Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Eat Your Veggies…For Dessert

Individuals have been trying to solve the dilemma for years: how do you incorporate more vegetables into your daily diet? Main meals and snacks are challenging enough, but what about dessert? The idea has recently become a trendy addition to the dessert trays at restaurants. Now, you can prepare these healthier desserts right at home.


How did the idea of adding vegetables to desserts get started?

Dessert staples such as Carrot Cake and Zucchini Bread have been around for ages. In fact, rumor has it Sweet Potato Pie was a favorite of Elvis Presley back in the ‘60s. Using vegetables such as eggplant in desserts actually has its “roots” in a variety of cultures such as Italian and Indian.  The recent resurgence of the trend is probably based on a creative chef’s desire to add a twist to a dish.


What are the benefits of adding vegetables to desserts?

Additional vitamins, antioxidants and fiber in your diet
Helps get you and your family your five servings of daily vegetables
Interesting, new flavor combinations
In some instances, a crunchier texture, a nice change for dessert
For baked goods, vegetables can add moistness to the dessert

Author of The Sneaky Chef, Missy Chase Lapine, has built a successful business based on the idea of hiding healthy foods, often in the form of purees, in kids’ meals. The idea of adding healthy foods in unexpected places is backed by solid findings. According to a Penn State study, research shows that preschoolers consumed twice as many vegetables and 11% fewer calories just by eating their favorite foods, enhanced with fruits and vegetables.

Types of easy desserts using vegetables:

1. Baked: cakes, muffins and cookies. Check out this recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies.
2. Prepared: puddings, ice cream and Icy Hot Chocolate, to name a few.
3. Raw: Carrot “Cake” is a great example. Find a delicious recipe here.

How to use vegetables for healthier desserts:

When you’re just starting, it’s advisable to follow healthy food recipes for desserts. You can find a variety of dessert recipes that include vegetables online.
As you become more familiar with the art of preparing desserts with vegetables and legumes, you can start to modify recipes yourself.
Invest in a good cookbook or conversion guide for assistance.
Be creative and have fun. Turn the challenge of making fun desserts into a family activity!

Hints for healthy food recipes using vegetables:

Look for flavor combinations that offset each other for better taste. For example, in Beet-Berry Cakes, the earthy, distinct taste of the beet is subdued by the sweetness of the berries.
Seek out recipes where vegetables are steamed or added raw to keep fat to a minimum and increase nutritional value.
Consider texture, taste and smell when incorporating vegetables into desserts. Spinach Brownies might smell and taste fine, but the texture of raw or steamed spinach might not be appetizing to you or your kids.

Even if dessert ideas like Parsnip Pudding or Turnip Tarts doesn’t sound appetizing initially, experiment with some recipes and you just might find a new way to sneak veggies into your family’s diet.  Enjoy!

Be Wize & Be Healthy
-FamilyWize

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Keeping Your Brain Young

Maintaining brain health is an important aspect of overall healthy aging. While the brain ages naturally, there are steps you can take to help assist with keeping your mind healthy and sharp.


Steps to keep your brain young:

According to www.healthharvard.edu, the following can help you maintain a healthy brain.

Stimulate your mind. Read, take courses, or engage in crafts, especially those that require hand-eye coordination, such as drawing or knitting.
Socialize with others or play with a pet. Studies show interaction with others is helpful in maintaining a healthy brain.
Engage in physical activity. Exercise has been proven to help you think clearly, aids in the development of new nerve cells, increases oxygen to the brain, and enhances helpful brain chemicals.
Choose a healthy diet.


Eating to keep your brain young:

1. A reduced caloric intake has been linked to a lower risk of mental decline.

2. Gets enough of the Bs. Consuming folic acid, B6 and B12 has been linked to a lower likelihood of developing dementia.  Foods such as leafy green vegetables, garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, and chicken contains vitamin Bs.

3. Eat eggs. They’re a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin D, all great nutrients for your brain. Eggs are also packed with choline, which is essential to memory.

4. Consume omega-3 fatty acids. Found in fatty fish, omega-3s help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Individuals with higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have less of a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.

5. Eat more berries. Strawberries and blueberries are high in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and protect brain cells from stress.





Mind exercise to keep your brain young:

Like your body, your brain needs to be exercised, strengthened, and challenged to remain young, according to www.helpguide.org. Here are some examples of mind exercises to try:

Practice mnemonic devices. Pronounced “nemonic,” these exercises are clues that help with memorization. An example is visual imaging, associating an image with a word or name to remember. When you meet someone whose last name sounds like bird, find a way to associate that person with a bird, and you’ll have an easier time remembering the name. For more mnemonic devices, check out this link
Laugh. Laughter engages multiple regions across the brain, which is beneficial to brain health. In addition, listening to jokes and anticipating punch lines activates areas of the brain involved with learning.
Step out of your routine. Simply driving home by taking a different route or performing your daily tasks in a different manner can be beneficial to your mind.

Additional tips for maintaining a healthy brain:

Focus. Pay attention when learning something new or performing a task.
See it, hear it, and write it. Similar to how you learned when you were in school, the more ways you experience an idea, the more likely you are to remember it.
Learn in intervals. Don’t cram information into your brain, as many students do before exams. Instead, review what you’re trying to remember and rehearse it at different intervals. This style of absorbing information helps the brain process and retain better.


Experts agree that by following these simple steps, you can help keep your brain young, reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and stay sharp for many years to come.

Live Healthy & Live Smart
-FamilyWize

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