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Healthy snacks are possible

Healthy snacks are possible

Potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, salsa, cheese and crackers seem to be the most popular snacks that folks serve at parties.  However there are so many other choices that could make your party a hit and get a nod from most health professionals.  Below are some examples.

Go Mediterranean
Data suggests that the Mediterranean way of eating, which includes fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, olive oil, beans, other legumes, fruits and vegetables can be very beneficial. For your party, arrange a platter with a variety of olives (green, Kalamata, stuffed), along with hummus and toasted whole wheat pita chips. Or try babaganoush (an eggplant based dip) with chopped vegetables such as carrots, celery and cauliflower florets. Instead of wings try offering shrimp with a dip made from Greek yogurt. This dip would also be used for chopped vegetables. Using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream cuts down on the calories and fat. Speaking of fats…

Think Healthy Fats
Consider an assortment of nuts served alongside dried fruit like apricots, dried pineapple, raisins, and cherries etc. Throw in some dark chocolate dipped nuts too.

Serve guacamole along corn chips or toasted pita chips. Try making a Mexican layer dip which incorporates, layers of black beans (or refried beans), shredded low fat Cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes with green chilis, Greek plain yogurt, chopped avocado (or guacamole). Serve with whole grain tortilla chips. About avocados… consider mixing avocado with shredded cooked chicken and sautéed onions for a variation on the classic chicken salad. The avocado adds healthy fat to this traditional salad and allows you to cut down on the amount of mayonnaise used. Serve with whole wheat pita bread for some delicious mini sandwiches.

Include Fruit
A fruit salad is not only nutritious but tasty and easy to make. Combine apples, pears, pomegranates, watermelon, cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, pineapple, kiwis, or whatever fruit you prefer for a wonderful and colorful sweet snack. You can have fun with the fruit and arrange them in the shape of a football or a football field, etc.

Make a fruit pizza. Use low fat vanilla yogurt for the sauce and arrange pieces of fruit on top of it on a low fat pie crust. Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes. Fruit kabobs can be a great hit as well with fruit like pineapple and nectarines caramelizing quite nicely when grilled.

Don’t Forget the Veggies
A vegetable platter is easy to make, but if you have a little more time, you might want to make bruschetta. Slice up some tomato slices and place on top of pieces of grilled French bread that has been rubbed with garlic and topped with some olive oil. Next place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese. Top with a fresh basil leaf for a wonderful appetizer, Italian style. You can also make a tomato salad with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil, tossed in light vinaigrette and serve over grilled bread. Salsa with whole grain tortilla chips is an all time favorite as are stuffed mushroom caps!

Smoothies can be a great hit at any party. Simply mix yogurt, (a little bit of juice) and fruit such as mango, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, etc for a healthy and refreshing drink. Kids will love this!

Have pitchers of fruit and vegetable infused water. Earlier in the day, wash and cut up lemon in slices and place in a pitcher full of water. Cover and let stand. You can also use cucumber slices. Do the same with orange slices.

Above all, remind your guests to drink responsibly if you plan to offer alcoholic drinks.

With some planning and creative thinking you can enjoy delicious and healthy snacks at any party.

Author: Julia Salomon, nutrition educator and corporate dietitian with Affinity Health System


How do you keep your kids active and stay sane during summer?

How do you keep your kids active and stay sane during summer?

It’s a question parents have been asking since summer vacations started. Fortunately, the Internet has an abundance of ideas you can use to keep your kids busy and active while they are having fun.

Play life-sized board games. In addition to kickball or lawn darts, take some of your favorite games outside. If your kids like to play Twister®, paint dots on your lawn. If your family plays Scrabble®, paint letters on cardboard squares and build words across the backyard. Other games that can maximize fun and activity include:

  • Chess
    Mexican Train

These are just a few popular games you can change into active DIY outdoor fun. Recruit your teens to help you with the setup. Better yet, let them choose the game and become a team leader.

Playing with water is a great way to stay cool on a hot summer day.
Kids of all ages love to play with water. This summer, turn your backyard into a watery playground.

Create a water blob with thick painter’s plastic, an iron, duct tape and food coloring for hours of fun for young children.

Use a piece of 6-mil smooth plastic, environmentally friendly dish soap and a garden hose to make a homemade slip and slide. Instruct your children to take turns when sliding to prevent injury.

Older children and teens may enjoy hanging water balloons from tree branches or clothesline for a water balloon bash. Not only will your kids cool off as they fill the balloons outside, but they also will be refreshed as they take turns popping the balloons with a plastic bat.

As with all outdoor activities, clear rules and expectations should be discussed in advance to avoid conflict and reduce the risk of injury.

Be crafty on rainy days. Coming up with an idea is often the hardest part of an arts and crafts project. From play dough monsters and pipe cleaner animals to salt painting, you can find countless ideas online with complete, step-by-step instructions.

Look for crafts that match the skill set of your child to minimize frustration and build confidence.

Create service projects for teens. Making gifts, setting up games, or learning to cook are just a few ideas to keep teens busy.

Imagine a grandparent’s delight when they receive a new croquet set made by their grandchild, or a child’s joy that her big brother set up an obstacle course for her and her friends. You can also involve your teen in meal planning, cooking and entertaining. He or she can create a tasty meal, barbecue or snack for the whole family.

Learning life skills through summer projects also helps your teen gain the independence he or she will need in the future.

Plan some family fun days. Build memories this summer. If your family loves strawberry shortcake, why not plan to pick your own strawberries? After you get the berries home, make strawberry shortcake parfaits and eat them outside.

For families with elementary aged children, plan a “drive-in” movie night. During the day, create cardboard box cars. In the evening, find a safe place to set up a television or projector and watch a movie outside under the stars. Serve popcorn for an added treat. The kids will love it.

These are just a few ideas to prime your thinking. You can find more ideas online.

Plantar Fasciitis: have patience

Plantar Fasciitis: have patience

If you have a stabbing pain on the bottom part of your heel when you take your first step out of bed in the morning, you know about plantar fasciitis. The pain usually gets better once your foot gets limbered up, but it may return later in the day when you’re exercising…or maybe when you get up from your chair after a long period of sitting.

This type of intermittent heel pain is rarely taken seriously…except by those who have experienced the pain. The Medscape Reference article on the topic optimistically states that “about 80 percent of plantar fasciitis cases resolve spontaneously by 12 months.”

But who has the patience to nurse a seemingly minor injury for 12 months?!?!

Unfortunately, that kind of patience is required. Major league baseball slugger Albert Pujols could not afford to be patient. After playing through his misery for 11 years, he ended up having foot surgery and missing an entire season.

Plantar fasciitis involves a degenerative irritation of the fibrous band known as the plantar fascia that runs across the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the bones in the mid-foot and toes. Its function is to absorb shock while supporting the arch.

Excess demands of running, walking or load carrying, combined with weakness of the arch, can stretch and create small tears in the tissue. The irritated tissues tighten up during sleep, resulting in the pain felt on those first steps in the morning.

The condition is particularly common among runners, walkers and aerobic dancers who overdo it or try to rev up their training too fast. Other risk factors include being overweight, having either flat feet or a high arch, pronating (with feet rolling inward), having tight calf muscles and wearing shoes that are worn out or don’t fit well.

At first, you might feel only mild pain at the heel bone, typically occurring after rather than during exercise. That is the time to start doing something about it. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to go away.

Stop doing whatever aggravates the pain and rest the heel. That does not mean to stop working out. You can swim, ride an exercise bike, use a rowing machine or elliptical trainer. Ice the heel  several times a day. Switch to shoes that are more suitable for your feet. And stretch regularly, focusing on the calf muscle and the Achilles tendon.

The stretching may be the most important part of your treatment. Do it before you get out of bed in the morning and several times during the day.

You can eventually get back to the activity that caused the irritation, but be careful at first and back off again at the first sign of discomfort. The rest gives you an opportunity to start cross training–probably the best long-term preventive strategy.

If your workout shoes have signs of wear, replace them. And be sure the shoes fit well and are appropriate for your gait and foot strike–whether pronation, supination or neutral.

A sports medicine or foot doctor might recommend orthotics, or shoe inserts–either custom-made or over-the-counter. The goal is to correct abnormalities in foot structure and thereby eliminate or reduce the shock that is usually absorbed by the plantar fascia.

Splints to wear at night can also be effective. These keep the foot in a stretched position, making it difficult to point your toes while sleeping.

When pain persists, as it often does,  doctors often suggest injections of corticosteroids. Studies have found, however, that the benefit of injections is mostly short term. And the number of injections that can be given is ordinarily limited since they can weaken tissue and lead to additional injuries.

Finally, there are the desperation treatments, usually reserved for severe cases and elite athletes who can’t afford  the patience required.

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy has been used to treat soft-tissue and bone-related problems for more than 20 years. At high doses (but not at low doses), some studies have found it effective in relieving symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Another form, known as radial shock wave therapy or radio pulse therapy, has a less penetrating effect on tissue, but it too has shown some beneficial effects. The final option is surgery. This generally results in a weakening of the arch in the foot. But athletes who have lived with pain for many years, may be willing to accept the side effects.

Patience is the word. If you have enough patience and are willing to rest, ice and stretch your foot as prescribed, the pain will nearly always fade away…within 12 months or so.

If you think you might have plantar fasciitis, call your primary care physician. The earlier a doctor diagnoses and treats your problem, the sooner you will have relief from pain.

If you don’t have a doctor you can find one at Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System.



Coach Adam, “Plantar fasciitis,” racewithpurpose, July 16, 2007.
Patrick M. Foye, M.D., “Physical medicine and rehabilitation for plantar fasciitis,” Medscape References, updated July 19, 2015.
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Plantar fasciitis,” MayoClinic.com, February 27, 2014.
Patrick O. McKeon, et al, “The foot core system,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015;49(5):290.
David Leon Moore, “Plantar fasciitis knocking top athletes off their feet,” USA Today, August 21, 2013.
“Plantar fasciitis: topic overview,” WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise, last updated November 14, 2014.
“Plantar fasciitis,” MedlinePlus, updated by C. Benjamin Ma, M.D., March 8, 2014.
Cathy Speed, “A systematic review of shockwave therapies in soft tissue conditions,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014;48(21):1538-1542.
“A step in the right direction,” FootCare MD, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
“Treatment of plantar fasciitis takes patience,” Nurse.com, Kathleen Louden, April 16, 2009.
Craig C. Young, M.D., “Plantar fasciitis,” Medscape Reference, updated October 11, 2015.

Seven tips to make Cinco de Mayo a healthy celebration

Seven tips to make Cinco de Mayo a healthy celebration

Cinco de Mayo is often mistaken as a celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day; however, September 16 is Mexico’s Independence Day. Instead, Cinco de Mayo (May 5) commemorates the day of the battle of Puebla of 1862.

Due to some civil unrests and economic hardships during the 1800s, Mexico announced that it would be delaying the payment of all foreign debt. After some negotiations, Britain and Spain withdrew their naval forces from the area but France decided to take advantage of the volatile circumstances and fight for domination of territory. A much favored French army went against a poorly prepared and outnumbered Mexican army. The outcome was not what most expected with the Mexican army defeating the French army in Puebla on May 5, 1862.

This victory marks a day in which Mexican pride is celebrated. This holiday is celebrated in Mexico and the United States and if often highlighted with Mexican food and music. Guacamole, margaritas, tacos, burritos, nachos, and many other foods are incorporated into the celebrations.

Here are some tips to make this Cinco de Mayo a healthy one!

  1. Mexican cuisine is colorful so have fun using different color veggies to make a veggie tray with the colors of the Mexican flag. Try arranging cherry tomatoes (red) on one side of a rectangular tray. Next arrange cauliflower, peeled cucumber slices or a rectangular dipping dish filled with Greek yogurt dip (white). Finish off with a strip of broccoli, avocados or green peppers (green).
  2. You can also make a fruit tray using watermelon, raspberries or strawberries for red, vanilla yogurt for white and kiwi or green grapes for the green.
  3. Another try idea is all about dips. You can serve a green tomatillo based dip or a green pesto based dip or guacamole representing the green stripe of the Mexican flag on a tray, next to a greek yogurt based dip for white and a red tomato salsa for red.
  4. Impress your guests with a layered Mexican dish. Simply arrange in a trifle dish layers of black beans, sour cream or better yet, Greek yogurt, avocados, shredded cheese, refried beans, tomatoes, etc.
  5. If serving tacos, use whole wheat or corn tacos.
  6. Make different types of salsa and serve with corn toasted tortillas.
  7. Offer something different and try a Mexican style soup for your guests.

So, this cinco de mayo, celebrate a little bit of history, with some healthy offerings. Please remember to celebrate responsibly!

Author: Julia Salomon, nutrition educator and corporate dietitian with Affinity Health System


It’s not vein to want great legs

It’s not vein to want great legs

We’re not talking about the actual shape of your knees, thighs or calves. We’re talking about avoiding spider veins, varicose veins and venous insufficiency, which can cause pain and make it hard to walk.

Six out of ten people will experience a vein condition at some point in their lifetime. Are you one of them?

There are three risk factors that you cannot change. But with treatment and awareness, you may be able to minimize their influence.

#1 Your age. After age 35, the valves in your legs may not work as well as they did. As they become weak, blood pools in the veins leading to varicose veins or venous insufficiency.

#2 Your gender. If you’re a woman, you may be at a greater risk. Progesterone, a hormone associated with pregnancy and monthly hormonal changes, may be to blame. Progesterone may cause your veins to stretch, which can lead to varicose veins and other problems.

#3 Your family history. If your parents, grandparents or siblings suffer from vein problems, you may have inherited the same gene.

You can minimize your risk and the severity of vein problems.
Even if you have these three unavoidable risk factors, there are nearly three times as many healthy choices you can make to keep your legs healthy.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise to increase circulation.
  • Change positions every 20 minutes if possible.
  • Don’t cross your legs when sitting.
  • Put your feet up when you are resting.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Don’t drink alcohol to excess.
  • When traveling, walk every hour.
  • Be aware of soft tissue injuries. Deep bruises may damage your veins.
  • Wear compression stockings if you have vein problems.

Do you have one of these common vein conditions? Vein problems range from minor to potentially life-threatening. Below are a few of the more common conditions we see in our clinics.

Varicose veins appear as large, cord-like veins running down the leg. They occur when the one-way valves in the veins no longer work correctly allowing the blood to pool. Varicose veins can be mild and painless or severe and painful, limiting movement.

Spider veins may cause itching or burning sensations in the legs. Occasionally, they may signal a problem with veins deep inside the calves or thighs.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot deep within the leg. It may develop due to weak veins or when you sit for extended periods of time. Half the people who have DVT don’t even know it. Others may feel pain when standing or walking. The skin in the area of the clot may feel warm, swell or be discolored. If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Left untreated, the blood clot can break free and travel to the lungs, creating a pulmonary embolism. This life-threatening condition causes shortness of breath, severe pain when breathing deep, and a bloody cough. If you have these symptoms, dial 911.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) may cause a dull, achy or heavy feeling in your legs. Weakened vein walls and damaged valves are to blame. Other symptoms of chronic venous insufficiency include cramping, itching, tingling, leg pain, swelling, redness, thickening skin on the legs or ankles, wounds that are slow to heal, and color changes on the skin near the ankles. Left untreated, CVI will become more painful.

If you have visible varicose or spider veins or your legs feel heavy and achy, make an appointment your primary care clinician. He or she will be able to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan for you. If you don’t have a primary care clinician you can find one at Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health System.

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