Friday, December 14, 2018

Sensible eating tips for holiday feasts

The holiday season is full of family, friends and food. Whether it’s at work, a party or gathering with your loved ones, temptations grow exponentially this time of year. It may be easy to get off track and indulge, but with a little planning and encouragement, you can maintain your weight during the joyful season.

Plan ahead

You can anticipate a slew of tasty foods on holiday menus, so prepare in advance for good eating. You’ve got this!

Don’t skip meals before a holiday feast. Skipping meals may cause an increase in hunger, which may lead to overeating when mealtime does arrive. Also, skipping meals makes it harder for those who with diabetes to control their blood sugar. To prevent this, eat close to your usual times and have a small snack if the big meal is served later than you’re used to eating. The best snacks are high-fiber foods, lean protein and healthy fats – try apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey with cheese on a whole-wheat pita.

An easy way to play by the rules is to bring a healthy dish along to a party. There’s bound to be lots of sweets and high-calorie dishes on the menu, so try serving vegetables, or opt for recipes that are light on butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening and other ingredients full of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Remember the importance of sleep. A lack of good sleep makes it harder to control blood sugar, and sleep deprivation often leads to us craving foods high in fat and sugar. So get those Zzz’s.

Make smart choices

Thinking of all the delicious foods on a holiday table is enough to make your mouth water, but you know the old saying – your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
  • Choose a small plate of your favorite foods, including a healthy selection of fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains that will help you stay full longer.
  • Consider putting fewer carbohydrates, such as potatoes and bread, on your plate and plan for a single dessert at the end of the meal.
  • Fill a small plate, then walk away from the buffet table. Put some distance between yourself and additional temptation.
  • Finally, it’s time to eat! It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full, so take your time and savor your food.
  • If you feel like going back for seconds, try drinking some water and waiting 10 minutes first to see if you really are still hungry.
  • Don’t put any foods on the naughty list – instead, try to choose ones you really love and aren’t able to get any old day, such as your aunt’s famous pumpkin pie. Have a small serving and enjoy it.
  • If you’re having an alcoholic drink, have it with food. People with diabetes should keep in mind that alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with their diabetes medications. Remember to check your blood sugar more often during the holidays.

Move it

What’s a holiday meal without a nice nap after? Instead of an afternoon siesta, make some memories with your loved ones by incorporating some physical activity. Play a game of football in the backyard, go for a walk with family or take a bicycle ride around the neighborhood. Find more ways to get active at Well-Ahead Louisiana.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be saved for after meals, though. The holiday season is busier than usual for most people, so physical activity often gets shunted to the side. Make it easier by breaking your physical activity up into smaller chunks and fitting it into your schedule when possible, like a short walk several times a day.

For more healthy lifestyle advice, visit Well-Ahead Louisiana.

Here’s to a healthy and happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

What’s under the Christmas tree? No lottery tickets

Christmas is a time when the eyes of children are fixated firmly on what’s beneath the Christmas tree and in their stockings. While it may be tempting to gift them with something like a lottery ticket, the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health recommends against such gifts.

It’s not too unusual for parents and relatives to gift children with lottery tickets, scratch-offs and other gambling games. Such gifts are given with good intentions – they provide a little hope and fun, as well as dreams of winning something amazing. However, the odds of winning are small, especially when compared to the odds of developing a gambling addiction.

The Office of Behavioral Health released a report titled “The Impact of Gambling in Louisiana: 2016 Study of Problem Gambling” that detailed 2014 gambling statistics among students in grades 6, 8 10 and 12. Students reported playing bingo for money and betting on sports, cards, dice and games of skill.

The highest incidences of gambling were 20.2 percent of sixth-graders playing bingo for money, 19.7 percent of eighth-graders betting on sports and 19.4 percent of eighth-graders playing bingo for money – or roughly 1 in 5 students gambling.

Studies of adults with gambling problems have shown that the earlier a person begins gambling, the more likely they are to develop a gambling problem, especially when scoring a big win at a young age. An article by Renee St-Pierre and Jeffrey Derevensky noted “disordered gambling among youths is frequently linked with … greater gambling expenditure, academic difficulties, poor or disrupted family relationships, both concurrent and later alcohol and substance abuse problems.”

“Giving a lottery ticket or scratch-off to a child may seem like a cheap, fun and harmless gift, but such gifts can increase risk factors for an addiction problem further down the road,” said Kenneth Saucier, program manager with the Office of Behavioral Health. “That’s why we discourage the giving of such presents to children.”

Louisiana provides problem gambling resources at no cost to residents. For more information on problem gambling or to set up an appointment to address a problem or concern, call the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867). The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Help is also available at and

Friday, December 7, 2018

Consider safety when Christmas shopping

Christmas is swiftly approaching, which means the window for gift shopping is steadily closing. All the good little girls and boys will be eagerly anticipating what awaits them under the Christmas tree, but have you given any thought to the safety of the toys you’re purchasing?

Think about this: Hospital emergency rooms in the United States treated at least 240,000 toy-related injuries in 2016, the last year statistics from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission were available.

With that in mind, turn your thoughts toward safety as you go shopping for toys. Consider whether the toy you are buying is appropriate for the age, skills and abilities of the individual child who will receive it, especially for children ages 3 and younger.

Prevent Blindness America offers these guidelines for choosing safe toys for children of all ages.

  • Inspect all toys before purchasing. Avoid those that shoot or include parts that fly off. The toy should have no sharp edges or points and should be sturdy enough to withstand impact without breaking, being crushed or being pulled apart easily.
  • When purchasing toys for children with special needs, try to choose toys that may appeal to different senses such as sound, movement and texture; consider interactive toys to allow the child to play with others; and think about the size of the toy and the position a child would need to be in to play with it.
  • Be diligent about inspecting toys your child has received. Check them for age, skill level and developmental appropriateness before allowing them to be played with.
  • Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection – “ATSM” means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
  • Gifts of sports equipment should always be accompanied by protective gear (give a helmet with the skateboard).
  • Keep kids safe from lead in toys by educating yourself about lead exposure from toys, symptoms of lead poisoning and what kinds of toys have been recalled; being aware that old toys may be more likely to contain lead in the paint; having your children wash their hands frequently and calling your doctor if you suspect your child has been exposed to lead. Read more about lead poisoning here.
  • Do NOT give toys with small parts (including magnets and “button” batteries which can cause serious injury or death if ingested) to young children as they tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. If the piece can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is not appropriate for kids under age 3.
  • Do NOT give toys with ropes and cords or heating elements.
  • Do NOT give crayons and markers unless they are labeled nontoxic.

Nobody wants to spend their holiday in an emergency room – stay safe!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Clean hands can save lives

It’s the holiday season. It’s also flu season.

That makes proper hand washing doubly important.

Dec. 3-9 is National Hand Washing Awareness Week, making it the perfect time to go over the importance of clean hands.