Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tips for Planning Your Vegetable Garden

If you’re looking to eat more vegetables in 2016, have we got the blog post for you! Thanks to “The Farmer’s Almanac,” we’ve brought you a short and sweet guide for the beginner vegetable gardener.

Start Small
If you thought you needed space to start a garden, well, you’re kind of right. But one of the most common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon, so experts across the board recommend a small garden plot to start. So whether you’ve got a spacious backyard or live in a fifth-story apartment, you’ve got enough space to start growing vegetables.

The Basics
  • -Sun Exposure: Vegetables need at least 6 hours (preferably 8) of full sun every day, so make sure to pick a sunny spot for your plot. 
  • -Soil: Your soil is your plant’s source of nutrients, so make sure you know what you need before you plant. Vegetables need good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check out this post on preparing your soil for more info. 
  • -Placement: It’s everything. Avoid planting too close to trees, and keep in mind that a garden close to the house will help discourage wild animals from chowing down on your veggies. The Gardener’s Supply Company has this neat little garden design planner to help you create blueprints for your most productive garden. 
  • -Water: Vegetables need at least 1 inch of water a week. If you’re in a dry area, make sure you’re able to accommodate this. 
  • -Tools: You’ll need to make sure you have some basic planting tools in your undertaking. These include a spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket). 
  • -Frost Dates: Find out the dates for the first and last frost dates in your area here.

Veggies to Start With
Here are some of the most common, productive plants you may want to consider growing:
     -Tomatoes          -Zucchini squash          -Peppers
     -Cabbage            -Bush beans                  -Lettuce (leaf and/or Bibb)
     -Beets                  -Carrots                         -Chard
     -Radishes            -Marigolds (to discourage rabbits)
When to Plant
When to start planting all depends on where you are regionally and whether you’re planting seeds or transplanting plants from a nursery or greenhouse:

While it may not be time to start planting just yet, the time to start planning is here. So be on the lookout for more gardening and vegetable tips from communEATi here, on our Facebook, and on Twitter.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

6 Benefits to Clean Eating

When we last met, we launched a communEATi New Year’s Resolution Challenge: to eat clean in 2016. And while we gave you some guidelines on how to go ahead and get started, some of you might still be waiting on the why before you make a complete lifestyle change. So we found six of the most important benefits to ditching the overly-processed foods and green-ifying your kitchen!

Boost Your Mood
Feeling mopey? Down in the dumps? Getting unnecessarily irritated over these questions? If your mood is constantly more “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” than it is “Disney princess awoken by singing birds,” it could be because of what you’re eating. A New Zealand study found that a higher intake of fruits and veggies resulted in more energy, calm, and greater feelings of overall happiness, and that these effects lasted past the days more produce was consumed.

Reduce Your Environmental Impact
While eating meat isn’t strictly prohibited from when eating clean, it does require more processing for human consumption, so eating less tends to be a natural side effect of a clean diet. Which is good news for the Earth, because meat preparation takes a significant toll on the environment. Animals raised to be eaten require far more land and resources than raising vegetables do (although fish farming can be fairly sustainable when it involves fish lower on the food chain, like tilapia and shellfish). Eating mainly vegetable-based foods rather than meat greatly reduces your environmental footprint.

Sleep Better
More and more sleep research is indicating that eating the right foods can help you get better sleep at night. And as numerous studies have already pointed out, better sleep improves overall wellness. Not surprisingly, many of the staples of a clean diet - like fish, whole grains, nuts, and dark leafy greens - have been linked to getting a better night’s sleep.

Start Glowing
University of Nottingham scientists found that healthy, clean eating really does give you a natural glow. And another study at the University of St. Andrews found that people who ate more fruits and vegetables daily over the course of six weeks were rated as more attractive than those who didn’t eat as many. So it’s true: if you’re feeling good on the inside, you’ll look your best on the outside too!

Get the Most from Your Workouts
It’s not surprising to hear that several healthy foods have been shown to enhance athletic performance, either by building muscle, boosting recovery, or improving endurance. After all, diet and exercise are the keys to healthy living, right? But did you know that beet juice is great for stamina? Or that honey can provide time-released “fuel” for endurance if eaten before exercise? Or how the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon can help build muscle while fighting off heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes? If you’re really serious about your workout, start with what you eat.

Optimize Your Brain
You may have heard people talking a lot lately about the Mediterranean diet, which is a good starting off base for clean eating. This diet requires eating a lot of vegetables and fruit, along with fish, beans, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, and seeds and requires you limit your intake of fatty meats, dairy products, refined grains, and sugar. Sounds familiar, huh? Well, the research shows those who eat a diet similar to this were less likely to have brain infarcts, which are small areas of dead tissue in the brain linked to cognitive problems. Mediterranean diet eaters were also found to be 36% less likely to have brain damage and have a 28% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment with aging, with a 48% lower risk of cognitive impairment progressing to Alzheimer’s.

“You are what you eat” is much more than that weird vegetable man poster from high school health class. What you eat affects essentially every part of your life: from your mental to physical health, from your skin cells to the whole, wide world. Isn’t it time to start putting in the effort to eating your best so you can have the best life possible? We certainly think so!

So let communEATi help you as you take the steps toward a happier, healthier you! Follow us here, on Facebook, and on Twitter for more healthy food and lifestyle tips. And keep an eye out for the launch of our app, which is guaranteed to help you stock your kitchen with some of the freshest, cleanest, healthiest food around.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10 Guidelines for Eating Clean in 2016

We’re only five days into 2016 and already the phrase “New Year, New Me” is overdone. And while your eyes might roll into the back of your head after the 45th Facebook status you’ve read that contains those words, the sentiment behind them shouldn’t be brushed off so quickly.

While it’s easy to be a skeptic, we all have plenty of things we could do to improve our day-to-day lives and overall health. So why not start making those improvements now? And if you’ve been looking for a sign, here it is: we challenge you to eat clean in 2016!

Now, we’re not saying this will be easy; in fact, we’ve got a whole blog series lined up this month to help teach you about and get you in the habit of clean eating. Because if we’re going to make this resolution stick, it needs to not feel like a chore.

So What is Clean Eating?
It’s easiest to think of clean eating less as a diet and more as a lifestyle. The guidelines are pretty simple, but your meal plan could change drastically if you decide to make the switch. The main thing to remember about eating clean is that it’s about consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. Clean eating is an approach to food and food preparation that leads to an improved life one meal at a time.

The Guidelines
“Clean Eating” magazine came up with this list of guidelines to help you on your clean eating journey. While they may seem like a lot at first, they’re really teaching you how to make better decisions regarding healthy eating:

  • -Eat 5-6 times a day.
    • -Three meals and 2-3 small snacks, including lean protein, fresh fruits and veggies, and a complex carbohydrate with each meal
    • -A steady intake of clean food energizes the body and burns calories efficiently all day.
  • -Choose organic, clean foods whenever you can.
    • -If you’re on a limited budget or have picky eaters, make meat, eggs, dairy, these 12 fruits and vegetables your main grocery priority.
  • -Drink at least 2 liters (that's about 8 glasses) of water a day.
  • -Read the labels.
    • -Clean foods typically contain just one or two ingredients, so put back the products with long lists of human-made ingredients.
  • -Avoid processed and refined foods.
    • -This includes white flour, sugar, bread, and pasta. Try whole grain foods instead.
  • -Know the enemies of clean eating.
    • -Steer clear of anything high in trans fats, anything fried, or anything high in sugar.
    • -Also avoid preservatives, color additives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and fat replacers.
    • -For a more comprehensive list, Hungry for Change has come up with this list of the top 10 food additives to avoid.
  • -Aim to have essential fatty acids incorporated into your clean diet every day.
  • -Learn about portion sizes, and work towards eating within them.
  • -Reduce your carbon footprint.
    • -Opt for produce that is seasonal and local. It’s less taxing on your wallet and our environment.
    • -P.S. communEATi can really help with this one!
  • -Take it with you.
    • -Pack your lunch for work or on outings so you always have clean food on the go.

We hope you had a great New Years celebration, and we hope to help you on your clean eating journey! Make sure to keep up with us on here, Facebook, and Twitter for more clean eating tips, gardening how-tos, and communEATi app updates. We’re excited for all that 2016 has to offer and glad to have you growing with us!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year from communEATi!

Happy 2016 everyone! Welcome to a new year, bright with promise. 2015 was tumultuous to say the least, and with 2016 being an election year, things probably won’t be slowing down anytime soon. So why not arm yourself -- and fuel yourself -- with some luck for the year?

We told you about the food considered lucky to eat on New Year’s earlier this week, and now we’ve found some lucky meals for your first day of 2016!


For your first meal of 2016, we recommend a fruitful brunch of pomegranates and grapes paired with this delicious Baby Spinach Omelet. If you need to take breakfast on the go, try this toasted bagel with spinach and eggs. Foods in the shape of a ring are thought to bring good luck because they symbolize coming full circle.

For lunch, we’re going way down south with a New Year’s Day classic from Charleston, South Carolina: Hoppin’ John. Loaded with coin-shaped black-eyed peas, this dish is thought to be loaded with luck. Many modern recipes replace the ham hock in the traditional recipe with chicken stock, but we recommend using ham if you can. (Remember? Eating pork is considered lucky, chicken isn’t.)

If you didn’t get to use pork for lunch, don’t worry: we’ll get you that luck with dinner. Mix things up for your final meal of the day with this veggie filled Pork and Noodle Stir-Fry. Vegetarian? Substitute tofu for the pork (or nix it altogether) and vegetable broth for the chicken broth and you can soak up all the luck of the noodles in this dish too!

We wish you all the luck and happiness possible in this new year! And make sure you follow communEATi on Facebook and Twitter so we can keep you up to date on all the big things happening for us this year.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

7 Lucky Foods to Eat on New Years

Later this week, we get to celebrate a new start with the coming of 2016! And what better way to celebrate than with food? For centuries, all around the world, people have been eating these foods for luck, prosperity, health, and longevity in a new year. And if the whole world’s doing it, there must be some truth to it, right?

This New Year’s midnight tradition comes from Spain: before you take your first sip of champagne of 2016, grab 12 grapes to pop one by one as the clock strikes 12. Small and round, grapes resemble coins and are meant to bring fortune in the new year. Each grape represents each month of the year: if the grapes are sweet, it’s smooth sailing, but if one happens to be sour, watch out for that month.

Cooked Greens
Load up on green, leafy veggies on the first day of the year for good fortune. Because their leaves look like folded money, greens are symbolic of economic fortune, and it’s believed the more you eat, the more fortunate you’ll be (which is true, health-wise). So whether you go with the Danish recipe of stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, German sauerkraut (cabbage), or collards (the southern US green of choice), eat up and be prosperous!

Fish are lucky in three ways: their scales resemble coins, they travel in schools (representing prosperity), and they swim forward (symbolizing progress). Most cultures eat some type of fish for an abundant year: Danes and Italians tend to dine on cod New Year’s Day, while herring is eaten at midnight in Poland and Germany. In Japan, herring roe is eaten for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest. And in China, they prepare fish with the head and tail still intact to ensure a good year, start to finish.

Pomegranate seeds are considered lucky because they represent prosperity in the new year. In Turkey, they take it two steps further: the red color represents life and fertility; and the medicinal properties represent health. Don’t like pomegranates but want all of those things in 2016? Go Greek: when the new year turns, it’s a customary there to smash a pomegranate on the floor in front of your door to break it open and reveal the seeds; the more seeds, the more luck.

The longer, the better! In China, Japan, and other Asian countries, it’s customary to eat noodles, signifying longevity, on New Year’s Day. Typically, the idea is to cook and eat them without breaking or chewing them, so we recommend serving up a little Stir-Fry-day special for this New Year’s Day.

The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea in countries like Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria that pigs symbolize progress because they root forward with their snouts, seeming to never move backwards. Their rotundness also signifies wealth and prosperity in places like Italy and the US. Veg(etari)an? Try an Austrian tradition and make some mini-marzipan pigs to get in on this lucky food.

Beans, peas, and lentils are symbolic of money, and because they swell when cooked, they have been eaten with financial rewards in mind since Roman times. Today, many countries have recipes that include lentils to knock out two birds with one stone: in Italy, they have cotechino con lenticchie; in Germany, lentil or split pea soup with sausage; and in the southern US, a dish called hoppin’ john is served with black-eyed peas, pork, greens, and rice.

While you’re stocking up on groceries for your New Year’s Luck Feast, be sure to avoid these foods that are considered unlucky:
  • -Lobsters move backwards, which is said to lead to setbacks in the new year.
  • -Chickens scratch backwards, which is said to cause regret or dwelling on the past.
  • -Some warn against eating ANY winged fowl because good luck could “fly away.”

Are there any foods that are a part of your New Year’s tradition missing from this list? Tell us about them in the comments! And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you can stay up to date on all that communEATi has to bring you in the new year!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays from communEATi!

Merry Christmas from communEATi!

We hope this seasons’ greeting finds you in the company of friends and family, sharing a delicious meal with love and laughter. We know you want to get back to them, so we won’t keep you too long, but we didn’t want to let the day go by without sending you and yours some holiday cheer! And what better way to wish you all the joys of the season than with some of our favorite holiday movie quotes?

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” -How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” -The Polar Express

“Sometimes, things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much if to get it, you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It’s people that make the difference.” -Christmas Vacation
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” -It’s a Wonderful Life

“It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.” -Scrooged

“That’s what Christmas memories are made from. They’re not planned, they’re not scheduled, nobody puts them in their Blackberry, they just happen.” -Deck the Halls

“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.” -Miracle on 34th Street

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” -Elf

“Another crisis solved, Yeah, there sure are a lot here. Well, all families start to come together. We always get together at Christmas. Yeah, life would just pass in a blur if it wasn’t for times like this.” -A Muppet Family Christmas

We’ll be back next week with some more of our regularly scheduled gardening and cooking blogs. In the meantime, enjoy this weekend with all the love and warmth of the holiday season!

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Monday, December 21, 2015

3 Reasons to Avoid OVERcooking Your Food

It rarely takes more than one time eating undercooked food to learn that there’s a good reason to not eat anything that hasn’t been cooked all the way through. And while undercooked food is certainly something to be on the lookout for, did you know that overcooking your food can also be risky for your health?

When we say “overcooking,” it isn’t as simple as just plain burning your food. For example, over-frying your eggs changes the protein structure and makes them less beneficial; and broccoli and other veggies that have been overheated can lose a lot of their vital nutrients. Cooking food over a certain temperature has been linked to many health risks, some incredibly serious.

Overcooked Foods are Harder to Metabolize
Raw foods are easier on your metabolism which, in turn, makes things easier for your digestive organs. But what happens when you heat them up? Once it’s been cooked past a certain temperature, food becomes more difficult to metabolize, which can result in it staying in your gut for longer than it should. And if it stays too long, it can become toxic. Cooking techniques like steaming and boiling can help your food remain below that dangerous temperature while still cooking it all the way through.

Overcooked Foods Lose Nutrients
Many vitamins (particularly vitamin C) are sensitive to heat, which means the longer you cook your source of vitamins, the more you deplete them. Your veggies are especially at risk for this, and studies show we should be eating more of them raw. That being said, cooked vegetables still have their own health benefits to offer. Try serving a raw veggie and a cooked one (steamed or blanched) with every meal to be sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.

Overcooked Foods Can Contain Carcinogens
When cooked until charred on the outside, certain foods can contain dangerous carcinogenic substances. Foods with carcinogens have been known to act as triggers that can convert normal cells in the body into cancerous ones. This is particularly true of meats, which produce harmful chemicals like heterocyclic amines or benzopyrenes, which can cause an increased risk for pancreas, distal colon, and breast cancer. You’ll especially need to watch out for this when grilling: if fat or juice drips onto the coals, hydrocarbons can rise off of them in the form of vapor and permeate the meat. To counteract this, try cooking your grilled foods en papillotte instead (that’s fancy chef speak for “in paper or a wrapping”).

Overcook No More
We’ve already provided a few pointers for preparing your food so it’s balanced between undercooked and overcooked, but here are a few more ways to help cook your food at the optimum temperature:
  • -With all cooking methods, cook with less intense heat at lower temperatures.
  • -Keep your grill clean, making sure to scrape off all the charred residue after each use.
  • -Avoid well-done meats and blackened or charred areas of any food.
  • -Cook with liquid: boil, steam, poach, or stew your meals.
  • -Marinate your food; some research shows marinating foods can reduce the production of carcinogens.
    • -A lot of yummy marinades use ingredients like olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cooking wine, or herbs and spices. Get creative with your marinades for healthier, tastier meals!

Want more cooking info like this? Keep up with communEATi here on our blog -- and on Facebook and Twitter -- for even more informative how-tos and pointers for your food preparation, from garden to kitchen to plate!

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