannot consume milk, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to tolerate fermented dairy products such as Greek yogurt and aged cheese. As always, it’s best to enjoy the many benefits of dairy by consuming natural foods rather than trying to supplement, as artificial supplements often have undesirable side effects.

Lose Weight with Protein

If you’ve been following the old USDA food pyramid, trying to lose weight with no success, the problem could be too many carbs, and not enough protein and healthy fats. A diet high in carbohydrates encourages fat storage, while a diet low in carbs, moderate in protein and high in good fats encourages fat burning and helps you avoid constant hunger and annoying dips in blood sugar, both typical to high-carb diets.

One of the best things about a low-carb, higher-protein-and-fat diet is that it’s really satiating. You won’t be as hungry as you are on a high-carb diet, and so you’ll likely eat less without feeling deprived. There’s no need to count calories or grams of anything – just base your diet on the healthy protein sources listed below, add lots of veggies and healthy fats, and you’ll watch the pounds melt away.
Of course, this is not without sacrifice – you do need to mostly cut out sugar, and limit complex carbs as well (ideally, to no more than 4 slices of bread per day, or a small bowl of pasta). But chances are, you’ll feel so good (especially after the first couple of weeks), it will be worth it.

Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, and to a lesser extent beans and nuts. A diet low in carbohydrates and high in these protein sources, in addition to lots of vegetables and healthy fats (such as olive oil), will make it easy to lose weight and maintain the loss.

Can you still eat out? Of course you can. Go to your favorite restaurant, but instead of ordering a huge plate of pasta, order a grilled salmon with veggies sautéed in olive oil. When you order steak, typically served with a side of baked potato and a veggie, ask the waiter to hold the potato and double the veggies.

When you eat a high-protein diet, you won’t need to snack as often, but when you do feel the need to snack between meals, grab a handful of dry-roasted nuts, a hard boiled egg or a cup of creamy Greek yogurt instead of pretzels or potato chips. Protein snacks, especially when coupled with fat, are very satiating.

Many people think that giving up sugar and limiting carbs will be difficult, but quite often they discover that once they do, they actually feel free – free from constant hunger, free from cravings, and free from having to constantly snack. That freedom, coupled with being able to lose weight without feeling hungry, makes the “sacrifice” of limiting carbs more than worth it.

7 Tips for Eating Out without Breaking the Calorie Budget

Eating out used to be a special treat for most American families, but now, with busier-than-ever lives, we tend to eat out often. Since restaurants are notorious for their huge portions, and chefs liberally use butter, salt and sugar in their dishes to make them taste good, we need to be very careful when we eat out – anything other than a once-in-a-while splurge will cause weight gain. Here are a few tips for dining out while staying healthy:

1. Cut portions in half. Immediately upon receiving your meal, ask for a to-go bag and place exactly half in the bag. Restaurant portion sizes are so big these days, most entrees can be split into two and each half would still be fairly high in calories.

2. Skip the soda. In fact, if you completely cut soda out of your life, you would probably lose weight without making any other change to your diet and exercise habits. When dining out, the last thing you need is the added sugar and calories in soda. Diet sodas are not much better – they contain harmful ingredients and some research shows they too contribute to weight gain. Try to get used to drinking water. Sparkling water with a wedge of lime are very good.

3. Ask for the dressing on the side. Of course your salad will taste better with some dressing, but you don’t really need the 1/3 cup they’ll pour on it back in the kitchen. Ask for the dressing on the side, and use 2 tablespoons rather than the whole thing.

4. Consider replacing the starch with a veggie. Many meat dishes are served with a starch and a veggie. I often ask the server to hold the starch and double the veggies instead. The vast majority if restaurants are happy to oblige, though some charge a little extra.

5. Say no to supersizing. Whether at a fast food restaurant or at the movie theater (where they often try to entice you to get a larger popcorn), never agree to supersize. You absolutely do not need the extra calories.

6. Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol is very calorie-dense, and it can also cause you to let your guard down and consume more than you had intended. One glass of red wine with your dinner is fine for most an might even offer some health benefits. More than that is asking for trouble.

7. Split dessert. At the end of your meal, you’re probably very full. You don’t really need dessert, especially not the typical 800-plus-calories restaurant dessert. So share a dessert with at least one more person, or – better yet – ask for a bowl of berries for dessert.

Going Low Carb? Do it the Right Way

It seems like more and more of my friends are getting on the low-carb bandwagon. Hot trends such as the Paleo and Primal eating movements have refocused many of us on the benefits of cutting out junk food and limiting our processed carb intake. If you’re curious to see if lowering your carbohydrate intake could help you lose weight or better manage your blood sugar, here are a few things to consider:

1. Go gradually. If you’re used to the standard American diet, which often includes 300 daily grams of carbs or more, a drastic reduction could be very hard on your body. Some low-carb diets ask that you start with an extremely-low-carb period. This might work for some, but for many, it makes more sense to reduce carbs gradually.

2. Low carb is not just about steaks. Obviously, when you eat fewer carbs, you’ll need to eat more protein and fat. But protein is not just steaks – it can include poultry, seafood, cheeses and yogurt. When you add fats, try to add olive oil – the most heart-healthy fat we know of. Other healthy fats come from avocados, nuts, coconuts, and dairy.

3. Don’t forget fruit and vegetables. Old versions of some low-carb diets neglected the importance of vegetables and fruit, but newer versions of the same diets have rethought this stance. Mom was right: for optimal health, you do need to eat your vegetables (and fruit in moderation). The more we learn about the amazing chemicals that vegetables contain, the more science supports what Mom says.

4. Fat is not the enemy. We’ve been indoctrinated into viewing dietary fat as bad, but current thinking is that this was a mistake. Not all fat is bad. We need dietary fat, and some fats are in fact very good for us – see the list in section 2 above.

5. You need fiber. Low-carb diets need not lead to constipation. Even if you minimize grains, you can – and should – still gets plenty of fiber from vegetables and fruit. Eat plenty of varied vegetables – as many as you can in fact, and 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Vegetables are delicious when sautéed with garlic and olive oil, and a snack of full-fat plain Voskos Greek yogurt topped with berries will provide you with protein, good fat, fiber and antioxidants.

6. Don’t forget exercise. You don’t need a lot – but 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 4-5 times per week will help with weight loss, weight maintenance and just feeling better overall.

If you decide to go ahead and give low-carb dieting a try, be patient. It could take several weeks, even months, for your body to fully adjust, and you will probably need to tweak the amount of carbs you do get. Use to track your daily carb intake, and to make sure you’re getting adequate vitamins and minerals.