Hello Loyal Soup People! With the new season comes the annual ritual of spring cleaning. Many people take full weekends to open the windows and deep clean their homes. Unfortunately, many of the commercially available cleaners contain very harsh chemicals that can be harmful to our skin, eyes, and lungs. This week I’d like to offer a few suggestions for natural cleaning solutions that are better for our bodies and the environment. They are also quite inexpensive!

– Glass cleaner. Steep eight bags of black tea in 1.5 cups of boiling water for approximately five minutes. Once the water has cooled, transfer it to a spray bottle. Black tea contains tannins which act as a great cleaning agent and don’t streak or stain.

– Bathroom solution. Bathroom cleaners may often contain the most harmful chemicals. Try combining one cup of baking soda with 1/4 cup of castile soap and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Use this solution to scrub your sinks, tubs, and tile. Make a big batch and store this cleaner in a mason jar.

– Toilet bowl cleaner. Combine one cup of distilled white vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Spray this solution generously into your toilet and let it sit for two to three minutes. Then, add 1/2 cup of baking soda and start scrubbing.

You can find many other green and healthy cleaning tips online. Discover the power of white vinegar! This magical (and extremely cheap) liquid can clean everything from apples to stoves! Say goodbye to expensive and unhealthy harsh chemicals!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! I’m written several times about the importance of exercise. Regular exercise is essential to all around health – from your brain, to your heart, and everything in between! However, weight training is often overlooked when it comes to many people’s exercise habits. I know so many runners and bikers who never lift weights. Weight training is essential to maintaining muscle mass, posture, disease prevention, fighting osteoporosis, mental health, and more. Focusing on cardio exercise simply isn’t enough.

If you belong to a gym, many offer one to two free sessions with a trainer to get you started. These days, thanks to You Tube and a plethora of phone apps, you don’t need to join a gym. There are plenty of body weight exercise routines that will keep you fit and healthy, and can be done in your own home. If you want to challenge yourself further, purchase a resistance band and a kettle bell. The possibilities for at home workouts will be endless.

The most important thing is that you exercise – BOTH cardio and weight lifting. We need to approach exercising like we do brushing our teeth. The day should feel incomplete without them!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! Let’s talk about stress. We’re all over-stressed! Many studies have shown that in times of stress, we tend to seek out “comfort foods” that are usually full of salt, sugar, and fat. Then we gain weight which makes us even more stressed. Vicious cycle indeed! However, I just read an article in the New York Times about how the hormones in our body that are released by stress can also make us gain weight. Well, that’s stressful!!

According to the article, researchers found a direct link between chronically high cortisol levels (stress hormones) and obesity. Researchers are still trying to figure out what causes this relationship, but the facts are clear. If you are stressed over long periods of time, you are more likely to gain weight and have trouble losing it.

If there was ever a reason to take up yoga and meditation, this is it. Hiking in the woods, exercise, deep breathing – these are all linked to lower stress levels. In addition to weight gain, stress can impact our entire body. In this fast paced world of smart phones, instant communication, barrages of news – we need to unplug and rewind. Now more than ever. Our health depends on it.

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! This week I’d like to share a bit of information about the new food “trends” on the horizon this year. I’m very optimistic about these new trends in the food world because they seem to be very healthy!

1 – Fat is Back! We are learning more and more about how fat, in moderation, is quite healthy. In fact, fat in our diet can help us lose weight by keeping us satiated. Look for foods containing heart-healthy fat sources such as olive and canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Of course, continue to avoid trans-fat because that is never going to be good for you!

2 – Added sugar is out. We’re also learning that sugar is extraordinarily unhealthy. Over consumption of sugar is directly tied to obesity and causes inflammation. Companies are responding by lowering the sugar content in their products – ranging from cereal to tomato sauce. However, it is up to you, the consumer, to pay attention to the back label to see how much sugar is really in a given product.

3 – Ethical food choices – Consumers are paying more attention to how their food is grown, how the labor force behind a product is treated, and other factors that go into food. Companies are responding by promoting better farm and labor practices and making larger donations to charities and their communities. A win for everyone!

4 – Healthy Snacking – Grab and go healthy snacks are on the rise, and are slowly taking the place of larger sit down meals. I’m a proponent of this type of eating, especially later in the day. There is no need for us to sit down famished before a large dinner. Eating snacks later in the day allows us to sit down to a light dinner, which is definitely a healthier way to eat.

5 – Plant Based is IN! The popularity of plant-based diets is growing by the day. From mock meats, to new milk-alternatives, consumers are turning towards more plant based options.

All of these trends are exciting and make me optimistic about our food choices this year and beyond.

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! The ice storm over the weekend that wreaked havoc in our region got me thinking about staying safe in icy conditions. I’m not even going to attempt to tell people how to drive in the ice and snow, other than to say stay home if you can! Unfortunately, our region is prone to receiving lots of freezing rain and ice which can make driving AND walking very dangerous. I wanted to provide a few tips to help you walk safely in the ice:

– Change your gait. Bend a bit at the waist so your center of gravity is over your feet. Walk very slowly, taking short, flat-footed steps. You’ll look a bit like a penguin. But let’s be honest – penguins are pro’s at walking on ice!

– Wear gloves and keep your hands by your sides instead of in your pockets. This will help you keep your balance and also help break your fall if you slip.

– Wear shoes that have good traction. Heels and flats are terrible for walking on the ice. If you need to wear nice shoes, pack them in a bag and change into them when you reach your destination.

– Beware of black ice. This type of ice is almost impossible to see. The road or sidewalk may just look wet, when in fact it is covered in ice.

The worst way to ruin the holiday season is to end up in the emergency room. Stay safe and take it slow!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! We often hear that the key to controlling weight is portion control. Unfortunately, we are trained at a young age to clear our plates, regardless of whether or not we are still hungry. This learned habit haunts us as we grow up because we are not listening to our bodies. Rather, we eat until there is nothing left on our plates. The solution? Put less on our plates! There are several ways to do this:

– At home, use smaller plates and bowls. Yes, it is that simple. If you serve your main course on a salad plate, there just isn’t as much room to put the food. You are forced to serve smaller portions.
– Never eat directly from a package. It is nearly impossible to eat a single serving of anything if you are munching directly from a bag. If you are eating chips, nuts, or anything that comes in a large bag, remove a single serving and put the package away.
– When eating out, immediately put half the meal in a to-go bag. By simply removing the food from the plate, you’ll eat less!

It is also important to understand serving sizes. Keep in mind these handy comparisons:
– A one ounce serving of chocolate looks like a 9 volt battery.
– A two tablespoon serving of peanut butter or hummus is the equivalent of a golf ball.
– A serving of dry spaghetti is the same diameter as a nickel.
– A half cup serving of beans or rice fits in a cupcake wrapper.
– A full cup of soup, cereal, cooked pasta, or a casserole is the equivalent of a baseball.

Keep in mind these visual cues when thinking about servings. Serving sizes are often smaller than we realize! But comparing them to familiar objects, we can keep a closer eye on what we eat.

Of course, the best tip is to listen to your body. Eat slowly. Put down your fork or spoon in between each bite. Simply stop eating when you are no longer hungry! Unfortunately, this is hard for most of us to do! Practice makes perfect!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! I’m always talking about how important it is to eat more fruits and vegetables. The more the better. But, because we’re all busy people, sometimes its just hard to squeeze proper nutrition into every meal. It does, indeed, take some time, effort, and thought. So this week, I’d like to talk about nutrient dense foods. If we focus on eating these types of foods, we can squeeze the equivalent of several servings of fruits and vegetables into one meal!

Nutrient dense foods provide the highest amount of nutrient content per calorie. When you’re trying to get the most “bang for your caloric buck,” these foods are essential. A few examples of nutrient dense foods are:

– Microgreens – Very trendy and very nutritious. These “baby” versions of regular vegetables (kale, arugula, radishes, etc.) can contain up to six times the amount of certain vitamins (C and E, for example) as contained in the mature plants. Just a few bites of microgreens pack a powerful nutrient punch!

– Healthy fats – Many studies show that eating healthy fat significantly increases your body’s ability to absorb essential, disease-fighting cartenoids found in vegetables. Adding a bit of fat (avocado, nuts, olive oil) to your salad will help add nutritional value to each bite!

– Frozen fruit – Fruits that are frozen are picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen. They therefore can sometimes contain even more nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Sometimes fresh berries have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles before reaching the shelves of your local grocery store. The longer they are off the vine, the more nutrients they lose. Their frozen counterparts retain all their nutrients.

While there is no magic pill for living healthfully, there are certain shortcuts we can take to help fit nutritious food into our busy lives. Now, if only there were an app for that!

Hello Loyal Soup People! I think it is about time that I finally write about this election. Specifically – how it is impacting our health! No, I’m not endorsing anyone in my column! I’m more concerned about a report just released by the American Psychological Association (APA) that says that 52% of American adults say that this election cycle is a somewhat or significant source of stress.

Millennials, in particular, are reporting the highest levels of stress because they are the most actively engaged in social media.The reported stress is equal across party lines. Quite frankly, everyone is an anxious mess right now!

The APA recommends several tips to manage your stress until the election:

– Get off social media. Obviously! Stop scrolling through Facebook and Twitter – especially before bed. Anything that can be read late at night can also be read in the morning.
– If you do read something that upsets you, go for a walk. Exercise releases those wonderful endorphins which are natural mood boosters and stress relievers.
– Get involved and volunteer. A lot of anxiety is related to feeling helpless in this crazy election cycle. Get involved in a local campaign! And related to this topic – vote!
– Get focused on other things. Instead of a campaign, volunteer for a local charity. Local animal shelters always need dog walkers! Get outside with a furry friend!

And remember, whatever happens on November 8th – life will go on! I think!!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! After watching the devastation from Hurricane Matthew and seeing people have to evacuate their homes, I began to think about what we would do in such a situation. Fortunately, we live in an area that has minimal impact from violent storms. However, it is always a good idea to be prepared for an emergency. I recommend that families always have a “go-kit” on hand in case you need to leave in a hurry. Don’t leave important decisions about what to take and leave when in a crisis. Plan ahead. A well stocked “go-kit” should have:

– A first aid kit – In addition to having basics such as antiseptic, band aids, and gauze, have back up prescription medication (insulin, etc.).
– Keep copies of important documents in a waterproof container. You may want to include copies of your birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, insurance policies, bank information, and any other vital information you may need.
– Food and water – Keep a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water. Stock one gallon of water per person, per day. Non-perishable food ideas include canned beans, dried fruit, nut butters, crackers, etc.
– Tools and supplies – Have a Swiss-army type tool that can open cans and bottles, and can also act as a screwdriver etc. Have back up toilet paper, tissues, handy-wipes, and a crank radio in case you lose power or Internet.
– Clothing – Pack layers of clothing and undergarments. Always remember hats and gloves.
– Cash – have at least $200 or more of money on hand in case there is a power outage and you need to purchase anything. Those who lived in New York during the great black out of 2003 always remember the need for cash! Keep the cash in a waterproof container as well.

Of course, some items depend on your family’s needs. If you have a baby, have back up diapers and baby wipes. If you have a pet, keep spare food and a water dish handy.

Of course, always keep your gas tank at least half full. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use your “go-kit.” But knowing it is ready will give you peace of mind.

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! I come to you this week with even MORE good news about eating a plant based diet. According to research published by Harvard University, eating an overall plant-based diet resulted in a 20% decreased risk of diabetes. People who consume a health-focused plant-based diet (people who specifically focus on eating a LOT of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains) have a 34% decreased risk of diabetes.

It is important to note that those who followed an unhealthy plant-based diet had a 16% increased risk in developing diabetes! This means that if your diet consists of Twizzlers, potato chips, fries, and bagels, you are not eating healthfully. Yes, you are avoiding meat, but it takes a little more than that!

While this research isn’t groundbreaking (how many times have I written about eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains??), we can never hear it enough. And apparently researchers at Harvard agree!!