Thursday, August 7, 2014

Support (and I am Not Talking About Underwear)

Diabetes is a chronic disease. There is not a vacation from diabetes. Granted, there are times that are worse than others but it is still constant. 

Come on, we all need a break!

Unfortunately, you can’t take a vacation like you would from work. But there are things you can do to give yourself some help when times get a bit hard. 

Have you thought about a support group? Did your lip just curl with the thought of that? Keep with me here for a minute. I know, when I think of a support group, I think of some church basement, folding chairs, and bad coffee. A group of sad people talking about their problems is what comes to mind. That certainly does not sound like a vacation.

In-Person Groups

Let’s think about what would make a great support group. To raise your spirits, it would have to have people that you would want to spend (granted a small amount of) time with and the group should be pretty upbeat. If it wasn’t upbeat then what kind of vacation would it be? Then what would you want to the group to do? I would suggest to you that while discussion is nice, if there were a mix of programs you might be happier about attending. What if one week there was a demonstration of an exercise that you might not have tried but wanted to know about. Failing that, what if one week the group met outside (where possible) and took a walk? What if one week there was a cooking or nutrition demonstration? What if another week there was a discussion about an aspect of diabetes management? And then to round out the month, how about a group lunch so that there could just be socializing. 

Would you join a group like that? Are you wondering if that group exists? I don’t know but it could. You could start it. How? I think I might start at my doctor’s office or the local Y or the local health department. Talk to them about starting such a group and ask for space to hold meetings. Actually by talking to all groups, you might find people who can help with the meetings.

Also by talking to your doctor’s office or the local Y or your local health department, you might find that a group actually exists and you could join a group that already exists.  

On-Line Groups      

Let’s say you are not the go out and join a group person. How about an on-line group? There are actually a lot of resources and a large on-line diabetes community.  (Commonly referred to as the DOC – Diabetes On-line Community). There is support for all the different kinds of diabetes. You should look for a group that shares your type because you will be able to relate to each other and your issues.  The latest issue of "Diabetes Forecast Magazine" suggests the following groups:

Please remember that you need to be careful with any on-line group.  This is really not the place to reveal your inner secrets. You never know who is listening.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Sun, the Surf, and Your Feet

I am going to talk about feet today. But not perhaps what you might expect. 

Yes, I have talked several times about diabetes and feet. Today, my foot thoughts are for everyone whether they are diabetic or not. 

Things that surprised me about foot melanoma -

1.        It is the most deadly form of melanoma. It is deadly because it is so rarely caught before it has spread.

2.       You can get skin cancer under your nails. If you see a spot under your nail and it does not grow with the nail, you need to go to the doctor right away.  Women should make sure that they look at their nails without polish so that they can see if there are any spots under the nail. 

3.       The bottoms of your feet and between your toes are susceptible to skin cancer.

4.       Melanoma is not as common as other types of cancer but its rates are increasing.

5.       One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes

You should do periodic self-exams for skin cancer. For directions on how to do a self-exam, there are guidelines from the Skin Cancer Foundation

When you go out, you should be applying sunscreen. Even if you are just making a quick trip to the store. Always apply sunscreen and re-apply it often especially when you are at the beach or pool. Don’t forget to apply it to your feet – top and bottom. 

And for goodness sake, don’t use tanning beds. 

End of lecture for today.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It’s a Turkey! A Three-peat!

It isn't every blog that brings you video of wild turkeys.

How can I shock you this week? I know that having two recipes in a row from me was pretty shocking. 
What is it called in bowling when you have three strikes? A turkey?

I am writing a turkey! Yes, that is three weeks in a row of recipes. 

I really could not help myself with this one. I have to share it. It is so easy that I know you will love it. 

Crock Pot Chicken Pesto - Serves 6

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 packet of Ranch dressing mix
6 oz. Pesto
½ cup low sodium chicken broth

1.        Spray the inside of your crock pot with a non-stick spray. I do this to be nice to the person who has to do the dishes after dinner. Cleaning the crock pot is often the worst job.
2.       Put the check breasts in the crock pot
3.       Sprinkle the ranch dressing mix over the top of the chicken breasts
4.       Add the pesto over the chicken
5.       Pour in the chicken broth.
6.       Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. 

Nutrition info for 6 chicken breasts (the ones I used were about 9 oz each so they were pretty big), per serving: Calories 455, Fat 16.3g, Saturated Fat 2g, Cholesterol 151.7g, Sodium 1257.8g, Carbs 6.8g, Dietary Fiber 0.7g, Sugars 1.4g, Protein 61g.

That is it! Really, it is so easy and the chicken comes out moist and tender with some flavor! 

My mistakes –

Really with this recipe you think I made mistakes?  Even I got this one right.

My Suggestions –

I understand that the ranch dip mix is high in sodium so you might want to look for a recipe that you can use to make the powder yourself.  I did a minute’s worth of research and found one recipe here.

This recipe also uses prepared pesto.  It is not exactly light on the calories.  You might want to find a low calorie way to make it yourself.  Here is a "skinny" recipe that you could try from skinny  

Please note - I have not tried either of these recipes.  They are just suggestions for things you could try if you want to cut back.  

This is a great meal for the summer. It takes all of about 2 minutes to put everything in the crock pot and then you can just be ready to serve dinner.  I got the recipe from a friend who made it to serve on the 4th of July.  Everyone loved it and she didn't spend any time making it. 

So make it easy on yourself and try this recipe.   

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

HA! Fooled You! Another Recipe This Week!

This cookbook has a lot of great recipes. 

Just to surprise you, I have another recipe this week. Yes, I have cooked something else new.

This recipe is from the same cookbook that I used last week, The Healthy Carb Diabetes Cookbook.  This book is available from The American Diabetes Association or from Amazon. (The cookbook  is less expensive from Amazon.  If you can buy it from the American Diabetes Association, you are giving to a good organization.)

I will first give the recipe as it is written and then will tell you my mistakes and suggested improvements. Also, in case you are an  intimidated cook, please know that I am a self-professed terrible cook. I do think that if I were  interested in cooking it would help but  I am not that interested. Oh, I LOVE to eat but just not cook.  Given the knowledge that I am not much of a cook, you will know that the recipes I provide are always easy to make. I also like them easy to clean up.  That is why I am drawn to recipes like this one.

Carne Asada Tacos - Serves 8 - Serving size is two tacos

1 lime, juiced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 green onions chopped
1 lb. flank steak
1 tbsp. canola oil
16 small whole wheat tortillas (about 6 inches in diameter each)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, garlic, and green onions. Pour into a large sealable bag. Add steak, seal and marinate in refrigerator for 45 minutes
3. Add oil to a medium oven-safe skillet and heat over high heat. Remove steak from marinade and sear on one side for2 minutes. Flip steak, pour marinade over it, and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes.
4. Remove steak from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice meat thinly against the grain.  Divide meat among whole-wheat tortillas.

Calories – 260, Total Fat – 8 g, Saturated Fat – 1.6g, Cholesterol – 20 mg, Sodium – 415 mg, Total Carbohydrate – 29g, Dietary Fiber - 4 g Sugars- 2 g Protein- 15 g

 My mistakes 

I know you will find this hard to believe but I didn't make any significant changes to this recipe. I did use lime juice instead of the juice of a lime.

When you read the directions for this recipe, it sounds like you will be pouring the juices that are left in the bag over the flank steak after you turn it. In reality, there are very few juices.          

I did leave the steak marinating longer than 45 minutes. I didn't think it would really matter. I don't think that it did.

My changes

Okay the recipe calls for you to just put the steak in the tortillas and eat it that way. I did try one that way. While it was okay, there was a strong taste of lime to the taco. We had some salsa that we tried putting with the meat on the tortilla. That just seemed to overpower the whole thing.

Then like Goldilocks I found a way that I felt really worked great. I put the steak on my salad. It was delicious. The lime taste was subdued and it was a great addition to my salad.  So, I would vote that it should be Carne Asada Salad not Carne Asada Tacos.

(Okay, it was good but I will also say that flank steak is not cheap so this is an occasional recipe at best. This is not a weekly staple.)

Have a great week!

Thanks for reading!

Here are some pretty roses for you!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Recipe - One Pot Skillet

It has been a long time since I gave you a new recipe to try. If you are thinking it is because I have not been doing much cooking, you might be right but really, you shouldn't think that way about me.  I cook, I really do. I just have not felt like finding new recipes. 

But I decided that it was time to expand the choices again. Also, while I have not made any new recipes, it does not mean that I have not marked recipes that I want to try. 

I have found many good recipes in this cookbook

This week for new recipes, I turned to The Healthy Carb Diabetes Cookbook.  This book is available from The American Diabetes Association or from Amazon. (Sadly, it is less expensive from Amazon but if you can, if you buy from the American Diabetes Association as you will be giving to a good organization.)

If you have followed this blog before, you will know that I will first give the recipe as it is written and then will tell you my mistakes and suggested improvements. Also, in case you are a slightly intimidated cook, please know that I am a self-professed terrible cook. I do think that if I were slightly interested in cooking it would help but generally, I am not that interested. Oh, I LOVE to eat but just not cook.  Given the knowledge that I am not much of a cook, you will know that the recipes I provide are always easy to make. I also like them easy to clean up.  That is why I am drawn to "one pot recipes" like this one. (Oh, and it is a misnomer - it takes two pots) 

One-Pot Skillet – Serves 7 - Serving size 1 cup
2 cups whole-wheat rotini pasta, uncooked
1 lb. lean ground turkey breast
1 medium onion diced
1 14.5 oz can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Splenda
1 cup reduced-fat, shredded Monterey Jack cheese (You can substitute reduced fat mozzarella or Swiss)

1.        Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt. Drain.

2.       In a large skillet, cook ground turkey until it begins to brown, about 6-7 minutes. Drain excess fat. Add onions and sauté about 5 more minutes or until translucent.

3.       Add next six ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 6-7 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Fold in cheese and toss with drained pasta. 

Calories 225, Calories from fat 40, Total Fat 4.5 g, Saturated Fat 2.2g, Cholesterol 55 mg,
Sodium 390 mg, Total Carbohydrate 25g, Dietary Fiber 4 g, Sugars 5 g, Protein 23 g

Did we like it?

Yes, we did. Despite my feelings about the extra lean ground turkey, (see listings of mistakes below)  it was good. 

My mistakes –

First of all, it seems that Silent Sam bought extra lean ground turkey.  It is just my opinion but I would suggest that you not buy extra lean ground turkey.  It is just TOO DRY. You do not have to worry about draining excess fat from it BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ANY. I didn't like the way it cooked.

We also have trouble finding some whole wheat pastas. I used Trader Joe’s Organic vegetable radiator pasta in the recipe. (It is made from organic durum wheat semolina, spinach, beet, red bell pepper and paprika.) I like to use it because it adds color and a different look to a dish.  I cannot tell you if it increased the carbs. 

In our grocery store, crushed tomatoes come in a 28 oz. can. There was not a 14.5 oz. can and really not a no-salt variety. In a moment of inspiration or idiocy, I used a 14.5 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes. The mixture seemed so dry; I thought this might add more liquid. I cannot always explain my thought process. The only thing was that it was the right amount which made it easier. 

I did not add the optional cayenne pepper. I am a spice wimp. 

I also did not add the Splenda. I might have added it if I had it on hand but I was not going to buy Splenda so that I would have 1 tsp. for this recipe. Silent Sam did bring home 3 packets from work the day after I made the recipe. I am not clear as to why you would want the Splenda in the recipe but perhaps my substitution of the diced tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes made the difference. I don’t know.

Also, we did not find reduced fat Monterey jack cheese. I used reduced fat mozzarella. 

What would I change the next time?

I think that I would try making it with the crushed tomatoes and I would experiment with adding more than the 14.5 oz. that the recipe suggests. I think that it depends on what you like - the diced tomatoes are chunky while the crushed tomatoes would probably make more of a sauce. I would also add sliced black olives, spinach, and mushrooms. I think it would add just a bit more flavor without adding many calories.

(Let’s face it – I think that you should add spinach to almost everything. It is good for you and adds color and a bit of flavor to a dish.)

Thanks for reading!

I wish you a safe and happy 4th of July. Please take a quick moment to breathe a "thank you" to all the men and women who have served and currently serve to make our country safe and free. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Vitamin D – What do you know about it?

Sunbathing is mostly a lost art.  Art?

I started paying a bit more attention to vitamin D when my daughter and a friend were told that blood tests indicated that they were deficient in vitamin D. I didn't know that you could be deficient in vitamin D nor did I understand why this was included in the battery of blood tests. 

It seems that research on vitamin D has increased in recent years and the research has indicated that there detrimental effects from having lower levels of vitamin D. 

Why are we low in Vitamin D?

Most of the vitamin D that your body absorbs is from the sun. While you can get some vitamin D from food, you cannot get the amount you need from food. (so much for those Wonder Bread ads!) Vitamin D is absorbed from the sun and collected in the body in a time release method so that when you need it, it will be there waiting. 

When we all started worrying about skin cancer and avoiding sun exposure and wearing sun screen all the time, we have cut back on the collection of vitamin D through our skin. Also, darker skin does not absorb vitamin D as well. Add into the mix the rise in vegetarianism – natural vitamin D comes from some fish, fish liver oils and egg yolks – there has been a drop in the amount of natural vitamin D that we absorb. 

What does Vitamin D do?

We know that vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is used by the body to strengthen bones.
It also seems that in recent years, researchers have been finding a link between a vitamin D deficiency and higher rates of heart disease in African Americans. In the July 2014 issue of “Diabetes Forecast” magazine, there is an article about the American Diabetic Association funding a study by Dr. Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi . The study is looking into the question of correcting the amount of vitamin D deficiency in African Americans and whether that will lead to a slowing or a halt to cardiovascular disease.   

There was also a study done at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City that found that approximately 50 percent of the patients undergoing orthopedic surgery had a vitamin D deficiency. It is felt that if the patients were tested and prescribed a regime of vitamin D to reduce or eliminate the deficiency that surgical outcomes would be improved. As a result of this and other studies, it is much more common to check a patient’s vitamin D levels pre-surgery. 

Wow! Should I go out and start taking Vitamin D supplements?

No you do not take vitamin D supplements without talking to your doctor.  See, you have made this kid yell at you!

This is not a good idea. You should, however, talk to you doctor about it. See if you have been tested for Vitamin D levels with your normal blood tests and what the results were. See what your doctor has to say about the issue.

If you are the “want to proceed before I talk to my doctor” type (yes, I know you…) Then the safest thing for you to do is go outside. Do not take supplements. Go outside for 5 – 10 minutes and expose your skin to the sun. Do this 2 -3 times a week during the summer. Go out in your bathing suit but do not expose your face to the sun.  

Here is the important part – are you listening? – that was 5 – 10 minutes. Not an hour, not 15 minutes. Just a short exposure 2-3 times a week with no sunscreen to have your body absorb some vitamin D.

But really, talk to your doctor.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cutting Costs for Your Health

Do you need to save some money?

You must ask for what you want

At 2 a.m. on March 13, we found out that Silent Sam was unemployed. We found out via an email that SS read because he could not sleep. He had been with the company for 35 years but the creditors had had enough and decided to close the firm. 

We sat in shock and separately wondered what was going to happen now.  Together we tallied up the points in our favor. We had some savings and we could both go out to find new positions. We split up the day’s needed activities. SS had to go on the computer and learn about filing for unemployment and I would go on and find out about getting health insurance. 

In the days to come, we discovered that we were lucky in two other ways. The company SS worked for had two pay day schedules. One week, the hourly employees were paid and the next week the salaried employees were paid.  There had been a glitch with the hourly employee’s checks the week before and they were given checks rather than having their pay direct deposited into their accounts. It seemed that if they didn’t deposit the checks fast enough that the checks bounced once the company was put into bankruptcy. Many of the hourly employees then lost 3 week’s pay when the company was closed. SS as a salaried employee did not get paid but we only lost 2 week’s pay.

Worse than that in some ways was that the health insurance was retroactively cancelled. 

Yes, that can happen. Soon employees started getting bills from doctors and hospitals that they owed a balance because they were effectively uninsured for the last few months.  Because we may have been a bit remiss in going to the doctor, we did not get caught up in this issue. 

So, there were a lot of people who were very unhappy, unemployed and having financial difficulties. 

While we had talked about doing some cutting back, we now had to actually do the cutting. 

Once you start, it gets easier!
This is where it got interesting. We decided that we could live without cable TV. We bought inside antennas – one for upstairs and one for downstairs. We could then get over the air (CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, PBS, WFLD, and more) stations. This saved $120 per month. 

We then looked at our home phone service. We would have cancelled it but I have a parent with dementia and that is the one phone number that has stuck with him and I just could not cut it and confuse him. I did call the phone company. 

Now, I will tell you that this is completely out of my comfort zone. I am not much of a bargainer.  But I steeled myself and called. When I got a customer service representative, I said “I think my rate is too high and I am going to go to your competitor. Would you like to lower my rate?”  Within minutes (and I am not exaggerating) they lowered my rate by one-fourth. I also cut some of the “extras” on the bill and got it reduced in half. Yes, my bill went from $88 per month to $44. 

Based on that call, I called our alarm company. We had had the alarm for 7 years and during that time the rate went up $3-$4 per year. That call was even easier. I used the same line and virtually within seconds they lowered the rate 31 percent.

I then called our wireless provider. Okay, I was not terribly effective there. I did look at what we were using vs. what our plan allowed and was able to lower the bill $10. That did not feel like much of a win but hey, it was $10.

Are you wondering why I am telling you this story? And why am I telling you this story on a blog that normally talks about diabetes?  I guess that I want to tell you that -

It pays to ask.

You might get turned down but at least you tried. And if you don’t get turned down, you have just helped yourself. 

And realistically, when you are calling the phone company or the cable company, the people you are talking to don’t care about you. They either can help you or not; there is no emotion involved.  So it is worth asking. 

I am sure that you can think of things that you should ask about but you hesitate to do it. I would suggest to you that if you have insurance issues that you ask if your doctor might be open to work out some sort of deal with you for payment. Also, I would check prices on the internet. My eye doctor has suggested that I buy an over the counter product to use on my eyes. When I purchased it at the local chain drug store, it was $25. I subsequently found I could get it via the internet for $17. 

Taking care of your financial situation will cause less stress which can affect your health. Make it a game - see how much you can save!

Thanks for reading!

If you read last week's post, (thank you!) the wedding went off beautifully!