Boo! Healthy Halloween Treats For You!

Happy Halloween everybody!  I LOVE Halloween 🙂  Costumes and boisterous kids and, yes, treats.  If you come in to the office on Halloween you’ll see that my office really gets into the spirit.  Nope, I’m not going to tell you what my costume is.  Maybe I’ll post a pic on my Facebook page on Tuesday 🙂

The downside of Halloween is that it starts the snack-food feeding frenzy that doesn’t end until New Year’s Day.  It’s a constant parade of sweets and treats for the next two months.  VERY difficult for those of us who are conscious of our weight and our health.

Fear not!  There are plenty of healthy Halloween treats available!  Here are a few ideas of how to help your kids (and your neighbors) have a happy healthy Halloween!

1.  Dark chocolate:  Dark chocolate is MUCH better for you than milk chocolate.  It has more antioxidants and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

2.  Portion-packs of apple slices, pretzels, raisins, trail mix or nuts.  Make sure to ask if nuts are OK, some children are allergic.

3.  Dried fruit:  Banana chips, freeze-dried strawberries, pineapple, raisins, so many possibilities!  Sweet and MUCH healthier than candy!

4.  Carrot sticks:  Sweet and crunchy, and oh so good for you!  Full of fiber and vitamin A for healthy skin and eyesight.

5.  Popcorn balls:  Also high in fiber, popcorn balls are available at this time of year in factory-sealed packages for trick-or-treaters.

I found an awesome YouTube video from The Vegan View with four different awesome idea for healthy Halloween-themed treats.  These would be great to make with kids.  Check it out!  (And their costumes are so cute!)

Here’s a photo of the most adorable Halloween treats I’ve seen this fall, courtesy of Pinterest!a8947aaa1fb9b9debe8a096ef0561147Make sure you set aside some time to stay active, and eat a healthy meal with the kids before they head out trick-or-treating.  Send the kids out with a SMALL bag and encourage them to take only one piece of candy at each house.  After they get home, consider having them choose their favorites to keep and then have a “candy buy-back” for cash, a gift card, or a special privilege.

Have fun, stay safe, and be healthy!

Question:  Are you planning to take any steps to “limit the damage” to your health this Halloween?  Please share your ideas below!

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Should Everyone Wear Sunglasses (Even Kids)?

A friend of mine mentioned recently that he’s been spending a lot of time at Cedar Point and mentioned he was surprised how few kids wear sunglasses.  All the parents wear sunglasses, especially at the waterpark, but very few of the kids are wearing sunglasses.

Does it matter?  Well, it turns out my friend is right to be concerned.  (And kudos to him, in his pics his absolutely adorable son is always wearing shades!)  According to the Vision Council (an eye care industry group), eye health depends on protecting the eyes from UV radiation.  Many people either are unaware or don’t believe that protecting the eyes from UV radiation from the sun is a critical, year-round concern.

There are 3 types of UV radiation – UVA, UVB and UVC.  UVC is filtered by the earth’s atmosphere and not a concern.  UVB is the type of UV radiation that stimulates vitamin D production in the skin, and is partially filtered by the atmosphere.  This is why those of us in northern Ohio can’t get vitamin D from the sun for the wintry half of the year, the sun is too low in the sky and the rays pass through too much air on the way to us.

The type of UV radiation that is most dangerous to the eye is UVA.  The earth’s atmosphere does NOT filter UVA.  If the sun is in the sky your eyes are being exposed to UVC radiation, no matter what season or time of day it is.  Wearing sunglasses as much as possible is important to protect your eyes when you are outdoors.

Here are 3 common misconceptions about sunglasses and sunglass use.

Kids don’t need sunglasses

Children receive about 3 times as much UV exposure per year as adults.  This is because they generally spend more time outdoors than adults do.  However, only 7.4% of adults report their children always wear sunglasses.

UV radiation damage is cumulative which means it builds up over time.  Damage can lead to aging of the skin, skin cancer, cataracts and damage to the retina.  Beginning in childhood, daily sunglass use will decrease the damage and preserve children’s eye health.

The darker the lens, the better the protection

This is not true.  UVA radiation passes right through lenses no matter what their color.  They must be coated to block UV radiation.  Polarized lenses are even better at blocking the UV rays.

In fact, it could be argued that dark lenses without UV protective coatings are the worst option of all, because they cause the pupils to dilate and allow more UV light through to the retina.

When you go to buy sunglasses check for labels to indicate the protection they give.  Make sure you choose lenses that are labeled as protective against both harmful types of ultraviolet light.

Wearing a hat is good enough

Not true.  While wearing a hat protects somewhat against direct UV exposure, it does nothing to stop REFLECTED UV light.

Credit: visioncouncil.org

So how do we get our kids to keep sunglasses on their face?  Hats are hard enough, right?  First of all, having a child pick out their own sunglasses makes it more likely they will wear them.  Make sure to get good quality glasses that fit the child’s face and don’t pinch or rub.

In addition, polarized lenses are more comfortable from a vision standpoint because they reduce glare and block more light.  Kids are more likely to keep them on because they don’t squint as much and they can see better.

Teenagers typically don’t want to be told what to do.  Make sure they understand they will have less problems with red, irritated bloodshot eyes if they wear sunglasses regularly.  Just like with kids, letting them pick out a couple of pairs of cool sunglasses they like will go a long way towards getting them to wear them regularly.

Kids, teens and adults all need to protect their eyes from harmful ultraviolet radiation.  The fronts of the eyes, the lens and the retina are all susceptible to damage which accumulates over time.  You and your family only get two eyeballs and it’s up to us to protect them!

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How To Take Care Of A Cancer Patient

Most of you know that my husband Russ has been battling multiple myeloma for the last 6 1/2 years.  What you may not know is that although he was in remission without treatment for over 3 years, this summer the cancer unfortunately relapsed.

Of course, as his wife, my focus is doing everything I can to keep him healthy and make this next leg of the journey as successful as possible.  What can I do to help him?  I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned about how to take care of a cancer patient.

The sad reality is that we will all, at some point in our lives have a close friend or family member struggle with a life-threatening illness.  Knowing how to help them is a useful skill and can make us caregivers feel less helpless.

Make sure they eat, drink, get fresh air and rest

Whether you feel like a bully or not is irrelevant.  Cancer patients need to eat.  Simple, fresh, nutritious food that is easy to grab and go should be available all the time.  Keep in mind that cancer treatment often changes the sense of taste.  The patient’s favorite foods may not taste good to them, and they may get weird cravings.  Stay flexible.

Sandwiches, soups, fresh fruit and veggies, oatmeal, scrambled eggs and calorie-dense foods like nuts and nut butters are good choices.  Good fats like avocado hide easily in blender smoothies.  Protein smoothies (non-GMO soy is better than when as a protein source) are a good protein source.  Be careful with meat, it’s hard to digest and may make nausea worse.

Staying hydrated is important.  Water is the best way to hydrate but iced tea is good too and adding lemon or lime juice can make plain water less boring.  Don’t rely on soda because neither added sugar nor artificial sweeteners are healthy choices.  Sports hydration drinks are OK if the patient has diarrhea but choose one that doesn’t have artificial sweeteners or colors (Shaklee Hydrate is my choice!).

Sleep is tough.  Many cancer patients don’t sleep well, because of symptoms, treatment effects and stress.  Talk to their doctor if they’re having trouble sleeping, medications can help.

Also don’t underestimate the importance of getting outside.  Nature is healing and too much hibernation is not good.  Russ’s first outing after being in the hospital in 2011 was to the Yankee Peddler Festival.  Granted, he spent a lot of time holding down benches and tree stumps, and we didn’t stay long, but he was in the fresh air and sunshine, and we were together as a family.

Take care of yourself too

As I’ve written before, one of the first orders of business when you are a caregiver is to take care of yourself.  If you are exhausted you won’t be able to take good care of your loved one.  You can’t pour from an empty cup!

Eat and drink as you should.  Get enough rest.  Get outside, with or without your loved one.  Exercise.  Recharge your batteries by doing what you enjoy as often as you can.

Vent OUT, not IN

Not long ago, I read a really good article that was sort of about the etiquette of being around someone struggling with a serious illness.  I can’t find the article right now, but the gist of it is this.

Imagine a bull’s eye target with the patient in the middle.  Everyone they know is arranged in the rings around them.  Those closest to them, physically and emotionally, are in the smallest rings and as you get farther away you find distant family members, casual acquaintances and those they see in passing.

Their spouse and children are on the smallest ring.  Grown children may be a step out, depending on the relationship.

When you interact with others in relation to the cancer patient, remember that you are on the RECEIVING end from those who are farther in than you are.  For instance, when my mom was sick with breast cancer I had my own fears and anxieties.  My sister and I were terrified we were going to lose our mom.  I didn’t unload on her or my dad about that, though.  My husband or my close friends were my resource to deal with my own fears.  I vented OUT, not IN.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t tell a cancer patient that you’re afraid for them.  You don’t have to be relentlessly cheerful and optimistic all the time.  Just be careful not to add stress to their already overwhelming burden.  When dealing with a cancer patient, your goal is to relieve stress, not increase it.  Let them vent out, take pressure off, don’t increase the pressure.  It’s about them right now, not about you.

Cancer patients have a lot to deal with.  They are juggling treatment schedules, financial worries, physical symptoms and side effects, fears and anxieties.  Some may be continuing to work, like my husband.  They have family responsibilities as well.

There is a lot we can do to support a cancer patient in their journey back to wellness.  Support their health, take care of yourself and find your own support system to help you keep your feet under you.

QUESTION: Did I forget anything?  What has helped you in taking care of person struggling with a serious illness?

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Are Multivitamins Dangerous?

I’ve done a TON of physicals this week, and when I see a patient for a well visit, we always talk about diet.  For most (if not all) humans, the best diet is one full of whole fresh unprocessed plant foods, the more colorful the better.  Limiting meats and other animal-based foods is wise if your goal is to decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease.

Even if you eat healthy, it’s hard to get all the nutrients you need from your food.  I always recommend a good quality multivitamin to my patients.  This week a few people have asked me, are multivitamins dangerous?

It’s common to see reports on the news that vitamin use increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other problems.  If you follow my blog (or talk to me for a few minutes) you know I believe strongly in good nutrition.  So when people are asking if multivitamins are dangerous, I want to reassure them.

Here on my blog I try not to lean on my own opinion too much.  So I went off to the research database, and found a great article published recently that reviewed recent research about the safety of multivitamin supplements.  You can read the article yourself at this link.

So are multivitamins dangerous?  Here are my 3 take-home points from this article:

  • Nutrition should come from food, but our diet is stupid, so taking a multivitamin is a smart harm-reduction method.

There is no multivitamin or supplement that can overcome a bad diet.  Too much processed food, food full of added sugar and fat, and food with artificial ingredients will damage your health.

With that being said, we live in the real world and there are times when we can’t eat a perfect diet all the time.  Even though we live in a country with fresh healthy food available, often it is grown and stored and transported in such a way that the nutrients degrade.  It’s been reported that our food is much less nutritious than it was 50 years ago.

In this day and age, a multivitamin can be sort of like the seatbelt in your car.  You should eat healthy (like you should drive safely) but your daily multivitamin can be a just-in-case safety measure for those crazy days when you just don’t get all the nutrients you need from your food.

  • Comprehensive multi-nutrient supplements (like a good quality multivitamin) are better and safer than single-nutrient supplement

Some research shows that single-nutrient supplements like calcium and vitamin E are associated with higher risk of some diseases.  I don’t recommend people take single-nutrient supplements.  You’re best off taking a comprehensive nutritional supplement program tailored to your specific needs.

For instance, a woman over 60 would need a good quality multivitamin that doesn’t contain iron.  A younger woman of childbearing age would need more iron, more iodine, and more folic acid in her multivitamin.  Someone with migraines or anxiety may need to add a B complex supplement and extra magnesium.  Someone concerned about heart health may want to add fish oil, coenzyme Q10 and extra magnesium.

People are different, and what works for someone else may not work as well for you.

  • There is no consistent evidence that taking a multivitamin increases the risk of cancer, heart disease or stroke.  There ARE suggestions that taking a multivitamin may reduce the risk of health problems in certain populations.  This is really exciting!

Multivitamins have been studied extensively to see if taking them is associated with lots of different medical problems. The research has been pretty neutral in general, with no association with higher OR lower risk of major medical problems.  This may be because multivitamin preparations vary so widely in quality and in what nutrients are contained in them.

A few consistent trends do seem to be present though.  Multivitamins are not associated with a higher risk of cancer.  Some studies have, in fact, shown a lower risk of cancer in people taking a multivitamin.  Researchers are doing more studies to see if they can show lower cancer risk consistently in those taking multivitamins.

Multivitamins also seem to not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, age-related eye disease, mental health and cognitive problems in the elderly, or overall mortality.

So what’s the overall point?  Take your multivitamin every day!  Even if you have a really healthy diet, a multivitamin will help fill in any gaps.  After all, these nutrients affect every cell in your body.  Every cell needs them, every day.

Need help choosing a multivitamin?  I recently wrote about how to choose a multivitamin, so click this link and read up!

You probably already know I use and recommend supplements from the Shaklee Corporation.  Want to see what products would be best for you?  Click this link and answer the questions to get your HealthPrint personalized nutrition assessment.

QUESTION: Do you take a multivitamin?  Do you feel it makes a difference in your health?

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