All posts by Barbara

I love to cook. I’m also a health coach, a path I chose after going through a health crisis which taught me the importance of eating healthy meals. Now, I want to combine the two — health coaching and cooking — to help people learn to cook healthy meals. To plan healthy meals. And to eat healthy meals. For more, please visit Your Cooking Coach.

Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

Blood Pressure
Recently, I visited my doctor and they took my blood pressure. It measured a tad bit on the high side. Nothing to worry about that because it’s just one measurement, possibly an anomaly. It got me to thinking about what measures one can take to lower blood pressure. Used to be, your doctor would give you a list, but too often now they find it easier to write a prescription. So I researched some things that you might do to try to lower border-line blood pressure. Please be advised: I am not advising that you go against your doctor’s advice. These are just some things to think about to help you control your blood pressure naturally.

The Obvious:

  • Quit Smoking
  • Lose Weight
  • Reduce your sodium intake – read your labels. Try to keep it under 2,500 mg / day
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Increase Aerobic Exercise – go for power walks

The Not So Obvious:

  • Insulin can play a role in blood pressure so reduce your intake of sugar and refined or processed foods
  • Increase whole grains
  • Avoid heavily processed or refined oils
  • Consume potassium rich foods – sweet potatoes, nuts, beans, legumes, etc.
  • Breathe deeply. Yes, breathe. Take 5 minutes every morning and every evening to breathe deeply.

Photo Courtesy isafmedia via Flickr

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere!

Cotton CandyAs a nation, Americans are addicted to sugar. Estimates are that each one of us consumes over 100 pounds of sugar per year. And it’s really no wonder because it is found in so much of our food today. You expect to find sugar in cakes, cookies and candy. But you can also find it in some canned vegetables, baby food, cereals, peanut butter, bread and tomato sauce. Even some so-called healthy foods contain sugars.

We all know that we shouldn’t consume so much sugar. Sugar has been implicated in obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, depression, headaches, migraines, and many more illnesses. For a comprehensive list, see Nancy Appleton’s 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health.

One problem with sugar in foods is that it is often disguised by using some fancy term – such as corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, glucose, fructose, etc. In fact, below you will find a list of the many names of sugar. Read the ingredients on the label of foods you buy to see how many you can find.

Agave Nectar
Barley malt
Barley Malt Extract
Beet sugar
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Crystalline Fructose
Date sugar
Dehydrated Cane Juice
Demerara sugar
Diastatic malt
Ethyl malItol
Evaporated Cane Juice
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
High-fructose corn syrup
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Maple syrup
Muscovado sugar
Powdered sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Rice syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Photo Courtesy cbgrfx123 via Flickr

Stir Fry Un-Recipe

Stir FryStir Fry is actually an easy dish to prepare and it doesn’t require a specific shopping list. I tend to use whatever I have on hand. It’s actually a good recipe for using up some of your leftover vegetables.

I made this over the weekend. This time it was sort of pre-planned. I bought a small head of savoy cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms and carrots. Other ingredients I had on hand. Here’s my recipe from the weekend. Just keep in mind that your recipe can vary. One thing that I like to add, if I have it is a can of Water Chestnuts. I love their crunchiness. For this particular meal, I served it with fresh, home-made, whole wheat ciabatta bread; just because it was there. Normally, I like to serve this dish with brown rice.

Regarding quantities: I didn’t really measure anything for this dish, so any measurements I give are approximate. If you don’t have some of the items, don’t worry. And you’re free to add in whatever veggies you think sound good. I don’t think I ever cook this the same every time.

You could also substitute beef or shrimp for the chicken. Or even leave out all the meat, if you choose. It’s up to you.

If you use different veggies, add them into the pot based on how long they take to cook. It’s really a versatile dish. Other options to add to it include: peanuts, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, or whatever is in your fridge.

The version picture above was made with: onion, garlic, chicken, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, and water chestnuts.

Stir Fry Un-Recipe
  • 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 onion, cut into large (about 1 inch) pieces
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • ½ cup celery, sliced
  • ½ cup carrots, sliced
  • Broccoli
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup blanched, slivered almonds
  • 1 small head savoy cabbage, sliced thin
  • 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 Tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsp Teriyaki Sauce
  1. Heat the oils in a large, deep skillet or wok.
  2. Saute onion and garlic and cook until onion is transparent.
  3. Add the chicken and cook, with stirring, until lightly brown.
  4. Add the celery and carrots and cook about 2 minutes.
  5. Add broccoli, sesame seeds and almonds and cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add the cabbage, mushrooms, soy sauce and Teriyaki sauce.
  7. Stir and then cover and cook for 2-4 minutes – until everything is heated.
  8. Serve over steamed brown rice, if desired.


Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what veggies you used and how it turned out. Each variation is its own unique dish! Have fun!

What To Eat For Energy

Foods For Energy
Last week, we talked about foods that drain your energy. This week, we have a list of the top foods that will give you energy:

  1. Vegetables – Especially dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards and chards. Also sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and spinach.
  2. Cold-water fatty fish – These include wild salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. They’re an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, energy-boosting B vitamins, complete protein, and more.
  3. Beans & Lentils – Beans and lentils provide carbohydrates and protein making them a good source of energy.
  4. Tree nuts & Seeds – Tree nuts and seeds are a great source for quick energy. They provide protein and ‘healthy’ fats.
  5. Raw Foods – You don’t have to become a Raw Foodist for this. Raw vegetables will provide extra energy through enzymes. Consider salads, carrots, radishes, etc. If you’re having a salad, don’t go for the low-fat dressing. Pick a dressing with ‘good’ fats in it. The fat helps your body assimilate the enzymes, vitamins and minerals in the vegetables.
  6. Healthy, Whole grains – When eating grains – especially breads – then choose only whole grains. They provide fiber, minerals and vitamins that are removed from processed foods.
  7. Water – OK, it’s not really a food, but it’s very important to your health. It helps eliminate dehydration,regulate body temperature, and reduce stress. Do all liquids count as water? Not really. Consider that whatever else is in that liquid has to be processed first, then and only then do you get water for hydration. Depending on the liquid, you could be getting little to no hydration.

What’s that you ask? Where’s the caffeine and the sugar? In reality, neither of these will give you lasting energy and in the long run they are energy draining foods.

Photo Courtesy Kreg.Steppe via Flickr

Lessons from the Eagle Cam – So Far

Norfolk Bald Eagles
A friend of mine introduced me to this Bald Eagle Cam back in March. It is a web cam of a family of eagles – two adults and 3 young eaglets – living in nest 80-90 feet off the ground in a Loblolly pine at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.

Sometimes, being healthy is about taking mental breaks & relaxing. The Eagle Cam has been my mental break lately. I’ve grown to love that eagle family and have found lessons that can apply to all of us:

  1. Watch carefully over your children – Adult eagles never sleep soundly and are always alert. When there are eaglets in the nest, one parent is always close by to protect them.
  2. Protect your kids with your life – from predators and from rain. The mother eagle will cover the young babies, still covered in down, with her wings. Some call it a “Mombrella”.
  3. Parenting is a joint effort – sometimes mom brings the food, sometimes dad. Sometimes dad feeds the kids, sometimes mom feeds them, and at the best times, mom & dad feed the kids together.
  4. Don’t poo where you sleep. It’s instinct for even the baby eaglets to back up and point away from the nest when they do their business.
  5. Give your kids wings and they will learn to fly!
  6. No boomerang kids allowed – The kids leave the nest a few months after first flight or fledge – July to August. They aren’t welcome back because in the Fall the the parents are planning food their next brood.
  7. No food goes to waste. “Nestovers” hang around and are eaten as snacks later on.
  8. Dad is in charge of housekeeping! I love that idea!
  9. Flying is instinct, not something they learn from their parents. As they become strong enough, they begin an activity that some call “wingercizing”.
  10. Eagles learn to hunt for food on their own, after they leave the nest. They learn by observing other juvenile eagles and by stealing food. Not all of them are successful hunters, which is one reason that, on average, only 50% of baby eagles make it to adulthood – 5 years old.
  11. Tragedy is a part of life, but life goes on. On the morning of April 26th, the mama eagle was struck by an airplane and killed. I have to confess that I cried when I learned of her death. The next day, the three eaglets were moved to the Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV). They will remain at WCV until it is determined that they are old enough to be on their own – probably in August.

Norfolk Bald Eagle Family

Even though the eaglets have moved, there is still a web cam at the WVEC site where you can follow their progress.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is our nation’s emblem and is the only eagle unique to North America. According to the American Bald Eagle Information site:

The bald eagle’s scientific name signifies a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At one time, the word “bald” meant “white,” not hairless.

I’ll be watching these eaglets until they leave WCV. I have been fascinated with watching them grow and learn. Amazing how much they grow in such a short period of time. They weighed approximately 2.5 ounces when they hatched. The oldest of the 3 eaglets is 2 months old today and weighed 9.5 pounds on Tuesday!

The decision to remove the eaglets from their nest at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens was made by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF). While there were people who felt that man shouldn’t interfere with nature in that manner, the decision was made because it would be in the best interest of the dad and the three eaglets. You can read more about that in this press release (PDF).

Other links:

Photo Credits: WVEC, WCV, DGIF, & NBG.

Top 8 Energy Sucking Foods

Energy Sucking Foods
As an entrepreneur, you need energy throughout your day in order to stay at the top of your game. There are a number of foods that can actually drain your energy. Here are the top 8 energy draining foods:

  1. Caffeine – You may not have expected this to be on the list, but in reality it is. Caffeine, over time, will lead to adrenal exhaustion and fatigue. Also, caffeine causes spikes in blood sugar similar to sugar. You may get a burst of energy, but you’ll crash later and need another jolt of caffeine.
  2. Foods with Sugar – You may get a burst of energy from eating sugar, but later you’ll crash and your blood sugar will be lower than before you ate the sugar. It’s a vicious cycle that ultimately drains your energy.
  3. Fatty & Fried foods – Foods that are high in fat will take a while to digest. Eating them caused much of your blood supply to be diverted to digestion, leaving you with little energy.
  4. Processed Foods – White bread, white pasta, etc; really any flour product that is not 100% whole grain, will drain your energy levels. They consist mostly of starch as the fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals have been removed. Hence, they cause blood sugar spikes followed by crashes; similar to eating foods with sugar in them.
  5. Alcohol – Alcohol is a sedative that slows down your nervous system. Red wine is especially bad since it also contains melatonin.
  6. Low Iron Foods – Anemia (iron deficiency) is a frequent cause of fatigue. Foods low in iron include chicken, broccoli, pork & peanut butter. If you eat these at lunch time, combine with vegetables high in iron such as spinach, greens,green peas, green beans; or nuts, seeds or legumes.
  7. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) – One effect that MSG has on the body is to cause an energy drain. MSG is in more than just Chinese food. In fact, it’s found in many processed foods, where it’s used as a flavor enhancer and to make you feel like you’ve eaten more than you actually have.
  8. Skipping meals – Well, not exactly a food. But if you skip meals, you’ll likely find you lack energy. Not eating can cause low blood sugar and fatigue. You’re metabolism slows down causing you to have less energy.

If you want to know what to eat that will combat fatigue, see this post on high energy foods.

Thanks for stopping by! This blog posts gets a TON of visits. That tells me that a lot of folks are running on little to no energy. Does that include you?

Feel free to contact us if you’re looking to make some changes to improve your energy!

Photo courtesy abardwell via Flickr.

Spinach, Tomato & Olive Pizza

Spinach Tomato Olive Pizza
This is a light pizza dish that can be served as a main dish or as an appetizer. I make my own pizza crust, but you can also buy pre-made crusts at the grocery. Also, some restaurants actually sell their dough balls.

Spinach, Tomato & Olive Pizza
  • 2 oz grated mozzarella cheese (~1/2 cup)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1½ cups grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • Prepared, pre-baked pizza crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise.
  3. Cut olives crosswise.
  4. Combine tomatoes, olives, olive oil, vinegar, garlic & pepper. For added flavor, allow the mixture to marinate overnight.
  5. Stir in the spinach and basil
  6. Spread tomato mixture on pre-baked pizza crust.
  7. Combine cheeses and spread evenly over pizza.
  8. Bake until hot & bubbly and cheese has melted – about 15 minutes.

Top 10 Ways To Reduce Your Stress

10 Ways To Reduce Your Stress
We’re all under stress, it’s part of modern life. Here I’ve listed the top ten ways to reduce your stress.

  1. Release Endorphins – Endorphins are nature’s pain relievers and can also induce feelings of euphoria. Do something every day that releases endorphins – exercise, dark chocolate, chili peppers, even chewing.
  2. Cut Back on Processed Foods – All those highly refined carbohydrates such as white sugar and white flour are adding to internal stress.
  3. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables – Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of anti-oxidants that can help counteract the free radicals produced by the stress response. But go for the real thing – most commercial juices are highly processed. Processed juices are mostly the sugars from the fruit. Many of the vitamins and most of the fiber is lost.
  4. Reduce or Eliminate Coffee, Alcohol and Tobacco – These all contribute to adrenal fatigue and stress.
  5. Start a Gratitude Journal – Each night, just before you go to bed, write down 5 things that you are thankful for. OR five things that went really well for you that day. Or some combination of the 2. Let those be your last thoughts before you go to sleep.
  6. Take Time for Yourself – Every day, find some time that is just for you. Even if it’s only 15 minutes. Maybe you’ll spend it reading or soaking in a bubble bath. Whatever helps you relax and unwind. Turn off the phones (really, it’s ok if you do) and escape for a while.
  7. Take up Yoga or Pilates – This is especially good (although difficult) if you’re a Type A personality. Yoga and Pilates require that you slow down and concentrate only on them. It’s a great way to get your mind off everything else.
  8. Meditation – This doesn’t have to be formal meditation. Simply find a quiet spot and think back to a place or time that you really enjoyed. Imagine you are back there and let your senses take you back.
  9. Herbal Tea – Drink some chamomile or peppermint tea.
  10. Seek Positive People – Stay away from negative emotions and pessimistic people. Don’t get sucked into the “How Stressed I Am” game. There’s nothing to be gained from this.
  11. Laugh (BONUS!) – Every day include some fun, humor and play in your life. It’s another good way to release endorphins.

Photo courtesy BLW Photography via Flickr.