Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fast Dinners for the Busy and Frazzled

Recently, I’ve written about fast and easy meals for breakfast and lunch, and dinner can just as simple! At the end of a busy workday, the drive-through is tempting. And grabbing takeout is so much easier than making a meal at home. But don’t give up: with a little forethought, you can enjoy yummy dinners with little prep and even less guilt.

If you are not a fabulous cook, don’t worry: there are simple meals you can make, even if you don’t know the difference between a tablespoon and a serving spoon. So let’s dig in and get to the good stuff!


The three part approach. Dinner doesn’t have to be complex. So use a simple formula: protein, vegetable w/fat, and starch. You might choose to throw chicken thighs on the grill (protein), make small side salads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (vegetable w/fat), and add a couple of corn cobs to the grill (starch). If you aren’t someone who loves to grill, how about baked pork chops, microwaved frozen vegetables with butter, and a side of basmati rice? These meals will take very little time, and you’ll enjoy the payoff.

One-skillet meals. And no, these don’t have to be a boxed meal! Toss some cubed chicken in a hot skillet with some coconut oil. When the chicken is cooked through, add a bag of frozen (or fresh) vegetables of your choice. Stir until the vegetables are cooked, then add some leftover white or brown rice, and cook until all is hot. Add some soy sauce, and you’ve got a stir-fry. And there are so many one-skillet options (check some out here, here, and here).

Manage your time. I’ve been caught off-guard several times, when work demands outwitted my time management. By taking an hour or two on your day off, you can prepare a meal that you can pop in the freezer for later that week. You might consider meal-planning services, which can make eating healthier a little easier.

Keep a list of emergency go-to’s. Sometimes when we give up and get fast food, it derails our healthy plan for the rest of the week. But it doesn’t have to! Healthy options are out there, even on the go! Look for restaurants like Chipotle, Muscle Maker Grill, even Subway. Ethnic restaurants often provide vegetable-laden dishes that you can swing by and pick up. While making food at home may be ideal, some moments in life don’t allow us the time. So rather than get frustrated and eat junk food, grab something healthy and enjoy!

Don’t forget to check out my post about crockpots for more easy dinner ideas, and you can always swap breakfast or lunch ideas for dinner! 

Schedules get busy, and the challenge of eating healthy can seem impossible. But with some planning, you can embrace eating healthy while still living your life. So don’t give up! And let us know in the comments what works best for you and your family.

Contributing Writer

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Importance of the Lymphatic System



The lymphatic system is a system of the body that’s often overlooked. Yet, it plays an important role in the function of the immune system, aiding the body in fighting infection, diseases and more. Read on to learn more about this important system, how to keep it functioning properly and signs it’s not working.





What is the lymphatic system?

The lymphatic system, also called the lymph system, is a system of the body composed of clear, watery fluid, called lymph.

How does the lymph system function?

By collecting fluid, debris and other things in the body’s tissue, the system helps the body fight against infection, viruses, bacteria and fungi.  In addition, proper drainage of the lymphatic system prohibits swelling from occurring in the body. The system plays an important role in immune system function.

Where is the lymphatic system located?

The lymphatic system is located throughout the body. Organs that contain lymphoid tissue include:

Lymph nodes
Tonsils
Spleen
Thymus
Appendix
Bone marrow
Heart
Lungs
Intestines
Liver
Skin

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands located throughout the lymph system, which filter harmful substances from the body. They tend to cluster in regions throughout the body. Large clusters of lymph nodes are in the armpits, neck and groin areas.  Swollen lymph nodes most often are a sign of infection. The most common reason for swollen lymph nodes in the neck is viral upper respiratory infections, typically associated with the common cold.

What diseases are associated with the lymphatic system?

According to www.kidshealth.org,

Lymphadenopathy: A condition that causes swollen or enlarged lymph nodes due to a nearby infection. Throat infections, for instance, can cause swollen glands in the neck. The swelling usually subsides once the infection is properly treated.

Lymphadenitis: This ailment is usually caused by a bacterial infection. The disorder is treated with antibiotics.

Lymphomas: A type of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes.

Splenomegaly: This disorder is also known as an enlarged spleen. It is typically caused by a viral infection such as mononucleosis.  In rare cases, the cause is cancer.

Tonsillitis: An infection of the tonsils, the lymph tissue in the back of the mouth at the top of the throat. It is usually associated with a sore throat, fever and difficulty swallowing. Repeated incidents of tonsillitis may require the removal of the tonsils, a tonsillectomy.

How can you keep the lymphatic system functioning properly?

Experts suggest exercise helps keep the lymph system working properly. In some instances, slant boards or inversion units are used. These devices allow you to hang upside down, stimulating the lymph system. Finally, a procedure called lymphatic drainage may be used in rare cases, such as for lymphedema.

What is lymphatic drainage?

Lymphatic drainage is a hands-on procedure, similar to massage, that encourages movement of stalled lymph in the body. As with any treatment, always speak to your health provider before undergoing lymphatic drainage.

Where can you learn more?

Visit www.cancer.org or www.training.seer.cancer.gov for additional information on this system.

Be Wize and Be Healthy
- FamilyWize

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lunch Woes Solved!

September 2, we talked about fast and simple breakfast options to avoid skipping our morning meal. And while the first meal of the day is important for our health, so is lunch! In addition to the physical benefits – raised blood sugar and fresh energy – there are mental benefits as well. Taking a break out of your day reduces stress and allows for a mental recharge. And your midday meal doesn’t have to be complicated to be nourishing and delicious.


So first, some quick rules for lunchtime to make sure you get the full benefit.
  • Sit down – avoid eating while standing up. Sitting down allows your parasympathetic system to take over, improving digestion and relaxing your body.
  • Avoid eating at your desk – the temptation is to hide in our cave, at times. While there may be times when you do not have choice, try to get out of the office. If the sun is out, grab some extra napkins and enjoy a picnic outside. But even enjoying your meal in the office break room is an improvement.
  • Breathe deeply – This might seem like an odd reminder, but we can go all day without taking a deep breath. And breathing is critical for our best health. So take a moment, before and after your meal, to inhale deeply, and slowly exhale.
Now, onto some delicious recipes that can make your lunch healthy and enjoyable! Somewhere along the way, we embraced the sandwich as the only noon-meal option. Well, we left some room for the salad, but otherwise, we’ve limited ourselves to protein between two slices of bread. Let’s branch out!

Bento box – this is a new craze that is surprisingly easy and fun. Whether you take advantage of leftovers, or simply use fresh foods to create your meal, bento boxes offer an opportunity to have a different lunch daily. So pick up a few and see what you think!

Veggie wrap – so if a sandwich is hard to give up, try a twist. Take a large whole grain wrap, add a thin layer of homemade mayo or dressing, layer some low-sodium deli meat, then top with a few slices of cheese or avocado, and a handful of spring lettuce leaves or kale. You can wrap it up in foil for easy transport.

Stews and soups – okay, so this one requires a teeny bit of prep time, but not as much as you think! Often, Sundays offer the best opportunities to prepare food, but find what works best for your schedule. Depending on the recipe, stews and soups can take less than a half hour to prepare, and then you can forget about your food until you pack it up for the week. Check out my article on slow cookers for some great recipe suggestions.

Flexibility – I know, flexibility is not an actual food idea, but it’s still critical to making sure you are able to eat. Some days, the stars will not align. Life will not provide enough time to make a healthy lunch. But there are other options, including picking better choices at fast food restaurants, enjoying a potluck with coworkers, and (gasp!) letting go of the worry and indulging on occasion. When you’ve created good habits in your life, you can afford to step outside the lines now and then.

We may miss meals because of too little time, not enough options, and lack of ideas. But you don’t have to feel frustrated or trapped. Make small changes – perhaps start with only one lunch per week. And baby-step your way into your healthier habits.

What recipes have worked best for your lunches? Share them down below!


Contributing Writer 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The MRSA threat – how can you keep your family safe?

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is an infection caused by a strain of bacteria known as staphylococcus, commonly referred to as a staph infection.  MRSA is resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat staph infections, which is how the “methicillin (a form of penicillin)-resistant” part of the name was derived.

Only 4 out of 10,000 people develop the infection each year, according to the most recent statistics. However, 20 percent of patients with serious MRSA infections die.

What are the types of MRSA?

There are two types of MRSA infections:

1. HA-MRSA: Healthcare-associated MRSA commonly occurs after a hospitalization or stay in another type of healthcare setting.
2. CA-MRSA: Community-associated MRSA occurs among healthy people. This type of infection often begins as a painful skin boil. It is most often seen among student athletes and childcare workers.

What does it mean to be “colonized”?

The terms colonized refers to carrying the MRSA bacteria on your skin or in your nose, but showing no signs or symptoms of the illness. You may become colonized in two ways:

1. By touching the skin of another individual who is colonized with MRSA.
2. By touching a surface, such as a phone, counter top, or door handle, contaminated with MRSA.

What are the signs of MRSA?

Small red bumps resembling pimples, boils, or insect bites, specifically those from a spider, may form on your skin.
The skin lesions may be painful.
You may develop a fever in addition to the skin lesions.

How is MRSA spread?

The bacteria associated with MRSA enter the body through a cut or other wound.

How can you protect against MRSA?

Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water. Instruct your children how to effectively do the same.
Keep any wounds, such as cuts and scrapes, clean and covered until they heal completely.
Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
Wipe down exercise equipment, sports equipment, and uniforms before using.
See a physician if you or a family member develops an unusual bump, bite, or boil on your skin.

How is MRSA diagnosed?

Skin infections can be tested by culture.
Infections of the joints, bone, lungs, or other areas require blood tests and an X-ray, CAT scan, echocardiogram or other type of imaging study.

Treatment options for MRSA:

Incision and drainage of skin lesions by a healthcare provider.
Non-penicillin antibiotic treatment.
Intravenous therapy, if hospitalized.
Instruction for careful management of the infection within your household to avoid spreading of the infection.

What is MRSA such an issue for students, especially athletes, and otherwise healthy individuals?

Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) is becoming a more common health concern. Experts believe the overuse of antibiotics for treating a variety of health conditions has led to the increase in CA-MRSA cases in recent years.

Where can you learn more?

Sources of information regarding MRSA for this post include:
www.cdc.gov
www.mayoclinic.org
www.nim.nih.gov

These websites provide valuable information and updates regarding MRSA.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Breakfast: the Fast and the Simple

We know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Your morning meal jumpstarts your metabolism, leads to healthier food choices throughout the day, and let’s be honest: it can be yummy! But fitting it in is challenging, and often, cheap, sugary pastries are faster.

Tempting though it may be, saving time by skipping breakfast isn’t ideal, either. We end up cranky, hungry, and our metabolism slows down during times of fasting – and we definitely don’t want that. So rather than miss our morning meal, or eat foods that aren’t a great choice, why not try some quick and easy recipes that will leave you full, nourished, and ready to take on your day?


For those who enjoy hot breakfast options:

Egg cups – think you don’t have time to get in some amazing protein? Think again! You can cook your eggs and still have time to eat them. And they don’t have to be boring, either. Check out this egg cup recipe along with some delicious variations. And if you love a side of bacon with your eggs, don’t forget that you can microwave bacon. Or if you have a toaster oven, pop a few slices in and set the timer! (Baked bacon is amazingly crisp!)

Quick frittata (or quiche) – this is an easy breakfast that you can make on Sunday evening to last you throughout the week. A frittata is a crustless quiche, so they are simple to whip up without much fuss. This recipe calls for a skillet, but you can also make them in muffin pans. Feel free to get creative with this dish – the more ingredients you add, the richer the flavor.

Oatmeal – If you are a fan of the sticky, textured taste of oats, fear not! There are other options out there besides the often sugar-laden instant oatmeal packets. And it doesn’t have to take precious morning minutes on the stove. Overnight oatmeal recipes abound. Feel free to warm your oatmeal in the microwave, if you prefer.

For those who like the cold – or on the go – breakfast options:

Greek yogurt Рwhile a small container of Greek yogurt by itself might not hold you over all morning, combined with fruit and some granola, it can be quite filling. While yogurts often contain quite a bit of sugar, you can buy plain yogurt, throw it in your blender with some frozen fruit and sweetener of choice, and voilà! You have a fruit-flavored yogurt.

Healthy muffins – What?! Muffins that are healthy and don’t come wrapped in cellophane? Baked goods are an American staple for breakfast, but the ones you buy at the convenience store have questionable ingredients, are high in sugar, and offer little to no nutrients. But try these high-protein banana bread muffins, and you’ll be converted! These can be made on Sunday night, so you have a ready-made breakfast throughout the week.

Homemade cereal – the upside: lots of healthy ingredients and a super crunch. The downside: they require some planning. Nonetheless, with a half hour or so set aside on Sunday (perhaps while you are catching up on your DVR recordings!), you can create some pretty amazing cereal. Love nuts? This easy, crunchy cereal might be perfect. If you prefer recipes without nuts, try this grain-free, nut-free version.

Breakfast can be tough to include when you are rushing around in the morning, but with a bit of planning, you can eat a healthy, satisfying, tasty meal, and start your day off right.


What are your favorite quick and easy recipes for breakfast?

Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Call That Kills–A Deadly Link Between Cell Phones & Cancer

For years, scientists thought — but couldn’t prove – a connection between mobile phone usage and health risks.  That just changed.  And where did they find the smoking gun? In our spit!

How researchers concluded that heavy cell phone use increases cancer risk


In a recent study, scientists tried once again to identify the cellphone/cancer connection – a link that circumstantial evidence has always supported but that had previously proved elusive when put to the test of formal research.  While earlier scientific efforts did not disprove a link between mobile phones and cancer, results had always  been labeled “inconclusive” – as possibly carcinogenic to humans, as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  The precise question, in scientific terms is this; do low intensity radio frequency electromagnetic fields associated with cell phone use negatively affect human cells? 

This time, scientists took an entirely new tack.  Since the mobile phone spends a great deal of its time against our cheeks when we make a call, could there be a measurable effect on the salivary gland (where your spit comes from) of those who use mobile phones heavily, since the gland is located right where the phone rests during the call? 

To test this, researchers comparatively measured saliva content between heavy-cellphone users and a control group comprised of deal cellphone users.  Since the deaf primarily use mobile phones for texting, and thus rarely or never use a phone at their ear, the scientists deemed them to be an ideal control group. 
The study patients in the heave-usage group were all using their mobile phones at least eight hours monthly, and up to 30-40 hours monthly.  The salivary content of the control group and the salivary content of the heavy cellphone users were in fact significantly different, with heavy increases in the heavy-usage group – indicative of oxidative stress. Their findings, reported in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, identified a clear link between heavy cellphone use and oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress and how it suggests a cancer link
You may recall from our articles What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway and What the Heck Are Antioxidants Anyway, that the human body, like just about everything in nature, oxidizes.  In humans, this oxidation (damaging or aging) often occurs at the cellular level, where oxidative stress can generate cellular and genetic mutations, leading to tumors.

Thus, while scientists in this study did not witness cancer cells form in the test subjects, they did identify that the saliva glands were stressed at the cellular level, which would likely increase the risk of tumor development. 

What you can do to protect yourself


First: check your monthly phone usage with your phone service carrier, as there is no need for alarm if you are not using a cellphone to the same degree as the test subjects (more than eight hours per month).  If you are in fact a heavy user, then it’s time to take protective measures to reduce your health risk from cellphone usage.

Two factors seem to increase risk, and they are both factors you can control: cell phone position and frequency/duration of cell phone usage:
  • The study specifically identified high-usage mobile phone users as those at greatest risk.
  • In the study, researchers compared equal amounts of heavy cell phone use between those who are deaf and those who are not. Those who are deaf did not exhibit the same disconcerting effect from heavy cell phone usage. The difference seems to be entirely in how a deaf person uses a cell phone – for handheld texting, not for talking and listening. In other words, they were not affected because they didn’t keep the cell phone at their ear when using it.
Based on these two factors, the advice is simple; reduce hours of phone usage and/or get the phone away from your head.  Tips to help you do this:
  • Use a headset – wireless or otherwise – when you are using your mobile phone. By doing so, you are putting a lot of space between your head in those incoming/outgoing radio signals. There has been no health risk link identified with using a headset.
  • Even better, use a speakerphone, which allows you to be completely untethered from electronics while making phone calls.
  • Push out when you reach out. If you are making and receiving calls with your mobile phone at your ear, at least make a point of pulling the phone away from your head during the moments of phone connection. Research has shown that the potentially harmful radio waves are strongest while your phone is making the connection. Even pulling the phone a couple of inches away from your head can significantly reduce electromagnetic field exposure risks.
  • Use a landline. Many people use a mobile phone at work and at home even when they have a landline alternative. Whenever possible, choose to make your phone call from a landline since landline phones do not have the same low intensity radio frequency electromagnetic field risks.

Learn more

To find out more about this study and the potential cancer risks of cell phone usage, you can download and listen to a WNEW (a CBS radio affiliate in Washington, DC) lively interview with Doctor Hamzany, who discusses the research in detail:  Part 1 and Part 2.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Celebrate National Dog Day!

August 26th is recognized as National Dog Day. This special day acknowledges the importance family dogs have in our lives and recognizes working dogs that protect and serve on a daily basis. Celebrated since 2004, National Dog Day is also known as International Dog Day and Dog Appreciation Day.



What is National Dog Day?

Recognizes the special role family dogs play.
Acknowledges working dogs of all kinds – search and rescue, K-9 law enforcement partners, service dogs, therapy dogs, and more.
Encourages adoption over purchasing. If purchasing, promotes reputable breeders over pet stores, backyard breeders, or puppy mills.

How can you participate in National Dog Day?

Donate to your local shelter or a rescue organization of your choice.
Adopt a furry friend who needs a home. Check out www.humanesociety.org for a list of shelters in your area.
Organize an event, and encourage attendees to bring their dogs.
Educate others regarding the importance of rescuing animals and respecting pets.
Volunteer with your family at a local shelter. This is a great family activity to do on an ongoing basis.
Treat your own dog to a new toy or special treat.

How do you know if/when adopting a dog is right for your family?

1. Consider the ages of your children. Ask yourself if your children are old enough to share in the responsibility of a pet and/or if they can tolerate the activity and behavior of a dog.
2. Evaluate your family’s lifestyle. How much time do you have for a pet? Are you a young, active family? Or, are you a retiree who desires more of a companion?
3. Recognize the financial commitment. Aside from any initial adoption fee, you’ll want to consider ongoing costs for veterinary care, food, training, and pet supplies.

What are the benefits of owning a dog?

According to helpguide.org, dogs can offer you many benefits on a daily basis, including:

1. A pet can help you make healthy lifestyle choices. Activities such as walking a dog or throwing a ball can increase your daily activity and encourage a healthier lifestyle.
2. A dog can help alleviate isolation and loneliness. Especially for individuals living alone, dogs can help reduce likeliness of depression.
3. A furry friend can help instill a sense of responsibility and routine in your life. This can be especially beneficial to children.

Where can you adopt a dog?

Local shelters.
Rescue groups, which may be breed specific but can also offer mixed breeds.
Friends/acquaintances.  Often, individuals find themselves giving up a dog due to a change in their lifestyle – living arrangement, new baby, or work, for instance. In some cases, you can find a great rescue through word-of-mouth.

What is the adoption process?

Application.
Application fee may be applicable.
Home visit to determine if your household meets the requirements and ensure you understand the specific needs of the dog.
Approval/denial.

Where can you learn more about National Dog Day?

Check out these websites for more information and great ideas to help celebrate this special day:

www.aspca.org
www.nationaldogday.com

Be Wize & Be Healthy (that means you too, dogs!)
-FamilyWize