Eat Berries #bebetter52

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This week’s BeBetter Challenge is to incorporate berries into your diet! Aside from being refreshing and able to satisfy your sugar cravings, berries have a wide variety of health benefits.

Because berries are rich in antioxidants, they protect your body from free radicals that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA. A diet rich in antioxidants can not only protect against aging, but can also prevent the development of diseases like cancer that result from oxidative DNA damage. Blueberries are especially high in antioxidants and have been shown to directly increase antioxidant levels in the body.

Berries serve as a great snack, especially when dieting, because they are low in calories and high in nutrients. A serving of mixed berries is only 70 calories, so you can feel guilt-free when opting for a second serving! With a high fiber and liquid content, berries help you feel satiated longer than empty high calorie snacks. They can also aid in weight loss because they have high levels of phytochemicals, which also help protect cells from damage.

On top of being rich in antioxidants and nutrients, there are also some brain benefits that come with eating berries. Berries have been proven to keep us mentally sharp, as shown by studies published in the Annals of Neurology. Studies show women who eat about two servings of strawberries or one serving of blueberries a week experienced less mental decline over time than their peers who went without eating berries. Of the 16,010 women over age 70 that took part in this study, the women with the highest berry intake postponed cognitive decline by about two and a half years.

So, what are you waiting for? Buy some berries, either fresh or frozen, and enjoy!

Here are some ideas how you can incorporate berries into your diet:

Berry infused water

Gather your favorite combo of berries and place them in a glass bottle. Feel free to add some mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy! Add some water, cover the glass, and let the flavors sit for at least 30 minutes.

Berry salad

Fruit salad… yummy, yummy! Slice up some strawberries and combine them with fresh blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Mix them together and enjoy!

Frozen berries

Frozen berries are a great alternative for late night ice cream cravings! You can easily buy a premade mixture of frozen berries at the grocery store or buy some fresh fruit and freeze them yourself!

Smoothies

No smoothie is complete without some berries! Throw your favorite berry mix into the blender and top off with some nutrient-dense vegetables. Smoothies are a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Reach Out To An Old Friend #bebetter52

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Is there someone who comes to mind when you think of a past friendship that brought joy to your life? Friendships can fizzle out for a number of reasons, whether it’s because you’ve relocated to a new city, started a new chapter in your life, or got preoccupied with your career. However, many of these reasons don’t necessarily mean your friendship should be abandoned for good!

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to reach out to an old friend. Think of a friend with whom you’ve lost touch and would like to rekindle your friendship.

Make the first move! Give the person a call or set up a coffee date to catch up on each other’s lives! This friend will likely be pleasantly surprised to see your name pop up on their phone screen, and hopefully your reunion will re-spark your friendship and bring happiness to each of your lives.

Also, don’t take the easy way out. While it might be convenient for you to reach out via text message or to communicate through Facebook posts, it’s best to have a REAL conversation. In person meet-ups are your best option, with phone calls being a close second.

Do your best to be fully present in the moment when speaking to this friend. Enjoy sharing memories about your past experiences together, your current endeavors and future plans. You might pick up right where you left off with this friend, or there might be an entirely new dynamic to your friendship resulting from the time you’ve spent apart. Be open to whatever this encounter may bring!

This interaction doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Less than an hour of quality conversation will be enough for you to feel the joy that comes along with reaching out and putting yourself out there. We are confident that this interaction will bring a smile to your face, as well as to your friends!



Healthy Smoothies #bebetter52

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The best way to trick yourself (or your kids) into healthy eating is by tossing your favorite veggies in a blender. Whether you are a green smoothie veteran or new to the smoothie game, adding a refreshing smoothie to your day will give you a nutrient boost. Smoothies are a quick and easy way to pack in the vitamins and minerals from all your favorite fruits and veggies!

The #bebetter52 challenge this week is to start the day off or replace dessert with a healthy and delicious green smoothie! This allows you to utilize all the nutrients you need to start your morning feeling energized and ready to go. Take the time to blend up the healthiest smoothie you can to make sure you’re getting the most out of this week’s challenge.

Healthy Smoothies Tips:

Blending up a great smoothie isn’t difficult. Pick a healthy recipe or get a little creative and combine all your favorite ingredients. Regardless of how you choose to do it, the key to a healthy smoothie is to add lots and lots of vegetables. Spinach and kale are the go-to veggies, but there is no need to stop there; romaine, cucumbers, and even avocados make great green additions to your smoothie.

Once you’ve chosen your green veggie base, be careful to pick low sugar options for the rest of your smoothie. Skip the yogurt or fruit juice base and go with a much healthier alternative like almond milk, coconut milk, or even water. Next, we suggest you pick low sugar fruit options, such as berries, to give some tasty flavor. Pro tip: use frozen fruits to give you that icy smoothie texture without watering your smoothie down with ice.

If you are feeling extra creative, add nuts, seeds, or nut butters for an extra dose of nutrients to your smoothie. Adding supplement powders is another great way to get the most out of this healthy treat.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try new things! As long as you start with healthy ingredients (and lots of veggies), you can’t go wrong.

Here are some of my personal favorite green smoothie recipes:

 Ginger Orange Smoothie

o   1 1/2 cups filtered water

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o   4 generous handfuls fresh spinach

o   4 romaine leaves (optional)

o   2 navel oranges

o   2 ripe bananas

o   1"-2" knob of fresh ginger

o   1 cucumber (optional), peel if not organic

 Blueberry Mint Smoothie

o   2 cups spinach (These will blend better if you freeze them beforehand)

o   2 cups blueberry (I’ve used 1 c. fresh and 1 c. frozen)

o   1 kiwi

o   3-4 large mint  leaves

o   1 cup coconut water

o   1 cup ice

Green Machine Smoothie

o   1 cup spinach

o   3 drops of peppermint oil (make sure it is high quality essential oil)

o   1/2 avocado

o   1 serving of protein powder

o   dash of almond milk

o  ice and water to blend

There are countless benefits of green smoothies and we are just scraping the surface! Post your green smoothie pictures with the #bebetter52 and remember for every completed challenge money will be donated to Every Mother Counts. If you post a picture on social media then extra money will be donated.



Be Creative #bebetter52

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Is your average day filled with constant consuming of information and fulfilling of responsibilities? In our hectic, always-connected world of television, social media, and on-demand everything, it can be increasingly easy to spend all of your time just getting by. Creative art offers an outlet and a break from all that noise. The power of art and creative thinking gives us time to ignore all incoming signals from the world and to embrace and express our internal thoughts and feelings instead. Art, when used as therapy, aids in the healing process, both physically and mentally.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to make time to be creative through any medium of art you choose. The benefits of art are many and range from processing feelings, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing self-esteem and improving your overall emotional happiness. Choose any creative art form, but we challenge you to try something new, something a little outside of your comfort zone. Whether it be painting, writing, drawing, sculpting, taking photographs, song writing or  singing, self-expression has the ability to give your minds a break from the constant responsibilities of everyday life. Our challenge isn’t as much about the finished project as it is about the therapeutic process of doing art.

Intuitively, we know creativity is good for us and our creative passions make us happy. Science also confirms the benefits of creativity. A 2010 article review published in the American Journal of Public Health called The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature, set out to measure how art and creative thinking affect mental and physical health. The article’s findings revealed that art and creative thinking have strong connections to mental health benefits as well as physical benefits. Specifically, these researchers discovered how creativity affects the brain and body, leading to benefits such as increased mood, decreased anxiety, heightened cognitive function, reduced risk of chronic illnesses and improved immune health. If you’d like to read more about the benefits of art, here’s the link! (https://relaxtheback.com/blogs/news/health-benefits-of-creativity)

Benefits of creating art outlined by HealthBeatblog.org:

Reduces Stress by providing a healthy distraction.

Boosts Self-Esteem by giving a sense of accomplishment.

Stimulates problem-solving because it encourages out-of-the-box thinking and there is no right answer.

Increases mobility and fine motor skills by repetitive eye-hand movements and stimulated brain connection.

We look forward to seeing your creative masterpieces. Remember though, it is the therapeutic process of doing art that is more important than the finished piece. Have fun, try something new, and do not become paralyzed by the false voice in your head that tells you, “I am not creative” or “I am not an artist.”



Avocados #bebetter52

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Avocados are pictured everywhere right now, from t-shirts, to reusable grocery bags, and even in house decor!  There is good reason for all the hype! With so many health benefits to eating avocados and over 100 ways to use them in delicious dishes, this weeks #bebetter52 challenge is to incorporate avocados into your diet.  It is your job to explore different ways to cook and bake with them. You can put them on top of toast in the morning, in your green smoothies, or mix them into a salad for some added yummy greens. So go to your local grocery store or farmer’s market and pick up some ripe avocados.

Did you know that avocados are actually considered a fruit? Avocados are full of healthy fats and over 20 vitamins unlike most fruits which contain more carbohydrates. The healthy fats, which take longer for our bodies to digest, help lower our appetites. So when hunger strikes, that is why avocados are a great food to eat and don’t want to eat empty calorie snacks. Additionally this fruit has monounsaturated fatty acid which is believed to be responsible for reduced inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Avocados are a great source of chlorophyll which helps to lower cholesterol. They are also good for organs, cells, and your immune system because of the high amounts of vitamin C. An added bonus is they taste delicious!

We are excited to see how you put avocados into your meals this week. By Sunday you should feel refreshed and energized from all the nutrients pumping through your system. Just remember by eating avocado this week as self improvement you are increasing global improvement too!

Here are some avocado ideas for every meal, including dessert!

Breakfast: Avocado Toast with Bacon and Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece thick cut bread

  • 1/2 avocado

  • freshly squeeze lemon juice

  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

  • 1 egg, scrambled

  • 1 piece bacon, cooked

  1. Now’s the fun part! Add any toppings you like! Sliced tomato, radish,  sprouts, or a sprinkle of cheese

  2. Top it off with seasoning such as salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, hot sauce for an added spice, or get creative!

Lunch: Avocado Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1/4 avocado

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 cup shredded chicken, precooked

1 whole wheat English muffin

Handful of lettuce or sunflower sprouts

2 slices tomato

Dinner: Avocado Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces dry elbow macaroni

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup milk

  • 2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired

  1. Make the avocado sauce by placing the garlic, avocados, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

  2. To make the cheese sauce, place butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a paste. Whisk in milk until smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in Pepper Jack cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy.

  3. Place macaroni in a large bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is coated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks, if desired.

Dessert: Avocado ice cream.

(It is yummy and helps to curb our sweet tooth that seems to strike at night!)

    1. All you need is half an avocado, half a banana, a splash of milk, and honey to taste

    2.  Blend in a blender, freeze for an hour, and enjoy!

Below are a few more avocado ideas: 

Use avocado oil when cooking (tip: they make this in spray form!)

You can also substitute avocado oil for butter in baking

Or even add a little salt and pepper to eat avocado as a great snack by itself!

Take one or two of these fun ways to incorporate avocado into your diet and you will probably become one of the many avocado lovers, too!