5 Easy Perennial Vegetables & Herbs to Grow

14 Apr

Most of our favorite vegetables such as peppers or tomatoes (technically fruits!) – are annuals.  They complete their life cycles in a single growing season so we have to plant them year after year.  While there aren’t many true perennial vegetables, there are some that behave that way and can return each year.

 

  • Asparagus. Once planted, a good asparagus bed can last for decades, with weeds being their only real enemy.  Keep your bed weed-free by adding a layer of compost on top each year.   Asparagus “crowns” can take about three years to fully mature so be patient, as they are well worth the wait for a bountiful spring harvest.
  • Chives. The slender leaves can grow up to a foot long and are very popular throughout the world.  They are easy to grow and can form clumps fairly rapidly.
  • Garlic. Break the head of garlic apart into individual cloves and plant them in a sunny, well drained bed with the root side down.  The soil should cover them so that the cloves barely stick up above the ground. When it’s time to harvest, leave some of the smaller plants to die – they will come up again the following year and will provide a new crop.
  • Peppers. Although they are planted as annuals, pepper plants can be brought inside and cared for over the winter, and returned to the garden in the spring.
  • Wild Leeks. Relative of the onion, Wild Leeks are also known as “Ramps”. These plants are tender early in the spring and produce edible bulbs in the fall, winter and spring.
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Walking Tips: Do’s and Don’ts

4 Apr

Set a goal, make a time commitment and keep track of your progress!

Do…See a doctor.  Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program and get a full physical. Let the doctor choose an exercise program that is right for you.

Do…Drink water. Extremely important on hot and humid days, drink before, during and after your walk.

Do…Eat well.  Eating a healthy and balanced diet will help you get the maximum benefits from walking.

Do…Choose a smooth level surface. This will result in less fatigue and fewer injuries.

Don’t…Walk right after or before meals. Walking 2 hours after a meal and waiting 20 minutes after your walk to eat should be sufficient.

Don’t…Walk on ice or walk during a lightning storm.  Try walking inside the mall on days with bad weather.

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Walking: The Best Gear

30 Mar

SHOES

Did you know that shoes are the single most important piece of equipment for the walker?  They can be the difference between having a fun, relaxing walk and an uncomfortable, painful one.  It is important to get a good pair of walking shoes with the following characteristics.

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  • Provide both support and comfort to all parts of the foot
  • Have enough toe room so that you can wiggle your toes
  • Have firm support at the heel
  • Have a flexible cushioned sole in order to aid the walking gait and to absorb shock
  • Be made of breathable material, preferably leather, or fabric to allow perspiration to dissipate
  • Be lightweight

While there are many shoes at various price ranges designed specifically for walking, a running shoe or tennis shoe will also serve the purpose so long as it is comfortable and has the above characteristics.

CLOTHING

Under normal weather conditions, there is great flexibility in the type of clothes you can wear while walking.  While loose fitting clothing is best, this may also include shorts and a tee shirt or a warm-up suit.

Cold Weather:  Dress warmly wearing layers which trap the heat and allow you to remove layers as you get warmer.  One guideline is to wear one less layer than you would if you were outside in that weather when you weren’t walking. Also, approximately 30% of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat!

Brrr:  In really cold weather, cover all extremities to avoid frostbite.  Mittens, thermal underwear and an extra pair of socks are definitely recommended.  (If you have problems with your heart, ask your doctor if it’s OK to walk in very cold weather.)

Warm Weather: Wear light clothing but be sure to wear a hat and/or sunscreen to block the sun’s rays.

Precipitation: In rain or snow, a waterproof and windproof jacket make a great addition to your walking wardrobe. Many incorporate zip-in liners for colder weather or can be worn alone with vents for warmer weather.

WALKING ACCESSORIES

While there is no need to spend a lot of money on walking gear, there are a number of items that will make your walk easier, safer and more fun.

Pedometers: A pedometer is the perfect way to enhance your walking.  First of all, it’s fun to know how many steps you’ve taken, how far you’ve walked, or how long you’ve been walking.  Secondly, a pedometer allows you to keep track of your progress against the goals you have set for yourself.  A pedometer will also show you the steps taken or distance traveled over one or several walks. Other options to track walking activity include  Fitbits and iWatch which can allow you to connect with others for friendly competition.

Reflective Products and Lights: If you are walking in the morning, early evening or night, reflective products are a must.  Your gear can include a reflective vest and reflective bands.  A flashlight or strobe light will also help you to be seen at night.

Join a walking group  Bring your favorite 4 legged friend!

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National Spinach Day – Health Benefits of Spinach

26 Mar

March 26th is ‘National Spinach Day‘!  

‘National Spinach Day’ was created to celebrate the healthy and nutritious leafy vegetable, spinach!

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How does spinach benefit your health?

Spinach is considered an extremely healthy vegetable! Spinach nutrition has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, has a very low amount of calories, and is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. In addition to supplying plenty of antioxidants, spinach is considered a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, and selenium.

Spinach contains special protective carotenoid compounds that have been linked with decreasing the risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and obesity. Spinach also supplies flavonoids, which are a type of powerful antioxidant that protect against disease by fighting free radical damage within the body. These protective compounds make spinach one of the best anti-aging foods there is. Spinach is able to slow down cancerous cell formation because it defends against DNA damage and limits oxidative stress through the presence of antioxidants.  Spinach’s carotenoids protect cells from mutations which can ultimately lead to cancerous tumor growth.

Spinach is also a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber is needed to maintain digestive health because it helps with regular bowel movements, carries waste and toxins out of the body, prevents constipation or diarrhea, and can detoxify the digestive tract.   The fiber found in spinach also works to reduce high cholesterol levels and slows down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream.

How can you celebrate ‘National Spinach Day’?  

  1.  Try out a tasty spinach recipe, like MWLC’s Shrimp and Spinach with Caramelized Onion.
  2.  If you have a garden, make a plan to plant some spinach this Spring!
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Walking: Lose Weight and Improve Your Health

15 Mar

It’s easy!  One of the safest exercises you can do, walking often doesn’t require special skills or training like a sport or gym workout might. It doesn’t require prior training or conditioning and doesn’t involve a great deal of physical exertion in the beginning.  Studies have even shown that due to the design of our body, walking is more natural than sitting, standing or running, and walking is not as stressful to the body as other exercises.

Want to get started?  A good pair of walking shoes, comfortable clothing, a pedometer, and you’re all set!  Don’t forget a bottle of water to stay hydrated!

When Hippocrates said that “walking is man’s best medicine”, he didn’t realize that thousands of years later, new benefits of walking would be discovered daily.  What are some health benefits of walking?

  1. Burns almost as many calories as jogging
  2. Eases back pains
  3. Slims your waist
  4. Lowers blood pressure
  5. Reduces levels of bad cholesterol
  6. Reduces heart attack risk
  7. Enhances stamina & energy
  8. Lessens anxiety & tension
  9. Improves muscle tone
  10. Easy on your joints
  11. Reduces appetite
  12. Increases aerobic capacity
  13. Can be done in short bouts
  14. Slows down osteoporosis bone loss
  15. Can be done when you’re traveling

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National Nutrition Month: Shop Locally

14 Mar

Throughout ‘National Nutrition Month’ in March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to “Go Further with Food” by choosing foods that are healthy for your body and environment.  Shopping locally at Farmer’s Markets is one way to “Go Further with Food”.

Food purchased at local farmers markets often is more affordable and tastes better than at commercial grocery stores because it is locally grown and naturally ripened.  When you shop at farmers markets, you are cutting out the middleman (the grocer store) and paying the farmer directly.  You will be buying produce in season and in its freshest form.  This is a great way to get fresh produce at a lower cost.  Buying locally grown food also helps conserve natural resources and has a minimal effect on the environment.  Some farmers markets are even open year-round!

Try talking to the local farmers at the market about fruits and vegetables.  They will often share how the food is grown, what it tastes like, and they can help give ideas of different recipes to prepare with the food.

Plan ahead when you shop locally.  Bring a shopping list and purchase foods you know how to prepare.  You can buy certain product (like blueberries) in bulk and freeze it for when the produce is not in season.

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National Pack Your Lunch Day

10 Mar

March 10th is ‘National Pack Your Lunch Day’!  

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Packing your lunch is a great idea for many reasons! Packing your lunch puts you in control of what you are choosing to eat, the portion sizes you consume, helps you to develop a long-term healthy habit, results in you having more energy and stamina, and it will keep your metabolism stimulated to burn calories because you will be eating the correct balance of foods and you’ll have healthy snacks available throughout the day.

When you pack your lunch you are in control of the portion sizes and what seasonings are being used. Be sure to season your foods, using non-sodium seasonings, before they are packed this way they will not be bland. A good idea for your dinner meal, plan to prepare more food than what you are going to eat, this way you can  immediately portion and place the leftover protein and vegetables into containers. Place the containers in your lunch bag for work the next day and refrigerate if necessary. Don’t forget to place your supplement powders or bars in your lunch bag also! This saves you a lot of time in the morning when everything is already prepared and packed.

On the week nights when you know you will not have any leftovers available, make a back-up plan. At the beginning of the week or over the weekend, whichever works for your schedule and will not be overwhelming, make a list of the groceries you will need for the week to set yourself up for success. You can hard boil eggs, pre-cook chicken, and chop up a bunch of vegetables and fruit – this way you can easily grab these foods and go. Cottage cheese and canned tuna are easy to measure and readily available to consume.

You can organize your refrigerator for Monday through Friday lunches so you know what meal is for when. It is a great idea to make yourself a note and place it on your refrigerator or counter-top, wherever it will be noticed to remind you to not forget your lunch.

There are lunch boxes that can keep your fresh foods staying and tasting fresh longer. When trying to eat healthy, it is always a great idea to find others who are packing their own lunches and trying to eat healthy themselves. This way you will avoid eating out and helps hold everyone in the group accountable. You may also get some great recipes and ideas to help you stay focused on eating healthy and achieve your goals.

If you do not have a refrigerator at work you can pack a cooler in your car and plan your meals based on that. Several foods are good chilled. For example, shrimp, tuna, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, and any raw vegetable or fruit. Always make sure to keep a box of supplement powders or bars in your car in case you forget to grab them, you have reserve.

If you are worried about your lunch being stolen from a community refrigerator at work, they now make lunch boxes that lock. This way you do not have to worry about your lunch coming up missing or being tampered with.

You can see packing a lunch is very important! By not eating out you are significantly cutting back on salt and fat intake. Preparing, pre-planning, using fresh foods, watching seasonings, and using portion control is a big part of our health!

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