Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5 Ways Holidays at Home Can Hurt Your Health—and What To Do About It

Holidays can hurt your health with overeating and lack of exercise
Try to stay healthy during the holidays by eating in moderation and keeping up an exercise routine--even if it's light.
Image: Shutterstock
Copious amounts of home cooked food, an endless supply of alcohol, and all of your relatives together in one room might sound like a great time around the holidays, but sometimes it can be a bad thing. Despite the good eats and time off from work, holidays can really take a toll on our wellbeing for a variety of reasons.

Don’t get me wrong—I love spending time with my family, and the holidays are wonderful excuse to skip town and get down to see them. But going outside of my normal routine is hard because it’s so easy to miss out on the things that normally keep me healthy—like regular exercise and portion control. Here are some things to keep in mind to maintain your good health this holiday season.
  • There are no gyms in sight. If mom’s cabin doesn’t have a treadmill, try weightless workouts to help improve balance, flexibility and core strength. Bring resistance bands, yoga DVDs and maybe a jump rope to help keep your fitness levels from dropping too sharply. I try to get exercise in first thing in the morning when on vacation, because otherwise I just get too busy doing other things. Like drinking eggnog…
  • Every holiday meal is enough to feed a small village. The average American will consume over 3,000 calories at a traditional holiday dinner. It can be hard to resist the temptation of high-calorie food when it’s all sitting there on the table. Drink a lot of water, take it easy with the alcohol, and try to stock up on greens and lean proteins. Of course, it is the holidays, so don’t beat yourself up over having a slice of pie or some eggnog—just try to keep things in moderation.
  • Don’t mindlessly graze on leftovers and snacks. It’s easy to munch when you have easy access to leftovers and are cozied up inside. Rather than chowing down on whatever crosses your path, try to schedule snacks ahead of time or keep a food journal so you are more aware of what you are eating. I tend to go to the fridge when I’m bored, which is a terrible habit because then I end up eating when I’m not even hungry.
  • When traveling and spending all that family time, there is no alone time to decompress. Try to carve out some chunks of alone time, even if you need to wake up earlier than everyone else to get it. I try to schedule ample time between friend & family meet ups, or at least take 15-30 minutes at night to read a book and just be.
  • You expect everything to go perfectly and your family to be perfect. Give up hope that all holiday events and gatherings will go as planned. You might think this is finally the time that everything will go right, but you need to realize it won’t. You can only control how you behave and react to others. So take some deep breaths and try to accept your loved ones with an open heart. No one’s family is perfect, which for me means that my dad will drive my sister crazy trying get things ready for dinner, my mom will try to help and will actually make things worse, and my brother and I will sit quietly in the other room while they all get frazzled. But then—this is how the holidays always seem to be, and that’s okay with me. I get to be with family, so I’m happy.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fiber-Packed Foods to Eat

artichokes can be a good source of fiber
Artichokes are a great source of fiber.
Image: Shutterstock
Getting enough fiber is no joke. Besides enabling efficient bowel movements, a high-fiber diet can also reduce the risk of stroke, hypertension, and heart disease. But strangely enough, less than three percent of Americans are meeting the recommended fiber intake.

Fiber is something the body needs but can never actually digest. It comes in two varieties – soluble and insoluble – and most plant-based foods contain a mixture of the two. When you ingest soluble fiber, it turns into gel in the stomach and will slow down digestion, which lowers cholesterol and blood glucose. When your body is processing insoluble fiber, it remains unchanged all the way to the colon, making waste heavier and softer so it can run through the intestines. Neither is ever absorbed into the body.

So how much are we supposed to eat? It is recommend for men to under 50 to eat 38 grams of fiber each day and women to consume 25 grams. Adults over 50 need slightly less. So where can you find all this fiber?

Blackberries and other dark berries are a good source of fiber
Eat blackberries or other dark berries to get your fiber in!
Image: Shutterstock
Legumes and beans are a great source of fiber. Try split peas, lentils, black beans, or lima beans. Also, many vegetables contain a good amount of fiber. Try artichokes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts for about 5-10 grams of fiber per cup. Dark leafy greens, carrots, corn, potatoes with the skin on, and okra are also great vegetable options if you’re looking to incorporate more fiber into your diet. Many fruits also contain a lot of fiber, which can be most readily found in darker berries like raspberries and blackberries, along with avocados and, somewhat surprisingly, apples, pears, and oranges.

When most of us think fiber, we think grains. The highest packed grains with fiber are bran flakes, whole-wheat pasta, pearled barley and oatmeal with 4-7 grams each. Nutritionists often suggest avoiding refined grains such as white flower, white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Instead, replace these with more nutritious and fiber-packed whole grains for better results.

How do you plan on incorporating more fiber into your diet?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reasons to Keep in Touch with Your Parents or Guardians

I’m one of the millions of kids that moved away from home when I grew up. And you know what? As much as my parents can drive me crazy sometimes, being so far away from them makes me realize just how much I love and miss them despite the differences we may have sometimes. I think many people take their parents for granted when they are young—I know I certainly did. And though I’m not exactly getting on in years, I’ve come to appreciate my parents and all the sacrifices they made for me through the years.
Teddy bears hugging to signify love between a parent and child
Have you told your loved ones how much you appreciate them lately?
Image: Shutterstock
I’m not good at keeping in touch with people. It’s one of the things about myself that makes me the most frustrated. I want to be one of those people that keeps track of everyone, that talks to all the people she cares about every single week—but thus far in life, that does not describe me. However, I do make a particularly strong effort to keep in touch with my parents. Here are a few things I’ve learned I need to do on a regular basis:

I let them know that they mean a lot to me. It’s not difficult to let your parents know just how special they are to you. All it takes is a call or even just a simple text. It doesn’t need to be an hour-long call every day, but it should happen. In the same way that we like to be told we’re loved, so do our parents. Don’t assume they already know you love them—even if they do, everyone likes a reminder now and again.

I hate thinking about this next one, but it’s true: they won’t be around forever. None of us will. Your time with the people you care about most will seem like it’s gone in the blink of an eye, so don’t take that time for granted. Always give them that reminder of love.

Most of the people we meet and “know” in life are barely acquaintances. Perhaps you share a social circle or a workplace with them. You’re on friendly terms, but most likely, they don’t have any idea who you really are. If you are lucky enough to have people you love in your life, make it known. Those special individuals deserve your love, especially when they give it to you so unconditionally.

Though I know better, my parents are not bullet proof. Sometimes they go through hard times, just like I do. I think of all the times that their shoulders were offered as a place to cry, and it reminds me that maybe sometimes they feel the same grief as I have felt. Because we are so close with our parents, it can be easier to see them in a different light and be harder on them—assume they’re older, wiser, tougher skinned. And while this may be true at times, that doesn’t mean they don’t need someone to lean on now and again.

Do you keep in touch with your parents, guardians, or others that you love?  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Breaking Up: The Right & Wrong Ways to End It

Break up in a healthy way: be honest, in person, and true to your feelings--without unnecessarily hurting the other person.
When ending a relationship, try to do so in the healthiest way possible.
Image: Shutterstock
Most of us, at one point or another in life, have been through a breakup. Sometimes, relationships can end with both parties in mutual agreement, but more often than not, it’s just one person that breaks it off. There are many different strategies that embody healthy and  not-so-healthy ways to break up with a partner. Some leave the relationship on good terms while others will ensure you never will speak to them again.

Here are some of the dos and don’ts of breaking up:

Don’t avoid contact with your partner completely. Be open, up front, and present. Even though breakups are difficult, avoiding your partner will only prolong the inevitable.

Do break up in person, especially if it’s someone you care about.

Don’t blame yourself for the breakup with classic lines like “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Do openly confront your partner by expressing your desire to break up point blank. Try to say something genuine and take ownership of your feelings, like “I’m sorry, this just isn’t working for me.”

Don’t start picking fights and instigating arguments so that they will force the issue.

Do prepare yourself for what you’ll say ahead of time if you’re initiating the break up. If you don’t, you could become derailed and present your points in a less clear way, which will ultimately hurt both of you.

Don’t manipulate the situation by telling mutual friends about your desire to break up.

Do be truthful about why you want to break up…without going into every single detail.

Don’t use indirect methods of communication like text messages, email, or social media to break up with your partner.

In a 2012 psychological study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, Tara Collins and Omri Gillath explained that the confrontational style of breaking up is the most ideal. Participants also rated avoiding the partner as the least ideal method. So unless you are trying to upset your partner, definitely try being open and confront the issue rather than being passive.

What is the healthiest way to break up with a partner, in your experience?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Memorial Sloan Kettering Creates a Way to Treat Gastrointestinal Infections

Memorial Sloan Kettering research, aided by a donation from the Marie and Henry R. Kravis Foundation, may help prevent C.diff infections
New research from Memorial Sloan Kettering
may help prevent C.diff infections.
Image: Memorial Sloan Kettering
Anyone who has ever suffered from a gastrointestinal infection, commonly referred to as a stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis, knows that they are incredibly uncomfortable and in some instances, deadly. C.diff, or Clostridium difficile, is a bacterial pathogen that releases toxins into the body that damages the lining of the large intestine. This leads to severe abdominal pain that can even lead to a much more serious condition that can take weeks or months to resolve. In rare cases, the ailment can even be fatal.

According to the Mayo Clinic, for many years there has been no effective treatment for gastrointestinal inflections. However, new research from Memorial Sloan Kettering is creating a different strategy that looks to use a bacterial species that is found in healthy gastrointestinal tracts to prevent C.diff infections.

Eric Pamer, the Head of the Division of General Medicine and Chief of MSK’s Infectious Diseases Service, stated, “It’s been well appreciated that the loss of normal bacteria in the intestines can lead to infection with C. diff. Now that we know which bacterial species has a protective effect, we can begin to look for ways to develop a clinical treatment,” of advancements being made.

Researchers have known for years that treatment with antibiotics can damage bacterial strains that are beneficial in the intestines and thus allow C.diff to continue growing and damage the body. Recent studies have shown that fecal transplants—where uninfected feces are transplanted to the colon of someone with C.diff.—can lead to a suppression of C.diff infections.

The research conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering was aided by a generous gift of $100 million from the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation, which sought to bring financial aid to cancer biology, bioinformatics, pathology and systems biology. The Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO) undertook an endeavor to help with the research of cancer through genomic analysis of patient-derived tumors. It’s due to such contributions that Memorial Sloan Kettering aims to reach the ambitious goal of expediting and streamlining cancer genomics research to guide cancer treatments, and is what makes it a leader in other health research fields.

For further reading about the new gastrointestinal treatment research, MSK’s Eric Pamer is also a senior author of a study on the subject of C.diff, which can be found published in Nature: International weekly journal of science.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stock Your Fridge Like a Pro

Lately, I’ve been having a lot more guests come into town. While I’m quite good at making my bedroom pristine, stocking extra towels, and filling up the bar cart, I’m always a bit worried about making sure they have enough to eat. I cook dinner on a regular basis, so there’s always food in the fridge, but it’s usually specifically set aside for a meal I’m planning to make. And the leftovers tend to be just enough for my lunch the next day.
Stock up on healthy granola bars when guests come into town
Granola bars are a fantastic go-to snack.
Image: Shutterstock
I want guests staying with me to feel like they’ve got enough to snack on during the day, but I also don’t want to go overboard and have a massive amount of food left over once they leave.

Luckily, I’ve learned what to keep stocked, especially when guests are coming over. These are a few main staples that you can keep in your pantry and fridge to ensure your guests won’t go hungry:
  • Mushrooms. They are super easy to add to eggs for breakfast, or to dress up a dish for lunch or dinner. They also keep for about a week and are very easy to cook with.
  • Champagne + Rosé. Always keep two or three bottles of nice champagne for when guests come over to celebrate with you. If your guests don’t drink, swap the alcoholic beverages out for some sparkling apple cider.
  • Granola + Nuts. These items can act as a quick grab snack for guests before you take them out on an adventure. They’re also great for stashing in your bag when you go out—just in case anyone gets hungry while you’re away from home.
  • Chocolate is a great simple dessert to have on hand for guests
    Keep a little sweet on hand, too! Chocolate is a simple treat
    that goes well with wine or a glass of milk.
    Image: Shutterstock
  • Cheese. When it comes to stocking cheese for when guests come over, I don’t mean shredded cheddar cheese for tacos. I’m talking a couple hunks of good cheese to serve up to guests with some nice crackers. My favorites are Gouda, Brie and a goat cheese. On that note, pick up some crackers that aren’t just saltines—whole grain crackers or Triscuits are great options.
  • Chocolate. It’s great to keep a little bit of something sweet around, because let’s be honest…who doesn’t love chocolate with a nice bottle of wine?
  • Eggs. Eggs can easily be used to whip up a quick frittata or omelet in the morning and they keep for quite a while. If you need quick go-to snacks during the week, simply hard-boil a few of the eggs.   

What are some things you always have stocked prior to guests visiting?