October 29

Holiday survival guide

4_HolidaySurvivalGuideWhile the experts don’t agree on precisely how much weight Americans, on average, will gain this holiday season (a few pounds to an entire size), one thing is for sure: holiday weight gain happens—and the time to start planning for it is now.

Join Kathy Barry, registered dietitian for the City of Kansas City, Mo., as she walks you through her Holiday Survival Guide at a Lunch and Learn. Here, you’ll learn strategies for making better food choices during the holidays and ways to stay more active.

Learning how to minimize weight gain during the holidays could be the key to staying healthy all year long, especially considering that many Americans never lose holiday weight once they gain it, according to a report by Fox News.

“Gaining just a pound or two of fat may seem miniscule, but to put just one pound in perspective, think about tacking 16 ounces of shortening or four sticks of butter onto your frame. Plus, other studies show that most of us never lose that holiday padding, possibly because after abandoning New Year’s resolutions, many people gain back all (or more) of the weight they lose. This ‘weight creep’ is what leads to most Americans packing on about 10-20 pounds each per decade,” according to the report.

That is very disappointing news for those who rely on the mantra. “I’m going on a diet when the New Year begins,” to justify their indulgencies during the holidays.

Psychology Today reports that there are several reasons that people fail to make good on their New Year’s resolutions. Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carlton University, says that one reason is that the resolutions are a sort of “cultural procrastination,” and are for people who aren’t ready to change their habits.

There is, however, one element that can help put you in the top percentiles of those who are successful at keeping their resolutions: make them specific and measureable. Declare how much weight you want to lose and specify how long you’ll give yourself to do so.

For more information or to sign up for the Lunch and Learn contact Kathy Barry.



Fight the flu

3_FluThere is no excuse for not getting a flu shot. The shot is safe, does not cause the flu and is the single best way to protect against getting the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Plus, the shots are available for free at the Kansas City Health Care Trust Employee Clinic for City of Kansas City, Mo. employees, spouses, dependents and retirees who are enrolled in one of the City’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans. Flu shots are available for children older than six months. Shots are available now; click here for hours of operation. There is no copay and and no deductible for this service at the Clinic.

For years, medical professionals have been working to convince us to get a flu shot, combating a myriad of excuses that have been scientifically disproven. The shots have been given to hundreds of millions of people for more than 50 years and have a very good safety track record. Each year the CDC works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for the flu vaccine.

The vaccine cannot cause the flu illness; however, it can cause mild side effects that may be mistaken for flu. For example, people vaccinated with the flu shot may feel achy and may have a sore arm where the shot was given. These side effects are not the flu. If experienced at all, these effects are usually mild and last only one or two days.

Now is the best time for a flu shot

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.

Prevention is the best protection

People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick. Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days.

The CDC recommends the following to prevent contracting the flu:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.

Nutrition know-how

2_NutritionSome of the healthiest eating you can do starts with a trip to the grocery store. With aisles and aisles of food options, though, how can you be sure you are making the best selections?

Your success strategy should always begin with a plan. Decide what meals you’ll be cooking during the week and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need. If you’re not in the habit of planning out meals, at least try to categorize your options so that you’ll have healthy food on hand when it comes time to eat.

Also, never go to the store hungry. It’ll be a lot easier to stick to your list or your plan if you aren’t distracted by an empty stomach. You’ll make better food choices overall and won’t succumb to the temptation of junk foods like chips and sweets.

Next, try to limit the bulk of your shopping to the perimeter of the store, meaning the aisles that include fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and other flash-frozen fruits and vegetables. These are going to be your healthiest options and the best base for creating nutritious meals at home.

Figuring out food labels

There is a lot of information presented on food labels—so much so that it can be difficult to evaluate the nutritional value if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It should be easy to determine how many calories there are in what appears to be a single-serving snack, based on the face value of calories listed on the label, right? Not so. Many times, the serving size in the container could be two or even three times that, which could put you way off on your calorie counting.

Kathy Barry, registered dietitian for the City of Kansas City, Mo., is an expert at deciphering labels. She offers the following advice for decoding them for yourself.

What are some “red flag” ingredients on nutrition labels?
Hydrogenated fats of any sort and “sneaky” sugars like dextrose, sucrose, maltose and fructose—it’s all sugar! A little sugar is fine. A lot of sugar is not fine. We just don’t need it and we quickly store it as fat when we cannot burn it.

Is it more important to look at sugar content, fat content or calories?
It is all important. What is really important is to know what a good fat is versus a not-so-good fat, like canola oil versus hydrogenated vegetable oil. It is also good to try to keep grams of sugar below 30 to 50 grams per day, which is easier said than done.

Why are ingredients listed in a particular order on the label?
The primary ingredient is listed first. This means the product contains that ingredient the most. The ingredients following that are listed from what the product contains the most of to the ingredient in it the least.

What are the most important elements on a label?
Basically, a label needs to include portion size, portion calories and the breakdown of how many grams of fat, protein, carbs, sugar and fiber. Sometimes there is so much information on a label that it gets overwhelming and confusing.

What would a healthy label look like?
Fewer ingredients. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food is a good rule of thumb. Also, keep in mind that simple foods, like apples, chicken and broccoli, do not need a nutrition label. They are what they are.

What’s cooking?

1_WhatsCookingIf you’re looking to spice up your weekly menu, you won’t want to miss the latest cooking show with Kathy Barry, registered dietitian for the City of Kansas City, Mo.

“Farmer Steve from our CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) came to my kitchen and we cooked up the weekly delivery of fresh produce,” says Barry. “We prepared a Tex-Mex stuffed zucchini and Gold Bar squash. It was a beautiful, colorful dish made with turkey, black beans, tri-colored peppers, onions and garlic, homemade salsa and a jalapeno pepper for zip. We topped it with a sprinkling of Colby Jack cheese and baked it to perfection.”

Next, the two made some Japanese eggplant in a simple sauté with some of Farmer Steve’s onions and garlic. “We seasoned it with a local spice blend called Gentleman Farmer—apropos for the day,” says Barry.

The cooking demonstration, which you can watch at your convenience online at Time to Be Well, is just one in a series that Barry has recorded for the City. What began as a “one-and-done” project has grown to more than 20 episodes, during which Barry walks you step-by-step through some of her favorite recipes, describing how to make good-tasting, healthy food.

“Making these videos is so much fun! They have become quite popular and certainly are enjoyable to create, thanks to our fantastic communication team and our willing guests,” says Barry. “And the most fun is when we have guests in the kitchen who bring knowledge and experience and creativity to the program.”

Cook with confidence

If you are a beginner cook who is intimidated by the thought of trying to follow online instruction, don’t be. Barry’s demonstrations are appropriate for all skill levels, whether you’re an accomplished cook looking for some new recipes or a newbie who wants to take control of your kitchen.

“These videos all are focused on simple, healthy, delicious meals that can be prepared easily for individuals or a family. The recipes are inexpensive and do not require elaborate equipment or skill,” Barry says.

“Cooking is simple and fun! All you have to do is start with some fresh and wholesome ingredients and prepare them in a straightforward way,” she says. “Nothing complicated, just good. I think we sometimes overthink cooking. It’s really a fun, relaxing and enjoyable hobby, and it speaks generosity and love to those it feeds. It’s good for the soul!”

Barry’s Time to Be Well videos can be viewed at kcmo.gov (search for Time to Be Well), or you can find them by doing a general Internet search for Time to Be Well and they will pop up in a YouTube link. This particular segment will be available to view in early November.