Meaningful Work And Joyful Play

“What do you do for fun?”

That may sound like a weird question for your doctor to ask you, but what can I say, I’m weird ūüėČ I’ve been doing some training on how to coach for nutrition and lifestyle change, and one thing I read this week really struck me.

Stress depends largely on a balance between meaningful work and joyful play.

So lately I’ve been asking my patients what they like to do for fun. If I’m seeing a patient for depression, chances are good they can’t tell me one single thing they do that they enjoy. One patient went so far as to tell me (tearfully) that she is not getting any fun out of life at all.

We’ll talk about Part Two in a minute, but I want to start by talking about meaningful work. Many of my patients, especially if they struggle with depression, have trouble with seeing their work as meaningful. They feel like they’re punching a clock, going through the motions.

I read once (probably connected with some small-business training or other) that all business boils down to making someone’s life better. Think about that. Why do you open your wallet and spend money? Because you believe that transaction will make your life better. Subscribing to Disney+, buying a new pair of shoes, sending your kids to private school, saving for retirement instead of taking an extra trip this year. Even paying taxes makes your life better (by averting the likelihood of prison for tax evasion)

There was a talk not long ago I attended about improving quality at a big hospital system. The speaker was talking about a time he visited an aircraft carrier. One of the airmen’s job was to clean up the deck. The speaker asked what his job was. He could have said “I’m the janitor,” or “I keep the deck clean.” But that’s not what he said.

When asked what his job was, the speaker said the airman stood up straight, looked him in the eye and said “Sir, I help planes take off and land safely to protect our pilots and further the mission of the United States Navy. Sir.” Wow! That’s a man with a clear idea of how his job makes people’s lives better!

When you go to work every day, your job will feel much more meaningful if you focus on how you are making someone’s life better. I challenge you in the comments to give me a job that DOESN’T make someone’s life better.

On the other side of the coin, no matter how meaningful your work is, you still need to make time for R&R, otherwise you’re courting burnout. My work is extremely meaningful, all of it, from doctoring to my Shaklee business to writing this blog. But if I don’t take time to play, I start to get irritable. I even have found myself feeling cynical.

For me, “play” means lots of things. I hang out with my kids and play video games sometimes. I practice martial arts with my family. I have a number of fiber crafts I love: spinning, crochet, knitting. I read novels. I practice my faith. I sing along with the radio and my music selection on my phone (not always well but with great enthusiasm, LOL). I do all these things to balance my incredibly meaningful but at times extremely stressful work.

In chasing the elusive “work-life balance,” it helps to focus on incorporating both meaningful work and joyful play in every day.

QUESTIONS: Two today! How do you play joyfully every day? And can you think of a job that would NOT make someone’s life better? Don’t pick politicians – that’s too easy ūüėČ

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Picky Eaters: Some Suggestions

“What should I do about my child, he is SUCH a picky eater!”

I hear this a lot in the office.  Parents are struggling to find foods that their child will eat.  Parents cooking several meals every night, one for their child(ren) and one for themselves.

Thanksgiving is a good time to reiterate:¬† this is a mistake.¬† Don’t go there.¬† Just don’t.

When I have a parent struggling with a picky eater, it is exactly that.  A struggle.  A battle.  A fight for control.  The parent trying to control what their child eats.  And the child fighting to control ANYTHING he or she can.

My absolute best suggestion for this situation is to take the fight out of it.  Give the child choices from the time the child can communicate.  Let your child control SOMETHING.  Do you want the red bowl or the blue bowl?  How about the Mickey Mouse plate or the Cars plate?  Do you want to try eating at the table like a big boy or do you want to stay in the high chair?  Straw cup or sippy cup?

As your child gets bigger let them take more control.¬† Ask for help with meal planning.¬† Should Daddy put the corn on the grill or should we cook it on the stove?¬† Do you think green peas or green beans sound better tonight?¬† Especially if it’s a special dinner like Thanksgiving, simple tasks give children a role to play and something to brag about over dinner (“Mommy let me stir the soup into the green beans AND I got to put the onions on top!”)¬† Let them say how much of each item they want on their plate.¬† Not WHETHER they want it, but how much:¬† a little or a lot.

Taking your children to a farmer’s market in the summer and exploring all the really cool and unusual foods is a way to trigger interest in food as well.¬† Ever had muskmelon?¬† I tried it for the first time at forty-two.¬† My six-year-old loved it.¬† We found it at the farmer’s market and it was love at first sample ūüôā¬† Now both my kids (17 and 12 now) are pretty adventurous although my senior is still not a big fan of green things, LOL!

What do you do if you have a bigger picky eater?¬† Suppose your child is twelve and still has only five or six foods on the approved list?¬† That’s a tough one.¬† One of the best suggestions I’ve ever read is to have your child take charge of one meal per week.¬† From meal planning (within limits) to making a list to shopping to cooking (with help), making one meal per week is a great way to expose children to new foods and encourage them to be more adventurous with food.

There are lots of recipe sites and apps out there but my favorite is allrecipes.com. It’s easy to pick an ingredient and search for options.¬† Sure it’s a lot of work to help a tween plan, shop for and cook an entire meal, but they have to learn this skill sometime!¬† After a few weeks I think Mom and Dad will enjoy a dinner “off” once a week, and your child will have a new skill they can be very proud of.

PS – I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything and Jim and Charles Fay’s Love and Logic series of parenting books, which have many very helpful suggestions for curing picky eater syndrome.

QUESTION:  Can you add more suggestions for helping parents with their picky eaters?

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Direct To Consumer Genetic Tests

Sharon is a patient of mine who has a problem with debilitating migraines. She also has osteoporosis in spite of a healthy diet and a ridiculously high level of physical activity. When she read about a genetic test she could purchase online without a prescription, she ordered it. Then she brought the results to me to review.

Many patients order these direct to consumer genetic tests. Are they a good investment? Are the results accurate?

Researchers in the UK recently reviewed the risks and benefits of direct to consumer (DTC) genetic tests. They found that positive results are not always accurate and usually need follow up testing. Sometimes negative results are not accurate either, because they don’t test for more uncommon disease-causing genes.

Suppose a man gets a DTC genetic test and finds he has a gene that increases his risk for Parkinson’s disease. He’s upset because there’s no family history and he knows that’s an awful disease. Worse, he did not realize DTC genetics testing results are not covered by the HIPAA privacy regulation so they can be disclosed to life insurance and health insurance companies. He may wind up paying much higher insurance premiums for the rest of his life for a test result that may not be accurate. Worse, he would likely have anxiety and spend the rest of his life waiting for tremors, memory loss and other PD symptoms to start.

Suppose a woman has a strong family history of breast cancer. Should she get a direct to consumer genetic test to check for the BRCA breast cancer genes? That’s a tough question to answer without knowing the specifics. Did her family members with breast cancer get tested? Were they positive or negative? What would the woman in question do with that information? Would she have her breasts and ovaries removed if she were positive? Would she neglect to have annual mammograms if she were negative?

The best place to have these discussions about genetic testing is with your doctor, and likely with a medical geneticist. A pedigree (chart of family members and their medical history) can be done which can help spot patterns and identify which tests will be most helpful, and most cost effective. You may pay more for the targeted tests you choose to have done, but the results will be more accurate and applicable to your specific situation.

What happened with my friend Sharon? Her test was positive for a genetic variant which makes her body not process folic acid well, which increases the risk of migraines. She needs to take higher supplemental doses of folic acid which help reduce her risk of cardiovascular disease and also help keep her migraines in check. That was really the only useful finding. I usually have my patients with migraine take B vitamin supplements (including folic acid), so did she really get anything from her genetic test?

If you’re considering having a direct to consumer genetic test done, there are 3 things to think about:

  • What are you looking for?
  • What will you do with the information?
  • Are you prepared to have your health and life insurance companies in the future aware of increased genetic risks?

Discuss your reasons for considering a DTC genetic test with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to order a more specific, targeted, accurate test which WILL be HIPAA protected. If you have deeper concerns or a family history of an unusual problem, a medical genetics referral is the best option.

QUESTION: Have you or someone you know done direct to consumer genetic tests? What was your experience?

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Diet Change And Depression

Depression and anxiety are incredibly common symptoms that we see in primary care. It is estimated that 75-90% of visits to doctors are related to problems caused or made worse by stress. I was so excited to see a new study published showing a link between diet change and depression symptoms!

We all have to eat. Most people recognize that our diet has a huge impact on our health. Heart attacks, strokes, cancers, obesity and many other illnesses are impacted by what we eat. Doctors spend a lot of time advising people to eat less sugar, less saturated fat, and more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Many people don’t realize what you eat affects your mood, too! I’ve had great success with nutritional supplements in helping people with depression and anxiety feel better. A new research study has shown a very clear association between diet change and depression as well.

Researchers in Australia studied 76 young adults with depression and anxiety symptoms. They were randomly assigned to two groups – one group got no intervention, and one group got instructions to improve their diet via a 13-minute video they could re-watch whenever they wanted to.

They were instructed to increase their intake of

  • vegetables to 5 servings per day
  • fruits to 2-3 servings per day
  • whole grains to 3 servings per day
  • lean protein (lean meat, poultry, eggs, tofu, legumes) to 3 servings per day (Remember, plant sources are healthier than animal)
  • unsweetened dairy to 3 servings per day
  • fish to 3 servings per week
  • nuts and seeds to 3 tablespoons per day
  • olive oil to 2 tablespoons per day

They were also instructed to take 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon most days. They were to DECREASE their intake of refined carbohydrates, sugar, fatty or processed meats and soft drinks. They were given sample menus and handouts answering common questions as well.

After 3 weeks the average depression questionnaire scores had not changed in the control group, not surprisingly. However, in the diet-change group the scores had returned to normal! And the improvement was maintained when they were rechecked after 3 months.

This study supports what I’ve said for a long time. Depression and anxiety are not just related to stress or genetics. Our nutrition strongly impacts our brains’ ability to manage and cope with stress. A crappy diet predisposes us to depression and anxiety, and we can improve our mood by improving our diet.

If you struggle with stress, depression and/or anxiety, improving your diet is something you can do TODAY. Improving your diet is as effective as medication, and works just as quickly. It also has no side effects! What are you waiting for?!

QUESTION: Do you see a link between how you eat and how you feel?

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Kids And Martial Arts

Do you worry about your kids?  Do you worry that they will grow up overweight and/or obese?  Are you concerned they will be the target of bullies?  Worse, will they BECOME bullies?  Are you seeing a tendency for them to boss their friends and classmates around?  Are they clumsy and prone to injury?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, martial arts training would¬†help. ¬†There is lots of evidence that martial arts training helps children grow up healthy and happy, able to interact comfortably in groups and one-on-one.

My family has participated in martial arts for my children’s whole lives, and over half of my life. ¬†I have seen with my own eyes remarkable results in behavior, self-esteem and self-confidence both in children and adults.

Children with autism-spectrum disorders who have shown improvement in their ability to tolerate touch.  Children with ADHD who are able to meditate quietly for short periods.  Children with little or no self esteem or self confidence who gradually bloom into skilled teachers and leaders on (and off) the mat.

What does the science say? ¬†There are LOTS of scientific studies published on martial arts training in kids. ¬†Kids who study martial arts tend to enjoy physical activity more than those who don’t. ¬†Martial arts is effective for prevention of fall-related injuries.¬†¬†Martial arts training improves¬†creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline.

Martial arts training benefits adults too. ¬†I’ve seen adults with asthma develop vastly better lung function. ¬†Core strength and stamina are particular targets of martial arts training. ¬†Mindfulness, meditation, and stress relief are core principles.

If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts program, how should you go about it?  Look for a school that particularly emphasizes teaching children (not as an afterthought).

Go to your prospective school(s) and observe classes.  See if the children have plenty of time to ask questions and understand the exercises and techniques.  See if the master or sensei of the school teaches the children him- or herself, or if classes are taught primarily by junior instructors.  Talk to the other parents and get an idea of what improvements they have seen in their children, as a result of the training.

Two other concerns to make sure you address before enrolling your child:

  • What is the teacher’s attitude towards bullying? ¬†Does he or she specifically address measures to prevent and handle bullying in and outside of school?
  • What are the safety measures taken? ¬†Injury prevention is a huge issue in martial arts, especially with developing children’s growing bones and flexible joints. ¬†Make sure safety equipment such as mouthguards and groin protection are worn whenever contact is expected.

If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts class, you should consider taking classes yourself. ¬†Spending time on the mat is a great way to relieve stress and build strength, endurance and confidence that you can handle challenges that come your way. ¬†If you’re not interested in external, combat-style arts you can consider Tai Chi, which is gentle and meditative but still has great health benefits.

martial arts

Credit: thesilentmind.com

Martial arts training is of benefit to the whole family.  Give it a try!  Your results should speak for themselves.

QUESTION:  Have you tried martial arts?  What was your experience?

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Protein Intake Changes In Seniors

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that our diet changes over time. We like different foods, we tolerate different foods, we CHOOSE different foods at different stages of life. As we get older, these diet changes impact our chances of getting certain diseases.

There was a study published recently that looked at protein intake in seniors. They found that WHERE the protein in your diet comes from is associated with your risk of aging in an unhealthy way.

Researchers in Spain studied over 1000 seniors and had them fill out questionnaires about their diet and other habits and about their health status. Following them for over 8 years, they found that changes in where their dietary protein intake came from was associated with changes in their health status.

protein rich foods

Seniors who increased their calorie intake from vegetable protein showed healthier aging markers than those who decreased their plant protein intake. Similar changes were NOT seen in those who increased animal protein in their diet.

We have many instances of plant foods helping people improve their health and reduce their risk of disease. This is just one more example of the benefits of protein rich plant foods (like nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, soy, quinoa and others) for human health.

This won’t come as a surprise to many of my long-term readers who know I’ve been a plant-based eater for over 8 years. With my medical patients I recommend a plant-based diet for just about all humans. In fact I can’t think of a single condition that is improved by eating meat or dairy.

Looking for a simple way to get more plant protein in your diet? Yep, I’ve got a Shaklee solution! We’ve got both soy and non-soy options and they are super tasty – we guarantee you’ll like them. Want more suggestions? Shoot me an email at DrJen@jenniferwurstmd.com and let’s talk!

QUESTION: What are YOUR favorite protein-rich foods? Do you tend to reach for meat and dairy? Will this info change your habits?

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Tai Chi To Prevent Falls in Seniors

A few years ago I went running in my neighborhood on Mother’s Day. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and flowers were blooming. I wound up limping home with blood dripping off my hands because I caught my foot on some uneven pavement and went sprawling.

The worst thing that happened to me with that fall was skin off my hands and my left forearm and difficulty typing at work for a few days. (Yay for jiu jitsu training and knowing how to fall properly!) For older patients, though, a fall can result in a much worse outcome. Hip fractures from falls result in surgery and extended time in rehab. About 25% of elderly patients who suffer a hip fracture never are able to leave the nursing home and live independently afterwards. Fall-related complications are the fifth leading cause of death in people over age 65.

There is a gentle form of exercise that promotes strength, balance and relaxation. It also happens to be a formidable martial art for those who want to study that side of the practice. It is ideal for seniors because it is simple to learn a set of moves, can be done anywhere, and generally is taught in a group setting (thereby promoting social interaction). At the beginning it is not physically demanding although as one progresses in practice moves can be modified to provide more physical benefits.

This exercise has been practiced for thousands of years. It is Tai Chi.

tai chi
Multi-ethnic group of adults practicing tai chi in park. Main focus on senior man (60s) in blue shirt.

I’ve studied Tai Chi since I was a teenager and have found it very relaxing and helpful with stress management and with my health. On days when I’m tired or have an injury and can’t do a full gym workout (or full martial art workout for that matter) I can always do Tai Chi.

Researchers have found that seniors who practice Tai Chi are much less likely to fall than those who don’t. They reviewed 18 research studies looking at almost 4000 participants. The researchers found that those who practiced Tai Chi were much less likely to fall than those that didn’t practice. In fact the effect was so strong that one fall would be prevented for every 10 seniors who practiced Tai Chi. That’s better than statins for preventing heart attacks!

If you or someone you love is getting older, worried about falling, limiting themselves due to fear of falling, or otherwise in need of exercise and social interaction, please check out a Tai Chi class. There are introductory classes available just about everywhere through adult community education or you can look up private studios near you. Tai Chi players

If you are located in northern Ohio I would encourage you to check out the non-profit studio where my family and I study Tai Chi and other martial arts: The Silent Mind in Twinsburg. We have free introductory classes, membership assistance for those struggling financially, and a wide variety of programs for everyone. Kids, teens and adults, beginners and experts, anyone will find something of interest here. Come play with us!

QUESTION: Have you studied (or do you currently study) Tai Chi or another martial art? What has been your experience?

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The Prove It Challenge

Whew! I just got back from a week in Las Vegas, attending Shaklee’s Global Conference. It was my 8th Conference and, as far as I’m concerned, the best so far!

There were NO new products revealed. Better than that. Shaklee has unveiled the simplest way to feel better in 30 days: the Prove It Challenge. Please watch this video to learn more about this new program!

I run across a lot of people who don’t feel well. They feel sluggish. They have digestive problems. They catch every cold and flu bug they come across. They suffer with stress and anxiety, can’t sleep, feel tired. They struggle with their weight and their joints hurt. They have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, any number of problems that contribute to poor health.

I ALSO run across a lot of people who suffer with poor FINANCIAL health. They work two jobs to make ends meet. They live paycheck to paycheck. They aren’t able to take vacations, travel or live their best life. The Prove It Challenge is ALSO a good opportunity for these folks! More on that later…

So what’s the Prove It Challenge? Pretty simple:

Start with the 7-Day Healthy Cleanse. A 7-day liver cleanse (NO not a colon cleanse, no staying close to the bathroom for a week, LOL!) to encourage the liver to clear the backlog of toxins that tends to build up in the body. Very clean eating with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of fresh clean water, and a simple supplement packet in the morning and at night. The Cleanse by itself improves focus and energy, improves sleep, improves digestion and reduces cravings while jump-starting weight loss. And it’s free with the Prove It Challenge!

For 30 days you take one Vitalizer strip and replace your breakfast with a Life Shake. Vitalizer comes in formulations for women, for men and for seniors. One unusual thing is that Shaklee makes Vitalizer Gold (for seniors) with and without vitamin K. The without-vitamin-K formulation is for those who take the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) for heart and blood clotting problems. It’s really hard to find a multivitamin without vitamin K for those who take blood thinners – look no farther, Vitalizer Gold without vitamin K is for you!

Life Shake comes in several flavors and two protein blends. The soy protein blend comes in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and cafe latte. The non-soy plant protein blend comes in just chocolate and vanilla. All of them are yummy! Both blends provide 20 grams of non-GMO plant protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. They both have 6 grams of prebiotic fiber to aid digestion and keep you full longer. Both have 23 vitamins and minerals and are free of artificial ingredients like colors, sweeteners and flavors. And they are gluten free, low glycemic and keto-friendly with no added sugar and less than 1 gram total sugar per serving.

If you do the 7-Day Healthy Cleanse, take one Vitalizer Strip daily and replace your breakfast with a Life Shake for one month and do not feel amazing, Shaklee will cheerfully refund your money. Try taking the empty containers of a month’s worth of supplements and meal replacement shakes back to your local vitamin store and asking for your money back – you won’t have much success!

But Shaklee has been offering a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee on completely empty packages for over 60 years. Over that 60 years less than 1/3 of 1% of products have been returned. Pretty amazing to have a 99.7% satisfaction rate over 60+ years!

The Prove It Challenge is a simple way to start your health journey. It is also a simple way to start improving your finances. One problem I hear from people I discuss Shaklee’s business opportunity with is that there are 350+ products – how do you keep it all straight?! The answer is, you don’t need to. The Prove It Challenge is a simple way to share the benefits of better nutrition with your friends and family while earning an income from home.

If you’ve been considering a home based business (and studies have shown over 50% of people will have a side hustle of some sort in their life) please email me and let’s talk! I don’t know if Shaklee is right for you, right now, but we should definitely talk about it!

So what now? If you need to feel better or would like to lose weight, please click this link to check out the Prove It Challenge. You can order from this link and you’ll get your 7-Day Healthy Cleanse, your membership and your shipping for free! If you’re already a member of my Shaklee family, this offer is only good for us until August 31, 2019, so order now! Any questions? Please email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com!

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The Nutrient We Miss The Most

I spend most of my time (in a professional sense) talking to people about nutrition.  I encourage them to eat right.  To get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  To skip the processed food, junk food and fast food.  To take a good-quality multivitamin.

But most people still skimp on one very important nutrient.  What is it?  What is the nutrient we miss the most?

It’s WATER.

Think about it.  Your body needs about one ounce of water per day for every two pounds of body weight (up to about 100 ounces per day).  For the average person that’s 60-80 ounces of water, or a half gallon or more.

Not coffee, not iced tea, not soda or lemonade.  WATER.

Water helps keep your blood pressure down.  It removes toxins and improves your digestion.  It fights fatigue and keeps your mind sharp.

When you’re a little thirsty, this can be interpreted by the brain in as hunger.  So staying well hydrated helps control appetite and promotes weight loss.

Every organ in your body depends on you staying well hydrated.  From your kidneys to your digestive system to your brain, water is critical for normal function.

So why is it so hard for us to get enough water?  I can’t speak for you, but I know why I have a hard time staying hydrated.

First of all, the most plentiful source of drinking water is the kitchen tap.  And tap water is NASTY.  Have you tasted it lately?  Ew!  It doesn’t help that I know more than is good for my mental health about what is actually in our tap water.  Pesticide runoff, pharmaceuticals, chlorine, substances like orthophosphate added during water treatment, and other chemicals interact to make me not want to drink straight from the tap (or from the garden hose, but that’s another story…).

Your local water department has water quality reports available for download at their website, for those who use city water.  Cleveland’s water quality report for 2018 is available here, if you’d like to see.

The second problem I have with getting enough water to drink is that when I drink the water I should, I have to pee.  A LOT.  When I’m in the office that’s inconvenient but manageable.  When I’m traveling or pressed for time it becomes difficult for me to get all the water I need.

Honestly, there isn’t a good fix for this problem, I just tell myself to suck it up.  Every time I go, I think of all the toxins being washed away and that makes it easier to just do it.

The last problem my patients report with drinking copious amounts of water is that it’s BORING.  “I don’t like water, it doesn’t taste good.”  Which is silly, because fresh clean water has no taste at all.  It’s clear and cold and wet and refreshing!

What people are telling me when they say they don’t like the way water tastes is that they have trained themselves to expect flavor from everything that goes in their mouth, whether it should have flavor or not.  What I tell them is that their tastebuds may not like it (for now) but their bodies certainly do like water.  In fact, they NEED it, and they do NOT need all the sugar and flavorings and additives in their usual beverage of choice.

So if our tap water is so gross, what water should we be drinking?

Bottled water?  No, that’s not a good choice.  For one thing, it’s expensive.  It also puts tons of unnecessary plastic in the landfill and isn’t necessarily cleaner or safer than drinking tap water.  Often we don’t know where the water comes from or what testing was done.

My choice for lots of fresh, clean drinking water is Shaklee’s tabletop pitcher filter.  It is certified to remove lead (most tabletop pitcher filters, including Brita and Pur, are not) and has a replaceable carbon filter so that everything else is reused.

Do you have a water filter at home?  You can check the Water Quality Association’s website to see what your filter is proven to remove from the water you drink.

And it’s CHEAP!  Just did a price check on Deer Park spring water at Giant Eagle.  Buying bottled water (this brand, anyway), costs $2.21 per gallon and leaves you with lots of plastic bottles to deal with.  Shaklee’s Year of Get Clean Water costs just 33 cents per gallon at member price, 39 cents per gallon at retail price.  And after the initial investment of the reusable plastic pitcher, replacing the carbon filters gives you clean, fresh water for only 25 cents per gallon retail price.

So what are you going to do about your hydration problem?  For me, there’s only one choice.  Saving money, drinking fresh clean water, and avoiding putting unnecessary plastic in the landfill is a win-win-win situation!

QUESTION: Do you drink enough water?  How do you get your drinking water?

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Don’t Wash Your Chicken! Do This Instead

Yes, you read that right. If you are in the habit of washing raw chicken before you cook it, STOP. Don’t wash your chicken!

Chicken is the most commonly eaten meat in the United States these days. Whether fried, poached, broiled, baked or added to soups, stews and chili, Americans LOVE to eat chicken.

Many of us learned to rinse or wash raw meat before cooking it. In the case of chicken, this is a bad idea. Raw chicken often carries salmonella, shigella or campylobacter bacteria. If you soak the meat in water, the bacteria get into the water which is easy to spread around your kitchen.

The bacteria commonly found in raw chicken cause food poisoning, also called gastroenteritis. These illnesses cause abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases people can have intestinal bleeding or become dehydrated, causing them to need hospitalization for antibiotics, IV fluids and symptom control medications.

If you are cooking with raw meat, especially poultry, cleanliness is very important. Keep the raw meat separate and avoid touching it to anything that can’t be thoroughly cleaned. This includes wooden utensils and cutting boards, which tend to absorb juices and are difficult to sanitize. After handling raw meat wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the ABC song twice).

Transfer the meat directly from its packaging to the container it will be cooked in. If you will apply breading to the meat make sure you touch the raw meat with only one hand and keep the other hand clean for touching everything else.

Prevention of foodborne illness means cooking meat thoroughly. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165¬įF, or until the juices run clear and the meat is opaque all the way through.

Of course, if you really want to be as safe as possible from foodborne illness, just don’t eat meat. At all. In one survey published in 2012, 41% of raw chicken sold in the Alabama was contaminated with Campylobacter. Poultry, fish, shellfish, unpasteurized dairy and eggs are common causes of foodborne illness. Cooking all these foods thoroughly and NOT washing them prior to cooking is essential.

It is true that plant foods are the cause of food poisoning from time to time. Romaine lettuce, anyone? Rice, berries, melon and sprouts are also known to be higher-risk foods. In the case of plant foods, washing them thoroughly before eating them reduces the risk of food-borne infection.

In fact, my first EVER YouTube video was about how to use Shaklee’s Basic H2 nontoxic cleaning solution to wash strawberries. Want to see? Click this link ūüôā

We all want to eat healthy. Healthy, safe cooking means knowing what to wash and what NOT to wash. WASH your fruits, veggies and leafy greens. DON’T wash your chicken!

QUESTION: What do you do to avoid food borne infections?

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