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

 

 

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Stay Hydrated

As the days grow warmer, we venture outside … enjoying outdoor sports, gardening, working, etc. Granted, the sun feels wonderful after a cold winter. But the higher temperatures also demand that we pay closer attention to our hydration level. If our bodies lose more fluid than they take in, we can develop a condition called dehydration. Severe dehydration can even be life-threatening. While dehydration can happen to anyone, it is especially dangerous for children, seniors and those living with Chronic conditions. In fact, there is increasing medical evidence that mild forms of dehydration can lead to a myriad of illnesses. Likewise, maintaining good hydration has a positive effect on many!

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Some medications can cause hydration issues, i.e. diuretics, laxatives and chemotherapy. Dehydration is often seen in cancer patients who are taking the latter. But, note, chemotherapy is used to treat other illnesses too, i.e. Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. So, talk to your doctor and be vigilant. 

If you are taking any of these medications (many of us do), or suspect that you may be suffering from dehydration. Here are some of the symptoms to watch-out for:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin
  • Low blood-pressure
  • Extreme thirst
  • Rapid heat-beat
  • Inability to sweat

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance.

We lose fluids every day, through our body’s functions. Still we can maintain hydration. Water is the best source. Most nutritionists recommend about six 8-ounce glasses per day. Your doctor can help you determine how much is best for you. But there are other options, too. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches and oranges have naturally high water content. Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce are also abundant. Soups are another source. An 8-ounce serving of plain yogurt is made up of more than 75% water. Cottage cheese has wonderful hydrating properties, too. So does Jello. Popsicles and frozen-fruit bars are also helpful. Even meats like hamburger and chicken breasts can help us to stay hydrated. And it’s pretty easy to incorporate these foods into our daily diet intake.

Spring is in full-swing and summer is just around the corner. Enjoy the weather. Have fun. Exercise. But, remember, to stay safe. Prevention is worth the effort. Whether you drink from a glass jar or not (it’s a bit of a Southern thing) … stay hydrated!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17921462

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16028566

https://www.webmd.com/drug-medication/medicines-can-cause-dehydration

https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/dehydration

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-hydrating-foods#section19

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/top-10-ways-to-stay-hydrated

*Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

When It’s Berry Good …

Ah, Spring … after the long, cold winter it’s an awakening of the senses. Nature pops with color … gardens bloom … birds sing. The days are longer … warmer. And our eating habits change, too. Our taste-buds seem to crave the colorful berries available at local markets and roadside stands. Whether you pick them or not, every bite is juicy and incredible. Strawberries are my personal favorite. Blueberries are a close second. And let’s not forget raspberries or blackberries. From now through the sizzling days of summer, berries are in abundance. But did you know, these naturally sweet gems are also good for you?

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Berries are nutritious. They’re packed with antioxidants (substances that help fight cell damage), polyphenols, anthocyanins, micro-nutrients, folic acid and fiber. Just one cup of strawberries offers more vitamin C than a small orange. And berries are low in calories, too. Studies have shown that fruit consumption, i.e. berries, improves cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health. Berries can also lower your blood-pressure and cholesterol. They can boost your immune system. They can even reduce inflammation and may help protect you against cancer, heart disease and dementia. Imagine that! 

If you still need more motivation, consider how easy it is to incorporate berries into your meals. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there’s a quick and oh-so-simple way to enjoy them. If you need ideas, there are also numerous sites filled with recipes. Though many berry lovers, like myself, would argue that nothing tops eating them right out of your hand! So, be my guest … indulge yourself. Add some color to your meal and vigor to your step. Eating healthy just doesn’t get any better than this!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/

https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-berries-health-benefits

https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/berries-bursting-with-health-benefits/

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/signs-of-spring-berries

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/berry-good-for-your-heart

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287710.php

*Photo by Barry McGee on Unsplash

More Than Tired: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Are you tired? We’ve all been there. For one reason or another, most of us have struggled with fatigue. Perhaps, you couldn’t sleep the night before? Or you burned your candle at both ends until you were exhausted? It happens. A cold, flu, or other illnesses can also result in fatigue. But what if there is no reasonable explanation? Then, like the millions who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you may be more than tired. You may be living with a complex Chronic illness.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as it is also known, is a complicated disorder. Symptoms of CFS/ME include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Concentration and/or Memory
  • Unexplained Muscle and Joint Pain
  • Headaches
  • Unrefreshed Sleep
  • Extreme Exhaustion

Since these symptoms can accompany other illnesses, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. And your patience is required. It isn’t unusual for the final diagnosis to take a while. Most patients will tell you that they waited months (years, in some cases) and saw more than one doctor. Age and gender play a role, with CFS. Women are much more likely to be diagnosed than men. Patients are usually middle-aged (typically their 40s), at onset. It is also believed that certain “triggers” may initiate the disease, i.e. viral infections, fragile immune systems and hormonal imbalances. Since there is currently no cure or specific treatment for CFS/ME, physicians focus on relieving the patient’s symptoms. This can be daunting and sometimes frustrating.

As with other Chronic illnesses, patients who live with CFS/ME must learn to manage their illness. Daily living becomes a juggling act. But with a few easily implemented tips, it can become easier:

  • Low-impact Exercise done regularly, i.e. walking, Tai Chi, swimming, Yoga, Pilates, etc. It will keep you active & strong.
  • Pay attention to your diet. It’s your fuel. The Mediterranean Diet has been helpful to many CFS/ME patients.
  • Puzzles, Word games, Trivia, etc. will keep your memory sharp.
  • Adjustments to your workload may be necessary, i.e. PT instead of FT, etc. About 50% of all CFS/ME patients remain in the workforce.
  • If you need help, ask for it. Friends, family, co-workers and Support Groups can play an important role in CFS/ME management.

Last, but not least, it is important to keep your expectations realistic. Anyone with a Chronic illness will tell you that overdoing it, pushing yourself, and/or ignoring your illness/symptoms is a recipe for disaster. Be kind to yourself. Make the necessary changes. Stay optimistic. Move forward. Progress, no matter how small, is still a step toward better living. The triumphs do add up. And remember … every day is a gift. Some are better than others. But when you’re living with a Chronic illness, it’s key to make the most of each one. Whether it’s a day of rest in your jammies, or a day doing something really special, it’s important for your well-being. Enjoy it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/chronic-fatigue-syndrome

https://ammes.org/diet/

https://www.webmd.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/tips-living-with-chronic-fatigue#1

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/low-impact-exercises_n_1434616

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan#foods-to-eat

*Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

 

Holistic Approaches To Chronic Illness

Holistic Medicine is a different approach to healing … one that considers all facets of human nature – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Doctors, who embrace this approach, believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly, the others will be negatively affected. In other words, the imbalance/s (physical, emotional, or spiritual) will impact their overall health. They believe the key to achieving one’s best health depends upon attaining a proper balance in life — not just focusing on symptoms and writing prescriptions. But can this approach work when treating Chronic illnesses?

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The simple answer is “Yes, it can!” Many Chronic illnesses can be effectively treated and managed with a Holistic approach. A few examples are:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Pain
  • Kidney Disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Auto-Immune
  • Parkinson’s Disease

According to the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA), there are 4 major factors that impact our health: Heredity, Environment, Medical Care and Lifestyle. Of these four, Lifestyle has the most influence — approximately 50%! And lifestyle can be changed! The success stories are endless!

If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about Holistic Medicine, you can visit the American Holistic Health Association’s website at https://ahha.org for additional information, referrals, etc. There is life with a Chronic illness. As a person who lives with more than one of them, I can assure you that the answer isn’t always in a prescription bottle. Sometimes, it comes from where you would least suspect. And optimism is always key to finding the right balance that works for you!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/what-is-holistic-medicine#1

https://ahha.org/selfhelp-articles/principles-of-holistic-medicine/

http://icpa4kids.org/HPA-Articles/holistic-approach-to-chronic-illness.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5847356/

https://www.cnn.com/2014/01/10/health/secrets-pain-free-life/index.html

https://ahha.org/

*Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Living Heart-Healthy

It’s February, my friends! Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. And retailers are stocked with an array of gifts. Couples are making plans for a special evening. Or, maybe, an indulging get-away? Singles are contemplating their next move. And florists, God bless them, are getting ready to work over-time. Romance is definitely in the air — melting this polar vortex. Some enjoy this time of year. Others loathe it. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Amid the excitement, many of us seem to forget that the heart is more than emotions. It’s about sustaining life. So, for a moment, put down that fancy box of truffles and think. Are you and your loved one living “Heart-Healthy”

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No matter your age, diet and exercise are two key components of living Heart-Healthy. If you (or your loved one) need to lose some weight, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a great way to start! Watching your salt intake is also important. If you are already living with heart disease, then you probably know how crucial these things are to your health and well-being. It’s vital to make changes that will strengthen your heart. 

This isn’t difficult. Start with a commonsense approach. When you eat, at home or in a restaurant, use portion control. An average serving of meat, fish or chicken is 2-3 ounces.  So, skip that 16-ounce T-bone on the menu and order the 6-ounce filet instead. It’s a little more than average, but not excessive. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Try whole-grains like oats, corn, barley, cracked wheat or quinoa. I highly recommend the latter — WOW! Limit your fats. And, occasionally, treat yourself to something special, i.e. a candy bar, a slice of cheesecake, ice cream, etc. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, with your results!

Exercise, like eating, can be done with a simple commonsense approach. Walking is an easy way to get started. It doesn’t require equipment, or a gym membership — just a comfortable pair of shoes. It also provides couples with an activity that they can share as well. A 30-minute walk takes little time, or effort. But the benefits, physically and emotionally, are endless. If you would prefer something else, talk to your doctor. He or she can discuss exercise options that are safe and effective. Reducing sedentary living is your goal. You can do this!

Let’s be honest. We all have bad habits, in some form. But there are simple ways to overcome these behaviors:

  • Identify Cues. What triggers your bad habit?
  • Disrupt. Once you recognize these cues, you can help throw them off-track!
  • Replace with a good behavior. The new behavior, i.e. a piece of fruit instead of cookies, will prevent your brain from going into auto-pilot.
  • Keep it simple. It will be easier to make the change/s.
  • Think long-term. Remember why you are doing this — a healthier you!
  • Be persistent. Soon your changes will feel like the norm.

Whether Cupid has taken aim at you or not, feel the love this month. Think beyond Valentine’s — beyond February. Love yourself. Think of ways to take care of your health. Make the changes. Positive behaviors will lead to a happier you. A healthier you. And if your loved one will join in … well, that’s the real heart of the matter. So, talk about it. Invest in your future. Take the Heart-Healthy journey, together. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702

https://wholegrainscouncil.org/definition-whole-grain

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-to-break-bad-habits-and-change-behaviors

https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/smoking

*Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash