Hello Loyal Soup People! You know what is great this time of year? Watermelon!! I know that my daughter eats copious amounts from July through early September. And I think that’s great, because, as it turns out, watermelon is incredibly good for you!

Watermelon is over 90% water which means it is very hydrating. This is so important during hot summer months. It’s also a great source of vitamins A and C, lycopene, potassium, and essential amino-acids.

When selecting a watermelon, choose one that is heavier than it looks, sounds hollow when you tap the outside, and hopefully, grown locally! We recommend the watermelons from our friends at Garners Produce. We use theirs in our delicious Watermelon Gazpacho!

Fun fact – the watermelon rind is also incredibly healthy. Be sure to wash the watermelon thoroughly with vinegar and water because it probably sat in a dirty field. Once clean, chop the rind up in a slaw or pickle it! And those seeds we always spit out? They are loaded with iron, zinc, magnesium, and protein! Drizzle them with olive oil and roast them as a snack!

However you eat watermelon – plain, in gazpacho, in a salad, or in a smoothie, you are making an incredibly healthy food choice. Thank you, mother nature!!

*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! As many of you know, in this column I often highlight steps we can take to get healthy and minimize the risk of disease. This week I’d like to talk about something that most people overlook – alcohol. Unfortunately, the news really isn’t great. While many like to point to the anecdotal study that links *very limited* wine consumption to heart health, the risks and unhealthy factors far outweigh any benefits.

Did you know that alcohol is a carcinogen? Lots of people paid attention when deli meats were identified this way. But no one really speaks of the fact that alcohol is a carcinogen and has been linked to cancer – specifically mouth, pharynx, larynx, colorectral, and liver. When alcohol and tobacco are mixed, the risks of mouth and throat cancers dramatically increase.

These risks are not only linked to heavy drinkers. When compared with non-drinkers, those who consume over 4 alcoholic beverages per day are anywhere from 50 to 500 times more at risk of various diseases. However, those who have a few drinks per week are also at an elevated risk for disease.

I also haven’t even addressed the extra empty calories associated with alcohol! Avoiding soda and other sugary beverages is great – but if you load up on wine every night, you are adding hundreds of liquid calories to your diet!

I do find alcohol consumption somewhat fascinating. Those who are otherwise extremely health focused – devoted exercisers and healthy eaters – seem to overlook the unhealthy side effects of alcohol. However, if we are truly to face the facts, the healthiest choice you can make is to really limit your alcohol intake.

*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 talk about a healthy habit I’m noticing around town, that comes with some inherent dangers – biking! I’m so happy to see people choosing bikes over cars to commute to work. The bike share programs that are popping up all over the country are great for people’s health, as well as the planet’s! However, I do not like seeing so many people biking around without helmets. To put it bluntly, riding without a helmet is irresponsible and dangerous. Seventy-five percent of bike fatalities are due to head trauma. So many of these fatalities could have been prevented with a proper helmet. I use the word “proper” because in order for a helmet to provide adequate protection, it must be correctly fitted. Otherwise, the helmet is not likely to help you in an accident. Keep these tips in mind when choosing a helmet:

– Choose one that has the stamp of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These helmets will be more expensive. Do you really want to look for a bargain when it comes to protecting your head? If it doesn’t have the CPSC stamp, do not buy the helmet.

– Choose a bright color. Make a fashion statement. A black helmet might look cool, but you can’t see it after dark, making it difficult for drivers to spot you.

– Make sure your helmet fits. Ensure that it is comfortable, sits mid-forehead, and comes within one to two fingers’ width of your eyebrows. Don’t let it tilt back on your head (something I see too often). The helmet shouldn’t move much if you try to rotate it or shake your head. Adjust the straps to make sure it is properly attached to your head. A helmet that is not snugly fitted to your head will do little to help you in an accident. Double check the fit every time you put it on.

– Don’t leave your helmet out in the heat. This can cause damage to the helmet.

– Replace your helmet every few years or after an accident. You might not see visible damage, but a helmet is usually good for one big impact.

A few years ago Soupergirl was in a bad accident. She was thrown off her bike and landed on her head. Thanks to her helmet, she was absolutely fine, and in fact, continued with her bike ride.

Happy and safe riding, everyone!

*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 last several of my health tips have been a little “serious.” So this week, let’s talk about chocolate!! Who doesn’t love all the health news we’ve been learning about chocolate??

In short, dark chocolate contains high levels of flavanols – compounds that act as powerful antioxidants. Consumption (in moderation!) of dark chocolate has been tied to improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of heart disease.

Remember that the more actual chocolate contained in a bar, the more flavanols. This means that milk chocolate, which is primarily fat and sugar, contains very few. However, a dark chocolate bar with a very high cocoa percentage contains very high levels of these important compounds. Another important note – chocolate bars with 70% cocoa contain, on average, three teaspoons of sugar. A bar with 85% cocoa contains a single teaspoon of sugar.

When choosing a chocolate bar, keep a few things in mind:

– Portion control – Try to limit yourself to 1.5 ounces per day. Take small bites and let the chocolate melt in your mouth. Don’t rush the experience!

– Keep your chocolate pure and simple. Avoid extra flavors such as caramel, toffee, and other additives. Choose a high cocoa percentage to get the most healthy benefits and the least amount of sugar.

– Choose Fair Trade. Unfortunately, the cocoa industry has been linked to a lot of unsavory farming and labor practices. If you can afford it, try to purchase Fair Trade bars that support small and sustainable farmers.

What’s for dessert tonight? Chocolate anyone??

*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! It’s getting hot out there, so it’s time I remind people to hydrate! But NOT with diet soda. I keep seeing health conscious people drinking this beverage and thinking they are making a good choice. To be blunt, diet soda is an extremely unhealthy beverage. It is very, very bad for you! Just a few reasons:

– It confuses the body. Diet soda may have no calories, but it is so sweet that it trains your brain to crave sweets.

– It confuses the mind. People often think that they are “saving” calories by drinking a diet beverage, so over-indulge in other parts of their meals. They end up consuming more calories overall.

– It is directly linked to Type 2 Diabetes. Several studies have shown that people who drink at least one diet soda a day are much more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.

– It has zero nutritional benefit. Other delicious beverages such as green tea (and even coffee) have been shown to have real health benefits. There is literally nothing positive about diet soda. Having seltzer water or water with fruit is a much healthier choice.

These are just a few reasons why you should avoid this chemical-laden liquid. Other studies have shown diet beverages to be linked to higher likelihood of depression, weak bones, bad teeth, wrinkled skin, and more.

Do you know what hasn’t been linked to any of these things? Water!!

*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 recently read a headline that caught my eye. It said: What if We Know the Magic Pill to Living a Long, Healthy Life?” Of course, I was intrigued. Two lines into the article, the author revealed the answer: exercise. Exercise is the magic pill. Not always easy to swallow, but the key to so many things, including more energy.

So many of us spend our days in a state of chronic fatigue. While sometimes fatigue is linked to a serious health problem, one in four people suffer from general fatigue that is not linked to any illness. We’re just… tired!

While exercise is usually not the first thing we want to do when exhausted, short bouts of regular exercise has been linked to higher energy levels. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied fatigued volunteers who did not exercise regularly. Over the six week study, those that regularly exercised, even low-intensity leisurely walks, showed a 50% increase in energy by the end of the study! That’s quite a significant increase.

We’re often tempted to look for quick and easy fixes – often in the form of unhealthy energy drinks. Or, we can’t seem to muster the energy to exercise. However, study after study shows that regular exercise will make our lives so much better – and more full of energy… to exercise more!!

*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! 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!