Seven Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Seven Tips for Surviving the Holidays
Seven Tips for Surviving the Holidays
There are many blog posts written this time of year on how to avoid fighting with you in-laws. Or how to avoid gaining weight. My tips are for those of us who are sensitive or allergic to things in our every day world. For me, I need to avoid perfumes, cleaners, air fresheners and a number of foods. Here are some tips that can help you:

[1] Avoid Crowds – This one can be hard, especially if you have shopping to do. Try shopping at non-peak times. Avoid weekend shopping. Perhaps you can take a day off work to shop. In my experience, mornings are the best times. Be there when the stores open.

[2] Watch Where You Shop – You probably already know this, but it bears repeating. There are shops & stores that I refuse to go in because they have too many smells. Especially bad are the places that have chosen to ‘brand’ their location with a unique scent. I avoid these at all costs!

[3] Be Careful What You Eat – There are lots of parties this time of year, plus more dining out. If you have sensitivities or allergies, this can be dangerous. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the food. If you’re unsure, sometimes the best bet is to not eat it.

[4] Beware the Potluck – I used to love pot luck dinners. It was an opportunity to try new dishes. Now, not so much. I have to spend too much time asking questions, that aren’t always well received. I either don’t go or make sure I bring a casserole that can be my meal, if need be.

[5] Beware the Greenery – Christmas trees, greenery, etc can be a real issue. For me, I am allergic to much of the real greenery and trees. And the artificial ones are often sprayed with a scent.

[6] Plan Your Hair/Nail Appointments – If you’re sensitivity to the chemicals used in salons, then pick a time when they’re less busy. The shop I go to is closed Sunday & Monday. So I usually go early Tuesday morning.

[7] Get Some Fresh Air – If you’re at an event and it gets to be too much, step outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air.

[BONUS] Walk Away – For some reason, people tend to wear more perfume this time of year. It’s a combination of the party atmosphere and the perfumes people get as gifts. If you find yourself in a situation where you just cannot cope, then leave. It’s hard to miss events this time of year. But ask yourself: Is it worth it to be at this party when I know that I’ll be miserable for the next few days?

Do you want to know more about coping with sensitivities or allergies? Contact me for a free initial consultation.

Hair Spray I Can Use!

I have finally found a hairspray that I can use. It’s called “Lily Of The Desert Aloe 80 Organics Styling Spray” and is available from Amazon. To be honest, I had given up and wasn’t even looking for one when I found it. Until that find, every hairspray had either fragrance or masking fragrance in it. To me, they are the same and are also an indication of other chemicals they’re trying to hide.

This one is different. It is made with Aloe Vera. It contains NO alcohol. Here’s the ingredient list:

Certified Organic Aloe Vera Gel, PVP, Certified Organic AloeSorb,Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, DL Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Biotin, L-Lysine HCI.

A little of it goes a long way, I’ve found. It takes a bit longer to dry and if I use a lot my hair is stiff, sorta like if you spray a lot of normal hairspray. Funny, though, when I use it my nose still anticipates that alcohol tingle!

President’s Cancer Panel Report

Picture of Air Pollution in Delhi
A report by the President’s Cancer Panel was brought to my attention recently. The report is from May of 2010, but is still important and relevant.

Here’s an excerpt from the article in Environmental Health News:

The President’s Cancer Panel on Thursday reported that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated” and strongly urged action to reduce people’s widespread exposure to carcinogens.

The panel advised President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

The President’s Cancer Panel was created by an act of Congress in 1971. Yet, this is the first report that focuses on environmental causes of cancer. It addresses the many, many carcinogens and toxins that are found in our food, our water and our air. They’re hard to avoid and the combinations serve a bigger threat than most people realize.

The American Cancer Society tried to downplay the role of environmentally induced cancers in a statement issued in response to the report. Surprisingly, the ACS tries to suggest that these environmental concerns are less important than lifestyle changes and need not be addressed.

Photo Courtesy jenspie3 via Flickr

Transparent Cleaning Products

Whole Foods Logo
I love shopping at Whole Foods, primarily because the have no products with MSG in them. That’s right – none. Actually, they have a long list of unacceptable ingredients.

Does that mean everything there is healthy? Maybe, maybe not. I took a friend on a tour recently trying to help her find healthier snacking options. Surprisingly, there were a lot of snack foods (cookies and crackers) that were not made with whole grain flour. That may not mean much to you, but it does mean that they contain little to no fiber and fewer nutrients than their whole grain counterparts. So just like any place else you shop, you have to read the labels.

Whole Foods Eco-Scale
Beginning on Earth Day 2012 (April 22nd), Whole Foods will implement their Eco-Scale™ Rating System for cleaning products. There are no regulations for labeling of cleaning products, which can be a real issue for many of us. So, Whole Foods is implement their own rating system which will allow all of us to make better choices.

They have four different ratings – Red, Orange, Yellow and Green. You can read about them on their Eco-Scale™ Rating System page. Here’s a brief description of each category:

  • Red – Not be carried by Whole Foods
  • Orange – No phosphates, chlorine or fake colors
  • Yellow – No phosphates, chlorine or fake colors – PLUS – 100% natural fragrances and minimal safety concerns
  • Green – No phosphates, chlorine or fake colors – PLUS – 100% natural fragrances and minimal safety concerns – PLUS – 100% natural, non-petroleum ingredients

I love it. I’ll be shopping and buying only Yellow and Green rated products.

I applaud Whole Foods for implement this system. In the absence of government regulations, they are (once again) setting standards for what they carry in their stores. This is how it should work. It sends a message to the manufacturers about what the people want.

I Could’ve had a V8

Fruit Juice Not Whole NutritionI rarely watch TV commercials, mainly because they tend to enrage me. Sometimes, one enrages me to the point that I have to talk about it. Recently, this has happened with the V8 V-Fusion commercials.

They show the people, children and adults, drinking this juice and magically having consumed a serving of fruit and vegetables. Really? Is it the same thing?

My initial suspicion is that it just wasn’t possible. So I did my homework.

What should your first check be? Read the ingredients! You’ll find things like reconstituted vegetable juice blend and reconstituted fruit juice blend. Sounds yummy!

So it’s really only the juice – not the fruits and vegetables. What have you lost?

  1. The skin – an excellent source of fiber, carotenoids and flavonoids.
  2. The pulp – another excellent source of flavonoids and fiber. Plus, the pulp
    and Vitamin C act together in the body. So you get a much better benefit if
    you get them together.
  3. Other nutrients.

What’s left? Really what you’re getting is concentrated fructose. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to get a juice with added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

My conclusion? Convenience comes at a cost. In this case, the cost is a much less nutritious food than the original. You can’t fool Mother Nature. If she had wanted you to drink just the juice, she would have presented it that way.

Photo Courtesy Erik Forsberg via Flickr

Zero May Not Mean Zero

Trans Fat
You’ve no doubt heard about trans fat. If you’re like most of us, you only have a vague idea of what it is and why you should avoid it, right?

What is trans fat? Trans fat is a man-made fat made by a process called hydrogenation. Which simply means that hydrogen molecules are added to vegetable oil. This results in hydrogenated unsaturated fats.

(Aside: Trans fat occurs naturally, although in small amounts, in some meat and dairy products. However, the man-made trans fat seems to be the more harmful.)

Why are trans fats used? Trans fat doesn’t spoil as quickly so it improves the shelf life of foods made with it. It is solid at room temperature. Foods made with trans fat also tend to have a less greasy feel to them. Trans fat was once found in nearly all commercial baked goods, but is becoming less common as more is learned about the bad effects of it.

What’s wrong with trans fat? Trans fat does a double-whammy on your cholesterol. Not only does it increase your LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) but it also decreases you HDL (“good” cholesterol). It has also been shown to increase triglycerides and inflammation.

How do you avoid trans fat? Become a label reader. If you see partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, this is another term for trans fat. Products that contain “hydrogenated vegetable oil” may also contain some trans fat. Also, shortening contains some trans fat. When eating out, you may need to ask the restaurant if they use trans fat. Unless you live in New York City, which has banned the use of trans fat by restaurants.

When is zero not zero? Nutrition labels in the United States list the amount of trans fat in them. According to the Mayo Clinic’s web site:

For example, in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. Though that’s a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple
servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could
exceed recommended limits.

Like anything else in today’s world, it’s caveat emptor (Buyer beware). If you buy products with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in them, consider how much of those products you consume in a day. There is no determined daily value for trans fat, but the AHA recommends that it should be less than 1 percent of your daily caloric intake from fat.

Ask your favorite restaurants about the use of trans fat. Perhaps if enough people ask, they’ll decide to not use it.

Photo Courtesy cbgrfx123 via Flickr

Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes

Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes
These pancakes have been tweaked to make them healthier than the average pancakes. They make about 12 pancakes which will feed 4-6 people, depending on how many each person eats. I general eat 2 while my hubby likes to eat 3.

Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • ¾ cup oatmeal
  • 1¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (I use one with a mild flavor, you don’t even notice the flavor)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup raisin
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Combine milk, oats and flax seed and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Add in remaining ingredients and mix. I use a stick blender, but a blender or food processor will also work.
  3. Spray pan with olive oil and heat pan to medium heat.
  4. Use ¼ cup of mix for each pancake.
  5. Cook first side until bubbles appear and edges appear dry.
  6. Cook second side until done.

 

I like to serve them with warmed maple syrup.

Don’t Try This At Work, Please!

Dine-Ink Pen Utensil Set
My friend, Lisa, brought this product to my attention. It’s a set of pens. No, wait, it’s a set of eating utensils – knife, fork & spoon. Actually, it is both. The description includes this suggestion: “Go from note-taking to noshing in nanoseconds!” If you must, you can actually buy them from ThinkGeek for only $9.99!

I would like to make another suggestion: Don’t! No matter how busy your day is, try to separate your work time and your eating time. If you find the need to have eating utensils that are also writing implements, then you probably need to slow down. De-stress. Take a break from working while you eat. It will aid in digestion, reduce your stress and most likely make your work more effective!

Me? High-Maintenance?

Barbara McNeely
Recently, someone suggested that I was “high-maintenance.” It’s not really something I like to hear. But in context, I had to admit she was right.

For me, high-maintenance isn’t really a choice. It’s more about the foods and other things that I have to avoid. Seriously, I never chose to have walnuts trigger migraines. Or fragrances. Or a long list that you may or may not want to know about. I never chose to be allergic to coconut. Or penicillin. This is just the hand that I was dealt. And I’ve come to accept it, although I confess it wasn’t always willingly! I fought it all for a long time.

So, yeah, I’m high-maintenance. But I feel fortunate that I was able to play detective and solve a lot of my issues. I still have to avoid some things, but at least I know what to avoid.

Are you high-maintenance? Are you having to deal with food allergies or sensitivities, migraines, acid reflux, diabetes or some other health issue that is holding you back? Do you need more guidance than your doctor can provide? If you need someone to play detective to solve you health issues, let me know. I’ve found that I enjoy this detective work.

From Pyramids to Plates

USDA MyPlate
Last Thursday, the USDA introduced the replacement for their Pyramid, MyPlate. My first observation is they appear to have gone to great pains to ensure that it didn’t look like a Pie Chart! Although it might have made as much sense.

MyPlate has some good and bad points:

  • Pro: It finally gives fruits and vegetables more emphasis, suggesting that they should be half of what is on your plate.
  • Con: What the USDA considers grains encompasses everything from pasta to corn chips. This should really emphasize Whole Grains more and processed foods less.
  • Pro: The plate concept is a good one, even if the suggested proportions are not ideal.
  • Con: While the plate concept is more logical than the pyramid, there’s not enough information about the size of the plate or the portion sizes.
  • Con: The suggestions for dairy are excessive, perhaps influenced by the dairy industry? If you dig deeper on the website, you’ll find a PDF that tells you that children ages 2-3 need 2 cups of dairy per day, ages 4-8 need 2 1/2 cups per day and everyone else (older children, teens and adults) need 3 cups per day. The reality is different. Most of us need no dairy at all. The suggestion is that we need it for calcium and Vitamin D. But be real. Dairy products are fortified with Vitamin D. And calcium? You’re better off getting that from the same source as cows – vegetables!
  • Pro: If you read through all of the website, it does suggest that you limit sugary drinks.
  • Con: There is no emphasis on either water – the one liquid we should consume most – or exercise – which is critical in controlling weight.

MyPlate is definitely a step in the right direction. But Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at NYU, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “It’s better than the pyramid, but that’s not saying a lot.”

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