Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Features

TGIF!  Today we've got a variety of topics, so take your pick -- they're ALL insightful and informative. Enjoy and educate! 


Mark Sisson asks, "Are You As Healthy As You Think You Are?"
Dare you to go beyond "better" in comparison to others and shoot for your own BEST.


Think you know what you're eating?  Think again!  
Fox uncovers some scary truths in "19 Foods That Aren't Foods."


In a similar vein, BuzzFeed highlights eight foods and ingredients
that we eat here in the U.S., but are banned in other countries.
Learn more by clicking here!  (Why oh why oh WHY hasn't this caught on here??)


Remember when we learned about proper posture?  There's a lot more where that came from!


This moving TED Talk by Peter Attia urges us to question our
long-held assumptions, following this surgeon's lead as he overturns his own
previous notions in order to seek more effective and lasting solutions.


A study removes confounding variables to determine the true (and adverse)


Is your Extra-Virgin Olive Oil FAKE?? Food Renegade explains
what's going on and how to find the real deal in this post.


So many cookbooks and so little time!  Amy Kubal for lists
and describes some of the hot new paleo/primal recipe books.
If you're looking for fresh ideas or get a "taste" for real-food nutrition,


Please read this. It's a short and straightforward piece. 


Think you can get by on your five or six hours of sleep per night?
NYTimes Well dares you to stop cheating yourself! Read more on the
dangers of getting inadequate shuteye in the article "Cheating Ourselves of Sleep."


Download some podcasts.
Have a great weekend!!! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Listen to Podcasts

The winner of the Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil giveaway was Elle!! Congratulations Elle, and thank you to all who participated. You can still purchase your own high quality coconut oil by clicking here.


A podcast is essentially a radio show that you can subscribe to. Whatever you're interested in, you can search and download and subscribe to your favorite people, topics, or stories. There are podcasts for everything nowadays. Obviously, I encourage you to pay attention to some health-related podcasts, as those are where I can get a constant stream of information and motivation. There are also all kinds of other topics, such as education, comedy, politics, science, sports, culture, religion, business, art, and more. You can also develop useful skills, such as meditation or speaking Spanish!

I first began listening to podcasts during a summer job, when I spent much of my time sitting alone in a lab, working on a computer. I was doing some linguistic work that was fairly monotonous, and eight hours of that--without anyone else around--became tiresome. I downloaded some podcasts, so it was like listening to the radio as I did my work. It was mindless enough that I could still sufficiently focus on my task, but was engaging enough to keep me alert and prevent me from dozing off.

Over the past few years, podcasts became my entertainment during lengthy commutes. When reading a book isn't an option (overcrowded subways or long walks, for example), a podcast can tell me a story or teach me something new. I'm not wasting that time in transit; I'm learning!  

I dare you to browse iTunes (or Stitcher or Podcasts--which I use, it syncs with iTunes--or any of these many podcast apps) and see what podcasts appeal to you. They're generally FREE, so you can try out a couple episodes and then decide to unsubscribe, or download a ton and listen as you go. There are plenty of apps to help you listen to podcasts on the go, and you can either download them to your phone via these apps OR you can stream them when connected to the internet, or even listen right there in iTunes on your computer.

My early favorites included How Stuff Works, Wine for Normal PeopleThe Jillian Michaels Show, and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf (which was actually how I got most of my early information on the paleo lifestyle before diving in!).  My own subscriptions have changed a lot since I first started listening.  I stopped listening to some old ones and have picked up (and am trying to catch up on!) new ones.

Here are some podcasts that I currently listen to and recommend, in NO particular order, with a brief description:

Healthy Lifestyle
  • Balanced Bites Podcast: Practical and modern advice on holistic nutrition and lifestyle (for healthy body, mind, and skin) by answering questions about living paleo in today's world. Plus Diane and Liz are a hilarious duo.
  • Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness Podcast: Q&A (with some wonderfully powerful rants) on changing your perspective to optimize your health. Everything you need to know about eating real food, lifting heavy things, walking, and resting as needed.
  • The Calorie Myth (née The Smarter Science of Slim): Jonathan Bailor uncovers the research that Big Food, Big Pharma, and popular media fail to publicize.  He takes the science and converts it into relatable metaphors to help you understand not only how to heal your body and lose weight, but also why it works.
  • The Paleo View: Stacy and Sarah are two real women sharing their own struggles and successes while answering reader questions about the real-food primal lifestyle. 
  • The Get-Fit Guy and Nutrition Diva Podcasts: These are SHORT and SWEET (under 10 min) blurbs on very specific topics, which make them a powerful pair. 
    • Ben Greenfield's "Get-Fit Guy" podcast addresses exercise tips, tricks, and tools.
    • Monica Reinagel's "The Nutrition Diva's Quick & Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous" covers nutrition topics ranging from evaluating the latest "superfood" to tips on navigating the holiday season. 
  • The Healthy Skeptic Podcast: Chris Kresser delves into research and reminds us to always be skeptical and keep an open mind. 

  • Stuff You Should Know: What makes us yawn?  What makes a one-hit wonder?  How CPR works. How the electoral college works. How jet lag works. How tipping works. How crying works. How black holes work. How Bigfoot works. How did language evolve?  Why do men have nipples?  Why isn't the U.S. on the metric system? What's the deal with duckbill platypuses?  As these diverse questions show, this podcast covers anything and everything, providing history and research to back up all answers and practical tips. 
  • TED Talks: Get VIDEO of popular TED Talks!  
  • Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: These short (under 10 min) explanations and tips will help improve your writing, whether you're new to English or a native speaker. Resolve debates with friends and edit your papers. Some of the answers might surprise you!
  • NPR: How To Do Everything: "Half advice show, half survival guide."  Everything from how to find a date to how to find water in the desert.  

Other - Ideas & Entertainment
  • This American Life: These first-person stories and short fiction pieces are touching, funny, and surprising. Definitely good entertainment, like old-time radio shows!
  • Manners for the Digital Age: What's the proper protocol for interacting in this new technology-driven world?? Slate Magazine's tech colomnist teams up with the Dear Prudence advice columnist to debate the social dilemmas presented by this online age.
  • The Make Shift Happen Show: Dean Dwyer shares innovative ideas to help you be your best you.  Change the way you work and live to ultimately live your dreams.
  • NPR: TED Radio Hour: This podcast brings you innovative ideas across genres, based in Q&A with former TEDx speakers. Very cool.
  • NPR: Tell Me More: This news show highlights top headlines and issues in today's modern, diverse America.

These are just a few. I'm always discovering new ones and adding them to my list.  And you can, too!

It's so convenient having a personalized radio to listen to on your walk, on your commute, while you exercise, while you drive, or even while you're cleaning your home!  Although it started as a way to pass the time at work or on my commute, I now am a loyal follower of many podcasts, and look forward to new episodes each week.

Dare you to check out some of these awesome podcasts, and find others that appeal to YOU! It's your personalized radio.  Go search and discover! 

Do you listen to podcasts? Where & when? 

What podcasts do YOU listen to?  I enjoy finding new shows and would love to hear your suggestions!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Take Your Workout Indoors!

First: Quick note: Don't forget you've got 2 more days to enter the coconut oil giveaway! Ends midnight Sunday night. Click here for details.

Today's dare comes to you from Town Sports International, the owner of New York Sports Club, Boston Sports Club, Washington Sports Club, and Philadelphia Sports Club. In light of this recent heat wave, they're encouraging folks to take their workouts indoors.

From Thursday, July 18, 2013 through Saturday, August 31, all club locations will open up their doors to the public when the temperature rises to or above 90 degrees. Just cite the "heat wave promotion" at the NYSC, BSC, PSC, or WSC front desk to claim your free workout. The offer excludes peak hours: Monday through Thursday, 5:30 - 7:30 pm. As shown above, you must be at least 18 and provide valid photo ID.
Find a club near you at!
(And, if you do choose to hit the great outdoors for a sweaty workout, check out these tips for staying safe.)
How do you adjust YOUR workouts for the summer heat?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Quick note: Don't forget you've got 4 more days to enter the coconut oil giveaway! Click here for details.

I love spinach and artichoke dip. Who doesn't?  It's always a hit at any party, and it's especially impressive when it's homemade.

As delicious as some of the recipes are, I wondered if there was a way to clean up the ingredients a bit, simplifying complex recipes down.

Instead of sour cream, something to which I've always been averse, I decided Greek yogurt would be a nice way to add a creamy consistency, while also packing a protein punch.

It was also important to me to use some fresh, real cheese.  I was planning to go pick up some gruyere to try, since my friend Erica had just reminded me how delicious it is.  Thought it'd be a nice way to fancy up the cheese.  On my way to the store, though, I happened to pass a farmer's market, where I found this local, raw milk "Monterey Hot Jack" cheese.  Just like that, my plans changed.

Bonus points for shredding your own cheese.

Of course, we've got to include the title characters: artichokes and spinach!  I diced up each in a food processor, so they'd mix into the dip well.


The artichoke hearts were canned.

I used frozen spinach.

Be sure to squeeze out as much water as you can after thawing. I never do this enough!

The veggies, the cheese, and some 2% plain Chobani Greek yogurt:


 Pour evenly into a glass baking dish, and top with a last sprinkle of the Monterey Jack.

Bake for about 13 minutes.  Inhale as your home takes on a delicious smell.

 Nice! Spoon it out into a small bowl to serve!

Bonus points if you use a "real food" dipper instead of chips!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • 1 (10-oz) bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained, and shredded or processed
  • 1 (14-oz) can of artichoke hearts, drained, and chopped or processed
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded Monterey Hot Jack cheese
  • 1.5 cups of 2% fat Greek yogurt


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

After ingredients are shredded/chopped/processed as needed, simply combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  After mixing well, spread evenly into a glass baking dish.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese melts and just begins to brown on top.

Transfer to serving dish and enjoy!  Careful not to burn your tongue ;)

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cook with Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil {GIVEAWAY - closed}

On Tuesday, I talked about why you should cook with coconut oil.  If you missed that post, make sure to check it out and learn about which oils are safe to use in high heat.

Lucky for you, Tropical Traditions  is going to help you get started!  In the last post, I recommended Tropical Traditions as a trusted brand of high-quality coconut oil, and upon my own request, they're offering one lucky reader a jar of this: 

Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil - 32 oz.
Win 1 quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!

From Tropical Traditions:
Tropical Traditions is America’s source for coconut oilTheir Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil is hand crafted in small batches by family producers, and it is the highest quality coconut oil they offer. You can read more about how virgin coconut oil is different from other coconut oils on their website: What is Virgin Coconut Oil?

You can also watch the video they produced about Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil: 

Tropical Traditions also carries other varieties of affordable high quality coconut oil. Visit their website to check on current sales, to learn about the many uses of coconut oil, and to read about all the advantages of buying coconut oil online. Since the FDA does not want us to discuss the health benefits of coconut oil on a page where it is being sold or given away, here is the best website to read about the health benefits of coconut oil.

Click below to learn more about Tropical Traditions and their various product offerings, which go well beyond oil! --->

Interested?  Enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Contest will remain open from now until the night of July 21. Contest ends July 22 at 12:00 am. 

Whether or not you win, don't forget to try a more stable oil like coconut for your high-heat cooking.

Helpful links:
Learn more about how to use coconut oil
What is virgin coconut oil
Where to buy coconut oil
Other FAQ about coconut oil

Good luck!

: I wrote Tuesday's post on coconut oil because of my personal experience learning about and using it over the past year.  The content preceding this giveaway was based on my own findings and opinions (with assistance from those linked sources).  After completing the post, I contacted Tropical Traditions, a trusted coconut oil producer, to host a giveaway.  If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you. I was not obligated to write a positive review; I really like the oil!  I hope it helps you get started as you dare to cook with coconut oil. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cook with Coconut Oil

I've already told you about my newfound use of coconut oil as a moisturizer, and there are loads of other beauty uses for it (like these recommended by Dr. Korson).  But today, I want to talk about cooking with it.

Did you know that every fat and oil has a smoke point--the temperature at which it begins to break down and increase toxic compounds?!  This rancid oil is no longer safe for consumption!  A year ago, I'd had no idea.  I had already taken canola oil out of my diet (see Balanced Bites to learn why), but I was still using olive oil for just about everything.  But was I burning my oil?

Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil
In learning more about paleo and food quality, I started learning more about cooking oils and their smoke points.  The smoke point determines which fats and oils are safe to use for cooking at various temperatures.  While I was still exclusively using olive oil, I learned that the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil is typically around 325-375 degrees.  It seems that olive oil smoke points cited by producers vary, but oxidation of extra virgin olive oil can occur at temps as low as 200 and tends to occur closer to the 300 degree Fahrenheit range The temperature at which I roast is often 350 - 425, and my baking and sautéing probably aren't much better.  While my beloved olive oil may be great for low-heat cooking, it's not actually best for my higher-heat roasting or stir-frying.

At the same time, I was reading all about how coconut oil is good for you.  As nutrition science becomes less and less black & white, it's worth noting that just because it's comprised of saturated fat by no means makes it bad!  Saturated fat is not the enemy; it can be good for you!  (It's not just my paleo people who are coming around, even Fitness Magazine and The New York Times are coming around on saturated fats.)  What's important is that saturated fats are more stable than unsaturated fats, so they hold up better under high heat.  That's what makes them preferable for many methods of cooking.

What IS coconut oil?  Wikipedia explains it simply: "Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm. Throughout the tropical world, it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations."   

So, I started using coconut oil last year when roasting or sautéing.  It was a little strange at first, because of its surprising texture. This video demonstrates how coconut oil is a liquid only above 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that--so at room temperature--coconut oil is solid!  It melts easily on your fingertips and in the sauté pan, but otherwise is a soft, solid form similar to butter.  (So, when moisturizing, I scoop out a bit and then it easily spreads over the skin.)  Once I realized that it was supposed to be this way and that I could just scoop out a tablespoon as needed, it became easy to use coconut oil in cooking!  Now, coconut oil now coats my roasted vegetables and serves as the pan grease for my omelets.  It's what I swirl around in the pan before cooking anything stovetop, and is even my greaser for baking.  As I switched over to coconut oil and grass-fed butter for my heated cooking, I reserved my EVOO for mostly fresh uses, like in salad dressings.
Tropical Traditions

FYI:  Although I started out with the brand my local store carried, I now recommend Tropical Traditions brand virgin coconut oil (shown right) and have also enjoyed using the Trader Joe's brand.

Simple Homemade teaches us how to bake with coconut oil.

Wellness Times reminds us to get virgin coconut oil, because partially hydrogenated oils become trans fat.

Still confused, or want to learn more?  Diane of Balanced Bites lays out everything you need to know in a neat chart in her post, "What are Safe Cooking Fats & Oils?"

Disclaimer: If you purchase Tropical Traditions coconut oil via links provided above, I benefit as part of an affiliate program AND you receive a free book on virgin coconut oil.  I am part of the program because I believe in the product! 

  • Are you SURE saturated fat is okay to eat?  If you're asking me, then yeah, I'm over it.  Recent research is repeatedly overturning previous warnings about saturated fat in the diet.  This 2010 study of 347,747 subjects found that there is "no significant evidence for concluding that saturated fat is associated with an increased risk" of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.  More and more research is noting flaws in previous studies and conclusions, noting that saturated fat is not the demon it was once made out to be.  Even this 2013 New York Times tells you to "Eat Your Heart Out!"
  • What's with the texture? Should it be so solid? How do I use it?  This confused me at first, too, as I explained above.  Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but will be liquid above 76 degrees Fahrenheit.  While this sometimes drives me crazy in my current home where temperatures fluctuate by season, it really is kind of neat.  For stovetop use, I just scoop it out with a spoon and let it melt in the pan, like you'd do with butter. It really works just as well as any other liquid oil you're used to.
  • But I always use PAM spray for cooking. How can I spray
    coconut oil if it's solid?
    There's an app for that!  Just kidding. But there is a spray!  However, I only recommend one brand at the moment, and that's Kelapo.  When I was on the hunt for a coconut oil spray in stores, I only found brands that had other ingredients in the spray, including soy (womp womp).  Fortunately, Amber introduced me to Kelapo and their organic extra virgin coconut oil non-stick cooking spray, and it's been love ever since.  The ingredients include ONLY the coconut oil, so I'm a happy camper. (I am in no way affiliated with Kelapo at this time. I'm just a satisfied customer.)
  • I don't like coconut. Won't this make my food taste like coconut? Me neither, but NO!  I was amazed at this, because I never ate anything coconutty before this, and assumed I would not like it either.  When I use it in food, I really don't notice any difference in taste. If you notice anything at all (depending on what you're cooking), it's likely to be subtle. I swear I didn't notice a thing, though I know some people who like the coconut taste enjoy cooking with the oil.  I only noticed a slight taste of the oil in some baked goods with a LOT of the oil, but for the most part, it took absolutely no getting used to.  Just try it!  I dare you!

So how can you use it?  You can...

Roast your vegetables.

Scramble your eggs or make an omelet.


Yes, they're paleo!
Add the coconut oil!

So next time you use heat to cook your foods, consider using more stable satuated fats like virgin coconut oil.  I did it; so can you!  Dare you to... 

Help spread the word!

Will you try out coconut oil for high-heat cooking?  What fats do you generally use for various cooking methods? 

If you use coconut oil already, what has been your experience?

UPDATE: You can enter to win your own jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil by entering the contest HERE. Giveaway ends 7/21/13 at night.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bring Healthier Holiday Treats

The 4th of July is tomorrow, and I hope my American readers have some fun activities planned.  If you can get outside, soak in some vitamin D, get active by walking, hiking, playing sports... all great healthy ways to spend the holiday!  Today, I dare you to add a healthier dish to whatever BBQ or party you attend!

A few years ago, I brought this "flag" out of blueberries and white chocolate-covered strawberries to a a BBQ.

Fruit can be used in other ways to create red, white, and blue desserts.  You can make these patriotic popsicles (below), recipe over at An Edible Mosaic. No sugar added!

Greatist also has 10 recipes for your 4th of July.  Check them out here.

You can also swap that apple pie for this grain-free apple crisp!

Want more ideas?  Pinterest is a goldmine for finding healthier treats to serve at or bring to parties.


Dare you to think outside the apple pie box and create some festive treats of your own!

How will you be celebrating Independence Day?  Have any favorite patriotic recipes to share? 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

See The Delivery Man

In November, David Wozniak will find out that he is the biological father to 533 children.
Today, Walt Disney Studios is releasing the full-length trailer to 533 bloggers.

The Delivery Man looks like a feel-good Thanksgiving comedy.  It all comes down to the meaning of family, and I'm proud to be part of the family of bloggers bringing you the trailer premiere as part of this debut event.

The movie stars Vince Vaughn, who plays David, the irresponsible man who seems to be losing grip on both his job and girlfriend.  He is trying to find purpose in life, when it suddenly falls right into his lap.

Cute, right?  Looks like the perfect combination of laughter and sentiment.  So bummed I have to wait until November 22 to see it!  Mark your calendars :)

Learn more about The Delivery Man on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you think of the trailer?  
What does family mean to you?