Sunday, October 25, 2015

Healthy Snacks

Kids love to snack and most of the time they want the snacks that are high in sugar! Kids need to eat a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables each day (between 5 and 13 servings). Here are some healthy alternatives to sugary snacks. First we'll start with a few fruits. Fruits are naturally sweet, high in good fibers and some even help prevent us from getting sick.

1) Blueberries: blueberries are high in vitamin C, antioxidants and manganese. Manganese helps the body process cholesterol and process nutrients such as carbohydrates and protein. Vitamin C is an immune booster and helps prevent colds, or at least helps you feel better if you have a cold. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are also high in vitamin C.   

2) Bananas: bananas are a good source of Vitamin K (A.K.A potassium). Here's a hint for you. If you have ever had ringing in your ears, that is a sign of low potassium. If that happens, start eating more bananas or even baked potatoes with your dinners. The skin of potatoes are high in potassium and is great if the body is craving it. A peanut butter and banana sandwich is a very good alternative to high sugary and processed foods.

3) Raspberries: these delicious red berries have rheosmin which helps increase metabolism in your body. Increasing the body's metabolism can help burn the fat in our cells and that in turn can prevent obesity.  

Image result for fruit
Kids love bright colors. Making a colorful fruit salad or cutting up some fruits as a snack for them instead of  just handing them a candy bar can be beneficial for both you and them. Sugar is just going to hype them up. That, in turn, will drive you crazy and you'll wonder what ever got into them! 

Next, vegetables. Now, I know most kids won't go near a vegetable! Both my children (ages 4 and almost 2) don't mind them though. My daughter loves broccoli! Since my children are younger, I steam my vegetables. Usually, the best way to eat any fruit or vegetable is raw. Steaming drains them of most of their nutrients, but they are still a healthful food regardless. Some vegetables my daughter can eat raw, such as carrots and celery. A childhood favorite of mine was celery with peanut butter. Peanut butter is also high in protein and is a great to add with snack time!  

  Image result for vegetable snack
For some children, presentation is everything! If it is presented in an appealing way kids are more likely to eat it. Make it fun for them and easier for you! Let them help too! My daughter loves to eat anything she has helped make. They feel a sense of accomplishment when they help and, based on my experience with my daughter, she has always wanted to eat whatever she helped me make!  

Dessert. Yes there are healthful desserts and they are an option!  Dessert pizza made with fruits are both healthier and fun for the kids!

Here is a recipe that I recommend! 

It Makes 1 large pizza
for the crust
3 cups soft pitted dates
2 cups whole almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
for the middle
2 1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
for the toppings
strawberries, sliced
Either oil a circular pizza pan (standard size) or line with parchment paper (I cut a circle from parchment paper to line mine).  Set aside.
In a food processor, processor the dates, almonds, coconut, and cocoa powder until broken down completely.  Add the honey and almond butter and process until it comes together and forms a ball.
Form the mixture into a ball. Using slightly wet hands, press the mixture onto the pizza pan.  Use a rolling pin or your hands to press the mixture to the edges of the pan. Work the mixture so it is evenly distributed all the way to the edge of the pan.
Put the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes.  (I washed and sliced my fruit during this time.)
Use a spatula to spread the Greek yogurt on the crust.
Top the crust with your fruit in a circular pattern as shown in the pictures.  I didn’t include measurements for the fruit as you can use as little or as much as you prefer.  Chill until ready to serve.  A pizza cutter works well for slicing when you are ready to serve.  Enjoy!  
That is it for this post. I hope you enjoyed and come back soon to read more on healthy living, recipes and beauty tips.
Christina Peck

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Energy Drinks: The Ugly Truth

Monster, Red Bull, Rip it, Rock Star, NOS and many others. These sugary drinks promise us non-stop energy, but instead of going non-stop they come with a harsh crash. It's true; drinking these heavily caffeinated beverages gives you a boost, but it only lasts so long, leading you to drink another one just to keep going. 

When coffee lost it's effect, I turned to energy drinks as a way to keep myself awake. This was when I worked swing shifts as a manager at McDonald's. I would work an overnight (sometimes even up to five in a row), then come home at 7 A.M. to help take care of my children and my husband (who was recovering from a hip replacement surgery). Afterward, I would attempt to fall asleep by 9 am, just to get up again by noon or 1 P.M. to go back to work. I'd work until 10 or 11 P.M., then try to sleep that night before getting up for an early morning shift. Then the cycle continued; it was terrible! 

I soon built up a tolerance to drinking only one energy drink, so I had to drink two during an 8-10 hour shift. I developed a bit of insomnia from drinking them. I soon was unable to sleep at all; I would be up for days at a time. On average, I would sleep a total of 9 hours or less a week. 

Studies show that developing insomnia is quite common when drinking energy drinks, especially the amount I was drinking. Insomnia can affect your judgment; it sure affected mine. I was so over-tired, I could hardly drive home in the mornings. On top of that, I would be jittery from the high amounts of caffeine and ginseng I was consuming on a daily basis. I'm also hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), so my blood sugar would spike and drop down too low when I started to crash. 

Energy drinks wear out the insulin-producing cells in the body's pancreas by raising the blood sugar then instantly dropping. This can lead to type 2 diabetes. Caffeine is a very addictive drug and can cause headaches. Even worse, migraines can occur if you go without drinking an energy drink for a period of time. I know this from personal experience; it is no fun. 

Studies in Australia found that one 8 OZ can of any energy drink can interfere with day to day tasks and cause anxiety. For sensitive people, drinking high doses of caffeine can bring on full-blown panic attacks; they should avoid these energy drinks completely! Cardiac arrest is something else that can be brought on by drinking energy drinks. It won't affect everyone this way, but people with heart conditions should avoid energy drinks and anything else highly caffeinated. Young children should never be given these drinks because it could be fatal. A study showed, between 2009 and 2011, there were 4854 calls to poison control centers regarding energy drinks. 51% of these calls were involving children. Another study (SRC) showed the link between energy drinks and cardiac issues among teens. This study recommends that teens consume no more than one 8 OZ energy drink per day and never before nor during sports or exercise.

There is also the problem of risky behavior in teens. Yes, believe it or not, drinking these beverages in the picture above can influence teens to take more risks. There was a study published in The Journal of American College Health that showed teens are more likely to take more dangerous risks when drinking these beverages. This can lead to legal trouble, severe injury, and even death. If you take vitamin B supplements, overdosing on Niacin (Vitamin B3) can happen. Mixing energy drinks and vitamin B supplements can cause reactions such as flushing, dizziness, rapid heart rate, itching, gout and diarrhea. The high sugar content in these beverages can cause tooth decay and leave you with a hefty dentist bill. 

For an energy boost, try only taking vitamin B. Vitamin B is a great way to get a boost of energy naturally and it lasts a long time without that crash later. Drink water instead of energy drinks. In the morning, instead of going straight for the caffeine, drink water first. Water will hydrate and wake you up faster. Before I grab a cup of coffee, I drink a glass of water. I feel better in the morning. There are even times I don't need a cup of coffee in the morning. 

As soon as I stopped working at McDonald's, I made a promise to myself to stop drinking energy drinks. I haven't touched one in over 3 months. I do drink coffee but I only drink one cup, sometimes two, but not every day. I no longer suffer from insomnia and my blood sugar issues are under control. I hope you all enjoyed this article. Please come back to read more up coming posts on health and beauty tips.

Christina Peck 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mechanically-Separated Meats and Fast Food: Healthy Alternatives

We've all heard the dangers of eating fast food and what it does to our bodies. Everything from childhood obesity to cancers and heart failure. So what are they putting in our food to cause these health problems?

Let's break it down starting with the main ingredient: the meat. The beef and chicken are loaded with GMO's and are not 100% beef and chicken as they claim. Most fast food meats are made from mechanically-separated chicken and beef. Mechanically-separated meat is a mixture of bone and animal carcasses.  This means that there is more than just chicken and beef meat in the nuggets and patties. They also include bone and entrails. Mechanical separation turns the carcass into a mush so it's easier to mold into the unrealistic shapes we see in our fast food joints. As a former fast food manager, I know the inside scoop on a what this "food" looks like before it's cooked. Many of the pictures you see and stories you read floating around the internet are very true.


I found this picture on a Huffpost Taste newsletter; this is what mechanically-separated meat looks like. Strangely enough, when the nuggets and patties are left out, they melt into a puddle of goo and slime just like this picture. 

Next ingredient: gelatin. Gelatin is made from boiling skins, bones, and hides from cows and pigs. Boiling these bones and hides releases the collagen which they filter, dry, then ground down to a fine powder. Lastly, they add it to the meats we then ingest. 

Cochineal (aka Carmine or Carminic Acid): This is another disturbing ingredient. It is made from grinding coccus beetles. Grinding these beetles up produces a red dye which is used to color meats, juices, shakes, frappes and candies. I'm not just going after fast food here; it's put in everything.

MSG is also found in a lot of food. It's a flavor enhancer and, according to medical sites such as Web-MD, has been known to cause headaches, shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue. These are very serious reactions that can cause fatality in our very young children. 

These chemicals and additives can lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart failure (among other cardiovascular problems), obesity and even death. I recently read an article on stating that a study conducted in Canada back in 2005 showed people are 2.52 times more likely to die from heart failure by consuming fast food than those who don't. Also, in 2010, Australia did the same study and found a ten percent increase in cardiovascular problems related to consuming fast food.    

Since cutting fast food out completely and being more mindful of what we buy to prepare for our family, we in my family find ourselves more energetic and over all healthier. My suggestion is to start eating more organic foods. I know it's hard to be completely chemical free, but try buying your meats and produce from farmers who choose to raise livestock without added hormones and antibiotics. Farmer's markets are a great place to get fresh and healthy produce without breaking your budget. Replace those fast food meals with easy-to-make and healthful meals.
Here are two recipes I found on that I will also be trying. It's only reasonable to start with the most important meal of the day: breakfast.

Chocolate-Banana Quinoa:

30 Healthy Breakfast Snacks for Mornings on the Run

Only 9 Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Sea salt
  • 1 banana, 1/2 mashed, 1/2 cut into slices
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh mint

1. Bring quinoa, 1 cup almond milk, water, and 1 dash salt to a boil in a small pot.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until all liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove quinoa from stove and transfer to a bowl.

3. Mix in mashed banana, honey, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Stir until evenly combined. Pour remaining 1/4 cup of almond milk over quinoa, and garnish with banana slices and some mint.

This looks absolutely amazing! This could be either Lunch or dinner.  Salmon is one of mine and my daughter's favorite dishes and here is a great recipe to try!

Healthy Dinner Recipe: Easy Sesame Salmon

 Only 7 Ingredients
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced or pureed ginger root
  • Pinch dried chili flakes
  • 2-3 skinless wild salmon fillets
  • 2-3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1. In a zip-top bag, combine garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and chili flakes. Place salmon fillets in the bag and let them marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. 

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

3. Pour sesame seeds onto a plate and shake the plate slightly so that they scatter into a single layer. Lay salmon fillets face-down in sesame seeds to coat the top. 

4. Place crusted salmon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on fillet thickness. If you like, switch the oven to broil for the final minute of cooking to lightly toast sesame seeds.
Try these recipes and others on and look for upcoming blogs on healthier living.

Christina Peck