Sunday, August 30, 2009

Best Health Magazine

I have been a fan of Women's Health for a while. I was recently in Canada and picked up a Canadian health magazine called Best Health and I loved it. I am blogging about it because of the content, but also because it is a Canadian magazine and probably isn't available south of the border. I am attempting to give it some exposure. Considering my occasional readers are a few family members and friends, it is hardly going to make a difference for the future of this magazine...but it's the thought that counts, right?

I am still reading this magazine. It is jam packed with articles and is divided into sections (I love all things organized!): Look Great, Get Healthy, Eat Well, Embrace Life, and New and Now. I actually worried while reading this magazine that they would run out of content for the next, or maybe the one after that. I think that says it all. Like Women's Health, I also like that it balances natural remedies with mainstream medical advice. And this magazine even had a little article about health for dogs! (Don't feed them bone scraps.) While not in the title, it is focused on women for the most part. And for those who are not traveling north or interested in subscriptions without trying it out first (I wouldn't be), they have a website of course.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Microwave Safe

I find the microwave to be a bit of a mysterious appliance. I step aside when I realize I am standing in front of the microwave 'breeze' thinking it might do some harm and I definitely have some unanswered questions about microwave safety.

What containers are safe to use?
Does it matter, nutritionally speaking, whether I cook vegetables in the microwave or on stove top?
What about those foods, like flavored rice, that cook right in the package?

Firstly, we really don't use the microwave very much at home. We reheat meals, very occasionally make popcorn, but we rarely cook anything in the microwave. I do reheat lunches almost every day at work, and I have wondered about what is safe to use for reheating food. I prefer to use glass containers when I can. I looked online to get some answers (Microwave Safe Containers and Microwaving Food in Plastic: Dangerous or not?) and it was pretty interesting. These are some tips I found out:

  • When microwaving with plastic containers, definitely only use ones that are labeled microwave safe
  • Microwave safe means that the plastic has been approved by the FDA based on a series of tests that consider surface area of plastic touching food and temperatures food can reach
  • Glass containers are considered safe, but they should still say microwave safe because of the possibility of shattering due to heat (you can check this by microwaving it empty for one minute and if it is hot then it is not microwave safe)
  • Plastics that are not labeled microwave safe may be okay to use, but haven't been tested for FDA approval
  • Unsafe plastic containers mean harmful chemicals could be leaking into the food when reaching a high temperature
  • There are also food grade containers that can become unsafe if used to store high fat foods (may cause original oils to leak into food) or if used to store non-food items
  • Food grade containers are not necessarily microwave safe
  • Plastic wrap should not touch food and any container should be vented.
  • Alternatives to plastic wrap are a paper towel, wax paper, parchment paper
  • Most take-out containers are not microwave safe
  • Do not brine food in non food containers such as plastic bags
This definitely confirms that I want to continue to microwave in glass containers which, I have found, can be quite expensive. But, obviously they should last a long time and are worth it.

I still want to research more about cooking foods in their packages, I am very suspicious of this but didn't find anything this time around on the internet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, or one of our anniversaries. We eloped in July of 2007 and had a wonderful wedding in August of 2008. It turns out that marriage, and therefore celebrating an anniversary, does have something to do with health. There are many articles out there about the health benefits of a happy marriage, such as longevity, better immunity, less anxiety and depression, and even fewer injuries. (Marriage is Good For You) I guess the important part is that the marriage is a happy one or all of those benefits reverse. I am not too worried about that.

I can definitely say that our anniversary dinner did not contribute to our good health, nor did the cake in that picture, but being married to my husband definitely contributes to my health. Happy Anniversary to Us!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I am the Queen of Procrastination. It should be my middle name, and I believe I come by it honestly. There may be a few procrastinators in my family. And as I was thinking of writing a new post, while procrastinating writing my current paper on assessment (sounds interesting, right?), I thought of writing about the very topic that was inspiring said post: procrastination. I actually googled procrastination and health, and there were quite a few results.

Mostly procrastination is said to cause stress and generally be a symptom of various unhealthy mental states. But I did find one interesting article on that seems to ring true and (I hope) better describes how I procrastinate. It is also pretty funny.

But I guess what separates my procrastination from the other health articles is the fact that I am never late with commitments (report cards, grades, assignments or any other important due dates), I don't pull all nighters (at worst, in bed by 11 pm), I don't think my procrastination has ever led to tears (should ask my husband about this), and I am always satisfied enough with whatever it is I have to accomplish. I say satisfied enough because if it is something for someone else, such as report card comments, I tend to have a stronger work ethic than if it is something that only affects me, such as a paper for my courses.

And the things I can accomplish in the name of procrastination are endless! Learning a new piano piece, a sewing project, blogging, making a new playlist, exercising, cleaning house, emails, cooking/baking, gardening, shopping, internet searches on whatever topic comes to mind, phone calls to family...and taking endless pictures of our cats (see above).

Some of these activities also provide needed distraction between paragraphs for my papers or research, and that is best done at my computer. A few sites that offer a few minutes of healthy distraction are Facebook for the scrabble game and catching up with friends, blogs (of course!), and for mental challenge, check out - I love to do the crossword, daily logic puzzle, and sudoku, but the games are endless.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charities - Website Share

Today I read an article about ways in which spending money can contribute to happiness, such as vacations, gym memberships, and donating to charities. (another article from Women's Health) This article recommended a great website called Charity Navigator.

It lists charities by category and includes ratings. It explains the rating system and if you click on a charity, you have access to a breakdown of the rating and the charity's financial information.

There is a link to donate online which makes it pretty convenient. And if you click on a topic, such as animals, the next page will provide subtopics and a list of facts about the topic. So, for example, I learned while clicking on charities for animals that for every baby born, there are 15 dogs and 45 cats born.

I am not sure there is a charity for helping our cat, Collette, safely navigate the dangers of the kitchen, but I did find a number of charities for cats specifically, which tells me that whatever my interest in charity donations, I can probably find it through this site.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


One of my resolutions this year was to be more conscientious about buying cosmetics. That means no impulse cosmetics purchases- only buy what I need. (Note: I use the term need very loosely.) And when I do buy cosmetics, I want to be conscientious about where I buy them. The three brands I know about and that I believe are environmentally conscientious about their policies, lack of animal product use and animal testing, and their organic ingredients are Arbonne, Body Shop, and Aveda. I am not 100% sure that they are as green as I would like them to be, but I do believe they make an honest effort. Again, I am no expert. There could be many more brands that make the same effort to produce safe products, I just know of these three. I am concerned with both the manufacturing of the products and how safe they are for our skin.

With that in mind, I chose to buy mascara this week at Aveda. I love it, it works really well, and I like that the products are organic and I am rewarded for not using one of their bags to carry my purchase (10 cents off the price). (On a side note, in the grocery stores in Kingston, Ontario, you actually have to pay to use shopping bags.) The friendly salesperson also pointed out that if the ingredients used in Aveda's products can't be used in a sustainable way, they won't use them at all.

I also chose Aveda because I read in Women's Health that the company has won awards for being environmentally friendly. However, when I research Aveda and Arbonne (I have not researched the Body Shop), there are differing opinions about just how healthy all of their products are. It gets confusing for sure. I did learn that Aveda uses 100% wind energy for manufacturing their products!

A very good friend of mine, Natalie, is conscientious about the environment and making healthy choices. She recommended some great sites for researching cosmetics.

One is a cosmetic safety database called Skin Deep. I'd like to point out that I was unable to find my Aveda Mosscara on this site, and this has happened to me before.

Another website lists the dirty dozen chemicals used in daily products. Natalie also recommended SafeMama for researching products that are safe for babies, including cleaning products.

It certainly can be overwhelming researching every product, but there are so many choices out there, that I think it makes sense to compare and choose the safest products.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An Apple a Day...

It's been a while since I have posted. We were away in Canada for the weekend and that meant getting a lot of school work done last week... no time for blogging.

Going to Canada meant a total of 18 hours in the car (there and back) and car snacks were in order. I decided, while enjoying a juicy Gala on the way home, that it was time to devote a post to apples.

My diet, or food goals, has been going fairly well in some aspects. I have not had candy for the longest time and that is huge. But, I have indulged in cheesy pretzels, wine, potato chips, Fudgeos (yay for Canadian cookies!) and other foods that one has to eat while on vacation.

Whether on vacation or at home, one food that I have been eating regularly, that I am happy about, is apples. I can't get enough of them since I gave up the Mike and Ikes.

My favorite used to be Cortland apples. When I was in second grade, we lived on an apple orchard that had 48 apple trees, Cortlands and MacIntosh. But the tartness of Cortlands make my teeth sensitive, so now I prefer Fuji or, recently, Gala apples. Pink Ladies are a bit too tart, as are Green apples. Red Delicious aren't tart or firm enough. MacIntosh are too pithy. And what an easy food to eat. I like to slice it up and there it is. Simple.

I looked at a few sites that listed the nutritional benefits of apples. The first site, Nutrition Data, was short and sweet. Apples are a good source of fiber and Vitamin C, but are high in sugars. Of course, they are not fattening. I found a few other sites that listed other benefits of eating apples. All About Apples says that apples contain the richest source of Pectin which is supposed to be good for us for a number of reasons, including acting as an antioxidant, possibly reducing the need for insulin, reducing chances of colon cancer, preventing gallstones, etc. Certainly all significant benefits but I don't know how reliable the information is or if it means eating 10 apples a day.

I know I am enjoying my one apple a day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Seneca Creek State Park

This is one of our favorite parks. It has about a 4 mile trail around Clopper Lake. We enjoyed an hour long hike today, and met a friendly toad along the way.


It seems fitting to follow up my treadmill post with one on hiking. When we go walking in our neighborhood, or on our neighborhood trail, the Turkey Branch Trail and Matthew Henson Trail, we mostly say we are going for a walk. If we head out to Rock Creek Park or Seneca Creek Park around Clopper Lake, we mostly call it a hike. I don't think the difference between a walk and hike is the distance, it's the environment. When we are on pavement, it's a walk; a dirt path is a hike. If we are mostly surrounded by woods, we would probably call it a hike. Either way, yesterday we went to Rock Creek Park and I was reminded of the pleasures of being in the woods that I just can't get on a treadmill in my basement. The beautiful scenery, the smells of woods, the sounds... we love it. Then there is the companionship and just generally feeling better about everything after a good hike. I know I will definitely never spot an owl while on the treadmill in my basement. I can't be sure, but I think we were looking at a Barred Owl. How exciting!
(Above is a picture of part of Rock Creek Park)

Friday, August 7, 2009


We recently got a treadmill which was given to us by my parents. They were downsizing and will have access to a gym in their new community. Let me just say, bringing this from Tennessee to Maryland was no easy task - it is big and heavy!

I am very excited to get back into treadmill workouts and hopefully do some running.

If I am walking, I prefer to be outdoors, unless the weather is terrible - too hot or too cold. I find walking on a treadmill pretty boring. But I do like running on treadmills because I can really measure my workout and my progress. Also, it feels easier. And finally, I always feel a bit embarrassed as a runner and I can run on a treadmill without being in public.

The reason I feel embarrassed is because running is hard work for me. After about a month of running, I start to enjoy it because my body has adjusted. But I still look like I am about to die when I am running -really and truly. So I ask myself why I choose to run when I am a better swimmer, walker, stepper, etc? For some reason, once I get going (after that month of training), I find it very rewarding. I will never forget running my first 5K, which was outdoors in the park shown in my blog picture.

Finally, treadmills work for me because, if I am exercising after work, I don't have to worry about whether or not it is dark (I do not exercise in the morning), and I get very hot when I run in the summer.

But, I have always wondered about that part about it feeling like it is an easier workout on a treadmill than outside. I looked it up...

I found two sites that I thought explained the differences well, and I don't think (although it is hard to tell) that they were selling anything. I say this because my google search brought up many sites that provided information and tried to sell a treadmill at the same time.

The articles I read are Treadmill Training versus Outside Running and Treadmill vs Outdoor Running.

I learned that form is very important on a treadmill and somewhat different from outside running. Upper body should be relaxed (I tense my shoulders), hips should be forward but not the upper body leaning forward, and the stride should land directly below center of gravity. This is one more part I really need to pay attention to: with treadmill running, I should be landing on the ball of my foot or flat footed, but not on the heel. I thought I was supposed to be landing on the heel and learned to do this because I used to land on the ball of my foot. The problem with heel first is that it probably means the foot is ahead of the center of gravity and caused too much strain on the knees and hips. Stride, not making it too long, is also important.

In terms of the workout seeming easier, the articles write about the lack of wind resistance, variation in terrain, and then, of course, the moving belt. Apparently the moving belt makes it easier because it works out a different muscle group that is not as major. Outside running causes the hamstrings (major muscles) to have to work harder to propel the body forward. The hip flexors do most of the work with stability on the treadmill.

If I want a workout on the treadmill that is equivalent to an outdoor run's workout, and I take into account energy difference, lack of wind resistance, the moving belt, etc., I should run on an incline of 1%. In the past I had guessed that increasing the incline might make up the difference so I always ran on 0.5%. I guess I can bump that up.

Before I begin, I need a goal. I always measured progress by distance, but I don't want to get into super long runs on the treadmill. It is hard on my joints, and when I am back to teaching in the fall, I am not going to want to spend longer and longer times working out. So I think I am going to limit the running, minus warm-up and cool-down, to 30 minutes. My goal will be to increase the distance within 30 minutes by increasing speed. My first goal will be to achieve a 10 minute mile, or 3 miles in 30 minutes (which is about a 5K). That will take about 6 months!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Natural Foods

For a while now, we have been conscious of the foods we buy and the foods we use for cooking. I like to limit the amount of processes or prepackaged foods in our home as much as possible. Of course, there are exceptions and, for me, it is about being reasonable, checking out every food whether or not it is prepackaged or processed, and everything in moderation.

For example, we have a delicious Thai peanut sauce pasta recipe that uses all kinds of healthy foods, but it also uses peanut butter, soy sauce, etc. It's not that I don't want to eat those foods, it is just that I didn't make them, and I have to decide where to draw the line with foods that I am okay with eating regularly and foods that I label as not so healthy. I know that with foods such as peanut butter, I can make healthier choices by choosing organic.

So foods that we use and eat regularly that I am okay with include canned tomatoes, peanut butter, and sauces, oils, and vinegars. I try to buy all natural. For example, if I am not going to make a salad dressing, I prefer to use one that is not fat free (the list of ingredients is way too long with those) and that is all natural. I want to know exactly what I am eating. We don't buy frozen meals (with a few exceptions) and I don't like foods that cook in their packages. More on all of that in another post I am sure.

Some exceptions/treats include some meals that we eat maybe once a month. Tacos ( msg and other unidentifiable stuff in those... but so yummy!), chicken strips and french fries, and maybe some others I can't recall.

So considering all of this, I have recently become more interested in paying attention to meat. I first noticed at our mainstream grocery stores that Laura's Lean Beef is available, which advertises that the cows are not given antibiotics or added growth hormones. Then I was on Metro recently and noticed a message on a poster about meat animals and antibiotics -the poster was developed by the PEW Charitable Trust. I always hear of that organization on NPR. Anyway, antibiotics given to livestock, not for treatment of sickness, but to promote growth and prevent illness due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, is quite a controversial issue. It has not been proven, but many scientists believe that it results in drug-resistant bacteria (including those that we are always trying to avoid, such as salmonella) and that this can be transmitted through our handling of contaminated raw or undercooked food and through manure or fertilizer that may come in contact with other produce.

Interestingly, the use of antibiotics for reasons other than treating illness in animals has been banned by Canada and most countries in the European Union, according to the articles I found.

It seems like it is a good idea to be more aware of meat choices, if not to encourage better conditions for livestock, but for our health.