Family Meals Month

Every September is National Family Meals Month which is a national campaign whose goal is encourage families to eat more meals together.

The Family Meals Movement started in 2015 and has grown rapidly because of the positive social and health benefits that can occur by increasing the meals eaten together every week. According to the FMI Foundation there are multiple benefits to regular family meals such as:

  • Higher grades and self-esteem
  • Prosocial behaviors into adulthood such as sharing, fairness and respect
  • Children are less likely to suffer from obesity
  • Higher fruit and vegetable intakes
  • Adolescents are less likely to show symptoms of violence, depression, and suicide as well as less likely to abuse drugs, run away and engage in other risky behaviors

Adolescents who have infrequent family meals are:

  • 3.5 times more likely to abuse prescription or illegal drugs
  • 3 times more likely to have used marijuana
  • More than 2.5 times more likely to have used tobacco
  • 1.5 times more likely to have used alcohol

The goal of this movement is simple, for families to pledge to have one more meal together a week.

Check out the National Family Meals website, https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-movement/about , for more information as well as resources, recipes and much more. 

Packed Lunches

Skipping lunch can lead to a lack of energy, loss of concentration and a lower job performance. Eating out every day can be expensive and difficult to find healthier options. Packing your own lunch is the best opportunity to keep your diet on track and keep you sharp and focused throughout the day.


When making a healthy lunch it is important to include multiple food groups, such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Your best beverage option is water to stay hydrated. To make it more exciting try adding fruit or mint to your water. Try to stay away from prepackaged foods because they tend to be higher in fat, salt and sugar. Instead make more food during dinner to insure you have enough to make leftovers the next day and to help control your portion sizes.


Packing healthy lunches is just as important for your children, try these helpful tips to give your kids the healthiest lunches to help them thrive in school.
• Cut up food into dipping sticks and try new dips such as hummus, guacamole, ranch or yogurt
• If you do not have much time, try canned fruits or cups that are in 100% fruit juice or water
• Skip processed snacks
• Get your kids involved to get them more excited about their food. Take them grocery shopping or have them help pack their lunches and find new recipes
• Use cookie cutters to cut fruits, vegetables or sandwiches into fun shapes

Peanut Butter and Banana Sushi

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter Substitute soy or sunflower butter if needed)
  • 1 whole grain flatbread or whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 med banana

Directions

  • Spread peanut butter down middle of flatbread/tortilla and reserve 1 teaspoon for later
  • Place banana on peanut butter and roll up the flatbread/tortilla
  • Spread remaining peanut butter on outer edge of flatbread to seal the roll
  • Slice roll into sushi sized pieces 
What's a Flexitarian

What’s a Flexitarian?

Article sponsored by Clearly by Best Choice

The term flexitarian has been circulating around in our vocabulary in recent years. It comes from combining the words flexible and vegetarian. Signifying that people who follow these meal planning principles have a more relaxed plant based diet compared to other vegans and vegetarians. In 2012, flexitarian was listed in the mainstream dictionary and recognized as part of the American dialect.  Common reasons for choosing a semi-vegetarian diet are typically weight management and health consciousness.  

Flexitarians consume a plant based diet, primarily focusing on getting six or more serving of fruit and veggies each day. Fish or red meat might be consumed once or twice a week. There is no set of regulations on how frequently flexitarians eat animal protein which is the essence of the flexible part of this plant based meal planning. Studies show there has been an increase in demand for vegan and vegetarian products. There has also been a rise in health conscious eating leading people to opt for a flexitarian lifestyle. Plant based eating is a valuable part of many healthy diets and it’s worth considering if you are making dietary adjustments.  

How To Choose The Best Sunscreen

It’s not really debatable that we should be wearing sunscreen. I mean there is clear evidence that the skin’s rays can accelerate the aging process and potentially lead to skin cancer. However, when we look at the sunscreen market, it can be very confusing! Most people take the stance that any sunscreen is good (because it’s protecting you) and I tend to agree, BUT if you are making a switch to clean and non-toxic products, there are a few additional things that you should know. 

And while there is overwhelming evidence that sunscreen protects us from the sun and prevents skin cancer, now consumers are asking if they are getting additional toxins and doing more harm than good.

Proper Sun Protection Is Always KEY!

First of all, don’t stop wearing sunscreen! Follow proper sun protection recommendations – cover-up, wear a hat and try to avoid the peak times of sun exposure (between 10am-2pm).  And when you are applying sunscreen, make sure you are applying enough! This means about a shot glass size to the areas of exposed skin and reapplying when needed. 

What Kind Of Protection Do I Need From Sunscreen? 

There are two types of UV rays that we are concerned about.  The UVA rays, which are the longer rays that penetrate deep into the skin and are responsible for long-term sun damage and UVB rays which are shorter rays and what we attribute to sunburns. We need our sunscreen to protect us from both (SPF protects us from UVB; look for the term “broad spectrum to ensure protection from UVA).

The EWB states recommends a max Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 50 and advises that a higher SPF over promises and can be misleading. The ratio of UVA protection decreases as SPF increases. Because of this, in 2019, the FDA proposed a SPF cap of 60. Those proposed rules were thrown out with the passage of sunscreen legislation included in a coronavirus stimulus bill. It is expected that the FDA will reintroduce similar rules within the coming year.

Chemical Sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreen on the market, chemical and mineral. Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing the sun’s rays, converting them to heat and then releasing them from the body. 

As we know, drugs or ingredients that have been around for a long time are often grandfathered in. So, when the FDA began to consider sunscreen safety, it grandfathered in active ingredients from the late 1970s without reviewing the evidence of their potential hazards. In February 2019, the agency released its final draft sunscreens monograph, which contains “insufficient health and safety data to designate 12 of the 16 sunscreen filters allowed for use in the U.S. as ‘generally recognized as safe and effective’. These 12 ingredients include some of the most commonly used UV filters, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone.”

The 2019 proposal from the FDA also concluded that the risks of using aminobenzoic acid, or PABA, and trolamine salicylate outweigh their benefits, and it proposed classifying them as unsafe. The FDA-proposed monograph gave the GRASE designation to just two active sunscreen ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Why I Recommend Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral sunscreen works by adding a protective layer on the skin that acts as a physical barrier. There are two ingredients – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – that the FDA and EWG have recognized as safe. We want to block both UVA and UVA. Titanium dioxide only blocks UVA, zinc oxide blocks both.

Because of the lack of safety studies around the chemical sunscreen ingredients, and the fact that some have been shown to disrupt hormone regulation, specifically estrogen , I recommend mineral sunscreen over chemical especially for children and women of child-bearing age.

The main con of mineral sunscreen is that it takes awhile to rub in and sometimes you get a white residue.

https://www.thepharmacistsguide.com/blog/2020/8/5/how-to-choose-the-best-sunscreen

Summer Food Safety

While summer is a great time to spend quality time outdoors with friends and family, these events can lead to serious illness if the food is not properly handled. The warmer temperatures lead to an increase in food poisoning cases because these germs thrive and grow well under these conditions. Here are a few tips to keep your loved ones safe while enjoying the sun.

  • Refrigerate perishable foods within 1 hour if it is 90 degrees or warmer when you are shopping for groceries or eating outside
  • When grilling, throw out marinades or sauces that have touched raw meats or meat juices
  • Always use clean utensils and plates to remove cooked foods from the grill. Do not use the same utensils or plates because it can lead to cross contamination
  • Bring hand sanitizer or wipes to clean your hands before preparing or eating food if there is not access to a sink
  • Always bring a food thermometer to make sure your meat is cooked to the proper temperature to ensure it is safe to eat. Check out this website for all of the temperatures foods should be cooked to: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature
Blood pressure: exercise & pistachios

How to Control Blood Pressure

If you are looking for ways to help lower your blood pressure and reduce the medications you need to control high blood pressure, here are some tips:

COUNT CALORIES: many people are not aware of how much food and calories they are actually consuming.  Counting calories involves writing down what you eat, with true portions sizes so you can understand your calorie intake.  Remember, beverages can be a significant contribution to calorie intake. There are many apps and websites that can help you count calories. 

MONITOR SALT (Sodium) INTAKE: A diet high in sodium increases blood pressure in many people. The less sodium you eat, the better blood pressure control you might have. If you are unsure of your salt intake, track the sodium content in foods you eat.  A goal should be to consume less than 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon of salt) each day. Ask your doctor if you should go lower, to 1,500 milligrams. Read the nutritional facts label on every food package. Avoid canned foods, processed foods, lunch meats, and fast foods. Use salt-free seasonings.

FOODS THAT CAN HELP: Potassium, magnesium, and fiber may help control blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber, and they’re low in sodium. Whole fruits and veggies are the best options.  Nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, and poultry are good sources of magnesium.

  • PRODUCE: radishes, rhubarb, spring peas, strawberries, Swiss chard, zucchini, peaches, pineapples, potatoes, raisins, spinach, squash, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tangerines, tomatoes, blueberries, beets, bananas, apples, apricots, broccoli, carrots, collards, green beans, dates, grapes, kale, lima beans, mangoes, melons, oranges.
  • SEAFOOD: FRESH SALMON -Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which have significant heart health benefits. These fats may help reduce blood pressure levels by reducing inflammation and decreasing levels of blood-vessel-constricting compounds called oxylipins.
  • OATS: Oats are a whole grain that are a good source of carbs and fiber, including the powerful fiber beta-glucan.
  • PUMPKIN SEEDS: are a great source of nutrients important for blood pressure control, including magnesium, potassium, and arginine, an amino acid needed for the production of nitric oxide, which is essential for blood vessel relaxation and blood pressure reduction.
  • GREEN LENTILS: Lentils are rich in nutrients that help regulate blood pressure, such as fiber, magnesium, and potassium.
  • PISTACHIOS: These nuts are highly nutritious and have been linked to healthy blood pressure levels. They’re high in a number of nutrients essential for heart health and blood pressure regulation, including potassium.
  • TOMATOES: Tomatoes and tomato products are rich in many nutrients, including potassium and the carotenoid pigment lycopene. Lycopene has been associated with beneficial effects on heart health.
  • FLAX and CHIA: These tiny seeds that are full of nutrients that can be helpful for healthy blood pressure regulation, including potassium, magnesium, and fiber.

DIET TO CONTROL BLOOD PRESSURE: DASH DIET: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy. These foods are high in key nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein. The DASH diet can lower blood pressure because it has less salt and sugar than the typical American diet. The DASH diet cuts out desserts, sweetened beverages, fats, red meat, and processed meats. Ask your doctor or a dietitian to help you start the DASH diet. They can tell you how many calories you need each day to maintain or get to a healthy weight. And then they can help you plan meals with foods you enjoy that meet the DASH guidelines.

EXERCISE: Exercise is one of the keys to lowering your blood pressure. Working out also boosts the effectiveness of blood pressure medication if you’re already being treated for hypertension. Find activities you enjoy, and aim for 30 minutes a day of “exercise” on most days of the week. Going to the gym Is not the only option- dancing, gardening, swimming, raking leaves, walking the dog, hiking, yoga- anything else that gets your heart beating a bit faster. If you need motivation, try a personal trainer, a workout buddy or home videos or apps.  Do not forget to include strength training; you can use weights, weight machines, exercise bands, or your own body weight by doing abdominal crunches or curl-ups.  Even losing 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. Some heart medications such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers can slow your heart rate. Talk to your doctor and ask what your target heart rate zone should be during exercise if you take these medications. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Resources: Healthline and WebMD

Brown Rice and Fruit Smoothies

Colon Cancer Awareness & Your Digestive Health

According to Prevent Cancer® Foundation, this year, more than 145,600 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 51,000 will die of the disease.

Risk Factors:

Colorectal cancer is more common as you age. However, colorectal cancer in adults younger than 50 is on the rise, but  it’s seen more in people age 50 and over. Other risk factors include having:

▫Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
▫A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
▫A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).

Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include:

▫Lack of regular physical activity.
▫A diet low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
▫A diet high in red meat (such as beef, pork or lamb) or processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs or cold cuts).
▫Overweight or obese, especially for those who carry fat around their waists.
▫Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

Prevention:

Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer; therefore, preventable if removed in time. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, which increases the chance that treatment will be more effective. Start screening at age 45 if you’re at an average risk, but if you have certain risk factors, you may need to start screening sooner or get screened more often—talk to your health care professional.

Diet:

Research is underway to find out if changes to your diet can reduce your colorectal cancer risk. Generally, experts encourage eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, limiting red meat, and avoiding processed meat for a healthy diet.

Incorporating more fruits and veggies into your day can seem difficult, but if you focus on eating 1-2 servings at meals and include them at snacks, you will easily be on your way to meeting your intake requirement. 

Try fruit and even vegetable-packed smoothies for breakfast or snacks.  Add berries to cereal or yogurt.  Eat salads for lunch.  At dinner makes two choices of a fruit or veggie for a side dish.  Add extra veggies to casseroles or pasta. Don’t forget: can and frozen fruits and veggies count as a serving, so mix it up by using fresh, can and frozen. With a little planning, eating more delicious fruits and vegetables can be simple!

Some people may also be lacking whole grains in their diets.  There are many naturally-occurring whole grain foods such as oatmeal, brown rice, and popcorn. Many foods are now made with whole grains, such as cereal, crackers, flour, baked goods and pasta.  Look for the words whole grain (such as “whole wheat”) as the first ingredient on an ingredient list or look for the Whole Grains Council’s stamp on food packages. With the Whole Grain Stamp, finding three servings of whole grains is easy: Pick three foods with the 100% Stamp or six foods with ANY Whole Grain Stamp. 

The 100% Stamp assures you that the food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain, while the 50%+ Stamp and the Basic Stamp appear on products containing at least half a serving of whole grain per labeled serving.                                                                                        

Resources: preventcancer.org and wholegrainscouncil.org

Healthy Resolutions: Meal Prep & Exercise

How to Make Healthy New Year Resolutions

Many people dread making a New Year Resolution. There are statistics that show only 9.2% of people report actually achieving their resolutions. Many people get easily frustrated with themselves if they don’t fulfill the goals they set, and even if they don’t see immediate results from their efforts.

The type of resolution you make can set you up for failure. Instead, create a purposeful and reachable resolution that gives yourself short and long term achievement while giving yourself some grace along your journey.

Here are some tips on resolutions to avoid and how to set yourself up for success:

  • Avoid: Making the general statement, “I want to eat healthier”, but not knowing what that means or how that looks. For success: Review your eating habits, or talk to a Registered Dietitian or your doctor to make a plan. Start slow with one or two habits you can change to move toward a healthier way of eating that will stay for the long term. Examples: Limit soda to one can a day (if you typically have multiple), try adding a fruit or vegetable to each meal, or set a goal to eat three whole grain foods a day.
  • Avoid: Having a vague exercise goal. For success: Make a choice of where you can start on a path of daily exercise and work toward a long-term goal. If you currently do not exercise regularly, start slow. Make your first goal to exercise 2-3 times a week and the work up to 5-7 times a week. Start with a small workout first and then add on minutes. Make sure to find something that is fun, and choose a variety of exercises. Go for walks (with a friend or your dog), join a gym, try a free fitness app on your phone, or take up a new sport like golf or swimming. The goal is to get moving and the more you start to feel better, the more you will want to keep going!
  • Avoid: Making too many resolutions that you won’t be able to keep. For success: Remember that health is a year-round, long-term journey. Start with small obtainable goals or habits to change and as those become a normal part of life, then you can add more goals.

Remember, if you encounter a setback, don’t stop working toward your goal. Make a fresh start the next day and keep reaching for your goals!

Healthy Holiday Alternatives

Healthy Holiday Alternatives

The holidays are a time to enjoy food, friends and family (even if it is over Zoom this year).  With the many yummy treats this time of the year, it is no wonder most people gain a few pounds over these holiday months. One way to save some calories is to use recipe alterations to cut down on extra fat and sugar. Remember to balance your food intake and energy output; adding in exercise, like a family walk after dinner, will help keep the extra pounds away.

Here are some healthy holiday alternatives to try this holiday season: 

  • Choose the white meat over dark meat for a leaner healthier option. 
  • Use low-fat gravy.
  • Make homemade sides instead of store bought or boxed sides.
  • Swap the sour cream in your dishes with Greek yogurt. Many holiday dishes have sour cream—mashed potatoes, casseroles and sauces. These can instantly be made healthier by subbing in an equal amount of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt will also add some protein to the dish.
  • Make sure to snack on fruits and vegetables rather than candies and desserts.
  • Eat a meal before the party so you do not over indulge during the party.
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday foods in moderation.
  • Mashed potatoes- just know that a cup of mashed potatoes, before butter and gravy, racks up more than 200 calories. Cut calories and empty carbs by making mashed cauliflower instead. They offer same texture and similar flavor, plus vitamin C.
  • Sparkling water- Cocktails are usually offered at holiday parties and meals. Try replacing a sugary mixer with sparkling water flavored with fresh grated ginger, mint or fruit.  These options can save you about 30 grams of sugar per serving. Don’t forget to drink water in between cocktails.
  • Fat. For baked goods, use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce or prune puree. Ripe mashed bananas and avocados are also excellent butter replacers. Bananas add nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. Avocado puree has the creaminess and subtle flavor that works well to the texture of fudge brownies and dark chocolate flavorings. Use 1 cup of mashed bananas or avocado puree per cup of butter. 
  • Sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half. Instead, add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to add sweetness.
  • Chocolate cake makes a great choice to sneak in pureed veggies like beets, pumpkin and spinach!
  • Whole wheat flour for white flour. In virtually any baked good, replacing white flour with whole wheat can add a whole new dimension of nutrients, flavor, and texture. For every cup of white flour, substitute 7/8 cup of whole-wheat. If buying rolls or bread, look for 100% whole wheat. 
  • Two egg whites for one whole egg. Trading out the yolk for a second white will cut out the cholesterol while doubling the protein. If making a dish that requires more eggs, keep one to two yolks for their rich vitamins A, E, D, and K content, but consider swapping out the rest.
Diabetes Awareness Month

Improve your Diabetes Awareness

There are several types of diabetes, but the most common are Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

-Type 1 can occur in anyone at any age. It happens when the body does not produce insulin. Usually the body would break down carbohydrates that you have eaten in food and use that for energy. Then it uses insulin, which is a hormone, to get those nutrients into the cells. Type 1 is managed with insulin therapy along with a healthy diet and exercise.

– Type 2 diabetes is more common, and it is when your body cannot use the insulin correctly. Sometimes this disease can be managed with a healthy diet and exercise, but for others, medication and insulin therapy are needed. The key component of managing this disease is exercise. It does not matter how you get started but you have to get up and start moving!

-Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. The exact cause is not known on why some women develop it and others do not. One theory concludes that the hormones of the placenta prevent the mother’s insulin from working correctly and make it more difficult for her body to use it properly, which is called insulin resistance. Another theory is that the mother’s body cannot produce enough insulin it needs throughout the pregnancy. This causes glucose to be unable to leave the blood and convert to energy; a buildup called hyperglycemia. Treatments for this type of diabetes include individualized meal plans, exercise, and sometimes daily blood sugar testing and insulin injections.

No matter what kind of diabetes you or a loved one may have, it is important to remember that you are not alone and that there are treatment options available that will allow you to live a long, happy and healthy life. 

Take this quick test from the American Diabetes Association to see if you or a loved one is at risk for developing diabetes:

https://www.diabetes.org/risk-test