Hello Readers, I’m Back

By cassandrwiley / On / In Hobbies

Hi There!

I know that it’s been months since I posted my last update. I have been busy with work and family. Yes, I am still working on my fitness and health. I admit that I have been on a roller coaster with the weight loss. Once I lost 10 lbs. this past April,  I ended up gaining 5 lbs. back over the summer.  We moved and it was somewhat stressful, and I was indulging in pastries and other goodies. After getting back on track recently, I was able to lose 7 lbs. in 6 weeks.

There have been so many changes for my family and I this year. I cannot talk about everything in one blog post; however, I will fill you in on the things that  I’ve learned.  I hope that some of these principles and life lessons will be an encouragement to you as well!

5 “Healthy Foods” That May be Hindering Your Weight Loss

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating

Sticking to New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape and stay healthy is difficult on its’ own – but when paired with trying to decipher what’s healthy, and what’s not? Forget it. With so many food items labeled as “health foods”, “low calorie”, or “low fat”, making healthy choices can seem overwhelming. Check out the products that typically fool us most into thinking they’re healthy, and some alternatives to set you on the right track.

  1. Granola Barsshutterstock_178189958-676x450

While some granola bars CAN be healthy, many popular granola bars are actually just a mine for sugar, calories, and high fructose corn syrup. In fact, some granola bars offer the same nutritional value as a candy bar when you compare their caloric values and ingredients. Want something satisfying and on the go? Reach for some almonds. Almonds are rich in omega fats (the good kind!) that will keep you feeling fuller, longer – without the added sugars and calories.

  1. Frozen Meals

Just because the product has words like “lean” or “healthy” in the title, doesn’t mean that it is so. In fact, despite the fact that caloric value may be below 400 calories, most of these frozen meals have more than a quarter of your daily recommended sodium intake! While frozen meals ARE convenient, packing your own meals helps to regulate what you’re taking in. Sticking with a lean protein, a veggie, and a complex carb, like brown rice or a sweet potato, will keep you satiated and help with that urge to snack mid-afternoon.

  1. Synthetic Butters/Margarines

While the jury is still out on this one, cutting calories by using synthetic butters may in fact be doing more harm than good. These synthetic oils became popular because of the myth that fats make you fat. If fats are bad, then fat free oils must be good, right? Wrong. The problem with these types of products is that many food companies hydrogenate these oils to help increase their shelf life, and keep the form in the container. This process makes the oil harder to digest, and is actually a main contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you need to cook with oil, use healthy oils, such as coconut or olive oils, in moderation. Need something for your toast in the morning? Try almond butter for a dose of healthy fat.

  1. Wheat Bread

Speaking of toast, not all wheat breads are what they say they are. Many “wheat” breads available in stores do not contain pure, whole grains. Many also contain hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives in order to keep them fresh on the shelves longer. An important tip to consider when buying bread is to not rely on the labels. Instead, look up the nutrition facts and look for “whole grains” or “whole wheat” as one of the main ingredients.

  1. Fruit Juices

It’s made out of fruit, so it’s definitely healthy right? Not so much. Fruit juices DO contain vitamins, but the ratio of beneficial vitamins and nutrients to calories and sugars is just not worth it. In a serving of 9 ounces of grape juice, there are typically about 170 calories, 40 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of carbs. (For the record, this is more sugar and carbs then in a can of regular, non-diet soda). If you are a juice fanatic, consider juicing your own fruits and veggies at home to ensure no added ingredients. Even the “All natural” juice versions likely contain preservatives.

While making healthy choices can be difficult in a world of not so healthy foods, it is possible! Take the time to look up nutritional information of foods you are eating, rather than relying on the labels, and understand that many pre-packaged foods will have additives that do not necessarily help you to trim down, or stay healthy. Opt for whole foods prepared at home, and you are well on your way to meeting your goals.

Written by Claire Kaczmarek

Read more “5 “Healthy Foods” That May be Hindering Your Weight Loss”

Squash: Soup or Sautéed

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating

IMG_0047Yellow squash is rich in vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, fiber, folate, and phytonutrients. They are also high in water content. Butternut squash is also rich in fiber and carotenoids. While yellow squash is more of a summer vegetable and butternut squash a winter one, you can eat then all year long. I’ve included recipes for both types.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into wedges

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. butter

4 cups chicken broth

Salt

White pepper

Nutmeg

In a large saucepan, add one chopped onion (sweet or yellow) and sauté in butter until translucent. Add chicken broth and squash. Simmer for 20 minutes. Using an immersion hand blender, mix until squash chunks are no longer visible and soup is creamy. Add salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Sautéed Squash and Potatoes

2 yellow squash, sliced

2 white potatoes, peeled and sliced

1 onion, sliced

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. seasoning salt

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

Kosher salt

Pepper

Canola oil

Using a mandoline or knife, slice squash, potatoes, and onion. Add a small amount of canola oil to a heated pan. Add squash, potatoes, onion, paprika, garlic and onion powder, seasoning salt, and Cajun seasoning. Stir, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

15 Foods that are Toddler Friendly

By cassandrwiley / On / In Healthy Eating, Parenting

IMG_0858Most toddlers are very picky eaters, but there are foods that they will ask for and will not turn away. If you mix and match with lots of variety, you can have a happy and healthy child.

  1. Clementines. They are in season right now. They are also sweet, easy to peel and eat.
  2. Tuna fish. The albacore tuna is best. It contains omega-3, which is good for brain development. Add some chopped tomato or cucumber for color.
  3. Nut butters. Whether it peanut, almond, or cashew butter, they all taste great.
  4. Sweet potatoes. They’re naturally sweet and are higher in both vitamin C and vitamin A than white potatoes. Sweet potato fries are an alternative to regular ones.
  5. Chicken. Baked chicken makes a terrific meal. Chicken nuggets and strips are finger foods. Just make sure that they are made from REAL CHICKEN free of antibiotics, not the processed stuff.
  6. Turkey. There haven’t been any reports about turkeys being given antibiotics or hormones. Add a very small amount of gravy for extra flavor.
  7. Spinach. This is a green vegetable that most kids will eat. My son loves it. To cook fresh spinach, add some olive oil and a little garlic. Since spinach is mostly water, you won’t need to add much.
  8. Green beans. They are easy for small children to eat.
  9. Bananas.  They’re high in potassium and can be added to cereal or eaten in bites.
  10. Chocolate chip cookies. My son doesn’t eat junk food, but sometimes we let him eat chocolate chips cookies. Famous Amos cookies are bit size and do not contain high fructose corn syrup.
  11. Graham crackers. Excellent for snacks. Most brands are now being made without high fructose corn syrup.
  12. Popcorn.  A healthy way to eat this is to buy the gourmet kernel popcorn, like Orville Redenbacher, and use an air popper. Add olive oil and kosher salt. I was surprised at the taste of this combination.
  13. Watermelon.  It’s not in season right now, but very tasty and refreshing. Stay away from seedless watermelon. It’s genetically altered.
  14. Apples.  Whatever kind you prefer…Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smith… cut them into slices for snacking.
  15. Yogurt.  A simple addition to a school lunch or for breakfast. Add fresh fruit for variety.

5 Tips for Setting Goals and not New Year’s Resolutions

By cassandrwiley / On / In Self-Improvement

IMG_0045It’s a touchdown! Well, we’re getting to the middle of January. It’s the Playoffs; you see the best of the best in football. The goal is to get to the Super Bowl. Who will be the next MVP? Another activity that’s popular right now is working out. It’s crowded when you go to the gym, right?   Everybody is always talking about how they want to lose weight at the beginning of the year. Are they serious about it or is it just talk? I used to make New Year’s resolutions until I realized that when December 31 came, I had not crossed anything off of my list. When I started setting goals, the list became smaller. As you get older, your wants become crystal clear. (At least that should be one’s thinking). How do you change things this year?

  1. Be realistic. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, find a job, or whatever it is that you’d like to accomplish. You just have to keep your situation in mind. Are you trying something new, or are you doing the same things hoping to get the same results? For instance, you may have to take the job at Walmart until something better comes along. It may not be the time to change jobs. You may need to wait a few more months. Follow up on that position that a friend referred to you. You may have to move in with a family member until your financial situation changes. Also, understand that to lose weight is a lifestyle change. Eating fast food 3 times a week and not exercising is not going to help you reach your goal.
  2. Plan carefully. These days, many things require planning. Finding a job isn’t always as simple as it looks. You may have to go on multiple interviews before you get a job offer. You may have to get more creative with blog topics. People are looking for creativity, originality, and excitement in most cases. What do you have to offer?
  3. Resolutions rarely stick. Your goal may be to lose 10 pounds or give up smoking. However, as I previously stated, those are lifestyle changes. You may go 2 weeks without smoking or try this diet that appears to work for you. Then, you stop. You go back to your old habits and “comfort foods”. You let something small upset you. There could be a number of things that can throw you off course.
  4. Avoid those things (or people) that are distractions. At some point, we all can fall into temptation. There are wolves out there waiting to prey on people. However, you can avoid certain situations. You may have to stop hanging out with that friend that encourages you indulge in alcohol and drug use. IMG_0043You may have to stop going to Dunkin’ Donuts if that is your weakness. You get the gist of the point I am making.
  5. A goal is more powerful than a resolution. You achieve a goal with directed effort. A resolution is an intention. For instance, I achieved my goal of earning a Master of Science degree in Analytical Chemistry. I researched schools, applied, and I was accepted. It was difficult, but I fulfilled my credit requirements with lots of time and study. I even had a job offer by graduation. My intention or resolution may be to work out three days per week. As they tell you, half the battle is getting to the gym. If I’m tired or something comes up, I won’t make it there.

Some of these examples may have been a little extreme, but I hope that you now know the importance of setting a goal rather than making a resolution. Life happens, but with careful planning and determination, you can reach your goals. I wish you the best in 2015!

7 Things that I Learned in 2014 that Will Make Me a Better Blogger in 2015

By cassandrwiley / On / In Hobbies, Self-Improvement

Wow! Can you believe that it’s 2015? I don’t know about you, but I thought that last year went quick. This is my first post for 2015. I learned a great deal about blogging last year so that I can present an even better blog for my readers this year. Here are some techniques that I learned:

  1. Blog posts with pictures get twice as many views. I learned this as a guest blogger and also from experienced bloggers, like Michelle Shaeffer. At first, I used my own photos; then I discovered sites like unsplash.com. It has great pictures that you can download for free.
  2. How to use social media. Once I posted on my website, that post would automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr. This year, I may look to add Pinterest and Instagram. This was a good way to get followers. In addition, I follow other WordPress bloggers. I also have a Facebook page exclusively for my blog.
  3. Guest posting. In addition to inviting guest bloggers to post on “Have Faith and Live Well”, I did some guest posting as well. Blogger Link Up is a great resource for guest post offers and requests. It is an excellent way to network and establish relationships with fellow bloggers. Two guest bloggers wrote 2 out of 5 of my most popular posts in 2014.
  4. SEO.  Search engine optimization allows you to use tags or keywords to make your website or web page more visible.  Sarit Lotem offered a training program last month entitled “How to Optimize Your Blog/Website”. I saw results within a few days. Views to my website tripled. So far in 2015, I’ve had more views in 5 days than I had the entire month of December!
  5. Networking with other writers and bloggers is essential. I’ve met other writers and bloggers online and through local writing groups. They’ve given me so much insight that has allowed me to be a better writer.
  6. More posts mean more views. One of my top goals is to write more blog posts. I enjoy contributing to other blogs as well. It is an amazing feeling when others take the time to read your posts and give feedback, positive or negative.
  7. Criticism is not necessary a bad thing. As I mentioned, when someone gives you feedback, it means that they took the time to read your post. I didn’t receive many comments last year; however, the feedback that I did receive allowed me to be a better blogger. My writing group members always gave feedback without being too harsh.

 

IMG_0856I am excited about all of the opportunities and lessons that this year will be bringing. I look forward to each and every one.

I Appreciate You Because You’re You

By cassandrwiley / On / In Hobbies, Relationships

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I would like to thank all of you that took the time to read my blog posts this year. I had views from those living in over 30 countries. I appreciate your support, comments, and input. I would also like to thank all of the guest bloggers that contributed this year as well. I hope to see more of your work in the coming months ahead. I learned a great deal this year from stellar bloggers and writers, especially my LinkedIn groups and connections. I am also grateful to those that gave me the opportunity to contribute posts to your sites. As I continue to learn more about the blogging world, I intend to make my blog a success in 2015. I wish you the best in the new year!

6 Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter

By cassandrwiley / On / In Alternative Therapies, Health and Illnesses, Healthy Eating, Self-Improvement

IMG_0854

Winter can bring about a whole host of problems and obstacles when it comes to staying healthy. It is, of course, cold and flu season.

Winter also brings about a lot of holidays and holiday parties, which can throw a wrench into any healthy eating regimen. Add alcohol at those gatherings, the stress of being extremely busy, holiday shopping where you’ll come across many people with a cold, and it’s a recipe for a health disaster.

And there’s no cure for the common cold. So how exactly can you keep yourself from having all your energy zapped out of you while ending up flat on your back on the couch for days, despite that mile long to do list?

So, you’re surrounded by sick people, your stress levels are high, you’re really busy, and your eating isn’t as healthy as it would be under normal circumstances. It doesn’t sound good!

But don’t worry. All is not lost! There are ways to stay healthy this winter!

  1. Get Your Sleep

No matter how busy you are or what you have to get done, getting enough sleep is absolutely crucial to a healthy body and mind! You can not skimp on sleep!

Your body needs time to rest and recover, even more so when stress levels are higher, which is definitely the case around the end of year holiday season.

You may also want to cut back on your workouts during the winter to make sure your body has time to recover. When your body is overworked and you aren’t getting enough sleep, it promotes an acidic environment, and this is a breeding ground for viruses and other nasty germs to have their way with you.

Get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Yes, even on weekends. And do your best to get up about the same time every day, seven days a week.

  1. Relax, Chill Out, Kick Back

Whatever you want to call it, you need to find time to take the proverbial chill pill. A 2012 study that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that people who had to deal with a very stressful occurrence were twice as likely to end up with the common cold.

So find some down time, whether it’s yoga, meditation, or just sitting quietly listening to mellow music. Even fifteen minutes a day can work wonders.

  1. Get Spicy

Take some turmeric. It contains curcumin which is an immune system booster, exactly what you need during cold and flu system. You can get whole turmeric powder in tablets or capsules.

  1. Bad For Your Breath But Good For Your Health

Another great immune booster is garlic. A study published in Advances in Therapy showed that garlic can decrease the frequency of the common cold by as much as 64 percent!

But cooking can ruin the active ingredients, so be sure to mash it or chop it and put some in a salad or something.

  1. Drink Your Green Tea

Green tea has high levels of powerful anti-oxidants to help keep you healthy. It also has high levels of catechin, which can fight and maybe even prevent damage to your cells.

And here’s something to go with “Chill Out” to get rid of that stress! Green tea is high in theanine, which has been shown to have a calming effect and can help you to unwind and relax.

  1. Try Some Echinacea

This one is still up for debate, and there are many in the medical community on both sides of the argument.

However, a study done in 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that while taking echinacea won’t help prevent a cold, it could possibly shorten the time in which you have the cold. It can’t hurt, so if you feel a cold coming on, you might want to try some.

Nothing you do will guarantee you don’t succumb to a cold this winter, but if you follow these simple tips to stay healthy, you’ll give yourself a great chance of doing so.

Even if you succumb to a cold, chances are you could be healthier, have more energy and feel less stressed throughout the winter.

Author : Aria Meyer is a freelance writer and an active blogger. She writes mainly about fashion and technology, but she also writes about other topics too. She is currently working with several e-commerce websites to help them with content. Aria received her Bachelor’s Degree from Cal State Long Beach and is currently living in Walnut, CA. Right now, she is working closely with EMed Items to help them grow the marketing department.