HSA for America

How to Get More from Your Diet and Your Health Care Provider

October 3, 2011
Vol. 7, Issue 8



It's hard to believe that it's already October. For my third-grader, Wiley IV, that means Halloween time. With my Masters in Nutrition, I know that our food choices are our strongest defense against disease. I cringed at the thought of that inevitable avalanche of sweets, until I realized that Halloween is the perfect time to teach him how to eat for the rest of his life.

How to Tame Cravings without a Whip

Some 90,000 women who participated in one study that lasted for 20 years showed just how important it is to pay attention to the amount of sugar we consume. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, those who drank more than two servings of sugary beverages a day had up to a 40-percent higher risk of heart disease than women who drank fewer sweet drinks.

The Harvard researchers also cited clinical studies linking fruit juice and soda to type 2 diabetes and obesity. That's right - the sugar content of fruit juice can be the same or higher than that of soda. Fruit juice has been stripped of fiber and a broad range of nutrients, so it's a concentrated source of sugar that elevates blood sugar more quickly than whole fruit.

Cut the Sugar - Defeat the Cravings

The researchers point out that replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners just continues to fuel our desire for something sweet. Trying to give it up "cold turkey" can dial up the cravings, too. Here are five tips to help you take control of your diet and your health:

Turn off hunger before you're tempted. Before your kids go trick-or-treating, or you to the grocery store, have a healthy, tasty meal. Junk food won't look as irresistible then.

Pay attention to how much you're eating. Don't let Halloween "loot" linger in your child's room, and don't fill the kitchen cabinet or frig with junk food. It's too easy in over indulge when it's that handy.

Set reasonable limits. Don't elevate sweets to "forbidden fruit" status. Schedule a time to indulge a little (let your child pick a few of their favorite Halloween treats). Plan it after meals (so sweets don't get in the way of healthy eating) and right before tooth brushing. (Help children brush until age 7 or 8, and then just supervise, but continue to remind older children to brush and floss.)

Set a good example. Buy your Halloween treats at the last minute and get rid of any left overs by freezing them for later use or donating them to a food bank. Offer small bags of popcorn, pretzels or trail mix, and non-food treats like fake teeth, stickers, temporary tattoos, or little games and toys to trick-or-treaters. Avoid choking hazards with very young children, though.

Learn to enjoy other things besides food. Refrigerators should probably come with this motto stamped on the door. If your child gets too many Halloween treats or is already overweight, suggest donating some of the candy to a food bank and then going to an arcade or some other place that's fun. Don't let food become your only source of comfort or reward.

Eat to live, instead of living to eat,
And you'll probably be rewarded with a longer life
And more memories than pounds.

Consumer Reports on Health Care

Helpful tips from experts make it easier to take control of a "sweet tooth," and there's also expert advice to help you get more from health care. You're probably familiar with Consumer Reports. That's the magazine that has tested and published how consumer products compare for quality and cost for more than 70 years.

They've expanded to evaluate health care so patients can make informed decisions about health care providers and services just like they do about any other major purchase. The Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center was established to offer unbiased (they're independent from the medical industry) analyses and ratings of health services, medical devices, prescription drugs and patient experiences.

The center advertises that it works with experts and information sources that adhere to Consumers Union's principles and standards. That means they provide current information, good quality evidence and transparent methodologies. It also requires rigorous internal review by their doctors, health researchers and statisticians, along with continuous evaluation of their ratings efforts from focus groups and feedback methods like surveys.

More than five million subscribers (online and print) can be polled in surveys and Consumer Reports says that tens of thousands of subscribers typically respond. They also survey health-care professionals and nationally representative samples, and the surveys are not commissioned or funded by academia, big media, government or industry.

Monthly readership surveys and broader market research determine their topics, which include alternative medicine, hospitals, insurance plans, mental health and pharmacies. Their hospital ratings, for example, include data on approaches to chronic care, infections and patient experience. They also investigate practical topics like how to diet successfully and which retailers have the best price and service on eyeglasses.

A subscription to Consumer Reports magazine is $29 for a year, but public libraries often carry the magazine, too. I believe that better information sources are the basis of well-informed decisions, and that's the best way to protect health and preserve wealth. Until next month, I'll be looking for more ideas that can help you improve your health at a reasonable cost.


To your health and wealth!

Wiley Long
President - HSA for America


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