How to Make Any Meal Instantly Healthier

As much as I know about eating healthy, I know even more about eating junk food. I didn’t start truly paying attention to the foods I ate and how they affected my body until I was about 22 or 23 (roughly five or six years ago).

Before that (and maybe a bit after that, too), I had a lifetime of eating pizza, burgers, quick-fix meals and everything else you’d expect to see in Peter Griffin’s home, never giving a second thought to the fact that my choices were expanding my waistline, decorating my face with little red dots and shortening my years on this planet.

But, whether you’re in the same place I was in 2012, or where I hope to be in another five years, there are certain things you can do to make any meal healthier. Some are simple changes you probably already know — use olive oil instead of butter, swap out white grains for whole grains, substitute turkey for beef — and some you and I have never thought of.

Thankfully, these few I have heard of and use as often as I can. So, without further adieu, here are four superfoods you can add to any meal to make it healthier.

Avocado – Long avoided for its high fat content, and currently lauded as a millennial luxury, the rational among us can appreciate avocado for what it is: a yummy, healthy source of good fats. This hipster favorite is loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium and monounsaturated fats. You can easily add diced avocado to some pico de gallo for a quick, healthy guac alternative, and even add it to pancake batter for a thick, creamy carb replacement.

Turmeric  – I’ll never forget a retired LSU professor telling me about his colleague’s research that showed turmeric not only slowed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, but actually reversed them. It also has shown that it can slow the growth of certain types of cancer, specifically colon, and may fend off viral infections. Incorporate it into your diet by mixing a little in your oatmeal, or add a pinch to your daily lemon water.

Matcha – I’ll admit, matcha is an acquired taste, but one that’s well worth acquiring. It’s more potent than average green tea (because you’re ingesting the entire tea leaf) and, therefore, packs a powerful punch of antioxidants. It has been tied to possibly protecting against heart disease and some cancers; lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure; as well as aid in weight loss and slow the growth of breast cancer cells. The most common way to consume matcha is in a tea, but you can also add the powder to eggs, soup, guac and whatever else you’d like. I’ve even had some delicious matcha cookies!

Ginger – There is nothing like a glass of ginger ale to calm my upset tummy, but this best friend of sushi is also used to fight osteoarthritis because it as amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have also shown that eating a small dose of dried ginger in the morning increased fat burning for 13.5 percent for two hours. Get your ginger in by adding it to stir-fry, eggs, fruit salad, or, really any dish.

What’s your go-to healthy add-in?

Why Lemon Water is SO Good for You

About a year ago, it seemed that everywhere I turned, social media, radio programs, tv shows, people were hailing the benefits of lemon water. Since then, I’ve repeatedly tried to make it a habit to drink it every day, but only recently have actually made it part of my daily ritual.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been more dedicated to my health than every. I do some form of exercise every day. I eat healthy probably 90% of the time. And, I drink 8 oz. of lemon water as soon as I wake up.

As a result, I’ve felt better, my skin is clearer, and I wake up much quicker. (Coffee doesn’t stand a chance against the instant-alertness you experience when chugging ice cold, tart lemon water.)

slicing-lemons-on-cutting-board

Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water

Lemon water helps flush out the body, which leads to clearer skin, and the innate vitamin C promotes collagen production for smooth and healthy skin. If great skin isn’t enough to sell you, consider these other benefits of drinking daily lemon water:

  • Helps digestion – drinking the concoction first thing in the morning can help flush the digestion system and rehydrate the body.
  • Boosts immunity – drinking lemon water when you wake up helps the body absorb the vitamin C and Potassium present in the fruit, helping the immune system and reducing the effects of stress.
  • Sheds weight – being properly hydrated helps increase your metabolism. Researchers in Germany found that, after drinking 17 oz of water, participants’ (both male and female) metabolic rates increased by 30%.

    Other theories on the benefits of drinking lemon water:
    -Balances pH levels
    -Detoxes the body
    -Prevents water retention
    -Boosts energy

lauren-cathleen-slices-lemons-for-lemon-water

To recharge your body with lemon water, follow these simple steps:

  1. Wake up and boil about 10 oz of water.
  2. Cut a lemon in half and juice–by hand or by press–into a glass. (If you weigh less than 150 lbs, only use half a lemon. If you weigh more than 150 lbs, use the entire lemon.)
  3. Pour your water into the glass and let steep for a few minutes. Feel free to use more water if it’s too strong.
  4. Wait 15-30 minutes after drinking your water before you eat breakfast.
  5. Brush your teeth! The citric acid in lemons can erode tooth enamel, so be sure to rinse your mouth after and/or brush your teeth.

Now, that’s what’s recommended. To be honest, though, I do not have time to boil water and let my lemon steep in it first thing in the morning. When I wake up, I have 15 minutes before I need to be out the door and headed to the gym.

So, every Sunday, I do all my lemon squeezing and water-mixing. I fill up two of these 34 oz. bottles from IKEA with the lemon water and store them in the fridge. When I wake up, I simply pour, chug and dash. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

bottle of lemon water with lemons on cutting board
Have you used this tried-and-true method? What are your thoughts?

Brunch and Babies

Brunch, I think, is one of those small joys in life reserved for catching up with girlfriends and pretending that it makes you Upper-East-Side classy. It’s a time for laughter, indulgence, and maybe a little drinking before noon without guilt.

And then, someone brings a baby into your sacred brunch restaurant. Yes, babies are adorable and pudgy and make your ovaries yearn for a life yet to come. But they also cry. And scream. And their adorable little noses run and get their cute pudgy faces crusty. And they throw hashbrowns on the floor. And, though they sit in a perfectly clean restaurant, under the gaze of a watchful mother, somehow their little fingers end up grimy and sticky, and dirt inevitably makes its way under their fingernails. And they look up at you, all big eyes, toothless smile, dirty fingers and snot-encrusted face.

Yeah, they’re cute. But you’re still silently judging their mother for desecrating brunch.

But, brunch is still brunch. It’s a beautiful, magical time that, whether with girlfriends or by yourself, allows you to escape the pain, sadness and complexities that may wait for you in real life.

It’s for healing and discovering and forgetting and indulging. And, if you believe hard enough, it’s two hours a week when calories don’t count.

Blackberry Grits and Mimosa at Another Broken Egg

My favorite food at my favorite brunch place (a classification that qualifies it to compete for the coveted title of my most favorite thing of all) is cinnamon roll french toast. Way too sticky and sweet for a meal when calories do count, it’s how I hope Heaven tastes.

Said most favorite brunch place is in Baton Rouge, and I have yet to discover an adequate Houston replacement. So, take to the comments below and tell me your favorite brunch places and meals.

Top 10 Dives in Upper Kirby

I’ve been living in the Upper Kirby neighborhood of Houston for just over a year and, I have to admit, it falls quite short of my old neighborhood near LSU in terms of affordable, casual restaurants. (Honestly, though. What could I expect? The offshoot of Houston’s most affluent neighborhood is just not going to have the same kind of restaurants as a college area.)

But, being the kind of person who neither cares for nor can afford fancy afford, I’ve scoured the neighborhood for suitable replacements to my Baton Rouge stomping grounds. These 10 restaurants, in no particular order (except for No. 1, obvs), are the only places I frequent now.

*Side note: for the sake of this post, a “dive” is a place with cheap and good food, lackluster decor, probably not a lot of parking, and maybe shares a building with several other businesses.

10. Mainely Sandwiches
Location: South Shepherd, between West Alabama and Richmond
This is a yummy North Atlantic Coast-themed soup and sandwich shop, with a special focus (obviously) on Maine lobster. Their sandwich rolls are delicious, but the bread is probably the best part. It’s like butter, melting in your mouth.
Try: Lobster Roll, Crab Roll, and definitely the Lobster Bisque

9. McElroy’s Pub
Location: S. Sandman St (off of Richmond, right around S. Shepherd)
Go for the drinks, stay for the fun. McElroy’s boasts friendly staff, a fun jukebox, and your standard go-to bar games of pool and darts. It’s super chill with a comfy, rich and warm atmosphere. Be careful not to lose track of time in your relaxation!
Try: The Best Pint of Guinness in Houston
8. Blue Fish House
Location: Richmond, just east of the Kirby intersection
Blue Fish is a great place for Stephen and me to hop over to when we just don’t feel like cooking. It’s right across the street from our apartment, has a large menu, and is super affordable. It’s not going to be the best sushi you’ve ever had, but it is really good, especially considering the price you pay. (Not a lot.)
Try: Volcano Roll and Vegetable Croquette
7. Hunan Village
Location: S. Shepherd, between West Alabama and Richmond
A relatively small Chinese restaurant with fast and friendly service, Hunan is one of our favorite places to order in when we’re feeling a carby feast. Great egg rolls and crab wontons (my favorites at any restaurant), and excellent hot and sour soup.
Try: General Tsao’s Chicken, Hot and Sour Soup, Crab Wontons
6. Luna Pizzeria
Location: Richmond and Kirby
A relatively small pizzeria with an even smaller menu, Luna has perfected their specialties: good food and a fun atmosphere. The restaurant is littered with throwback table games to keep you entertained while you’re waiting on your food.
Try: Spicy Andouille Pizza (Super yum!)
5. Avalon Diner
Location: Westheimer, just East of the Kirby intersection
Though they now have multiple locations throughout the Houston area, the OG, 80-year-old diner on Wertheimer is always packed with people and personality. Have a burger and an old-fashioned milkshake, sit back, and enjoy the charm with a big side helping of people-watching.
Try: Milkshake (any flavor; they’re all good), Breakfast Sandwich and Waffle
4. Dino’s Den
Location: Richmond, between Kirby and Greenbriar
An ideal spot for Happy Hour, Dino’s has stiff drinks, loads of friendly faces, and even a charging station. You may miss it at first, because there’s no sign at the moment, but just look for the painted dinosaurs next to Blue Fish House.
Try: Honeydew Mimosas and the yummy Sunday Feature Food (though that changes week to week)
3. Star Pizza
Location: Norfolk, just West of S. Shepherd (near Richmond)
Star Pizza is basically a Houston institution. All of their pizzas are made to order (which may make the service slow from time to time) and completely delicious. Their marinara and dough are made from scratch daily, and the toppings are fresh and delicious. Eat there or take it home, either way it’s completely delicious.
Try: Anything, really. But, especially the Deep Dish Starburst (pictured above), and the Hand Tossed Chicken Alfredo (pictured below).
2. Hobbit Cafe
Location: Richmond, between Kirby and S. Shepherd, nestled behind Blue Fish
This adorable little restaurant is a converted house with dining throughout the rooms of the house and, as you can imagine, decorated with all kinds of Lord of the Rings memorabilia. We expected more of a British pub when we went, but the menu has a great assortment of (mostly American) food.
Try: Boudin Burger, Quesadilla and Chicken Salad
1. BB’s Cafe
Location: Richmond, between Buffalo Speedway and Levy Park
This is my favorite. My absolute favorite. BB’s is the first place in Houston where I had “Oh. My. Goodness.” good food. It’s an exquisite blend of Tex-Mex and Cajun, and is, honestly, the best food I’ve had in a while. Go. Now.
Try: Crawfish Quesadillas (these are eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head good) and the South Texas Fire poboy