Assorted summer berriesI think a lot of people assume that just because I own a fitness company, staying “fit” and eating “healthy” is easy for me. It really isn’t. In fact, at times it can be a real struggle to exercise when I have other things to do or to avoid sweets and fattening foods when all I want to do is eat chocolate chip cookies.

I really do think though that it has become easier for me to make healthy choices because I have taken the time to educate myself about the benefits or exercise and eating right. Of course it’s my job to know the right answers when it comes to health and fitness topics, but on a personal note, I find it incredibly empowering and motivating to know what actually goes on inside my body when I workout hard or when I eat sweets or fatty foods.

In an effort to help anyone who is interested in learning more about the benefits of fitness and good food or current studies and hot topics related to health, I have compiled a list of some of the websites I find to be most informative and a list of some of my favorite health-related books. Enjoy.

www.mayoclinic.com
www.americanheart.org
www.nih.gov
www.healthychild.org
www.presidentschallenge.org
www.healthyamericans.org

Food For Fitness, by Chris Carmichael
Change or Die, by Alan Deutschman
Organic Inc., by Samuel Fromartz
Why Our Health Matters, by Dr. Andrew Weil
The Truth About Food, Jill Fullerton-Smith
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murray

Imagine how you would feel if you were living your healthiest life!

butternut_squash1-2One of my favorite dishes to make in the fall is Butternut Squash Lasagna. It is always a big hit at dinner parties or during the holidays and it makes great leftovers. The recipe is not “perfect” in that it does have some saturated fat, but I feel like the not so healthy part of it can be overlooked (on occasion) because the butternut squash is loaded with carotenes, vitamins C and B1, folic acid, potassium and fiber.

Cook’s Note: Instead of buying a whole butternut squash, purchase 2 packages of Cascadian Farms “Organic Winter Squash” in the frozen section of most grocery stores including Henrys and Whole Foods. Or, if you are a Costco shopper, you can purchase butternut squash that is already peeled and cubed during the fall months.

Also, Amaretti cookies are Italian macaroons. You can find these at Whole Foods, CostPlus World Market and many grocery stores. If you decide not to use them just sprinkle in some cinnamon for additional seasoning. I have made the recipe several times without the Ameretti cookies and it came out just fine.

If you would like to reduce the calorie and fat content, use less cheese. The recipe still comes out great.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper and ground sea salt (unless you are avoiding salt)
1/2 cup water
3 crumbled Amaretti cookies
1/4 cup butter (or Earth Balance)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (You can substitute whole wheat flour)
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 boiled whole wheat lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded lowfat mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

(Skip Step 1 if you are using the Cascadian Farm pureed Winter Squash. Simply follow directions on package to heat.)

Step 1
Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Blend until smooth.

Step 2
Add the amaretti cookies and pulse. Season the squash puree, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Step 3
Melt the butter or Earth Balance in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly.

Step 4
Transfer half of the sauce to a blender or food processor (Please see note below about blending hot liquids.) Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Step 5
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times. Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my family does.

photo-of-homemade-granolaIf you are looking for a healthy breakfast that you can eat at home or take on the road this is one of my favorites. I found the original recipe in The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook, but it was terribly high in calories and fat. Over the years I have modified it to be much healthier, higher in fiber and lower in fat. It was recently featured on Runnerdude’s Blog at as a great pre or post-workout snack.  I purchase most of the ingredients at Trader Joes because I find they have the best prices on nuts.

 

High-Energy Homemade Granola

4 Cups Multi Grain Oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill or Country Choice Organic Oats)
1 Cup Slivered Almonds
2 Cups Raw Pecans
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/3 Cup Canola or Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Organic Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Organic Honey or Agave
1/4 Cup Omega 3 Cranberry Pieces
1/2 Cup Organic Raisins

Mix oatmeal and nuts together in a large bowl. Mix oil, brown sugar, honey, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon in a microwave safe dish. Warm for 30 seconds and pour over the oatmeal mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss in cranberry pieces and raisins. Bake for an additional 5 minutes and remove promptly. Serve. Granola will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Yields about 10 serving.

Each 1/2 cup serving is 230 calories and 6 grams of fiber. Or, each 1/3 cup serving is 153 calories and 4 grams of fiber.

compassWhen I was a young teenager my family used to pile into our Volkswagon Vanagon to make the trek up to Los Angeles to visit my grandparents who we called Memere and Pepere. After arriving and exchanging hugs and kisses I would inevitably walk down the hall to take a look at the newest books that filled the bookcase. I was searching for the latest book on health or fitness that my Memere would have certainly purchased since our last visit. I was fascinated by all there was to know about the latest diets, vitamins, workouts and medical studies.

After I graduated from high school I began college as an English major wishing to be a pre-med or physiology major. I still blame that on the fact that I didn’t tell my parents I needed glasses in 7th grade. I went from being a strong student in elementary school math to a very poor student struggling through 7th grade algebra because I couldn’t make out the writing on the chalkboard. After that pivotal algebra class, I struggled through all future math, chemistry and physics classes.

At the age of 23, I distinctly remember my Memere handing me an article she had clipped from the newspaper titled “Emerging Careers in the Health and Fitness Industry.” “Why don’t you try one of these jobs?” She asked me. My response, “oh Memere it would just be too hard.” Little did I know!

I spent the next decade working in marketing, public relations and graphic design. Guess who I marketed for? Businesses in the health industry!

It took awhile to finally turn my passion into a career that I truly love. My only regret is that my Memere didn’t live to see the day I finally listened to her.

I really hope 52 Healthy Weeks inspires you to make healthier choices throughout the year, even if it means eating one less Oreo today.

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