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All About Organics

Far too often the word organic is misused and misunderstood. I think it’s most important to understand the reasons behind the difference staring back at you on the price tag, and then only you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth the financial, physiological, and environmental costs.

Educate Yourself

Organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified organisms. Additional organic requirements are set to support the environment, including soil improvements and prevention of soil erosion.

What does this mean for you as a consumer? Potentially a greater chance of a reduction in your exposure to harmful chemicals. As an environmentally-conscious consumer? Hopefully refraining from further contributing to soil erosion, energy use, and water pollution while contributing to biodiversity.

Side tantrum: Just because it’s organic does NOT mean it’s healthy. Organic jelly beans (my favorite) are packed with organic cane sugar, tapioca syrup, and full of fruit juice and natural flavors. Can I consume them obliviously thinking I’m fulfilling my quota of that “rainbow” of fruit and veggie servings for the day? Not exactly. Anything full of sugar (even organic sugar) is not a “healthy” food. I would say the importance of selecting organics is greatest for items in the perimeter of the grocery store (think produce, meats, dairy, eggs). Easy, right?

What’s With the Seal?

The USDAs National Organics Program ensures ...

Healthy Traveling Tips

It’s officially summer and many of us—over 36 million Americans—have embraced international travel recently. For students and families in particular, this is the season for exciting adventures overseas. It may not be very glamorous, but, before heading off with passports in hand, how can we ensure the healthiest trip possible?

Your mother was right: plan ahead

  • Check if your health insurance goes beyond the US border. If not, it is easy to purchase a short term travel insurance policy.
  • Find out as much as you can about your destination’s health risks or dangers.
  • Most diseases are preventable. Talk it over with your doctor or see a travel doctor who specializes in such advice.
  • Be certain you have the needed vaccinations and medicines before heading out.
  • Don’t let ....

Culinary Herbs

Like most bright ideas, this one was sparked while sipping a mojito – why am I not growing mint? Well, this “little project” turned into a full-blown garden last year. So my challenge this year is to share with you how to grow some culinary herbs.

Why Growing Herbs at Home is Great…

  • It’s fun. Trust me, the smell of basil straight from the ground will take your mind on a direct flight to southern Italy.
  • It’s economical. How many times have you purchased a ginormous bunch of parsley, only to use a few sprigs? Having live plants means you can take as little (or as much) as you need, when you need it. One $3 basil plant can save you well over $20. You will waste less, and likely will use herbs more frequently since they will always be available.
  • It encourages creativity. When you have an assortment of plants begging to be used, you might take a handful of each and add it to the recipe. You can create endless combinations of herbs and spices to a variety of dishes.
  • It’s easy. Whether you have an amazing boyfriend that will yank rose bushes to make room for your gardening experiment, a balcony that sees the sun, or just a naked windowsill, you really can grow herbs anywhere.

Getting Started…

Spring cleansing - Part 2

 (Read part 1 of this ‘Spring Cleanse' series here for more on how many calories you actually need, how to track your intake, and what you need to know about fluids.)

The Cleanse…

There are thousands of books out there, everything from an intensive fasting period to a detailed 21+ day program. Pick one that seems like it would yield the highest degree of success for you, but remember these basic parameters of all detoxes and cleanses:

  • Don’t go less than 1200 calories a day. (Doing so stimulates a decrease in your metabolism, which unfortunately won’t immediately correct once the cleanse is completed. )
  • Don’t expect more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week. If you see this on the scale, it means you are losing lean muscle mass (not a brilliant idea since this tissue is most metabolically active = your best friend in the battle of the bulge) or you are under-hydrated. The goal is gradual fat loss, hydration maintenance, and preservation of lean muscle mass if you want your results to last.
  • Avoid junk (caffeine, alcohol, sodium, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and refined grains). You want to get the biggest bang for your caloric buck, so opt for whole grains, fruits and vegetables rather than processed food.
  • Assess your tendency for withdrawal. This can be from caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined grains/sugars, or simply the habit of heading for frozen yogurt on weekends.

What you should know about….

  • Caffeine:

Spring cleansing - Part 1

Spring is finally here! Finally, the opportunity to congratulate Seattle for behaving according to season, and enjoy tulips that Dougie in the spring breeze, and the first panic wave reminds you that you’ve got only a few weeks before bikini season (you get the point). Your innocent neurons automatically fire “detox diet’ and “cleanse”. Well, let me warn you that I am not a fan of the “drink maple syrup and eat lemon wedges” diet. Not because nutritionally they are a joke, but if you follow one, you morph into a mix of Tasmanian devil and Garfield, a creature with a short temper, little patience, an appetite with no boundaries, yet profound laziness.

Instead, how about something realistic with sustainable results? Here are tips to clean up your eating behaviors and make sure you are on track to tackle your goals.

Track Your Intake:

Do you know how much calories, fat, sugar, fiber, fluids, etc. you are concerned about, that you are consuming these days? This is where you need to start...

Childhood obesity

Eating healthy and being physically active are important things to keep in mind during and especially after the holidays when an abundance of food is present.

Parents often have questions about their child’s weight such as: Is my child’s weight appropriate? Is there a difference between being overweight and being obese? When should we be worried about his or her weight? If I am overweight, what is the risk that my child may become overweight?

Physicians often use the term BMI (body mass index) to define the terms overweight and obese, and this provides physicians and parents with a guide to monitor weight in children. BMI can be calculated using the weight and height (weight in kilo divided by square of height in meters; this can also be calculated using the BMI calculator. A child is considered overweight if the BMI is greater than the 85th percentile and obese if greater than 95th percentile. Once a child is obese, they are at risk of developing complications like hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, etc.

Physical activity should be a significant part of everyday life of your child. Each child should aim to be active for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. They can be enrolled in an organized sports activity program like football, soccer, baseball, or swimming, or they can remain active by riding a bike, jogging and so on. Parents need to be aware if their child is playing video games for hours at a time and restrict the amount of screen time if necessary. Reduced television watching and computer use may reduce BMI and sedentary behavior.

Eating healthy plays an essential role in the well-being of every child. Studies have shown a lower prevalence of obesity in children who eat a healthy breakfast every day. Parents need to provide children with healthy food options at home so that they can develop a habit of eating healthy. It is important for children to try to eat all food groups, including grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat or fish. Fats, oils and sweets must be consumed in limited amounts. Lifestyle modification involving the whole family is a key factor in maintaining healthy weight in children.

What if my child is obese or overweight?

Rather than Resolutions, Establish Healthy Habits

I’m all for a new year to spark good intentions, but the group of 100+ gym members that magically appear in January and hijack my stair climber only to stand at the top and text have proven again that the majority of these resolutions only last through February. That’s good news for my quads, but rather than brainstorm overly ambitious feats, why not establish healthy, realistic habits that everyone can carry out through next Christmas?

Healthy Weight

Let’s resolve to the BMI instead of the cover of People magazine to determine what a healthy weight is.

BMI (body mass index) calculation uses weight and height to determine one’s relative risk of disease. This number correlates with body fatness, but it’s important to remember that it is not a direction measure as it reflects both muscle and fat. (Click here to calculate your BMI.)

BMI is an inexpensive, quick and easy to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems. However, it doesn’t take into account frame size, bone density, muscle mass (highly trained athletes have high BMIs due to increase muscle mass), or body fat (women have more body fat than men, also older people have more body fat than younger).

Ideal Body Weight

So the BMI is one method for determining what your risk is at your present weight. What about if you want to know what your ideal weight range is? I recommend using this method (known as the Hamwi method):

  • Men: 106lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 6lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 10” = 149-183 pounds
  • Women: 100lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 5lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 3” = 104-127 pounds

Like using the BMI, you have to consider the interpretive standards for this calculation also. If you consider yourself to have a small frame, then use the lower end of this range; whereas if you have a large frame then you would use the upper end of this range.

How do you achieve an ideal weight?

If we want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, consuming a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity is essential.

What is a Healthy Diet?

It took me 4+ years and an expensive degree to develop a confident answer to this question…but to save you time and money, let’s look at the straightforward responses of two of my favorite authors:

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