Enjoy Holiday Favorites the Heathy Way
Raw cocoa has a lot of health benefits. It has a high concentration of antioxidants, which can do everything from help prevent cancer and heart disease, to fight aging in general. The polyphenols and flavanols in cocoa have potential health benefits for the skin, the brain, and cardiovascular system.
But before you reach for the hot chocolate mix, we have to warn you that the benefits of cocoa are often outweighed by the added fat and sugar or commercial preparations. For a toasty treat that will be totally healthy, try this simple recipe. Heat up 1/4 cup of water and mix in 1 tbsp of honey and 2 tbsp of natural cocoa powder. Once mixture is dissolved, add 8 oz of rice milk and warm to desired temperature. Rice milk is naturally sweet and is the perfect complement to this beverage.
We think of popcorn as a junk food indulgence for the movies, but popcorn is actually a whole grain with fiber, protein, and other healthful nutrients. It can be a great snack, depending on how your prepare it. Always air pop your popcorn. To add some flavor try some of these amazing variations.
- Add 1 tsp coconut oil to warm popcorn and then shake with 1 tbsp of nutty, nutritious hemp seeds. Salt lightly.
- Add 1 tsp coconut oil to warm popcorn and then shake with 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
- Shake with cumin, chili powder, oregano, sea salt, and cayenne.
- Add 1 tsp olive oil to warm popcorn and then shake with garlic powder.
Break out the nutcracker! Nuts get a lot of good press for their health benefits. They have protein, heart-healthy fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Plus recent studies suggest that adding nuts to your diet may help you lose weight by satiating your appetite.
Here’s some of the top rated nuts for good health: almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts.
Be sure to pick raw or dry roasted nuts without any added ingredients. Steer clear of anything “honey-roasted” which can add sugar, fat and gluten to a plain nut.
Enjoy nuts in moderation and pay close attention to serving size, as nuts are calorie dense.
Winterize Your Workout
Simple pieces of exercise equipment, such as resistance bands, weights, yoga mat, stability ball or a jump rope are affordable and can help add a new dimension to your workout at home. Some of these products may come with exercise suggestions, or you can easily find guides online by searching the web for exercises you can do with each piece of equipment.
You can use everyday items around the house at fitness tools. Try using gallon jugs as weights. Fill with water or sand to increase the weight. On a carpeted surface, use large carpet sliders to add challenge to abdominal exercises and squats. (Try small towels on hard surfaces.)
Abs pull: Start in a plank position with sliders or towels underneath the balls of both feet. Level 1: pull knees to chest one at a time, keeping core stable. Level 2: pull both knees to chest. Level 3: pull body into pike position with legs straight and hips in the air.
Side squat: Begin standing with one foot on a slider or towel. Lower into a squat and one leg straight to the side. Pull legs together, using inner thigh muscles as you lift to standing.
Lunge: Begin standing with one foot on a slider or towel. Slide one leg back into a lunge. Pull back leg toward front using quad and thigh muscles as you lift to standing.
If you are someone who needs a little guidance or external motivation, there are plenty of great workout videos available. You can purchase single workouts, or full fitness systems. To get started, we recommend checking out the free videos available on YouTube. You can often find a sample workout from a program you may be considering purchasing. Or you can find lots of great stand-alone content.
Eat more protein
In the colder months we tend to eat more and if you are working out, you’ll likely feel hungrier. But before you nosh on comforting carbs to satisfy your appetite, try adding more protein to your diet to help keep you full and prevent overeating. If you don’t eat meat, try some alternative proteins, such as quinoa, hemp seeds, legumes, nuts and soy. Eat a snack or small meal 20-30 minutes after a workout to replenish your body.
Try this yummy, super nutritious smoothie post exercise. Combine ingredients and blend til smooth.
1 cup water
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 mixed frozen berries
1 cup spinach
Pump up the jams
When it’s cold and dark, it can be harder to get motivated to move. Be sure to get an adequate warmup of at least 5-10 minutes before a workout, especially in cold weather. Our favorite way to get in the mood to move? A good workout playlist! You can find playlists already compiled, or you can create a custom list that you know will be super motivating to you.