Day: February 23, 2016

Give Peas a Chance: 5 Fast Ways to Help Kids Learn to Love Vegetables

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Maybe it’s because they have so many more meal options than we did growing up, or maybe they’re just being kids, but it seems like many children today have a very limited list of foods they’re willing to eat. Not only can this be frustrating for parents, it can be unhealthy for growing kids who need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow.

While parents know we’re supposed to get a certain amount of healthy foods into our kids every day, it can be hard for vegetables to compete with comfort food favorites like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. Luckily, there are things we can do to make the vegetables more kid-friendly, and we’re going to discuss them below.

Here are 5 easy ways to get kids to try (and maybe even enjoy) healthy foods:

 

1. Quietly Cauliflower—

The secret undercover agent of the vegetable world, cauliflower can be cooked, mashed and blended with butter or cheese to resemble and taste very similar to mashed potatoes.

Adults on low-carb diets already know about this amazing substitution for the starchier dish it so closely resembles, but children are used to seeing cauliflower on veggie trays in its raw and somewhat pungent-smelling form.

If your children are extremely particular, you can try blending mashed cauliflower half and half with potatoes to gradually get them used to the flavor. And don’t forget that this vegetable can be added to casseroles, or covered with cheese and baked to create a delicious cauliflower gratin.

 

2. Marinara is Magnificent—

With a strong tomato base to hide other flavors, shredded or pureed carrots, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable that sounds good can be added to this popular red sauce (especially if it has ground turkey or beef added as well to hide the texture).

Pasta primavera is another tried and tested way to get children to enjoy vegetables, so don’t forget that a good, creamy butter sauce can also convince a picky kid to give veggies a chance.

 

3. Macaroni and More—

Macaroni and cheese sits firmly at the top of many people’s favorite food lists, but the deliciousness of this dish doesn’t have to stop with cheese, and neither does the nutrition.

This is because it’s easy to add finely chopped broccoli, steamed spinach, diced tomatoes, or any other vegetables you’d like, thanks to the strong cheese flavor that both covers and compliments pretty much anything you add to it.

Experts have discovered it can take more than 10 times of tasting a food to decide whether or not we like it, making macaroni and cheese a great way to help a child develop an appreciation for nutritious foods without even realizing it.

 

4. Meat You in the Garden—

Unless you’re a vegetarian, meat can be a great way to work vegetables into your diet via meatloaf, meatballs, and meat sauces.

Veggie burgers, either made entirely from vegetarian sources, or meat with pureed and finely diced vegetables mixed into the patties is another method used by resourceful parents to encourage kids to eat healthily.

The addition of a hamburger bun and condiments further serves to add to the illusion of an all-meat burger, allowing families to add baked fries and skip the fast food for a healthier homemade alternative.

 

5. The Secret Baker—

Everybody loves zucchini bread, right?  And carrot cake is a classic favorite dessert. So what’s weird about adding pureed cauliflower, carrots or spinach to chocolate cake or spice muffins?

Cauliflower is bland, carrots are a surprisingly sweet vegetable, and spinach has a mellow taste that goes unnoticed when paired with stronger flavors. Give it a try, get creative, and never fear: It can be a little secret between you and us, and we promise we’ll never tell.

Be sure to blend all well-cooked vegetables you’re adding to a baked good into a smooth paste to avoid textural discovery of your well-hidden nutrition, and nobody will ever know the difference.

 

The above tips are ways to disguise the flavor of vegetables and conceal them within foods kids already love in hopes that children will eventually grow to enjoy the flavors they’re subconsciously tasting.

But the best way to help kids learn to love vegetables is to lead by example; by eating them with meals openly and positively. By using the tips above, and making a point of enjoying them in front of your children, you can take the mystery out of these nutritional superfoods to help your children learn to love vegetables.

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Is Your Mouth a Heartbreaker? 5 Surprising Health Risks Related to Oral Hygiene

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We all know that flossing and regular brushing are necessary to prevent gum disease, but there are many other seemingly unrelated benefits to taking great care of our teeth.

For example, researchers have discovered that periodontitis can lead to inflammation-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, decreased memory and other health issues. This means that taking great care of our teeth is more important than merely making sure we have a beautiful smile: it might even save our lives.

Below are 5 surprising ways poor oral hygiene can lead to more than just mouth problems:

 

1. Harmful for the Heart—

Periodontal (gum) disease generally occurs from tartar and plaque buildup, but genetic factors and tobacco use may also play a role, creating infection in the affected areas of the mouth that can lead to tissue and bone loss.

Studies have implicated this mouth inflammation might trigger an inflammatory response in other parts of the body, such as the cardiovascular system. Other studies have shown the increased cardiovascular disease risk may happen because of the excessive bacteria coming from the infected parts of the mouth.

Regardless of the exact cause, findings have proven that gum disease might trigger a heart attack or stroke for some, making it especially important for those already at risk for cardiovascular issues to practice thorough oral hygiene.

 

2. The Oral Health/Diabetes Connection—

Chronically high blood sugar levels can eventually affect the body’s ability to battle infection, making it harder for gums to fight off periodontitis-causing bacteria.

Having gum disease can also make it harder to maintain steady blood sugar levels… creating a vicious cycle of diabetes making periodontal issues worse, and vice versa.

To avoid this unfortunate dance between diseases, hyperglycemic people should establish a consistent brushing and flossing routine, and have twice-yearly check-ups to keep a close watch on gum tissue.

 

3. Greater Risk of Pancreatic and Kidney Disease—

When researchers at Harvard followed 52,000 men for 16 years, they found that participants with periodontal disease had a 65% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those with healthy gum tissue.

This number was already a shocking discovery, but when men experienced tooth loss because of gum disease, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer became even greater.

Another study established that people who’d lost their teeth were more likely to have chronic kidney disease than those with their natural teeth. Blood pressure issues caused by the chronic kidney disease also affected overall bone health and led to heart disease. (Source: Case Western Reserve University.)

 

4. Higher Percentages of Head and Neck Cancers—

Japanese researchers studied people with poor oral hygiene and increased bacterial infections/inflammation/periodontal disease, and found highly increased risks of head and neck cancers in participants.

People who’d lost teeth were 136% more at risk for esophageal cancer, 68% more likely to experience head or neck area cancers, and had a 54% increase in risk for lung cancer. (Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, American Association for Cancer Research.)

HPV risk is also higher in those with gum inflammation, with about 60% of oral cancers linked to the human papilloma virus.

These findings were shocking, to say the least, proving that it is vitally necessary for cancer prevention to take the best care of teeth possible.

 

5. Gum Disease Can Cause Respiratory Problems—

It makes sense that what’s happening inside the mouth can travel down the throat, but the bacteria from periodontal disease can even make it all the way into the lungs, leading to respiratory issues such as pneumonia.

Those most at risk are the elderly, smokers, those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and people who are already immunosuppressed, such as HIV and cancer patients. (Source: American Academy of Periodontology.)

 

We now know the benefits of a beautiful smile extend well beyond the teeth, yet despite these scary additional health risks, 80% of the U.S. population has some form of gum disease. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

For the reasons above and more, having good oral hygiene is a crucial part of overall wellness, and a healthy mouth starts with a smart habits like brushing and flossing regularly. Be sure to see your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and wellness exam, brush and floss every day, and take great care of your teeth and gums so they can help you stay happy and healthy, from head to toe.

Weight Loss Plateau? Oh, No! 5 Tips to Get the Scale Moving

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When you’re watching what you eat, exercising regularly, and doing all of the things that are supposed to promote weight loss, but the scale won’t seem to move, you may have reached what fitness experts call a weight loss plateau.

This frustrating phenomenon can demotivate even the most disciplined person, because when we feel like nothing we try matters, it’s natural to stop caring about what we do. What’s the point of all the work if you have nothing to show for it, right?

But before you throw in the towel, head for the couch, and grab the Ben & Jerry’s, you might try some of the techniques recommended to move past a weight loss plateau. With a little patience and determination, there are ways to move past this annoying phase of weight loss limbo — and working out consistently is still good for your health, regardless of what the scale says.

Read about 5 ways to move past a weight loss plateau below:

 

1. Strength Training to Boost Metabolism—

Lifting weights, using weight machines, resistance bands and other forms of exercise that get you out of your comfort zone are great ways to build muscle mass, and muscle mass burns more calories.

This means that even in a state of rest, your body will be using more calories than before, and this might be just the push you need to get the scale moving again.

If you’re already incorporating strength training into your workout, consider increasing the weight and or/reps you’ve been doing. You may have fallen into a weightlifting routine rut that no longer stresses muscle fibers enough to build mass, holding you steady at your current weight.

 

2. Check Your Chewing—

If you don’t keep a food diary, this might be a good time to start. Information is the first step in solving most problems, and if you’re going to get your weight loss program back on track, you’ll need to know exactly what’s going on.

It’s very common for people to forget what they’ve eaten in a day, or to discount the little things, but the little things add up. Record every liquid, snack, dressing and bite that goes into your mouth for a week to see if you might be forgetting about some sneaky saboteur somewhere in your daily diet.

Also: If you’ve lost a decent amount of weight, your daily caloric requirements might have lessened with your body fat content, so you may need to adjust accordingly.

 

3. What You Eat Matters—

While you’re recording your diet, pay attention to the types of foods you prefer, because even though caloric intake versus what you burn in a day is the most important factor for weight loss, there are foods you can eat to speed up the process.

Refined sugars and simple carbs, for example, are highly conducive to weight gain and don’t offer the body much in the way of nutrition. But healthier choices like whole grains and vegetables will fill you up with less calories, thanks to their high fiber content.

Also consider increasing your daily protein intake, as this is needed to build the metabolism-boosting muscle mentioned above, and will keep you feeling satisfied for a longer time than carbohydrates.

 

4. Many Mini-Meals—

Because jobs and life can make it difficult to eat often, most people have the standard 3 squares a day with occasional snacks in-between. But if you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau, a great way to “shock” your system back into losing weight is to switch to 6 mini-meals a day.

It requires more forethought and planning, and you’ll need to make sure your required caloric intake stays the same, but this method of eating has helped many lose weight.

Another benefit of multiple small meals throughout the day is that it curbs appetite, as the body receives small amounts of food before hunger has time to set in.

 

5. Change or Challenge Your Routine—

Sometimes we get set in our comfortable exercise regimens, as we hop on our favorite cardio machine, or do the same type of exercise for every workout. While this can be comforting psychologically, the body can also lapse into a comfort zone that slows fitness progress.

The answer to this, of course, is to mix it up. If you consistently do a certain form of cardio, for example, try a different type. If you are a leisurely trail or treadmill jogger, consider adding sprints to push the metabolism into high-gear.

Or take a completely different approach, slow down and try a more relaxing, enjoyable form of exercise, like yoga, hiking or swimming. Sometimes change of any kind can shake the body out of a plateau and back into progress.

 

Be sure to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, keep stress levels low, and be patient with yourself. Everyone experiences occasional setbacks and slowdowns with their weight loss programs, so try some of the tips above and stick with it: you’ll be back on track in no time!

 

More than Moles: Some Shocking, Surprising Signs of Skin Cancer

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Most of the news reports about skin cancer will warn people to keep a close watch on moles for changes. But did you know that there are actually many types of skin cancer that don’t present as moles at all? Skin cancers can also look like a red spot, a blemish, a bump, or a small patch of crusty, dry skin, for example.

The most important warning sign for cancer actually has nothing to do with moles; it has to do with healing. If you have anything unusual appear on your skin that doesn’t seem to heal, having it inspected by a dermatologist is highly recommended.

Below are descriptions of some common types of skin cancer, what to look for to catch them early, and treatment options:

 

1. Actinic Keratosis—

Technically, these rough, flesh-colored, pink or red bumps are considered a form of pre-cancer, and are most common on the face and ears, or any other place that receives a lot of sun exposure.

The small, crusty lesions can feel itchy or hurt when touched, and even though they don’t always turn into cancer, most doctors will choose to remove them.

Cryosurgery is the fastest, least painful and most common form of removal, using a highly focused spray of liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide to freeze off the offending tissue.

For some, cryosurgery spots will form immediately into small scabs that heal within 1-2 weeks, and others may develop a blister first (that will soon scab over and heal).

 

2. Basal Cell Carcinoma—

Formed from the basal (bottom) layer of the epidermis, basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and fortunately, rarely spreads to other parts of the body. It can cause damage to surrounding areas, however, making it important to remove it as early as possible.

This type of skin cancer doesn’t grow inside of existing moles like melanoma, and will instead look like a patch of dry, red, scaly or crusty skin. Basal cell carcinoma may also present as a shiny bump or flesh-colored mole with light pigment.

Because of the varied ways this type of cancer can look, it’s important to remember that if anything forms on the skin and doesn’t heal, have it checked out.

When caught early, basal cell carcinomas will be confirmed through biopsy, and may be removed via cryosurgery during a quick office visit. If they are larger or deeper, they may need to be excised from the skin until all cancerous layers are eliminated.

 

3. Squamous Cell Carcinoma—

This type of cancer will often be larger than basal cell carcinoma, darker in color, have a bump under the skin, or domed, wart-like appearance. The edges of a squamous cell carcinoma will be irregular and may ulcerate to bleed or form a crust.

Because they arise from the top layer of cells, these skin cancers are often noticed more quickly than others, which is good because they can spread to organs if untreated.

Squamous cell carcinoma is generally cut out and stitched up in-office like larger basal cell carcinomas, and some doctors will use desiccation during surgery, applying an electric current to kill cancer cells and lessen bleeding.

 

4. Melanoma—

Melanoma forms in pigment-producing cells, which is why it often shows up in moles, prompting the warnings to check for irregular borders or sudden expansion of existing spots. This type of cancer can come in many different colors, often presenting with multiple hues in the same area.

Like all cancers, the growth rate of melanoma can be slow or rapid, but because the potential to spread throughout the body is higher in the case of melanoma, this is considered the most dangerous and life-threatening form of skin cancer.

Melanomas should be removed immediately, with blood work done to ensure cancer cells haven’t spread to other areas of the body. If caught early, melanoma generally won’t require topical or systemic chemotherapy.

 

Having red or blonde hair, pale skin, excessive levels of early sun exposure, tanning bed use, and a past history of severe sunburns are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing skin cancer. But it is recommended that everyone avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), use sun-blocking clothing, hats and eyewear, and apply sunscreen to unprotected skin.

Considering that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and that by age 65 almost half of our country’s population will develop some form of it, it’s extremely important to recognize the potential signs. As the most dangerous version, melanoma is most often discussed, but there are many other forms of skin cancer. Use the tips above to recognize and remove anything suspicious so you can keep your skin healthy and cancer-free.