20 Tasty Mini-Meals That Will Help Control Your Hunger

Eating smaller amounts more frequently may make it easier to control your weight, especially if you’re over 40, says Chris Robinson, author of The Core Connection. Eat five or six of these tasty mini-meals throughout the day, and you’ll never feel hungry and you’ll keep your blood sugar steady.

Many of my clients eat five or six 250- to 300-calorie mini-meals every two or three hours, including before or after a workout. By eating every several hours, their blood sugar stays steady and they never feel hungry. Women over 40 add that mini-meals seem to control bloating and weight gain.

I favor grazing, as long as you keep your mini-meals truly mini. If they start to inch toward maxi, you may eat more calories than you need and actually gain weight.

I asked my clients who favor grazing throughout the day for a few of their favorite mini-meals. Try one, try them all.

Sweet minis

  • Top a whole-grain frozen waffle with 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter and 1 medium sliced banana.
  • Mix 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal; top with 1/4 cup fresh berries.
  • Stir 1 small handful sliced natural almonds into 1 cup low-fat fruit yogurt.
  • Peel a medium banana, then split it lengthwise. Spread with 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter and drizzle with 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup.
  • Spread 1 slice whole-grain bread with 1 tablespoon natural almond butter and 1 teaspoon honey or sugar-free jam.
  • Spoon a dollop of low-fat fruit yogurt on 1/2 cup fruit salad; top with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.

Savory minis

  • Sauté 2 egg whites in a nonstick pan, top with 1/2 ounce reduced-fat cheese, and wrap in a small whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Stuff half a whole-wheat pita with 3 ounces smoked turkey breast and a few leaves of lettuce or spinach. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Top 1 cup mixed greens with 3 ounces grilled chicken; drizzle with 1 tablespoon nonfat dressing, and wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Top a whole-grain English muffin with 1/4 cup pasta sauce and 1 ounce part-skim shredded mozzarella. Pop it under the broiler until the cheese melts.
  • Combine 2/3 cup cooked brown rice with 1/2 cup canned black beans and 1 tablespoon lime juice; top with 1/4 cup low-fat cheddar. Microwave for 1 minute on medium.
  • Mix 2 ounces canned tuna (packed in water; drained) with 2 tablespoons fresh, mashed avocado. Scoop onto 10 bagel chips.
  • Microwave a medium potato for 10 minutes on medium setting. Slice open lengthwise and top with 2 tablespoons salsa and 1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheese.
  • Spread 2 tablespoons fat-free black bean dip, 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese, and 2 tablespoons salsa on a whole-wheat tortilla. Bake for 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Add 1/4 cup shredded romaine. Roll up and enjoy with extra salsa on the side.
  • Microwave a whole-wheat pita for 1 minute on medium. Cut into triangles and spread with 2 tablespoons store-bought hummus.
  • Spread 1/2 small whole-wheat pita with mustard; top with 2 thin slices of deli-sliced turkey breast, cucumber, and sliced tomato.
  • Top 1/2 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 ounce reduced-fat mozzarella, green bell pepper, and tomato slices.
  • Top 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 1 scrambled egg and 1 slice turkey bacon.
  • Layer 2 slices deli-sliced chicken breast or ham, tomato slices, and lettuce on a whole-wheat tortilla. Top with a thin slice of avocado and 1 tablespoon salsa.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Robinson, the author of Core Connection: Go from Fat to Flat by Using Your Abs for a Total Body Workout (Copyright © 2009 by Chris Robinson), is an elite personal trainer whose clients include celebrities, athletes, and top executives on both coasts. A lifelong athlete, Robinson is a two-time Muay Thai kickboxing champion and ran track and field at San Diego State University, where he earned a degree in kinesiology. He is also a certified Pilates instructor, and studied with the legendary Romana Kryszanowska, who learned the craft from Joseph Pilates himself. Robinson is the founder and president of Core Coach Center, Inc.™ (www.corecoach.net), based in La Jolla, California.

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SOS for the Stressed: 7 Stress Management Tips

Head off burnout with these seven tips for reducing stress from Dr. Amy Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You.

You’re working long, long hours to get your career in high gear, then blowing off steam late at night, trying to meet people at smoky after-hours clubs or late-night bars. What with proving yourself on the job, struggling to get a romantic relationship going, and losing sleep over both, you’re ripe for burnout. And maybe breakouts, too — a nonstop lifestyle can suddenly produce a bumper crop of pimples. Some suggestions follow.

Wean yourself from work. How do you do this? By setting up boundaries and sticking to them, just as you keep to brushing your teeth and hair every day. Choose a time each day after which you will not do any more work. Make sure you give yourself at least one day over the weekend to goof off (no work!), whether it’s by yourself or with family.

Blow out the flame. If you’re truly burning the candle at both ends, you need to stop and evaluate why. Are you working sixteen-hour days? Or are you staying out late with friends to cut loose and enjoy the fruits of your labor?

If it’s wall-to-wall work, you’ve got to take charge. It might mean a long talk with your boss or, if things are really out of hand, even switching jobs. Or it might mean you need to just stop being such a workaholic and do less.

On the flip side is our yearning to take a break by doing something exhausting. In the case of a lot of end-to-end candle burners, we party hard, drink, smoke, and stay out way past our bedtime. My advice here isn’t not to have fun. On the contrary! But when you need a break, take a break. Six hours at Club All Night Long probably isn’t it, no matter how cute the suits at the bar are.

Get a dose of morning light. Our body clocks don’t exactly match the day’s twenty-four-hour-day clock, which makes us want to sleep twelve minutes longer every day and stay up later every night. But you probably don’t sleep later but do stay up later…no wonder you’re wiped. What helps? Getting out of bed at the same time every morning and sitting in a sunny spot for breakfast, or exercising outdoors, or just turning on lots of lights. A dose of brightness in the morning helps synch up your internal clock with the twenty-four-hour day. Which also helps you get on regular, saner schedule.

Turn off the cell phone and PDA. More and more we’re growing into a culture addicted to our BlackBerries (there’s a reason they were instantly nicknamed CrackBerries). The flickering, hypnotic light from their tiny screens will arouse your brain and cut into your sleep time. Put away your electronics at least an hour before you hit the hay, if not earlier. Otherwise, you’ll never get a truly restful night’s sleep. (True confessions: I know about this — I’ve been there!)

Tell yourself how well you’re doing. Even if it feels silly, give yourself a morning pep talk while you’re in front of the mirror. Say a few positive affirmations, such as “I’m going to have a fabulous day; I’m beautiful and healthy, and it’s up to me to make great things happen; I’m grateful for this life and I’m doing terrific.” Note how well you’re coping with whatever pressure you’re under. Even if you don’t quite believe yourself, it’s still effective. Research has shown that over time, a daily rah-rah builds resilience, which can fortify you against stress.

Prep yourself. Take stock of your coming day. Note the pitfalls: the two-hour parent-teacher night that tends to last three; the regular Thursday staff meeting; the eighty-five unanswered e-mails that could consume the entire morning. Every day has its molehills, but if you’re prepared and limit the time you give them, they won’t turn into mountains.

Book a massage. Massage strokes relax your muscles and your psyche because being touched releases oxytocin; remember, that’s the bonding hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over. It’s the internal reason massages are so calming and soothing. The external one, of course, is how they unknot those tense, clenched muscles in your neck.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Wechsler, M.D., the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Kin, and a Whole New You (Copyright © 2008 by RealAge Corporation), is a dermatologist and a psychiatrist, one of only two doctors in the country who are board-certified in both specialties. She is also Evidence of the mind-beauty connection walks into her office every day: “Premature aging and adult acne are the two most common skin problems I see, and stress and exhaustion are often at the bottom of both,” she says. Dr. Wechsler practices in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She is a member of the RealAge Scientific Advisory Board.

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60+ Healthy Foods for When You Have No Time to Eat

When you don’t have the time or place to fix something to eat, these are great, healthy food options. From Drs. Susan Mitchell and Catherine Christie, authors of Fat Is Not Your Fate: Outsmart Your Genes and Lose the Weight Forever

Here is a list of No-Prep foods to pick up at the grocery or convenience store. These are great when you don’t have the time or place to fix something or can’t sit down in a restaurant to eat. No-Prep means just that — open and eat. Be sure to think about the number of protein, carbohydrate, and fat servings on your diet plan for the meal or snack you choose.

You will have to estimate the correct portion size using your hand. Product sizes vary all over the country. Your serving size is the amount allowed in terms of your hand size. Item location will vary by type of store.

Bakery

  • Bagels (top with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter) — Palm
  • Raisin bran muffins (even better if made with liquid oil rather than hydrogenated oil) — Fist

Dairy/Alternatives

  • Blueberry smoothie (such as Odwalla) — Fist
  • Cheese sticks — Thumb
  • DanActive probiotic dairy drink — Fist
  • Laughing Cow cheese (doesn’t require refrigeration) — Thumb
  • Milk chugs (single serving low-fat or skim milk) — Fist
  • Slim·Fast (check for cold ones in deli or drink case) — Fist
  • Snack size cottage cheese (such as Light n’ Lively) — Fist
  • Soy drinks in smaller sizes such as
    • Coffee soylatte — Fist
    • Vanilla, chocolate — Fist
  • Yogurt cups, low-fat and one third fewer calories (less sugar) — Fist
  • Yogurt drinks (smoothies; there are so many of these that you must compare the labels to make the best choice) — Fist
  • Yogurt tubes — Fist

Deli
Because these products vary greatly by store and recipe, one type of potato salad may have twice the fat of another choice. Compare your options and follow the portion guides, using your fist, palm, or thumb.

  • Bottled water or flavored water without calories — Freebie
  • Carrot raisin salad — Fist
  • Deli baked beans — Fist
  • Fresh fruit cups — Fist
  • Garden pasta — Fist
  • Green tea or other tea (canned with nothing added) — Freebie
  • Greek style salad — Fist
  • Hard-cooked eggs — Thumb
  • Hummus and pita (such as Athenos Travelers) — Thumb
  • Kosher garlic pickles — Freebie
  • Macaroni salad — Fist
  • Pimento cheese — Thumb
  • Potato salad — Fist
  • Red pepper hummus — Thumb
  • Salata Mediterranean salad — Fist
  • Shredded coleslaw — Fist
  • Smoked salmon — Palm
  • Soup of the day (non–cream based) with corn bread or other whole grain bread — Fist
  • Subs and other sandwiches made with lean meats and topped with vegetables — Fist
  • Summer rolls (typically found with sushi) — Palm
  • Sushi — Palm
  • Taboule — Fist
  • Tropicana peach smoothie — Fist
  • Turkey salad — Fist
  • V8 juice with a lemon twist (there are several V8 flavors) — Fist
  • White tuna salad — Fist

Miscellaneous

  • Clif Bars, such as Crunchy Peanut Butter or Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch — Palm
  • Granola or trail mix (ingredients really vary by brand, so compare them) — Fist
  • Gourmet baked chips such as Kettle Krisps or Guiltless Gourmet — Fist
  • Just Tomatoes and similar snacks, such as Just Mango, Just Raspberries, or Just Roasted Garlic — Fist
  • New York flat breads (crackers) — Palm
  • Nuts — Thumb
  • Odwalla Bars such as Chocolate or Peanut Crunch — Palm
  • Peanut butter crackers — Palm
  • Peanut butter (also available in squeeze containers and individually wrapped slices) — Thumb
  • Peanut butter–filled pretzels — Fist
  • Popcorn, light — Two fists
  • Pop-top cans of fruit or individual fruit bowls — Fist
  • Pop-top tuna or tuna pouches — Fist
  • Powerbar: Harvest — Palm
  • Raisins and other dried fruit — Thumb
  • Raspberry bars, such as Natural Choice — Palm
  • Soy crisps, such as Genisoy Zesty Barbecue (other salty and sweet varieties available) — Palm
  • Soynuts — Thumb
  • Triscuits (reduced fat) — Palm
  • Whole Food’s VERVE Bar, such as Peanut Butter Crunch or Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch — Palm

Energy Bars
Energy bars, trail mix, and trail mix bars can be quite high in calories, so compare them. They can even vary within the same brand. For example, some may have a coating that contains hydrogenated fat, so pay close attention to the ingredients as well as the Nutrition Facts label.

THE BEST ENERGY BARS HAVE:

  • At least 3 grams of fiber, preferably 5 or more
  • Low saturated fat grams and sugar grams (1 teaspoon sugar = 4 grams)
  • 7–10 grams of protein for women and up to 15 grams of protein for men if used to replace a mini-meal or snack.
  • No palm kernel oil, coconut oil, or trans fat, indicated by hydrogenated or fractionated fat

Produce

  • Baby carrots — Freebie
  • Carrots and ranch dip (such as Coolcuts) — Freebie
  • Celery with dip (found in produce section) — Freebie
  • Cut-up fruit:
    • Pineapple — Fist
    • Honeydew — Fist
    • Cantaloupe — Fist
    • Watermelon — Fist
    • Strawberries — Fist
  • Fruit by the piece  — Fist
  • Garden salad in a to-go container — Freebie
  • Grapes by the bunch  — Fist
  • Spinach salad in a to-go container — Freebie
  • Tropicana juice bottles (found with juice, usually by produce) – Fist

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dr. Susan Mitchell and Dr. Catherine Christie are the authors of Fat is Not Your Fate (Copyright © 2005 by Dr. Susan Mitchell and Dr. Catherine Christie), I’d Kill for a Cookie, and Eat to Stay Young. Dr. Mitchell, a registered dietitian, certified nutrition specialist, and fellow of the American Dietetic Association, has appeared on Today, CNN, and the TV Food Network. Dr. Christie, also a registered dietitian and certified nutrition specialist, is a fellow of the American Dietetic Association and president of the Florida Dietetic Association.

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Get Active: Why Exercise Helps You Look and Feel Better

If there’s one magic bullet for enhancing the quality of your looks — and your life in general — it’s exercise. Here’s why, from Dr. Amy Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection.

I know I’m not the first person to tell you that exercise is good for you. You’ve heard the mantra many times before. But let me say that if there’s one magic bullet for enhancing the quality of your looks, and your life in general, it’s exercise. The science is well documented: Exercise fights the onset of age-related disease, lifts your spirits and sense of well-being, increases your lung capacity so you can take in more oxygen, boosts circulation to deliver nutrients to cells and skin, lowers inflammation, and, for many, is said to be the ultimate stress reducer. That healthy glow you get after a great workout (rosy cheeks indicative of the increased circulation that is nourishing all those facial cells and tissues) isn’t just for show.

This Is Your Brain on Exercise. There’s no end to the number of studies that prove the mind-beauty connection in relation to exercise. As I was writing this book another fresh study emerged clearly showing that exercise causes your brain to turn up production of certain brain chemicals known to have antidepressant effects. The researchers also found that exercise excited a gene for a nerve growth factor called VGF. VGFs are small proteins critical to the development and maintenance of nerve cells. Even more fascinating is the fact that the study brought to light thirty-three VGFs that show altered activity with exercise, the majority of which had never been identified before. It’s proof that we still have more to learn about our genes and the power that our habits can have on them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Wechsler, M.D., is a dermatologist and a psychiatrist, one of only two doctors in the country who are board-certified in both specialties. She is also the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection (Copyright © 2008 by RealAge Corporation). Evidence of the mind-beauty connection walks into her office every day: “Premature aging and adult acne are the two most common skin problems I see, and stress and exhaustion are often at the bottom of both,” she says. Dr. Wechsler practices in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She is a member of the RealAge Scientific Advisory Board.

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5 Healthy Alternatives to Ordinary Milk

If you’re looking to reduce your consumption of animal protein, there are good alternatives to ordinary milk. Here’s what to look for, from Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes by Mark Bittman.

Reducing consumption of animal protein sometimes means looking beyond ordinary milk, and there are good alternatives, made from nuts, grains, and legumes. Just be sure to read the labels. Most are sweetened; look for packages that specifically say “unsweetened.” Many are flavored with vanilla or even chocolate (which you might like as long as you’re not expecting plain). And some, especially nut milks, include gums or other ingredients.

Soy milk: Almost as high in protein as cow’s milk, soy milk makes a fine daily alternative for coffee, tea, and cereal. It’s also handy because it separates less during heating than other milk alternatives; this sometimes makes it a good substitute for baking and cooking.

Nut milk: A great choice for desserts, grain dishes, and thick soups, since it actually adds a welcome flavor to any dish that takes to the taste of nuts. Also, really nice as a replacement for cream or half-and-half in coffee.

Oat milk: With a consistency similar to low-fat or skim milk, oat milk is good for drinking but a little thin for cooking. It has a neutral taste and a pretty golden color.

Rice milk: Slightly sweeter than oat milk or soy milk, this has a neutral flavor and a thin, almost watery consistency.

Coconut milk: With a lovely flavor and a thick consistency, coconut milk is ideal for desserts and Asian soups, stews, and sauces; it heats up beautifully. Though it’s quite high in fat, light or reduced-fat coconut milk is usually a fine substitute.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Bittman is the author of Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes (Copyright © 2009 by Mark Bittman), How to Cook Everything and other cookbooks, as well as the weekly New York Times column, The Minimalist. His work has appeared in countless newspapers and magazines, and he is a regular on the Today show. Mr. Bittman has hosted two public television series and is currently appearing in a third.

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7 Tricks for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

Logging eight hours of sleep per night can take as much as three years off your RealAge. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, lowers circulation, causing you to look pale and washed out. Here’s how to get the sleep you need to wake up glowing. From The Mind-Beauty Connection by Dr. Amy Wechsler

Don’t take your to-do list to bed. Write down the next day’s list early in the evening and stick it in your bag or on the fridge. Then you won’t start anxiously making mental notes the minute your head hits the pillow.

Take something. Sometimes, to kick insomnia and get back on a better sleep cycle, all you need is to break the pattern. My cheap, super-simple, method: Take an antihistamine 30 minutes before bed (regular Benadryl — not a non-drowsy formula! — works fine) for one to three nights. Antihistamines make many people sleepy. No prescription needed.

Alternatively, try valerian herbal tea or the combo of chamomile and valerian in Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra Wellness Tea. It definitely helps some people. Others swear that melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone you can find now in a supplement form over the counter, helps them, but I’m not a fan. The amount in different products can vary wildly, despite what the labels say. It may not work for you, and its long-term safety has yet to be determined. (It’s also highly unlikely that you have a melatonin deficiency; you simply need to establish better sleep habits.) I’d rather see you sleep according to your own body’s clock and rely on your own production of natural melatonin. If your body clock is off, try getting some natural morning sunlight on you, do some exercise during the day, don’t stay up until the wee hours of the morning cleaning house, and set aside time to wind down before bedtime.

Try a bedtime snack. The best bedtime snack is one that has both complex carbohydrates and a little protein, plus some calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods. And by combining carbohydrate together with a small amount of protein, your brain produces serotonin, the pleasure hormone with strong ties to mood.

Get out of the bedroom. We all think that if we lie in bed long enough, sleep will come. Instead, our minds tend to get busier and our muscles tenser as we stress over being awake. Give it a rest. If you can’t get to sleep within twenty minutes, slip out of bed and go to a safe haven — a place that’s comfy, has dim lighting, and no distractions. Just sit comfortably. Or do your breathing exercises. Or read. No e-mail, television, or other electronics, though. The point is to give your mind-body a respite from trying so hard to nod off. After twenty minutes or so, go back to bed and see what happens when you’re more relaxed. Repeat once or twice if necessary.

Make like a corpse. Assuming the yoga corpse pose (savasana) is, well, a little like playing dead. Basically, you lie on your back on a cushioned surface, legs slightly rotated out, arms at your sides but not touching your body, palms up. Then slowly s-i-n-k into the pose, breathing naturally and letting your whole body go limp. Stay in this position for a few minutes, or for as long as you like.

R-e-l-a-x. Progressive relaxation, an effective technique that’s been used since the 1930s, couldn’t be simpler. It’s also worked for me ever since I was a homesick kid at sleep-away camp for the first time and couldn’t sleep at all. A counselor taught it to me and I still use it when I need to. What to do: Stretch out in bed and, one by one, squeeze and release all the muscles in your body, starting with your scalp and working down to your toes. Ironically, tightly tensing up your muscles before relaxing them helps them relax more than just plain relaxing them.

Let scent send you to sleep. Aromas widely considered to be relaxing are rose, lavender, vanilla, and lemongrass, but different ones work for different people (some people find lavender stimulating). If one calms you, keep a sachet near your pillow at night to whiff at will, or use a scented hand lotion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Wechsler, M.D., is a dermatologist and a psychiatrist, one of only two doctors in the country who are board-certified in both specialties. She also is the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin (Copyright © 2008 by RealAge Corporation). Evidence of the mind-beauty connection walks into her office every day: “Premature aging and adult acne are the two most common skin problems I see, and stress and exhaustion are often at the bottom of both,” she says. Dr. Wechsler practices in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two kids. She is a member of the RealAge Scientific Advisory Board.

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Why Are You Wearing Lead on Your Lips?

Lead in lipstick is a real — but avoidable — danger. From Green Goes With Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet by Sloan Barnett, a regular contributor to NBC’s Today show

We’ve read a lot recently about lead in children’s toys, and about how quickly toymakers have yanked those products off the market when the lead was discovered. But lead in lipstick doesn’t get either the same kind of media play or the same kind of rapid corporate response. Millions of women unwittingly smear lead on their lips every day. The consumer organization Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently hired an independent laboratory to test red lipsticks bought in Boston, Hartford, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. Why red? Because that’s the color where lead is naturally more present.

The results were sobering. Of thirty-three brand-name lipsticks tested, 61 percent contained detectable levels of lead, with levels ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). Without a study like this, you have no way of knowing how much lead is in the lipstick you use; it’s never listed as an ingredient.

Is the amount of lead in lipstick significant? That’s hard to say, but here’s one way of looking at it: One-third of the tested lipsticks exceeded the FDA’s 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy.

Well candy, sure. But who eats lipstick, after all? Answer: We do. Any woman or girl who uses lipstick does. Every day. Glamour magazine figures the average woman inadvertently consumes some four pounds of lipstick in a lifetime. We do it simply by eating, drinking, and licking our lips.

Lead is a proven neurotoxin. What’s more, it accumulates in the body over time. Even very small exposures add up. That’s why it is understood now that there is no “safe” level of exposure to lead. If you’re pregnant, lead can cross the placenta and may enter your unborn baby’s brain. Lead has been linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility in men and women, hormonal changes, menstrual irregularities, and delays in the onset of puberty, among other health problems.

But here’s one of the most interesting things about the study: Almost 40 percent of the lipsticks tested, all of which were red, had no detectable levels of lead. Clearly, red lipstick doesn’t have to contain lead. What’s more, cost isn’t a factor. It didn’t matter whether the lipstick was expensive or cheap; some had a lot of lead, some didn’t. The more expensive brands are just as likely to contain lead as the cheaper drugstore brands.

Here’s a list of lipstick brands to which the Environmental Working Group’s database gives a high safety rating:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sloan Barnett, author of Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet (Copyright © 2008 by Sloan Barnett), is a regular contributor to NBC’s Today show and the Green Editor for KNTV, the NBC affiliate in San Francisco. She has been a television and print journalist for more than ten years, and wrote a popular consumer advice column for New York’s Daily News for nearly a decade. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children. For more information, please visit greengoeswitheverything.com.

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6 Easy Ideas for Healthy Meals and Snacks

When you make meals and snacks for yourself, they will taste better and be better for you than processed junk food. Here are some easy ideas and quick tips from Naturally Thin, the New York Times bestseller by Bethenny Frankel.

Preparation Ideas
I provide custom meals for my clients at work, so I know how easy this can be if you simply take the time. Purchase reusable plastic containers, and either prepare every day for the day ahead or — even better – prepare several days at once. Buy your supplies at the grocery store, then spend an hour preparing meals and snacks for the next few days. This is an hour invested in a valuable commodity: your own good health. This is also a great way to use leftovers when you’ve cooked a big dinner, or when you’ve brought home a lot of extra food from a restaurant.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Line the bottom of containers with different types of salad greens. Top them with your favorite protein — it could be canned tuna, chicken from the night before, sliced leftover steak, or baked tofu. Then add a sprinkling of some flavor such as cheese or nuts, and combine with colorful veggies such as tomatoes and bell peppers. Fill a small plastic container with a low-fat packaged dressing to go with it. Add a slice of whole-grain bread, some brown rice, or whole-grain pretzels or something else crunchy and starchy. Voilà, you have a light, healthy lunch you can take with you or keep easily accessible at home.
  • Another good meal to make ahead and store for a convenient lunch or dinner: soup. Especially in the winter, a pint of nice homemade soup will do wonders for your waistline, as well as for your attitude. On one night, sauté onions, carrots, and celery; add your favorite chopped vegetable with salt and pepper and a container of chicken stock. Puree, season to taste, then separate into several containers for high-volume snacks or lunch sides. Some canned soups are great, too. I love Amy’s soups. Some boxed soups are also very good and low in calories but high in flavor. Read the label.
  • For healthy morning and afternoon snacks, keep small containers of Greek yogurt in the fridge with individually portioned plastic containers or snack bags of low-fat granola or fruit and nuts. Another easy snack: whole wheat pita wedges with store-bought hummus or a slice of whole-grain bread with low-fat cheese or peanut butter. Whole-grain pretzels with a slice of cheese would be a great afternoon snack, too. If you have healthful foods you actually like in the refrigerator, you’ll grab them.
  • Edamame is a delicious and protein-rich snack.
  • The cucumber salad is a great one to make and save when between-meal hunger hits you.
  • If it’s sweets you crave, then make up portion-controlled containers of dark chocolate and almonds (the healthy fat in the almonds helps to balance the sugar in the chocolate) or combine whipped cottage cheese, honey, maple syrup (or Splenda), vanilla extract, and chocolate chips (or make faux cheesecake). This can be made in several variations, such as with slivered almonds and almond extract. Divide between small containers for something quick, sweet, and delicious.

The possibilities are nearly endless, but the point is to make up the snacks in portion-controlled batches before you get hungry —  and to make snacks that you will actually eat. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you have no food, you won’t eat. When the body is hungry, it finds a way to eat. Whether you will be going to work, to a gym, on a road trip, or to an airport, be ready for hunger. When you make meals and snacks yourself, they will taste better and be better for you than processed junk food. Desperation usually results in poor choices.

Once you understand and adopt this concept and it becomes second nature, you might wonder why you never practiced it before. Why wouldn’t you eat really good food you made yourself? Why wouldn’t you order food that will make you feel good, not sluggish and bloated? But the only way to make these new practices into habits is to make them fit you and your life. Let self-knowledge be your quest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A former Martha Stewart Apprentice runner up and a star of The Real Housewives of New York City, Bethenny Frankel is the author of the New York Times bestseller Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl  and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting (Copyright © 2009 by BB Endeavors LLC) and The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life. The founder of natural foods company BethennyBakes, she is a monthly columnist for Health magazine. She has cooked for celebrities including Denis Leary and Mariska Hargitay. She lives in New York City.

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4 Questions to Ask When Shopping for Green Cleaning Products

How to read labels so you know for sure the product you’re buying is safe. From Green This! Volume 1: Greening Your Cleaning by Deirdre Imus

When shopping for green cleaning products, you should always pay close attention to the label. If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, then you can trust that the product you’re buying is safe.

Does it Disclose All Ingredients?
Because the manufacturers or household cleaning products aren’t required by law to do so, you should look for companies that voluntarily disclose their ingredients – and tell you that they do. Look for products that say right on the bottle, “We disclose all ingredients.” That line is a good indication that you’re dealing with an environmentally responsible company.

Does It Tell You Where Those Ingredients Came From?
The label should also tell you if its ingredients are synthetic or naturally derived, as in the label of this environmentally safe all-purpose production:

“This product contains purified water, naturally derived surfactant (from plants or botanicals such as corn, soy, or palm kernel), natural fragrance (from essential oils, plants, or botanicals,) and contains no preservatives.”

Is the water purified? Is the fragrance natural? Does it tell whether the surfactant is derived from plants or chemicals? These are the questions we need to start asking.

Depending on the product, there might be a few more ingredients listed as well, like a complexing agent or a chealant. That’s fine — as long the label tells you the source of those ingredients, whether they’re synthetic or plant-/vegetable-based.

You also might see words like “anionic,” “nonionic,” and “cationic” preceding the surfactant. These refer to the charge of the surfactant and not its source. Don’t be fooled by these and other scientific-sounding terms. You need to know where that surfactant comes from, not what charge it is.

Beware of vague-sounding phrases like “quality-control ingredients” or “cleaning agents.” What do these words even mean? Do they indicate the source of the ingredients or not? If you can’t answer these simple questions you probably shouldn’t be using the product.

Do Those Ingredients Biodegrade?
A label should tell you if its ingredients are in the environment. Most plant- and vegetable-based formulas do.

Is it Free of Toxins?
Avoid cleaning products that contain any of the following:

  • Aerosol propellants
  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Heavy metals
  • Known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, mutagens, and teratogens
  • Phosphates
  • Synthetic dyes, fragrances, and optical brighteners

If you see any of these items on a product label, keep shopping.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deirdre Imus, author of Green This! Volume 1: Greening Your Cleaning (Copyright © 2007 by Git’R Green, Inc.), is the founder and president of Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology®, part of Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in New Jersey. She is also a co-founder and co-director of the Imus Castle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, and the author of the bestselling book The Imus Ranch: Cooking for Kids and Cowboys.

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How to Disinfect Your Home — Naturally

An elegant and simple solution to killing bacteria in your home, from Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck

Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, contaminated fruits and vegetables with salmonella, shigella, or E. Coli bacteria, then sprayed the produce with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or both. Hydrogen peroxide was one hundred times as effective as vinegar, but vinegar and hydrogen peroxide worked together to kill ten times as many bacteria as were killed by peroxide alone.

This is a very elegant and simple solution to a vexing problem. The bacteria are not just moved around to cause trouble elsewhere; they are — to paraphrase from the movie The Wizard of Oz — not just merely dead, they are really, most sincerely, dead.

Implementing a Domestic Spray Program
I have been using this dual spray system for years, and frankly, it couldn’t be easier. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are natural substances that are produced by living organisms. Our own bodies produce hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as a byproduct of metabolism. Hydrogen peroxide is essentially a water molecule with an extra oxygen atom attached. When hydrogen peroxide is exposed to heat, light, or organic material, it releases its extra oxygen; pure water and oxygen are produced by this reaction. Pure oxygen is extremely toxic to microorganisms, which is why hydrogen peroxide is such an effective antiseptic. It is rather gratifying to watch hydrogen peroxide bubbling and foaming as it kills bacteria; when the bubbling stops and cannot be restarted by the addition of more peroxide, the deed is done.

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are utterly harmless to humans, pets, and the environment. The dual sprays don’t linger on surfaces, so rinsing is unnecessary, and microbes can’t acquire resistance to them.

Setting Up the System

  1. Buy two plastic spray bottles in two different colors. One bottle must be completely opaque, and as dark a color as you can find. (My bottle is black.) This dark opaque bottle is for the hydrogen peroxide, which degrades if it is exposed to light or heat.
    Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide cannot be kept in the same bottle because hydrogen peroxide is delicate and readily breaks down into pure water.
  2. Buy a big bottle of consumer strength (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide at the drug store or grocery store. Fill your dark spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide and store it in a cool, dark place. (Do no attempt to use laboratory strength — 30 percent — hydrogen peroxide. It is a very strong oxidizer that starts fires.)
  3. Buy a gallon of distilled white vinegar at the grocery store.

Using the System

  1. Disinfecting raw foods:
  2. PRODUCE
    When you are washing fruits and vegetables, rinse off the dirt and grit, then spray them with vinegar and then with hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide, which has no taste, rinses the vinegar off the produce. No further rinsing is necessary.

    MEAT
    Spray red meat, fish, or poultry with vinegar, then with hydrogen peroxide. No rinsing is necessary.

  3. Disinfecting processed foods:
    If you are really worried about germs, you can spray down your food packaging when you bring it home. (Waterproof packing only, please!) Dry the package with a clean, dry kitchen towel after you spray. This will work for milk cartons and bottles, yogurt containers, cheese, and processed meat packaging. Do not spray any type of cardboard. It is not waterproof and is also very dry, and hence probably sterile.

    I do not spray all the food packaging I bring into the house because I believe in giving my immune system a chance to flex its muscles. But if I find that meat juice has leaked onto a yogurt container on the way home, I will certainly wash off the yogurt container and spray it with the dual sprays.

  4. After you clean meat, fish, or poultry, wash the sink with a dish cloth and dish liquid, then wring out the cloth before you throw it in the kitchen laundry basket. (I usually hang damp kitchen towels on the side of the kitchen laundry basket to dry.) Next, spray the sink with one bottle, then the other. Use the sprays on any handles and doorknobs you touched while your hands were full of meat juice. If you dislike the lingering smell of vinegar, spray vinegar first, then chase it with hydrogen peroxide.
  5. Use the sprays to disinfect the countertops, refrigerator, stovetop, or any other kitchen surface that worries you. There’s no need to rise afterward.

Do not use these sprays on marble countertops. Vinegar dissolves marble, and hydrogen peroxide may damage it. Clean your marble countertops with dish soap and water. (Vinegar dissolves calcium-based stone, such as marble, limestone, dolomite, and calcite and may etch the surface of other natural stone.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellen Sandbeck is an organic landscaper, worm wrangler, writer, and graphic artist who lives with (and experiments on) her husband and an assortment of younger creatures — which includes two mostly grown children, a couple of dogs, a small flock of laying hens, and many thousands of composting worms — in Duluth, Minnesota. She is the author of Green Housekeeping (Copyright © 2006 by Ellen Sandbeck) and Green Barbarians.

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