Foods to Help Adults & Children Sleep

During certain times in our lives, we’re under stress.  It may be hard to sleep and unwind when we get into bed at night.  Or what about the active toddler?  Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Warm milk – contains calcium & the amino acid tryptophan which has a sedative effect – the calcium helps the body use tryptophan more efficiently
  • Banana – converts to serotonin & melatonin which promote sleep, and also contains magnesium which helps muscles relax
  • Oatmeal – also converts to melatonin, and also contains B6 which increases serotonin levels

So, if you or your child like to have a little snack before bedtime, try one of these and see if it helps.  Better yet, try two or all three of them.

 

Keep Exercising this Time of Year!

This time of year is so hard for maintaining weight.  We are having Christmas snacks every day this week at the school where I teach plus three days next week.  I can just see the scales now!  One thing I am doing is trying to stop and walk at the mall three times a week on my way home from school to get some exercise.  That’s got to help a little bit.

Some people might get yoga socks and some exercise clothes to wear while working out.  Some might go for a nice, long walk outside or at the mall like I do.   The main thing is to keep moving, stretching, and exercising.

Roll-A-Bout Knee Walkers

If you’ve ever had a loved one who’s had to use a walker or maybe is using one now, you know how invaluable that walker can be. My dear sweet mother had to use one, and we were so thankful she had a good one.

Recently, I read about a roll about walker which is the coolest thing. If someone has hurt one foot or leg and has to stay off of it for a period of time, they can use a roll-about knee walker which means they don’t have to use crutches. That sounds so much better!

I’ve never had to use crutches but I’ve tried to walk with them a few times when friends had to use them. I must admit that I’m not a fan of crutches at all! This roll-about knee walker sounds so much better!

Holiday Food Safety Tips

These tips are from NSF International (a nonprofit organization that is committed to protecting public health and safety by developing standards and certifying products against those standards).

At the store…

Shop inside to outside. Most grocery stores have their nonperishable products in the center of the store and their perishable products around the outside perimeter.

o Tip: When shopping, go to the center and get your nonperishable items first, such as canned and dry goods, and then gather your refrigerated, frozen foods and hot deli items last – right before checkout. This will ensure that hot foods stay hot and that frozen items stay cold, even in your vehicle trunk on the way home.

In the kitchen…

Start with a clean kitchen. The holidays usually mean more cooks in the kitchen, increasing the risk for cross contamination. According to a recent NSF germ study, the kitchen is the germiest place in most homes, especially the kitchen sponge and sink area — items that are typically used in multiple stages of the cooking and cleaning process.

o Tip: Avoid spreading germs and bacteria by placing wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes at least once per day — and especially after coming into contact with raw meat, poultry or fish juices or dirt from produce — and replace often. Using towels and rags that can be sanitized in the clothes washer’s hot water cycle is a good alternative to sponges.

o Tip: Disinfect the sides and bottom of your kitchen sink regularly (1–2 times per week) and after any food prep activities where raw meat, poultry or fish juices or dirt from produce may have touched the sink surface.

Don’t attempt to thaw frozen food (even a turkey) by leaving it sit overnight on a kitchen counter. Use one of the following methods instead:

o Tip I: Refrigerator Method (allow 4-5 hours per pound). Keep the meat in its original wrapper and place in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. Plan to cook the meat within 1 to 2 days of thawing when using this method.

o Tip II: Cold Water Thawing (allow about 30 minutes per pound). Place the meat in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge the wrapped meat in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the meat is thawed. Cook the meat immediately after it has thawed.

o Tip III: Microwave Thawing (check your owner’s manual for maximum size meat you can thaw, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing). Remove all outside wrapping and place the meat on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Any meat thawed in a microwave must be cooked immediately.

Don’t wash your meats. There’s no need to wash meats before cooking. If you do so, bacteria can splash onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill bacteria.

o Tip: If you choose to brine meat, don’t rinse the meat item after soaking. Rather, remove the meat item from the brine water, place on a platter and brush any excess salt or other seasonings off the meat. If disposing of the used brine water down the kitchen drain, be sure to immediately clean and disinfect the sink and any other nearby surfaces that may have come into contact with the used brine or raw meat juices.

Avoid cross contamination: In the excitement of cooking a large meal, bacteria can easily spread between foods if proper food handling procedures aren’t followed. 

o Tip: Use color coded cutting boards to distinguish between surfaces used for raw meats and vegetables. After using utensils that have come in contact with raw meat, wash them in hot soapy water or put them directly into the dishwasher.

o Tip: Wash your hands frequently, especially after handling uncooked meats or when switching from one food type to the next.

 Don’t stuff your meats. As mishandled or undercooked stuffing can lead to foodborne illness, consider cooking your stuffing separately in a casserole dish to help ensure meats and vegetables are thoroughly cooked.

o Tip: If you choose to stuff meat, wait to do so until right before putting your meat in the oven. Use only pre-cooked meats and vegetables in the stuffing mixture and cook the stuffing until it reaches at least 165° F. Do not stuff whole poultry with cooked stuffing.

Serving food . . . .

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Since bacteria grow the quickest when temperatures are between 40º F and 140º F, keep perishable foods refrigerated or iced down until just before serving, and keep hot foods above 140º F once fully cooked.
o Tip: Cover dishes with lids or foil to help keep food warm longer. If serving a buffet, use chafing dishes or slow cookers to help keep hot foods hot, and nestle cold foods in ice beds to help keep them cool.

When guests are late . . .                             

If guests are scheduled to arrive within the hour, hot food can usually be held safely in the oven.

o Tip: To prevent food from drying out, cover the dishes or wrap with aluminum foil. Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving.

 If guests are delayed for more than an hour, hot foods may dry out if kept in a warm oven for more than an hour.

o Tip: Separate the food in shallow containers and store in the refrigerator. When the guests arrive, reheat the food to an internal temperature of 165° F. Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving.

 When storing leftovers . . . .

Refrigerate leftovers before serving dessert. Bacteria can grow on foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours.

o Tip: Before you sit down to enjoy dessert, put all leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer.

It isn’t necessary to cool food before refrigerating it. Food should be placed into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible to discourage bacteria growth.

o Tip: Separate large quantities of food into several loosely covered shallow containers to speed cooling.  Once cooled, cover the leftovers

 

Tips for Seasonal Allergies

So many people were coughing, sneezing, grabbing for a tissue to wipe their runny nose, and feeling a little “yucky” yesterday at school.  Someone said they heard ragweed pollen is really high right now, so no wonder both kids and adults were having a hard time with allergies yesterday, me included.  What can we do to help alleviate some of the symptoms?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • From TIME Healthland:  “A 2007 study found that children from the Greek island of Crete who ate a Mediterranean diet — high in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts — were less likely to develop allergy and asthma symptoms.”
  • From ABC News:   “Take a break from milk.  Use a HEPA filter.”  During the night is when a lot of people’s allergies are worse, so sleeping with the windows closed and having an air cleaner which uses a HEPA filter is good.
  • Drink green tea!  Green tea is known for it’s antihistamine effect.
  • Eat raw, local honey.
  • Take extra vitamin C .  We use Ester C which has Citrus Bioflavonoids Complex.

Following these tips help me, and hopefully will help someone else as well.

Drug Expiration Dates

Some people throw things out as soon as they expire.  Others keep things years after the expiration date.  What’s the safe thing to do?  According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, the majority of drugs are still safe to use – even 15 years later, but I don’t want to test that out!  According to the Harvard Guide, “Since a law was passed in 1979, drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug.”  In my opinion, I think it would be good to talk to one’s doctor and pharmacist to make sure a particular drug is safe to use.   It’s also good to research several reliable sources.

Healthy Eating: Okra & Its Benefits


I grew up having fresh okra from our garden every summer. Every. Single. Summer!   I learned to love fried okra at an early age, and it became one of my favorite veggies, and when I got older then I even learned to eat it stewed.  I must admit, though, that it took me quite a while to acquire a taste for stewed okra.  Once I got past the slimy texture of it, I really liked it.  Now, okra is one of my very favorite “comfort foods.” I must admit again, though, that “fried” okra is my go to veggie for comfort food, not stewed okra.  Not only is okra a favorite of mine and many other people, it also has many benefits:
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Here are just some of the health benefits contained in okra:

  • Pectin – good for the stomach, digestive system, irritable bowel syndrome, and for high cholesterol, etc.
  • Minerals – such as calcium, magnesium,  manganese, and iron
  • Vitamin A – great antioxidant, good for the immune system, stomach, skin, aids in bone formation, helps to lower cholesterol, and slows the aging process, etc. (hmmm, note to self: I need to eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Vitamin C – great antioxidant, good for the immune system,  stomach, skin, adrenal glands, and aids in the production of anti-stress hormones, etc.
  • Vitamin K – good for the stomach, bone formation, may help prevent osteoporosis, etc.

That’s a lot of green goodness packed into that one vegetable!  So next time you’re choosing veggies, don’t overlook okra!

Free Asthma App Until October 1, 2012


For those of you who have asthma or have children or loved ones with asthma, here is a great Asthma App that is free until the first of October.   You can see from the picture how it keeps track of Rescue Medication, Medication given As Needed, Peak Flow, Wheeze Rate %, and Symptoms.  It also has a Journal for you to record info, Reminders to help you remember Scheduled Medications and Scheduled Measurements, and a place to record your Asthma Action Plan if your doctor has provided one for you.   This is a great deal!  Act now for a totally free app.

Ways to Protect Against Hearing Loss

* Guest post by John O’Connor

Healthy Choices for Healthy Ears

Hearing loss affects people of all ages, with over half, age 60 or older experiencing at least some deficit in hearing.  While some forms of hearing loss can’t be prevented or reversed, many can. With a few simple changes in lifestyle and diet, sensorineural hearing loss – caused by damage to the complex mechanisms that bring sound to the brain – can be prevented or even reversed.

Hearing loss can have conductive or sensorineural causes.  In conductive hearing loss, the hearing mechanism is physically blocked, causing problems with conductivity – the process that brings sounds to the brain.  Some causes of conductive hearing damage include wax buildup, damage to the eardrum, or repeated infections in the middle ear.  Even arthritis in the delicate inner bones of the ear can cause conductive hearing loss.

In many cases conductive hearing loss can be reversed. Infections can be treated, inflammation reduced, or earwax cleared from the ear canal.  But sensorineural hearing loss is often associated with conditions affecting the body as a whole, so changes in diet, lifestyle and even the environment can improve the ear’s ability to transmit sound to the brain.

The ear’s sensorineural apparatus includes the blood vessels, hair cells, membranes, auditory nerve and other mechanisms that receive sound and transmit it to the brain for processing.  Because these highly sensitive parts of the ear are vulnerable to any stresses placed on the body as a whole, healthy lifestyle choices that benefit the whole body also help keep the sensorineural networks of the ear working well. Among the hearing-healthy choices you can make:

Stop Smoking
One way smoking damages the whole body is by constricting blood vessels.  The ears also rely on the body’s blood supply, so smokers’ ears are more likely to function poorly than those of non-smokers.  Smoking also contributes to other whole-body diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease, which can also play a role in hearing problems.

Know Your Medications
A surprisingly wide range of medications can affect the hearing. Nonprescription drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen, antibiotics, anesthetics, heart medications and a variety of other medicines can cause hearing loss or tinnitus, a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears.  In most cases medication induced hearing loss is temporary and stops once the medication is discontinued. However, in some cases the damage may be permanent.

Limit Salt and Other Forms of Sodium
A diet high in sodium can also contribute to hearing loss.  Salt causes the body to retain fluids, which can lead to swelling and puffiness. Sodium can also play a role in the development of hypertension. For both these reasons, a diet high in sodium can damage the ears by causing fluid retention in the ears.

What affects the body as a whole also affects the ears. If hearing loss has reached a severe level, the use of a hearing aid may be able to help better hearing. Being conscious of your health and making smart choices can help ensure healthy hearing.

 

 

 

The Importance of Exercise for Your Health

* Guest post by Jim Rollince.

Exercise is an extremely important activity that should be incorporated in everyone’s daily life. There are many health benefits that come about as a result of getting regular exercise. Individuals who stay active throughout their lives tend to have far more energy and are in better overall condition. It is necessary to explore the various health benefits one can get when exercise is a regular routine in their life.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of exercise on a person’s health is that it helps to keep one’s weight stable. All forms of exercise allow the body to burn calories, some more than others and depending on the level of impact of the workout routine. While calories are burned, weight is kept stable or even lost, which is great if the individual is attempting to shed a few pounds.

Exercise helps a person to maintain a good overall body tone. Physical activities such weight lifting, even with very light weights, can keep your muscles tight and supple and your body in good shape. Walking, bicycling, jogging and other aerobic exercises also work well to tone up the body and keep it strong. Additional benefits of these and other types of exercise are that the individual’s flexibility and stamina are increased.

Getting regular exercise also helps a person to relieve stress more easily. If an individual is feeling depressed or sad, they can quickly find their mood improving overall as a result of working out, running or engaging in some type of sport. Exercise truly has a therapeutic element that can ease both the body and the mind.

When a person incorporates exercise into their lifestyle on a regular basis, they are also improving their overall health. Regular exercise allows the body to function better and helps one to sleep better at night. It can also help to prevent certain diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and more. Additionally, keeping active with exercise on a regular basis will improve a person’s looks as it can delay the process and appearance of aging.

People often make the mistake of believing they have to join a gym to exercise. In reality, many individuals choose to work out at home with home gym equipment, including ellipticals, treadmills and dumbbells. These items are all very effective at enabling people to exercise in the privacy of their home yet still see the same results they would achieve if they were to join a gym.

Exercise is one of the keys to living a healthy and happy life. Of course, anyone who has a medical condition should check with his or her doctor before incorporating a particular exercise routine into his or her daily life, but it is possible to perform a more mild exercise such as walking and maintain great health. Anyone starting a new exercise regimen should also begin slowly so that they can build up their stamina. Eventually, it will be possible to push the body farther, which will ensure maximum health benefits.