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Salt and Your Heart

Cutting Back on Salt for Your Heart

Salt’s Effects

You’ve no doubt heard that salt’s bad for you. While the truth is your body needs salt, too much can be very bad for you.

On average, Americans eat  4,000-5,000 mg of salt every day, and your body only needs about 500 mg a day. That’s a big difference. One that can be a big problem if you have high blood pressure.

And it’s not just about what you add to your food. 75% of your sodium intake comes from processed foods. Salt adds flavor and keeps things fresh, so food manufacturers use a lot of it.

A study in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, found a high-salt diet may decrease how well meds used to treat high blood pressure work.

So, if you’re currently taking meds for or have high blood pressure, a low-salt diet could help them work.

Clean Up Your Diet

While you might want to talk to your doctor before you drastically cut back on salt, there are a lot of things you can do yourself to cut back that are good for you no matter what.

  • Stop buying heavily processed foods like corn oil and soda.
  • Shop around the outside edge of the grocery store and you’ll hit all the spots with the freshest foods.
  • Read food labels. Those with fewer and simpler ingredients are best. The longer the list, the more room there is for chemicals, sugar, salt, and oils.
  • Cook more at home. Restaurants, especially chains, use heavily processed foods.
  • Train your tongue. If you are used to salt, sugar, and fat, you’ll need time to appreciate the flavor of natural foods.
  • Add other seasonings and flavors to keep your meals delicious and interesting:
    • Allspice: Look for a low- or no-sodium options for seasoning meats, gravy, and even tomatoes.
    • Almond Extract: Great for puddings, desserts, and fruit.
    • Basil: Sprinkle on some fresh or dried basil to add a kick to fish, lamb, salads, soups, and sauces.
    • Chives: Add a light onion flavor to salads, sauces, sides, and soups.
    • Garlic: Fresh garlic is good for you and very flavorful.
    • Ginger: Try this on chicken and fish.
    • Lemon Juice: Make your lean meats and fish pop.
    • Dry Mustard:  Add to meat, marinades, homemade salad dressings, and veggies.
    • Onion Powder: Good for marinades, meat, and veggies.

Eating a low-sodium diet can be easy and delicious, it just takes a little planning and great recipes. Visit our Pinterest to find all kinds of healthy recipes you can make at home.

Dividing Your Plate

Dividing Your Plate Into Sections

Dividing your plate into sections to make sure you choose healthy foods and use proper portions is the key to managing your diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and your diet.

Dividing Your Plate

According to the American Diabetes Association, a good way to plan your meals is by dividing your plate into 3 sections.

Use an imaginary line and cut your plate in half. Divide one of the halves into two to create the three different zones.

For Breakfast

  • The large section is for fruit, fresh if possible.
  • Whole grain cereals or whole grain toast go into one of the smaller sections.
  •  Eggs, Greek yogurt, or lean breakfast meats go into the other small section.

For Lunch and Dinner

  • The large section is for non-starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach, broccoli, and green beans.
  • Starchy foods such as whole-grain bread, rice, or potatoes go into one of the smaller sections.
  •  Lean meat or meat substitutes go into the other small section.

Keeping portions in mind when managing your diet can have a significant effect on your health.

Deciphering Diabetes Questions

Diabetes Questions and Answers

There’s a lot of information out there about your diabetes and what you should and shouldn’t do, so it’s only natural that you have diabetes questions.

The truth is that there’s really nothing you can’t do or eat. The key is moderation, along with a well-balanced meal plan and exercise.

Diabetes Questions Answered

These common diabetes questions can help you get answers.

Q: Is there a cure for diabetes?

A: Sue Kirkman, senior vice president of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), said there is no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But if you eat right, you can help control your disease.

Q: Do people with diabetes have to be on a special diet?

A: Once upon a time, people with diabetes had to follow super-strict diets. Now, we know that following a balanced diet will help with your diabetes. A balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, dairy, and small amounts of good fats, like nuts and avocados.

Q: If I have diabetes, do I need to avoid foods that are high in carbs, like pasta and bread?

A: Carbohydrates are an important past of a well-balanced diet. A person with diabetes should consume around 3 to 4 servings of carbs per day. Whole-grain foods are especially good for you. They’re high in fiber, which has many health benefits. Of course, carbs aren’t something you should binge on, but they definitely should be a part of your diet.

Q: What about sweets?

A: Again, you shouldn’t eat an entire box of Milk Duds at the movie theater, but chocolate and other sweets aren’t off-limits. Just keep it under control and enjoy small portions. And fruit is a great option when you’re craving something sweet. You can also check a diabetes cookbook to find healthy and delicious desserts you’ll love.

Q: Can caffeine raise my blood sugar?

A: You probably won’t see a major spike in your blood sugar levels. But if you have Type 2 diabetes, drinking caffeine, especially after meals, can affect your blood sugar. Studies have shown that the amount of caffeine in two cups of black coffee can cause a noticeable rise in your blood sugar levels. If managing your levels is hard, less caffeine might be a good first step for you.

Q: Is there an insulin pill?

A: The ADA says an insulin pill is not coming soon. But, shots aren’t your only choice. There are also patches that you stick to your stomach for an easy dose of insulin.

Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Vacations are always exciting and relaxing, unless you aren’t prepared for traveling with asthma and allergies.

Don’t let them stand in your family’s way. By carefully getting ready ahead of time, you can make sure you have smooth travels.

Preparing for Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Having a great trip starts when you’re planning. When you’re looking at destinations and hotels for your family, you may want to find a PURE hotel room. Hotels across the country are adding these hypoallergenic rooms.

From installing air purifiers to ripping out dust-filled carpets and drapes, these rooms have been overhauled to be allergy-friendly. You may pay a little extra (about $20 more), but by getting rid of allergens and surprise asthma flare-ups, a PURE room can make your trip an easy one.

And don’t forget to make sure you have enough of current prescriptions ahead of time. With some things, you can stock up in advance. For others, you may have to take your prescription with you and get it filled on the road. Make sure you also know which pharmacies your plan covers before getting a prescription filled there.

Keep a document that lists all of the medicines and supplies you’re traveling with. Not only can it help you pack before leaving home or the hotel, but you can also show it to security agents at airports to help them check your supplies quickly.

Packing for Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

According to the TSA, you can pack your meds or nebulizer in your carry-on for your flight.

It’s important to pack both your quick-relief and controller meds in your carry-on so that you can treat or prevent an attack on the flight. Plus, if your checked bag gets lost, at least your asthma’s still taken care of.

Keep medications in their original containers, and keep them in a separate, clear plastic bag. This makes it easy for security to check what kind of meds you have and that they’re yours.

Pack copies of your Asthma Action Plan which has important info about your asthma that can help those traveling with you and the people you visit if something should happen.

Use your list to make sure you’ve packed everything you need to take care of your asthma.

Take your Health Alliance member ID card in case you need to visit a doctor while you’re out of town.

If you aren’t getting a PURE room, pack your own bedding, like any special pillows, sheets, or bed covers.

If your kids are traveling without you, it’s important to both help them pack their meds, and to make sure they have their emergency plan and important numbers, like your phone number, handy when traveling.

Traveling with Asthma and Allergies

Once you’re at the airport, the key to a smooth flight is communication.

Make sure you tell the security officers you are traveling with asthma meds or a nebulizer, which they will have you take out of your case.

Use a phone, an app, or a watch that can stay on your home time zone, so you can keep track of when you should be taking medicine on your normal schedule. It’s easy to get distracted on vacation, so alarms are also an easy way to remind yourself at the right time.

Once you’re on your flight, if you feel sick and need help, a drink, or to get your carry-on quickly, it can help if you let your flight attendant know what’s happening. They can help you better and faster if they know it’s important for your asthma.

When you’re driving, fresh air sounds like a great idea, but you never know what allergens are in it. Drive with the windows up and the air on to keep triggers out. And, keep your meds close, not in the trunk!

After Arriving

Once you’ve made it to your hotel, it’s a good idea to make sure your supplies are still organized after traveling. You should also make sure your room is clean, and change your bedding if you brought it with you.

Try to plan activities that won’t stress your asthma or put you in contact with too many allergens, and make sure you’re ready to carry your inhaler, just in case.

And don’t forget to take time to relax and refuel for a vacation to remember!

Drive Thru Choices

Smart Eating in the Drive Thru

Fast food can be easy, quick, and affordable. And there’s going to be times, like running around after school and work, but before your kid’s big game, that you just don’t have time to go home and cook. But, you should be careful to eat smart when you’re running through the drive thru.

From 2007 to 2010, American adults got 11.3% of their total daily calories from fast food. And when many fast food meals pack a high-calorie punch, it’s important to make the smartest choices possible.

Tips for the Drive Thru

Don’t add salt.

Fast food places are already adding plenty of salt to their food, so don’t add extra from the shaker to your fries.

Pick smart toppings.

Ketchup can have quite a bit of sugar, but sauces like honey mustard and BBQ have even more, and mayo is high in fat. Mustard is the perfect low-fat condiment. And pick veggies like onion, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce instead of cheese or bacon.

Pay attention to names and menu descriptions.

Things that are labeled deep-fried, panfried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, creamy, crispy, Alfredo, or in cream sauce are going to be high in calories, fat, and salt.

Don’t assume it’s healthy because it sounds like a health food.

Some fast food salads, like those with crispy chicken, lots of cheese, and heavy dressings, like ranch, can have more than a 1,000 calories! Some burgers have as few as 250 calories. Pay attention to what’s on each item.

Skip the soda.

Drink water, tea, or even coffee instead. Even diet soda is not helping your health.

Look at ALL of the menu.

Some places serve breakfast all day that can have healthier options. Kids’ menus can give you smaller, lower calorie portions. And you can always ask to remove or substitute certain ingredients.

Use technology.

More and more menus are listing calories, but it can be hard to read that in the drive thru while you’re also trying to choose and order. But technology makes it easy to check calorie-counts and nutrition info online. Some places, like Starbucks, even have nutrition info on their app. Take a minute before you go or while you’re waiting in a long line to check what your healthiest options are.

Stop your cravings.

If you’re hitting up the drive thru because of a craving, not because you’re short on time, learn how to make healthier, cheaper, and delicious versions of your favorite takeout at home. Our Pinterest can help you learn how.

Fitness Magazine also has some great recommendations for what you should order at some of your favorite fast food stops.

Healthy Weight for Kids

Help Your Kids Reach a Healthy Weight

Childhood obesity is a regular topic in the news, and with more than a third of American children above a healthy weight, there’s a real reason for concern.

While many stories talk about school lunch programs and possible laws in the food industry, it can be hard to know what to do when when it’s your child. Then, it’s not about statistics or national efforts — it’s personal.

Get the Facts

The first step is to take an honest look at your kids, even though that’s incredibly hard to do. But denying a weight problem won’t help.

If you’re worried about your kid’s weight, the first step is to talk to their doctor. Some kids develop differently, and it’s possible that yours are still shedding their baby fat. Their doctor can give you a better idea of whether or not it’s a problem.

Getting Started

If their doctor diagnoses your kids as overweight or obese, the next step is to take it in without blaming them or yourself. These days, it can be harder and harder to be healthy when everything has sugar, salt, or chemicals hidden in the ingredients. But it’s not too late to learn to change bad habits and make better ones.

The key is for you to set a goal for your family to get healthy and active, and to stick to it. By helping them make healthy habits now, you can set an example that will last them a lifetime.

Talk About Weight

Next, it is important to really talk through the reasons for the coming changes with your family. Kids usually don’t understand the link between what and how much they eat and their bodies. And if you don’t explain what’s happening, they may think that you taking away their favorite foods is a punishment.

Make sure they understand that they haven’t done anything wrong, and that this is to help you all feel and live better. Don’t put it in terms of weight or looks, instead, talk about feeling good and being healthy and strong.

Kids can be sensitive about their weight, especially if they’ve been teased or bullied about it before. Make sure you always work to build up their self-esteem, and never make them feel guilty for being overweight.

Create a Weight Plan

Now it’s time to create an action plan to make big changes doable.

Get Active

Limits on screen time, like TV, video games, and computers, can help get them moving. You can also have them earn screen time, like playing outside for an hour could earn them 15 minutes of their favorite video game.

Try turning physical activities into family time. Take a bike ride together through your neighborhood. Teach your children games you played as a kid, like freeze tag, or kickball.

Play to what they’re interested in. If they like watching sports on TV, teach them rules or plays during a pickup game. If they love science, find experiments online that will get them moving, like learning about motion, or outside, like looking at plants and animals. Ask their friends or school about groups or teams your kids might want to join, or convince them to play with their dog after school each afternoon.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating better also needs to be a family effort. Kids’ eating habits are often learned from their parents, so first, take a look at what you eat and what you feed them. Again, don’t blame or stress about the past, just set goals for moving forward.

The biggest change you can make is to bring fruits and veggies into every meal. They should make up half of your plate at every meal, and they make great snacks.

Also, cut back on fast food and pre-made snacks like store-bought chips and cookies.  You can’t control how these things were made, which usually means extra calories. Swap these for healthy snacks like string cheese, nuts, grapes, rice cakes, and apples with peanut butter.

Cut out soda in your home. Don’t allow it at the dinner table, and drink low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or water instead. And if your family misses the bubbles, switch to sugar-free flavored soda water.

And the most important thing you can do is to start cooking at home. When you cook a meal, you control what goes into it, how it was made, and how big a serving is. When you eat out, you don’t always know what your family’s getting.

Make It Stick

These changes can seem huge at first, but you don’t have to make them all at once. Start small, like setting a goal of serving veggies with dinner five nights a week.

You can’t change your family’s diet and exercise routine overnight, and you wouldn’t want to. Change can be hard for kids (and adults!), so get the whole family into it:

  • Never single out one child who’s struggling with a weight issue. Even thin siblings will feel the benefits of healthy eating and exercise.
  • Make your kids a part of meal planning, shopping, and cooking. When they help pick out and prepare veggies for the stir-fry or cook ground turkey for tacos, they’re more likely to try new foods.
  • A good rule is 90% healthy food, and 10% fun food. Limit the not-so-healthy stuff, but definitely don’t ban it. Diets with strict rules are more likely to backfire, and could cause your kids to develop long-term issues with food.
  • Find great advice. With the internet, other parents’ tricks are always on hand. Many have found ways to sneak healthy ingredients into their kids’ favorite foods, like Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, zucchini, pumpkin, or banana breads, and desserts like these protein-rich Black Bean Brownies. They’ll be healthier without even knowing it!
  • If you’re having a tough time getting your kids on board, find outside help. As parents, we all know that some kids are more likely to follow advice when the info is coming from someone else. Find a registered dietitian for kids in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right. website.

For more articles and tips on keeping your kids healthy and happy, and many more healthy recipes, visit our Pinterest.

Keeping Your Kitchen Clean

Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Clean

Keeping Your Kitchen Clean

Most of us would like to think we do a pretty good job of keeping our kitchen clean. Basics like washing countertops, sweeping, and mopping the floor might seem like enough, but other things you might not notice can let germs and bacteria hide in your kitchen. These tips can help you keep it spotless.

Clean the Kitchen Sink and Counters

Your dirty dishes are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and germs are easily spread to your faucet handles. Kitchen counters can also collect germs from everything that touches or passes over them.

A wet dishcloth isn’t enough, it will just move the bacteria around. Use hot water and soap or an antibacterial cleaner often.

Change Sponges and Dishcloths Every Week

These are crawling with bacteria, and can even contain E. coli.

Between uses, make sure they dry completely to stop bacteria from growing. Sponges should go in an upright holder, and dishcloths should be hung up to dry.

Wash Your Cutting Boards in the Dishwasher

Hand-washing with hot water and soap is not always enough to kill germs. And knives create nicks in the surface, which are the perfect place for bacteria to grow. It’s also a good idea to reserve one cutting board for meat and another for fruits and veggies, so you never accidentally contaminate something you’re going to eat raw.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, pour boiling water over the surface after each use.

Wash Reusable Grocery Bags

These can transport germs from the grocery store, and using the same bags to carry raw meat and veggies over and over again can cause bacteria to grow on the bag’s surface.

Wash these bags often, either by hand or on the gentle cycle in your washing machine.

Keep the Microwave Clean

You might forget about your microwave because you can’t always see its messes, but it can collect bacteria from food that spills or splatters. And its heat can let bacteria grow and spread.

Make sure to scrub the outside, the handles, and buttons, as well as the inside.