Monday, August 27, 2012


Pack lunches with a healthier punch

The school year is still in its infancy, but if your child eats cold lunch, peanut butter and jelly might already be getting old.

But there are ways to make lunches that pack tastier and healthier punches.

It all starts with getting your children involved. Give them healthy options and let hem play a role in making the lunch. If they make decisions and help make the lunch, they are more likely to eat it.

Here are some ideas for some creative, healthy and tasty lunches:

•  Whole grain breads, wraps and pitas instead of plain old white bread
•  Low fat yogurt or boost the protein with Greek yogurt such as Chobani Kids.
•  Cold past salad
•  Protein, protein, protein. Kids love peanut butter, which you can pair with 100% fruit spread, sliced bananas or apples in a wrap. Tuna salad with light mayo and egg salad on while grain are other ideas
•  Tire of peanut butter, consider alternatives such as almond butter, honey peanut butter or soynut butter. 
•  Hummus (bean dip), cheese and hard boiled eggs
•  Sliced apples with peanut butter or almond butter
•  Fresh fruit or fruit salad with low fat vanilla yogurt as a dip
•  String cheese
•  Whole grain snack crackers or pretzels
•  Dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries or apple slices
•  Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews
•  Baby carrots, sliced bell peppers and snap peas with low-fat dressing for dip.
•  Edamame (soy bean in the pod)
•  Avoid the pre-packaged lunches and create your own using a divided plastic dish or Bento style lunch box.

Although picky eaters can be a challenge, you would be surprised at what they will eat if you try enough times. Just because they don’t eat it the first time doesn’t mean they never will.

And, don’t rule out leftovers. Break out the old thermos and give your child a hot lunch from home — soup, chili, stir fry and pasta are all good options.  

Keep in mind when packing to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot to avoid food borne illnesses related to spoilage.  Make use of containers that offer the freezer ice packs and thermos type containers to keep the soups from cooking down.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and clinical educator at the The William W. Backus Hospital Diabetes Center. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Kane or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, August 13, 2012


Prioritize when it comes to buying organic foods

Many people can’t afford to buy all organic foods. If you are concerned about your health but also worried about the price tag, there are ways to prioritize when to buy organic and when you don’t really need to.

The Environmental Working Group has developed a list of the foods highest in pesticides. Called the Dirty Dozen, the list includes celery; peaches; strawberries; apples; blueberries; nectarines; bell peppers; spinach; kale; cherries; potatoes; and grapes. These are some healthy and great tasting foods, but if at all possible, buy these foods organic.

I also recommend that you buy organic milk and meats. In my opinion, the expense is worth it.

But not all food needs to be organic. Food generally considered to be lowest in pesticides are: onions; sweet corn; pineapple; kiwi, mango; asparagus; cabbage; eggplant; tomatoes; broccoli; sweet potatoes; and watermelon.

Another suggestion I have is to buy local whenever possible. Farmers markets are springing up in every town, and produce is usually freshly-picked and generally contain less pesticides and other chemicals. 

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, August 06, 2012


Exercise can be fun — and free

As I get older I seem to be getting increasingly lazy.  I found myself putting my hands under the faucet at home and waiting for the water to turn on – just like the automatic water faucets at work. Some public restrooms have sensors so we don’t even have to flush the toilet.

TV remotes, automatic door openers, electric can openers, escalators located right next to stairwells…it seems there is no need to exert ourselves these days. We all know we should get daily exercise for good health, but not all of us want to pay for a gym membership or buy an expensive treadmill to accomplish that goal.  Here are 10 ways to get exercise — and all for free!

•  Park your car as far away as you can from the store or building entrance and walk.
•  Improvise on exercise equipment — fill an empty milk jug or ketchup bottle with sand, and use instead of dumbbells, but research proper use of weights to avoid injury.  Laundry detergent bottles and soup cans are also good improvised weights.
•  Take the stairs, not the elevator or escalator.
•  Clean your house — be vigorous when vacuuming, bending, dusting, or mopping the floor. 
•  Join community programs — walking or hiking groups are already in existence in most communities, or start one of your own.
•  Substitute a yoga exercise ball for your lounge chair when watching TV at home, or do it at your desk at work if your boss permits it!
•  Get off the couch and exercise while watching TV.  A friend of mine does “crunches” or sit-ups during every commercial break.
•  Check your local library for free exercise books or videos to check out.
•  Call your local Parks and Recreation department and ask for free exercise programs.  Many have made arrangements with schools for brisk hall walking during after-school hours.  Free use of school basketball or tennis courts may also be available when school is not in session.
•  Find an exercise buddy and set up a schedule to meet and go for a brisk walk in the neighborhood — it’s much more fun, and you will be motivated to stick to your regimen so as not to disappoint your buddy.

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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