Tag Archives: healthy

Have a Happy, Safe Halloween!

26 Oct

My love of Halloween is no secret among my friends. I adore all of the rituals, from decorating the house and baking pumpkin-shaped cookies to carving jack-o-lanterns and handing out candy. To make sure your family has a great October 31st, check out the following safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Halloween Safety Tips


  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections.


  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
  • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.


  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.


  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:

  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!


  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

For more information, visit www.aap.org.

52 FEATS – NUMBER 37 (Not Eating Fast Food)

19 Sep

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.


I did great on not eating fast food, but I was a total, 100% bust on doing yoga this week.

I started out the week with a sick kid and a husband out of town.  The kid ended up getting better, then got sick again.  Then the other kid got sick, too.  And that taught me an important lesson: You can’t control life, especially when you have kids.  You’ve gotta learn to roll with the punches.

But I was glad for the fast food ban, because it really made think twice before I ate.  I learned that while I did crave the foods themselves, I was also craving the convenience they offered.  But it wasn’t that difficult to make myself something at home instead, and I saved money and calories to boot.  Win-win.


Pretty self-explanatory:  Fast food is gross, I eat it too much, and it sets a bad example for my kids.  But I will miss it – it’s going to be a long week.

Since I’m combining that with a second try on my yoga-intensive week (see Feat Number 36 here), I fully expect to lose 10 pounds in the next seven days or life just isn’t fair!

Back to School: Keep those healthy lunches safe!

16 Aug

Last year, my daughter purchased lunch five days a week while my son ate lunch at school on Mondays and Wednesdays then brought from home on Fridays. Brown bagging it typically meant a Lunchable (his preference) or a peanut-butter sandwich with a box of raisins and three (yes, three) baby carrots.

My son informed me that as a Kindergartner, he will TAKE his lunch instead of buy from the cafeteria. Fine by me. Packed lunches might enable me to sneak a few new foods into his limited culinary repertoire. Instead of those three carrots, I might pack grape tomatoes or celery sticks. I’ve stocked up on other types of dried fruit, including mango and cherries.

One thing I don’t want to experiment with is safety. I barely survived a nasty bout with salmonella in Bangkok, winding up at the “VD and Diarrhea” clinic for medicine (which was as nightmarish as it sounds).

Here’s a sampling of lunch packing tips I found from the USDA.  For more, visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe

Keep Everything Clean
Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before you prepare or eat food.  Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.  A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.  Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate
Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and countertops.  Always use a clean cutting board.  When using a cutting board for food that will not be cooked, such as bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry.  Consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.

Packing Lunches
It’s fine to prepare the food the night before and store the packed lunch in the refrigerator.  Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold.  However, for best quality, don’t freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes.  Add these later.

Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used.  If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food.  An ice source should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold
Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator.  Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use.  Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box.

Some food is safe without a cold source.  Items that don’t require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

52 FEATS – NUMBER 24 (Eating Healthy)

19 Jun

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

UPDATE – DAY 7 (Sunday):

This past week was one of the worst EVER for me.  No, it wasn’t because eating healthy made me totally miserable – it was because of medication I was taking for a blocked eustachian tube, which was not only painful but causing debilitating dizzy episodes.  The doctor said it was likely due to allergies (which is a new issue for me), and put me on steroids and told me to start taking Claritin-D.

A few days in, I thought I was losing my mind.  I couldn’t sleep; I was weak and so jittery I felt like ripping my hair out, and yet all I wanted to do was lay down and close my eyes.  I stopped the steroids, and for a day I started to feel better, but then I felt worse again.  Then I stopped taking the Claritin-D, too, because I just couldn’t handle feeling so crummy.

That was a couple days ago, and I’m happy to say that I finally feel like a normal person again.  My ear feels better – I guess I got enough meds in me to clear it up somewhat – but I don’t know what I’m going to do about the allergy issue long-term.  The doc wanted me on allergy meds every day but there’s no way I’m doing that.

AND – all of this coincided with my husband being out of town, so, like I said, worst week ever.  Because I felt so horrible, I didn’t do as well as I would have liked with this week’s Feat.  I started out strong but got off track a few times (Thursday night, I ate dinner at a buffet restaurant that shall remain nameless – eek).

Here’s what I was able to do:

  • I ate lots more raw fruits & veggies. When I made myself a sandwich, I sliced up an apple to go with it instead of chips.
  • I cut way back on caffeine and drank a lot more water (thanks, Lisa!).  I also drank milk occasionally.
  • I got out the juicer (dusted it off, as Lori said!) and made a rainbow juice with my kids –  strawberries, oranges, carrots, pineapple, spinach, blueberries, and grapes.  Oddly enough, my picky-eater son liked it more than my eats-anything daughter.  She would rather eat all of the ingredients in their natural state, which of course, is a good thing!
  • I made several smoothies, including an amazing mango & nectarine concoction.  I used plain greek yogurt in my smoothies for a protein boost, and only a little honey occasionally if I wanted any extra sweetness.
  • I took a multi-vitamin every day.
  • We always buy whole grain bread anyway, so that was already done.

Last night I found out that a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with early diabetes.  She’s going to have to eat better and exercise more if she wants to keep that at bay.  My mom has the same thing, and her mother was diabetic.  I could easily slip down that path if I’m not careful.  I’m 37; I can’t eat whatever I want with no consequences.  This week was not just an experiment, it was the beginning of a healthy way of life!

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Make Your Own Frozen Yogurt Pops

1 Jun

I came across this recipe a few years back in Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious.  A friend of mine had recommended the book for my picky eater.  There are a TON of great recipes in it, a few of which I use regularly.  The idea of this recipe book is to discover new ways of hiding fruits and veggies in other dishes, thereby amping up the healthiness of the dish.

Every summer, I make these frozen yogurt pops.  They are quick and simple, healthy and delicious.  The kids can even help in the process!  Don’t worry if you don’t have popsicle molds.  You can always use ice cube trays (just remember to cover them with plastic wrap) and stick toothpicks inside for sticks.


2 cups plain lowfat yogurt

2 cups frozen berries thawed in the microwave for 1 minute (I always use fresh berries and they work fine)

½ to ¾ cup of confectioner’s sugar


Combine the yogurt, fruit, and sugar in a blender or (large) food processor and process until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.  (Deceptively Delicious notes that each popsicle is only 100 calories, and contains less than 1 gram of fat!)

They taste delicious on those hot Texas summer days!  If you prefer more of a popsicle as opposed to a yogurt you can always just pour juice into a mold and freeze.  My mom used to let us freeze Kool Aid in ice cube trays for a fun and tasty summer treat!  I think I’ll even try to use the juicer this summer and freeze some of our favorites for popsicles!

The Easter Bunny Killed My New Year’s Resolution: Detoxing from Too Much Sweet Stuff!

3 May

I am the same pitiful sugar addict who entered 2011 with such high hopes of taming her lifelong sweet tooth. This week, I blame the Easter Bunny, who brought pounds of chocolate to the Martin household this April. The fact that my 5-year-old son asks “what’s for dessert” before we’ve sat down to dinner makes me know I’ve passed along my carb cravings to him, too. Ugh.

But it’s a new month—and I’m planning on dusting off my New Year’s Resolution and giving it another go.

So why am I hating on sugar so much? Last year, I read this newsletter from Gwyneth Paltrow’s “GOOP,” and I knew my long-term health required kicking the habit. Here are excerpts from the post, which may resonate with you as much as it does me. (For the full post, visit http://www.goop.com.)

Overcoming Sugar Addiction

In the past generation we’ve seen the amount of sugar we consume grow exponentially. Until recently, we had been eating sugar mainly found naturally in foods. It was used as a treat or in small quantities and was never a problem. But today, over a third of the calories we consume come from sugar or white flour, which is highly refined and acts just like sugar in our system. Our bodies cannot cope with such an enormous load. Sugar gives you an initial high, then you crash, then you crave more, so you consume more sugar. It’s this series of highs and lows that provoke unnecessary stress on your adrenals. You get anxious, moody (sugar is a mood-altering drug) and eventually you feel exhausted.

Sugar is also associated with many chronic problems that include decreased immunity, some chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, pain syndromes, irritable bowel syndrome, ADD, chronic fatigue, and candida. Research suggests that one of the main causes for decreased immunity is that sugars inhibit the entrance of Vitamin C into white blood cells, which then inhibits immunity. The more sugar, the less productive your white blood cells are and thus, the less immune you are. Furthermore, sugars stimulate insulin secretion in the pancreas, which in turn stimulates the liver’s triglyceride production. Triglycerides are linked to stroke, heart disease and obesity. The list goes on and on. This week, Dr. Frank Lipman provides us with all the info on how to curb a sugar addiction.


What we should know about sugar from Dr. Frank Lipman:

As a serious sugar addict still struggling with my “addiction” I know first hand how difficult it is to get off sugar, and to stay off it. Part of the reason it’s so hard to kick the habit is that over time our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids that are triggered by sugar consumption. Much like the classic drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol and nicotine, a diet loaded with sugar can generate excessive reward signals in the brain which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction.

One study out of France, presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, showed that when rats (who metabolize sugar much like we do) were given the choice between water sweetened with saccharin and intravenous cocaine, 94% chose the saccharin water. When the water was sweetened with sucrose (sugar), the same preference was observed—the rats overwhelmingly chose the sugar water. When the rats were offered larger doses of cocaine, it did not alter their preference for the saccharin or sugar water. Even rats addicted to cocaine, switched to sweetened water when given the choice. In other words, intense sweetness was more rewarding to the brain than cocaine.

The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction to include three stages: bingeing, withdrawal and craving. Until recently, the rats had only met two of the elements of addiction, bingeing and withdrawal. But recent experiments by Princeton University scientist, Professor Bart Hoebel, and his team showed craving and relapse as well. By showing that excess sugar led not only to bingeing and withdrawal, but to cravings for sweets as well, the final critical component of addiction fell into place and completed the picture of sugar as a highly addictive substance.

In stark contrast to this clinical assessment is the fact that, for most of us, “something sweet” is a symbol of love and nurturance. As infants, our first food is lactose, or milk sugar. Later on, well-intended parents (me included) reward children with sugary snacks, giving them a “treat,” turning a biochemically harmful substance into a comfort food. We become conditioned to need something sweet to feel complete or satisfied, and continue to self-medicate with sugar as adults, using it to temporarily boost our mood or energy. But as any addict knows, one quick fix soon leaves you looking for another—each hit of momentary satisfaction comes with a long-term price.

Here are some tips to help you cope with sugar cravings:

Eat regularly. Eat three meals and two snacks or five small meals a day. For many people, if they don’t eat regularly, their blood sugar levels drop, they feel hungry and are more likely to crave sweet sugary snacks.

Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Food in its natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually presents no metabolic problems for a normal body, especially when consumed in variety.

Have a breakfast of protein, fat and phytonutrients to start your day off right. Breakfast smoothies are ideal for this. The typical breakfast full of carbs and sugary or starchy foods is the worst option since you’ll have cravings all day. Eating a good breakfast is essential to prevent sugar cravings.

Try to incorporate protein and/or fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels. Make sure they are healthy sources of each.

Take a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement, Vitamin D3 and omega 3 fatty acids. Nutrient deficiencies can make cravings worse and the fewer nutrient deficiencies, the fewer cravings. Certain nutrients seem to improve blood sugar control including chromium, Vitamin B3 and magnesium.

Move your body. Exercise, dance or do some yoga. Whatever movement you enjoy will help reduce tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar lift.

Get enough sleep. When we are tired we often use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion.

Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar.

Become familiar with sugar terminology. Recognize that all of these are sweeteners: corn syrup, corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, honey, molasses, turbinado sugar and brown sugar.

Sugar in disguise. Remember that most of the “complex” carbohydrates we consume like bread, bagels and pasta aren’t really complex at all. They are usually highly refined and act just like sugars in the body and are to be avoided.

If you follow these guidelines, perhaps you’ll be able to have an occasional “treat.” Be realistic with yourself and remember that a slip is not a failure. Don’t get down on yourself if you slip, just dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. However, if even just a little causes you to lose control, then it’s best to stay away from it completely. And my ultimate tip for sugar-free bliss is to remind ourselves to find and pursue “sweet satisfaction” in nourishing experiences other than food.

Frank Lipman MD, is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC and the author of REVIVE; Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (2009) and TOTAL RENEWAL; 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health (2003).


20 Apr

A few weekends ago a good friend of mine invited my family and I over for dinner.  She lives out in the country and I always enjoy visiting with her.  With each visit, we learn new things, like how to plant peach trees and get the most out of your harvest.  My friend is what I like to call “crunchy”, not unlike myself.  I am always picking her brain about whatever latest gadget they have or ways to live a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life.

This last visit, we were introduced to the juicer!  I had never in my life tried freshly squeezed juice, so they offered to make us some, right on the spot.  I watched as my friend’s husband prepared an entire bag of carrots (washed and cut both tips off the ends), then fed them a few at a time into the juicer.  The result was a tall glass of the freshest, zestiest juice I had ever had.  We let the kids try some and to my amazement, my picky eater loved it!

My husband and I went home from dinner straight to do our research on juicers.  It turns out that eating fruits and vegetables in liquid form allows your body to more easily (and quickly) absorb all of the nutrients.  My friend had mentioned certain things they had tried, like granny smith apples that literally gave them a buzz from drinking.

This weekend the juicer we liked went on sale, so we bought it and started right away!  Our first juice was an instant success with the entire family (even the baby)!  It was the best investment we have made recently!  Our first recipe was our own made-up concoction.  We juiced about 2 cups of fresh spinach, 1 whole apple (minus the core), and a slice of lemon (rind on) about ¼” thick.

The result was a sweet, refreshing bright green, super healthy juice!  Another benefit to juicing, we can recycle the waste.  We recently purchased a compost bin, so, we’ll be adding all of our pulp to it whenever we juice!

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