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4th-picnicNot only is Independence Day is a time to celebrate an important step for our great nation, but the laidback long weekend is perfect for picnics, parties and backyard barbecues with friends and family. As you’re planning the menu, here are 4 tips—plus 3 easy-to-prepare recipes—for making your 4th of July gathering as heart-healthy as it is delicious:

  1. Add a Little Surf to Your Turf. Before you fire up the grill, consider adding some healthy seafood options. Fatty fish such as salmon and herring are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids shown to support heart health, and grilled shrimp offer a light and healthy lean protein option. Get creative with herbs, spices and fresh citrus for a burst of summer flavor.
  2. Opt for a Better Burger. Sometimes only a juicy burger will do, so just be sure to select grass-fed ground beef and stick to healthy portion sizes (experts say about 3 ounces for lean meat and poultry). Before grilling, add spices or chopped onions and peppers for an extra kick, and be sure to have plenty of leafy greens on hand for topping; kale is a great choice because it’s loaded with heart-smart nutrients like fiber, potassium, vitamin K and Omega-3s.
  3. Heart-Healthier Sides Make a Difference. Instead of starchy potato and pasta salads (remember: starchy carbs break down into sugar, and sugar is bad for your heart), lighten up your sides by offering grilled veggie kebabs, lighter salads and slaws (see Jicama Beet Salad recipe below), and plenty of raw, non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits for easy snacking. Did you know that cherries are high in potassium, which promotes healthy blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of stroke?
  4. Go Nuts. Say goodbye to greasy chips and processed snack mixes—nuts are the way to go for heart health! Not only do they provide plenty of healthy fats and fiber, but they also contain vitamin E, beneficial amino acids, potassium and more to promote healthy cholesterol levels and help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Fill snack bowls with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and pistachios—just make sure they’re raw and not covered in sugar and salt, which can undermine their heart health benefits.

Fire up the Grill! 3 Healthful & Delicious 4th of July Recipes:

Grilled Shrimp & Veggie Kebabs
(This recipe serves 2 but is easy to double or triple)

Ingredients (kebabs):
½ lb. shrimp (approx. 20), peeled and deveined
1 large onion, quartered and cut into thick slices
1 large red bell pepper, cut into large slices
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into large slices
10 cherry tomatoes

Ingredients (dressing):
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Soak wooden skewers in water for 10 minutes (to prevent burning during cooking). Thread shrimp and veggies onto skewers. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, parsley and black pepper. Drizzle dressing over kabobs. Grill over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

Sweet & Spicy Grilled Salmon
(This recipe serves 2 but is easy to double or triple)

Two 3-oz. wild salmon fillets
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup chives, finely chopped

Ingredients (wet rub):
1 tsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. honey
½ tsp. fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. blackstrap molasses
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

Directions: Wash salmon and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine all wet rub ingredients except black pepper. Glaze top of fish liberally with wet rub; dust with black pepper. Grill at medium-high heat until salmon just starts to release its fat and/or the flesh flakes easily (about 10 to 15 minutes for a 1-inch-thick fillet). Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Jicama Beet Salad
Serves 4

½ large jicama
1 red beet
1 golden beet
1 tbsp. lime juice
½ tsp. fresh ginger, minced
Salt to taste

Directions: Peel and julienne jicama and beets; place in large bowl. Add lime juice, ginger and salt; mix well. Set aside at least 20 minutes before serving.

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cleaning-productsWhen was the last time you took a good look at the ingredients in your favorite household and personal care products? Chances are they contain a host of toxic chemicals you probably can’t even pronounce. Over time, those chemicals can build up in your cells and tissues and put added stress on the organs and organ systems designed to filter and eliminate toxins from your body. This week, take a small but important step toward reducing your toxic burden by making your own home and body cleansing products using these five simple recipes. It’s an easy way to help clean up your external and internal environment!

For the Home:
All-Purpose Glass Cleaner
¼ cup white distilled vinegar
½ tsp. unscented natural liquid soap
2 cups water
25 drops pure lavender antiseptic essential oil

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to blend. Spray on glass surface and wipe clean with a paper towel or newspaper.

Lavender Soft Scrubber
½ cup baking soda
1 cup unscented natural liquid soap
10 drops pure lavender antiseptic essential oil

Directions: Place baking soda in a small bowl. Slowly mix in liquid soap, stirring constantly until it is the consistency of frosting. Add lavender oil. Apply mixture directly onto sponge and use on sinks, countertops and other household surfaces.

Note: This mixture will start to harden rather quickly, so make only what you need. You may also add some pure vegetable glycerin to help the mixture stay softer longer. Place remaining cleanser in a jar and seal the lid tightly.

Lemon Floor Wash
¼ cup unscented natural liquid soap
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup white distilled vinegar
25 drops lemon essential oil
1 gallon water

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a large bucket. Mix until soapy. Mop or sponge to clean floor as normal, and rinse.

For the Body:
Citrus Sugar Scrub
2 cups white cane sugar
2 cups vegetable glycerin
1 tsp. vitamin C crystals
5 drops orange essential oil

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Massage gently over entire body and rinse well with warm water. Store remaining scrub in a glass jar and keep in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks.

Lavender Salt Glow
2 cups fine sea salt
4 cups almond oil
30 drops lavender essential oil

Directions: Place all ingredients in a wide-mouth jar; mix together. Wet entire body and massage onto skin. Rinse well and towel dry.

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