Healthy and Easy Chicken Soup

When Healing and Nourishment are the Doctor Ordered!

I look at food and recipe blogs. I enjoy them. But more often than not, I am in a time-crunch; I am searching for a recipe fast. I need to prepare it even faster. Enter in my Easy Chicken Soup-in an instant (yes, InstaPot!)

Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored or affiliate post. I don’t even own the branded InstaPot. My little sister gave me an knock-off electric pressure cooker. I love pressure cooker (I call it the InstaNot) and I love my sister even more for the gift that gives!

To the recipe!

There is no real recipe.

I make this bad boy when I want to dose myself or family with a quick nourishing meal that keeps the cold and flu or “the blahs” away. It is not fancy; it is very typical. It is budget-friendly. Chicken soup has solid immune-boosting foods naturally, I help mine with a dose of turmeric and a pinch of ginger (not usually a curry blend. Although in a pinch I have and it was great!)

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Red or gold Potatoes (mostly so I don’t have to chop, but Russets will do fine)
  • minced garlic (quite a bit)
  • minced ginger (a wee bit)
  • turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a bouquet of herbs if you have it (I grow Rosemary and Basil so usually I through some in, Bay leaf if I have it!)
  • broth (chicken or veggie but I have had to use beef–it was still great!)
  • chicken (if it is not leftover, I use whatever I have–typically boneless, skinless thighs or tenders–once I used chicken fajita meat and yes, you guessed it–it was great!)

You put everything in the pressure cooker, quick cooking chicken on the top. Cook for about 15 minutes on high pressure cook. If you have a cooker that has a poultry setting you can use that one.

Note: This can easily be adjusted to crock pot or slow cooker. In the pressure cooker, I use about 4 cups of broth, I decrease it by a cup in the slow cooker. The pressure cooker needs the liquid to create the pressure and some will evaporate when it depressurizes.

That is it! A dose of vitamins and immune-boosting nutrients that can go from 0 to table in about 30 minutes with leftovers so you can do this any.night.of.the.week. BOOM! Tell that cold and flu to BACK UP OFF YOU!

Check out the other post with tips to keep the cold and flu at bay here!

Hope you and yours stay healthy!

3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Immune System This Winter

What We All Should Know…I hope!

Good Hand Hygiene is Your Best Line of Defense Against Cold and Flu (and COVID-19) and Avoid Getting Sick by Keeping Your Distance

Hopefully, you and your family have mastered these two basics of health. But running a three-way tie behind them are easy and just as important!

Eat Plenty of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

All systems of your body work best when they are properly fed. This includes your immune system. Stick to a mainly whole foods based diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you feel like you might be a little under the weather or suspect that you may have come into contact with someone sick, increasing your intake of Vitamin C may help as well. Eat a few citrus fruits. Broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are other great options.

Avoid eating processed foods. It takes a lot of time and effort to digest them and you don’t want to weigh your body down with extra work when that energy could be used to boost your immune system, keep you from getting sick, or help you get well sooner.

Get Some Exercise

In addition to eating well, get out there and get regular exercise. For best results, work out in the fresh air. Something as simple as a daily quick walk can help you stay well and strengthen your body. It has the added benefit of helping you to de-stress. I don’t have to tell you that you’re more likely to get sick when you are stressed out. Use daily exercise to destress and stay well. It will also help you with the last way to boost your immune system.

Make Time for Sleep

This last tip is easy to skip over, yet it is the most important one for most of us and the one that can give your immune system a great boost. It’s getting enough sleep. Make the time to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Practice good sleep hygiene. Don’t let the word scare you. It means turning off your phone and other screens a few hours before bed. Keep your bedroom calm, quiet, and at a temperature that encourages sleep. It also includes establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine. As an added bonus, you’ll feel more energized for everything else you have to do all day.

We all have times when we could use a little extra boost to our immune system. Cold and flu season are certainly part of that time, or the long winter weeks when we’re stuck inside in close quarters, our hygiene gives way to comfort and we are more likely to catch something. It’s also important anytime you board a plane for holiday travel or when your kids start school. The above are three simple things you can do daily to strengthen your immune system.

Stay tuned! I will share some easy recipes that will boost your immune system and satisfy!

Juicing – Helpful or Hype?

After the post about debunking myths, I got a few questions on other platforms about juicing as a means to weight loss and a sort of fall-reset.

Let’s start with defining “juicing.”

Juicing is a process that extracts the juices from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Why “juice”?

Juicing has been said to boost your immune system, help with weight loss, lower your risk for cancer and other health issues, and provide balance to your digestive system.

Drinking fresh, pure fruit juices also provides phytonutrients, which are powerful nutrients that increase the strength of your immune system.

Some people choose to replace meals with juice in order to lose weight.

But here is the thing – all of those nutrients that you are getting from juicing are the exact same nutrients that you would be getting if you ate the fruit whole.

And a major con of juicing (aside from the work, clean-up and large amounts of fruit you would have to buy) is that you don’t consume the fruit skin, which is where all of the fiber is held. So by juicing, you are actually losing some of the benefits of eating the fruit.

Fiber plays a key role in weight loss – so if you are juicing to lose weight but missing out on the fiber, it is a little counter intuitive.

A great alternative would be to blend your fruit. There are some juices/cleanses that you can purchase nowadays that are whole-fruit juices too. They are better and way more pricier. For me and my money (and, quite honestly, my satiety), clean, whole foods are the way to go.

Plus, you can throw in some protein or fat for a balanced meal versus an all-carbohydrate fruit juice (because fruit is a carbohydrate) – that will likely leave you hungry short after!.

That being said, sometimes it is easier to grab a drink and go!

So, is juicing worth it?

As with all things – in nutrition and life – there are varying theories.

Based on the loss of fiber (a necessary part of your diet) when juicing and the fact that you can get all of the same nutrients from eating fruit – juicing might seem like a lot of work for a lesser effect.

If you feel you are not able to eat enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day, juicing may help you get those important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

But if you are using juicing as a means to lose weight or in an attempt to get all that you can from fruit, eating or blending whole fruit is the better alternative. Stay tuned for a post about apples-a fabulous, fall fruit that is also abundant, inexpensive, tasty, versatile and a nutrient-dense powerhouse!

When all things are considered, would you try your hand at juicing? Why or why not? Comment, like, follow, and share!

Who You Gonna Call? MYTHBUSTERS!

A Look at 3 “Bad-for-You” Foods

Media and the nutrition market is saturated with advice and guidelines on what NOT to eat. 

But the truth is, with most things, moderation is required. Not total avoidance. 

🧂 Myth #1: Salt is bad for you.

High amounts of salt have been linked to high blood pressure. But your body also needs salt! Proper transport of chemical and function of your muscles, like you heart, depend on adequate amounts of sodium.

As the Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated SAD) has morphed into a diet full of saturated fats, additives, and larger portions, our diets have become overloaded on lots of different things. A lot of processed foods have a high amount of salt added to them, which over saturates the body with sodium. Coupled with increasingly sedentary lifestyles and genetic tendencies, excess sodium can be harmful.

Eating tweaks and increase in exercise can help you get the necessary sodium and stay in good health. Moderating your salt intake by eating whole foods is much more beneficial than attempting to cut salt entirely out of your diet. 

🍳 Myth #2: Egg yolks are bad for you.

Egg yolks get a bad rep for being high in cholesterol. And a lot of weight-loss fads have included opting for egg whites and avoiding egg yolks. But egg yolks actually have a lot of protein and other nutrients that your body needs. 

Studies have also shown that the link to higher cholesterol has been exaggerated. When a person is healthy and their naturally occurring cholesterol is within normal ranges, eating eggs will not unduly contribute to cardiovascular disease or stroke.

🥩 Myth #3: Red meat is bad for you.  

As with so many things that we consume, red meat has been linked to an increased risk in cancer. While it is true, the red meat of today is different from the meat of 100, even just 50 years ago. The animals receive hormones, antibodies, and medicines. They graze on fields and grains that have been treated with pesticides and chemical. The plants themselves have often been genetically modified as well. However, red meat itself may have a bad rep for no good reason.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans most likely would not be who we are in terms of physical development and brain development, i.e.. intelligence, without the protein from meat consumption. Our bodies most efficiently extract needed proteins from meat. There are necessary and beneficial vitamins, minerals, and amino acid chains found only meat sources or they exist in concentrated amounts. For example:

  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 25% of the RDA, Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): 37% of the RDA (this vitamin is unattainable from plant foods), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 18% of the RDA, Iron: 12% of the RDA (this is high-quality heme iron, which is absorbed much better than iron from plants), Zinc: 32% of the RDA, and Selenium: 24% of the RDA. Creatine and carnosine are amino acids found only in meat and deficiencies can impede muscle and brain function.

While overly processed or smoked red meats can carry certain compounds that may be detrimental to preventing cancerous cells, red meat in general – and in moderation – does not pose the risk that many fear. Again, simple swaps for grass-fed and hormone-free can reduce or eliminate the risks that are increasingly being tied to chemicals found in practices and not in the meat itself.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco products, and limiting alcohol consumption are much more important than cutting out red meat.

🔑 Moderation is the key!  

Getting Enough Movement In Your Day!

With all of  the apps and technology available today, people are more aware of how much movement they are getting. 

But how much movement should you be getting each day?

Studies show that the average adult walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day. 

An ideal number of steps is actually closer to 10,000 per day. 

With so many of us working behind laptop screens all day, it is no surprise that the average person is falling behind in movement! That sit-time has only increased in the pandemic. And it has spread to children, who have also been decreasing their activity levels over time so much so they are the first generation in the United States to have predicted lifespans shorter than their parents (American Academy of Family Physicians).

Start a baseline to determine how many steps you are getting each day. 

Then work your way up to the ideal amount by setting a goal to add 500 steps per day until you get to the 10k. If you fall short or the goal, refer to the post here on ways to sneak in extra steps.

Adding a 20 – 30 minute walk to your daily routine is an easy way to increase your movement. I personally like mine after dinner. It helps with digestion and ensures I am tried enough to turn off the screens and go to bed.

As a bonus, check out this indoor walk video that gets in about 4200 steps in 30 minutes which is equivalent to about 2 miles at 15 minutes a mile! Disclaimer: the in home walk does not replicate the added resistance of forward propulsion or terrain, so this is slightly easier but still a good way to get started and is accessible to all fitness levels!

I tracked the steps in the video on my Fitbit Versa. Do you track your steps/movement? If so, what is your favorite movement app to use? 

Pandemic Got You Down? Walking=Better Mood + Memory Boosts

Walking might be the simplest, low-impact form of valuable aerobic exercise.

Not only is it easy and free to take a walk, but there are many serious health perks. 

We all know that walking is good for your physical health, but did you know that walking for just 30 minutes each day can also significantly improve your mental health, mood, and life?

Studies also show that, as we age, daily walks can decrease cognitive decline and memory loss!

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins naturally boost your mood. 

And an added bonus of walking outside for exercise is that you also benefit from breathing fresh air, soaking up the sun, and appreciating your surroundings. 

Because walking is rather low impact, you can take a walk with a friend or your family and enjoy a chat and some quality time while you get your work out in!

It is a great activity for all ages. 

You can teach your children the value of daily exercise, enjoy time with your family, take your dog with you, or just get out on your own for some quiet, private time.

Taking a walk by yourself allows you time to slow your thoughts and destress. 

So whether it is taking a walk with your family after dinner or a morning stroll with your coffee before work – I challenge you to add a walk to your plan today!

Fitness and healthy lifestyles consist of daily choices. 

My passion is to help you learn how to make those choices. I have different coaching and wellness packages that I have developed with research, education, and my own personal experiences. If you are interested you can reach out to me here!

Getting Off The Couch, Part 2

Walking! All the Cool Kids Are Doing It!

If you haven’t exercised in a while, or are looking for something easy you can do every single day give walking a try. It’s perfect! It is low impact, easy, can go at your own pace, you don’t need any special equipment and you can start at the fitness level that you’re at.

If you are new to fitness , coming back after a long period of inactivity, or rejoining the ranks after recovery, listen to your body and get clearance from your physician. When you do, start by going for a 10 or 15 minute walk around the neighborhood and work your way up from there. If you’re already in great shape, walking with embellishments can provide an effective workout. You want to increase speed, incline, duration, or add some strength moves to up the ante.

If you’re like most of us, chances are you haven’t exercised consistently much since you got out of college and need to start small. Maybe your doctor suggested that you move around more, or maybe you just want to be proactive about your health and well-being. In either case, walking can be done any time you have available and it can be done anywhere–even at home without a treadmill!

Find a pair of comfortable shoes, put them on and go for a stroll through your neighborhood. You could also find a local park with a nice path you can walk on. If the weather doesn’t permit walking outside, head to your local mall and walk or hop on a treadmill.

You can even walk in place at home in front of your TV. Here’s a simple little idea to get you moving more. As you’re sitting on the couch at night watching TV, get up during commercial breaks and march in place until your favorite TV show comes back on. If you’re using a service like Netflix, make yourself walk in place for 10 minutes in between episodes. Or turn on the TV and challenge yourself to march in place during the entire show. Time will fly while you’re having fun watching TV and moving.

Speaking of having fun, going for a walk outside can be a lot of fun too. Mix up your route and walk in different areas of town, or visit different parks. Invite a friend to come along with you to walk. It’s always nice to have someone to talk to and having a walking buddy keeps you accountable. Last but not least, grab your phone or MP3 player and listen to music or audio books as you walk to make the time go by faster. There are podcast and walking groups, too. I belong one called Girl Trek.

The main thing is that you get out there, move around, and get some exercise in a way that’s gentle on your joints, your heart, and the rest of your body and that’s what walking will do for you. Just give it a try and see if you don’t start to feel better, happier, and stronger after a few weeks of regular walks.

Commit to three 15 minute walks this week! You can do it!

Also, please share strategies you use get moving and keep moving or your challenges to building a walking or fitness routine!

 

Getting Off The Couch (Part 1)

The Case for Exercise

By now, most adults are well aware of the physical and mental health benefits of exercise and understand the importance of engaging in some form of regular physical activity. As nations around the globe cope with life in a pandemic, business closures, social distancing, and changes in everyday schedules are disrupting just about every facet of live we consider to be normal — and exercise routines are no exception.

What about those individuals who weren’t active even before it became harder to be active?

This series addresses those folks. I know how easy it is to fall off the exercise wagon when it is coerced or feels forced. Despite lab results, a scale creeping (or sprinting) upwards, or even poor feeling and health concerns, it can be daunting to take the first step.

No need to insult your intelligence about the “Why” when it comes to exercise and its benefits. The real issue is “How”. How to get moving safely. How to find something you enjoy. How to just get off the couch.

Arthur Ashe, acclaimed Tennis Champion, gives us the best advice EVER: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”. He was talking about taking on challenges, something I suspect he had quite a bit of experience doing on the court and off. Let us apply to beginning to exercise!

Start Where You Are

If you are on your couch, start there. Begin by writing what you hope to gain from taking the first step to a healthier you. List 3 to 5 consequences of remaining sedentary and 3 to 5 benefits or gains from being more active. Look at your list daily. It will help keep you focused on improving and motivated to keep trying.

Making exercise a part of a healthier lifestyle will not happen overnight. One unhealthy meal does not make a person unhealthy. One workout will not make a person healthy. It is the habits that ultimately define not just what we do, but who we are. Habits are build one choice at a time.

Use What You Have

I always suggest in home walking to start. Walking is low cost upstart and you already know how to do it. It is available at any time and in any weather. All you need are comfortable clothes and a good pair of well-fitting sneakers. They need not cost a lot. I just recently purchased a pair of name brand shoes on clearance for less than $30. They are supportive, comfortable, lightweight, and most importantly for me–they have memory foam inserts! Easy walking!

As you get started, review your benefit and consequence lists. Maybe add a statement about choosing to life a healthier life because of those benefits. You can always add to your list. Jot down about your thoughts surrounding exercise. Any patterns emerging?

The bottom line is that NOT exercising has become comfortable. To bust through this pattern, you will have be uncomfortable. Facts. You are going to have experience periods of discomfort to get to those benefits. So hopefully you have some killer benefits written down. Writing down a benefit like “lose weight” is not as motivating as “losing weight so that I feel proud of myself when I look in the mirror”. That is something you can SEE in your mind and FEEL that rush of pride.

Ready to move more? Let’s go!

Do What You Can

There are tons of workout at home videos for FREE on platforms like YouTube. Working out or even doing yoga from a seated position is still being active. It is a start and beats not doing anything. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If all you can do at first is 5 minutes, or 2 minutes, that is all you can do. You can do multiple short rounds throughout the day or you can just aim to improve by 15 or 30 seconds your next attempt!

The idea that you need to kill yourself when you are just starting out is not only preposterous, it most often has the opposite effect. The “No Pain, No Gain” thinking leads to discouragement, negative self talk, and frequently injuries. You are moving to improve your health. You are not in a competition. If you prefer to move your body with someone, find a buddy that will support free of shame or judgement. The online classes found through the Whole Health Fitness Online Gym has several online classes offered through different instructors (Yes, I am one!) that you do within a supportive community.

The second part of this series will look more ways to incorporate movement, namely walking into your day. For now, a true beginner or person who is overweight can focus on the following and still start to see benefits:

  • Journal writing and reflection
  • Putting on your walking shoes daily (whether you walk or not)
  • Walking in home with a video or outdoors at a casual pace for as long as is doable.

July: Free Yourself

On the wings of Juneteenth and America’s Independence Day, I thought it a good time to dedicate the remainder of the month to being free. In the current politicized racial disharmony, freedom is being discussed as it means so many different things to so many different people. While I am not going to get into that aspect of the conversation here, I decided to ask those that know me and are on a journey like me to improve awareness and metrics pertaining to our health and fitness levels to consider the following: What bad habits are like shackles and are impeding your progress? Do you feel enslaved by salt, sugar, or fast food? Does your mind and negative self-talk oppress you? Is your relationship with food, exercise, or even healthcare professionals indicative of a need to change your perspective?

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.
None but ourselves can free our minds.

Bob Marley

We are generally harder to ourselves than others. Use this month to reflect on those things or habits that are holding you back. There is no time like the present to work towards liberation from any thing that no longer serves you–toxic relationships, bad habits, or even trauma.

We all have the power to be cycle-breakers. For me, recognizing the very unhealthy all-or-nothing mindset when it came to food AND reconciling that while my parents were good people who loved me, they did not do me any favors in how they shaped my views of food. Giving myself permission to change and still love and admire them went a long way in coming to view food as fuel and not as a reward or crutch.

Give yourself permission to do what is right for you, and set yourself free!

FFATX 2: Improving Our Health in Uncertain Times

For most of us, the current state of the world is an unprecedented and uncertain time. The Covid-19 pandemic, racial struggles, and the financial strain of the closures are all taking a toll on the holistic well-being of the global citizenry. Collectively and as individuals, we are more aware of our health status, and many are seeking to improve it, protect it, or both!

From the comfort of your own home, you can use these well-intentioned moments to improve your health with a few small changes. I know, I know. You want to emerge from the cocoon that is quarantine like a glistening butterfly! Drop 25 pounds! Go from the couch to a 5k! But, small, doable, steps are the key to not only big changes but lasting changes! We are talking about improving the overall quality of life! The following five tips can be tackled one-at-a-time or all together for a sure-fire jumpstart to a healthier you!

  • De-stress yourself-and enjoy it!

While activities like meditation, walking, or more rigorous exercise have all been common suggestions for reducing stress, simple but enjoyable pastimes like reading, listening to music, or stroking a pet are effective self-care strategies that can really pay off when it comes to soothing the systems of the body. Prolonged stress releases different chemicals and hormones in the body that have been linked to things including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, migraines, and obesity. These are common co-morbidity diseases that can be better managed or even prevented when stress levels are keep in check.

Tip: Tight on time? Spend a few minutes with your eyes closed. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four, allowing the belly and chest to expand. Exhale through the nose to a count of four, pressing the air out from the belly. Repeat a few times in a moment. You can repeat as your schedule permits and before bed!

  • Pass on the salt. Foods naturally have salt, or sodium, and if your diet includes frequent meals out or processed foods, it is likely that you are consuming too much sodium, which can increase blood pressure.

Tip: Swap the salt for flavorful salt-free seasoning blends and only use salt during meal preparation.

  • Skip the added sugar. Much like salt, added sugar lurks everywhere. A common culprit of weight gain and contributor to sustained high blood glucose levels, reading labels and simple swaps can go long way.

Tip: Seems daunting? Swap one sugary drink a day with water and enjoy whole pieces of fruit instead of juices.

  • Stretch it out. Taking a break at work to stretch or making sure you do so before and after exercise can prevent injury and maintain healthy range of motion of joints.

Tip: Not exercising that day? Find a natural time of day to limber up like when you are getting out of your car after your commute!

  • Get more sleep! The strategy that dreams are made of! Adequate sleep is critical in allowing the body the chance to restore and rejuvenate itself. Sleep shortage has been linked to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, regardless of weight, exercise, or other factors. An adult needs an average of 7 hours of shut-eye nightly.

Tip: A brief stretch and deep breathing can help balance hormones and relax you so that you can fall asleep faster.

These strategies can be easily and quickly added to your daily life despite all that is going on around us. The road to optimal health is not linear, or smooth. The thing to know and focus on is that it is never too late to maintain or to improve your quality of life by building healthy habits. You are worth the effort!

Leslie