Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween—Get Ready for a Sugar Rush!

Between the trick-or-treating, the scary costumes, the jack-o-lanterns, and the mountains of candy, your little monsters, super heroes, and princesses have been looking forward to tonight for months. And at the end of the day, when they dump their haul and start ripping open candy wrappers, you wonder if you’re ready for the sugar rush — and the morning-after miseries.

A recent study showed that trick-or-treaters bring home an average of 4,800 calories and 3 cups of sugar. And that’s just an average, folks! Kids who view Halloween as a competition to see who can bag the most loot can get that calorie count well over 10,000. So carve out a plan with your children before they go trick-or-treating. Decide how much candy they will keep for themselves, and how much they will give up. Then stick to the plan. As for what to do with the leftovers, here are some options:

Treat the troops. Operation Shoebox is a non-profit organization that sends care packages to troops overseas. Mail individually wrapped treats to: Operation Shoebox, 8360 East Highway 25, Belleview, FL  34420.

Swap with a dentist. Many offer Halloween candy buy-back programs. At $1 per pound of candy traded in, your child may end up a few bucks richer!

Supply a study break. College students live stressful lives. So let them relive their childhoods with a box of Halloween goodies.

Now for that “too-much-sugar” tummy ache. Here’s what to do if your little one has overindulged:
  • Bring on the bland to help settle her stomach. Put easy-to-digest applesauce, a little plain rice, dry toast, or even a mild cooked vegetable on the day’s menu.
  • Sometimes all it takes to settle a troubled tummy is the right scent. Have your “patient” scratch the peel of an uncut lemon and take a few whiffs, or open a bottle of peppermint oil and let him take a sniff. The odors will travel to his brain and help settle the topsy-turvy tummy turmoil.
  • It may be tempting for your tot to curl up on the couch, but a walk around the block may be all she needs to let a little gravity give some relief to her grief.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Afraid of Ebola? Fear the Flu Instead

I saw a funny message on Facebook the other day, posted by the niece of a friend. “You seem awfully worried about catching Ebola for someone too lazy to get a flu shot,” it read. My friend’s niece is a doctor, so I’m sure she has seen all kinds of irrational panic over the recent Ebola outbreak.

Although the actual outbreak is thousands of miles away from the US, there has been lots of confusion about how exactly the virus is spread. Add that to the publicity surrounding procedure errors at one of the hospitals that treated an Ebola patient, and a healthy amount of concern is understandable. Is it time to panic, though? No.

And you shouldn’t panic about the looming flu season either, but you should definitely be prepared. Every year, the influenza virus sends more than 200,000 Americans to the hospital and kills up to 49,000 folks, most of them over 65.

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges us to rush out and get a flu shot. Yet statistics show that fewer than 50 percent of the adult population heeds that advice. Whether you fall into the “No needles for me!” or the “Shoot me now!” group, here are a few factoids that you may not know:
  • The likelihood that the flu shot will protect you varies wildly from year to year, but generally it’s about 67 percent effective.
  • The shot is less effective for anyone who has a chronic health condition.
  • After you’ve been vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for your system to develop antibodies against the flu.
So get the flu shot to increase your odds of staying healthy, but you still need to protect yourself against getting the virus. You can pick it up simply by touching a germ-laden surface or shaking hands with an infected person. So start by disinfecting some of the most likely germ catchers in your home and office. Focus your attack on your computer keyboards and mouse, desks, tables, doorknobs, elevator buttons, faucets, handrails, remote controls. Then, when you wash your hands, scrub vigorously with a lather of soap for at least 20 seconds. And always use a paper towel to operate public bathroom faucets and your elbow to open the door. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Stop Dry-Skin Season Before It Starts!

As warm summer temps give way to brisk wind and lower humidity, your skin usually starts feeling as dry as the falling leaves. Don’t let that happen this year! Instead, get a jump on dry skin by treating it to a delightful DIY moisturizer. I’ve got a bunch of them in my bag of beauty tricks. But this nifty night cream is my favorite for fall:

STEP 1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need an apple (any kind will do), 1 cup of olive oil, and 1 cup of rose water, along with a blender or food processor, and a double boiler.

STEP 2. Wash and dry the apple thoroughly (don’t peel it!), then cut it in half, removing the core, seeds, and stem. Cut the fruit into small pieces, and toss them into the blender or food processor.

STEP 3. Start the blender and slowly add the olive oil until a paste forms.

STEP 4. Put tap water in the bottom of the double boiler and the apple-oil mixture in the top part; heat it until it’s just lukewarm. (If you don’t have a double boiler, substitute a saucepan and a heat-proof bowl.) Don’t let the apple cook — if it does, the key ingredient (malic acid) will dissipate.

STEP 5. Set the mixture aside until it cools to room temperature, then add the rose water and stir until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Store the cream in a plastic jar in the fridge, where it will keep for up to six days. Use it every night before you go to bed, and by the time your first batch is gone, you’ll see softer, more supple skin.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Microbead Madness!

Do you think you can’t live without the dead-skin-sloughing microbeads in your favorite body wash or facial cleanser? Well, it looks like pretty soon you’re going to have to. It turns out that those tiny beads (a typical bottle of exfoliating facial cleanser contains 300,000 of them) are causing big trouble — they’re showing up on the surface of the Great Lakes, and in the bellies of fish that mistake them for food.

In the wake of the discovery that microbeads are too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment facilities, several manufacturers have pledged to remove the sloughing agents from their products and replace them with natural exfoliants like ground nutshells, salt, and sugar. You can even have your skin exfoliated professionally with diamond crystals if you want!

When you purchase a commercial body wash, there’s no telling what might be in it. But this Sugar and Spice Scrub is so safe, you could eat it!


1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar
¾ cup of almond or coconut oil
2 tsp. of cinnamon
2 tsp. of ground ginger
2 tsp. of nutmeg

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, and transfer the mixture to a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. At bath or shower time, scoop out a small handful of the blend, and massage it all over your damp body. Then rinse with warm water.

And you couldn’t ask for a better facial cleanser than this one: In a bowl, mix ⅛ cup of finely ground sea salt and 1 to 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh mint. Drizzle in just enough unfiltered apple cider vinegar to make a thick paste. (An eyedropper is ideal for this job.) Gently massage the mixture onto your face and neck, and rinse well with warm water. Refrigerate any leftover formula, and use it within three days. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pumpkin—for a limited time only? No way!

I’ve been seeing lots of ads in the paper and signs in the coffee shop for pumpkin-flavored drinks and snacks. Even Pringles® came out with a pumpkin spice flavored chip! (Not sure about that one… and pumpkin-flavored vodka? Yuck!) And all of them urge you to buy them NOW! because they’re only available for a limited time.

Don’t be fooled by the dazzling ad copy folks. Pumpkins — fresh and canned — can be purchased year-round. And the taste of the real deal beats the artificially flavored powders and syrups you’ll find in your beloved pumpkin spice latte, hands down!

In fact, pumpkin is packed with carotenes (three whole days’ worth!), vitamin E, copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium. It’s as potent a vegetable as you’ll find anywhere. Pick up a fresh one at the farmers’ market this weekend, and then serve it as a side dish for Sunday dinner. Here’s how:

1.Choose a pumpkin that’s small, flat, and red-orange.
2.When you get home, place the washed pumpkin on a sturdy cutting board, and cut it in half with a large, sharp knife.
3.Scoop out the seeds and set them aside to toast later.
4.Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the pieces on a well-greased baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for an hour. Scrape the pulp from the shell, then toss ‘em into your food processor to puree.

Now you’re ready to enjoy your pumpkin in these smashing ways:

Make mashed pumpkin. Warm pureed pumpkin with a little margarine, ground cinnamon, and skim milk. Serve like mashed sweet potatoes.

Serve saucy pumpkin. Add a little salt and pepper to pureed pumpkin, then use as “gravy” with lean pot roast.

Choose chunky pumpkin. Reheat pumpkin chunks in the microwave. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and chopped toasted pecans. Serve as a side dish with pork tenderloin.

Slurp soupy pumpkin. Stir pumpkin chunks into canned soup for a flavor and nutrient boost.

Savor smooth pumpkin. Take the shortcut. Get your pumpkin from a can. Season with ground ginger, stir in some raisins or dried cherries, and microwave until warm. It’s great with baked chicken. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Calling All Couch Potatoes!

There are few events in life that will cost you more recovery time than a stroke. So get up already — and get moving! The more you move your body, the stronger your cardiovascular system gets, and the less likely you are to have a stroke. If you can’t even remember the last time you did anything more strenuous than stroll to the kitchen to make a sandwich, start by getting a clean bill of health from your doctor. Then take off by going for a walk every day. It doesn’t have to be fast or far — a moderately brisk walk to the corner and back will do for starters. Gradually increase your time, speed, and distance until you’re really exercising — walking, running, biking, swimming, even dancing — for 15 to 20 minutes each and every day.

If you’ve already had a stroke or know someone who has, this news will be music to your ears: The journal Nutrition Neuroscience reported the results of a study involving 26 volunteers who had recently suffered a stroke. Half of the folks were given 20 milligrams of zinc each day for a month, while the rest took no supplements. At the end of the 30 days, the zinc takers had a 30 percent greater recovery in brain function than those who had not taken the mineral. And here’s even better news: You don’t have to take zinc supplements to get your brain-boosting quota. You can easily get 20 milligrams or more simply by eating plenty of zinc-rich foods like plain yogurt, lean meat, oysters, crabs, lentils, and the dark meat of turkey and chicken.

And for a quick breakfast on the go, this Fresh and Fruity Smoothie is just what the doctor ordered. It’s chock-full of anti-stroke superstars, including vitamin B, vitamin C, and potassium. What’s more, it’s just about as delicious as a drink can get.

1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 frozen banana, peeled and chopped
½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup of milk

Combine the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass, and drink up!

Friday, September 19, 2014

3 Alarming Reasons to Go Anti-Antibacterial

You see the word “antibacterial” on everything from soaps and hand sanitizers to laundry detergents, shower curtains, and even clothing. Well, do yourself and your fellow humans a big favor and leave those products right on the store shelves. Why? For three reasons:

1. Triclosan, the active ingredient in bacteria-killing products, is increasingly being linked to serious health problems like hormone disruption and immune system impairment.

2. The chemical assault on bacteria is fueling the rise of supergerms that stand up and say “Boo!” to everything medical science can throw at them. That’s because those clever little germs are able to mutate, which allows them to survive exposure to triclosan.

3. According to medical pros, soaps and hand sanitizers don’t need any antibacterial ingredients. While soap or sanitizer will help remove surface dirt, the simple act of rubbing your hands together destroys any germs on your skin.

You say you want to give up using your hand sanitizer, but you’ll miss its convenience and portability? No problem! Whip up a batch of this simple — and safe — DIY spray:

Mix ¼ cup of vodka, ¼ cup of water, and 20 drops each of lavender essential oil and tea tree oil. Pour the potion into two 2-ounce bottles. Tuck one into your pocket or purse, and spritz the liquid onto your hands as you would any other sanitizer.