What We Can Learn From French School Lunches

Posted on Aug 18, 2014 by No Comments

Last night I sat at a birthday party listening to a fifth grader, sixth grader, and high school senior talking about school lunches and how much of the food goes into the trash because the kids don’t like it. I understand trying to create healthier options for school kids, but if they aren’t going to eat the food, I’d say it’s time to tweak what we are serving at our public schools.

One of the main goals behind the healthier eating initiative in schools is thanks to Michelle Obama and her concern for the high obesity rate among children here in America. However, I’ve seeing a lot of push back from in the lunch rooms around the country.

I read a recent article that took a look at what French kids eat for lunch because the French don’t have an obesity problem. In fact they don’t suffer from weight issues or related conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes like we do in the states. So I think it is a good place to look to for ideas on just what we might want to initiate in our schools here.

The author of the article has children attending school there and she went for a visit to the school cafeteria. She was met with tables set with white ceramic plates, real silverware, cloth napkins, glasses, and water pitchers and a bread basket on the table. Sounds more like dining in a restaurant!

Menus at this school are set up two months in advance and are then passed on to a certified dietitian who tweaks them as needed. Then when it comes time to actually prepare the food, most of it is made right there on sight in the school kitchen – no frozen pre-prepared stuff with a few exceptions like ice cream or a pastry from a local shop.

School lunches run about $3.00 a student with low-income students enjoying subsidized meals.

The fresh foods served up in moderate portions aren’t “perfect” because there is still some junk food within the three or four course meals. However, they educate students to help them make the best choices. I like the idea of equipping kids with the right information and then giving them the opportunity to put it into practice.

The lunches aren’t the only things that help the French kids stay lean, though. They also have three recess times. Two are 15 minutes and one is a whole hour each day, plus they walk and bike to and from school.

Photo credits: jojonotdead

Are You Giving Your Kids More Vitamins than They Need

Posted on Aug 15, 2014 by No Comments

As good parents we try to give our kids everything they need to grow healthy and strong. For many of us, part of that plan is to give them vitamins. I admit I’ve been one who tries to prepare balanced meals and have kids that learned to enjoy vegetables and fruits along with all the other food groups.

The real question is, “Do kids need to take vitamin supplements?”

According to a new study in which scientists reviewed the labels on almost 200 dietary supplements made for infants in the younger than 12 month age group and the 1 – 4 year old group, we may be giving our kids more vitamins than they need.

They figured out the level of vitamins kids would ingest if they followed product instructions as directed. Research centered specifically on the levels of vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B12 as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin and choline.

They found most of the products provide vitamin levels higher than the recommended daily doses for kids. On average, in the vitamins for children ages one to four, kids are taking in about 300 percent of the daily recommended levels of vitamin A, thiamin and riboflavin and about 500 percent of the recommended level of vitamin C.

The bottom line was that the only vitamin that came in at or below recommended levels was vitamin D.

Is this okay or is it harmful? According to Michael Madden, an assistant professor at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, “It’s too soon to know whether these findings are concerning.”

However, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an American non-profit organization, young children should not consume excess levels of certain vitamins, including vitamins K and B12, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid and biotin, and infants should not consume excess levels of most vitamins.

The researchers findings published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggest that “much of the pediatric vitamin supplementation is not based on IOM recommendations and therefore represents wholesale over-supplementation.”

That term “over-supplementation” leaves me feeling uneasy, and yet some studies have shown that supplements don’t even contain the amount the label claims. So where does this leave us? I’d say it’s time to talk to our pediatricians and ask them whether or not are kids really need to be taking supplements and if so, which ones.

Photo credits:  ytang3

Jennifer Aniston Not Pregnant, Just Gained a Few Pounds

Posted on Aug 12, 2014 by No Comments

I think Jennifer Aniston’s reproductive life is one of the most scrutinized in the media. I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve seen headlines announcing she is pregnant. And yet, at this time she has never had a child.

Back when she and Brad Pitt broke up some rumors suggested it was because he wanted children and she didn’t. Yet other rumors said, she was unable to get pregnant. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have so many people second guessing such a private part of life. She admitted in a recent interview on Good Morning America that the “kids question” is the one she finds most annoying.

Pregnancy rumors have been flying again recently because the actress is looking a little curvier than usual, and I don’t mean fat at all. She admits she’s gained a few pounds, and now that she’s 45 it’s not as easy to lose weight as it used to be. I can certainly relate to that.

Jennifer is 5′ 5″ and she is usually comfortable weighing between 110-113. I’m only 5′ 1″ and I’d be comfortable weighing that, but unfortunately I haven’t seen numbers like that for more than a decade.

Personally, for her height I think her curviness looks great and could be a sign that she is in a happy relationship and satisfied with life. While she is not overweight she has said if she was being super picky she’d like to lose 5 pounds.

All the speculation about her life must be hard. For the most part she is a healthy eater, and she is not falling prey to the unrealistic pressure of trying to remain ageless like so many others in her profession. She is engaged to 42-year-old Justin Theroux and looks relaxed and happy.

I suggest instead of guessing about whether or not she ran off to get married on the sly, or is expecting a baby, that we let her experience the joy of making the announcement when the time comes.

Photo credits: Hollywood Scoop TV

Clear Up Psoriasis Naturally

Posted on Aug 8, 2014 by No Comments

I originally purchased Country Comfort Herbal Savvy Goldenseal Myrrh to use in combination with black drawing salve to get rid of some spots on my skin. From my years in Florida, I have plenty of them. To my surprise, it was a godsend this past winter as my elbows suffer seasonal bouts with psoriasis.

Until now, I’ve used a prescription ointment to clear it up, but the label on this salve intrigued me. It says it “makes an effective ointment for psoriasis, eczema, hemorrhoids, burns, infections, cuts, wounds, scrapes, dry skin, etc.”

Herbal Savvy
For me climate affects my psoriasis, and this past winter’s cold dry weather brought on symptoms early. I went to grab my Clobetasol Propionate ointment but stopped myself. For anyone out there who has experienced psoriasis, you know how it can start with a little itch and turn into a flare up that overtakes your elbow or other part of the body. I also get it on my scalp.

I prefer natural alternatives for everything and figured it couldn’t hurt to try the Country Comfort Herbal Savvy Goldenseal Myrrh. Within three days, the breakout was just about cleared up. That’s about the same as the results I experienced with the prescription ointment.

I continued putting it on for a few more days and the psoriasis totally disappeared for more than a month. If my elbows even feel like they are getting itchy I apply the salve and remain symptom clear even at the time of year when weather usually makes my symptoms worse.

The salve has a mild aroma and soaks into the skin well so it doesn’t stay greasy. I’ve used it to sooth my sore nose when I had a cold and the following morning the redness and soreness were gone. It’s worked to heal a minor grease burn, too.

I’d say this is a product to add to your first aid kit, and if you have psoriasis it’s one to keep on hand in your medicine cabinet.

Photo credits: wikimedia, Amazon


American Idol Finalist Michael Johns Dies at 35

Posted on Aug 7, 2014 by No Comments

I’ve watched American Idol for years. I admit I’m not quite as faithful a viewer since the dynamic has changed, but this week when I heard that Michael Johns had tragically died, I knew exactly who it was. He was a good looking singer from Perth, Australia that was on during season 7. He is the first of Idol’s top 10 finalists to die in the shows 13-year run.

According to a friend, he had been complaining about pain in his leg and thought he might have a blood clot because he experienced bad bruising and he hadn’t hurt his leg. Sadly, according to TMZ Michael had gone in to have it checked out, but doctors sent Johns home on Thursday, because they didn’t find anything wrong.

The next day his friend found him in an unresponsive state. He called 911 and performed more than 100 chest compressions as he tried to revive his friend, but Michael did not respond. The friend told the dispatcher that he thought Michael was already dead. By the time the paramedics arrived his fears were confirmed. He had died.

There is no official cause of death yet. They are waiting for toxicology results. Those close to him believe it was a blood clot in Michael’s ankle. And of course because he was in entertainment there are rumors flying about alcohol or “something else.” So time will tell what the cause was.

It is always sad when someone so young dies, and when they pass away so unexpectedly. I guess rumors and speculation are expected, but I don’t like it.

Simon Cowell expressed his condolences via Twitter and American Idol announced his death and condolences in a statement that said:

“Michael Johns was an incredible talent and we are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. He was a part of our American Idol family and he will be truly missed. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.” — American Idol

Photo credits: wikimedia

Proper Position Important when Exercising

Posted on Aug 6, 2014 by No Comments

Long ago I worked in a weight loss spa for women. I helped people lose weight and led exercise classes. I enjoyed seeing people get fit, but often had to correct a person’s stance or posture when performing an exercise.

Today with people exercising at home on their own, it is important that you perform moves correctly or you can be setting yourself up for injury. I’m currently streaming Jillian Michael’s fitness circuits to complement my three mile walks and have been reminded of some of the moves often performed incorrectly.

  • Lunges: Exercise videos and even the Wii Fit remind us that when performing lunges, the torso needs to stay in alignment and the front knee should be kept at a right angle. That means for proper form, your knee should not move beyond the toes of your forward foot. To help keep your balance, feet should be a shoulder width apart.
  • Stiff-legged dead lift: Spinal alignment is important in many exercises and in the stiff-legged dead lift it is important to keep the back arched or slightly concave by keeping the chest up and out and shoulder blades retracted to reduce stress on the spine. The lower back should be straight. Just tilt the pelvis slightly to get the proper form.
  • Crunches: Proper form for crunches also involves the spine. You want to engage the abs without compromising the spine (including the neck). Focus on a spot on the ceiling and lift your shoulders from the floor leading with your chin. Don’t pull on your head causing stress on the neck, but lift toward the ceiling, not toward you knees. Lift until your shoulder blades clear the floor and then gently lower back to your starting position. If your neck is sore following this exercise, you’ve done it incorrectly.

Exercise form has changed over the years. I’ve moved from doing crunches and dead lifts for my back to doing what they call the Windshield Wiper. It’s easier to maintain proper form and helps shrink the belly and waist as well as strengthen the lower back.

Just lie on your back with your arms out to the side. Bring your knees up in a bent leg position keeping knees together. Shoulders should stay planted on the floor with arms outstretched. Move your knees to the right and lower to the floor (as close as you can get). Return to the center and then move knees to the other side. This exercise also helps promote flexibility.

Bad form doesn’t just compromise the effectiveness of your exercise. These common mistakes can lead to injury and pain. One last mistake worth mentioning is bouncing as you stretch. That’s the way we did it years ago and have since learned that’s not good for us. Instead, a stretch should be a static movement.

Photo credits: wikipedia

Meditation Proven as a Depression Treatment

Posted on Aug 4, 2014 by No Comments

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, meditation has now been verified scientifically as a treatment for depression.

Researchers set out to determine the “efficacy of meditation programs on improving stress-related effects like anxiety, depression, stress/distress, positive mood, mental health and related quality of life, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight.”

I can’t help but think of how we have more time saving devices than ever, and yet for most of us our schedules have us scattered in more than one direction all the time! It leaves us scatterbrained! We have dishwashers to do the dishes for us and yet we are so strapped for time we struggle to find time to unload the clean dishes!

It just so happens my dishwasher is currently not working, and while I’m saving for a new one I’ve been washing the dishes by hand at the sink. Funny thing is I’ve found the time to do it, and I’ve actually enjoyed having time to think as I’m washing and drying. I enjoy the view out the window and ponder all sorts of things while I’m standing there.

For the most part, we have become so busy that we almost never have quiet time to think and meditate. The review of this study shows that mindfulness meditation may be just as effective as antidepressants in easing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain!

The team was led by John Hopkins Madhav Goyal, MD, MPH and they studied almost 18,000 previous studies on the benefits of meditation. Goyal says, “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”

Having some thinking time is key. Many of the chores we use to do gave us time to think, but now we don’t hang the wash out to dry which would have given us time out in the sunshine as well as thinking time. Instead, we need a buzzer on the dryer to remind us it is time to fold (or reheat) the laundry.

I can see why anti-depressants have become the go-to drug. We don’t give ourselves enough time to think, process, and meditate.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Researchers Have Found a Faster Method to Board Planes

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 by No Comments

How many times have you stood in line to hand your boarding pass to the flight attendant only to find a jam of people blocking the aisle inside the plane as they struggle to fit their carry on into an already full overhead bin?

Some airlines load back to the front, others give priority to window seat passengers, but it can still result in a wait as passengers clog the aisle looking for space in the overhead and causing a bottleneck.

Researchers at Clarkson University have developed a way to alleviate this problem. This faster method to board planes involves a common sense strategy designed by School of Business Professor R. John Milne and undergraduate student Alexander Kelly.

The basic plan resulting from this academic study is to assign airline passengers to a specific seat based on the number of bags they carry. The logic behind this method is that it evenly distributes luggage throughout the plane. Each row would ideally seat a passenger with two bags, another with one bag and a person with no bags.

“The new method would save at least several seconds in boarding time and prevent any one area of the plane from becoming overloaded with bags. Airlines could provide a smoother boarding experience for passengers by utilizing the research.” – Milne, the Neil ’64 and Karen Bonke Assistant Professor in Engineering Management

The method was tested by a computer science and mechanical engineering dual major from East Greenbush, N.Y., by running thousands of simulated airplane boardings.

While this can help ease the problems caused by carry ons on when boarding, some suggest it would be a lot of work for the person trying to figure out seat assignments. Or would the passenger have to decide how many carry on items she would have when booking the flight.

It also leads to questions regarding seat preferences. For instance, if you prefer an aisle seat but have two carry ons and the only aisle seats available already have someone seated in every row with two carry ons, does that make the seat unavailable?

Photo credits: Desiree N. Williams, jetalone

Luxury New York Pharmacy Offers Alternative Remedies

Posted on Jul 29, 2014 by No Comments

Stanley’s Pharmacy in New York takes a unique approach when serving customers. Owner Stanley George can fill your prescription at his brand new luxury pharmacy in New York City’s lower east side, but he can do more than that with his knowledge of Eastern and Western medicine.

Stanley’s Pharmacy carries prescription drugs and medicines like any other pharmacy, but he also features a wellness bar that serves a blend of herbal teas, a soda fountain that serves kombucha, and he even customizes drinks based on how customers are feeling. For instance, he can make a turmeric tea designed to help reduce inflammation for those who need it.

Stanley George comes from a traditional Indian family and has been a pharmacist for 15 years, and it was his goal to integrate natural medicine into his one-of-a-kind pharmacy. That’s what he has done with Stanley’s Pharmacy where he offers his unique blend of knowledge to help his customers feel their best.

Instead of hitting a Starbucks for a cup of Joe, Stanley’s customers can belly up to his wellness bar and get served a unique tea blend. Customers can choose hot drinks from the menu for things including sore throats, hangovers, tummy aches, detox, even a PMS Rx, and more.

Stanley’s approach is to try natural remedies in conjunction with traditional medications. His pharmacy is a “throwback to the old school pharmacy and soda fountain with a modern look and a wellness twist.” Along with helping his customers feel their best, he hopes to re-establish a neighborhood feel where people know their pharmacist by name.

He’s well on his way to accomplishing his goal. For those who don’t live in the New York area, Stanley’s teas can be purchased online.

Photo credits: Stanley’s Pharmacy