Category Archives: FYI

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

I might have a new dark chocolate obsession with this recipe. Not like I wasn’t already obsessed with dark chocolate in general but this, this one is really awesome.

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This is a truly decedent dessert that is also really healthy! If I didn’t know any better I would have assumed it was made with loads of cream and mounds of rich buttery goodness…fortunately that is not true and it still tastes just as sinfully delicious.

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As far as dessert goes this chocolate pudding is packed with healthy fats like omega-3’s and full of antioxidants. To start, avocados are an amazing fruit. If you haven’t added it to you diet yet, you will want to after hearing this. Not only are avocados incredibly versatile and delicious but they also pack quite the nutritional punch. Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, they are rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate) — as well as potassium and fiber. Avocados have been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular disease, regulating high blood pressure, high blood sugar. They have also been shown to aid weight loss (Bergh).

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Dark chocolate also contains some great health benefits (not like I needed any more convincing to eat it). Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that are believed to help the body resist damage cause by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes. It also contains flavanols, which may have influence on cardiovascular health such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow and making platelets less sticky and able to clot (“Health and prevention,” 2014).
So there you have it, a delicious, healthy, gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian (easily made vegan by replacing the honey with agave) dessert.

AVOCADO DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING

Ingredients:

1 avocado
3tbsp unsweetened almond milk
3-4tbsp Honey, depending on the size of the avocado and how sweet you like it.
2tbsp Dark chocolate coco powder
(optional) blueberries and pistachios for topping.

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor till smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate till chilled and serve topped with fresh fruit and nuts of your choice.
ENJOY! ☺

Sources:

Bergh, B. (n.d.). Health benefits of avocados . Retrieved from http://www.regenerativenutrition.com/content.asp?id=443

Health and prevention. (2014, January 12). Retrieved from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/benefits-of-chocolate.aspx

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Reading Lables

Food labels can be difficult to understand and are at times misleading so it is important to be able decipher the nutrition facts and label claims to make sure you are getting the best nutrition from your food.

Common Misleading Labels

Multi-grain:  The term multi-grain is often used to describe breads or crackers that are made from multiple types of grain, this does not necessarily mean that they are whole-grains. The common misconception is that the terms multi-grain and whole-grain are interchangeable but they do not mean the same thing. Whole-grain means that all of the parts of the grain kernel are used making them a good source of fiber, vitamin B and minerals. Just because bread is multi-grain does not mean that they use whole-grains. To check if a bread or cracker that is multi-grain also uses whole-grains, look at the ingredients list and look for the first few ingredients to be “whole-oats,” “whole-wheat” or a similar type of “whole-grain.”

Zero trans fats: Trans-fats are fats that are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, a process used to keep the food from spoiling. The reason why is not exactly understood, but studies show that adding hydrogen to the oil increases cholesterol levels more than other fats when consumed. It actually raises your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lowers your “good” cholesterol (HDL) which increases your risk for heart disease. On the nutrition facts label, companies are allowed to claim that a product has 0g trans-fat if it less than 0.5g trans-fat per serving. So to know if a product really contains trans-fats you need to look at the ingredients list. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated” listed, the product contains trans-fats. “Fully” or “completely” hydrogenated oils are okay, unlike partially hydrogenated oils, the process to make these does not result in trans-fats.

Reduced or low fat: Reduced or low fat products can be very deceiving and are not always the better option. If a product claims to be reduced in fat that means that there is 25% less fat than the original product. If it is low fat that means there are less than 3g of fat per serving. The problem with low fat and reduced fat products is that there is often an increase in sodium and sugar to make up for missing fat. So make sure to read the rest of the nutrition facts and ingredients to see what the better option is. One product that it might be better to buy the full fat version of is peanut butter.

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The Bitter Truth about SUGAR

The Facts

The Recommended consumption of added sugar per day:

  • 6 tsp. (25 g) for women
  • 9 tsp. (37.5 g) for men
  • Average actual consumption: 22.2 tsp. (88.8 g)

The average American consumes about 3 to 4 times the recommended amount added sugar per day! Over the course of the year that comes out to be about 84 lbs. of sugar per person.

THAT’S A LOT OF SUGAR! But since we’re not just sitting around eating spoonfuls of sugar, where is it all coming from? You may be surprised to learn that sugar can be very sneaky and finds many ways to be added to the foods and beverages that we consume daily.

Naturally Occurring Sugar vs. Added Sugar

Appropriately, natural sugars are sugars that are found naturally in foods like fresh fruits, veggies and dairy products. While added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup).

For natural sugars there are no specific guidelines or recommendations for amount to consume each day, but USDA does make recommendations for the amounts of fruits, vegetables, and dairy that we should consume each day. If you follow those guidelines you will not have to worry about consuming too much natural sugar.

The Not So Sweet News about Sugar

Most of us, if not all of us, love a little sugar now and then. A little sugar here and there is okay but when we get too much it starts to become a problem. Sugar is very high in calories but has little nutritional value. Eating to0 many foods that contain a lot of added sugars can set the stage for potential health problems, such as: 

  • Poor nutrition- filling up on nutrient lacking sweets can cause you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals.
  • Weight gain- Sugar sweetened foods are often calorie dense from sugars and fats, making them very appealing and easy to eat more of.
  • Increase triglycerides- Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Tooth decay- All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to proliferate and grow

How to Identify Added Sugars

Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell how much of the sugar listed in the nutrition label of your food is added and how much is natural sugar found in certain ingredients, such as grain, fruit and dairy. The only reliable way to identify added sugar is to look at the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugar. Here are some of the ways that added sugars will be listed in the ingredients:

  • Fructose
  • Evaporated cane sugar
  • Glucose
  • Malt syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Juice Concentrate  and nectars
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
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Sample grocery list and tips for eating on a budget

Wow I can’t believe how time has flown. It was February the last time I made a post, but things have been pretty crazy for me the last two months. Good news is I finally got a job! I am incredibly excited about it and love it so far. So things have been kind of hectic and It has taken me a little time to get adjusted to my new place and having a working schedule but I think I am finally settled in enough now to start back up with my blog.

One thing that has been very important for me with the move is making sure that I maintain my healthy lifestyle while staying within my budget. Living alone does present some problems when it comes to buying groceries and cooking, when I buy my fruits and veggies I need to make sure that I can use them before they go bad. Cooking can be a challenge too, when I make something its sometimes hard to make enough just for one but I don’t really want to be eating the same thing all week either.  So I have come up with a sample grocery list and a few tips for those of you out there dealing with the same problems. Things that have worked for me so far and hopefully will help you stay healthy on a budget.

Sample list and tips:

Pick hearty veggies that will last well in the fridge:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Red leaf romaine (last the longest if you rip it up, wash it in a salad spinner then just store it in the spinner. It stays fresh and crisp for up to a week and a half, plus it takes some of the work out of making a salad when you want one later!)
  • Lemon/lime- great to keep on hand for seasoning fish or chicken
  • Peppers
  • Unripe avocado- if you buy and avocado at the beginning of the week before it is rip and you don’t plan on using it right away keep in the fridge it will ripen more slowly and that way you can have one around for when you want it later in the week.
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Onion

Hearty, fridge friendly fruits:

  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Bananas- Not for the fridge but I make sure to buy them slightly green, that way they last through the week. If they do get too brown before I eat them I peel them then throw the in the freezer to use later or a smoothie or to dip in dark chocolate 🙂

Canned or frozen:

  • Frozen corn and peas-These are always great to have around. You can throw them into soups stews and stir-fry’s for a little color and sweetness or de-thaw small amounts at a time to add to a salad.
  • Canned un-pickled beets- great for adding to a salad during the week not only are they delicious but packed with vitamins!
  • Canned Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans- Another great addition to salads and a vegetarian source of protein. They can be roasted and turned into a salty snack, mashed into a humus or curried and poured over rice for a vegetarian dinner. The possibilities are endless!
  • Canned black beans (low sodium)- I loved having canned black beans around they are great for adding to salads, or rice or for making vegetarian tacos or burritos.
  • Frozen fruit- Let’s face it we can’t always have fresh fruit on hand. So for them times when we can’t frozen unsweetened fruits are a lifesaver! I love to have a bag around to use for topping my vanilla Chobani yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese. Its perfect for a quick snack or breakfast! If you prefer them thawed just take some out the night before and store in a Tupperware in the fridge. If you forget, just zap them in the microwave for a few seconds till they are thawed but not hot.

Protein:

  • Eggs- always a great option, cheap delicious and healthy plus they work great for breakfast lunch or dinner.
  • Fish- of course fresh is always a better fresh, but can get expensive and hard to buy the day you want it. I try and stick with Trader Joe’s frozen uncooked shrimp or frozen cod.
  • Chicken- when I buy a pack of chicken breast I always trim and butterfly them right when I get them home. I then put the two halves into freezer bags and freeze them so they will be ready to use later. That way they are portioned perfectly and I get two meals out of them!
  • Beef/pork/other meats- Personally I don’t buy a lot of other meat, if I do these are things that I buy usually the day of, but you could use the same method for these meat as I do for the chicken.

Dairy:

  • GREEK YOGURT- I LOVE this stuff. Chobani and Fage are definitely the two best kinds in my opinion as far as consistency, flavor, protein and sugar content. I usually buy the big vanilla 32 oz container from Chobani its cheaper than buying the individual flavors and that way I can flavor it with my own fruit. Plain Greek yogurt is also great to have and makes a great substitute for sour cream. Use it to top tacos or baked potatoes you can’t even tell the difference!
  • Low-fat cottage cheese- Makes a great sweet or savory snack. Add fruit or veggies or just eat it plain its delicious and satisfying. For a real treat, top some whole grain crackers with it.
  • Silk almond milk- my favorite non-dairy milk

Grains and snacks:

  • Quinoa- quick delicious and incredibly versatile, not to mention a great source of protein.
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa pasta
  • Old fashioned rolled oats -none of this instant stuff. Old fashioned rolled oats are just as quick. Add some water and put it in the microwave for a minute and its cooked, the instant stuff is just too mushy!
  • Popcorn kernels- Since I started making my own popcorn on the stove top about 7 years ago I can’t go back to the microwave stuff. There are a lot of benefits to buy the kernels, its cheaper, healthier and you can make as much as you want. For three tables spoons of kernels (that’s about a serving) I use 1 tsp of olive oil for popping. Add a little melted butter or margarine when it’s done and a dash of salt or any other seasonings of your choice.
  • Roasted unsalted almonds great snack with some raisins or other dried fruit

So there you have it. A little sample list of the things that I like to make sure I keep on hand week to week. Of course there are other things like cheeses and herbs and seasoning, occasionally breads that you will want to get for certain meals, and then of course things that you will already have at home. But for the most part it’s pretty easy to whip up a weeknight meal with this list whether its just grilled chicken and salad or a shrimp stir fry this list will pretty much cover it.

One other tips I have for you is FREEZE YOUR LEFTOVERS. If you make a meal and have a ton of leftovers don’t make yourself eat the same thing for a whole week. Get some freezable Tupperware or freezer bags and freeze them. Most meals can be frozen, so freezing meals in individual serving sizes is always a great idea. That way if you have a busy day you can just come home and microwave your meal. So instead of buying frozen meals you are just making your own its much healthier and much more economical.

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Quinoa and Kale Salad

I love quinoa, it is such a versatile delicious grain, it’s quick and easy to cook, you can eat it cold or warm and it is full of nutrients, so much so that it is considered a “superfood” Just so you can see for yourself, here are just a few of the benefits of quinoa:

  • Protein rich: Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 amino acids that are essential for our complete nutrition. Complete proteins are rare in the plant world making quinoa a great source of protein for vegetarians.
  • High in fiber: Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains.
  • Good source of Iron: Iron is essential because carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction.
  • Contains lysine: Lysine is mainly essential for tissue repair and growth.
  • Rich in magnesium: Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

Now that you know some of great health benefits of quinoa, If you have not already added it to your diet, I highly recommend it. It has a delicious nutty flavor and you can add pretty much anything to it for a great side dish or main meal. So, if you are new to quinoa or are just looking for some different ways to throw it together here is one of my favorite quinoa salad recipes!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup quinoa
  • 2 Cups water
  • 3 Cups raw kale pulled off the stem in bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup almond slivers or pine nuts
  • 3 green onions diced
  • 1/4 Cup dried cranberries
  • Juice of a 1in-1.5 in wedge of lime
  •  Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium sized pot add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of water, over med-high heat with lid on until it reaches a boil. Reduce to simmer with lid on and cook till water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking toast almond slivers or pine nuts in a small non-stick pan on the stove over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Set aside when done.

Once the quinoa is done add 3 cups raw kale to a large bowl. While quinoa is still hot add it to the kale and stir it up. The heat from the quinoa will help to wilt the kale a little bit.

Add cranberries, almonds/pine nuts, green onions, lime juice and salt and pepper, stir it up till combined, serve, and enjoy!

**Note: you can always add more of less of any ingredient, if you want more nuts and cranberries or lime juice, go for it! It is all up to your individual taste.

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Health Nut

I know some people can sometimes be turned away from nuts because of their reputation as a high calorie and high fat snack but don’t let that scare you away from this delicious treat. As with everything, in moderation nuts are a great on the go snack that will give you energy and help you feel full throughout the day. Now, if that’s not enough reason to eat nuts then here are a few more:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids– Many nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Diets with a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids also help manage irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to heart attack. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish and some greens and seeds, but nuts are the best vegetarian source.
  2. Fiber– All nuts contain fiber, which can help you lower your cholesterol. Fiber also helps you feel fuller longer so it is a great snack in the middle of the day to keep you energized.
  3. Vitamin E– Vitamin E is thought to help stop the development of plaque in the arteries. The development of plaque can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack. Vitamin E is also essential for healthy skin, proper immune function, DNA repair and other metabolic functions.
  4. Plant Sterols– Some nuts contain plant sterols which can help you lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to margarine and orange juice for the extra health benefits but are found naturally in nuts.
  5. L-arginine– L-arginine is an amino acid that has been shown to improve blood vessel function. Specifically, by helping the blood vessels relax, allowing for better blood flow and reducing the risk for blood clots. It has also been shown to boost immune function, promote wound healing and manage existing cardiovascular disease. Walnuts, peanuts and almonds are especially high in L-arganine.tumblr_m4y25lJB1B1rs8tfgo2_r4_1280

References:

“Eating nuts for heart health.” Mayo Clinic . N.p., 4 february
2011. Web. 27 Jan 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com
/health/nuts/HB00085>.

Valentine, Jennifer, ed. “Health benefits of nuts .” One Green Planet . N.p., 2 Mar 2011.
Web. 27Jan2013.
of-nuts/>.

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How to wake up early and workout

Go to bed early: Try not to drink caffeine or do any activities that might get you too hyped up to go to sleep. Its best to be relaxed right before bed, try reading a book and turn off any electronics that might keep you up.

Prepare the night before: Set or your workout cloths out the night before. If you are going to the gym, prepare your gym bag with your ipod, magazines, cloths, water bottle etc. that way you can just wake up and go! And if you really don’t want to mess with anything in the morning, sleep in your workout cloths, this may seem a little extreme but I know some people who do this and if it works, then that’s great!

Put your alarm in the next room (or just across the room): If you really have trouble getting up you can do this. It’ll just force you to get up and out of bed, try putting your workout cloths right next to the alarm for the extra reminder of why you are up.

Keep your playlist updated: Doing this or keeping new reading material for the bike or elliptical are also great ways to keep yourself excited about working out in the morning. Think of it as YOU time to enjoy your music, book or magazine.

Make a date: Planning on meeting a friend at the gym or for a walk or run is a great way to make sure you get your workout in. You are much less likely to cancel if you have someone waiting for you.

Keep things interesting: Make sure you are doing something you like. For example: I do not like biking at all, so I just don’t do it. If you don’t like the activity there is no way you are going to be able to get up early and do it. Go for a walk outside or do a dance/workout video at home, whatever it is make sure you enjoy it and that you are mixing up your workouts so you don’t get bored.

Clean Shopping

If you take look in the local grocery stores these days, it’s easy to get pulled into the many rows filled with shelves of boxes, packages and containers of every kind snack imaginable.  These products take center stage in our grocery stores and are the primary target for ads, discounts and coupons making them even more marketable to consumers like you and me. For so long now these products have dominated our shopping lists and have become part of our everyday diets. The problem is that many of these products are what are considered calorie dense foods. Calorie dense foods are things that are very high in calories (like a doughnut or potato chips) but contain very little nutrients like vitamins minerals that are an important part of a healthy diet.

Ignoring these calorie dense foods and opting for more nutrient dense whole foods is what I call clean shopping. I know how challenging this can be when pretty much the entire grocery store is filled with theses types of foods and when we are so use to buy3-017_S1-2_Grocery-List-for-Web_v4_MEDIAing these products. It can be hard to make this switch, but here are a few shopping tips to help you shop clean and slowly wean yourself away from those rows of calorie dense foods and ultimately help you reach a healthier diet and lifestyle.

  1. Make a grocery list- making a grocery list helps so you don’t wander all over the store just buying things on a whim. You are more likely to make healthy, smart choices if you go in prepared with a list and stick to it.
  2.  Shop the edges- Most grocery stores are set up in a similar way. The packaged and processed foods are generally in the middle ap3of the store packed into the rows of shelving. When shopping try and stick mostly to the edges of the store where you will find the fresh produce, poultry and dairy.
  3. Plan meals- Planning meals is also a great way to help you grocery shop. Plan healthy meals for the week and make your shopping list according to those meals. Check out my Healthy eats for great healthy meal ideas.
  4. Read labels If you are going to buy something that is prepackaged make sure you read the nutrition facts. Just because something may say on the cover that it is healthy doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true once you look at the ingredients. Shoot for as few ingredients as possible and make sure they are natural ingredients. Try nutrition_originalkettlecornto keep %fat below 20% and make sure you look at the serving size. A great example of an alternative healthier snack is the kettle corn produced by popcorn Indiana. The only ingredients are popcorn, sugar, canola oil and salt! just the way it should be. For more information on reading and understanding nutrition facts check out these tips from the FDA.
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How your kitchen can help you drop the pounds and reach your New Years resolution

  1. Start fresh, clean out your kitchen. Get rid of any junk foods or really processed boxed or frozen foods ( Ex: frozen pizzas/meals, Cheetos, anything hostess, potato chips etc.) It’s okay to keep a few indulgences around like a piece of dartest-kitchen-refrigerator-0510-s3-medium_newk chocolate or a “healthier” salty snack, but for the most part get the junk food out.
  2. Stock your fridge full of fruits and veggies or low-fat dairy products like yogurt or cottage cheese.
  3. Keep your cupboards full of whole foods like nuts and dried fruits, oats and other grains like brown rice and quinoa.
  4. Create snack packs. Make healthy snacks ahead of time thKitchen-Pantryat are easy to grab and go. That way, you wont be just hanging around the kitchen snacking out of the bag.
  5. When eating use a smaller plate or bowl, doing so tricks your mind into thinking that you are eating more if your bowl or plate is full.
  6. When eating a meal, serve your food in the kitchen. Then go sit down at the table. Not having the food at the table can help you eat less by keeping the food out of sight so you are less likely to go back for more. Out of sight out of mind.
  7. Use sticky notes to write motivational sayings and reminders to snack healthy. Stick them inside cupboards or on the fridge to help keep you in check.
  8. Keep a grocery list somewhere handy in the kitchen either on the counter or on the fridge. That way you can write things down as you think of them so you can have a list ready for the store and will be less likely to just wander around and buy snacks you don’t need.tumblr_md2p38riwC1rqakpao1_500

Are you staying hydrated?

We have all heard of that standard rule of thumb “drink at least eight 8-ozwater bottle glasses of water a day.” This standard rule originated in 1945 from a Food and Nutrition Board report that recommended we drink 1 millimeter of water for every calorie we consume. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, that comes out to be about eight  8-oz glasses of water a day.  The interesting thing about this, is that current research has found no evidence supporting this notion, not to mention that the amount of water you need depends on a number of other variables such as the weather, elevation, your activity level, etc. Though we may not need eight glasses a day, water is still essential for our bodies to function properly. So what counts as water and how do you know if you are getting enough?

Well, If are anything like me, the first beverage you go for in the morning is a cup of coffee or strong tea. Since it is winter, the rest of the day I tend to stick to hot tea or more coffee (sometimes caffeinated, sometimes not). I have found that this time of year, I only drink plain water during or right after a workout. I have always been told that caffeine is a diuretic so I started thinking, I am drinking all this liquid but am I really staying hydrated?

To answer these questions I did a little research. I found a study published by the British Journal of Nutrition that conducted an experiment to test the effects of black tea on hydration status. The study consisted of 21 males taken from the general population. In the study, the subjects were observed for a 12- hour intervention period where all food, drink and physical activity was controlled. Blood was sampled at 0,1,2,4,8, and 12 hours and 24 urine sample was taken (Ruxton, and Hart 1-8). The subjects were put through an experimental study (given black tea) and a controlled study (given identical amounts of boiled water). The results revealed no significant difference between the blood or urine measurements, concluding that the black tea, in the amounts studied offered similar hydrating properties to water (Ruxton, and Hart 1-8).

So the good news about this, is you can stay warm and hydrated drinking your hot tea or coffee this winter. If you are still concerned that you are not getting enough water in your diet don’t forget that foods such as soup, fruits and vegetables also contain a lot of water and count as part of your daily fluid intake. But if you’re still concerned you are not getting enough water, here are a few symptoms of dehydration and ways to check your hydration status.

Symptoms of dehydration:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Cravings for sugar or salt
  • Dry mouth
  • Dark urine
  • One of the best ways to monitor hydration is through urine. If you are staying adequately hydrated your urine will be “very pale yellow”, “pale yellow”, or “straw colored”.
  • Another good way to check is to pinch the back of your hand while it is resting on a flat surface. When you release the skin, it should snap back into place. If it is slow to go back then chances are you are dehydrated.

References:

  • Ruxton, Carrie , and Valerie Hart. “Black tea is not significantly different from water in the maintenance of normal hydration in human subjects: results from a randomized controlled trial .” British Journal of Nutrition. (2011): 1-8. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.
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