Category Archives: Healthy Living A to Z

Healthy Living A to Z: Z is for Zucchini

Source:  MorgueFile
Source: MorgueFile

I know winter may seem an odd time to be talking about zucchini. Have you ever tried to think of a healthy living word that starts with Z? I was grateful for zucchini. And why shouldn’t I be?

Zucchini being made up mostly of water is low in calories with just 20 in one cup chopped w/skin.
You want to eat zucchini with the skin on because that is where most of the nutrients are including fiber. Zucchini is also a source of antioxidants vitamins A and C, potassium and phosphorus.

Just rinse, then slice or grate. I bake or steam sliced zucchini with a little chopped onion and sliced or chopped tomato with a little fresh basil. Try using Zucchini sliced lengthwise to replace lasagna noodles. Or cut a zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out the some of the middle, stuff with your favorite veggies or grains and bake. Include zucchini in your favorite soup or grate a little raw onto your favorite salad. Of course cookies, muffins and cakes are still good, but why not take on the challenge of finding ways to make them healthier?

What’s your favorite way to prepare zucchini?

Healthy Living A to Z: Y is for Yoga

Yoga is made up of a variety of techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind body and spirit. The goal is to reach a state of oneness with the universe or enlightenment. There are many paths of yoga. Hatha Yoga, which is often thought of as “yoga” in the Western world is just one of them. Yoga is a practice of personal exploration which can be incorporated into any religious belief system.

In the West yoga has become mainstream and is known by many as a purely physical form of exercise for health, disconnected from the spiritual aspects. There is so much more to yoga than this.

If your yoga practice is focused solely on physical exercise, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Slow things down a bit and practice the postures in a slow, purposeful way. Focus on your breath and be in the moment. Feel the joy of total relaxation during the closing meditation..

Finally, there should be a deep sense of mutual respect between teacher and students. If that is not present or if a teacher tries to shame or belittle you for your size or current state of physical fitness, it’s time to find a new teacher.

Healthy Living A to Z: X is for Xanthan Gum

If you are a gluten free baker you are probably familiar with xanthan gum. Many believe this is a necessary ingredient in gluten free baking, but some people are sensitive to it and others prefer to avoid it for other reasons.

Xanthan gum is made by mixing fermented sugars with the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. It has medical uses for lowering blood sugar and total cholesterol in people with diabetes, as a laxative and sometimes as a saliva substitute for people with dry mouth. Xanthan gum is also used to thicken and stabilize foods, toothpaste and medications. [Source:]

I don’t use it in my gluten free baking. I have learned to use the properties of various gluten free flours to increase stability and produce a nice texture. Some flours such as brown rice and buckwheat work fine on their own. Blends with at least some starch in them (corn, tapioca, potato, arrowroot, etc.) also seem to do well. Adding flax seed meal to the flour may also help. By not using xanthan gum in gluten free recipes you will not necessarily avoid it entirely as zanthan gum is used in commercial products, including salad dressing and medications as well as some gluten free flour blends

To use xanthan gum or not is your choice. Do your research and be aware there are other options.

Healthy Living A to Z: W is for Walking

My grandmother was a walker. So was my mother. Both were extremely healthy in their 80’s. In fact both could out walk me.

We all know there are physical health benefits of a good walk. According to the Mayo Clinic, a brisk walk can help maintain a healthy weight, prevent or manage conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, strengthen bones, lift your mood and improve balance and coordination.

But there is more. Walking can also be a way of quieting our minds and becoming centered.

If you know you should be more active, stop beating yourself up over not finding time to go to the gym. Start where you are and just get moving. A great way to start is to get up and go for a walk.

Healthy Living A to Z: V is for Variety

You may have heard the old saying variety is the spice of life. Variety is important for health and longevity. The following are ways we can use variety to our benefit.

Eat a Variety of Foods
The best way to get the important nutrients you body needs is to eat a variety of foods, preferably minimally processed or whole foods. Be sure to get variety in the colors of the fruits and vegetables your eat — think eating the rainbow. The nutrients give the foods their color.

Engage in a Variety of Physical Activities
We all know that it is important to get up and move. One way to keep this from becoming drudgery is to vary your activity. Run, walk, play tennis, soccer, basketball, dance, take an exercise class. Mix up your activities, make them fun and you will get more out of your workouts.

Engage in a Variety of Mental Activities
It is important to keep the mind active throughout life. This can be done by taking classes, learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby or doing puzzles or word games.

So what are some of the ways you get variety in your life? Talk to me.

Healthy Living A to Z: U is for Understanding

I have found that people tend to have trouble staying with lifestyle changes if they are simply making changes because they are told to. Feeling forced to do something (even if to save your life) or blind obedience to a set of rules often brings about rebellion.

It is important that we truly understand what we are being called to change and why. So where do you begin?

1. Learn everything you can about why you are being called to make this change. Do your research, then sit with the information for awhile. Let it become part of you.

2. Look at the consequences of not making changes.

3. Realize that you do have a choice. Are you willing to live with the consequences of not changing?

4. Embrace the change. Welcome it into your life. Make if a part of who you are.

Once you can reach a point of choosing health and life and not feeling forced to do something against your will, life will become much easier. Remember you always have a choice.

Healthy Living A to Z: T is for Time

You can tell how important something is to you by the amount of time you devote to it. Take a minute to stop and reflect on your values. What do you consider most important? Now look at how you spend your time. Do the two match up?

I know that out of necessity work consumes a great deal of time for most people, but does it consume you as well? Do you still make quality time for family, friends, faith and rest? Do you take the time needed to live a healthy, balanced life? This is not a frantic, over the top workout at the gym squeezed into an already too busy day.

How much of the time you spend on various activities is really necessary to get them done and how much is based on unrealistic expectations and excessive pressure (internal or external) to “succeed” or be perfect? This is one I struggle with and I am sure I’m not alone in this.

Our time here on this earth is limited. It is precious. Spend it wisely.

Healthy Living A to Z: S is for Salmon

Copyright 2014 R.A. Robbins
Copyright 2014 R.A. Robbins

Salmon is known for containing high levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. Omega-3’s have also been associated with improved mood and cognitive abilities, joint protection, eye benefits and decreased cancer risks.

Look for Pacific salmon which is more likely to be wild caught. Atlantic salmon is more likely to be farmed and more likely to have lower Omega-3 levels and contains dioxins. Canned salmon is usually wild Pacific caught and can be a good option.

Salmon is not difficult to prepare. It can be baked, broiled, even grilled. Experiment with seasonings and sauces on your own or there are many wonderful salmon recipes available.

We like our salmon fillets baked or broiled with a little spicy mustard.  Sometimes we break it up and serve it as a salad on a bead of greens.  

We also love salmon patties made with canned salmon. I bake mine at 400 degrees on a baking sheet coated with a little pan spray instead of frying. They are not as crisp on the outside, but still good.

Healthy Living A to Z: R is for Rest

Copyright 2014 R.A. Robbins
Copyright 2014 R.A. Robbins

No matter how hard we try we cannot ignore the need of body, mind and spirit for rest. If we do not take time to rest and renew sooner or later the universe will intervene. For me this is when the car breaks down, the computer crashes, the electricity shuts down, or if all else fails to get my attention, I become physically ill unable to do much of anything.

First we must be sure we are getting enough sleep. The body must have sleep to recharge and repair itself. But rest can also involve meditation, spending time in nature, listening to music and other activities that are fun, joyful and help us reconnect with the Creator.

Set aside one day each week to rest, relax, recharge and reconnect. Turn off the “electronic devices.” Resist temptation to turn every activity into work, money or an opportunity for “success” and just be. Listen to the universe and you may receive the greatest inspiration yet.

Healthy Living A to Z: Q is for Quinoa

Copyright 2014 Rogene A. Robbins
Copyright 2014 Rogene A. Robbins

Qui what? It is pronounced keen-wa. Don’t worry we all have trouble with that one.

Quinoa is the seed of a plant related to beets, spinach and tumbleweed. It was known to the Incas as “mother of all grains” and is gluten free. For questions about cross contamination contact the manufacturer or distributor.

Quinoa is high in protein and is a “complete” protein. Other benefits include being a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus as well as high in magnesium and iron and a good source of healthy fat.

Rinse until water runs clear to remove the naturally bitter coating. Quinoa can replace rice in dishes and as a base for pasta sauce or stir fry. It also works as thickener in soups, stews and casseroles as well as a meat extender in meatloaf, meatballs, etc. Seed or flakes make a nutritious hot cereal. Quinoa is also found in some gluten free pastas and cereals.

Quinoa flakes may be used as oatmeal. Quinoa flour is ground Quinoa seeds which maybe combined with other flours for baking, but does not work well on its own.

If you are worried about getting enough fiber or protein try quinoa. These tiny seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. It also doesn’t hurt that they taste good.

My recipe for Pumpkin Quinoa Pilaf with Bacon in available in Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday.  The recipe for Cranberry Quinoa Pilaf may be found in The Gluten Free Good Life.  Both e-books are available at Espirational Books.