How do I get my kids to eat veggies?

By Brooke Strickland

We all know the importance of regularly eating and incorporating vegetables into our diet, but getting our kids to eat them is sometimes impossible.  It’s convenient to grab a hot dog or hamburger at the nearest drive thru window and forget totally about the importance of having our kids fill up on veggies instead of junk.  Parents all over the world struggle with getting their children to try veggies, let alone keep them coming back for more.  In fact, according to a recent Ohio State University study, only 22% of kids, ages 2 to 5 meet government recommendation for vegetable consumption while only 16% of kids ages 6 to 11 meet the recommendation. [1] So, how do you get your kids to eat them?  We don’t have any magic answers on how to get your kids to love vegetables, but we do have some tips on how to get them in their belly.

  1. Start out with an appetizer. If your kids are hungry, they’ll eat. Try serving a veggie appetizer of carrots, red peppers, or cucumbers with a side of hummus, low fat ranch, or bean dip.   Then they’ll get the veggies in first thing.

  2. Give them the choice.  Giving your kids ownership in the shopping process can be key to getting them interested in eating the veggies. If they get to pick out the types of veggies they want, then they’ll likely want to eat them when they get home. 

  3. Let them cook.  If your kids know that they helped cook the veggies, they’ll want to try them so they can taste and even show off their work. 

  4. Hide ‘em.  We know that this is probably the first thing parents do when they have kids that won’t eat veggies.  Try incorporating veggies into cheese quesadillas or put them in casseroles or stirfrys.

  5. Blenders are your friend.  You don’t always have to force your kids to eat veggies whole – instead, have them help you cut up fruits and veggies and put them into a blender and make a delicious, fresh-made smoothie.  Have your kids come up with a fun name for their smoothie and put it in a special cup to make it cooler.  

  6. Reward systems.  This is an easy solution for a lot of families.  It’s pretty simple: don’t let your child have dessert, TV time, or another reward until he/she has finished the vegetables on their plate.  Motivation in this way is effective for many kids and if they know that when they finish their veggies, they will be able to have one of their favorite desserts or watch a favorite show on TV, they’ll likely be more apt to eat up.

[1] Cohen, Elizabeth.  “Ten ways to get kids to eat their vegetables.” CNN.Com. June 2, 2011.


FDA approves new constipation drug

By Brooke Strickland

If you’ve suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the constipation that comes with that, you know how frustrating and uncomfortable it can be.  Well now, there may be hope for individuals over the age of 16 that have chronic constipation.  The FDA just approved a drug made by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals called Linzess that can help treat constipation for those living with IBS.[1] Millions of people live with prolonged constipation and the abdominal pain accompanied with it can be miserable and at times, unbearable.

What are the symptoms of IBS with constipation?

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Bowel movements that feel uncontrollably urgent, difficult to pass, or incomplete
  • Clear or white mucus with the stool

Generally, these symptoms must be present for at least 12 weeks during the last 6 months before doctors will officially diagnose you with IBS.  Doctors will want to complete a complete diagnostic test on you to confirm the diagnosis, as IBS can often be confused with other illnesses or issues.  If you have blood in the stool, a chronic fever, weight loss, and continuing abdominal pain, see your doctor right away, as these are not signs of IBS and could be signs of something serious.

As always, medication should not be the first choice in treating IBS with constipation.  There are a variety of other ways to treat the problem.  Dietary changes can help many people with IBS control their symptoms.  Fiber can reduce constipation by softening the stool, so introducing good sources of fiber into your diet such as whole grain bread, beans, dried plumbs, ground flaxseed, fresh fruits and vegetables, and six to eight glasses of water a day can all help ease symptoms.  In addition, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or really sugary foods or beverages can benefit your gastrointestinal tract.  In addition, try keeping a journal of foods that you eat to see if you notice any triggers of gas, constipation, or diarrhea and eliminate those that cause stomach upset.

[1] Reuters. “Constipation Drug Is Approved.” New York Times. August 30, 2011.  Accessed August 31, 2012.

What is Mesothelioma Cancer?

By Faith Franz


Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 Americans each year. The cancer is very aggressive and spreads rapidly throughout the body. There are three locations that mesothelioma commonly originates, and these locations are used to classify the cancer into three subtypes:

  • Pleural mesothelioma (develops in the lining of the lungs)
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma (develops in the lining of the stomach)
  • Pericardial mesothelioma (develops in the lining of the heart)

Cases of testicular mesothelioma have also been reported, but these are extremely rare.

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, making up approximately 75 percent of diagnoses. Peritoneal and pericardial mesotheliomas account for 10-20 percent and 1 percent of diagnoses respectively.

What Causes Mesothelioma Cancer?

Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos. Occupational exposure, in which asbestos is inhaled or ingested at a jobsite such as a power plant, shipyard or auto repair yard, is the most common form of asbestos exposure. Secondhand asbestos exposure and environmental asbestos exposure can also cause a person to inhale the fibers.

Once asbestos has been inhaled or ingested, the fibers can become trapped in the mesothelium triggering inflammation, scarring and other biological changes. For some people, these changes can be cancerous and lead to the development of mesothelioma – an internal process that can sometimes take up to 50 years.

What Happens to Mesothelioma Patients?

Once the disease has developed, mesothelioma patients can expect to develop a number of symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. These symptoms tend to be mild at first, but worsen over time as the cancer progresses.

Several therapies have been developed to help alleviate these symptoms. Mesothelioma patients are typically treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, along with a number of alternative therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture. These treatments may be able to extend a patient’s life expectancy beyond the typical prognosis of one year.

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

Are avocados good for me?

By Brooke Strickland

There are more than 80 varieties of avocados, with California and Florida producing the most.  Avocados are rich in flavor but also offer a lot of other nutrition.  Avocados are a great source of fiber, potassium, folic acid, and they’re rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.  In fact, half of an avocado contains more than one-third the daily value of vitamin C and one-half the day’s supply of vitamin K.  They are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat and act as a nutrient booster that helps enable the body to absorb more fat soluble nutrients. They are also naturally sodium-free, which means it’s healthier for your heart and great for your whole body!

So how do you incorporate avocado into your diet?  Of course, whipping up a batch of delicious guacamole would be the first way.  Pair that with some low fat tortilla chips and when eaten in moderation, you have a healthy snack.  An even healthier way to enjoy avocados is by topping a garden-fresh salad with them.  Or, try them on a sandwich with turkey, lettuce, and tomato.  Try them on a sandwich made of grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber, goat cheese, and pesto.  Other ways you can make them into your meal routine is by topping them on a fajita or mixing it into side quinoa salad with other fresh veggies such as red pepper, green pepper, and onion.  Or for breakfast, blend an avocado with honeydew melon, lowfat milk, apple juice, and fat-free yogurt for a breakfast smoothie that will stick to your bones for the rest of the morning.  And if you have a baby in the house, the Internet is filled with lots of homemade avocado baby food recipes.  It’s a healthy alternative to some of those sodium-filled pre-packaged baby foods out there.

So now that we’ve given you the lowdown on avocados grab your spoon and dig in!

5 easy tips to improve your health

By Brooke Strickland

We all know the importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly to maintain optimum health.  But there are other ways that you can improve your health! Some may seem glaringly obvious, but we simply overlook them.

1. Vacation time is important.  Working yourself into the ground on a daily and weekly basis is simply not good for your health.  Your body and your brain need a break.  Don’t let vacation time go unused.  Instead, use it regularly as a way to rest.  It’s true that some vacations might need to be used to spend running around trying to catch up on things at home, but try to make the majority of your vacations time away to rest, relax, and recuperate. 

2. Limit exposure to chemicals.  It seems obvious, right? But limiting exposure to chemicals, even simple things like some of your regular household cleaners will leave you healthier and whole.  Try using non-toxic cleaners found in health stores or make some of your own cleaners.

3. Drink lots of water. This is one that we can easily forget about.  But guaranteed – if you start drinking more water, you’ll feel better.  Cut out sweetened fruit juices, carbonated beverages, and that 3rd cup of daily coffee. Drink water instead and see how much better you start feeling.

4. Posture, please!  Your mom probably taught you growing up to stand or sit up straight and it’s easy to forget.  Poor posture means your breathing is more shallow and the circulation in your body isn’t flowing as great as it could be.  So when you’re at work, sit up straight in your chair while typing or try sitting on an exercise ball for part of the day. 

5. Laugh. Life doesn’t have to be so serious all of the time.  Find things that make you laugh.  Laughing can help decrease stress hormones, can help relax your muscles, and lighten your mood, giving you a better outlook on life.