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Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the Air

The leaves on the trees are now golden yellow, orange and bright red, which means fall has definitely made its presence known. Neighborhoods are decorated with haystacks, spooky Halloween decorations and although the sun is shining, the air is crisp. This change in season also brings football season and a good opportunity to cheer on your favorite team in the company of friends and family.

Many of these parties are fraught with calorie dense foods, from gooey cheesy appetizers to gooey sugary desserts. Below are some great ideas for healthy celebrations.

If you are grilling at your next football party:

  • Try grilling chicken and vegetable kabobs. Marinade the chicken ahead of time, put them on skewers, place them in a sealed container or bag and refrigerate until you are ready to grill them.
  • Make ground turkey burgers instead of ground beef burgers or try veggie burgers which offer many different varieties of flavors from harvest garden burgers to spicy black bean burgers.
  • Try grilling fish. Salmon and tuna are great grilling favorites.
  • Vegetables. Grilled vegetables are delicious and healthy.
  • Fruit. Yes, you can grill fruit too.
  • Try making different types of meatballs and offer these as well.

For appetizers, sure you can place a platter of summer sausage, cheese and crackers on the table but why not kick it up a notch and offer one of these instead:

  • Greek platter: Greek black olives, fresh mozzarella mini balls, hummus and toasted whole wheat pita bread pieces.
  • Try slicing up some fresh tomatoes and put them on a plate. Place a fresh basil leaf on top and a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese on top. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  • A platted showcasing a variety of nuts and dried fruit.
  • Warm black bean dip with corn tortilla chips.
  • Popcorn is a popular snack for kids and grown-ups! Try seasoning the popcorn with a variety of spices!
  • Strawberries and yogurt dip.
  • Guacamole and tortilla chips.

For dessert try something other than cakes, pies and cookies. Instead consider:

  • A fresh fruit platter or a fruit salad.
  • Pumpkin mousse (try this recipe)
  • Carmelized apple tostadas make use of the abundance of apples this time of the year (try this recipe)
  • Roasted pears are a delicious and wonderful dessert that is easy to make (try this recipe)

Remember that these parties are really about celebrating with friends and family, cheering your team and having a good time; it’s not all about the food. If you splurge, just be conscious of other calorie-dense foods offered the rest of the day. If you slip up, do not get down on yourself, don’t focus just on what you did in one meal, but consider how you approach food throughout an entire day.

You Can Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease

heart healthy

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. This includes heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Not all risk factors for heart disease are controllable (like age, family history, and race and ethnicity), but many others are.

Preventable risk factors include:

  • Diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (high triglycerides and low HDL or “good” cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol use

Change your lifestyle to decrease your risk

People with multiple risk factors are at higher risk for developing heart disease. A healthy lifestyle, which includes regular physical activity, not using tobacco, managing stress, and eating healthfully, can certainly lower the risk for heart disease. Here are some steps you can take to decrease your risks:

Physical activity

Studies show increased physical activity lowers the chances that a person will develop or die from heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 total minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. In addition, muscle-strengthening activity should be performed at least two days per week. If you are currently inactive, it is important to slowly work up to this level of activity.

Tobacco cessation

Cigarette smoking is the leading avoidable cause of premature death. Tobacco damages blood vessels, temporarily raises blood pressure, and reduces exercise tolerance. When a person quits smoking, benefits begin to appear after only a few months and reach that of the nonsmoker in several years. Approaches to smoking cessation include behavioral therapy, nicotine replacement therapy, and other drug therapies.

Managing stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life; however, chronic unmanaged stress is linked to increased risk of heart disease. Stress itself can raise blood pressure. Additionally, stress can lead to engaging in other unhealthy habits such as overeating, under-exercising, or using tobacco. If you cannot find ways to manage stress on your own, seek out stress management classes or resources.

Healthy diet

A diet that is considered “heart-healthy” is truly a diet that everyone can follow, regardless of existing heart disease. Basic tenants of a heart-healthy diet are rooted in common sense:

  • Follow your hunger and satiety cues and avoid oversized portions of less healthy foods. Since excess weight contributes to heart disease risk, it’s important to make sure that portion sizes and total calories per day are not excessive for your daily activity level.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They’re full of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of potassium. Potassium can lessen the negative effects of sodium on blood pressure.
  • Replace refined grains with whole grains. In the processing of refined grains, parts of the grain kernel are stripped away, thus removing most of the fiber, B-vitamins, and iron. The term “whole grain” means that the entire grain kernel is intact, as are the nutrients. The fiber in whole grains can help lower blood cholesterol levels.
  • Reduce sodium intake. Most Americans consume much more than the recommended 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods and restaurant foods. Check nutrition facts labels and choose food items with less than 20 percent of the daily value for sodium. Reduce the amount of salt used in cooking and at the table.
  • Be choosy about protein sources. Research shows that poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds are optimal protein sources. Higher-fat meats, such as dark meat poultry and red meat, can be included, but in reasonable portions. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs, luncheon meats, bacon, and sausage.
  • Include heart-healthy fat sources. Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines), walnuts and walnut oil, canola oil, and flaxseed all provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are cardio-protective. Nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and avocado are also healthy sources of fat. Avoid trans fat, which is found in processed food items.
  • Limit consumption of soft drinks and other sweetened beverages (like fruit drinks).

Weight loss

Obesity increases several major and modifiable risk factors for heart disease including hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes. Weight loss decreases these risks.

Dyslipidemia control

Better cholesterol levels can be achieved through exercise, diet and drug therapy as appropriate.

Diabetes control

Diabetes is also regarded as a heart disease equivalent. Controlling your blood sugar involves weight management, blood pressure and lipid control to prevent some of the complications that lead to heart disease.

Alcohol control

Studies show that consuming small amounts of alcohol lowers the risks of developing or dying from heart disease. The benefit of small daily alcohol intake must be weighed against the increased risks that are apparent when a person consumes more than one drink daily.


Aspirin therapy can be effective only when recommended by your doctor. Be sure to talk with your care team about whether or not a daily aspirin can benefit you.

Get heart healthy and improve your quality of life!

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise not only prevents heart disease, but also wards off other illnesses. So get heart-healthy. It will make a big impact on your quality of life!

Anemia: Is Your Blood Tired?

Anemia: Is Your Blood Tired?

Hardly a novice runner, Allison was working hard to improve her distance and run a half marathon…without success. After only a few miles, she felt extremely tired and had to stop and walk for a few minutes. As her frustration mounted, a running friend suggested that she see a doctor. “Sounds like anemia to me,” the friend said. And it was. With some iron supplements, her training is back on track.

Anemia has been called tired blood, and fatigue is the most common symptom. The cells of the body need oxygen, and this is delivered to them by the iron-rich hemoglobin which attaches itself to oxygen in the lungs and travels through the body in red blood cells. When there is a shortage of red blood cells, there is a shortage of oxygen in working cells, and the result is anemia. There are about 400 types of anemia, but there are three main causes: 1) loss of blood, 2) lack of red blood cell production and 3) destruction of large numbers of red blood cells.

BLOOD LOSS: The loss of red blood cells through bleeding is common, and women of child-bearing age are vulnerable, particularly if they have heavy periods.

Heavy use of aspirin, ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)–common among endurance athletes–can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, including ulcers.

Rapid blood loss can occur following surgery, childbirth or a ruptured blood vessel. Gradual, chronic loss because of ulcers or heavy menstrual bleeding is more common and can be equally dangerous because the symptoms are more subtle and may go unnoticed.

When blood loss exceeds production of red blood cells, the result is often iron-deficient anemia–by far the most common type.

LACK OF RED BLOOD CELL PRODUCTION: Iron deficiency anemia can also occur because of diet. Without enough foods rich in iron, folate and vitamin B12, the body is hampered in its effort to create sufficient healthy red blood cells.

A substantial portion of the iron in most of our diets comes from meat; as a result, vegetarians and vegans are at risk. There are, however, plenty of non-meat sources of iron: dark green, leafy vegetables; beans; lentils; dried fruits; nuts; and iron-fortified cereals.

Folate is found in these foods plus citrus fruits and juices and fortified breads and cereals. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in dairy products and is often added to cereals and soy products.

Iron-deficiency anemia can occur because of the extra demands placed on the body by pregnancy, breast feeding or high-level endurance training. Chronic diseases that affect the body’s ability to produce red blood cells include cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney disease.

DESTRUCTION OF RED BLOOD CELLS: Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cells are prematurely destroyed and removed from the system. Cells die at a pace faster than the bone marrow can replace them.

Hemolytic anemia is often associated with an autoimmune disorder in which the spleen mistakenly traps and destroys healthy blood cells.

One of the most severe forms of hemolytic anemia occurs when a person receives a transfusion of blood of the wrong blood type. Existing red blood cells produce antibodies to fight the transfused blood, causing extremely rapid destruction. A newborn can develop this type of hemolytic anemia when the mother and child have incompatible blood types.

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disorder in which red blood cells form an abnormal crescent shape that causes them to get stuck in tiny blood vessels and break down prematurely. This disorder affects mainly African American and Hispanic Americans.

WHAT TO DO: Whether because of diet, destruction or blood loss, the bottom line is blood that does not contain enough red blood cells and hemoglobin to nourish the tissues of the body. In addition to fatigue, symptoms can include weakness, pale skin, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath, dizziness and a fast or irregular heartbeat.

All of these are symptoms of other common ailments, so a visit to your doctor and a complete blood count is needed to confirm a diagnosis. In some cases, the patient may have symptoms too mild to be noticed, especially at first.

In many cases, treatment is simple: a change of diet plus iron and other supplements. If a medical condition or illness is responsible for the deficiency, then the underlying cause must be identified and treated.  Visit your doctor to get more information.  Don’t have a doctor?  Visit http://www.affinityhealth.org/Affinity/Find-a-Doctor.htm to find one closest to you.


Breast Cancer: A journey of innovation

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While it is certainly a scary diagnosis, there’s so much hope. It’s exciting how much progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer in recent years.

First surgical successes

The first major surgical advances came in the 1970s when research showed there was the same survival rate for women who underwent breast preservation using lumpectomy (surgical removal of tumor[s] in the breast) and radiation, as there was for women who had a mastectomy (complete removal of the breast).

More surgical options for women

This discovery, along with rapid developments in breast reconstruction, opened a whole new avenue of surgical options for women. No longer were women faced with a body-altering mastectomy as their only choice of treatment. Breast biopsies also started to become to become less invasive, as the need for an operating room procedure was steadily replaced by image-guided needle biopsies. Continue Reading »

Recipe: Pumpkin Butter

Recipe: Pumpkin Butter

Apple butter, maple-flavored butter and others are delicious toppings to toast, waffles and other breakfast fare. This fall, why not try making pumpkin butter. This delicious and nutritious recipe also includes warm spices like ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Makes 3 3/4 cups (original recipe here).


  • 3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, or 1 (29 ounce) can of pumpkin puree NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or juice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix (see below to make your own and save money)

Pumpkin pie spice mix

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix together and store mix in a clean small jar.


  1. Combine pureed pumpkin, vanilla, apple juice, spices, cinnamon sticks and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Stir frequently.
  5. Adjustspices to your taste.

Nutrition Information
Servings: 30; serving size: 2 tbsp

  • Calories: 32
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Protein: 0.5 g
  • Carbohydrate: 9.5 g
  • Fiber: 1.3 g
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Sodium: 3.5 g

Submitted by Julia Salomon, nutrition educator and corporate dietitian. Photo from Skinny Taste blog post.


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