Friday, October 14, 2016

Salty Dog

Years ago, about 3 BK (Before Kids), my husband and I read an article in a cooking magazine written by a guy who loved to cook good food. He wrote about his kids going through the “hot dog years.” Oh, how happy he was when they got over it and could appreciate his scratch-cooked meals. We scoffed at this notion, confident that our children would never succumb to the Great Weenie. Instead, they would eat piles of organic, fresh veggies and locally sourced meats.

The Reality- don't worry, there
were carrots too!
The Vision

As with most things “parenting,” our lofty expectations didn’t exactly translate into reality. Despite our best intentions, my 7 year old son has been in the “hot dog years” for about 2.5 years now, and seems to be holding steady.
This is why I am so excited about the shift I’ve seen in the cooler section recently. I actually saw chicken hot dogs that are – dare I say –the healthiest I’ve seen! I’ve seen some healthier turkey and even beef options out there too. And I’ve noticed a lot more whole wheat buns, too. The food industry seems to be responding to the steady demand from consumers, public health organizations, and even federal regulations mandating healthier foods in schools.  

Healthiest hot dog I've seen
It is not just me noticing these changes: a recent study in American Journal of Public Health found that sodium levels dropped by about 7% in top selling packaged foods from 2009 to the beginning of 2015. The National Salt Reduction Initiative – a partnership of 100 city and state health authorities and national health organizations – has been working with industry partners to reduce sodium for about 6 years, and it appears to be working. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a big step forward in June 2016 to encourage the food industry to reduce sodium in their products by creating draft voluntary targets for sodium levels. 

Unfortunately, at least where I shop, the healthier hot dogs can be more expensive than the traditional high saturated fat, high sodium hot dog. And these healthy versions of convenience foods are not universally available. Although our food supply is far from perfect, I’m hopeful that we are seeing the glimpses of a future where lofty parenting expectations can be closer to reality – at least when it comes to healthy eating. As for my family, we’ll continue to limit hot dogs to no more than once a week – but in the meantime, it’s good to know there are healthier options out there.
More information:

Monday, February 8, 2016

Starting on the Path to Heart Health (Guest Blogger Marissa Floyd)

You are never too young, or too old, to take care of your heart. As a first time mom, I’ve become very aware of what I eat as well as what I feed my family. When my son was an infant, it was easy to give him milk, cereal, and pureed fruits and veggies. When he became a toddler, his palate changed. He would eat chicken nuggets for every meal if he could.

It wasn’t until the last year or so that I thought about the “health” aspect of eating healthy to help prevent heart disease and all cardiovascular diseases. High blood pressure, physical inactivity, and high stress levels are just a few of the risk factors I can change to prevent heart disease from affecting me and my family. Luckily, my blood pressure has been normal, but I think I can always add more physical activity to my day, which in turn, can help reduce my stress.

I’ve always felt that it’s easier to talk about eating healthy than to actually eat healthy. My son is my number one priority, so making his snacks and meals as healthy as possible is on the top of my list. When I make his snack baggies of fruits and veggies, I do the same for my husband and me. When I began doing this, I was surprised about how much of a difference it made in our meal planning and just all around eating healthier. I’ve become “that mom” who only lets her son drink water and milk and 100% juice on a rare occasion. I always have organic yogurt and fresh fruits and veggies as a snack ready to go at any playdate or outing. When you have baggies of fruits and veggies in the fridge, it is just as convenient to grab as any other “less healthy” option.

My son is now 2 ½ and he would rather eat fruits and veggies any day over a cookie or sweets. Having a healthy eating plan has broadened his palate and makes our time around the dinner table entertaining and enjoyable; like his mommy he is still not a fan of peas. I’ve also found that by having him help me shop for groceries and make meals, he is more interested in eating what is served. We are expecting our second boy in May, and I am excited that he will have a big brother that can teach him healthy eating habits; who knows, this baby might like peas. J I know that my future of chasing around 2 boys will increase my physical activity and my stress levels. . . well the jury is still out on how that will play out. Regardless, I am happy to be on the right path with my family to keeping healthy hearts. 

More resources on heart health:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bringing Baby to Meetings (Guest Blogger Andrea Soll)

On a blanket on the floor, in my arms, in my co-workers arms, in the stroller, tight to my chest in the wrap…These are a few ways that baby Leo has slept during meetings I’ve taken him to over the past 2 months. You see, I am currently one of the lucky few people who are participating in the “Infants at Work” program at the Department of Health. 

The new policy was put into place while I was on maternity leave with my son, so the timing couldn’t have been better. It was hard to visualize what having my baby with me at work would look like before I came back, but all I knew was that having the opportunity to continue to bond with my baby all day even after my maternity leave was over, was too good to pass up!

Leo sleeps through some meetings, but has also been awake for plenty of meetings as well. When he is awake, those meeting participants are sometimes witness to a quick game of “bite your belly” or peek-a-boo” in-between coherent sentences about SharePoint! I know they don’t mind because I get nothing but soft eyes and approving looks during meetings when I bring my baby. My co-workers here at the DOH have been wonderful and accommodating and always willing to offer a hand (or arms for holding) when needed.


Friday, December 18, 2015

How Smoothies Saved My World (For Awhile...) (Guest Blogger Cathy Franklin)

One of my favorite group sessions to lead was Toddler Nutrition. I’d enter the room to find a half-dozen or so harried mothers busy redirecting their toddlers — “No crayons up the nose Josie!” “Give the baby back her binkie, Marcus!”

I would start, “Have any of you noticed that your child isn’t eating as much as they used to?” Nods.

“Have you noticed that they just want to eat one food over and over?” More nods.

“They loved spaghetti last week, but hate it this week?” They began to look at me as if I was a mind reader.

“They want grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off, every day, and it has to be on the Mickey Mouse plate or else it goes sailing across the room?” Vigorous nods.

“Congratulations, your kids are normal!”

Eyebrows would perk up and smiles would break out. I recall one mother sighing, “Thank goodness, I just thought she was spoiled!”

Picky-eating and food jags are a normal part of toddler development. It turns out these are normal parts of adolescent development, too. Just as Picasso went through his Blue Period, his Rose Period, and his Crystal Period, I think of my budding teen geniuses as going through theirs. The Coffee Period. The, “I am a Vegetarian but I Still Eat Hamburgers and Sausage Period”. And my favorite, the Smoothie Period.

My kids spend a week every summer with family friends in the San Juan Islands — a retired couple (this is key). When they came back last August my daughter waxed eloquent about the fantastic smoothies they made every morning. She described the organic kale and carrots lovingly grown in their huge garden and the six other fruits and vegetables (of course, organic) that made up this glorious elixir. I briefly considered trying to duplicate the effort, envisioned the daily shopping and clean up routine needed, and gave up the idea within minutes.

On my next shopping trip, I found smoothies in the refrigerated case near the produce section. I bought the one called, “Green Goodness.” It wasn’t organic, yet it had basically everything else. No added sugar. 100% juice. No preservatives. Slightly more than two servings of fruit and vegetables in each delectable serving. Plus this product has spirulina, barley grass, and Nova Scotia Dulse. Take that, retired friends in Bellingham! I bet your smoothies don’t have that stuff! Actually, I’m not sure what that stuff is, but still…

It was a hit! Compared to the time and hassle involved in making it, $6.00 for a bottle with six servings was worth it. I was pleased with myself. A serving or two a day that would provide four servings of fruits and vegetables seemed like good insurance in the teen world of skipping breakfast and lunching on cheese crackers and marshmallows at 3:00 (I kid you not).

However, just like Picasso, my teen genius went into frenzy mode. She was drinking one bottle a day. Ninety-one servings of fruits and vegetables per week. $42 per week = $180 per month for Green Goodness =Yikes!

I had to have a little chat with myself. Wasn’t I happy she was at least drinking Green Goodness for breakfast instead of skipping breakfast entirely? Did I ever think I’d have a chance of getting her to eat this amount of fruits and vegetables versus drinking it? What was she missing by drinking instead of eating? OK, I am a dietitian; I know the answer to that one. But still, isn’t this a good problem? Over-loading on fruits and vegetables?

PB&J - A Classic
I used the excuse of not shopping every day as a way to explain why there wasn’t more Green Goodness in the fridge to feed her addiction. There was some grumbling but like a typical teen other parts of life distracted her. She actually forgot about Green Goodness for a few days, and when she went to pour it, it had separated. I showed her how she could shake the bottle to mix it up again, but nope, that was the end of the Smoothie Period. 

The toasted cheese had sailed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Supporting the One You Love…In the Face of Diabetes (Guest Blogger Cheryl Farmer)

Marriage is a beautiful union shared between two people who love each other. As part of our marriage vows, we said we would love and care for each other in sickness and in health until death do we part. I love my husband and I know that he loves me. Our love has inspired me to share how diabetes affects our personal life.

Being a medical professional helped me understand this chronic condition, diabetes, but it didn’t protect my heart from the emotional heaviness that comes from seeing him struggle to maintain his health. As a doctor, I’ve cared for many people with diabetes. In my practice, I followed a prescribed treatment regimen to support people with diabetes by discussing lifestyle changes and prescribing medications, with lab work every three to six months. It’s different when it’s someone you love.

As my loved one works to control this chronic medical condition, I’m often aware of the adversity, loneliness, sadness, sorrow, and shame he feels. We talk about where these feelings come from and why they exist. He says that he feels that he has somehow failed himself and me, because of his diabetes. He blames himself. I assure him that he has not failed. My words, eyes, and touch express how proud I am of him in his continuous unrelenting pursuit to control and manage this condition. Living with diabetes is work. It requires being aware of what you eat, when you eat, always taking your medicines as prescribed, and daily physical activity to support a healthy weight.

When I’m not at work, my husband and I spend our time near each other, close together. We truly enjoy each other’s company. Every day in the evening, he says he’s going to take his evening meds and walks away — and I can feel his loneliness, sadness, and separation. He shares with me that he leaves because he feels shame. As his partner, I tell him of the emotions and thoughts that are evoked within my heart and mind. Because I know what he’s going through, I now make a conscious effort to be with him, supporting, and touching him when he does his insulin injections. My hope is that my support will help ease his shame and sense of personal failure.

As we work to lift his spirit, it’s important for me to let him know how important his voice is to me. Being aware of his emotional state keeps me alert to his actions, and supports his continued work to manage his disease.

In addition to offering emotional support, I’ve changed my eating and exercise patterns to help him manage his health. As a result of eating more whole fruits and vegetables, increasing our physical activity, sleeping between 6 and 8 hours nightly, reducing our alcohol intake (one drink every two to three weeks), and consistently taking medications, his blood glucose (blood sugar) numbers have reduced significantly. His fasting blood sugar numbers previously ranged from 170 to 230. Now his fasting blood glucose ranges from 60 to 85! We’re excited about his improvements. His doctor has hinted that as he continues to improve, we may be able to reduce his medication doses. We’re encouraged to continue with our work together.

I love my husband and I know he loves me, and I want to spend many more years together with him in good health. It’s important for us to remember that chronic conditions like diabetes can affect us all — directly and indirectly. Let’s use this time in November to remember National Diabetes Month and think about ways that we can support our love ones in their quest to control and manage this disease.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lunch right with every bite (Guest Blogger Cathie Tedrick)

Lunch right with every bite… That was the motto for this year’s National Healthy Lunch Day, celebrated by people across Washington yesterday, November 17th. So, the idea is to eat a nutritious, balanced midday meal every day. Sounds easy enough, right? Not always!

If you’re anything like me, busy lives often make it hard to take the time to make healthy choices. Picking up lunch from some fast food joint that’s just minutes away is just too dang convenient and tempting. But when my waistline started growing and I often found myself with more month left than money, I started thinking I should change my ways.

Then, in mid-July during a routine checkup my doctor told me my blood pressure was high and that she was concerned about my increased weight. Combined with my age and family history of diabetes, she recommended blood tests. When I went back a couple weeks later, my blood pressure was still elevated and the tests showed that my cholesterol was high. But what took my breath away was when the doctor said I had prediabetes. Working in the Department of Health’s Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes Prevention Program, I knew full well what that meant. Still, I listened numbly as she talked about lifestyle changes I could make to prevent, or at least slow down the progression of getting type 2 diabetes. She said I’d have to get my weight down, and the best way to do that is:

1: Eat a healthy diet. 2: Increase physical activity.

My body had spoken and it was time to do something!

Not wanting to overwhelm myself by trying to do it all at once, I decided to tackle increasing physical activity. With our amazing summer weather, getting up early and walking my dog three days a week was pretty easy to do. I soon found myself looking forward to getting up every morning to enjoy the peacefulness of the cool morning air. As an extra bonus, my energy level stayed up longer throughout the day. My “doggie alarm” now faithfully goes off every morning around 5:30. In the four months since I increased my walking, I’m down 25 pounds, have dropped three pant sizes, and notice more muscle tone. Yay!

But of course, I cannot attribute my success just to walking. On August 1, I made a commitment to eat healthier. First, I started by cutting out all types of fast food and easy to prepare packaged foods. I resolved to cook everything from scratch and make sure I’d have enough to take leftovers for lunch the next day. It was fun trying new recipes out on my kids and seeing which got thumbs up and which were, “nope!” After a few weeks of getting back into the swing of cooking, I decided it was time to cut down on sugar, and replace highly processed grains like white bread and pasta with whole grains. At the same time, I increased fruits and vegetables at meal and snack time. I’m not gonna lie, it was tough for the first couple weeks, but now it’s a breeze. And even though buying fresh fruits and vegetables can be more expensive than processed foods at the grocery store, I notice that I have a lot more money in my checking account from cutting out the fast food lunches.

MY recipe for success…prepare your healthy food ahead of time!
I love salad, especially when it’s full of a variety of veggies, fruits, and nuts. So, every Sunday I grocery shop and then chop up all my favorites, dividing the salad into six servings – one for dinner that night, and five containers that I can just pull out of the fridge and pop into my lunch bag. I throw-in a low-sugar Greek yogurt, apple, and cheese stick for snacks, and one of my favorite homemade salad dressings, along with a cold pack and away I go! At work I always have some unsalted sesame seeds, almonds and walnuts, no-sugar-added-canned fruit, and canned chicken or tuna to add to my salad, along with some high fiber/low-sodium crackers in case I get the munchies. 

Now you may be thinking…umm, that’s sounds like you’re eating the same thing for lunch every day. And, yes, for the most part I am. But for me, that’s how I’m able to stick to my plan to eat a healthy lunch during the work week. However, I do enjoy shaking it up a little, so I will often add other things to my salad to give it a different flair – such as peppercini’s, kidney beans, avocado, a little shredded cheese, and even grapes! I’ve also become more adventurous when I eat out – ordering the most creatively put together salad on the menu.

The American Diabetes Association’s Healthy Living Resources has great healthy lunch ideas. Let’s use National Healthy Lunch Day to start having “lunch right with every bite” every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

21-Year Diabetiversary (Guest Blogger Sara Eve Sarliker)

Guest Blogger Sara Eve Sarliker shares her story about being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

In June 2015, I had what some people might regard as an odd anniversary. It was my 21 year “diabetiversary” – marking 21 years since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. About a year before that diagnosis, I had gone to a family planning clinic in California (Planned Parenthood) to get a prescription for birth control pills since I was a newlywed who had no immediate plans for pregnancy. At the time, I was given an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, that “fun” test that nearly every pregnant woman remembers not so fondly: rapidly consuming a sickly sweet, cola-like drink and then having blood drawn afterwards. I was told that I had “borderline diabetes,” or in other words, prediabetes. I sat in my car, mad at myself, and unsure what to do next, with little advice other than “lose weight.” So I changed nothing, continued to gain weight, smoke cigarettes, and do little-to-no physical activity.

After another women’s health-related visit I was diagnosed with diabetes in June of 1994, at the age of 25. I burst into tears. The first question to come out of my mouth was, “will I be able to have children?” My health care provider was surprised at my intense reaction to the diagnosis, and reassured me that it was possible for me to manage my diabetes and have a healthy pregnancy, when I was ready. That time didn’t come for another 10 years, when, thanks to a great team of health professionals, healthy eating and physical activity, and frequent, regular blood sugar testing and insulin injections, I gave birth to my kiddo, who was a healthy, full-term, baby just under seven pounds.

These days, I’m a busy, working, single mom with 20 years of diabetes self-management experience under my belt. I focus on eating plenty of vegetables, and using the savings I anticipate from my Smart Health incentive, tracking my physical activity on my personal wearable activity tracker. Sometimes I wonder what I would have done with the extra time, money, and brain-space I used to address and self-manage diabetes in these past 20 years if I’d been able to prevent or at least delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. I don’t blame myself, or anyone else that has developed type 2 diabetes, and I understand that there’s no known way to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes. But I wonder, if I had been able to participate in a Diabetes Prevention Program back then, would I have more time and resources now? (State Employees and spouses enrolled in PEBB can get more information about Diabetes Prevention Program classes with no out-of-pocket costs).

I encourage anyone who finds out they have prediabetes to look into the Diabetes Prevention Program. Getting screened for diabetes is easy, and in many cases, covered by insurance as part of your preventive health care. And for people like me who work every day to keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and other measures in the ideal range, I encourage you to seek out the help you need – supportive health care providers (including diabetes educators and mental health professionals), friends, mobile apps, walks, cups of hot tea, and deep breathing exercises – whatever keeps you on track and helps you stay afloat. Having diabetes isn’t easy, and it’s yet another twist in life’s winding path. but I have found it is manageable, and I’m able to say that 21 years since I was diagnosed, I’m lucky to not yet have any diabetes-related complications.