Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Food pyramid offers healthy eating strategies for preschoolers

The ages of 2-5 years old are when food habits and taste preferences are established. That’s why a new food pyramid designed specifically for preschool children is so important.

MyPyramid for Preschoolers is intended to help parents make better food choices for children.

These choices are more important than ever, especially when you consider that nearly 15 percent of preschoolers in this country are overweight.

By accessing www.mypyramid.gov parents can find real-life strategies for introducing new foods, encouraging children to eat a variety of vegetables and talking to kids about food.

A section titled “phrases that help and hinder,” teaches parents to reframe food discussions to be more positive.

Unknowingly, many parents may be doing more harm than good when they coerce their kids into eating certain foods or using food as a reward.

The benefits of eating together as a family are a major focus of the new pyramid as well.

Ideas are offered to make family mealtime more enjoyable and less stressful, including recipes for quick, nutritious and economical meals and snacks.

Other features of the MyPyramid for Preschoolers website include customized eating plans, growth charts, advice on developing healthy eating habits, physical activity and food safety.

The new food pyramid and its website offer much more than calorie-counting charts. They offer sound advice that could last a lifetime.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at www.healthydocs.blogspot.com.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Preparing for surgery helps you heal faster

When you are told that you need surgery, regardless of how minor it may be, you cannot help but feel some anxiety.

But when that anxiety becomes overwhelming, it may be doing more harm than you realize.

When we are stressed our body reacts with what is called the “the fight or flight response” -- in other words, acting as fast and strong as possible to get out of a bad situation. During this response systems that are not needed are pushed to the back burner -- like our digestive and immune systems.

Years ago a group of medical students were studied while undergoing stressful exams.

It was found that the students' T cells, a vital part of our immune system, were decreased in response to the stress.

These same students were shown simple relaxation techniques. When used, the techniques actually increased the number of T cells, even when re-exposed to another stressful situation.

Now we can apply this same thought process to the surgical realm. Learning how to engage the relaxation response helps to trigger the healing chemistries the body most needs to support healing.

At the Backus Hospital Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI), this concept is applied through its “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” workshop. The program teaches a four-step process for preparing for surgery.

The steps include:

- Relax to feel peaceful
- Visualize your healing
- Rally a support group.
- The fourth step is provided by the anesthesiologist, who provides healing statements during the surgery, which studies show greatly impacts patients’ recoveries. The need for pain medication is decreased by up to 50%, and you will be enhancing your own immune system to aid in the healing process.

Studies have shown that patients who go though these programs do better before, during and after their procedure. You will also gain valuable tools to help keep you healthy during any future crisis that may come your way. The program is ideally taken 1-3 weeks prior to surgery, although even a few days before is a great benefit.

Cindy Arpin is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Arpin and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Curious about Quinoa? Here’s what you need to know

You may or may not have heard the word Quinoa before, but how much do you really know about this particular food?

Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wa,” is often thought of as a grain—that’s because it is usually served as a side dish or in foods where it could be substituted for rice, risotto, or other starches.

The reality is that Quinoa is actually a seed, and more specifically, a family member of leafy green vegetables. Surprised?

Quinoa was originally produced and cultivated by the Incas, who felt this food was the necessary nutrition of choice for their warriors. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that supposedly two Americans began growing it in Colorado, initially trying to capture a concentrated version for research. Since then, Quinoa has become more popular in the United States.

Why should you try this leafy-green food that looks like a grain? Quinoa is packed with many vitamins and minerals (contains 48% of your daily value (DV) of manganese, 22% DV of magnesium, and 21% DV of iron).

In fact, a 1⁄4 cup of Quinoa contains 158 calories, 5g protein, 2.5g fiber, and 30 grams of carbohydrates. It is also rich in 9 amino acids—which is a great option for vegan vegetarians trying to get enough protein in their diet.

Quinoa can be purchased in bulk or individual containers at some local supermarkets and health food stores. Prior to cooking, it is often necessary to rinse or wash the seeds well to remove the residue that lives on the seed.

Quinoa is a low allergy food that can be enjoyed as a breakfast menu item (hot cereal that tastes great with added fruit) or as a side dish with meals. Give it a try for yourself.

Whitney Bundy is a registered dietitian and Director of the Food & Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Bundy and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at backushospital.org.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Blood clots are common – and deadly

March is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness month. What is DVT?

DVT is a blood clot that commonly forms in the legs and blocks blood flow through the veins. Most people who develop a DVT experience swelling, redness, and discomfort in the affected leg.

When recognized and treated promptly, a DVT is unlikely to lead to serious complications.

However, only about half of people who get a DVT will have symptoms. If unrecognized and untreated, a DVT can lead to the formation of a pulmonary embolism (PE) which is a blood clot in the lungs. This can be deadly.

Together, DVT/PE kills more Americans each year than breast cancer, AIDS and automobile accidents combined.

Prevention is the key. With up to half of all DVT/PE’s being “silent” (no symptoms) with possible lethal consequences, it’s imperative to prevent them from occurring.

The best way to prevent a DVT/PE from occurring is to know your risk factors and speak to your doctor about them.

The majority of DVTs occur either during a hospitalization or within a few weeks after one, therefore discussing this issue with your medical team when you are admitted to the hospital is of great importance.

Do you or family members have a previous history of DVT or thrombosis? Do you smoke or take birth control pills? Will you be undergoing any surgical procedures? Will you be confined to the hospital bed? Do you have heart failure or respiratory failure?
These questions will help your doctor to determine what, if any, preventative measures need to be taken to protect you from developing a DVT/PE.

Patients at a relatively low risk may simply need special anti-embolic stockings or orders to walk around and stay active. Patients with a higher risk will need medications called anticoagulants (coagulation is the process of forming a blood clot).

Today we have numerous anticoagulant drugs available that are very effective at preventing and treating DVT/PE with more available in the near future.

Being discharged from the hospital does not end your risk. Patients with a high risk may need to continue taking anticoagulant drugs for up to a month after leaving the hospital.

Regardless of whether you need medications or not, it is important that once you leave the hospital you do not spend too much time sitting around. Being active is a great way to not only reduce your risk of developing a DVT, but also improve many aspects of your health –and it’s free.

Long car or plane rides should also be postponed shortly after a hospitalization. If a trip cannot be delayed, be sure to speak to your doctor about what you can do to minimize your risk.

DVT Awareness Month may only be in March, but you can protect yourself all year by knowing which risk factors you have and talking about this issue with your doctor. If the doctor does prescribe you anticoagulant medications, make sure to follow the directions exactly. Although they are quite safe when used properly, they can have severe effects when errors occur.

Do not hesitate to speak up if you feel you are at risk or are experiencing any signs and symptoms that concern you. Internet sources such as www.preventdvt.org and www.cdc.gov/Features/Thrombosis are filled with information that will keep you updated about this preventable, yet too often occurring disease.

Michael Smith is a pharmacist and Clinical Coordinator in the Department of Pharmacy Services at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, go to the Healthy Living blog at backushospital.org or e-mail Smith and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


On-the-go families can make time for healthy eating

Most parents agree that feeding their family is very important. Between juggling work schedules, soccer practice and homework it can be a real challenge for families to come together at mealtimes, let alone grocery shop and cook the meals.

Parents are also frustrated by the flood of changing nutrition advice, especially when trying to make healthy decisions for their families.

One of the top concerns is that kids are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Picky eating and eating too much junk food round out the top three overall concerns of mothers, according to a new survey commissioned by Wendys.

What are parents to do? Start with these easy practical tips:

• Make mealtime family time. Try to have at least one meal a day together and turn off the TV. Eating as a family can actually improve your child’s food habits. Kids tend to eat more fruits, veggies and dairy foods at meals shared with parents.

• Be a good role model. Set a good example for your children. How can you expect your child to eat his vegetables if you are not eating yours?

• Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal. Add grated or cut vegetables to entrees, side dishes and soups. Top off cereals with fruits or add frozen fruits to smoothies. Try slicing apples into French fry-size sticks or slicing bananas onto peanut butter and toast.

• Keep it fun. Encourage your kids to help you prepare meals and choose produce when shopping. Make fun shapes with cookie cutters to cut out melons, apples or pears.

• Stash healthy snacks. Keep these snacks in key places at all times -- your purse, the pantry, your car. As you dash out the door, grab a few healthy snacks like crackers and peanut butter, small boxes of raisins, fresh fruit, pretzels, plain popcorn, dry cereal in baggies, bottle water or low fat milk boxes.

• Think creatively to adapt your family’s schedule. Try changing your mealtime so you have at least four family meals per week. Consider packing a picnic for soccer practice and tailgate in the parking lot before it starts. Dust off the slow cooker and plan dinner the night before so it’s ready when the family comes in late after a day of work, school and baseball practice. Have a sandwich and salad night. Sandwiches can be made quickly and the prepared salad bags make salad-making a cinch. Skip the chips and instead slice up apples or add baby carrots for the crunch we often look for when eating a sandwich. Above all, don’t overextend your family’s schedule. Kids (and you) need downtime to relax, do homework and bond as a family.

• Add veggies to your pasta dishes. Everything goes with noodles, so have your kids add their favorite veggies in the cooked pasta.

• Visit your local farmers’ market. When the weather warms, bypass the local supermarket for a trip to a farmers’ market for local and/or organic produce. This makes for a nice family outing, supports the local farmers and teaches your children where foods come from. ( buyctgrown.com )

• Strike while the iron is hot. At my house, when we walk in the door dinner is still 30 minutes from the table (if we’re lucky) and my kids are famished. I put together a plate of cut veggies and fruit with low fat dressing for dipping and arrange it in funny faces. My kids are so hungry they gobble up the fruits and veggies without complaint and love to see the funny faces I create each time.


Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

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