Advocating for Avocados

A one-ounce portion of avocado has about 50 calories, and over 75% of those come from fat. But that’s not a reason to stop eating avocados. In fact, quite the opposite: Avocados are a wonderful source of healthy fat and provide other substantial health benefits.

For example, a good portion of the fat in avocados is made up of phytosterols, which have been documented to help keep inflammation under control, particularly the inflammation associated with arthritis.

Avocados not only contain an impressive array of antioxidants, but the fat of avocados contains a high amount of oleic acid, which aids in the absorption of many antioxidants and Vitamins A, D, K, and E. So, it’s a great idea to add avocado to salads, for instance. That’s because your body needs healthy fats in order to effectively absorb many nutrients—like the ones sure to be found in other ingredients in your salad.

In addition, research has shown that heart health is promoted by the intake of oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids—both of which are found in avocados. Avocados are also high in fiber, Vitamin B-6, and folic acid, which are all part of a heart-healthy diet. Good fats, like those in avocados, also aide in lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

But wait, there’s more: Avocados are also high in potassium, containing even more per serving than bananas do. Potassium is essential in building muscle and helps to offset some of the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure.

So, if you ever needed any more justification for including avocados in your diet than their wonderful flavor, you now have your fill. Eat up and enjoy!

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Top o’ the Morning Treat for St. Paddy’s Day!

What could put you more in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day than starting it off with a delicious green breakfast? And since St. Patrick’s Day is largely about maximizing fun, what could be more fun at breakfast than Green Eggs & Ham?

The bonus is that this particular recipe is both fun and healthy. It includes egg whites, which are a great source of lean protein: each egg white has 6 grams of protein and zero grams of fat! And spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet!

So, here’s our quick and easy California Chef recipe for Green Eggs & Ham, and some delicious ways to enjoy it:

Recipe: Serves 1

1 cup egg whites

1/8 cup raw spinach

1/8 cup fresh basil

1 garlic clove

1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 spray olive oil spray

1 slice lean, low-sodium deli ham, chopped

  1. Blend egg whites, spinach, basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and pepper until smooth and completely green.
  2. Heat up a non-stick frying pan.
  3. Spray non-stick pan with olive oil spray.
  4. Add green egg mixture and cook like scrambled eggs.
  5. When eggs are almost all cooked through, add ham to the pan and finish cooking eggs.
  6. See below for serving suggestions:

You can put your eggs next to potatoes,

Or top them with chopped tomatoes.

You can roll them in a spinach tortilla,

Or stuff them in a whole wheat pita.

They are delicious on toasted bread,

Or on an English muffin you can spread.

Of course you can always eat them plain,

But don’t wait a year to eat them again.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! For more healthy recipes, please skim through prior blogs. Or, if you’d like to go one step further and have us prepare our healthy, delicious recipes and deliver the meals to your door, sign up for our service by clicking on the orange “Sign-Up Now!” box at the top left of this page.

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Put Some Spring in Your Step!

As you hopefully already know, we turned the clocks ahead by 1 hour early Sunday morning. That means that today—as the first workday after the change—is when many people will truly notice how much extra daylight we’re now getting in the early evening. The sun won’t set here in Southern California until just about 7:00 pm. That gives us all more than an hour’s bonus of sunshine this evening over what we had just 2 nights ago. Let’s enjoy it!

How about getting outside and taking a walk this evening? Or if you’ve been biking only on the weekends this winter because of visibility concerns at night, how about sneaking in a nice ride before dinner? If running is your thing, how about revving things up in that extra hour of sun when drivers can more easily see you? Parcourse, paddleball, tennis—whatever exercise gets your blood flowing, get going with it tonight. No matter how healthy you eat, burning extra calories through exercise is a great help in losing weight, and if winter’s early darkness has been keeping you sedentary at night, now’s the time to get off the couch and to spring into action!

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Kale: A Leafy Green Vegetable’s Long March from Rabbit Food to Superfood!

Yes, of course, the title is a little much, but we’re on the eve of the Academy Awards so everything has to be at least a little dramatic. But, in all seriousness, I remember talking about kale at dinner with my wife’s (that is, Chef Denise’s) food-obsessed family more than a decade ago, and one of Denise’s cousins saying the only thing she’d ever used kale for was to feed her rabbits. Other people at the table came to kale’s defense, of course, and it seems like only 10 years later the rest of America—or at least California—got in step as well.

I think kale has gone mainstream for two major reasons: It is a superfood, and it is far tastier than most people who haven’t tried it assume. On the superfood front, kale is one of the rare foods that score a perfect 1,000 on the ANDI scale (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index). The leafy green is chock-a-block full of Vitamins A and C, a good source of Vitamins B and K, and also offers lots of important minerals.

On the taste front, people who try kale that is prepared properly quickly dismiss prior concerns about how bitter the taste or tough the texture might be. The key to enjoying kale raw is to first cut it into small pieces and then marinate it for a short time in a dressing. Cooking kale softens its texture and opens up a world of possible flavor combinations that can span the taste spectrum. Great tasting and great for you—now that’s a combination everyone can enjoy!

 

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February: The Month for Anyone Who Has a Heart!

As the month that gives us Valentine’s Day, when images of hearts become ubiquitous, it is fitting that February is also American Heart Month—an opportunity for all of us to learn more about how to keep this critical organ healthy. And, judging from the statistics, we better do so in a hurry! As the official declaration for American Heart Month states, “Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is responsible for one out of every three deaths [in this country]. It is the Number 1 killer of American women and men, and it is a leading cause of serious illness and disability.”

OK, that’s the really, really bad news. The really, really good news is that we can all take important steps to help prevent us from becoming victims of cardiovascular disease. To get started, let’s take a look at the leading risk factors for developing heart problems:

  1. Tobacco Use
  2. Insufficient Physical Activity
  3. Inappropriate Diet
  4. Obesity
  5. High Blood Pressure
  6. Unhealthy Blood Cholesterol
  7. Diabetes

Now that we know the leading risks, let’s discuss how to go about dealing with them.

First things first: We all know that smoking is a dangerous habit, so if you haven’t started smoking, DON’T! If you do smoke, consider yourself lucky to be living in a time in which there are the best options ever available for helping you quit. Talk to your doctor about the most appropriate strategy for you.

Regarding the last four risks on the list (Items 4 through 7), the silver lining is the fact that they can all be largely dealt with by tackling Items 2 and 3. So let’s take a closer look at those.

Item 2: I think you’ve already guessed the treatment for this risk factor: Exercise regularly! Routine physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, tame unhealthy cholesterol, and help manage or even reverse Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. If you’re not regularly engaging in exercise already, now is the time to start. Take a look at some of our prior blogs on the subject to give you a head start.

Item 3: OK, I think you’ve probably guessed the answer to dealing with this risk factor too: Eat right! You probably know the bare basics already, even if you don’t strictly abide by them: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid significant quantities of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and highly processed food of any kind. If you’re doing this on your own already, then congratulations! If you’re not, we at California Chef can definitely help you. We not only know how to prepare healthy meals but how to make them delicious—so they feel like a treat, not a chore! And, like exercise, a proper diet can help you achieve and keep an ideal weight, lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol numbers, and manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes. Eating properly is also a crucial factor in managing Type 1 diabetes.

We at California Chef have helped hundreds of our clients with these conditions and others. So if you’d like us to help you get on the road to better heart health, click here to learn about our meal options and pricing and get started!

And whether you enlist our help or not, please get serious about your cardiovascular health. I put this primer together in hopes of getting your attention, but this is really just a start. Go to the Center for Disease Control’s site  or the American Heart Association’s site to learn more, and if you’re 40 or over, or think you’re at risk for heart disease, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out—You’ll heart yourself for doing so!

 

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Healthy Nachos To Score Big on Super Bowl Sunday!

If you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you don’t have to blow it on Super Bowl Sunday. This simplified California Chef recipe for Guiltless Turkey Nachos is less than 400 calories per serving, and it’s satisfyingly delicious. Not only are these nachos healthy and diet friendly, but they are even gluten free!

Recipe Serves 4

  1. The secret of this recipe is the chips. Take 4 brown rice tortillas and spray them with a touch of olive oil spray.
  2. Dust them with any pre-made Mexican seasoning, or a mix of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.
  3. Cut the tortillas as if you were slicing a pizza into 8 pieces. Place the resulting triangles on a baking sheet, and bake at 375° for approximately 10 minutes.
  4. While the chips are crisping, brown 16 oz. of lean ground turkey in a pan with ½ cup of your favorite salsa.
  5. When chips are crisp, top with 1 cup of pinto beans.
  6. Distribute the turkey evenly over the beans.
  7. Cover turkey with 1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese made with 2% milk (you’ll find this cheese at almost any grocery store).
  8. Top with chopped cilantro, green onions, and jalapeños.
  9. Serve with salsa and fat-free sour cream.
  10. Enjoy the game while staying on track with your commitment to lose weight.

 

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5 Tips for Keeping This Year’s Resolutions!

If, like many people, you follow the January ritual of making new year’s resolutions—and then are stung by the lack of success you have in keeping them—here are 5 tips for making 2015 the year you get things right! These tips are taken from a blog I did on the subject early last year, and I received so many thank you’s and comments about these that I thought I should share them again.

1. Choose Realistic Goals.

This might seem obvious, but many of us trip over this very first step. If you’re of a certain age and saw the recent photo of Christie Brinkley at 60 on the cover of People magazine, and then resolved to look just like her—you’ve already set yourself up for failure. [Last January, Christie appeared in a one-piece swimsuit on the cover of People and looked incredible for her age—well, really, for any age. As luck would have it, just a few days ago, buzz erupted once again on the internet when Christie posted photos of herself in a bikini on Instagram during a family vacation in Turks & Caicos. Once again, she looked amazing!] If you’ve pledged to strike it rich this year, and given yourself just a year to do it in, you’ve already stacked the deck against yourself. Losing weight or making more money are both perfectly realistic goals, but becoming a supermodel (even an older one) or the next Bill Gates is a tad overly ambitious—at least in the short term. Keep your goals realistic, then take the next step.

2. Define Your Goals.

Again, if weight loss is your goal, saying that you’re going to lose weight is not enough. Take a serious, honest look at yourself and come up with an estimate of how much weight you want to lose this year. Write down that figure for yourself. If making more money is your goal, how much? What is a realistic figure to shoot for this year? Write it down. Whatever your goal is, make it concrete and measurable. This way you’ll know what your real goal is; how you’re doing along the way; and whether you’ve reached it by the end of your effort.

3. Develop Your Strategy.

So far you’ve been honing in on your goals. This is when you get to the nitty-gritty. What exactly do you need to do to reach your realistic, well-defined goals? If you’re trying to lose weight, just contact California Chef and they’ll take care of the rest. Just kidding! I didn’t come all this way just to give myself a plug. But, on the other hand, this is a real strategy. We’ll calculate your calories, measure out your proteins/carbs/healthy fats portions, make your meals to your taste specifications, and delivery them to your home. You just heat and eat.

But whether you call on us for help, or go it alone, you need a specific strategy for how you’re going to eat the correct foods in the correct quantities to meet your goal. Be sure to include a realistic exercise component as well, since this will hasten your weight loss. And come up with a schedule for all of the above.

If you’re going to make your own meals, allocate the time you’ll need to research what’s appropriate, shop for the proper ingredients, and prepare your healthy choices. Mark on your calendar or app or however you keep your schedule the exact times you’re going to exercise, whether that’s taking walks at your lunch breaks, taking classes at your fitness facility, or taking the time to burn some calories at home. Keep track of how things are going. If you find you’re not really able to get to your spin class on Tuesdays because of the new Team Meeting at work, or your lunchtime walk buddies come up with too many detours to the neighborhood cupcake shop, make some changes. Your successful strategy is not set in stone; it is a work in progress. If something is not working, make the effort to fix it. Don’t just let your goals fizzle away by not keeping track of your progress and adjusting your efforts as needed.

4. Don’t Get Discouraged by Setbacks.

The road to success is almost never a straight line. Although you should work diligently to keep to your strategy and schedule, don’t be surprised if you goof things up once in a while. You’re not perfect, and you’re likely to hit some roadblocks on your way to your goal. Don’t let this discourage you! If you stumble, figure out what tripped you up, and come up with a tweak to your strategy to avoid such a misstep in the future. Your goal is not to be perfect, but to be better. I even know people who switch calendars in February just to get themselves back on track;)

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

Some—if not most—worthwhile goals are best achieved with some assistance. If you’re trying to quit smoking, tell all your smoking buddies, and ask for their assistance in keeping you on the straight and narrow if you feel yourself looking to light up. Exercising, on the other hand, is a classic positive activity that is easier to stick with if you’re doing it with someone else—or a group of someone elses. If you know so and so will be expecting you at the gym, or at walk time, or at Pilates class, you’ll be more motivated to show up—even on those occasions when you’re not looking all that forward to doing so.

And if your goal is really something so important to you that you’re willing to make the effort outlined above to achieve it, share your goal with the people in your life that matter most. During tough times, they can be there to encourage you to struggle through, and just opening up to them about why your goal is important to you and why you’re determined to achieve it will make you more accountable to the person who should really matter most to you—yourself!

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Wishing You All the Best in 2015!

As we get ready to close out 2014 and ring in the new year, I want to thank all of our wonderful clients for entrusting their dietary needs to us this year and our dedicated staff for making sure that those needs are met with the level of care and professionalism that we pride ourselves on.

It really is an honor to help so many people achieve a higher quality of life through our meal delivery service, and to receive the compliments; thanks; updates on weight loss, cholesterol level improvements, and blood pressure reduction; and accounts of myriad other health improvements that we’ve played a role in. It is our great pleasure to help our clients meet their health and dietary goals, and we look forward to working together toward continued success in 2015! On behalf of everyone here at California Chef, I wish you all great health and happiness in the year ahead!!!

Chef Denise

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Tips for Celebrating the Holidays!

Warm holiday season greetings to all of you! Yes, it’s that time of year again, and in what has become something of a holiday tradition, I’m re-posting a blog I did a few years ago that always gets a lot of comments and thanks from readers. It’s my own little recipe for maximizing holiday cheer—while minimizing holiday regrets. I hope you find it helpful reading. Happy Holidays!

Enjoying holiday cheer is good. Repeatedly saying “Cheers” and knocking back cocktails all night long—not so much. In addition to being loaded with lots of useless calories, alcohol often leads to lousy food choices. So, limit yourself to maybe one drink at the party or family gathering, and otherwise stick to low-cal soft drinks, sparkling or still water.

Choose what you eat carefully—and then savor the flavor. At parties or get-togethers, consider choosing only those foods that are special this time of year, and skip over the items you can have any old time. Make a point of taking in the look and aroma of your special choices before digging in. Then enjoy them slowly to maximize the experience. Doing so should give you big-time enjoyment with minimal caloric intake.

Don’t forget the stocking stuffers. Don’t throw all your good eating habits out the window this time of year. As you’re hitting the buffet table, remember to grab some of those vegetables that are probably sitting next to the dip and whatever fruit might be available. Drink plenty of water too. Having these “stuffers” alongside your chosen special treats will help you feel fuller faster, leading to less overeating and weight gain.

Get enough ZZZ’s to balance out the Ho Ho Ho’s. During this hectic time, it’s key to get enough sleep. When you’re feeling run-down or tired, you might be tempted to grab some high-sugar or high-fat foods to try to give yourself an energy jolt. But the rushes that result are only temporary—the pounds hang around for considerably longer!

Give yourself the gift of understanding. The tips above should help you avoid gaining weight this holiday season, but don’t get too down on yourself if you slip up a time or two. Do your best, but acknowledge that this is just a challenging time of year for eating right. Enjoy the company of family and friends, the—perhaps—unexpected good humor of certain usually-world-weary workmates, and the sights and sounds of the season. After all, things will be back to normal all too soon.

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It’s Hard to Be Healthy Without Healthy Carbs!

Throughout my 9 years of cooking healthy meals at California Chef, many people have requested no-carb diets, and it still makes me cringe each time I get the request. I work with many nutritionists, dieticians, and doctors, and none of them has ever recommended a no-carb diet for their clients.

Healthy carbs (whole grains, legumes, seeds, vegetables, and fruits) are part of a balanced diet, are your body’s main source of energy, and provide essential nutrients for major bodily functions and organs—even your brain. In fact, a Tufts University study showed that after just one week, women on a no-carb diet had significantly worse memory performance than those eating a low-calorie balanced diet.

Other well-respected sources also support eating a balanced diet that includes healthy carbs, specifically:

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Carbohydrates are vital to your health, [and] evidence shows that eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you control your weight. Their bulk and fiber content aids weight control by helping you feel full on fewer calories. Contrary to what low-carb diets claim, very few studies show that a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity.”

According to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH): “Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. . . . HSPH’s Healthy Eating Plate recommends filling most of your plate with healthy carbohydrates—with vegetables (except potatoes) and fruits taking up about half of your plate, and whole grains filling up about one fourth of your plate.”

According to Dr. Oz: “Carbohydrates are the most misunderstood and maligned of all calorie-producing foods. . . . [Yet] they are the body’s main source of energy. . . . They have been blacklisted by skittish dieters who worry that they are the bane of their weight gain. But low-carb dieters may be misinformed. Eating a diet rich in carbohydrates doesn’t necessarily cause weight gain, but eating too much of the wrong ones can.”

So, if the findings in these studies and advice from these trusted sources aren’t enough for you, I can add that here at California Chef, we have helped hundreds of people lose thousands and thousands of pounds on meal plans that have included healthy carbs! Please consider this evidence before contemplating any diet that excludes carbs. You’ll be glad you did.

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