Healthy Changes To Make Today

If you’re like me, it seems like it was only yesterday that you were a 20-something who could eat whatever she wanted, stay up until the wee hours of the morning and take a flight of stairs like it was nothing. Today, it's considerably harder to feel energetic, fresh and ready to scale heights. As you age, staying healthy seems like it’s always just outside your grasp. The thing is, it’s actually right in front of you: You just have to take it!

Whether you want to lose 30 pounds, have more energy for your grandkids or not have to take a breather after hiking to balcony-level seats, there are plenty of small changes you can start making today to feel better. Here are two of the most important.

Get Your Beauty Rest

I can’t overstate the importance of a good night’s sleep. When you’re tucked in tight and dreaming, your body is repairing, rebuilding and rejuvenating itself from head to toe.

As an adult, you need at least seven hours of beauty sleep each night. That's beauty not just for your complexion but also for your brain. When you fall short of those 7 hours, your body and mind rebel. In addition to feeling groggy and slow, inadequate sleep can lead to a variety of health issues, no matter how fit you are. For example, the risk of both heart attack and stroke increase for adults who don’t get enough sleep.

If, despite your best intentions, falling asleep is an issue for you, there are several ways to make trundling off to dreamland easier:

  • Get into the routine of going to bed at roughly the same time every night. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to.

  • Keep screens out of your bedroom. The light given off by many electronic devices is a one-way ticket to Insomnia Town, Population: You.

  • Try a sleep app. It seems like every day there’s a new app designed to help you fall asleep. I’m partial to the Sleep Stories on the Calm app.

Make Eliminating Stress a Priority

As women, we’re often expected to take care of everybody else. We’re mothers, daughters, best friends and CEOs. We run companies and households. We cook. We clean. We — well, you get the drift. The majority of women are subjected to an incredible number of stressors. Meanwhile, as caretakers, we may feel guilty if we take a moment to look after ourselves.

That line of thinking needs to stop. Over time, constant stress can lead to an array of health problems, including depression, ulcers, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, IBS and migraines. It also increases your likelihood of obesity.

If reading the above paragraph stressed you out, don’t worry. Small changes can yield big, healthy results. Making as little as 10-15 minutes per day to relax and have fun can put a huge dent in your stress levels. Those 10 minutes don’t have to be spent in silent meditation, either. For me, taking a break often entails one or more of the following:

  • Reading a magazine (the more celebrity gossip, the better)

  • Going for a walk

  • Watching an episode of “comfort food” TV

  • Listening to music

  • A hot bath, heavy on the rosemary oil

  • A glass of wine, preferably red

  • Playing a quick game or two on my iPad

If nothing else, check in with yourself often and take a few deep breaths. Self-care should be a priority in your life, not an indulgence.

Getting plenty of sleep and taking time each day to de-stress are just two of many small modifications you can make to improve your overall health. Even better, they’re two changes you can make today.

How To DIY a Spa Day and Pamper Yourself at Home

These days, heading out for a full day at the spa seems like a faraway dream. Somehow, just running a hot bath and lighting a candle or two just doesn't cut it. If you've been wondering whether a DIY spa day can really be a luxurious experience, keep reading. You may be surprised by what a fantastic retreat you can create in your own home with a little forethought and a couple of nice products.

Carve Out Dedicated Time

The secret to creating an epic DIY spa day is to prepare well in advance. There's nothing less relaxing than rushing around looking for supplies when you should be sitting and enjoying yourself. First, make a date with yourself. Put it in your calendar. This time is just for you, so block it out and be sure that everyone else in the house knows you're not available.

Create a Spa-like Environment

The night before your spa day, create or download a playlist so you have your favorite music on hand. Find your favorite candles, fragrances, and essential oils that you can use to create a refreshing atmosphere. Think about the lighting that you want. If you are doing beauty treatments, you may want lots of natural light. On the other hand, you may prefer more subdued lighting for relaxation. If you don't have a dimmer switch in your bathroom, find a solution now instead of waiting until the last minute.

Another thing you'll want to recreate from your favorite spa may be snacks and drinks. Do you usually have a smoothie when you go? Maybe you prefer lemon and cucumber water or warm herbal tea. Set everything out ahead of time.

Choose Your Products Wisely

A big part of the spa experience is the luxury products that you likely wouldn't use every day. Although you could make your own masks, scrubs, and bath milks if you feel like it, there are plenty of great options for sale. Invest in a couple of scrubs, bath bombs, and body butters, and set them aside for a monthly pampering session. You want to make this a regular thing, right? Make thoughtful choices when purchasing spa products. Don't be fooled by unsubstantiated claims. If cruelty-free or vegan products are important to you, shop around for those. Be sure to choose products that match your skin type. However, when it comes to relaxation and rejuvenation, sensory experiences make a big impact. With that in mind, choose products that you love to smell and touch. On the other hand, don't feel like you have to buy the most expensive serum on the shelf just to get a good result. If your everyday products make you feel good, use those. It's up to you.

Take Your Time and Enjoy Yourself

Think about what made your last spa day so enjoyable. Sure, your skin felt amazing afterward, but isn't it also that you were able to relax, enjoy the moment, and not worry about who was calling and texting you? Try to recreate the entire experience, not only the skincare aspect of it. Turn off your phone, be sure everything is ready ahead of time, and dive in. You'll come away feeling renewed, inside and out.

I Should Be Putting Egg Whites in WHAT?

Have you ever noticed how egg whites are treated as second-hand citizens in many recipes? I have. After all, anytime a recipe instructs me to separate my eggs and use only the yolks, I dump the whites down the sink without a second thought. But then I got to thinking “what if I could actually use those for something?” That’s when I did some research and found out just how versatile egg whites really are. Here are a few surprising things you should start saving your egg whites for, starting today.

DIY Face Masks

Before you throw egg whites out, put them in a bowl to whip into an effective little DIY face mask. I know, I know. Putting food on your face doesn’t seem natural. However, you can’t knock it until you try it. It turns out that egg whites contain an impressive amount of protein, which can help tighten the skin and mop up excess oil.

It’s really easy to make a face mask with egg whites. Simply separate the yolk from the white, mix it with juice from half a lemon until it gets nice and frothy, then apply it to your face in a thin layer. Let it dry for approximately 10 minutes, then rinse it off with warm water. It’s as easy as that! Oh, don’t forget to avoid your eyes. Lemon juice and eyes don’t go together well.

Candied Nuts

Egg whites probably aren’t the first ingredient that comes to mind when you think of candied nuts. But I learned that they’re a key ingredient for creating a nice crunch and binding the dry ingredients to the nuts. Practically every candied nut recipe calls for the humble egg white, and if you omit it from your recipe, you’ll soon see why it’s necessary. If you plan to make candied nuts this holiday season, get ready to learn how to use egg whites in a creative way.

Homemade Marshmallows

Eggs and marshmallows don’t seem to go together, but it turns out they’re a match made in heaven. If you have the ability to whip egg whites, you have the ability to make pillow-soft homemade marshmallows. All you need are a couple packages of powdered gelatin, sugar, egg whites, light corn syrup, water and a little flavoring. You can find many different homemade marshmallow recipes online. Give several a try until you find your favorite.

Cocktails

Adding egg whites to cocktails may seem strange or even gross to you, but it’s a practice that’s been going on for longer than a century. Egg whites can make your cocktail creamier and foamier than it would otherwise be. Don’t worry, your drink won’t end up tasting like eggs. Unpasteurized egg whites are almost tasteless and odorless. Their primary purpose in cocktails is solely textural.

To create frothier cocktails, separate the egg whites from the yolks. Then, work the yolk into a frothy consistency using the dry shake method. This involves shaking the egg white, along with the other cocktail ingredients, in a cocktail shaker (without ice) for at least a minute. You’ll get tired, but it’s a great way to get rid of those flabby underarms!

After a minute, add ice, then shake the yolk cocktail mixture for at least 30 more seconds. Strain it into your glass using a double-straining method to make sure the foam layer is nice and clean. That’s all there is to it! your guests will most likely ask you what your trick is. Feel free to tell them, or keep your egg white cocktail secret to yourself.

Try Your Own Egg White Recipe

These are just a few of my favorite, surprising egg white recipes. There are many more uses for egg whites that you can research. Give one a try the next time you have extra egg whites to use up.

How To Use Household Items as Exercise Equipment

Whether you have no interest in joining a gym or simply haven't been there in a while, you're probably looking for ways to get in a good workout at home. Sure, you could buy a bunch of equipment and create a home gym, but maybe you're short on space or don't want to make that kind of commitment yet. The solution: work out at home using random household items to supplement your moves. At some point, you'll likely get bored with your simple, no-equipment routine, and you'll want to add a little bit of resistance. When you find yourself in that place, don't run out and buy the latest workout gadget. Instead, here are a few common household-items-turned-workout-props to get you started.

Chair as Barre

Let's start with a classic from every exercise video ever: using a dining room chair to hold onto while doing barre work. The trick here is to be sure and use a sturdy chair that won't topple easily and won't slide out from under you when you need it most. Try placing the chair against the wall for added stability. Once you're sure it won't move, you can use it as a support for mountain climbers, triceps dips, and modified planks, too.

Broom as Barbell

Your broom will only hold so much weight, and you don't want to try to lift too much without a spotter anyway, so think of this a lightweight bar, at best. To use it: Fill a pair of sneakers with heavy items, such as cans, and try to make the weight equal. Then slide them onto the broom handle by the ties. Be sure they're double-knotted so they won't come undone during your workout. You can also use a broom or long dowel without added weight to keep your hands in position for lat pulldowns.

Canned Food as Dumbells

This is another oldie-but-goodie. Don't have any dumbells? Just use cans from your pantry! It's an excellent option because you can use different sizes to give you different weights. However, be sure you can grip the cans well. If they're too big to hold, you'll risk dropping them on your toes, which, as you can imagine, is no fun at all.

Water Jug as Kettle Ball

Using a gallon jug to add some resistance to your home workout is pure genius. It's got a nifty, built-in handle that prevents you from easily dropping it, it weighs just under 10 pounds when full, and you can drink the water afterward. When choosing a container to use this way, be sure it's either factory-sealed or has a screw-on cap, not one that easily pops off. You don't want to deal with a gallon of water on the floor mid-workout. The best way to use this household item in your exercise routine is to substitute it anywhere you would typically use a kettle ball. If you're up for it, you could also use one in each hand to add resistance to bodyweight exercises.

Being stuck at home can quickly get old, but there's no reason to let your health slip because of it. Keep that body moving and mind engaged with whatever you happen to have on hand.

How to Work in 30 Minutes of Cardio During Your Busy Day

Many adults report that they have very little time for themselves during the day. Whether your job, children or community responsibilities take up most of your day, it’s important to make sure you take time for your health as well. Regular exercise is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for older individuals who need to keep a close eye on their physical health.  The good news is that working out doesn’t have to take up a huge chunk of your day. In fact, there I use a few simple hacks to make sure I get at least 30 minutes of cardio, no matter what my schedule is like. I can help you do it, too!

The Importance of Regular Cardio

No matter how full your schedule may be, regular cardio is essential for your health. Performing cardio not only raises your cardiorespiratory endurance, but it also helps lower blood sugar and regulate insulin levels. In short, performing just 30 minutes of cardio each day can help you live a healthier, more energetic lifestyle well into your senior years. Plus, it will help you keep extra pounds at bay.

Tips for Fitting Cardio Into Your Busiest Days

Now that you know how important cardiovascular activity is, you may be wondering “but how am I supposed to fit 30 minutes of exercise into my day?” Don’t worry, I’m here to help you with that. Here are a few things I do now or have done in the past to sneak cardio into my busiest days.

  • Ride your bike to work. This one is not only highly effective, but it’s also fun. Of course, it’s not a valid option for everyone, but if you work close by, riding your bike to work and back each day is an excellent way to squeeze some cardio in.

  • Take a walk during your lunch break. If you have an hour-long lunch break, why not use half of it to take a walk? Take advantage of nearby walking trails or just take a brisk stroll around the block. You’ll still have plenty of time to eat, and you’ll likely find that your walk energizes you so you can be productive the rest of the day.

  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Taking the stairs at work won’t give you 30 minutes of cardio, but it may give you anywhere from 1-5 minutes. If you do it several times per day, you could receive up to 15 minutes of cardio exercise by just taking the stairs. That means you’ll only need to figure out how to squeeze in another 15 minutes of cardio throughout your day. That’s doable for practically anyone!

  • Schedule your workouts and commit to them. In the grand scheme of things, how important is your physical health? The answer is “extremely!” That’s why you should never put yourself on the back burner. If you’re not getting enough exercise to stay healthy and happy, start scheduling it into your calendar. Give your workout the same importance you give professional meetings, and don’t break your cardio appointments.

  • Keep your workout clothes nearby at all times. Opportunities for short bursts of activity can come up at any time, but you won’t be able to take advantage of them if you aren’t prepared. Keep a gym bag of workout clothes nearby at all times, so you can go for a quick jog or bike ride if a meeting is canceled unexpectedly or if a friend invites you for a last-minute run.

The truth is, it’s easy to come up with excuses not to take care of your body. Believe me, I know! But if you keep these little tips in mind, you can get 30 minutes of cardio in without even realizing it.

Try These Techniques To Help Relieve Arthritis Pain

If arthritis leaves you stiff, sore and unable to comfortably pursue your favorite activities, you're not alone. More than 100 different types of diseases categorized as arthritis affect an estimated 54 million Americans according to the Arthritis Foundation. If you've been diagnosed with arthritis, a trusted health care provider can help you develop strategies to cope with the resulting pain and immobility. Scientists have found evidence to support the efficacy of these X remedies for arthritis symptoms.

Pain Medication

Your doctor will likely recommend medication for your arthritis pain. Some of the most common therapies include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, as well as options that also address inflammation such as naproxen and ibuprofen

  • Prescription pain medications

  • Topical ointments containing capsaicin or menthol, which may block some pain signals from entering the joint

  • Disease-modifying antirheumatoid drugs and biologic response modifiers, which reduce the immune system attacks on the joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis

  • Oral or injected corticosteroids to alleviate joint inflammation

Weight Loss

Excess weight can put pressure on the joints, worsening the discomfort of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, every extra pound places about 6 pounds of added stress on the hip joints and 3 pounds on the knees.

The 2019 evidence guidelines for arthritis treatment published by the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation recommend weight loss for overweight and obese individuals who have arthritis. Even losing just 5 to 10% of your total body weight can result in better mobility, reduced pain, and decreased wear and tear on the joints.

Incorporating regular exercise in your life might feel daunting if you have arthritis, but working with your doctor to boost your physical activity can have a positive effect on your overall health. Gentle exercises like walking, swimming, biking and yoga will support your weight loss efforts, improve joint mobility and strengthen muscles to provide joint support. Avoid repetitive and jarring motions; running, tennis and high-impact aerobics place undue stress on painful joints. If you're not sure where to start, talk to your health care provider. He or she may recommend referral to a physical therapist.

Temperature Treatments

Applying ice or moist heat to your painful joints can often provide relief. Try a cold pack to alleviate joint inflammation, applied to the affected area for 15 minutes at a time. Take a 30-minute break between each application.

A heating pad can help relax muscle tension that results from arthritis discomfort, as well as soothe the body by boosting circulation. A hot shower has a similar therapeutic effect. As with cold, check the temperature and take breaks to protect your skin.

Acupuncture

Eastern medicine has used acupuncture to treat pain and other ailments for thousands of years. Today, many individuals who have arthritis report relief after trying this traditional Chinese remedy. With acupuncture, the practitioner inserts tiny needles at designated points throughout the body to stimulate natural anesthetic, circulation and nerve activity to the joints, connective tissue and muscles. While most studies about acupuncture focus on chronic pain in general, anecdotal research shows that the practice can be positive for people who have arthritis.

Supplements

While not every natural supplement works as intended, studies show these nutrients and vitamins have a beneficial effect on arthritis pain:

  • Indian frankincense

  • Capsaicin

  • Turmeric

  • Fish oil

  • Ginger

  • Omega-6 fatty acids

Talk with your doctor before adding these remedies or any other supplements to your diet.

Most of all, if you have arthritis, listen to your body. Pay attention to the factors that cause pain to flare and avoid those triggers. Take note of the remedies that provide relief and incorporate them into your everyday routine.

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Live up to the Hype?

If you're like me, you've heard apple cider vinegar recommended in the past few years for everything from weight loss to lower cholesterol and better blood sugar control. How many of these claims actually stand up to science? While we haven't yet seen a ton of studies that look at the health effects of apple cider vinegar, the existing research gives some hints about the potential uses of this pungent pantry staple.

Limited Evidence of Long-Term Weight Loss

Harvard Health News reports that while acetic acid, found in apple cider vinegar, boosts metabolism and decreases fat deposits in obese rodents, these effects have not been replicated in human studies. The largest human trial on apple cider vinegar and weight loss to date, conducted in 2009 by Japan's Central Research Institute, showed moderate weight loss in participants who took 2 tablespoons of the vinegar each day. Individuals who took 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each day saw similar but less dramatic effects. With just 175 study subjects, however, we need more research to determine whether these results hold true with a larger sample size.

A newer but smaller study, published in 2018 in the Journal of Functional Foods, found that the 39 overweight or obese participants achieved lower body weight and BMI with apple cider vinegar administration along with a restricted-calorie diet. These researchers, from the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran, also reported an association between apple cider vinegar and reduced appetite among individuals in the study.

Rodent studies about apple cider vinegar also suggest that the ingredient can work as an appetite suppressant. A small randomized control trial published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2005 found that individuals who took apple cider vinegar along with a high-carb meal ate 200 to 275 fewer than normal calories for the day. These findings echoed research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1998, where study participants reported a more significant feeling of fullness and slower stomach emptying after taking apple cider vinegar along with a starchy meal.

Other Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar

The Japanese study also found that apple cider vinegar had a modest positive effect on participants' blood triglyceride and body fat levels. In the 2018 study, participants also experienced reduced triglyceride levels, along with lower total cholesterol levels and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Researchers in the Iranian study also reported that participants had lower visceral adiposity index levels after the apple cider vinegar regimen. VAI is a collection of body measures that can indicate a higher risk for certain types of cancer as well as heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Apple cider vinegar may also improve blood sugar control among individuals who have type 2 diabetes according to a 2016 study by the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences and the National University of Singapore. Rodent studies on the effects of apple cider vinegar also support decreased insulin levels and lower blood sugar levels.

Getting Started With Apple Cider Vinegar

Without additional research, the jury is still out on the true efficacy of apple cider vinegar for weight loss and overall health. If you're curious and want to give this trick a try, apple cider vinegar is safe for most people. However, you should check with your doctor before adding a daily dose to your supplement routine. Individuals who are taking potassium-lowering medications or have diabetes can experience unwanted complications from apple cider vinegar.

In addition, you should dilute the vinegar with water to prevent its acidity from wearing away your tooth enamel. Most doctors recommend diluting one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a full 8-ounce glass of water and spreading out consumption throughout the day.

6 Reasons Why I Limit My Diet Soda Intake

There used to be a time where I started every day with a cold, refreshing diet soda.

Or two.

OK, fine. Sometimes three.

I thought nothing of it. The caffeine helped me get going in the morning, and I figured it wouldn’t stain my teeth like I feared coffee would. Most of all, it wasn’t regular soda. How bad could it be?

Turns out pretty bad. While drinking a diet soda is still better for you than drinking a calorie-dense regular soda, it’s still not great for your body. While I haven’t totally given up diet soda, here are six reasons why I only pop the top on one every now and then.

1. Diet Soda Can Disrupt Your Metabolism

Diet sodas are powered by artificial sweeteners. On the one hand, they’re great because they don’t contain calories. On the other hand, they’re chemicals. As such, they can be a catalyst for inflammation and put stress on your GI system, which may lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and other metabolism-related health problems.

2. It May Be Bad for Your Gut Bacteria, Too

We’ve all seen the commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis. You know your tummy needs good bacteria to reduce bloating and keep things moving. The thing is, maintaining a robust microbiome is essential to many more of your body’s networks, including your immune system and your brain. Recent studies have shown that the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda can change, or even kill, that good gut bacteria.

3. It’s Downright Addictive

From the caffeine content to the teeny-tiny bubbles, there are several reasons why diet soda can be habit-forming. The biggest factor, however, is the use of artificial sweeteners. In addition to tasting sweet, which is something most people enjoy (obviously!), they can cause your body to grow physically addicted to them.

Fake sugar is actually considerably sweeter than real sugar, so when you down a diet soda, your body gets a massive hit of sweetness — and it wants more. That may mean another diet soda, or it may mean that ice cream in the freezer.

The more sweetness you soak up, the more you need to satiate your sweet tooth. Eventually, an orange won’t cut it anymore; you need orange sherbet instead, and you’re back in the freezer again.

Artificial sweeteners may cause you to crave carbs, too. The fact that a diet soda tastes extremely sweet but doesn’t provide any calories throws your brain for a loop and may cause it to seek out calorie-dense foods to compensate.

If you’re sensing a heavy trend here, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that diet soda drinkers tend to weigh more than people who opt for another calorie-free beverage.

4. It’s Bad for Your Bone Density

As we age, fear of breaking a hip seems clichéd. If you regularly consume diet soda, however, it may actually cause a decrease in your hip bone density thanks to its phosphoric acid.

5. It’s Bad for Your Teeth

Remember how I thought diet soda was better for my teeth than coffee? I was wrong. Whether it’s regular or diet, consistent soda drinking will erode your enamel.

6. It Offers No Wellness Benefits

Sure, you could make the argument that you’re cutting calories because you’re imbibing diet soda instead of regular soda. Then again, you could also switch to water or tea, both of which will hydrate you better without chucking sodium, phosphoric acid, artificial coloring and artificial sweeteners into your system on a regular basis.

If you’re not ready to give up diet soda cold turkey, consider drinking fewer ounces each day. Since I began limiting my diet soda intake, I’ve felt like a leaner and cleaner version of myself. My water intake has skyrocketed, and both my digestive system and my skin have reaped the rewards of being well-hydrated. Now the only drink I crave is the tea I haven’t tried yet.

Which Cooking Oils To Use and Which To Avoid

If you’re like me, your pantry is overflowing with cooking oils. If you’re like my aunt was, you just slather everything in vegetable oil and call it a day. With apologies to Aunt Ginny, it’s important to choose the right oil for the job. Each reacts differently to heat, seasons your food differently and, perhaps most importantly, affects your health differently. Here’s a quick guide to five of the most popular cooking oils on store shelves today.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Of all the oils in my pantry, EVOO gets the most use. It’s jam-packed with monounsaturated fats that are great for the heart, and it's full of flavor. It’s perfect for sautéing and for drizzling on top of soups, veggies or crusty Italian bread. (Occasionally, of course.)

What it’s not-so-great for is frying and roasting because of its low smoke point. I like to keep a giant bottle of inexpensive EVOO in the pantry for most jobs on the stovetop. Then I also have a smaller bottle of higher-quality EVOO that I save for that aforementioned drizzling.

Canola Oil

Canola oil gets a bad rap. Thanks to its high smoke point, it’s an excellent choice for frying food. It has that 400-degree smoke point because it's processed using chemicals.

The thing is, that chemical processing doesn’t really impact its healthiness. It’s still low in saturated fat, and it’s a decent, affordable, all-around oil to keep in your pantry thanks to its suitability not only for frying but also baking and roasting. Just don’t sauté your veggies in it or add it to your homemade salad dressing.

Vegetable Oil

Like its pantry partner-in-crime canola oil, vegetable oil is good for frying because of its high smoke point. It can also be a suitable choice for roasting and baking. It has a neutral flavor, so it won’t overpower whatever you throw its way.

That said, vegetable oil isn’t the healthiest oil of the bunch. Like canola oil, it’s chemically refined. Unlike canola oil, which isn’t impacted by that procedure, the processing of vegetable oil robs it of its naturally occurring minerals.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is quickly gaining in popularity and not just in kitchens. It’s a staple of natural beauty products, especially moisturizers.

Back to the kitchen, though: Coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat. (Think a whopping 12 grams per tablespoon.) That’s why it’s a solid at room temperature, just like its fatty, creamy, delicious twin, butter.

And, just like butter, if you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, you should reserve coconut oil only for baking. For other dishes, choose a healthier oil. Extra-virgin olive oil, for example, has a similarly low smoke point while remaining heart-healthy.

Avocado Oil

If you think everything avocado is just for Millennials, think again. Avocado oil is an excellent alternative to canola and vegetable oils. Like those oils, it has a high smoke point that makes it great for frying. Unlike those oils, it’s full of monounsaturated fats that will make your heart happy, it’s low on saturated fat, and it isn’t chemically processed.

All of that comes at a price, though. Literally. While avocado oil’s flavor is neutral, its cost is usually higher than the other cooking oils on this list. Personally, I think it’s worth the splurge to keep a bottle in the back of my pantry. Even if you can’t afford to use it regularly, swapping it in for canola or vegetable oil from time to time will cut some unwanted chemicals out of your kitchen in the long run.

In many ways, the oil makes the dish. As you stock your pantry, pay attention to labels and choose the oils you need to make your recipes sing and your body strong.

3 Things You Can Do With All That Zucchini

When I think of summer, I think of sunshine, beach reads and more zucchini than I know what to do with. If you find yourself with a garden full of zucchini — or even a generous neighbor looking to unload his or her zucchini haul — here are three of my favorite ways to use it up.

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini Canoes

This dish isn’t just simple to throw together, it’s versatile too. You can fill your zucchini canoes with whatever you’d like, but I prefer hot Italian turkey sausage. Too spicy for your taste? Try sweet Italian sausage or some thick, earthy mushrooms.

The ingredient list is short and sweet:

  • 4 small zucchinis

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped

  • 2 links hot Italian turkey sausage

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ cup green olives, sliced

  • ¼ cup sweet red cherry peppers, chopped (optional)

  • 1 ¼ cup marinara sauce

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Start by cutting each zucchini in half lengthwise and scrape out the insides, leaving a ¼-inch shell for your canoe. Chop up the reserved zucchini “meat” and set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped zucchini, onion and salt. Remove the casings from the sausage links and add the sausage to the pan, crumbling as you go. Cook for 8 minutes, then mix in the olives and cherry peppers.

Meanwhile, spread the marina in a 9 x 13 baking dish and place the zucchini shells on top of the sauce. Spoon a generous portion of the sausage-zucchini mix into each shell. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Cover your fleet with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 minutes more. If you like your cheese to get nice and brown, you might give it a couple of minutes under the broiler to finish things off.

Zoodles

Zoodles, a.k.a. zucchini noodles, are a healthy way to get your spaghetti supper fix without packing on the pasta pounds. For the easiest zoodle prep, invest in an inexpensive vegetable spiralizer, and zoodle until your heart’s content. You can use zoodles in place of traditional pasta in most of your favorite dishes, Italian or otherwise, and they’re great in soups, too.

One of my favorite ways to zoodle couldn’t be simpler. Here’s what you need:

  • 3 medium zucchinis, peeled

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 3 minced garlic cloves

  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Spiralize the zucchini into noodles. (In a pinch, you can quarter them and use a veggie peeler to slice them into thin strips.)

In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (roughly 1 minute), stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add your zoodles and grated Parmesan to the pan; stir. Cook the whole shebang until the zoodles are al dente (1-2 minutes).

Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste, and cover with more parm if you’d like.

Easy Grilled Zucchini

Sometimes the best way to enjoy zucchini is to keep it simple and throw it on the grill. (Or, even better, have your spouse, daughter or favorite grandson handle grilling duties.) I like my grilled zucchini simple — just a touch of garlic, oregano, basil and balsamic — but there’s no limit to the ways you can season your squash.

For perfect grilled zucchini, preheat the grill, keeping the heat medium to low. Lightly oil the grate, too.

Meanwhile, quarter your zucchinis, and brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle them with dried oregano, basil and garlic power, then grill until they start browning (roughly 4 minutes per side). Remove to a serving dish and lightly splash with balsamic vinegar before serving. Delicious!

You know what they say: Waste not, want not. Don’t throw all that zucchini away. Get a little creative in the kitchen, and you’ll be enjoying healthy, diverse zucchini dishes all season long.