Monday, February 28, 2011

McDonald's Oatmeal

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Have you heard about the newest item on McDonald's menu?  Oatmeal.  With maple syrup and fruit.  Thankfully it has finally started to get some attention.  I am entirely in favor of McDonald's adding healthier items.  McDonald's is the only food option available in the hospital on the weekends, except for a small cafe across the street that charges $8 for a salad or sandwich.  I think McDonalds got this one wrong.

Their oatmeal contains 290 calories, 10 calories less than a cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin.  Without the brown sugar it still contains more calories than a McDonalds hamburger.  It contains as much sugar as a Snickers bar, and it has 21 ingredients, including natural flavor, barley malt extract and caramel color.  It also comes with cream, which contains 7 of the ingredients (2 are dairy).

McDonalds argues that people add all sorts of stuff to their oatmeal at home and that most of the sugar is from brown sugar (duh) and fruit sugars.  Still, I would much rather control the amount of brown sugar I am adding, and you specifically have to ask not to get it. 

One of the babysteps we have made is making old fashioned oatmeal.  It really does taste better, and I was shocked to see how much sugar was in Quaker Instant flavors.  We just start it a few minutes before breakfast and everyone gets to add their own topics...with known ingredients and known amounts.

Thanks to Mark Bittman, NY times food columnist and food expert, for putting some heat on McDonalds for this decision!

Friday, February 25, 2011


This winter one of my greatest goals in life is to keep us healthy.  Washing our hands is one of the very most, if not THE most, important way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.  Antibacterial soap has soared in recent popularity.  However, it is really a myth that you need a good antibacterial soap.  For one reason, many infections are caused by viruses, which are immune to antibiotics and antibacterial soaps.  Here are a few other myths about handwashing:

Myth: The use of any soap is better than plain water in handwashing.

Soap isn't designed to kill bacteria. It acts as a surfactant to lift dirt off of surfaces so it can be rinsed away.

Myth: Hot water is better than cold water for effective handwashing.

Scientists with the Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department pointed out that various temperatures had "no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction." They found no evidence that hot water had any benefit, and noted that it might increase the "irritant capacity" of some soaps, causing contact dermatitis.

Myth: Hand sanitizers kill germs more effectively than soap.

The efficacy of alcohol-based hand-hygiene products is affected by several factors, including the type of alcohol used, concentration of alcohol, contact time, volume of alcohol used and whether the hands are wet when the alcohol is applied. Applying small volumes (i.e., 0.2-0.5 mL) of alcohol to the hands is not more effective than washing hands with plain soap and water.

Myth: Frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizers promotes healthy skin.

Occupationally related contact dermatitis can develop from frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, exposure to chemicals and glove use.

Myth: Wearing gloves replaces handwashing.

Wearing gloves does not eliminate the need for handwashing. Hand hygiene should be performed immediately before donning gloves. Gloves can have unapparent defects or can be torn during use, and hands can become contaminated during glove removal. In addition, bacteria can multiply rapidly in the moist environments underneath gloves.

Myth: Alcohol gels are an effective means to reduce infection.

Alcohols have very poor activity against bacterial spores, protozoan oocysts and certain nonenveloped (nonlipophilic) viruses.

Myth: Soap with triclosan is an effective antimicrobial for handwashing.

A recent study compared an antibacterial soap containing triclosan with a non-antibacterial soap and concluded that the former did not provide any additional benefit. Concerns have been raised about the use of triclosan, because of the development of bacterial resistance to low concentrations of biocide and cross-resistance to some antibiotics.

One last mistake that the majority of people is not washing your hands long enough.  You really need to wash and scrub for at least 20 sec.  We are taught at the hospital I work at to sing Row Row Your Boat or Happy Birthday.  You do not want to go overboard and become obsessive about washing your hands because that can actually strip the natural oils from your skin and actually destroy the protective barrier of your hands, leaving them dry and cracked and open to infection.  However, you should wash your hands:

"when they look dirty, and prior to, or after, performing certain tasks that could spread infection, such as in these instances:

Before and after preparing food, especially when handling raw meat and poultry

Before eating

Before and after treating wounds or taking/giving medicine

Before touching a sick or injured person

Before inserting contact lenses

After using the toilet or changing a diaper

After touching an animal, its toys, leashes, or waste

After blowing your nose or coughing/sneezing into your hands

After handling garbage or potentially contaminated waste "
From Dr. Mercola's hand hygeine article 2/25/11 and  Beckers ASC Review

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is organic worth it?

Do you ever get tired of trying to eat right, live right, be healthy?? Do you ever wonder if it really makes a difference? Honestly, I get so tired of trying to be healthy sometimes. I did not feel awful before. It was so easy to fix canned, frozen, microwavable foods. I could enjoy a Coke, mmmm.

Once you start cutting out processed foods and sugar, it makes it so hard to go back. Now when I eat sugar, I feel AWFUL. I feel like a gain a pound each time I eat a tiny piece of candy. I get a headache, sometimes for days. I do not sleep as well when I start eating less healthy. Sometimes it really does seem like it has to be all or none…forget the baby steps.

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I am sometimes envious of people that can drink a cup of coffee at night and still sleep, or eat a 6 lb bag of gummy bears and not feel sick. I do think it is important not to be too legalistic about being healthy. However, I know I do truly feel better when I eat right, even if I cannot tell at the time. All it takes is one heavenly chocolate covered raspberry to remind me how little sugar I can tolerate anymore. While it is a pain, I am glad that my body can tell a difference. I am glad I do not tolerate junk food as well. Here are two more babysteps towards eating right regularly…

Friday, February 18, 2011

Consigning clothes

I thought I had more posts scheduled to get me through last week.  I just now discovered that it has been a week since my last post.  Looks like I've got my work cut out for me this weekend.  It has been an extremely busy month.  I had two pharmacy students and second-year pediatric pharmacy resident with me for the past 5 weeks.  At nights I have been utterly exhausted.  Nonetheless I still try to work on a few posts a week.  However, this past week I have been working on getting clothes ready for a huge kids consignment sale.  The sale happens twice a year and consigners get a 60-75% return on their items, which is HUGE for consignment. 

What does that have to do with this blog?  Wellll, all of my evenings last week were consumed with tagging clothes, putting them on coat hangers, and getting them ready to drop off.  I had so much that I had to get Lee to get it all in my car.  It was also on my mind because I think it is a way to recycle, give to others, save money, and be frugal.  While many of the things I write about on this blog have to do with food or organic living, I think buying used clothes is a great way to benefit our family's effort to live better.  We can use the money from consigning to buy bigger clothes or even use it towards buying organic food.  We are also helping others save money.  You can also choose to discount your clothes on the last day or donate whatever does not sell.  I do take a lot to Goodwill ever year but I am really enjoying this extra way to provide for my family.  Some of our favorite outfits that our kids have worn have come from this sale.  I have so much fun buying things that are in great condition that I could not afford at full price.  Lee hates it because I am spending money (period) and because I am taking away from my profit.  However, I secretly laugh with glee whenever he compliments Kai on his suave orange jacket or Caitlin on her floral party pants...both from the sale!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Product Review: Envirosax

Many retail stores are moving to recyclable bag incentives.  One store in our area has completely stopped carrying plastic grocery bags.  You have to bring your own or take your groceries home in paper bags or boxes.  Target now gives a 5 cent credit for each bag that you bring.  Publix has even replaced my old recyclable bags for free when they start to fray. 

I have a whole floor board full of bags on my passenger side.  It works great as long as I remember to bring them into the store with me and as long as I don't have passengers up front.  They take up room and are often piled in a messy heap.  Then they get strewn all over my kitchen after I carry groceries in. 

The solution??  Envirosax!  These are well, revolutionary.  I ordered some off a discount deal of the day website for 50% off.  They are all Sesame Street characters, but there is a whole line of different designs and themes.  The best thing is that these bags roll up to same length as my cell phone.  I can throw them in my purse, in the storage pocket behind the passenger or driver seat, or toss a couple on the floor of the car with plenty of room for a passenger or other bags. 

It takes about 5 seconds to roll them back up, and they come with instructions.  You trifold them, roll, and snap...and then hide them so said children do not get a kick out of unsnapping them.  They have an easy shoulder strap that fits nicely and comfortably over your shoulder.  The other thing that I like is that they are very large.  Some of my other bags do not expand much and do not hold more that a couple of items.  You can load these babies up!  Once my other bags wear out, I think these are all I will use.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Milk allergy

A couple of weeks ago, I was worried that Caitlin had a milk protein allergy.  I had just weaned her and had switched her to 50% cows milk.  She suddenly started waking up in the middle of the night screaming.  This happened several nights in a row.  We tried making her room warmer, tried backing off on the cows milk, tried ibuprofen.  She had no other signs of illness, other than more dirty diapers than usual...which fit milk allergy...and a million other things...or nothing.  The only thing that remotely helped was the ibuprofen.  Lee asked if I thought there was any chance it was just teething, but she did not act like she was teething.  Neither of our children have woken up in the middle of the night, for more than one night, due to teething, that I know of.  I decided to check her gums the next morning anyway.......4 teeth!!  One tooth had broken the surface, and there were 3 other tooth bumps.  We continued to give her ibuprofen before bedtime, and she immediately went back to sleeping through the night.

In the meantime, I had to make a plan in case it was a milk allergy.  It didn't fit the picture, but I wanted to be prepared.  Some people feel that cows milk does not need to be a major part of our diet.  While I agree, both of my kids are milk hogs, particularly around this age.  It is comforting and soothing to them.  They honestly get excited about a cup of milk.  So what was I going to do if I was out of breastmilk and she could not drink cows milk??

I gathered my options.  One was to keep nursing her (not an option, she was essentially completely weaned).  Two, toddler formula.  I do not believe formula is poison by any means, but it is not the healthiest option in my opinion.  Many formulas contain high amounts of corn syrup and other sugars that I am trying to avoid.  Then there were milk substitutes...almond, coconut, soy, and rice being the most common.  I have concerns about soy products containing phytoestrogens.  The evidence is controversial, but there are reports of it increasing cancer risk.  Although this is highly anectdotal, I have also heard that rice milk contains trace amounts of arsenic.  It also does not have much fat at all, which is a good thing for babies.  I could not find any dangers of almond or coconut.  They are probably the closest in nutrients and calories to cows milk.  I was not worried about calcium intake as that is pretty easy to supplement, but I needed something that tasted similar to milk and that would give her the fat, protein, and calories that cows milk provides.

In the end, we decided to continue increasing the amount of cows milk, and she tolerated it just fine.  She loves long as she gets her nightly ibuprofen fix.  All this to say, I feel much better prepared if I were to have to make a switch.  If you find yourself in this position, do your own research, but know that there are several other alternatives to cows milk.  Goats milk is also very similar to cows milk and much easier to digest.  There is a chance that if it is a true milk protein allergy that goats milk will also be allergenic.  However, if you only have an intolerance and cost is not prohibitive, it would also be a good option.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Inflammatory foods

This is an interesting article from the conscious life. It discusses the top 10 inflammatory foods to avoid.

These foods can increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and who knows what else. Are there any of your favorite foods that made the list?


Cooking oils

Trans fats

Dairy products

Feedlot-raised meat

Red meat and processed meat


Refined grains

Artificial food additives

Common food allergens like gluten

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hydrogen peroxide ear drops

This week I have decided to write about natural home remedies that I have tried recently. Next up is hydrogen peroxide. I think I first heard about using it as ear drops on Dr. Mercola’s site. In another effort to ward off viruses and the flu this winter I have researched this use and personally tried it.

In the 1920’s, it was first hypothesized that cold and flu viruses enter through the ear canal. Research in the 1930’s showed success with using hydrogen peroxide in dealing with colds and flu. The experts on have found remarkable results in curing the flu and cold within 12-14 hours of administration.

The instructions are to administer a few drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide into each infected ear (I would do both). It starts working within 2-3 minutes. There will be some bubbling and in some cases mild stinging. Wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (usually a few minutes), then drain the peroxide onto a tissue or cotton pad and then repeat the process in the other ear. To cure the flu, it is recommended to repeat the process two or more times at 1-2 hour intervals until there is no bubbling when putting the hydrogen peroxide in ear(s).

There are not many “home remedies” that I follow, but this is one that I might continue. This morning I only had bubbling in one ear, and it was on the side of my head that is sore (sore ear and sore throat only on that side). I will report back with the results!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gargling with salt water

Did your mom ever make you do this while growing up? I remember doing it vividly…but I can’t ever remember whether it worked. It wasn’t until recently after several sore throats in a row that I could not shake that I started to look into it again. I was also trying to avoid a course of antibiotics if possible.

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From what I learned it works in two different ways by the same mechanism: osmosis. The salt water pulls water from the bacteria, causing them to dehydrate (shrivel up and die, suckers!!). It also pulls water from the inflamed, swollen areas in the back of your throat. One good tip that I read is that it is not a one-time deal. You need to do this multiple times a day to kill all of the bacteria and keep the inflammation down. A good ratio is ½-1 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces. I have also read to just saturate a small glass of water with salt to the point that there is a very tiny amount on the bottom that will not dissolve.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mommy, what's that?

I was standing in line at the grocery store when I heard Kai say, "Mommy, what's that??" in the sweetest little sing-song voice ever. He was point to (gasp) doughnuts...powdered sugar covered doughnuts!! Worse yet, I had some on the conveyor belt for work. They were buy one, get one free! I was already mortified at myself that I was buying them for work. What was I going to do?

No, I do not buy my children everything they ask for. Honestly, I almost always say no if there is any pestering or whining. I learned a valuable lesson. One, it was not worth sneaking them. Two, I am still taking baby steps. Now, I could have taken the "you can't always have everything you ask for" route. Or I could have just said "no." Or I could have given in because it was just easier. Did Kai get his doughnuts?

In the end I decided that I would buy a bag for him. It was a special treat. The only other time he has had a doughnut is at church (that I am aware of). Yes, it was just a bag of doughnuts. However, I am trying to avoid giving him junk food, not raise his awareness of it. He is also extremely sugar sensitive, even sensitive to fruit sugars. I still want him to be able to teach his own body what to prefer. In my experience so far, even cutting out processed sweets for a short period of time has had profound effects. I shared one doughnut with Kai the next afternoon and I ended up with a nasty headache. It didn't seem to slow Kai down one bit, but it definitely reminded me how much better I felt without it.

While I would prefer that he always asks for strawberries and apples, I feel that being realistic is important. I have to remind myself that it isn't always worth being legalistic. I don't eat perferct 100% of the time either.  He was so excited that I actually bought them, and it brought a little sunshine to his day. He is probably none the worse for it, and maybe one day he will choose something healthier...right??