Friday, June 26, 2015

Searching For a Good Night's Sleep?

Much research has been done on defining adequate sleep and its importance. Although most adults need 7-8 hours, almost a third of all American adults report getting less than 6 hours of sleep nightly, according to a 2014 Center for Disease Control report.

Insufficient sleep has been blamed for many difficulties- from having trouble concentrating at work, to being the cause of motor vehicle crashes and industrial and medical accidents. It has also been shown to be a risk factor for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, depression, hypertension, obesity and cancer.

Besides that, we all just want to sleep well.  Most of us would like nothing better than to lay our heads down to go to sleep and wake up 8 hours later.  Sleep is refreshing and rejuvenating.

So, the question is, how to go about getting a good night’s sleep?  The following lists 10 behaviors which have been pretty solidly linked to quality sleep. How many of the following can you answer “YES” to?  If you cannot answer YES, then how can you make some changes to see if it will help you sleep better?  A good night’s sleep is worth the effort!

  1. I do not drink caffeine beverages 4-6 hours before bedtime. (Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Coffee, tea, pop and even some OTC pain meds contain caffeine.)
  2. I limit alcohol consumption to 1 or 2 drinks daily and do not drink within 3 hours of bedtime.  (Alcohol may help you get to sleep but after a few hours it acts like a stimulant, decreasing the quality of sleep.)
  3. My bedroom is cool, dark and quiet at night. (Think about things that interfere with this: the thermostat set above 67°F, pets on the bed, glowing screens like a TV or computer, even bright digital clocks may cause you to sleep less well.)
  4. I have a regular sleep/wake schedule, and try to stick close to it on the weekends.  (This routine “sets” the body’s clock and improves sleep.)
  5. I do not nap during the day.  (If you need to nap, limit it to 30 minutes and before 5 pm.)
  6. I exercise regularly. (Exercise promotes restful sleep. A morning exercise routine helps activate the brain to be more awake.  If you exercise in the evening, keep it less vigorous and not near bedtime.)
  7. I do not eat heavy meals in the evening and I give my food 2-3 hours to digest before bedtime.
  8. My mattress is less than 10 years old.
  9. I spend the last hour before bedtime doing a calming activity like reading or listening to music, in dim light.  The electronic light of computers and televisions is activating to the brain and may keep you from getting to sleep.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

10 Kid-Friendly Healthy Eating Tips for the Summer

Summer is a great time to focus on healthy eating.  All the fresh fruits available, the variety of colors and flavors, and the lower prices of in-season produce make this a good time to work at improving your family’s eating habits.   See how many of the following tips you can adopt!

  1. Have a main dish salad once a week.  Taco salad is always a winner, or start with a basic vegetable salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, shredded carrots and croutons. Add a different meat: grilled chicken breast, tuna, hard-cooked eggs.  Try different dressings!
  2. Plan a visit to a farmer’s market regularly.  Better yet, grow peas, sweet corn or tomatoes yourself.   Children need to experience how good food tastes when it is fresh.
  3. Keep treat foods as an occasional, not daily, treat.  Save money and consider not buying the super size of anything, but just enough to provide a treat for everyone one day.  Think of treat foods as any foods that are high calorie and low in nutrition. This would include chips, pop, fries, doughnuts and sweets.
  4. Prepare one meal a week without meat.  Find a recipe that uses beans as the main protein source.  Recipes with a southwestern flare, using salsa or tortillas, often include beans.
  5. Fix breakfast for supper. Kids often love this, and eggs are an inexpensive, healthy protein source.  Serve French toast or an omelet with vegetables and whole-wheat toast with fresh fruit on the side.
  6. Potato bars are another inexpensive way to feed your family something healthy.  Serve baked potatoes with toppings like chili, cheese, broccoli, ham, bbq pork, beans & salsa.
  7. Pick healthy snack ideas: Yogurt, cut up apples, bananas, frozen grapes, raw vegetables with dip.  If someone (that would be you!) gets the fruits and vegetables out of the frig and cuts them into child-size portions, they will be eaten! 
  8. Use the internet!  There are healthy recipes and ideas galore and even sites that help with meal planning. One recommended site is  For a small fee, you can download a year of recipes, meal planning tips and grocery lists.
  9. Plan picnics thoughtfully.  Taking the kids to the park will create good summer memories.  Rather than grabbing the usual chips, pop and hot dogs, take a little extra thought to put in some fresh fruit, raw vegetables with a container of dip and sandwiches made with ham or turkey and cut into shapes.  Pack water or tea to drink (have flavoring packets available for those who like flavoring) and take along small portions of a treat to share.
  10. Fast Food can be healthy if you are careful.  You can find healthy menu items to buy, like salads, yogurt, apple slices instead of fries, and grilled chicken snack wraps.  Another inexpensive way to help keep calories in check is to share a sandwich or a sub sandwich (no cheese or mayo!).  Talk with your kids about why it is important to plan healthy meals.