You could be suffering from this and not even know!!

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Did you know a little butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck is one of the most powerful glands when it comes to how well your body functions?

It is a quiet little gland that produces a hormone that has direct effects on most organs including the heart. This gland is your thyroid gland. When the gland produces a low amount of hormones, this is called hypothyroidism. An over active thyroid is called hyperthyroidism. No one is sure what causes the thyroid to act up, but, when it does, it can be a real problem.

I am going to talk about the under active thyroid. 12% of the American population suffer from this disease. That’s nearly 20 million people. Unfortunately, there are as many as 60% that don’t know they have it. While hypothyroidism is most common in middle age or older women, men, children and infants can have it also.

There are a number of symptoms for hypothyroidism, but, a lot of the symptoms show up in other illnesses. If you have been suffering from any of these symptoms: unexplained weight gain, fatigue, depression, are sensitive to cold temperatures, dry skin, thinning hair, heavy menstrual periods, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, pain or swelling in joints, constipation, high cholesterol, or muscle weakness, you might want to check with your doctor. Diagnoses is as easy as a simple blood test.

If need be, the doctor will put you on meds. Make sure, you take the meds exactly as prescribed which is usually the first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, taken with a full glass of water. I have been guilty of grabbing my morning coffee first or taking the pill with the coffee. Unfortunately, people that take their meds with their morning coffee can have uncontrollable thyroid levels. You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medicine before having a cup of coffee!!

Also, if you take vitamins containing iron and calcium, or other medicines like proton pump inhibitors, wait at least 4 hours after you have taken your thyroid med. This will ensure the thyroid meds are fully absorbed.

While waiting to get the right dose of meds for yourself, you might want to try to live a more healthy lifestyle. We all know what that means, right? Exercise, eat healthy and get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night! While there aren’t any formal dietary guidelines, research does suggest a few things.

Foods with soy, including edamame, tofu, and miso can interfere with absorption of your meds. For that reason, wait 4 hours after eating soy products before taking your pill.

It’s a good idea to limit cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, turnips and bok choy, because research suggests digesting may block the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. Cooking can reduce the effects and limit the intake of cooked vegetables to 5 ounces a day.

Gluten that is found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains can irritate the small intestine and may hamper absorption of the thyroid hormone replacement med. If you do choose to eat gluten, choose whole grain varieties of bread, pasta and rice. Be sure to take meds several hours before or after eating high fiber foods to prevent them from interfering with absorption of the meds.

Fatty foods such as butter, meat and fried foods have been found to disrupt the body’s ability to absorb the meds. Fats may be a reason why the thyroid loses the ability to produce the hormone in the first place.

Processed foods in packages and in the frozen food aisle are loaded with sodium. People with hypothyroidism should stay away from sodium, as having an underactive thyroid increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure and there is a danger of the added sodium in packaged foods.

With hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down and you can gain unexpected weight. For that reason, you should stay away from cakes, cookies, candy and other foods with excess sugar. Sugary foods add a lot of calories with no nutrient value.

Getting enough fiber is a good thing, but too much can complicate your hypothyroidism. The governments daily guideline recommends older people to take 20-35 grams of fiber a day. Eating beans, legumes and vegetables and fruits above that can affect your digestive tract and can interfere with absorption of your meds. If you are on a high fiber diet, talk to your doctor, there might be a need of a higher dose of hormone replacement.

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As for alcohol consumption, it can wreak havoc on both thyroid hormone levels in the body and the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones. Alcohol has a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses the ability of the body to use the hormone. Ideally, people with hypothyroidism should cut out alcohol completely.

As for the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, there are a few things you can do to make you feel better. Such as, for dry skin, moisturize after you shower. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a cream or ointment to lock in moisture. They can be more effective than lotion. Keep your shower to under 10 minutes and use warm water instead of hot.

If you are suffering from constipation, try adding a new kind of fruit or vegetable to your diet. Always drink plenty of water. Just remember not to over do the fiber.

To fight fatigue, weight gain and stress, go for a walk. Try to get 30 minutes of aerobic activity in every day. You might want to include strength training exercise in addition to low impact aerobic activities.

Eat lean proteins to keep up your energy. Things like turkey, skinless chicken breast, nuts or nut butter and low fat dairy products. Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles. Protein can also help with weight gain by moving the food more slowly from your stomach to the intestine making you feel full longer. Eating 4-5 protein based meals or snacks a day is a good way of keeping your energy up and controlling weight.

Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue. If your aren’t getting enough sleep at night it can make things worse. Make sure to power down an hour or two before bedtime. Put down your phone and computer. To beat fatigue you not only have to rest your body, you have to rest your mind. Try to get as close to 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

If you have tried all these things and your symptoms still persist, check with your doctor about adjusting your medication. Definitely talk to your doctor if you become pregnant or gain or lose a lot of weight.

Once you get on the right road with your hormone replacement, life will be good again. Don’t suffer needlessly!

Take care



Medications and Caffeine can be Harmful

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Do any of you remember when your parents would tell you that you were too young to drink coffee? Or, if you were lucky enough to get a cup of coffee 3/4 of the cup would be milk? Did you ever wonder why? Was that just something a parent would say or was there more to that?

We should look back to those days. The days before cola was our go to drink. Or when candy bars were only a special treat. What did our parents know?

True, our lifestyle was more simple back then. Children being given caffeine was almost unheard of. But now? Personally, I don’t know how parents or kids survive the hectic lifestyle of this 21st century. Not only are our kids involved in every extra curricular activity known to man, they have hours of homework plus jobs.

I asked various people ages 16-35 years old, what gets you through the day. They all said the same thing.  CAFFEINE!! Mainly, coffee, soda and energy drinks with a candy bar tossed in here and there.

One young lady told me, she starts her day by waking up at 4 a.m. just to drink a pot of coffee before getting ready for school. Then a soda or two, with a candy bar during school. When she goes to work after school, she takes at least one or two cans of an energy drink to get her through her shift. When she gets home, maybe another soda to help her get her homework done. By the time she gets to bed it’s 11p.m. or later. This poor kid is getting by on a caffeine buzz and 5 hours of sleep!

I also interviewed a nurse that works on a 12 hour night shift. Working nights, her day starts by leaving work at 6 a.m. She gets home in time to get her children up and out the door for school. She goes to bed around 10 a.m. and wakes up around 2:30 p.m. She showers, has a bite to eat along with a high caffeine soda and jumps in the car so she can pick up her kids from school. On the way home she runs daily errands and then stops to pick up a few cans of an energy drink. Once home, she gets the kids on their homework, pops the top of an energy drink and works on making supper. She then gets ready for work, pops another energy drink and heads off to work. When asked how many energy drinks she drinks on a single night, she said, anywhere between 4 to 6, but has been as high as 9! Can you imagine 9 energy drinks a night?Big business wants you to think that energy drinks are harmless. That drinking a 16 ounce can is the same as 2 cups of coffee. Some say, energy drinks give you wings! Do you know WHY they give you wings? It’s because caffeine is actually a “legal” drug with the same simaliarities as an illegal drug like coke.

SAY WHAT?? Yes, it’s true!

They both work in a similar way, signaling the mind to release adrenaline and create a pleasant feeling. Yes, cocaine is from a different plant and yes, it is much stronger and is mind altering. Caffeine tends to give you a more mellow feeling. But make no mistake, both are highly addictive. They both can cause anxiety, paranoia and restlessness. One main difference, caffeine has a built in restraining mechanism. That means, once you’ve reached the point where you are feeling anxious and shaky, your body is telling you that you have had enough. Unlike, speed, your body continues to want more

It’s not just the caffeine they put in the energy drink. Read the label. They all contain large amounts of sugar. Some contain taurine, ginseng root, gingko biloba, guarana seed and B vitamins, plus other ingredients ordinary people can’t pronounce let alone know what they are. That should be a big, red flag. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, let alone know what it is, WHY are you putting it in your body?

While reading the label, check out the warning label. When a drink has to put warning labels on the cans, that should be the ultimate red flag. The warnings say not to drink more than 48 ounces a day, meaning 24 hours. In Australia, the warning labels say no more than 16 ounces a day! This is just for the energy drinks. What people don’t realize, they also need to add their total caffeine consumption. That includes the coffee, tea, soda and chocolate they have eaten throughout the day. When taken in high doses, caffeine can cause heart arrhythmia, leading to death.

There is also the DEADLY problem of drinking energy drinks with prescribed medications. The group most likely to end up in the ER for energy drink/pharmaceutical combinations are women aged 18-39. The type of prescription drugs associated with the highest number of cases were central nervous system stimulants such as Ritalin and other drugs used for ADHD, narcolepsy and appetite reduction. Followed by painkillers and drugs used to treat anxiety or insomnia. Some of the early symptoms of a caffeine over dose are: Jitters, restlessness and nervousness. Increased heartbeat. Nausea. Anxiety. Heart palpitations. Insomnia. Sweating. Dizziness. Vomiting. Cardiac arrest.

So how much is too much? The recommended safe dosage guidelines say a single dose between 250-500 mg could produce some mild to moderate symptoms. Which means for a 150 person, your maximum caffeine total would be about 2.5 (8ounce) cups of coffee a day. As for energy drinks, it depends on what kind you drink, but a safe amount would be 2.5 (16 ounce) cans a day.

Energy drink consumption over time can cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms. For energy drink “addicts” an unfortunate cycle can form. Such as, people that take prescription drugs for pain, the drugs can make them sleepy, so they drink energy drinks in large amounts to stay awake which in turn sends them seeking meds to help them sleep. Too many times, Drs. don’t realize the problem are from energy drinks and will prescribe medications instead of getting to the heart of the matter.

Not only does this cycle exist, people with high blood pressure, heart problems, on birth control, thyroid problems, prone to seizures, diabetes, suffering from depression, pregnant, and many more medical conditions should stay away from energy drinks. Make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist how energy drinks will affect your medications. Make sure you are honest and tell them exactly how much and what kind of drinks you use. Some of the ingredients in the energy drink can have deadly side effects when combined with your medications.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your morning coffee or your afternoon tea. Taken in moderation, caffeine is quite harmless. On the other hand, drinking an outstanding number of high energy drinks can lead to all sorts of complications, especially if you are taking medications.

If you happen to fall into this over indulgence of energy drinks, please try to cut down. Unfortunately, cutting back will take time as there are withdrawal symptoms associated with caffeine. So, take it slow. Start eating healthy, exercise and by all means get some sleep!! We all want you around for years to come!

Stay safe, stay healthy


The Great Migration

March is finally upon us.  Unfortunately, here in Nebraska, Spring is a little late in coming.  The cold and snow is slowing down the one of the biggest shows the state has to offer which is,  the migration of the sandhills cranes.

For those that don’t know about the migration, each year 650,000 cranes will come across Nebraska and rest near Kearney.  It is an AMAZING sight. If you like birdwatching you need to make a trip to the Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon. The first time I saw the magnitude of these birds I was in awe.  The sky is literally filled with birds and the sound is unbelievable.

The Rowe Sanctuary also has guided outdoor viewing of the birds.  The best time to see the birds are at sunrise and sunset. I was fortunate to view them on a beautiful, Spring evening.  The Nebraska sunset was outstanding with its colors of orange, yellows and red. Seeing the birds circling above as they landed in the river was like watching a tornado.  It was mesmerizing and really touched your soul.

Along with the sandhills cranes, you might get lucky enough to see a few of the rare Whooping cranes.  These birds are starting to make a come back after being on the endangered list. I’m happy to say that to numbers of the Whooping crane have gone from only 15 in the 1940’s to around 600 now.  

Along with the Cranes, you will see Canadian geese, snow geese, and ducks of all kinds.  If you are lucky, you will also get to see the king of the birds…the bald eagle.

Bald eagles have made a tremendous come back since they were on the endangered list in 1978.  It was estimated there were less than 400 breeding pairs. When the eagles were taken off the endangered and threatened list in 2007, there were more than 9000 breeding pairs!

The Bald Eagles migrate to Nebraska from October to May.  I have seen quite a few around my area. They are a wondrous sight.  The eagles like to stay close to open water where they are close to a food supply.  One place that you can visit is the J-2 Hydro plant south of Lexington Nebraska. The best time of the year to view the eagles are February and March.  

If you happen to be traveling through Nebraska soon, make sure you stop in and check the Rowe Sanctuary or the Hydro Plant.  You can also visit the Game and Parks website for more information

You will be amazed at the beauty of nature.


Fibromyalgia, it’s a pain!!

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Are you all tired of winter? I hate when winter hangs on this long. I am so ready for Spring and the warm weather. One good thing is that it is February and soon the weather will warm up and we can put all this snow and cold behind us. Until then, we have to endure all the cold and snow.

Along with all the cold, not only are there flu and colds to contend with, there are other ailments that seem to pop up with the changing of the weather. Things like arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression and other diseases.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 10 years ago. It started out with just the pressure point pain in the shoulders, knees, elbows and hips. There were days when I could hardly get out of the chair. I went to a specialist and he prescribed Cymbalta, which was a blessing! I actually was able to get a job and enjoy life again.

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I thought that was all there was to the disease since the Dr. never filled me in on what was to be expected. Over the years, I thought I was just getting old or that my symptoms were just in my head. I have been doing a little research and I found out that I’m not going crazy!!

For years, I have had a terrible time driving at night. The glare from the street lights and car lights almost blind me. I have been to the eye doctor, there is nothing that should cause my night blindness. Research shows this is a symptom.

Fibo fog is a REAL problem for me! I thought I was getting Alzheimer’s disease. No one can imagine the embarrassment you feel when you look at a co-worker and can’t remember their name! Or when you are at a meeting and start talking and suddenly, you find yourself searching for words. Then, there are times when I try to say something or even order a meal and the words come out completely different than what I mean!! Thank goodness my husband was with me when I ordered my food or I would have had something I didn’t like!

Over the years, I would get a stabbing pain in my foot. It felt as if someone lit a match and put the flame on my toes. I would start stomping my foot as to put the fire out but it didn’t help. My husband would look at me as it I were from Mars! I couldn’t figure out why I had this pain. And as for wearing shoes, forget it! I have a closet full of new dress shoes that I can’t wear. I even have different brands of tennis shoes that hurt my feet. Luckily, I found a pair of shoes that I wear with everything. Not the most glamorous shoe, but, you do what you have to do!

Most of the time I go barefoot, but, that can be like the princess and the pea. If I happen to step on a pebble or even some piece of a crumb the dogs brought in, the pain can bring me down. This is coming from a kid that lived on a farm and could cross hot gravel to get to the barn 10 times a day without flinching!

Then there is the pain and stiffness in your hands. Somedays, I drop everything I pick up! I get so frustrated! Or, when I go to write something down, I always hope my fingers will work. There are times, I have perfect handwriting, other days, it looks like chicken scratches! I have been known to make up grocery lists and when I get to the store, I can’t read my own writing!

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I have come across a new symptom recently. That is ear trouble. Yes, I’m retirement age and hearing loss is normal, right? Well, after doing my research, I discovered, fibromyalgia can affect your ears. I use to LOVE listening to music, but, now it just sounds like a bunch of screaming to me. There also seems to be one note especially that sends me running to turn off the radio. I’m not a musician, so, I can’t tell you what note, but, it’s in most songs! That leads me to T.V., most commercials have the loud music. My family has a hard time understanding why I sit in silence most of the time.

Oh, and if you are like me, you suffer from low energy. With all these cold fronts moving in, there are times when it takes all my strength just to get out of bed in the mornings. Some days getting dressed is about all I can do. But, on a good day, I can get more done than a normal person!

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If you happen to have any of these symptoms, do your own research. I’ve been to several doctors and a specialist and none of them had any answers. They look at me funny and just say Hmmmm. Like I said, I have been doing the research and have found out that I’m not crazy, these symptoms are real! Now, to get family and friends to realize you have a problem is something else!!

Good luck to all you sufferers. I definitely feel your pain! If you have any comments on dealing with your pain, I’d like to hear from you!!

Take care


Watch out! There maybe something lurking in that salad!

Hi Everyone! Thanks for checking in!

Today I want to talk about hidden calories. As we have all heard America is the home of the free and obese! Kids and adults seem to be gaining weight faster than ever before….why?

Being in the nutrition field, I have always known that calories hide in the most unusual places, but, when my husband came down with type 2 diabetes, I was really blown away! I was so busy taking care of other people, I let our own diet slide. It’s so easy to grab a frozen pizza or go grab a burger and fries on those days when you just don’t feel like cooking.

As for hidden calories, let’s start out with coffee. How many of us love flavored coffee? ME!!! Do you realize that a 16 ounce cup of caffe mocha is almost 300 calories? Do you know, it only takes 3500 extra calories a week to gain a pound? Just drinking 2 cups of mocha coffee a day for 5 days you will gain one pound. That famous breakfast sandwich of sausage, egg and cheese….a whopping 590 calories! The coffee and sandwich are almost half of your daily calories.

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Ok so, now you think, l’ll just get a salad for lunch. Hate to tell you, but, that salad can have just as many calories as a burger and fries. For instance, a salad with bacon and crispy chicken is 480 calories and that’s WITHOUT the dressing. A southwest salad can be as much as 520 calories. Talk about hidden calories! Add a soda and there is 200 extra calories for a 16 ounce drink. Don’t forget to count the extra calories in the refill before you leave. You now have had your 2000 daily calories not to mention fat and sodium.

Also, don’t get side tracked with fish sandwiches. I thought I was doing the right thing by ordering a fish sandwich, after all, it’s fish, it’s low calories right? WRONG!! 570 calories! Add medium fries and soda to that and it’s ends up being another 1200 calories to the day.

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What if someone happens to bring in donuts for the 3 o’clock meeting? Naturally, you go in and grab one. 200 calories! Ah, but today, you think you’ll be smart and eat the protein granola bar. It’s healthy right? Granola bars are not much better than a candy bar. There can be 200 calories in that little bar and it is loaded with sodium.

With this type of eating, you have gained, 2 and a half pounds this week alone! So? What is the answer? Learn how to cook and follow healthy guidelines!!

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I have a funny but sad little story. When I was working as a cook in the local school, we had a little boy in first grade come through the line. We were having chicken as the main dish. When I placed a chicken leg on his tray, he wrinkled up his face and then looked up at me and said, what is this? It’s chicken, I replied. He looked at it again, and said, no it’s not. This has a bone. Chicken doesn’t have bones!! All of us cooks looked at each other as he walked away to the table and just couldn’t believe the little boy never had chicken….just nuggets.

What is even more sad, while working as a nutrition director at the nursing home, I went through so many people that couldn’t cook. People are relying too much on pre-packaged food!

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If you could make 2 strips of bacon, an egg and toast/butter for breakfast, you would be around 300 calories compared to the 590 calorie breakfast sandwich. Take your own coffee. If you have to have it flavored, there is 40 calories in a single serving of French vanilla. You just cut out almost 700 calories! Not to mention you just saved some bucks!!

If you have to have soda, go diet. Salad dressing, once again diet dressing or opt for oil and vinegar. Eat fresh fruit or vegetables instead of donuts, granola bars or candy. If you have to have chocolate, go dark chocolate.

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I’m not saying not to eat fast foods, just don’t make it an everyday thing. Moderation is the key. Cooking isn’t that hard and you might find out it can be enjoyable. Get your family involved. Let’s get living healthy again!

If you need any help in changing you diet, feel free to contact me.


Burning Bridges and Seeking New Frontiers

Hi Everyone!!

Well, it’s almost the end of January! I can’t say that I will be sad to see this month end! January is always a cold and desolate month here on the prairie. At least we have been free of the snow that has blown in the eastern states!

When the winter starts to get me down, I do find relief in raising plants! It must be the farm girl in me. When the landscape is brown and snowy, I long for fresh, green plants and flowers. While sitting at the table, I am surrounded by sunshine and plants. There is no better combination in the world. I am lucky enough to live in Nebraska, where we have a lot of sunshine even in the winter.

Since I have retired, I have spent most of this month burning past bridges and starting to seek out new frontiers. This month, I have closed my eyes and thrown out old memories that have been hidden in my closets for years. I am looking to the future and with that, I have started redecorating my house with paint and wallpaper and soon, I am hoping to get a little more extravagant! A project that I will be working on is my office.

I have done a little reading on Feng Shui, and the main point of that is to keep your house free of clutter. I can’t tell you how many bags of garbage I have taken out to the dumpster! I still have plenty of things to re-arrange and paint to make the house more calm and peaceful, but, I can say I have a good start.

I have also cleaned out my kitchen cupboards. Yes, I had fun collecting cups from games, restaurants, and quick-shops but do I REALLY need those to keep the memories alive or are they just taking up space? Along with pots with broken handles and utensils I didn’t know I had or needed.

Also, this month, I have started on another BIG project and that is painting a barn quilt. For those who aren’t familiar, some of the housewives would paint a piece of wood like a quilt block and then hang it on the barn. Some of the quilts that were hung on the barn had special meanings, others were just decorations.

Since my husband is Swedish, I am going to make a quilt with a Swedish theme. I’ve never taken geometry so getting the angles of the blocks in proportion will be a challenge. When I get the quilt done, I will be sure to share it with you! This is what it’s suppose to look like when I’m finished.

This will be on a 4×4 foot board and hung on the shed. Instead of the horse I’m replacing it with a dala rooster.

My next project on my to do list consists of writing a children’s book. This will be just a short book for 3-5 year olds. I have a subject in mind, it’s just getting is down on paper! Once I get going, I will keep you informed. I do have a children’s book for ages 10+ in publication. If anyone is interested you can order it on Amazon or ask for it in your local book store. The title is LEGEND OF PRAIRIE ISLAND. You can check out the reviews on Amazon, just click the side panel of Amazon.

Sorry, this cover came out very dark. It’s a story about a 14 year old boy back in the 1930’s. I like to say the book takes on the Waltons meet Stephen King kind of a deal. Not that I’m saying I’m any where near the writer as Stephen King!! It just has a few twists and turns.

Well, that’s what has been happening in my life this month. I am still here to answer any nutrition questions you might have. I was going to talk about sanitation in the home and at restaurants, but, as you can see I did get a little sidetracked!! I’ll leave that for another day! I hope you all keep in touch and have a great day!

Take care!



Hi Everyone!

Can you believe today is my one year anniversary at I want to thank everyone for their support over the last year. I’ve enjoyed writing and I hope you have been enjoying the articles.

This year I’m thinking of changing things up a little. Since the site is called tablechatter, that gives us the freedom for all kinds of conversations. On my Pinterest site, the lunch lady, I get a huge following on my inspirational quote board. So, today, I thought we would touch on a quote and if you would like to comment or add what you would like to visit about that’s great!!

The quote is by Stephen Covey, and it applies to everyone. It goes like this: I am NOT a product of my circumstances. I AM a product of my decisions.

If you are stuck thinking there is no way out of your current situation or you will never get out of the rut you are in, I have found that instead of saying things like NEVER, CAN’T, or WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME, turn your thoughts around. Believe me, once you get your mind to think positive your life WILL turn around!

One thing I have learned in my life is NEVER say NEVER! Seems like whenever I think something, whether good or bad, will NEVER happen again, it has a way of happening again if you let it. Also, if you say I CAN’T do this or that, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you want something bad enough, you CAN!! As for asking WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME….stop and think. Are you SO SPECIAL that good or bad things won’t happen to you? So? What do you do to turn things around? I found this exercise helpful.





It’s a new year, a time of renewal. Clean out all that unwanted clutter physically and mentally and start the year on a POSITIVE note! You are not stuck, there are options. You CAN do anything you set your mind to even if it’s cleaning out a closet! WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME? Most likely there is going to be a new door opening, a better door. You might have to work a little harder to get to the door, but, it’s there!!

Don’t get caught up on the negative problems of the world. It’s ok to be happy!! Put a little fun in your life! If you like online shopping, maybe you would like to click on Amazon, or one of the my other affiliates!

Make it a point today to do something that will make you smile!!



The Real Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

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“Grandma, STOP!” shouted my grandson as he entered the room.  “Stop what?” I asked.  “Grandma, don’t drink that diet soda, it will KILL you!” he exclaimed.  “It’s full of aspartame!  I heard on the news it’s really, really bad for you!”

Well, it is true.  I heard something about that on the news also.  Somewhere, someone had the idea that artificial sweeteners are bad and can cause cancer and that your body can not identify the product and therefore causes all sorts of crazy things to happen to you. 

As a food and nutrition director,  I’m here to say, artificial sweeteners are safe.  They are some of the most studied and reviewed food ingredients in the world today and have passed rigorous safety assessments.  The fact is, all approved low-calorie sweeteners can be safely consumed by people with diabetes, pregnant women and children. 

I will tell you, there is one acceptation to this fact.  People suffering from a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU).  This is a rare hereditary condition in which people with PKU can not metabolize phenylalanine, which is a component of aspartame.  All products containing aspartame must carry a statement warning people with PKU of the presence of penylalanine on the label.

Ah, you say!  So there is a harmful “chemical” in aspartame.  The answer is NO.  Aspartame is made up of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  When aspartame is consumed, it’s broken down into these amino acids and a small amount of methanol in your body.  All these components are naturally found in several foods, including fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs.  

As for aspartame staying inside your body and the body will reject the “chemicals” causing all sorts of problems, truth is,  it is rapidly broken down in the small intestine.  The 3 components mentioned above, are found in much higher quantities in other foods that we eat every day.

There have also been rumors that artificial sweeteners can cause cancer.    Truth is, the National Cancer Institute has concluded that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners do not cause cancer, even among individuals with high aspartame intakes.

What is a high aspartame intake?  Let’s just say, you don’t have anything to worry about and IF you do take in more than the ADI allows, you have bigger problems!  Why do I say that?  Because, the Acceptable Daily Intake determined by the FDA is based on the highest amount a person could have EVERY DAY FOR THEIR LIFETIME without harm.  The equation is based on body weight, then divides it by 100.  Aspartame is 50mg/kg of body weight.  Example, a 165-pound person would have to consume more than 107 packets or 19 cans of soda everyday for a lifetime.  Most people consume less than 10% of the ADI.

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I’ve heard those that say, artificial sweeteners can cause food cravings and weight gain.  Research is still out on that, but, to be honest, is it the sweetener or human will power?  Let’s say, you’ve been eating crackers and diet soda for a couple of days as you try to lose weight, but then, you see a chocolate cake or that big sweet roll and binge.  Is it the sweetener drawing you to those things or the lack of healthy eating?  Whatever the case may be, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

The good news is, you don’t need to freak out about artificial sweeteners.  Since they are as much as 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar, you only need a tiny bit in your food compared to the CUPS of sugar.   We all know that sugar is the number one cause of type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.   

Now that you know a few of the facts, the choice is yours to make.

Healthy eating!!



animal ape banana cute
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Who out there remembers Harry Belafonte’s song Day-o?  You know…Come, mister tally man, tally me banana, daylight come and me wan’ go home!  Or the ever popular song written in 1923, ….Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today!!  Then there is always the poor guy in the movies that slips on a banana peel and gets a big laugh.  In the 60’s “going bananas” became a popular pop phrase for going crazy.

So? Why is the banana such a popular fruit?  Mostly because it is one of the most affordable (cheapest) fruits you can buy.  Not only that, the banana is one of the healthiest foods you can eat.  Plus, the banana is so versatile.  The once sought after delicacy that originated in India, has become an everyday experience from banana splits to smoothies and everything in between.

flatlay photography of bread and fruits
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Bananas are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, folate, niacin, riboflavin and B6.

Bananas are also loaded with soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.  The soluble fiber helps to slow down digestion and keep you feeling full for a longer period of time.  Also, bananas feed your healthy gut bacteria which may safeguard against colon cancer!  So if you are trying to stay healthy or lose weight, grab a banana.  At 100 calories each, what are you waiting for?

The potassium in a banana makes this a super fruit.  Potassium is good for your body in helping to regulate your heartbeat, blood pressure and keeps your brain alert.  Potassium is also beneficial for healthy kidneys.  Studies have shown that people eating bananas 4-6 times a week are almost 50% less likely to develop kidney disease.

If you are suffering from anemia and have symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and paleness, bananas can also help.  They are high in iron.

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Eating a banana may help reduce exercise related muscle cramps and soreness.  Before you head out for that next marathon, you might want to grab a banana or two!!

Another good thing about bananas, they rarely contain any pesticides due to the thick peel.

banana fruit close up photography
Photo by Luis Quintero on

The next time you go shopping, make sure you grab a bunch of bananas.  You’ll be glad you did!!  If by chance you bought too many and they started getting too ripe.  Try making them into bread.  It’s easy to make and SO delicious!  Check out the recipe below.

Banana Bread

In a large bowl combine,  2 cups all-purpose flour,  1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  In a separate bowl, cream 1/2 cup of butter, and 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Stir in 2 beaten eggs and 2 1/3 cups of mashed bananas.  Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture.  Stir to moisten.  Pour batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.  Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 60-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Here’s to good health and happy eating!






Life is about moments

person picking food on tray
Photo by Craig Adderley on

Well, we made it through the first phase of the holiday season.  I don’t know about you, but, I’m still feeling the effects of the sugar cookies, pies, stuffing and turkey!  Yes, I know, I write about staying on a healthy diet, but, what can I say?  I’m a sucker for all the yummy things!

I do know that it’s hard to think about eating healthy this time of year.  With work, and running from one store to another, fighting crowds, not finding what you want, getting frustrated with parking and customer service, who wants to go home and cook?  It’s okay, you can head to the nearest fast food place for a burger or try out that new ice cream concoction!  YES, you do NEED a break, right?  Sure, it’s Christmas.  It’s okay to indulge a little.  Life is short after-all.  It’s not like one double burger with bacon, large order of fries, topped off with a large mint mocha shake is going to hurt just this once!  As long as it is “just this once”!

Too often when we fall off the healthy wagon, we forget to hop back on.  When you DO (notice I said DO and not IF), fall off the wagon, don’t roll down into that pit of despair and start thinking you’ve blown everything you’ve been working for all year.  Remember, tomorrow is another day.  Don’t feel guilty about what you ate yesterday.  Guilt will trigger you to eat that large pizza or extra box of chocolates.  Don’t let that happen!  You have worked to hard for where you are now.  Take a deep breath and continue on your path to healthy eating.  Believe me, you will be fine!

photo of woman looking at the mirror
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I must say, for me, over-indulging did serve a purpose.  I can’t even look at a cookie right now!  Yesterday, I pulled my stationary bike out of the closet and pedaled for half an hour.  Maybe that isn’t much to some of you die-hards, but, for me, it was a huge work-out!  Today, the weather is warmer, I’m planning on taking my dogs for a walk.  The main thing is not to give up on yourself.  Now go look in the mirror and give that person a smile.  You got this!