Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Changing Unhealthy Habits a Step at a Time

Cheryl Tallman
We have the power to influence young children to make healthy food choices. Children develop their behaviors and habits from observing ours. If you’re like a majority of Americans, your eating habits could probably use a little polishing. Many of us know what the good eating habits are, but sometimes eating healthy can be difficult to maintain in our busy lives.
If changing your eating habits seems insurmountable, try making changes gradually. Just as there are no easy answers to a healthy diet, don't expect to totally revamp your eating habits overnight. In fact, changing too much, too fast can get in the way of success.
Start out by making a list of your poor habits and set a goal for a healthy one. Select one habit at a time to work on, and pick the one you think will be the easiest to start with. Set your goal and develop an approach to making modest changes that add up to achieving your goal. Here are a few examples that may help explain this approach:
Goal: Build a Healthier Plate
Approach: Eating a healthy meal includes vegetables, fruits, proteins, whole grains and calcium—rich dairy (or non-dairy foods). For a week, take note of the how many food groups are represented on your plate at each meal. Over the next 2-3 weeks, slowly begin to add the missing groups, while reducing the over-represented foods on your plate.
Here is a simple tip: When you sit down for a meal, draw 2 imaginary lines through the center of your plate to divide it into 4 parts.
  • Fill one of the four sections with grains or starchy foods such as rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, or corn.
  • Fill another section with protein — foods like meat, fish, poultry, or tofu.
  • Fill the remaining 2 sections (half of the plate) with vegetables and fruits like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas, oranges and apples.
  • Then, add a small glass of non-fat milk (or calcium-fortified non-dairy milk, such as soy)

Goal: Eliminate soda and sugary drinks
Approach: Count the number of sodas you have in a day. Set a goal that, say, in five days, you will reduce that number by half. Keep track of your progress. Over the next five days, cut the number in half again, and in a few weeks, you will be down to nearly none. Then, tell yourself you can have a soda when you go out to eat, as long as you don’t go out to eat too often.

Goal: Eating slower at meals
 For three days, write your start and stop time for meals. Identify the meals that you eat the fastest and ones where you can find a little more time to eat. Start out by adding two to three minutes at each of these meals. Work up to 10-15 minutes over time. Plan a topic of conversation, or a series of questions that stimulate conversation to fill the time between chewing. Put your fork down between bites, food, and drink a glass of water with your meal. Before you know it, you will be enjoying a nice slow meal and good conversation with your family.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many goals we can set for ourselves, but if they become lofty, we tend to stop striving to reach them. Take baby steps to be a good role model for your babies, and in no time, you and your family will be on a steady trek down the path to healthful living.

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food Basics and So Easy Toddler Food. Learn more about the Fresh Baby MyPlate for adult portions sizes at

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pregnancy Book

If you are expecting, you might have a lot of questions about what to expect during your pregnancy.  I would like to suggest a book for you: You & Your Baby: Pregnancy by Dr. Laura Riley, OB/GYN.

Dr. Riley is an author, the medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and a mom to two daughters.  In her book, she talks about how a mom's-to-be body changes week-by-week and what symptoms expecting moms can experience.  She also offers advise on how to deal with the morning sickness, mood swings, and lower back pain. 

You & Your Baby: Pregnancy gives moms-to-be a good overview of the amazing journey that pregnancy is.  She suggests exercise programs, healthy diet, addresses safety issues in preparing women to progress through the pregnancy as healthy as possible, and helps them to conquer childbirth fears.

It is a great read full of very good information.

Understand Your Septic System

Many people live in rural areas that are not supplied with municipal water or sewer, and they face a new form of sewage disposal: a septic system. Whether you're a new homeowner or not, understanding your septic system is a must. Here's what you should know:

The septic system consists of three main parts: the septic tank, the septic field, and the soil beneath the septic field. 

The septic tank is a watertight concrete box that temporarily holds household wastes. The tank is connected to the septic field by a buried pipe. The purpose of the septic field is to deliver wastewater to the soil. The soil purifies the wastewater by removing the germs and chemicals before they reach the groundwater or any adjacent surface waters such as rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

Appropriate septic system maintenance is necessary to prevent damage and costly replacement that may run anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000, depending on the system that you have.

These suggestions might help you to prolong your septic tank’s life:

Do not put too much water into the septic system; typical water use is about 50 gallons per day for each person in the family.

Spread your laundry over the week to avoid dumping a lot of water into the tank at once.

Dispose only toilet water and water from bathing, showering, dishwashing, and laundry into the septic system.

Use biodegradable cleaners and soaps, as harsh chemicals will kill the bacteria that aids in breaking down the sludge in your septic system.

Don’t drive or build on the septic field. The majority of water in the field evaporates. Soil compaction prevents oxygen from getting into the soil.

For more information, check out this guide: Septic System Maintenance

Thursday, January 10, 2013

6 Keys for Coping with Divorce and Separation

If you are a separated or divorced parent, you have experienced overwhelming stress and know the value of effective coping strategies. When my own marriage ended, a savvy friend reminded me that I was the one in charge of my choices and reactions. I could decide how to manage my kids, deal with my ex, and cope with my stress.
Over time I discovered six keys that make single parenting easier and more effective. Give these strategies a try. They can reduce conflict, create greater stability and increase your peace of mind.
Key #1. Use a No Drama approach to communication.
~ Tell children about divorce/separation with parents and siblings together if possible. Allow the kids to ask questions and express feelings appropriately. Avoid drama about parental problems. Tell children that adults will work out adult business. Try saying, “You did not cause our problems and you are not responsible for fixing them.” Messages like these build comfort and security.
~ Reassure children that both parents will continue to love them, care for them, and (when true) be involved with them. This applies to the first telling and ongoing informing. Refrain from making one child your “confidant.” Being kept out of parental conflict creates more stability for the children.
~ State the facts, not your feelings, about changes in life’s events. You need not have all the answers. Reassure the kids that you will tell them what they need to know when they need to know it. Keep your personal grievances out of the discussion. Factual information reduces stress -- emotional unloading will raise it.
~ Have a no blame/no shame policy. Never blame children for marital stress, or put down the other parent to the kids. Hearing parental anger confuses and burdens children.
~ Keep as much consistency and predictability in children’s routines as possible to create a sense of security.
Key #2. Manage your stress.
~ What’s your coping method?  Do you vent? Shut down? Do you eat, drink or party? Do you think your coping style affects your children? The single parent who uses children as sounding boards for anger creates confusion in the kids. The parent who withdraws may find the kids acting out to get attention. Spend some time examining your stress strategies, and...
~ Develop your coping toolkit. Learn relaxation techniques such as breathing and meditation. Vent to appropriate adults. Train your thinking toward solving, not obsessing.
~ Remember “Bette’s Motto:” children’s stress levels relate directly to the parent’s coping quality! Your children will use you as a model. The “Do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” motto is a myth. The kids will “Do as you Do!!”
~ Build your Self-esteem. You have a right to value and respect yourself. Tell yourself: “I am a worthy human being by virtue of being Me.” Add this: “I am doing the best I can, and my best is good enough.”
~ Depersonalize the ex’s actions. It is easy to feel like a victim, but doing so can put you at risk to act out your anger or resentment, and cause you to make less effective coping choices.
Key #3. Keep communication open.
~ Consider the other parent a “business” partner. When exes co-parent, children fare better. When possible, discuss and make decisions together for the sake of the kids.
~ Refrain from making children reporters between you and the other parent. Children will feel pressured by being in the middle.
~ Let children express love for the other parent even when it is hard to hear. Children identify with both parents, and do better when allowed to love both without guilt. Life will be calmer when children carry fewer emotional burdens.
Key #4. Keep your outlook balanced.
~ Avoid negative mind-sets like blaming, personalizing, catastrophizing and victim thinking. Talk to yourself in ways that affirm your efforts and accomplishments.
~ Accept painful feelings, but steer clear of resentment. Clearing your mind of toxic thinking will lower your stress and increase ability to solve problems. Stay hopeful without denying difficult realities. Balanced thinking promotes clarity.
~ Learn to access inner wisdom. Use both analytical thinking and intuition to make effective coping choices. In other words, get the facts and trust your gut.
Key #5. Bring in supports.
~ Seek friends and family members who can give you a hand, lend you an ear, or sit with the kids.
~ Believe that it is okay to ask for help. You need and deserve people to rely on.
~ Develop social networks. Find support groups in the community to learn from others in similar situations. Social connection reduces stress.
~ Use appropriate adult supports for venting and advising.
These may include friends, pastoral counselors and mental health or legal professionals.
Key #6. Have fun with the kids—and without.
~ You need fun for emotional, physical, and mental health. Enjoyment can boost your spirits and your immune system too. Fun gives respite from pressures.
~ Play a little. You don’ t have to pay a lot. Take a walk in the woods -- go to a public garden -- make family play dates -- go on a picnic -- go to the beach -- make a snowman -- play with a ball, a frisbee, a jump rope -- go to a public concert -- tell stories -- do an art project -- watch a good TV show — play a board game.
~ Take alone-time for yourself. Carve out time with other adults.
This type of break recharges the coping batteries.
A word of caution and a word of hope:
The suggestions in these six keys assume that it is safe to deal with “the other” parent. If safety concerns exist, these ideas may need to be modified, and you may wish to seek legal, and possibly, mental health counseling.
With practice and patience you can utilize these strategies to reduce your stress, provide greater stability and security for your kids, increase your self worth, strengthen your resilience, and reward yourself with greater serenity.
Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP is a clinical social worker and a certified group psychotherapist who is dedicated to helping clients tackle life using simple, sound and effective strategies. As a Stress Expert, author and speaker, Bette makes overcoming life’s challenges easy with simple and accessible tools. Throughout her career Bette has worked with hundreds of children, parents, adults, couples, and groups to help them relieve the stress that interferes with success in life. By using her ideas and solutions, Bette's patients and pupils are able to quickly develop the skills to become directors of their own destinies.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Enhanced Chicken?

I rarely buy frozen chicken, but when I read an article in Consumer Reports about how some companies enhance the flavor of poultry and alter its weight by injecting it with broth and salt, I vowed to start reading labels more carefully.

Supposedly, the practice of injecting broth into poultry renders the meat tastier, juicier, and more tender...but at the cost of high sodium levels. So, those of you with elevated blood pressure, beware! 

According to Consumer Reports, by buying enhanced chicken, customers may pay up to an extra $1.70 for the added broth! I don't know about you, but I don’t feel like paying extra for chicken that has been pumped with a broth and sodium concoction behind my back. I would rather go an extra mile to get fresh, organic chicken from a local farm and know that I am getting the real thing. 

To find a local farm near you, go to: local