What you should know about self-ordered lab tests

In Arizona, a new law was passed this last month that allows for any Arizona resident to be able to request lab tests without an order from their medical provider.

Lab test results usually influence more than 70 percent of recommended medical therapies and other health decisions, according to Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Wellness Centers in Arizona. They tell you a lot about what’s going on inside of you, which has some wonderful applications for a proactive patient. But there may be a few things to be wary about if you go it alone for lab testing.

Here are some things to think about:

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8 tips that help you avoid gaining the “freshman 15”

You’ve graduated high school and you’re off to college! Believe me when I say from the bottom of my heart, congratulations. You’ve worked hard for it. And it’s one of the most exciting times of your life. You have the college experience to look forward to, and the rest of your life in front of you.

But for many, that also means being on your own and making your decisions solely for yourself for the first time, and adapting to a complete change in lifestyle. Between the stress and the new academic workload schedule, so many college freshman gain excess weight their first year. To help balance out your new-found freedoms and increased obligations, here are a few tips to keep yourself healthy and happy through the college years (and beyond!):

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5 tips to help you keep your diet resolution

New_Year_resolutionLike so many women around New Year’s, you’ve probably sworn to yourself to “eat healthier,” “lose weight,” and “take better care of yourself” over the next 12 months. Many of you have probably turned to popular diets circulating the internet to accomplish that, whether it’s the raw diet, Paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, or – well, the list goes on. While there are many great ideas in a lot of those diets, there is always a challenge when starting something new. Here are some tips in making your 2015 health goals a reality using your chosen diet style:

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Nickel and dime your way to health: ChooseMyPlate launches new grocery budgeting resource

In an economy which is struggling to balance itself, we all would like to get more bang for our buck – especially when we’re at the grocery store. And on the surface, eating and buying healthy can appear much more expensive.

on a budgetWell, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (ChooseMyPlate.gov) this week announced a new tool in its resource chest to help people make their nutrition nickles count. Piggybacking on its Ten Tips to save at the grocery store, ChooseMyPlate has created “Healthy Eating on a Budget.”

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Still demonizing fats – fair enough to ban?

The FDA looking to ban trans fats? Really?

On one hand, the news is music to my ears. But when I really stop to think about it … I feel like it’s like opening Pandora’s Box.

Trans fats are dangerous, we know that. For decades, we’ve been artificially altering the chemical makeup of foods for taste and shelf-life sale-ability. Health was never a consideration. Studies were never done on the potential hazards, and how the body would even respond to such foreign chemically composed “foods” (or “food-like products,” as journalist and author Michael Pollan likes to say). And it’s in EVERYTHING – even foods that say ‘no trans fats.’ Troublesome, but true.

And whenever a societal pressure regarding an unhealthy food product reaches government ears, their reaction tends to be the same. DECLARE WAR on said unhealthy product, and BAN, BAN, BAN! Remember the soda ban in New York City? That didn’t get very far. And there is a very clear reason: People feel they have a right to choose, and pick their own poisons.

My suggestion? Education. It is key in every situation like this. Yes, the cigarette industry is still going strong, but persistent education on the dangers has made the American public hyper-aware of the risks of smoking. In fact so much so, that it’s become socially acceptable to “bully” friends and family to stop smoking. I know, because I did it with my grandmother when I was 13, by stealing her cigarette packs and throwing them away. After a few angry phone calls and a good amount of wasted money later, she allowed herself to listen to my pleas. Today, laws have been enacted to keep smoke away from doors to establishments. And you just don’t see “smoking sections” in restaurants today. Amazing what a little knowledge can do. Yes, people still smoke. But it’s their choice to do so. Our job is simply to inform them.

But the education on nutrition – I haven’t found that to be as public as it needs to be. It is only starting to surface in the American consciousness that being overweight or obese is dangerous to both personal health and the country’s economic stability and healthcare industry.

In the above linked article by Alexandra Sifferlin, in “7 foods that won’t be the same if trans fats are banned,” she mentions some of the possible replacements for trans fats in highly processed foods such as doughnuts, creamers, etc. Soybean, canola, and vegetable oils top the list. While on the surface, the idea of throwing out trans fats and using oils low in saturated fats sounds like a winning combo, it won’t in the long run. And I won’t even get into the GMO issue presented by these alternatives.

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Okay, here I will go as far as saying: The problem ISN’T trans fats! *gasp!* Before you start pointing out the failure in my logic, hear me out. The problem today is that the very things humans find savory – fats, salts, and sugars – are far too prevalent in today’s processed foods. What we are missing is the know-how to make informed choices between the foods and food-like products, both in restaurant establishments and at the supermarket.

And statistics back me up.

“Solid fats contribute an average of 19 percent of the total calories in American diets, but few essential nutrients Picture 3and no dietary fiber,” it says in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Males consume 2,475 calories daily and  females consume  1,833 calories. Men and women eat an average of 33 percent fat. While that is within range of fat recommendations (20-35%, or 400-700 calories/45-75 grams of fat), that 20-35% of recommended fat refers only to the healthier unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The majority of fat calories consumed today by American men and women are primarily from  saturated fat. The American Heart Association puts a cap of saturated fat intake at 7 percent of total daily calories, or 140 calories/16 grams a day. Trans fat is recommended at less than one percent.

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So my recommendation is not cutting out all the bad stuff in food. I am a nutritionist, and I still eat French fries, cookies, crackers – but on occasion. It’s about learning how to eat in moderation! Knowing what is bad for us, and why goes a long way in making healthier choices. We eat these foods filled with less than healthy things, because we enjoy them. Frankly, they taste good! We should still allow the American public to enjoy them – but teach them how to view them as treats, and not an everyday, go-to food-like product. As a coach, I work with people to add healthy things into their diet, rather than take away things they take pleasure in (because taking that away, even figuratively, makes a person covet the off-limits food even more).

Shouldn’t the FDA think about doing the same? Maybe regulation and bans are not the answer.

February fêtes for foodies!

It’s February, already folks! Welcome to the month of Canned Food, Snack Food, and Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket (I’m not kidding about that last one, either).

But I feel that one of the more important observances this month is National Hot Breakfast Month. Frukosten_av_Amalia_Lindegren_1866Skipping breakfast: Don’t deny it, you’ve probably done it on more than one occasion. Maybe you never eat breakfast. According to an article in the Huffington Post, 31 million Americans skip breakfast each day.

I know I was once a member of that club (thinking that two meals a day meant fewer calories to worry about). Through most of high school, college, and a majority of my 20s, I rarely ate breakfast. I’d roll out of bed, down a quick, but potent coffee, and run out of the door to start my day.

But once I got on the breakfast wagon, I realized how wretched I had been all those years. I was always ravenous and rather desperate not even halfway to lunchtime (often breaking down and eating lunch at work just shy of 11 a.m.). So I would eat MORE than usual, because I was in feast vs. famine mode. I would be fairly useless through the morning in class or at work, until I got food into me. My answer? More coffee, please! And having a coffee on an empty stomach – that never led anywhere good. Between a rebellious stomach and coffee shakes that would show up on the Richter Scale, skipping breakfast made me pretty miserable.

When you “starve” your body like this, as many dieters know, your next meal becomes a make-up session. Like we are biologically programmed to do, when food is present and it thinks it’s in a famine, it craves and tells you to stock up: It feels like it may not see another full stomach for days! So while in famine mode, your body begins to tighten its belt, so to speak, on its calorie spending. Just like someone who has had their hours cut at work, budgeting commences. You begin to count your pennies and spend less. Your body is no different.

So, when depriving your body of a satisfied, full stomach regularly through skipping meals (especially breakfast after a LONG night of no food!) or dieting, your body holds on to every precious calorie it can. Your body produces more insulin, so that whatever precious glucose is in your blood for energy use, is scooped up by your body’s cells.

A morning delight...with chia seeds.
A morning delight…banana, Greek yogurt, and chia seeds.

Bottom line? You’re putting yourself more at risk for weight gain. That’s because your body is trying to “store up for the winter,” and it slows down your metabolism to retain any fat or weight for use in lean times. And then when you DO have food set in front of you, you’re more apt to gorge or overeat to make up for the meal you didn’t eat that morning.

Breakfast is not a four-letter word. It helps your body to work at full capacity without feeling threatened about food resources, you feel better and won’t overeat at lunch or resort to quick-fix snacks throughout the morning, and you’ll actually be able to function mentally and physically first thing in the morning.

It’s a good thing. Yay February! Let’s start eating the most important meal of the day!

Other great February observances

Food Holidays

• National Potato Lovers Month
• National Hot Breakfast Month
• North Carolina Sweet Potato Month
• Berry Fresh in the Sunshine State Month
• Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month
• Canned Food Month
• National Cherry Month
• National Snack Food Month
• Great American Pies Month
• National Grapefruit Month

February 1 – Baked Alaska
February 2 – Heavenly Hash
February 3 – Carrot Cake Day
February 4 – Homemade Soup Day
February 5 – National Chocolate Fondue Day
February 6 – National Frozen Yogurt Day
February 7 – National Fettucine Alfredo Day
February 8 – National Molasses Bar Day
February 9 – National Bagels and Lox Day
February 10 – National Cream Cheese Brownie Day
February 11 – National Peppermint Patty Day
February 12 – National Plum Pudding Day
February 13 – National Tortini Day
February 14 – National Cream Filled Chocolates Day
February 15 – International Gumdrop Day
February 16 – National Almond Day
February 17 – National Cafe Au Lait Day
February 18 – National Crab Stuffed Flounder Day
February 19 – National Chocolate Mint Day
February 20 – National Cherry Pie Day
February 21 – National Sticky Bun Day
February 22 – National Margarita Day
February 23 – National Banana Bread Day
February 24 – National Tortilla Chip Day
February 25 – National Chocolate Covered Peanuts Day
February 26 – National Pistachio Day
February 27 – National Kahlua Day
February 28 – National Chocolate Souffle Day

Health Awareness Holidays

• American Heart Month
• AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month
• National Wise Health Consumer Month
• National Children’s Dental Health Month
• International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month
• Give Kids A Smile Day
• National Wear Red Day
• National Donor Day
• National Condom Week
• Children of Alcoholics Week
• National Burn Awareness Week
• Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week
• National Eating Disorders Awareness Week