Curb Food Cravings

Make the most of each mouthful by keeping these five tips in mind.

Listen to your body and respond appropriately to hunger pangs by waiting a bit before you eat, according to Harvard T.H. School of Public Health. The “pause” button provides you one way to outsmart your cravings, as do these suggestions:

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September is Fruit & Veggies and Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is Fruit & Veggies Month

Eating fruits and vegetables has many health benefits. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help lower their risk for:

  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity

Fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits every day.
Fewer than 1 in 10 adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day.

The good news? Communities, health professionals, businesses, and families can work together to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Visit the Produce for Better Health Foundation for tips on quick recipes for healthier eating.

Ask the Nurse – Don't let your kids be blimps

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

Dear Chris: Help! I have to figure out meals for grandchildren when they visit. But my son has no good advice. When we're eating out, what should I buy them?

Chris: My seven grandchildren don't always appreciate that I am a nurse.

To begin with, I don't feed them from a commercial menu guaranteed to turn them into fat-as-a-redwood-log adult. I like my large unmovable redwoods in forests, not on my sofa. The entire world of advertising always paints the best-tasting pre-prepared food as the best for you, too. Which, of course, is a giant pre-prepared fib.

Some food tastes good because it's packed with fat and empty calories. On the other hand, eat enough of it and nothing else, and it will kill you stone cold dead.

In my experience, overweight kids often turn into overweight adults. The way I look at it, it's hear-me-now or see the cardiologist later. So what's the worst?

Here is my Fatal Foursome, the absolute worse for your kids.

SunnyD Smooth Style (16 ounces, 260 calories, 60 grams sugar): Don't mistake SunnyD for orange juice or anything else natural unless you think 5 percent real is “real.” It's just a lot of water with a lot of sugar dissolved in it. Buy your kids a package of Oreos. It has less sugar. Cap'n Crunch (1 cup 146 calories, 2 grams fat, 1 gram saturated, 16 gram sugars, and 1 gram fiber): As food, this is an empty suit. It's a waste of time. There are a few added vitamins that are required by the government but it's a totally unnatural collection of unrelated components, most of which is corn flour coated by food colorings yellow 6 and 5. If your children have attention issues, this will make them jump off the ceiling like cats on speed.

Oscar Mayer Maxed Out Turkey & Cheddar Cracker Combo Lunchables (680 calories, 22 grams fat, 9 grams saturated, 61 g sugars, 1,440 mg sodium): You'd think a company with an old-timey name like Oscar Mayer wouldn't do this to kids. It's gastronomic assault and battery. This junk has nearly half of a second graders' daily calorie allotment with more than twice the sugar and fat of a Snickers.

Burger King Kids' Double Cheeseburger with Small Fries and Coke (1,100 calories, 52 grams fat, 17.5 grams saturated, and 1.5 g trans, 1,870 mg sodium): Double your beef; double your kids' budding heart disease. If you feed your child this meal more than once a year, just paint the word “Goodyear” on his side and let him float over football stadiums. Your child would have to be a world class triathlete to burn that many calories.


Ask The Nurse: Is the "5-Second-Rule" Really Safe?

dropped food bacteria

Dear Nurse Chris: My husband grew up in a family that allowed the “5-second rule.” If you dropped food on the floor, but picked it up in less than five seconds, it was OK to eat. I know it’s crazy, but can I give him – and our two sons – some evidence that the “5-second rule” is terrible?  Rosa in Mundelein

Dear Rosa: The 5-second rule was not used in our house; if it fell on the floor it was tossed out. Thank goodness our bodies are made the way they are, because the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs has saved us from many an illness.
There’s good science for this view. Tell your family to listen up:  it's probably not even safe to follow a 1-second rule. The transfer of bacteria from a contaminated surface to food is almost instantaneous - or, at the very least, quicker than human reflexes.

In a recent study, Clemson University food scientist Paul Dawson and students contaminated several surfaces (ceramic tile, wood flooring, and carpet) with Salmonella. They then dropped pieces of bologna and slices of bread on the surfaces for as little as 5 seconds and as long as 60 seconds. After just 5 seconds, both foods had already picked up as many as 1,800 bacteria (more bad bugs adhered to the bologna than the bread). After 60 seconds, it was up to 18,000 bacteria!

There are 76 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control - so unless you're the only family on the block that sterilizes your floors hourly, stop eating dropped food. "Let's not forget what comes into contact with floors--people bring animal feces on their shoes into their homes," Dawson said.

And don't assume that countertops are clean. Dawson's team also found that the Salmonella actually survived as long as four weeks on the test surfaces.

I am also a stickler about hand washing. Many potential illnesses can be avoided when washing hands with soap and water. Hand washing before meals, after using the restroom, after playing outside, after coughing and blowing your nose, before preparing food and after touching food (such as raw meat) are some of the ways to avoid getting sick.

Summertime Crockpot Cooking - Smart and Healthy

Don't tuck your trusty crockpot away in a bottom cabinet or the pantry just because the weather is getting warmer. It's a practical and healthy cooking alternative for summertime, too.

  • No one likes to cook over a hot stove in the summer, but many people prefer a warm meal for dinner. The crockpot solves the overheated kitchen problem, as there's no need to turn on heat-generating oven or burners. All cooking heat is isolated to one small appliance on your kitchen countertop.
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Farmers Market Season: The Foods Your Body Craves!

Hooray!  Farmers market season is in full swing around the country, and it's the perfect time to heal and energize your body by indulging in the healthy, nutritious foods that it craves.  Forget about old New Year's resolutions, crazy diets, guilt and deprivation, they just don't work. Take advantage of the summer season to embark on a healthier lifestyle by making delicious meals from the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables overflowing in the market stalls. It's not a hardship to acquire healthy habits when you begin adding new foods to your everyday diet — fresh, vibrantly colored foods that not only taste good but have the nutrients and vitamins that will help to recharge you, body and spirit: 

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Behold the Lowly Dandelion

Spring has finally sprung, and brings with it the stirring of growing things all around us.  One of my favorite memories from childhood was seeing the big field across the street from our house transform from muddy, snow blotched thatch to lush green grass, suitable for barefoot games of tag and running bases with my friends.

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Savor the Flavor for Better Health

As Americans, we tend to be a nation of gobblers when it comes to eating.  In other cultures, meals and conversation can run on into the evening, with family members enjoying conversation and sharing the news of the day.  On average, our meals last a whopping 11 minutes—and that's for dinner.  Breakfast and lunch clock in at under 5 minutes for some people. The good news is, to realize an abundance of health benefits all we need to do is slooooooow dooooooown.  And here are few good reasons why:

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Summertime Crockpot Cooking - Smart and Healthy

Summertime Crockpot CookingDon't tuck your trusty crockpot away in a bottom cabinet or the pantry just because the weather is getting warmer. It's a practical and healthy cooking alternative for summertime, too.

  • No one likes to cook over a hot stove in the summer, but many people prefer a warm meal for dinner. The crockpot solves the overheated kitchen problem, as there's no need to turn on heat-generating oven or burners. All cooking heat is isolated to one small appliance on your kitchen countertop.
  • The crockpot also allows you to take advantage of the bounty of fresh vegetables that summertime offers. Main dishes, side dishes, casseroles, soups and more are perfect for cooking in the crockpot and a brilliant way to get your daily quota of vitamins and nutrients.
  • A crockpot meal paired with a crisp, cool salad is perfect for a taste tempting summer dinner menu. Use the crockpot to prepare tasty chillable summer soups. Guests coming for a barbecue in the evening? Start a tasty crockpot side dish earlier in the day. You can even use your crockpot to make delicious desserts!
  • Would you rather be outside having some fun in the sun? Save time by keeping prep time and cleanup to a minimum using your crockpot - no multiple pots and pans throwing heat on the stove top, just gather your fresh ingredients and place them in the pot, put the lid on and walk away for a few hours. What could be simpler.

Now begin planning all the fun things you can do with the time that you saved in the kitchen this summer. You can visit The Summer Crockpot at for more than 100 summertime recipe ideas, and dozens of other great crockpot-oriented sites abound. Enjoy!

"Speaking of Healthcare" is the official blog of Assured Healthcare Staffing.  Please LIKE us on Facebook to receive health and wellness tips and more!  Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.

Make Lunchtime Fun with a Bento Box

Whether you're seven or forty-seven, toting the old standby brown bag lunch to school or work has probably lost a lot of its allure.  Meet the bento box, a fun and creative way to revitalize lunchtime that lends itself well to integrating diverse and healthy foods into your daily diet.  

Bento boxes are a Japanese innovation, typically consisting of a compartmentalized and/or layered box containing single portion servings of an assortment of foods.  The boxes can range from cardboard containers (found in Japan at carry-out restaurants or convenience stores) to simple plastic versions to ornate laquered boxes.  Some bento boxes include small bottles or flasks to hold sauces or dressings and others come complete with chopsticks; if you prefer a hot meal at lunchtime, there are also microwaveable styles available (the variations are endless; see some helpful shopping links at the end of this  post).      

What a boon to  lunchtime nutrition.  With those little compartments just waiting to be filled, it's easy to become creative.  Add leftovers and tidbits from from all the food groups:  some pasta salad, a few baby carrots, olives, noodles or rice, your favorite sushi, walnuts or almonds, sliced fresh fruit and cheese, a cookie or two -- the sky's the limit for taste and visual appeal. 

And what child wouldn't love to open a brightly colored bento box of his or her own, and explore the compartments to see what surprises Mom or Dad packed for them.  The presentation of smaller portions and varied selections may also encourage picky eaters to expand their horizons and try different foods. 

Home meal leftovers and restaurant doggie bags suddenly become much more appealing when you imagine them repurposed as next day's lunch in your new bento box -- enjoy!   

Interested in learning more about the beauty of bento box meals?  Here a few resource links for shopping, information and ideas:

SHOPPING - Just enter bento box into the Search box, add variables as needed (microwaveable, kids, etc.) 

Pottery Barn for Kids - Bento Lunch Boxes

Google Product Search


Laptop Lunches - Bento Menu Library (also has a Shopping page AND a great Photo Gallery of lunch ideas)

20 Easy Bento Box Lunches for Kids

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.

A Great Interactive Nutrition Site for Kids

In researching helpful information sources for National Nutrition Month, I came across a great website dedicated to teaching children about healthy eating. Founded by a former ICU nurse who became concerned about the number of young teenagers she encountered professionally who were already suffering morbid obesity, the site displays this mission statement:

Nourish Interactive’s mission is to offer fun, innovative solutions that empower children to make healthy choices. We support parents and teachers with free interactive games and tools that promote a healthier lifestyle.

The teaching resources the site provides for parents and teachers are extensive and well organized, the children's games and activities both entertaining and informative.  The site mascot is the cute and engaging Chef Solus, who leads kids through a variety of games, food choice scenarios and recipes. 

The sheer volume of activities and learning exercises could keep adults and children occupied for hours -- but the site addresses that issue also, periodically reminding kids that they need to take a break from the computer after 20 minutes and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

I have to say, this is one of the best designed educational sites I have found in many thousands of hours on the Internet, and its mission is an important one.  But don't take my word for it, visit yourself.  If you agree, please pass the word by sharing it with other parents and educators.

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.

Spice Up Your Life - It's Good for You!


One of the best ways to enhance nutrition and improve your health is to bypass processed and pre-packaged foods in favor of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins.  Oftentimes the challenge is convincing our taste buds of that fact.  Many people have become accustomed to the artifically enhanced flavors of most processed foods, not to mention the excessive and addictive amounts of sodium and fat they contain. Spices to the rescue!  The use of natural spices in our food preparation can enhance our taste experience across the board, and spices have other health benfits as well.  So put the can opener back in the drawer and the salt shaker away in the cabinet, and flavor up this week's meals with some of these palate-pleasing spices:

Tumeric - Hailing primarily from India, tumeric is derived from a root that is first boiled and steamed, then dried and ground.  It is a staple of Indian cuisine and provides both rich, golden color (similar to that of saffron) and pungent flavor to grain and meat dishes.  It is also used medicinally throughout Asia for stomach and liver ailments.

Cinnamon - Cinnamon sticks are actually the dried bark of laurel  trees in the cinnamomun family.  Ground cinnamon is probably the most common of the baking spices and is also frequently paired with apples and other fruits.  In the Middle East cinnamon is also used as savory seasoning in chicken and lamb dishes.  Popular since ancient times, the Romans considered cinnamon to be sacred; more recently, studies have suggested that cinnamon may be helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol and help in the regulation of blood sugar for Type 2 diabetics.

Coriander - Another ancient spice, coriander is a seed that comes primarily from Romania and Morocco.  Though its plant is in the cilantro family, coriander is not interchangeable with cilantro in recipes; its distinctive flavor is more reminiscent of lemony sage and lends itself well to Mediterranean, South American, Indian and African dishes as well as stews and marinades.  In parts of Europe, coriander has reputed health benefits for diabetics and is used in India as an anti-inflammatory.  It has more recently been studied in the United States for its cholesterol-lowering effects.

Cooking Tip:  To find flavorful recipes incorporating these spices and others, go to and use the Ingredients search function at the top of the page.  It will return descriptions and article links about the spices, along with a nutritional overview of the recipes themselves.

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.

Make Common Sense Part of Nutrition Planning

Yes, it's National Nutrition Month, so be prepared to be presented with a smorgasbord of nutritional tips and resources throughout the month. As with almost any health-related topic, we find ourselves bombarded with "expert" and frequently conflicting advice from all quarters -- nutrition is no exception.  How many meals a day are the best?  How many servings of vegetables?  Of grains and cereals?  Is white sugar ever okay?  Is high fructose corn syrup the cause of all mankind's ills?  Does deciding what fats are GOOD or BAD make feel like you're spinning a dietary roulette wheel?  When it comes to good nutrition choices, what's a well-meaning, intelligent person to do?

Of course we're never going to get the so-called experts to agree.  Trends in nutrition can be like trends in clothing, what's in and out can change from year to year or decade to decade (remember the food pyramid we boomers grew up with?).  And let's not delve into the dark underbelly of food industry lobbying, that calls for a blog all its own.

Thank goodness for Common Sense.  Here are some fundamental questions to ask yourself when you decide what, when and how much to eat: 

How hungry are you, really?  The American Dietetic Association tells us that skipping meals can have adverse effects.  It suggests that eating meals at regular intervals helps avoid trigger the "store calories" response in our bodies.  On the other hand, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition maintains that three meals or six meals a day is not the question, that the deciding factor in unwanted weight gain is the total number of calories consumed.

Here's a sensible suggestion.  Is a three-meal a day schedule working for you, or do you find yourself needing to refuel more frequently?  Listen to your body, and take the time identify your own metabolic rhythm; we each have different physiologies and levels of activity. What works for your best friend may be far off the mark for you.

What to choose, what to choose?  I bet that most of us -- confronted with momentous decisions such as what to eat for lunch -- could readily identify the healthier options.  Let's face it:  Our nation's obesity problem is not a result of making the wrong choice between the tuna on whole wheat and the Caesar salad -- it's choosing the high-fat, high-sodium, high-carbohydrate over-processed drive-thru fast food value meal over almost anything else.  It's reaching for just about any beverage except good, old-fashioned water when we have a thirst.  It's eating foods from the color palette of brown-browner-brownest.  It's forgetting that what we put into us is going to have to come out in some way, shape or form (ideally, as expended energy), or we're going to end up carrying it around with us on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the nutrition issue is this:  Our daily food choices are actually critical decisions about how we fuel our bodies to generate the energy we need to live the best lives we can in the time that we have here.

This National Nutrition Month I'm going to begin taking my own advice and ask myself this question before every meal:  Is what I am about to consume going to serve me in pursuing my goals and passions?  Will eating this meal help me to achieve my dreams?

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.