This smoothie uses heart-healthy dark chocolate combined with cocoa powder for a rich treat that is low in calories. For a thick smoothie, plan ahead and freeze the orange juice in ice cube trays before blending the ingredients. Be sure to use chocolate and cocoa powder that is at least 60 percent cocoa solids to get the most health benefit.
Yield: 1 serving
Preparation time: 10 minutes
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ tsp honey (or your preferred sweetener)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice, frozen in cubes
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp orange zest
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
6 dark chocolate chips
3 to 4 ice cubes
Place the almond milk and the honey in the cup or pitcher of a blender. Pulse to blend in the honey.
Add the orange juice cubes, cocoa powder, orange zest and vanilla. Place 4 chocolate chips in the blender. Chop the other 2 and reserve for garnish. Add the ice and pulse in 5 to 10 second intervals, until smooth and the chocolate chips are finely chopped.
Pour into a glass, top with the reserved chocolate, and serve right away.
Nutrition information: Calories 120; Total Fat 5.7 g; Saturated Fat 1.7 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 182 mg; Carbohydrate 18.6 g; Fiber 3.4 g; Sugar 12.4 g; Protein 3.1 g
Research shows that chocolate may improve heart health, but not all varieties are equally nutritious. Find out what type to pick and how it can promote good health.
Why is chocolate healthy?
The cacao bean used to make chocolate is rich in flavanols that act as antioxidants, which protect against disease. While these findings have been supported in numerous studies, researchers continue to find more reasons chocolate has a positive impact on health. A recent study showed that good bacteria in the gut convert chocolate to compounds that combat inflammation, a major factor in chronic disease.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate may help reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke. They have been found to protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from being oxidized, which causes plaque build-up leading to blood clots. There is also evidence that chocolate may lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain and through the arteries.
What type of chocolate should I choose?
The darker and less processed a chocolate, the more flavonoids it contains. Milk chocolates are often heavily processed with added fat and sugar. According to University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, the milk in milk chocolate also binds to the antioxidants making them unavailable to the body. Choose bittersweet and semi-sweet dark chocolates that are at least 60 percent cocoa solids. Some health experts recommend 65 percent and higher.
How much chocolate should I eat?
The Cleveland Clinic suggests incorporating 1 ounce of dark chocolate a few times a week, but the Mayo Clinic also notes that 3 ounces of dark chocolate is the dose that some studies have found to provide health benefits. The problem is that this amount of chocolate can contain up to 450 calories, so keep this in mind when choosing a serving. Also, stick with solid dark chocolate. Extras, like caramel fillings, increase the calories and may reduce the overall health benefit.
You can have a positive influence on your family’s health by making your time together more active. Not only do these active games help you burn calories, they teach your children that exercise can and should be fun!
Backyard Obstacle Course
Gather gear together and create an obstacle course in your backyard. Lay hula-hoops on the ground and hop to each one, crawl the length of a jump rope, and hop over a sturdy crate. Get everyone involved and let each person create their own obstacle to add to the course. Time each family member as they complete the entire course. Repeat the course and encourage everyone to beat their own time.
Indoor or Outdoor Circuit
Circuit training isn’t only for adults. Involve the kids in a circuit of activities outdoors or create some space inside on a cold and rainy day. Incorporate stations like hula-hoop, jumping jacks, jump rope, crab-walk, wall-push ups, and chair-sits. Use a stopwatch and set up everyone at their first station. Do each exercise for 50 seconds, and then use 10 seconds to transition to the next exercise.
Toss in the Bucket
Select a starting line where everyone will toss their ball. Set up buckets of different sizes, different distances away from the line. Be sure to make some far away so that everyone has to put effort into his or her throw. Pick balls that vary in size, appropriate for each bucket. Try golf balls, tennis balls, or softballs. Allow each family member to throw the balls in the buckets and keep things active by making everyone retrieve their own ball. Get the heart rate up and encourage a faster pace by timing each person with the winner being the one who makes the most buckets and who also has the fastest time.
Walk and Drop
Find a round object that is large enough to be held between your legs at knee level. This might be a softball, a balloon, or even a potato. Set a starting point and place a bucket or bowl a few yards away. The further the bucket, the harder the game, so adjust according to the ages of your children. Each person must put the object between their knees and walk with it to the bucket where they will then drop the object into it. Time each person. The faster you move, the better the exercise and your chances of winning.
Pass the Pedometer
Pedometers don’t have to be reserved for adults. Giving one to the whole family creates a way to track activity while also providing an easy math lesson. Before you head out to the park or off on a hike, strap on the pedometer. Everyone can guess how many total steps you’ll have by the end of the day, or let everyone wear the pedometer for a set amount of time and see who gets in the most steps. Once you know the total number, you can divide it by 2,000 to get a rough estimate of how many miles the whole family covered.
These bites combine protein-rich quinoa and beans with nutritious broccoli for a healthy, baked snack. They work well for an easy holiday party appetizer or you can serve them during the next big game. Team them up with some Greek yogurt dressing to use as a dip.
Yield: 28 bites
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
2/3 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup finely chopped broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Stir together the quinoa and the water in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil over medium-high, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until almost all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool. Any remaining water will be absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the beans to a large bowl. Use a potato masher to smash the beans until mostly smooth. Stir in the broccoli and the garlic. Add the quinoa and gently smash it into the beans as you stir. Mix in the oregano, cumin, turmeric, coriander, salt, and pepper.
Use a cookie scoop to remove one scoop of the mixture. With clean hands, roll it into a ball. Place on a baking sheet covered with a silicone mat or a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Repeat with the remaining mix.
Bake the bites for 25 minutes, until firm and lightly browned. Serve warm.
Nutrition information for 2 bites: Calories 49; Total Fat 0.8 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 50 mg; Carbohydrate 8.7 g; Fiber 1.3 g; Sugar 0.3 g; Protein 2.0 g
Marketers of fad diets try to appeal to your desire for quick-fix weight loss. Unfortunately, these diets are not the answer for long term health and many do more harm than good. Use these tips to spot and steer clear of fad diets.
It is very low calorie.
Weight loss requires that you burn more calories than you take in, but this doesn’t mean that an extremely low number of calories is a good thing. The National Institutes of Health warn that diets with 800 or fewer calories should be avoided unless you are being monitored by a doctor. An eating plan that provides 1,200 to 1,500 per day calories helps most women lose weight safely while an eating plan with 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day is ideal for men. Eating too few calories prevents you from consuming the nutrients your body needs, drains your energy, and leaves you feeling hungry.
It requires the purchase of special foods or supplements.
A fad diet that requires you to purchase special meals, bars, and powders is not a sustainable way of eating. You may find this convenient at first, but soon those same boring bars will lose their appeal and the extra costs will add up. Often these fad diets require a big initial investment, which ends up wasted when you don’t achieve the unrealistic results promised by the program. A healthy eating plan needs to be both flexible and affordable to fit your lifestyle.
It is too restrictive.
Cutting out entire food groups, eating only certain foods together, and avoiding foods at specific times of day are all indications of a fad diet. These practices restrict your ability to eat when you are truly hungry and may prevent you from satisfying cravings in a healthy way. Restrictive eating leads to deprivation. When you feel deprived, often all you can think about is the one thing you can’t have -- that food. Few people have the willpower to stick to such strict rules, making you more likely to give in and overindulge. A balanced diet that allows you some of your favorite treats on occasion is a much more effective way to gain a healthy relationship with food and lose weight for good.
It ignores the importance of exercise.
It is possible to lose weight without physical activity, but research shows that those most successful at keeping weight off are regular exercisers. A fad diet that promotes only dietary changes for weight loss is not providing you with the balanced plan you need to be successful. A healthy lifestyle is about much more than losing a few pounds. Exercise combined with healthy eating will help you lose weight while also improving your fitness and energy levels.
It emphasizes that you don’t need to change anything.
A plan that assures you that you don’t need to change your eating and activity habits to lose weight is likely a fad diet. The truth is that you do need to make positive changes to see results. If you are currently unhappy with your weight and your fitness level, you cannot continue your current eating and exercise patterns and expect to see results. Getting fit requires commitment. Anything worth having, including good health, is worth working hard for.