Quick Dinner Cleanup Checklist

Keep the refrigerator clear. A crowded refrigerator is an invitation to spills from things knocked over as you rifle through it before dinner. Related: The Ultimate Refrigerator Makeover

Cover the counter. To limit the mess when preparing meat, chicken, or fish, consider lining countertops with butcher paper (buy it from your supermarket meat department), then fold it up with the scraps and toss it when you’re done.

Fill the sink with hot, soapy water. As you work, drop in the tools and dishes you’ve used and let soak. (Put knives in a tall glass or other container so you don’t risk cutting yourself later.) When it’s time to straighten up, a quick drain and rinse often does the trick.

Clean up in stages. Keep a bowl beside your cutting board to toss scraps into as you work, containing the mess instead of spreading it over the counter. When you’re done, empty it, clear away any dishes you’ve used for pre -prep, and put away ingredients you don’t need before you begin to cook. Do a similar deck clearing at each stage, if you can, to make working easier and buildup lighter. Related: 24 Smart Kitchen Organizing Ideas

Cook cleanly. Line baking and roasting pans with foil or parchment paper to save scrubbing later. Slip a piece of foil or parchment between a pot’s rim and the lid to keep the lid spotless. Coat measuring cups and spoons with nonstick spray so sticky ingredients, like peanut butter, molasses, and honey, slide right out and the cups and spoons clean up easily.

Wear your towel. Tuck a towel into the waistband of your apron to wipe up small spills, which in turn won’t sit around becoming sticky blobs that need scrubbing later. Related: 9 Adorable Dish Towels

Use your downtime. While the water is boiling, the oven is heating, or onions are softening in the pan, you can be doing small-dose cleaning: Load the dishwasher to clear the sink; wipe up that spill; sweep the kitchen floor.

Set and bus your table like a pro. Use a rolling cart—whether wicker, wood, or a little red wagon—to carry dishes and silverware to the table, then clear it of dirty dishes, in one trip each way.

Clear the clutter. After dinner, gather the odds and ends from the rest of the house that have found their way onto the kitchen counters, the top of the refrigerator, or the floor, then put them all in a basket and have a helper find their homes.

Run the dishwasher before bed. Placing similar items together in the machine means you’ll make fewer trips around the room to empty it.

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What Have You Got To Lose??

Herbs that can help melt fat, suppress appetite, and reduce bloating and water weight

Maintaining proper weight can be a lifelong challenge. Despite the substantial amount of money Americans pay for weight-loss gimmicks, pills, and plans, taken together they all show a dismal 5% long-term success rate.

Researchers deem obesity a chronic health condition. They say that it must be managed, like high blood pressure or diabetes. That there’s no easy cure. Being overweight puts you at higher risk for diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and cancer, and even modest weight loss will reduce these risks. Letting go of as little as 5 to 10% of your total weight may lower blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, and improve blood sugar balance. And you’ll live longer.

There are some genetic factors, but fundamentally, total body weight is due to diet and exercise. Nutritional supplements can also assist in controlling appetite or jump-starting metabolism.

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), called zhi shi in Chinese, and used in traditional Chinese medicine for enhancing digestion and circulation, is the source of the anti-obesity active ingredient synephrine, a chemical cousin to neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. By binding to beta-3 receptors found in adipose tissue and involved in thermogenesis and increasing metabolism, synephrine accelerates the removal of unwanted fat stores.

This extract of bitter orange provides a metabolism boost that is similar to ephedrine, but the mechanism of action is slightly different, so synephrine tends to cause less jitteriness and heart rate increase than ephedrine. One study from 2011 found that bitter orange raised metabolic rates without corresponding elevations in blood pressure and heart rates.

There have been assorted minor concerns raised about bitter orange and cardiovascular health, but a 2011 paper in Phytotherapy Research found it to be safe and to have no serious adverse effects. The usual dose is 3-30 mg of synephrine per day, as needed.

People have been using green tea for thousands of years, but only in the last few years have we begun to research the anti-obesity benefits of this ancient beverage. Over the past decade, evidence has been accumulating that demonstrates that green tea enhances weight loss, and several new scientific discoveries support it for that use. Taiwanese researchers recently studied 120 obese persons by giving them a green tea-based meal replacement. Over 12 weeks, subjects lost an average of 15 pounds and had improved cholesterol numbers. Dutch scientists concluded that the green tea catechins and caffeine act synergistically through diverse mechanisms to promote weight loss. A 2011 paper drew similar conclusions.

The usual weight-loss dosage is 300-450 mg daily of a green tea extract standardized to contain 80% total polyphenols and 50% epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), although studies have used up to 1,200 mg per day, often along with caffeine from the tea.

Caralluma cactus (Caralluma fimbriata) is a succulent plant that has been used as a natural appetite suppressant in India for centuries. Like hoodia, another popular slimming cactus, caralluma (sometimes appearing on the label as “Slimaluma”) has been used by indigenous traveling hunters to suppress appetite. For centuries, people have eaten the wild desert cactus as a vegetable, in chutneys and pickles, or raw. It is believed to block the activity of several enzymes involved in the formation of fat and to modify the appetite control mechanism of the brain. One study from India showed significant decrease in body weight, body mass index, hip circumference, body fat, and food intake over 60 days. Ayurvedic experts have noted no adverse effects and no toxicity.

Some products available in the U.S. combine caralluma extract with EGCG from green tea, which seems to create a synergistic effect on appetite control and weight loss.

Herbs can be a valuable adjunct to a weight loss or maintenance plan. When you give these a try, I think you’ll like what you don’t see.