Monday, January 25, 2010


Nutrition advice is just a mouse click away

Our nation’s fittest people have top-notch help to make them look and feel good. Hollywood actors, models and athletes all benefit from around-the-clock combinations of personal chefs, trainers and motivators.

But for most of us, this lifestyle just isn’t an option. If we are lucky we might be able to spring for a personal trainer, sessions with a nutritionist, or a new treadmill.

Without a doubt, we need to be a little more self-reliant when it comes to eating right, exercising and looking and feeling our best.

Backus Hospital has a new tool to help you in your journey: And this web site actually offers you the opportunity to have registered dietitians visit your home, examine your eating habits and offer healthier alternatives.

The “Nutrition Detectives,” who are also the authors of this column, will come to your home and review what you have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. We’ll offer you healthy eating advice — all you have to do is ask.

If you visit the website, you will see an online request form. Simply fill it out and e-mail it in, and we will consider a visit to your home. We’ve been everywhere from peoples’ homes to the Spa at Norwich Inn.

You can watch our visits on videos that we have posted on the nutrition website, which also includes podcasts, blogs, columns, recipes and health tips.

We think you deserve the star treatment … or at least sound advice from registered dietitians.

Mary Beth Dahlstrom Green and Catherine Schneider are registered dietitians at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Dahlstrom Green, Schneider or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

Monday, January 18, 2010


Are you the next biggest loser?

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. With so many diet books and plans available it can be overwhelming as to where to start and which one to try. It would be impossible to discuss all of them in this column, but learning the basic principles of weight loss could help you make the decision about what is the best way to lose weight.

First: Are you considered overweight? You will need to find out your BMI, which is a calculation that measures body fat based on a person’s height and weight. This is not a perfect measurement, but it is the quickest and easiest method available that you can do from home. You can find out your BMI by going to Once you enter in your height and weight, click on “Compute BMI”, it will give you your number. To learn more about what your number means, click on “Assessing Your Risks” on the left side of the website.

How much weight should I lose? Your weight loss goal should 1-2 pounds per week. Sorry, the double digit weekly weight loss amounts you see on the Biggest Loser are not typical or ideal. Health can improve with even small weight loss amounts. A 5%-10% reduction of your current weight can be beneficial. Losing weight too fast can actually cause dehydration from water weight loss, and can be stressful on your organs. Most importantly, you want to lose fat, not water or muscle. To do that, weight loss should be slow, steady and include not only a food plan but an exercise one as well. This will help you lose the fat and gain the muscle, which not only looks better but makes us healthier. Exercise strengthens our hearts, improves our circulation, and gives us more energy to name just a few benefits.

Now to choose an eating plan. For most people to lose weight, it is necessary to eat about 500 fewer calories than they usually do. You can find out how many calories you need by going to and clicking on “My Pyramid Plan” in the left hand column. If you are overweight, it will tell you so and ask you if you wish to see a food plan that someone of your sex, height and physical activity level should follow. It will show you how much food from each food group to eat in the day. This is a great tool that can help you know how best to spread out your calories. You will notice that it will probably tell you to eat less meat and carbohydrates and more fruits and vegetables that you usually do. Most Americans fill up on those food groups and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are not only low in calories and fat, but provide important vitamins and minerals that we need to have strong immune systems, prevent cancer, and feel better overall. This website also provides information about serving sizes so that you are aware of what counts as a serving.

Regarding fat and sweets. The most effective eating plans are not so restrictive that are you are miserable and feel like all your favorite foods are forbidden. It should allow for you to have snacks throughout the day and the occasional small portion of dessert. Foods with fat in them are not the enemy — it is about what kind of fats you choose. Cook with first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and canola oil; snack on small portions of almonds; have fish 1-2 times per week, especially wild caught fatty fish like salmon. These good omega-3 fats help us have healthy hearts and some research has even shown prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diseases of the eye. Healthy fats in your plan help you feel fuller as well.

Weight loss is about a healthy lifestyle more than a temporary weight loss plan. The bottom line is that we know in order to lose weight, we need to either eat less calories or burn up some of the extra fat by exercising. And when you do both, you will lose weight even faster. By avoiding “fad diets” and changing your lifestyle, you will have success. There are some free, good quality diet plans available -- it is important to find out from a reputable source. Look for a plan that had a registered dietitian involved to know that it is designed by a trained professional. NHLBI has a great one at Backus Hospital also provides out-patient nutritional counseling and a fun nutrition website at With a good sound plan you can be the next biggest loser!

Shannon D’Aquila Haynes is a registered dietitian at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Haynes or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


How to deal with stressed kids

Many of us are familiar with the daily stress of work, bills, taking care of the children, etc… The list of life’s pressures is seemingly endless.

Sometimes we forget that our children can become stressed out as well.

On Thursday, Jan. 14, Backus Hospital’s Education Department will offer an important program for the community that I encourage parents to attend.

“Stressed Out? So Are Your Kids” will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. in the hospital’s entry -evel conference rooms. You can register for the free program by calling 823-6313.

It’s not always easy to recognize that kids are stressed, but make no mistake about it, they can be. I see it in my practice all the time.

Causes of stress can be bickering parents, divorce, social and academic pressures or a death in the family.

With all the added extracurricular activities and sports children participate in now, stress and anxiety is even more likely. Some are too busy to play or relax after school, and this isn’t healthy.

At the event Thursday, Carolyn Trasko, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist in private practice in Preston, and Cara Westcott, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker from United Community and Family Services of Norwich, will offer families a tool kit for stressed out children and also teach parents how to recognize some symptoms that could actually be warning signs. These symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, picking up new unusual habits, mood swings and spending more time alone.

Some of my recommendations to reduce stress in children are to make sure they get enough rest, eat right and have time to rest and play after school. Spend quality time with them, and make sure not to argue in front of them. Even if you think they aren’t paying attention – they are.

Thursday’s event will offer more tips that should make family life – and life in general – more enjoyable for everyone.

Ravi Prakash, MD, is a pediatrician on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff with a private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Dr. Prakash or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

Monday, January 04, 2010


Ten health tips for 2010

While politicians continue to debate how to institute meaningful healthcare reform, there’s no need to wait for legislation Washington.

Everyone can play a role in reducing the cost of healthcare, and improving their health, in 2010. And you don’t need a complex congressional bill to do it.

Here are 10 things you can do in 2010 that would make a difference:

1. Fight obesity. This is the fastest growing health public health issue, affecting millions of Americans. By losing weight through diet and exercise you can reduce your chances of getting diabetes, heart disease and maybe even cancer.

2. Quit smoking. Despite the fact that cigarettes cause cancer and other illnesses, more than 43 million Americans still smoke. Stop now. And if you can’t quit cold turkey, there are pharmaceutical options and smoking cessation classes available.

3. Get enough sleep. Good sleep habits make for healthier people. It’s that simple. Tips include keeping your bedroom dark and avoiding big meals, alcohol and exercise around bedtime.

4. See your doctor regularly. Having a relationship with a primary care doctor can help you avoid costly and frustrating trips to the emergency department.

5. Take your tests. Screenings for cholesterol, high blood pressure and cancer can help you catch health problems early. This can mean the difference between life and death.

6. Check your meds. Failing to keep your medications up to date, and keeping track of what drugs you are taking for what reason, can be harmful, costly and even deadly.

7. Stay informed. When it comes to the latest health issues, consult with your doctor and trusted web site resources, such as, to keep updated on the latest health information.

8. Get the right shots. Vaccines for flu, pneumonia, meningitis and other illnesses exist for a reason.

9. Ask questions. You should always ask your healthcare provider three simple questions: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this?

10. Have a hobby. Many people can improve their mental and physical wellbeing by relieving stress through hobbies. They can be anything from reading to volunteering to sports.

For more information on these 10 tips, visit

Gillian Mosier is a registered nurse and manager of the Backus Trauma Program. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Ms. Mosier or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

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