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Lucky You March Specials

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New Year, New You Weight Loss Tip: Try intermittent fasting

There’s a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF) research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve… but they’re rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.

But a growing body of research suggests that the timing of the fast is key, and can make IF a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention.

Intermittent Fasting makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
 
Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.

Recipe: Oven-Baked Almond Fish Sticks

Try this healthy, tasty, and family-friendly meal this week!

Ingredients

1 cup crushed almonds

1/2 cup crushed bran flakes cereal

1 tablespoon wheat germ

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 pound cod, rinsed and cut into 1-inch by 5-inch pieces

Prepared marina sauce, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Mix the almonds, bran flakes, wheat germ, sea salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and oregano together in a medium bowl. Crack the eggs into a separate small bowl and beat until frothy.
  3. Coat a baking pan with the olive oil. Dip the fish sticks first in the egg mixture, and then into the almond mixture. Place the fish sticks on the prepared pan.
  4. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce as a dip.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Try this healthy, tasty and family-friendly recipe this week. 

Ingredients

3 chicken thighs, skin removed

10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups water

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Juice of 1/2 lemon

20 tortilla chips

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

  1. Place the chicken, tomatoes (and juices), beans, broth, water, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, and chili powder in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. Uncover the slow cooker and use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot. Once cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred, then return the meat to the pot. Stir in the lemon juice. Crumble a few tortilla chips into each bowl and cover with some soup. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and grated cheese.

Per serving: Calories: 275; Total Fat: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 4 grams; Protein: 22 grams; Total carbohydrates: 29 grams; Sugar: 7 grams; Fiber: 6 grams; Cholesterol: 56 milligrams; Sodium: 364 milligrams

New Year, New You Weight Loss Tip: Get more sleep

It’s true: Being short on sleep can really affect your weight. While you weren’t sleeping, your body cooked up a perfect recipe for weight gain.When you’re short on sleep, it’s easy to lean on a large latte to get moving. You might be tempted to skip exercise (too tired), get takeout for dinner, and then turn in late because you’re uncomfortably full.If this cascade of events happens a few times each year, no problem. Trouble is, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Yet experts agree that getting enough shut-eye is as important to health, well-being, and your weight as are diet and exercise.

Your Sleepy Brain

Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control.

So it’s a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions.

Research tells the story. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks. In another study done at the University of Chicago, sleep-deprived participants chose snacks with twice as much fat as those who slept at least 8 hours.

A second study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, increasing weight gain. And in a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.

Add it all together, and a sleepy brain appears to crave junk food while also lacking the impulse control to say no.

Sleep and Metabolism

Sleep is like nutrition for the brain. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours each night. Get less than that, and your body will react in ways that lead even the most determined dieter straight to Ben & Jerry’s.

Too little sleep triggers a cortisol spike. This stress hormone signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours.

Translation: You’re more apt to hang on to fat.

Researchers found that when dieters cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, the amount of weight they lost from fat dropped by 55%, even though their calories stayed equal. They felt hungrier and less satisfied after meals, and their energy was zapped.

Sleep deprivation makes you “metabolically groggy,” University of Chicago researchers say. Within just 4 days of insufficient ZZZs, your body’s ability to process insulin — a hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy — goes awry. Insulin sensitivity, the researchers found, dropped by more than 30%.

Here’s why that’s bad: When your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, your body has trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, so it ends up storing them as fat.So it’s not so much that if you sleep, you’ll lose weight, but that too little sleep hampers your metabolism and contributes to weight gain.

Tricks and Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

In today’s world, snoozing can be difficult, particularly when all your screens (computers, TVs, cell phones, tablets) lure you into staying up just a little longer.

The basics are pretty simple:

  • Shut down your computer, cell phone, and TV at least an hour before you hit the sack.
  • Save your bedroom for sleep and sex. Think relaxation and release, rather than work or entertainment.
  • Create a bedtime ritual. It’s not the time to tackle big issues. Instead, take a warm bath, meditate, or read.
  • Stick to a schedule, waking up and retiring at the same times every day, even on weekends.
  • Watch what and when you eat. Avoid eating heavy meals and alcohol close to bedtime, which may cause heartburn and make it hard to fall asleep. And steer clear of soda, tea, coffee, and chocolate after 2 p.m. Caffeine can stay in your system for 5 to 6 hours.
  • Turn out the lights. Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone melatonin, while light suppresses it.
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Recipes: Falafel Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Recipe Image

Falafel Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

EatingWell Test Kitchen
“Deep-fried falafel can be a total grease bomb. But these pan-seared falafel still get crispy in just a few tablespoons of oil with equally satisfying results. Be sure to use dried, instead of canned, chickpeas in this healthy recipe—canned chickpeas add too much moisture.”

Ingredients

    • 1 cup dried chickpeas
    • 2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley, divided
    • ¼ cup chopped red onion plus ¼ cup thinly sliced, divided
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
    • 5 tablespoons tahini
    • 5 tablespoons warm water
    • 6 cups sliced romaine lettuce
    • 2 cups sliced cucumbers and/or radishes
    • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

Directions

  • Soak chickpeas in cold water for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Drain the chickpeas and transfer to a food processor. Add 1 cup parsley, chopped onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, cumin and ½ teaspoon salt; process until finely and evenly ground. Shape into 12 patties (1½ inches wide), using a generous 2 tablespoons each.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook the falafel until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn, swirl in 1 tablespoon oil and cook until golden on the other side, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  • Meanwhile, whisk tahini, water and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon oil and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Transfer ¼ cup to a small bowl. Add romaine and the remaining 1 cup parsley to the large bowl and toss to coat. Top with cucumbers and/or radishes, tomatoes, the sliced onion and the falafel. Drizzle with the reserved ¼ cup dressing.
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New Year, New You Weight Loss Tip: Workout with a friend

There is no better motivation than a friend who shares the same goals. I, for one, love going on runs with my friends and walks with my mom and sister. So many people us excuses that they are too busy to see their friends or exercise. This is a great tip to not only exercise but catch up along the way. Try this tip sometime this week.

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Recipes: Ratatouille with White Beans & Polenta

Recipe Image

Ratatouille with White Beans & Polenta

EatingWell Test Kitchen
“Tons of lightly cooked vegetables combine with white beans in this hearty vegetarian dinner recipe. It can also be served over bread, like bruschetta.”

Ingredients

    • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
    • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch chunks
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
    • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
    • 1 (15 ounce) can no-salt-added white beans, rinsed
    • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
    • ¼ cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes
    • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
    • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
    • 1 16- to 18-ounce tube prepared polenta (see Tip), sliced into 8 rounds
    • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Directions

  • 1Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and bell peppers, sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl.
  • 2Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot. Add eggplant, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until browned in places, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables.
  • 3Add another 2 tablespoons oil to the pot. Add zucchini, sprinkle with the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until browned in places, 3 to 5 minutes. Add beans, cherry (or grape) tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, pepper and the reserved vegetables; stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • 4Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add polenta rounds and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn each slice and cook until browned on the second side, about 5 minutes more.
  • 5Stir capers into the ratatouille. Serve the polenta and the ratatouille topped with pine nuts.
  • Tips: Look for convenient tubes of precooked polenta in the pasta aisle or near refrigerated tofu at the supermarket.
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New Year, New You Fit Tip: Stop before you start

Make a list of bad habits you are willing to stop in order to live a healthier lifestyle. These decisions just might save your life.

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Recipes: Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

Recipe Image

Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

EatingWell Test Kitchen
“With this spaghetti squash and meatballs recipe, you can reduce the carbohydrates and increase the vegetable servings by skipping the pasta and serving the Italian-seasoned turkey meatballs and quick, homemade marinara sauce over thin strands of cooked spaghetti squash instead. Cooking the squash first in the microwave and then in a skillet to cook off the extra moisture, gives the squash a more spaghetti-like texture.”

Ingredients

    • 1 3-pound spaghetti squash
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
    • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
    • 1¼ teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
    • ½ teaspoon onion powder
    • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 1 pound 93%-lean ground turkey
    • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
    • ¼- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  • Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place facedown in a microwave-safe dish; add water. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the flesh can be easily scraped with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Scrape the squash flesh into the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture is evaporated and the squash is beginning to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup parsley. Remove from heat, cover and let stand.
  • Meanwhile, combine the remaining ¼ cup parsley, ¼ cup Parmesan, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, onion powder, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add turkey; gently mix to combine (do not overmix). Using about 2 tablespoons each, form into 12 meatballs.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs, reduce heat to medium and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 4 to 6 minutes. Push the meatballs to the side of the pan, add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper to taste, the remaining ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning and ¼ teaspoon salt; stir to coat the meatballs. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes more.
  • Serve the sauce and meatballs over the squash, sprinkled with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan.