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5 Ways to Prevent Falls in the Elderly

How many of you are caring for the elderly, or are looking for part-time elderly care? It’s not easy. There are so many things to look out for, and so many challenges to face.

One of the biggest challenges is prevention of falls in the elderly. There are many other things to talk about when it comes to caring for the elderly but accidental falling can be a nightmare and is an ongoing plight feared by many. So how do we prevent falls in the elderly?

We know that falls, and the resulting complications, can be very dangerous for old people but they are also one of the most common risk factors – it’s just too easy to let them happen. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.” So this problem is not only widespread, it is also hidden. Caregivers end up in a difficult position of having to prevent things before they can happen.

So, What Can We Do?

Many risk factors and prevention techniques have been identified in medical and healthcare literature, so let’s go through some of the more important among these. This might go a long way in saving the lives of our loved ones. Some of these risk factors are intrinsic and you may need professional help before you can notice them, for example, examination for back problems. Other factors are environmental and to some extent they cannot be controlled easily. But there are other factors that are within the power of caregivers – both formal and informal – to deal with.

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Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, or affect balance and co-ordination.

Medication

Forewarned is forearmed. Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, or affect balance and co-ordination. This applies to everyone, not just the elderly. Caregivers might not always be in a good position to know this – medical confidentiality and lacking pharmaceutical knowledge might hinder this. But the elderly or their legal representatives should be able to ask their doctors or pharmacists to identify those medicines (whether prescribed or over-the-counter) that increase the risk of falling. The doctors especially, should be able to tell whether any particular medicine is a risk to any particular patient.

Footwear

Remember that awful, horrible feeling when you wrench an ankle wearing thick soles on uneven ground? Think of this, only much worse, if an elderly person’s feet wobble too much wearing high heels with no ankle support. Backless shoes, even slippers with smooth soles, all pose a variety of footwear-related risks. In Asia, another type of footwear to worry about are the communal slippers used for many bathrooms (they could be wet, too). There are many ways footwear can be unsafe – they can interfere with a safe and proper gait, they can be too slippery, or they can be too large and be a tripping hazard. We should ensure our elderly not only have proper and safe footwear for going out, but also for using within the home – this is especially important for bathroom slippers since the elderly may need to access a potentially wet floor late at night, possibly without wearing their glasses, while urgently rushing to answer the call of nature.

Tripping / Slipping Hazards

We already mentioned smooth-soled shoes as a slipping hazards. But there’s more. The bathroom is a particularly dangerous place for the elderly when it comes to a fall risk. The floor can be smooth and wet, and placing loose rugs may do nothing to solve this problem – they might even increase the risk of slipping (remember how frequently the elderly may need to use the bathroom at night). Bathrooms often also have little kerbs, especially at the shower areas that are naturally often quite wet. Try to use rugs with a rubberised underside, to prevent elderly users from slipping on them, and of course try to keep the floors dry. Rough surfaces or rubber mats are another potential safety measure.

But that’s just the bathroom. Falls can happen anywhere in the house or outside it, so watch out also for objects cluttering the floor, uneven ground, slopes, and smooth surfaces.

Walking assistance such as walking sticks is a great way to prevent falls in the elderly.

Assistance

Now, this might be a bit difficult. So far, we’ve talked about removing problems, or learning information. That’s not expensive. But sometimes we may need to make some investments for the long term. We don’t really need to wrap our elderly in tons of cotton wool everywhere they go, but it would help if grab rails or other supports are installed in the more important places, such as indoor stairs or places that may often have wet floors, like the bathroom. Walking aids should also be chosen carefully. A walking cane for the elderly should not be too heavy, and should be adjusted to the correct height so that a cane-assisted walking posture does not itself turn out to be a falling risk.

Diet

Protein, calcium, essential vitamins and water. All these sound very commonsensical. However, what an elderly person needs for a suitable diet may not be the same as what healthy middle-egd adults need. Some changes are common to all elderly – for example, switching to softer foods. Moreover, a healthy diet can go a long way to prevent numerous other problems that increase the risk of falling. Diet also needs to cater to a person’s specific medical issues, for example, seniors with blood pressure issues or suffering from diabetes may also need special care diet-wise, to prevent fainting spells from suddenly standing up.

Ways to Prepare for Surgery

The thought of having a surgical procedure done can be daunting and you can definitely do without the additional stress. One way to ease the mind is to know what to expect and being aware of the right post-surgical care. Here we look at the various ways to prepare for surgery.

Do Your Homework

“In an ideal situation, you want to do as much research as you can,” said Sandra Le, a breast cancer survivor who underwent two mastectomies roughly a year apart. “The more people you talk to, the more you understand.”

Questions Ms. Le recommends asking your surgeon or potential surgeon include:

  • Where will the incision be, and what will it look like?
  • Is there any chance I can see pictures of surgeries you have performed so I can get an idea of what things will look like?
  • What are the possible risks associated with this surgery?
  • What will my activity restrictions be after surgery?
  • When will I be able to drive?
  • Are there any particular movements I will need to avoid and for how long?
  • What can I do to help speed up my recovery?
  • Will you walk me through the surgery so I can better understand the process?
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One way to prepare for surgery is to address your concerns with your surgeon or nurse.

This last question, Ms. Le notes, is probably the most important question you can ask.

If you have time to do so, Ms. Le recommends seeking out opinions and advice from other patients who have been through the procedure you are facing.

“I scoured the Internet,” she said. “I searched through forums and review sites for any information I could find about my doctors. I also trusted in my husband’s evaluation of the surgeon. I was so blessed that my husband, Walter, is a physician because I truly felt lost the entire time. I have some understanding of medicine since I used to work as a registered nurse. However, as I faced my surgeries, I was quite emotional and could not quite grasp everything that was being discussed. If you have a friend or relative who works in the medical field and whom you feel comfortable asking to accompany you to your medical appointments, doing so can be very helpful.”

Expect the Unexpected

Even after you’ve done your research about what to expect from your surgery, remember that things don’t always go exactly as planned. Be prepared for potential complications, advised Shelley Dawn Johnson, who has had several surgeries but was caught off guard when one particular procedure did not go as expected.

“I was scheduled for what was supposed to be a very simple laparoscopic procedure,” she said. “It was an exploratory surgery with just two tiny incisions to go in and look around and try to find the source of my terribly painful periods. I hadn’t even mentioned the surgery to anyone other than my husband, since I expected to be home hours later. I’d been told this was going to be an easy, in-and-out procedure.”

Ms. Johnson had previously had two C-sections, and it turned out the source of her pain was adhesions from those surgeries.

“When my surgeon made the incision in the standard place the surgery called for, he nicked an artery,” Ms. Johnson said. “The artery wasn’t supposed to be there, but thanks to the adhesions, everything was kind of stuck together. My simple outpatient procedure turned into an open procedure to stop the internal bleeding. I woke up to the news that I had been opened up, had lost a lot of blood, would probably need to be transfused and was facing a hospital stay of at least five days.”

She hadn’t arranged for anyone to help with her two children, then just 3 and 6 years old, because she’d expected to return home the same day. And because her surgery wasn’t scheduled, there was no bed available for her on the OB/Gyn floor, so she ended up on an understaffed general post-surgical floor. The nurses there did not specialize in OB/Gyn and didn’t understand what some of her post-surgical symptoms meant, dismissing a real medical issue as anxiety.

“When you are scheduled to have surgery, you just never know what might happen,” she said. “So I think it is important to carefully discuss all possible risks of surgery with your doctor beforehand, and to prepare for the fact that any of those things could actually happen. At the same time, you still have to go in with a positive attitude and in a healthy state, mentally and spiritually. You should be prepared for the unexpected but still hope for the best possible outcome, because your attitude will affect your recovery.”

Here are some simple ways to prepare for surgeryPrepare for Your Recovery Period

Whether you are scheduled for a complex procedure or a simple one, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Le advise preparing for your recovery period and lining up help in advance. You can also follow their advice if you wish to help someone you know who is facing surgery.

  • Arrange for help with children, including driving your kids to and from school and activities.
  • Clean and de-clutter your house so it will be easier to maintain while you are on activity restriction.
  • Make freezer meals or allow someone to start a Meal Train or Sign Up Genius to allow friends and family members to sign up to bring meals for your family while you recover. (If you want to do this for a friend facing surgery, be sure to ask first to see if they are comfortable having meals brought to them, and be sure to ask about preferred drop-off times and methods as well as any food allergies or other dietary restrictions. And for those who want to offer sustenance but do not cook, be sure to share a list of favorite restaurants for which gift cards can be purchased).
  • Keep in mind that you might have dietary restriction during your immediate recovery period. Be sure to stock your kitchen with light snacks such as Jello, popsicles and other easily digestible food, including crackers, which can help with nausea.
  • Consider scheduling some sessions with a professional house cleaner. If you want to offer this as a gift to someone facing surgery, be sure to ask first if this would be a desirable gift, as some people just aren’t comfortable having strangers in their home.
  • When you come home from the hospital, keep your post-surgery instructions and doctor’s phone number by your bed. Alert your doctor immediately with any concerns.

Many people feel uncomfortable asking for help, so if you know someone facing surgery, don’t wait for them to ask you for help – just offer – even if they turn down your offer, at least they will know you are thinking of them, and sometimes simply knowing that you care and are concerned can be a wonderful gift on its own.

Not all surgeries are planned in advance. Some are emergent, but in the case of a scheduled surgery, you can take advantage of the opportunity to carefully plan and prepare for both your procedure and your recovery.

Caregiving with Purpose

Hi, my name is Christine. I’ve got to figure out my life. Maybe you can help me?

I found this website, caregiverusa.com while I was googling around for part-time nursing assistant jobs. Did I mention I got my CNA? Yeah, and I’m kinda proud of that, too. CNA stands for Certified Nurse Assistant certification. We’re also known as State Tested Nurse Aids (STNAs) here in Ohio, where I’ve lived all my life. In this state, it takes 75 hours of training – a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical training – which is done through the Nurse Aid Registry, Ohio Department of Health. Here’s another helpful related website.

In CNA training, you learn about protecting patients’ rights, dealing with emergencies, identifying abuse and neglect, and how to communicate most effectively with patients, their families, and the supervising nurse. Most importantly, you are taught to pay close attention to cleanliness and sanitation, and how to make patients as comfortable as possible.

Are you like Christine? Trying to figure out your life?

Just in case you’re interested, you also need your high school diploma or GED, and to pass a complete health screening and a criminal background check.

Lastly, of course, you need to pass the Ohio CNA certification exam. There’s about 70 multiple-choice written questions, and then you need to complete five nurse aide tasks – all selected at random.

I studied hard and did great, if I do say so myself. I’m officially listed on the Ohio Nurse Aide Registry. But then it hit me, a few days after I passed the exam. “Ok, I’ve got my CNA. But now what?”

Did I mention I am so “fried” on working fast-food? I’ve done every job you can think of at a major drive-thru chain for more than eight years. I started there during junior year of high school. But I’m looking to get out of the burger biz. I am soooooo over it. Doesn’t matter that I’m actually a manager now, and making “not too bad” money. But we’re in a really busy location, it’s stressing me out, and they want me there working all the time. I can’t do all those hours.

I need to find something else, which is one of the reasons I went for my CNA. That, and I’ve always liked feeling useful and needed. I enjoy helping people, and realized the little things I did for my sickly grandma before she died – combing her hair, helping her take a bath, and put on her shoes, even just listening to her when she would talk about her years with grandpa and the “old days,” really made a difference and helped her feel better.

Caregiving could be a purpose in life

But, back to my dilemma! I’ve got my husband, Daniel, a seasonal construction worker, whose work kinda ebbs and flows. We live in our two-bedroom apartment, along with our two kids, “squirmy boy” Lucas, age 6, and precious baby girl, Mia, 22 months.

I need to be able to set a schedule that works for me, at a job that is close to home and Lucas’ school. Something where I might even be able to make more money, and have a better future than staying in fast-food.

A worthwhile job that’s not so crazy, so I have more time for my kids and keeping up with my own housework and errands. I’ve been having my mom and sisters babysit Lucas and Mia whenever Daniel and I were busy working or whatever, but I know they’re getting tired of it, and, besides, they have their own problems.

And that’s my story. I’m on this home healthcare caregiver website, wondering if I should bother exploring. What do you think?

I’m going for it.

So, I’m on the home page on my iphone, and as I scroll down, CaregiverUSA is asking me to join the mailing list. Errrrrr, I guess it’s a good idea to get updates and keep in the loop with what’s happening, since I do have my CNA after all, so I will do it. If I get too many emails or don’t like the content, I can always unsubscribe.

Now I’m clicking the box that says “Be a Caregiver” closer to the top on the home page. It takes me to a new internal web page, where it talks about CaregiverUSA and flexibility in setting your own work schedule. Mentions possibly making more money in the process. So far, so good…

Basically, it’s saying they’re strongly focused on nurturing and compassion as a caregiver organization. Good to know — I would hope so! I’m liking it’s a web-based platform that allows me to search for people meeting my criteria, such as care seekers needing my help in my area. On the flip side, they’re saying care seekers would be looking for someone like me through Web, mobile, and social media apps.

I also have my choice of providing medical care versus personal care. Personal care is non-medical in nature, such as child care, adult and senior care, home care, and pet sitting.

As a new CNA, I know I’m eligible to do some of the medical care tasks under the direction of a physician or RN, but I just want to ease into this. I’ll choose personal care first to see how it goes. It says some non-medical (personal) care services are offered by caregivers who are licensed or certified, so that’s me.

Well, I’ve come this far, so I guess I am interested enough in CaregiverUSA to fill out the caregiver application. I see it as I scroll down. Looks short, easy, and fast enough to knock out.

I input my name and email. It asks for skilled medical care positions. I select “Nursing Aide” in drop down menu. There’s another drop-down box for Custodial Care positions. I choose something easy from the git-go, just to try this out (Companion.) Moving on to Available start date, it gives me a monthly calendar. Uhmm, let’s say Monday, June 5. That should work.

Now, current employment status. I mark the dot “Employed.” However, I will definitely give notice once I figure out this caregiver gig is going to work out.

OK, next step is cut-and-pasting my resume or emailing to them. No problem.

Final question before submitting my application. Alright, the end. Hit the green submit button.

And… we’re off!

Ahhhh, gotta admit, this is kinda exciting. I mean, not “I’ve hit the lottery” exciting. It’s more like “what are the possibilities here” exciting. Could this lead to a better future and solve some of my problems? Caregiving with purpose?

You know what I mean… I’ll let you know how it goes with my next post…

Keeping my fingers crossed.

Caregiver Spotlight

Meet Shonda,

 Shonda is a dedicated and hard-working STNA for Caregiver USA. She loves having the opportunity to be the best part of someone’s worst day. She has worked in the health care field for over ten years. Shonda worked in a hospital setting for about six years. She realized that she wanted to provide more one-on-one care so she transitioned to home health. Her future goal is to become a Registered Nurse. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters! Caregiver USA is very appreciative of Shonda and everything she has and will accomplish for herself.

For more information about Caregiver USA services visit http://www.CaregiverUSA.com or call 614-408-9939.

How are You Sleeping?

March has been designated National Sleep Awareness Month. One part of sleep awareness is knowing how our sleep may be affected by changes in the environment.

Most of the United States returns to Daylight Saving Time beginning at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, March 8. As we spring forward and advance our clocks one hour, it is important to consider how this small change can affect our sleep.

Moving our clocks, watches, and cell phones in either direction changes the principal time cue—light—for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. This makes our internal clock out of sync with our current day-night cycle.

In general, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall.  An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night.

If you have insomnia or are sleep-deprived already, you could experience more difficulties. In this situation, you could see decreased performance, concentration and memory during the workday, which is common to sleep-deprived individuals.  You also may experience fatigue and daytime sleepiness. All of these are more likely if you consume alcohol or caffeine late in the evening.

In general, people adjust to the change in time within a few days. You can help this by decreasing exposure to light in your home during the evenings, exercising, trying to have a consistent sleep schedule, and reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine

Visit https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2015/03/04/national-sleep-awareness-month/ for more about sleep, insomnia and work-life balance resources.

Was this an interesting article for you? We have more! Subscribe to our newsletter to read useful care stories, receive special offers and updates. We would love for you to be a part of our community, click the link to join us: http://eepurl.com/dgz6LP 

The importance of Patient Safety

Prevention of Falls in the Elderly

How many of you are caring for the elderly, or looking for someone who can? It’s not easy. There are so many things to look out for, and so many challenges to face.

One of the biggest challenges is prevention of falls in the elderly. There are many other things to talk about when it comes to caring for them but accidental falling can be a nightmare. So how do we prevent falls in the elderly?

We know that falls, and the resulting complications, can be very dangerous but they are also one of the most common risk factors-it’s just too easy to let them happen. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.” So this problem is not only widespread, it is also hidden. Caregivers end up in a difficult position of having to prevent things before they can happen.

So what can we do?

Many risk factors and prevention have been identified in medical and healthcare literature. This might go a long way in saving the lives of our loved ones. Some of these risk factors are intrinsic and you may need professional help before you can notice them, for example, examination for back problems. Other factors are environmental and to some extent cannot be controlled easily. But there are other factors that are within the power of caregivers-both formal and informal-to deal with.

Medication

Forewarned is forearmed. Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, of affect balance and co-ordination. This applies to everyone, not just the elderly. Caregivers might not always be in a good position to know this-medical confidentiality and lacking pharmaceutical knowledge might hinder this. But the elderly or their legal representatives should be able to ask their doctors/pharmacists to identify those medicines that increase the risk of falling. The doctors especially, should be able to tell you whether any particular medicine is a risk to any particular patient.

Footwear

Remember that awful, horrible feeling when you wrench an ankle wearing thick soles on uneven ground? Think of this, only much worse, if an elderly person’s feet wobble too much wearing high heels with no ankle support. Backless shoes, even slippers with smooth soles, all pose a variety of footwear-related risks. In Asia, another type of footwear to worry about are the communal slippers used for bathrooms. There are many ways footwear can be unsafe-they can interfere with a safe and proper gait, they can be too slippery, or they can be too large and be a tripping hazard. We should ensure our elderly not only have proper and safe footwear for going out, but also for using within the home-this is especially important for bathroom slippers since the elderly may need to access a potentially wet floor late at night, possibly without wearing glasses, while urgently rushing to answer the call of nature.

Tripping/Slipping Hazards

We already mentioned smooth-soled shoes as a slipping hazard. But there’s more. The bathroom is a particularly dangerous place for elderly when it comes to a fall risk. The floor can be smooth and wet, and placing loose rugs may do nothing to solve this problem-they might even increase the risk of slipping. Bathrooms often also have little curbs, especially at the shower areas. Try to use rugs with a rubberized underside, to prevent elderly users from slipping to them, and of course try to keep the floors dry. Rough surfaces or rubber mats are another potential safety measure.

But that’s just the bathroom. Falls can happen anywhere in the house or outside it, so watch out also for objects cluttering the floor, uneven ground, slopes, and smooth surfaces.

Assistance

Now, this might be a bit difficult. So far, we’ve talked about removing problems. That’s not expensive. But sometimes we may need to make some investments for long term. We don’t need to wrap our loved ones in tons of cotton wool everywhere they go, but it would help if grab rails or other supports and installed in the important areas of the home (bathroom for example). Walking aides should also be chosen carefully. It should not be too heavy, and should be adjusted to the correct height so that a cane-assisted walking posture does not itself turn out to be a falling risk.

Diet

Protein, calcium, essential vitamins and water. All these sound very commonsensical. However, what an elderly person needs for a suitable diet may not be the same as what healthy middle-aged adults need. Some changes are common to all elderly-for example, switching to softer foods. Moreover, a healthy diet can go a long way to prevent numerous other problems that increase the risk of falling. Diet also needs to cater to a person’s specific medical issues.

If you or a loved one are looking into home care options please visit http://www.CaregiverUSA.com or call 614-408-9939.

Did you know 1 in 3 American adults are at risk for kidney disease? Take Two Simple Tests to Know Your Kidney Numbers

March is National Kidney Month, so let’s focus on the importance of education and prevention!

Anyone can get kidney disease at any time. If kidney disease is found and treated early, you can help slow or even stop it from getting worse. Most people with early kidney disease do not have symptoms. That is why it is important to be tested. Know your kidney numbers!

Your kidney numbers include 2 tests: ACR (Albumin to Creatinine Ratio) and GFR (glomerular filtration rate). GFR is a measure of kidney function and is performed through a blood test. Your GFR will determine what stage of kidney disease you have – there are 5 stages. Know your stage. ACR is a urine test to see how much albumin (a type of protein) is in your urine. Too much albumin in your urine is an early sign of kidney damage.

  • Urine Test called ACR. ACR stands for “albumin-to-creatinine ratio.” Your urine will be tested for albumin. Albumin is a type of protein. Your body needs protein. But it should be in the blood, not the urine. Having protein in your urine may mean that your kidneys are not filtering your blood well enough. This can be a sign of early kidney disease. If your urine test comes back “positive” for protein, the test should be repeated to confirm the results. Three positive results over three months or more is a sign of kidney disease.
  • Blood Test to estimate your GFR. Your blood will be tested for a waste product called creatinine. Creatinine comes from muscle tissue. When the kidneys are damaged, they have trouble removing creatinine from your blood. Testing for creatinine is only the first step. Next, your creatinine result is used in a math formula with your age, race, and sex to find out your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your GFR number tells your healthcare provider how well your kidneys are working. Check with your doctor about having a GFR test.

 

Was this an interesting article for you? We have more! Subscribe to our newsletter to read useful care stories, receive special offers and updates. We would love for you to be a part of our community, click the link to join us: http://eepurl.com/dgz6LP 

10 Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

From our friends at the National Parkinson Foundation,

Sometimes it’s hard to tell that you might have Parkinson’s Disease. The symptoms arise when your brain stops making an important chemical called dopamine. This chemical helps your body to move, and helps your mood. If you have Parkinson’s, you can feel better by taking medicine that helps your body to replace that chemical.

Parkinson’s disease will get worse slowly over time, and your doctor can help you to stay healthy longer. If you or a loved one show any of these warning signs, you should tell your doctor about them and ask about the disease.

  1. Tremor or shaking
  2. Small handwriting
  3. Loss of smell
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Trouble moving or walking
  6. Constipation
  7. A soft or low voice
  8. Masked face
  9. Dizziness or fainting
  10. Stooping or hunching over

 

If you or a loved one develop any of these signs and need assistance in the home call 614-408-9939 or visit http://www.CaregiverUSA.com for an evaluation.

For more information about Parkinson’s Disease visit http://www.Parkinson.org or call the helpline 1-800-4PD-INFO.

 

 

Eat right at any Age and teach your Kids to do the same

March is National Nutrition Month,

Caregiver USA offers homemaker services. This service focuses on nutritional value for clients who cannot prepare meals or cannot go to the grocery store on their own for fresh foods, but it’s never too late or too early to think about preparing meals or keeping fresh foods in the home!

Whether you want to lose weight, maintain your current healthy weight or help your children grow up healthy and strong, proper nutrition plays a key role in meeting these goals. It’s important to understand what – and how much – you should be eating and drinking as well as how to set your children up for a lifetime of healthy nutrition habits.

Eating for weight loss or maintenance as an adult

You might remember learning about the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Guide Pyramid when you were growing up, and you also might recall hearing that it was replaced by something called MyPlate in 2011. My Plate provides an easy visual aid for how you should fill your plate at each meal. It promotes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which should cover half of the plate. Grains occupy a quarter of the plate, as do protein sources such as meat, fish and poultry. A glass of milk rests to the side, and desserts are nowhere in sight.

It is important to note however, that this perfect plate is something to strive for most of the time, while allowing exceptions for the occasional indulgence. If you commit to a meal plan that makes you feel constantly deprived, chances are, you will not stick to it long-term. Your best bet is to eat healthful, nutrient dense foods most of the time, but also learn how to incorporate treats in moderation.

The USDA advises us to focus on variety, amount and nutrition, choose foods and beverages with less saturated fat, sodium and added sugars, and to start with small changes to build healthier eating styles.

Visit choosemyplate.gov for a wealth of information on nutrition, including access to the MyPlate Checklist Calculator, (click on Online Tools then on Daily Checklist) which can help you calculate your personal calorie needs. Armed with that information, you can click through to your personalized Food pattern and plan for maintaining or achieving a healthy weight, which will tell you how many servings you should eat from each food group. You can even use MyPlate’s online SuperTracker to help you plan, analyze and track your diet and physical activity.

Helping your kids establish healthy eating habits

If you have children or grandchildren, you have an opportunity to help them develop healthy habits right from the start. Childhood is such an important time for proper nutrition because children are growing and developing at a rapid rate and need essential nutrients to fuel that growth.

“Parents, most often moms, are the gatekeepers for their families,” said Lindsay Brin, C.P.T., B.S.E. Exercise Science, creator of Moms Into Fitness. Ms. Brin is an internationally published author and sought-after fitness professional in the prenatal and postnatal field. She has starred in and choreographed 56 fitness DVDs designed for moms, based on her research with major universities. “When your kids are little, you control their access to food. You can look at this as a lot of pressure or as a wonderful opportunity.”

Following are some recommendations from Ms. Brin and her team of dietitians at Moms Into Fitness:

 

  • Make sure your kids regularly consume foods containing the top nutrients –calcium, fiber, protein, iron, antioxidants and omega-3s.
  • Feed your kids balanced meals using the plate method.
  • Do not force children to clean their plates.
  • Eat as a family at the table with no distractions.
  • Encourage kids to help prepare their meals and snacks.
  • Remember that it is normal for toddlers to be picky eaters. As long as they are growing appropriately, it is nothing to be immediately concerned about.

o   Be prepared to offer new foods 10-12 times.

o   Try various preparation methods.

o   Only offer one new food at a time and serve with familiar foods your child already likes.

  • Limit milk to two cups per day, juice to a maximum of 4 ounces per day, and do not allow children to drink diet or regular soda daily.
  • Learn the appropriate portion sizes and servings per day your kids should eat from each food group. Portion sizes for kids are different than those for adults and often different from the serving sizes you see on most nutrition labels.

What about snacks?

While mindless snacking throughout the day or snacking on a lot of junk food is not healthy, thoughtfully planned snacks can be a wonderful way to meet your family’s nutritional needs. Treat snacks like mini meals, and if you do serve yourself or your loved ones a convenience item such as pretzels, crackers or a granola bar, pair it with some produce, protein or dairy.

Whether you are heading to the zoo or museum for the day, meeting friends for an afternoon play date or perhaps just running some errands, plan ahead and pack snacks from home.

“By providing most foods from home and balancing your plate, you are able to also limit some of the most notorious dietary dangers – excess sodium, saturated fats and added sugars,” Ms. Brin said.

Non-perishable snacks might seem to be the most convenient items to pack, but if you invest in a few thermoses, some ice packs and an insulated lunch tote or small cooler, you can easily bring along string cheese, yogurt, fruit, and veggies with hummus or other dips. You can even skip the drive-thru on a full-day excursion by packing sandwiches, salads and soups.

Pay attention to the calories you and your children are drinking too. Age, weight, gender, activity level, and even outside temperature can impact how much fluid your child needs, Ms. Brin explains, however, most children need between six to eight cups of non-caffeinated, non-sugary fluids each day – water is best! If your kiddo is exceptionally active be sure they have water to drink while exercising and encourage them to drink often.

Don’t forget to walk the walk rather than just talking the talk. Your kids will notice if you preach good nutrition to them and serve them healthy foods but don’t follow the same nutrition guidelines yourself. Commit to healthy eating for the entire family. Bookmark this article as a handy reference, and try not to get overwhelmed – eating healthy really doesn’t have to be hard.

“It is information overload out there!” Ms. Brin said. “Don’t get too wrapped up in it – you know what is best. Aim for foods closest to their natural state, and stay away from artificial dyes, added sugars, etc. At the same time you shouldn’t eliminate treats, but teach your kids moderation.”

For more great information from Ms. Brin and Moms Into Fitness, visit https://www.momsintofitness.com/blog/.

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