Traditions: Which Ones To Keep & How?

Most of us, no matter our religious preferences, were raised with some traditions. This especially holds true, at the holidays. As adults, we often cling to these traditions (even the ones we weren’t too crazy about in our youth). We watch as they are passed from one generation to the next. We smile. We laugh. We share. These traditions become, in an odd sort of way, comfort food for our heart and soul. But when a Chronic illness enters your life, it can change a lot of things — even traditions. 

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Personally, I have wonderful childhood memories of cookie baking … my grandmother, mother, aunt and cousins were all included. It was marathon baking, at its finest. Batch after batch. The kitchen was filled with warmth … laughter … sweet, aromatic smells … and cookies. Of course, we had to nibble a few. Taste-testing was (and still is) required. Then, the cookies were carefully tucked away in air-tight tins … only to reappear on Christmas Eve. It was pure magic. And this tradition still continues. Despite the loss of family members and the miles that separate us, my cousins and I still bake cookies. We text. We talk. We laugh. We share recipes. And we bake. Chronic illness has found all of us, but it hasn’t changed everything in our life. Moderation, in part, is how this tradition and others endure. We bake, but not all in one day. Once upon a time, I baked 8 different cookie recipes. Now, I bake 4 or 5. And my husband (no typo there) helps me with the Royal Icing. Times have changed, folks. Cooking shows have actually made it cool for guys to have fun in the kitchen. So, don’t be afraid to recruit a little help. You might be surprised at who wants to assist!

Some Chronic illnesses require dietary changes, i.e. diabetes. If you have hypertension, you need to avoid certain foods, i.e. salt, alcohol, saturated fats. Yet, there are many nice and healthy options for your holiday menu, i.e. lamb chops, pheasant, wild duck, turkey, cuts of lean beef, or salmon. If you take a moment to visit a few healthy-eating websites, you might be surprised to find that your culinary family traditions aren’t even effected by your disease. But if they are, again, moderation could be the answer. If not, choose wisely — choose healthy.

Mobility is often impacted by Chronic illness. Dexterity can be another issue. And both can make some traditions difficult (if not impossible) to enjoy. When this occurs, it’s time to find a new tradition that everyone can share. Or you can maintain your old tradition by delegating your duties to another? There is no sin in passing the torch. So, focus on what you have and can do. Share. Love. Laugh.  

Unfortunately, some treatments and medications can impact traditions, i.e. chemotherapy, radiation, etc. If this is your new normal, there’s nothing normal about it. Fatigue, nausea, etc., can quickly take the joy out of you. Do what you can, when you can. Communicate your needs. Focus on the positive, at all times. You might even create a new tradition — one that is easier for you to take part in. 

Last, but not least, be good to yourself. Keep realistic expectations. Make changes if necessary. Manage your disease. As wonderful as traditions can be, they can never replace you or your loved one. It’s people who are the heart of every celebration, dinner, festival, outing, etc. Without them, our traditions would have less meaning. They might not have any meaning at all.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.onlinemswprograms.com/resources/social-issues/resources-family-support-chronic-illness/

https://psychcentral.com/lib/holiday-traditions/

https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/coping-strategies_for-chronic-illness#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2018/breaking-holiday-traditions.html

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=346

https://www.allinahealth.org/health-conditions-and-treatments/health-library/patient-education/helping-your-heart/healthy-living/nutrition/foods-low-in-saturated-fat-and-trans-fat

*Photo by Rebecca Wiggins on Unsplash

 

 

Holiday Eating & Celiac Disease

The holidays are quickly approaching and many of us are getting excited about those special foods that we associate with this time of year. We can’t wait to indulge ourselves. A nibble here … a plate there … and a lot of — OMG! I have to try some of that! But for those with Celiac Disease, the holidays pose an even greater challenge — celebrating without causing a flare (worsening) of their symptoms!

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But what exactly is Celiac Disease? Well, it is a Chronic illness — specifically Autoimmune. It occurs in genetically predisposed people. In other words, it is hereditary. And it’s estimated to effect 1 in 100 people, worldwide. Some patients are diagnosed as children. Others develop the disease in adulthood. And doctors are still unsure of why this happens. Yet, we do know that the cause is the same — gluten. This is a protein found in Wheat, Barley and Rye. When a Celiac patient ingests gluten, their body launches a massive immune response — attacking their small intestine. For this reason, dietary precautions must be taken to avoid painful and frustrating symptoms.

Many processed foods, unless labeled “Gluten-Free“, contain gluten:

  • Beer, Ale, Stout
  • Breads
  • Cakes & Pies
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Communion wafers
  • Cookies, Crackers & Croutons
  • French Fries
  • Gravies
  • Matzo
  • Pastas
  • Hot Dogs & Lunch-meats
  • Salad Dressings
  • Seasoned Snack-foods & Potato Chips
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Soups, Bouillon & Soup Mixes
  • Vegetables cooked in sauce 

Now, for a moment, imagine trying to navigate your way through a holiday dinner or party with Celiac Disease. Obviously, it isn’t easy. But it is possible.

If you are hosting a holiday dinner or party and you know that a guest (possibly more than one) has Celiac, consider incorporating a few gluten-free options into your menu-plans. There are many recipes available. You may even find that others like the idea of having a “healthier” choice available!

Fresh fruit is a great option. Grapefruit, oranges, pears, cranberries, etc., are just waiting to grace your table. Nuts like cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias and pecans offer a nice snack, but avoid salting and/or baking them in oil. Veggie trays are another. Think Bacon and Pimento-cheese dip — absolutely yummy! Wine is another gluten-free option. Shrimp also gets a thumbs-up. So do cuts of beef, lamb, rabbit and fish. It’s just not that difficult. More importantly, it gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy themselves! And your Celiac friend or loved-one will certainly thank you for it!

 

Reference Links: 

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/symptoms-of-celiac-disease/

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/related-conditions/dermatitis-herpetiformis/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

https://celiac.org/eat-gluten-free/recipes/

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/eating-diet-nutrition

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/celiac-disease/dietary-changes-for-celiac-disease

*Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Pumpkin: It’s Not Just Seasonal, It’s Healthy!

Well, it’s that time of year again … colorful, frosty Fall. Or should I say pumpkin season? Nowadays, you can find the flavors of “Pumpkin” and “Pumpkin-Spice” everywhere. But did you know that pumpkin is more than a seasonal flavor on the menu? In fact, it’s literally a healthy culinary choice. Something that is both good to eat and good for you. Imagine that!

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Pumpkins are considered a “Superfood“. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “superfood” is a food that offers high levels of desirable nutrients, is linked to the prevention of a disease, or is believed to offer several simultaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value.

Now, let’s focus on exactly what pumpkin can do for you:

  • Pumpkins are rich in fiber. This slows digestion and allows you to feel full for a longer length of time. A cup of pumpkin gives you more grams of fiber than 2 slices of whole-grain bread! And it is a low-calorie choice, with less than 50 calories per serving!
  • Pumpkins promote good eye health. That beautiful, deep-orange color means there is an abundance of beta-carotene inside. This converts to vitamin A in the body. A single cup of pumpkin contains over 200% of the recommended daily intake needed for most people. It also contains two antioxidants (lutein & zeaxanthin) that are believed to help prevent cataracts and even slow the development of macular degeneration!
  • Gives your immune system a boost. All that vitamin A helps your body to fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases. Pumpkin oil even helps to fight bacterial and fungal infections. And there’s also vitamin C inside. That may help you to recover from colds more quickly.
  • Younger, healthier skin awaits. Not only does the beta-carotene protect us from harmful UV rays that age our skin and cause wrinkles, but pumpkin pulp actually makes a great all-natural facial that exfoliates and soothes your skin.
  • Lower Your Cancer risk. As if pumpkins aren’t providing enough healthy benefits, research shows us that beta-carotene rich diets may lower the risks of some cancers, i.e. prostate, lung.
  • Helps Manage Diabetes. Pumpkin has been proven to lower blood glucose levels, in scientific tests. It can also improve your glucose tolerance and increase the amount of insulin that your body produces. More research is being done. But if you are diabetic, this is a smart choice.
  • Pumpkin seeds are the ideal snack. So, don’t toss them into the trash-can. Toast some and taste how delicious healthy eating can be. These seeds are packed with healthful oils, magnesium, potassium and calcium. They are also a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. All this goodness can help bones, muscles, heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, even aid insomnia. Wow!

 

So, don’t reserve pumpkin for the holidays. Reap its benefits, as often as you can. It is after all a “superfood”. There are also many easy recipes that will help you incorporate pumpkin into your meals and tempt your taste-buds. And while you’re enjoying them, you have that added satisfaction of knowing that pumpkin is more than delicious. It’s actually good for you. Any way you choose to carve it, cook it, or toast it … that’s a win-win!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1

Superfoods or Superhype?

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303864.php#benefits

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/19315/ingredients/vegetables/pumpkin/

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

*Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

 

Halloween, Kids & Juvenile Diabetes

It’s October and the leaves are starting to fall from the trees. Cooler air (Thank you, Lord!) has finally arrived. Autumn decorations are everywhere you turn. And, yes, the kids are getting pretty excited about Halloween. But if your child has a health issue like Juvenile Diabetes (T1D), a holiday that’s focused on enormous hauls of candy can literally be dangerous. Still, there are ways to have loads of fun and stay safe. Let’s talk about it …

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Personally, I have struggled with my weight my entire life — up and down the scale. My cousin was diagnosed with T1D, before he even started to school. As adults we began looking for alternatives that might be a source of prevention, for our own children. To date, our efforts have worked!

First of all, don’t focus solely on food especially candy and sweets. This holds true for any holiday and any child. It’s a life-lesson. Yes, Halloween only comes once a year. But that can also be an excuse for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, etc. So, avoid it. Those excuses add up and they can have negative consequences.

Second, but equally important, is your child’s feelings. Kids with any Chronic illness want to feel “included” — not excluded. They want to feel like everyone else. An easy way to make them feel included is to adopt traditions, even for something like Halloween. These traditions bond your family. They can even be shared with friends. 

So, before the big night, plan a fun-packed evening! You will need someone to watch your front-door, while you’re out. Ask a grandparent, or friend, if they can help for 2-3  hours.

Remember that trick-or-treating is just one part of Halloween. It isn’t the ONLY part. Think traditions, here. You can plan a family-dinner at home. You might even put up some decorations, i.e. balloons, Silly String, a Fog Machine, etc. If possible, get the kids involved. It adds to the excitement. And they’re more likely to eat something, if they have helped prepare it. Cucumber and Hummus sandwiches are a good start. Or maybe a Veggie Skeleton? How about Turkey Chili? Cheeseburger Pasta? Meat’n’Cheese Stromboli? Greek Pizza? These recipes and countless others are Diabetic, easy and kid-friendly. For dessert, add a little autumn fun … bob for apples! 

Now, you’re ready to go trick-or-treating. Remember those jackets, sweaters and Glow sticks. It’s important to limit your area of door-to-door action, i.e. your street, your apartment building, your neighborhood. This alone will reduce your child’s candy haul. You can include Grandma’s house, an Aunt’s house, etc. that are located elsewhere. But set limits from the start and stick to them. This will allow your diabetic child to make the rounds … showing-off his/her costume with their siblings and/or friends. And it will also give you more control over their sugar intake.

The last activity of the evening is the grand finale, i.e. a corn maze, a local haunted house, a hay ride, etc. Whatever you choose will be loads of fun for the entire gang. And it will provide plenty of laughter as well as great memories. The photos, selfies, even video will be worth sharing for days … weeks … even years to come. The bragging rights for you and your children will be equally enjoyable. Anybody and everybody can go door-to-door. Yawn. It equates to the same-old, same-old. You took Halloween to a new level and your family will love it!

Once you are back at home, turn your outdoor lights off and bring in your jack-o-lantern. This signals to all of your children that the evening is winding down for everyone — not just one. The candy eating will start and that’s okay. Allow them to eat a little and save the rest for later (a good practice for kids who aren’t diabetic, too). Get their baths out of the way … and put their pajamas on … then enjoy a DVD … unwind. They’ll be ready for it and you deserve it. Best of all, you’ve started a Halloween tradition that you’ll want to repeat year after year. One that is special, healthy, inclusive, fun and packed with surprises!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20011030/children-diabetes-eat-halloween-candy#1

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/259414/cucumber-hummus-sandwiches/

https://www.tasteofhome.com/healthy-eating/diabetic-recipes/

http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/awareness-programs/hhm/what_can_i_eat-fast_food_tips-American_Diabetes_Association.pdf

Easy Greek Pizza

https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-halloween-treats-for-kids.aspx

https://www.history.com/news/what-is-bobbing-for-apples

 

 

*Photo by Bekir Donmez on Unsplash

Make Mine Tea, Please

Most of us are familiar with the old cliche “You are what you eat”. Well, that also holds true for what you drink. And depending upon your choices, the effects can be good or bad. For centuries, tea has been recognized for its ability to soothe, refresh and heal. Have you tried it?

 

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Personally, I like to drink tea hot or cold. Nothing comforts a sore throat like a warm cup of tea that’s been sweetened with a little honey. Likewise, there are few things that can refresh you like a cold, glass of tea. But the benefits extend far beyond this. Many Chronic illnesses can be positively influenced by this age-old drink.

Studies have shown that specific teas may help with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s, etc. Tea, of any blend, has less caffeine than colas or coffee. Think of it this way: Tea IS a good choice! And brewed is better than bottled. If you want to focus on using a specific tea, the following will help to get you started:

  • Green tea has a high level of an antioxidant known as EGCG. This may hinder the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic and colon cancers. It can also reduce the clogging of arteries, burn fat, reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Stroke.
  • White tea has the most powerful anticancer properties of any processed tea.
  • Oolong tea has antioxidants that will lower bad cholesterol or LDL. It has also been marketed as a weight-loss supplement. However, scientific studies to support the latter are not available. 
  • Black tea, which includes Pu-erh tea, can help with weight loss, reduce cholesterol and lung health. Black tea also contains the highest amount of caffeine.
  • Herbal teas (Chamomile, Ginger, Ginseng, Jasmine, Rosehip, Mint, Hibiscus, Echinacea and Rooibos) have been shown to help a variety of illnesses, from sore throat to hypertension.

Instant teas, while convenient, contain more sugars and artificial sweeteners. So, please, read the label … buy a tea-kettle … and brew. You can brew iced tea by filling a pitcher half-full with hot water. Add your large tea-bag (family-size) and let it do its thing for about 22 minutes. Remove the bag and add your preferred sweetener. Then, add cold water until pitcher is full and refrigerate. No stove or tea-kettle required. This isn’t difficult. Nor does it take a lot of time. It’s also incredibly inexpensive compared to other beverage choices that are on the market.

It should be noted that the FDA has issued warnings about so-called “dieter’s teas”. These tea blends contain plant-derived laxatives. They are more of a marketing scam than a health benefit. The FDA has also issued warnings about taking many supplements, i.e. Comfrey, Willow bark, Germander, Lobelia and Chaparral. Tea, as with other things that we consume (from farm to table), can be tainted or misleading. The more that you know, the wiser you become as a consumer. 

Last, but not least, there are many brands of tea on the market today. For a cup of hot tea, I’m partial to Celestial Seasonings (the Mandarin Orange Spice is my absolute favorite). For iced tea, it’s hard to beat Lipton. If you are interested in trying tea but uncertain of what blend to drink … ask your doctor or a nutritionist. When we consume healthy, we are healthier. That’s just a no-brainer. So, enjoy some tea and reap the rewards!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/the-health-benefits-of-tea

https://www.medicinenet.com/sore_throat_home_remedies_and_treatment/article.htm

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/tea-types-and-their-health-benefits#2

https://specialtyteaalliance.org/world-of-tea/us-grown-tea/

https://www.aol.com/article/2016/03/24/why-weight-loss-tea-is-the-biggest-scam-on-instagram/21333062/

14 Best Green Tea Brands in 2019

*Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

An Apple A Day …

Remember the old Welsh proverb that this title alludes to? Well, as it turns out, that saying is more fact than cliche. Apples are healthy for us. In fact, many research studies suggest that apples may be one of the healthiest foods you can eat! And they taste so incredibly good too!

 

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Apples come in over 2,000 varieties, ranging from sweet to sour in taste. So there is something for everyone, no matter your preference. A serving, or one medium-sized apple, contains about 95-100 calories. It also contains 0 gram fat, 1 gram protein, 25 grams carbohydrate, 19 grams sugar (naturally occurring), and 3 grams fiber. Apples are also low in sodium and cholesterol. And they provide a good source of vitamin C as well as fiber. If you are on the AIP diet, also known as the Autoimmune Protocol diet, for  Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Lupus, you’re probably already eating apples. But they can also help patients with other Chronic illnesses, i.e. Heart disease, specific Cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, Obesity, Diabetes, Stroke, etc. Imagine that!

You’ll also find an endless array of recipes (including low-carb) available online, in cooking magazines and cook-books, to help you incorporate apples into your weekly menu. Or you can enjoy one, right from the fruit-bowl. Maybe, a serving of apple juice with breakfast? My personal favorite is applesauce. Sometimes, simple is the best. So, by all means, indulge yourself. It’s September. The apples are fresh and bountiful. It’s time to enjoy them and reap the benefits of better health! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290.php

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-apples#1

Apples

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-apples

https://healingautoimmune.com/aip-food-list

36 Easy AIP Recipes That Won’t Stress You Out

https://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/healthy-apple-recipes?

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g4650/healthy-apple-recipes/

*Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

A Primer: Packing A Healthy Lunch

It’s August already. How in the heck did that happen? While many of us are trying to squeeze the last precious moments out of summer, others are already dreading that ritual of packing a lunch. Eating healthy should be everyone’s priority. But the flesh is weak, especially around foods we ought to limit eating. If you think this is a post about packing a child’s lunch, you’re only half right. Many adults also pack a lunch. Sadly, 50% of American adults skip lunch altogether. They opt to snack, instead. In fact, 44% confess to having a snack-drawer at work. And snacking usually leads to unhealthy habits, difficulty maintaining or losing weight, exhaustion, even premature aging. For those young and old, who live with a Chronic illness, fast-food and snacking can make managing your disease much harder. Who needs that? So, let’s talk healthy lunches that are easy to make and delicious too!

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Starting with the kids … if you feel your child’s school offers healthy choices, then the cafeteria may not be a bad idea. But before you make any assumptions, remember that you know your child best. You know what he or she will eat. You know what temptations they easily fall for. And you probably have a general idea of the school’s menu. Now, ask yourself a couple of questions: Are there healthy options for my child? Will he/she make those choices? If you respond emphatically with a “No!” to either question, it’s probably best to pack a lunch from home. It’s also important that your child understands why you are doing it. Think of this as a life lesson that will help them for years to come.

Some great lunchbox choices for kids are:

  • Fresh or Dried Fruit
  • Crunchy Veggies
  • A Meat or protein food, i.e. sliced meat, a chicken-leg, hard-boiled egg, etc.
  • Remember dairy, i.e. cheese, yogurt and milk.
  • A starchy food like, i.e. bread, roll, pita, fruit breads, or crackers.
  • A bottle of water is always appreciated.

If you are packing a lunch for yourself or your spouse/partner consider these:

  • The cold cut sandwich that always hits the spot.
  • Your favorite salad (Like kids we benefit from fruit & veggies).
  • A quesadilla.
  • Maybe, a rice bowl.
  • Hummus with a few pita chips.
  • Cheese, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
  •  Some rotisserie chicken and vegetables.
  • Soup (Remember that canned is high in sodium).
  • Quiche
  • A bottle water works for you, too.

I know. I know. It sounds hard. You’ve already got a zillion things to do. But if you just think about it, packing these lunches can get a lot easier. For example, left-overs can easily be used in a lunch. Recruiting the kids to help you “shop” for ideas is teaching them and encouraging good choices. And a well-stocked pantry takes a lot of frustration and time out of packing. If the healthy side of it doesn’t appeal to your spouse/partner, try the more practical angle. How much do you spend on lunch at a restaurant? Now, multiply that amount by five days a week. Then, 52 weeks in the year. Wow! It adds up. Packed lunches are less expensive and that savings can be used for other things. In other words, you can eat healthier and have a reward for doing it! Now, that’s what I call living well!

 

Reference Links:

https://nypost.com/2018/08/30/half-of-us-workers-dont-feel-like-they-can-take-a-real-lunch-break/

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/lunch-box-tips

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/food-tips/quick-meal-ideas/quick-lunch-ideas.html

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/100-lunch-ideas

https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a27504997/healthy-meal-prep-work-lunches/

https://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/budgeting/how-much-cheaper-to-pack-lunch.htm

*Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash