The Dangers of Processed Foods


Let’s face it, most of us buy and consume processed foods. Maybe it’s because we’re busy, we think it’s cheaper, or it’s just the way we’ve always shopped. Whatever your motivation, if you spend more time shopping in the frozen dinner freezer than the produce section, it’s time to reevaluate. Discover the dangers of processed foods and why it is being blamed for America’s obesity epidemic, and see just how easy it is to make-over your pantry and fridge with fresh and delicious grub.

We hear them all the time, words like processed and refined, but what do they really mean? The American Dietetic Association considers heavily processed to mean ready-to-eat foods that are packaged and filled with additional sweeteners, oils, colors or preservatives. So why are these so bad for you?Processed_Foods

Processed Foods are Addictive

Food is so much more than nutrition. Our relationship with food is psychological and emotional. Many of us have had unhealthy relationships with food at some point in our lives, whether through food restriction, binging, or uncontrollable cravings. The fact is, it is not your fault. Most of our favorite processed foods (think chips, cakes and candies) are scientifically designed to stimulate not only our taste buds, but also the pleasure centers in our brains, causing us to crave more of them in insatiable amounts; if you’ve ever eaten half a bag of chips without even realizing it, you know it’s true. The problem is, these foods offer minimal nutrition, they fail to make you full, and they are loaded with calories. 

Processed Foods Cause…

An untold number of ailments. To name a few, highly processed foods have been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, allergies, and arthritis…need I go on? 

Processed Foods Contain GMOs

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants or animals that are genetically modified using the DNA from bacteria or other plants and animals. GMOs have been deemed unsafe by over 60 countries (including all European Union states, Australia, and Japan), where they are heavily restricted or banned. According to, GMOs are in as many as 80% of conventional processed foods, and in America, companies are not required to label GMOs in their products. 

Processed Foods Cost you More Money

Prepackaged foods are expensive, because you are not only paying for your food, but also the packaging and marketing. Healthy, wholesome meals don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to take a lot of time. If you don’t believe me, check out how this family of four ate only real food for 100 days on a budget of $125 per week. 

Wanting to make some changes to your diet? Here are some tips to get you on the real food track:

Be a Food Detective

You have to take control of your own health, plain and simple. Many of the foods that are marketed as healthy (low-fat, gluten-free, organic, etc.) are still full of preservatives, added sugar, or artificial coloring. Take a moment to check the ingredient list on the bread that’s in your pantry. Even if you buy the nutty, healthy-looking brown bread that says “multigrain” on the side, there’s a good chance it’s still chock full of things you can’t pronounce, like sodium stearoyl lactylate, or that it’s been colored with high fructose corn syrup. The point is, make it a point to read ingredient labels. Rather than always buy the jarred or canned version of food, learn to make your own. Spaghetti sauce can easily be made from scratch (remember to make a big batch and freeze it!), and you’ll drastically cut down the sugar and sodium. For example, Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic spaghetti sauce has 1900 mg of sodium (80% daily value) and 30 grams of sugar per jar. 

Be a Perimeter Shopper (Better yet, Shop Local)

Stick to the outside aisles in the supermarket, where you’ll find produce, meats and dairy; the cookies and chips lurk in the inner aisles. Better yet, avoid the grocery store altogether and head to your town’s local farmers market. You’ll be amazed at the variety, quality, and affordability of local produce; plus, it just makes you feel good inside. 

Don’t Shop Hungry

If you hit the grocery store when you’re famished, you’re more likely to buy high-calorie junk food, a Cornell University study has discovered. If you tend to shop after work, keep a healthy snack in your glove compartment. Whatever you have to do, don’t shop when your defenses are down. 

If your house contains more processed foods than you’d like, throw them out…now. See what a difference eating real, wholesome food can make in your energy levels, immunity, and digestion. 


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Healthy Meals You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less

Healthy Lifestyle Straight AheadThe last thing most of us want to do at the end of a busy day is cook a hot healthy meal, which is why it’s so easy to opt for take-out or frozen dinners. And what about breakfast and lunch? Most of us have even less time in the morning, making it easy to load up on sugary cereal, or skip breakfast altogether. If you have five minutes in the morning, 10 minutes to make a sack lunch, and 30 minutes in the evening, there are endless options for healthy meals you can make in 30 minutes or less to eat. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to whip-up healthy fare, or you’re looking for some new ideas to spice up your recipe book, here are several sumptuous meals that go from pantry to table in five, 10, or 30 minutes. 

5 Minute Breakfasts

Peanut Butter Strawberry Wrap: Packed with protein and antioxidants, this simple breakfast is healthy and satisfying. 

Green Smoothie: They look weird, but taste great (and are so good for you). And, there are so many varieties to choose from. My personal favorite is the cilantro limeade! 

Pesto, Mozarella, and Egg Breakfast Sandwich: This sandwich is so hearty; you’ll never believe you can have it ready in five minutes!

Crockpot Oatmeal: Take all the prep work out of your morning oatmeal by having it cook while you sleep! 

10 Minute Lunches

Ginger Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Cut out the carbs by using lettuce wraps for your sandwich. 

Rainbow Chopped Salad: This salad is vibrant, colorful, and incredibly satisfying. Feel free to add your choice of protein.

Open Face Roast Beef Sandwich: The pesto in this sandwich makes almost makes it feel like comfort food. 

Broccoli and Parmesan Soup: This thick, yummy soup only uses five ingredients!

30 Minute Dinners

Greek-Style Grilled Fish with Cucumber Mint Yogurt: Substitute any fish you like in this simple, fresh-tasting recipe (20 minutes).

Tortellini Primavera: Frozen vegetables can cut the prep time on this creamy pasta dish; add chicken or sausage if you like (25 minutes). 

Grass-Fed Red Wine Steak with Caramelized Mushrooms: This is one sexy t-bone steak, and it’s Paleo compliant if that suits your fancy (30 minutes).

Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts: Feta, basil, and sun dried tomato put a refreshing twist on the chicken breast (30 minutes). 


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Healthy Sweet Tooth Solutions

If you have an overactive sweet tooth like me, there’s a good chance your sugar habit has left you feeling a fair amount of guilt from time to time. Thankfully, healthy sweet tooth solutions are available to make it possible to have your cake and eat it too, without feeling bad about it the next morning. If you’re looking to clean up your dessert repertoire, here are a few tips you can implement in the kitchen, as well as a few darn good (and relatively guilt-free) recipes I picked up over the years.


Sugar Substitutes

Cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners should not be your sweeteners of choice. The first two are high in calories, have high glycemic loads, and have no nutritive value; simply put, they will spike your blood sugar levels (inevitable energy crash to follow), and over time, can damage your pancreas as it struggles to make insulin (leading to Type 2 diabetes, strokes, kidney failure, and other ailments). Artificial sweeteners are synthetic products whose long-term affects haven’t been definitively proven. The FDA attempted to ban Saccharin in 1977, for example, because they had evidence that it caused cancer in animals. There are several natural sweeteners with lower glycemic indices, fewer calories, and more vitamins and minerals. Some of the best sugar substitutes include (click each sugar substitute for a recipe conversion chart):



Agave Nectar

Maple Syrup


Butter/Shortening/Vegetable Oil Substitutes

Many people are negatively affected by dairy, even if they haven’t been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. The oils listed above are laden with calories, and are high in polyunsaturated fats. Here are a few alternatives:

Coconut Oil (Use in equal amounts)

Apple Sauce (Replace half the butter in your recipe with applesauce)

Avocado (Replace half the butter in your recipe with avocado0

Silken Tofu (1c butter = ½ c tofu)

Cannellini or Black Beans (Replace half the butter in your recipe with pureed beans)

Dates (Use in equal amounts)

Other Ideas

-Use less frosting

-Try more fruit desserts

-Add flavor (without calories) by using more seasonings (almond extract, vanilla extract, cinnamon, etc.)

-Use 25% less sweetener than what the recipe calls for

-Use whole wheat flour or grain-less flour (ie: coconut, almond, or hazelnut) over white flour

-Use high-quality dark chocolate (it has less sugar, and a little bit goes a long way)

Here are a few healthy dessert recipes to get you started:

Paleo-ish Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

Light Swag Bars

No Bake Coconut Crack Bars

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs

Watermelon Granita

Carrot Cake Bites

Paleo Summer Crunch Trifles

Healthy Nutella

If you found this information helpful, please share it with your family and friends and leave us a comment so we can hear from you on how some of these Healthy Sweet Tooth Solutions turned out.  Thanks for stopping by and spreading the word for solutions to create Habits for a Better Life!


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Is CrossFit for Me?

Even if you’ve never tried CrossFit, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. You might have friends who do it (if you do have friends who are in CrossFit, you’re probably tired of hearing strange words like “WOD,” “tabata,” or “AMRAP”).  You may have also heard stories about how it’s dangerous, it’s a cult, or it’s only for the super strong. If you’ve tried CrossFit, then you already know that CrossFit is social, CrossFit is hard, and CrossFit can be adapted to suit your body type, your weaknesses, and your experience level. If you think CrossFit isn’t for you, read on, you might be surprised.

What is CrossFit?

Is CrossFit for Everyone?

CrossFit is a fitness program that is intended to improve general physical preparedness through constantly varied, functional movements that are performed at high intensity. It is not just weight lifting; it is running, rowing, plyometrics, and body weight exercises. CrossFit isn’t about getting huge, it’s about being fit.

Is CrossFit Hard?

CrossFit is as hard as you make it. Even if you are a former athlete, CrossFit can give you the best workouts of your life. CrossFit is all about testing your own limits. As you improve, there is always room for growth as you push harder, increase weight, and move faster. CrossFit will push you to optimal fitness.

Is CrossFit a Cult?

How do you know someone is a CrossFitter? Because they’ll tell you they are a CrossFitter over. And over. And over again. This is a pretty popular CrossFit joke, but it’s not far off the mark. Most people that CrossFit love it, but why is that a bad thing? Why wouldn’t you want to work out with people who are unabashedly enthusiastic and motivated about what they’re doing? Just like certain groups or brands seem to attract die-hard, loyal customers (think Harley Davidson owners or Apple-users), CrossFit tends to a get a rep for being “culty” because it has its own language, it can be somewhat masochistic, and the people that do it are incredibly committed. But the fact is, CrossFit is totally inclusive of anyone that wants to give it a shot. More than anything, CrossFit is an incredibly social, tight-knit community; you probably won’t find a more welcoming, encouraging group of people to work out with.

What If I Have Never doneWeight-lifting?


CrossFit workouts can be scaled and modified so that anyone can participate, and that truly means anyone—kids, elite athletes, and the disabled. One of the best things about CrossFit is that your membership fee not only pays for a place for you to work out, it also pays for knowledgeable, certified coaches. Not only do you have a coach to come up with your work outs, he or she is also there to help you every step of the way. Most gyms offer On-Ramp classes for beginners, which allow coaches to give one-on-one attention to new athletes; it’s a time to go over the basics, work on form, and ease your body into CrossFit WODs (Workouts of the Day). If you ever need help, your coaches will be more than willing to watch your form during a WOD, or work with you before or after class. The most important thing for new and experienced CrossFit athletes to remember is to check their ego at the door. While many WODs have a prescribed amount of weight assigned to each workout, there are dozens of ways to modify each movement, and each weight. A good coach will never encourage you to perform a movement, or to lift a weight you are not comfortable with.

Is CrossFit Dangerous?

It can be, plain and simple. CrossFit is dangerous in the same way any other sport or worthwhile activity is dangerous. While there are inherent risks to any workout regimen, CrossFit is safe as long as you listen to your body, perform movements correctly, and stick to weights that are appropriate for your fitness and experience level. CrossFit can also be safe for people who have had sports-related injuries; developing strength and proper form in functional movements can help to prevent future injuries as well. Of course, you should speak to a physician before starting CrossFit if you have any concerns.

Who Shouldn’t Do CrossFit?

Anyone can do CrossFit, but it’s not for everyone. CrossFit is not a typical gym experience. If you show up expecting Gold’s Gym or Planet Fitness, you’ll either be extremely disappointed or unbelievably happy. It’s also not a solo act; it’s a community of like-minded athletes who are looking to get mentally and physically tougher. If you’re not open to trying new things, meeting new people, or challenging yourself, CrossFit is probably not for you, and that’s okay!

If you’re interested in trying CrossFit, don’t wait any longer. Find a box near you, give the owner a call, then show up; most let you workout for free on your first day!

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Benefits of the Paleo Diet

The Skinny on the Advantages of Going Paleo

Paleo Diet

Much has been said (both good and bad) about The Paleo Diet. Despite what many of its critics believe, the world’s foremost expert and founder of The Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain, Ph.D., says it is in fact “the world’s healthiest diet,” that it is based on wholesome and natural sources of nutrition, and is ripe with health benefits. Just what is The Paleo Diet, and how can it benefit your life?

What is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo, or Paleolithic Diet, is based on the types of food consumed by Paleolithic man, which is why some call it “the caveman diet.” Because our hunter-gatherers ancestors lived before the agricultural revolution, their diets consisted mainly of meat, fruits, and vegetables; advocates of The Paleo Diet hold this as evidence that these are the types of food humans have a physiological predisposition to consume.

Which Foods are Included in The Paleo Diet

Based on the foods that were available to early man, Paleo dieters stick to high-quality meat products (typically grass-fed and free range), fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils (such as coconut, olive, flaxseed, and avocado).

Which Foods are to be Avoided?

If you wanted to keep it simple, anything not on the approved list is inherently meant to be avoided, but the main categories include grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, and refined vegetable oils (such as vegetable and canola).

What are the Benefits of The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet shuns processed and empty-calorie foods, encouraging consumption of those which are rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and have low-glycemic indices. For this reason, Paleo dieters inevitably report sweeping improvements in health, including lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, blood pressure-stabilization, as well as improved digestive function. The Paleo Diet has also been reported to treat ailments and diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, insomnia, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and gout, as well as improve overall energy.

One of the most notable aspects of The Paleo Diet is the incredible variety of food available to eat. Perhaps the most difficult part of any diet is the psychological toll of feeling restricted, which often leads to boredom with eating, which inevitably leads to diet failure (and probably a binge-session to make up for the deprivation). The Paleo Diet is not about restriction; it is the choice to reward yourself with quality, satiating food that not only tastes great, but provides the fuel your body requires for optimal performance.  Eating Paleo is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle…and it’s a pretty tasty lifestyle.  Let’s EAT!

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