Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Plan for Medical Expenses During the Year

Dorothy Wheaton, PA-C 

Unexpected bills can wreak havoc on our lives, both financially and emotionally.  Most of us live on a budget and we plan out the year with expected and unexpected bills such as school, car repairs, and home repairs.  However, many of us do not plan for medical expenses.  There are many things we can do to help ourselves and loved ones with unexpected medical expenses.  There are two steps that can be taken to limit exposure to unplanned medical expenses.

Step 1 – Financial planning  
The first step is financially planning and preparing for medical expenses.  Some medical expenses may be eligible to receive various tax breaks. 

Tax Deductions
When preparing your taxes, remember that if your total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your gross income, it can be deducted as part of itemized deductions.

Flexible spending accounts (FSA)
Check to see if you are eligible to set up an FSA through your employer.  This is an excellent way to plan for medical procedures.  FSA’s allow you to save money using payroll deductions and the money comes out pre-tax lowering your overall income and reducing your taxable income.  The only catch is that you have to really try and plan exactly how much you will spend, since excess funds are lost at the end of the year.

Health reimbursement accounts (HRA)
Some employers offer an employee benefit whereby the employer will reimburse an employee for medical expenses. Most HRA reimbursements are tax-free. 

Health savings accounts (HSA)
Individuals can set up a  health savings account  (HSA), either themselves or through a group plan with their employer. HSAs, like FSAs, are a pre-tax savings account. Unlike FSAs, health savings plans do not have a "use-it-or-lose-it" feature for accumulated savings. Health savings account holders can use their savings funds to pay for medical expenses on a tax-free basis. 

Step 2 - Life Style Changes 
The second step in preparing for medical costs is living a healthier lifestyle.  A healthy lifestyle is crucial to saving money in medical costs down the road.  A large number of the most expensive and/or chronic medical conditions are a direct result of being overweight or engaging in unhealthy activities such as smoking.  Many of us have bad habits, that quitting alone would free up extra money for unplanned expenses, such as drinking or cigarette smoking. Making a real effort to start going to the gym more, to reducing the intake of fatty foods and quitting smoking or excess alcohol consumption can lead to huge savings both in medical expenses and the cost saved on not spending on those vices.  If you have multiple vices start small, pick one and go from there. 

Walk, jog, run…just do something
Maybe you are 25 pounds overweight, you barely exercise, and your weekends consist of binge drinking and fast food.  Start with something simple, maybe a 15 minute walk after work.  After a couple of days, try a short jog.  If you have a close friend at work or a significant other get them involved with you.  It is much easier for most of us to exercise when we can make it as enjoyable as possible.  

Eating to much of the wrong things 
Instead of ordering a large sausage pizza for dinner, order a small cheese and side salad with a light dressing.  Cut back on your red meat and try adding fruits and vegetables to your diet.  Drinking little to no soda and as much water will help you feel amazingly better.  I hear people say things like, ‘I have to have my mountain dew or I will go crazy!’ This is not true; you will not go crazy without a daily dose of 20 ounces of soda.  You’re only giving yourself an excuse to stick to bad habits that cost you money and will result in poor health.

Not so fast, fast food
One of the best ways to save and limit the fast food we eat during the week is pack a lunch.  Do not make excuses, we can all make a sandwich or bring some leftovers. Try it for 2 weeks and then add the money you saved by not eating out every day at work.  

Limit your alcohol intake
Is drinking in excess your problem?  This tends to be more of an issue for the 21-35 crowds. Try changing your routine to maybe going out just one night on the weekends and then plan to do something active.   You don’t have to run marathon, but try doing something that gets you up and moving.    

Get to the doctor
Lastly, one of the easiest things we can do (but many do not) is when your sick, go to the doctor.  If you are sick or even just not feeling right, a trip to your family doctor can go a long way in the end.  

You’re probably not going to be able to utilize all of these preventative measures at first, but changing your lifestyle to account for even a few will yield results, you only get one body and you must take care of it.  Through a combination of financial planning and healthy lifestyle changes you can be well equipped to deal with or altogether prevent major healthcare expenses.

Dorothy Wheaton, PA-C, is the lead clinical provider for  Careworks Convenient Healthcare, a US company operating retail clinics and urgent care centers in the Northeast United States.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Television and Your Child's Health

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

 The average American child spends approximately 26 hours a week watching television, and 26% of children reported watching 4 or more hours of television per day (Andersen, Crespo, Bartlett, Cheskin, & Pratt, 1998). In 1961, the average age children started to watch television was 2.8 years; today, it is 9 months! (Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007). 

The first two years of children’s lives represent a critical window for neurological development. Studies show that viewing television before age 3 has been associated with attention and cognitive problems at school age (Christakis, Zimmerman, Giuseppe, et al., 2004; Zimerman, & Christakis, 2005). Even programs like Sesame Street can delay language acquisition when watched by children who are too young (Linebarger, & Walker, 2005).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 years of age watch no television, and those over the age of 2 years spend no more than 1-2 hours a day in front of the TV. These recommendations are based on the research findings showing that television has a strong influence on health. In addition, television viewing is a sedentary activity, thus contributes to less energy expenditure by children, and the rate of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents in the United States has already doubled in the last two decades.

Increased Snacking
Children watching TV are subjected to a multitude of ads promoting unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar. Research showed that television viewing of more than one hour of TV per day was associated with a much higher consumption of fast food, sweets, chips, and pizza than fruits and vegetables (Muller, Koertzinger, Mast, Langnase, & Grund, 1999).

Nationally representative data showed that the prevalence of snacking increased in all age groups over the past 20 years (Jahns, Siega-Riz, & Popkin, 2001), and although the average size of snacks and energy per snack remained relatively constant, the number of snacking occasions increased significantly; therefore, increasing the average daily energy intake. Could watching many hours of television have anything to do with the obesity epidemic in the U.S.?

Television viewing is sedentary, and children who are not physically active are at a higher risk for becoming overweight. Countless studies show a relationship between watching television and weight gain. Sedentary TV viewing displaces physical activity, decreases metabolic rate, and increases caloric intake leading to excessive weight (see Increased Snacking above).

Physical Health Problems
Overweight in childhood has been associated with a number of physical health problems, some of them immediate, and some presenting as long-term consequences and emerging in adulthood. Some of the health problems that have been contributed to obesity in childhood are high blood pressure, heart and gallbladder disease, and diabetes (Troiano et al., 1995). In addition, studies show association between obesity and severity of asthma, abnormal liver enzymes resulting from fat accumulation around the liver, and sleep apnea.

Poor Manual Dexterity
Preschool children watching television might develop inadequate manual dexterity due to the lack of activities such as playing with play dough, using plastic scissors, finger painting, playing a toy piano, etc.

Overweight affects the mental health of children and adolescents. Overweight children report negative assumptions made about them by others, including being lazy, strong, tougher than others, not having feelings, and being unclean (American Obesity Association, 1999). Because of the negative connotations of obesity, obese children are at risk to develop negative self-image that might persist into adulthood.

Observational and experimental studies reveal that television violence induces real-life aggression in children in three ways. First, repeated exposure to violence on television may desensitize children to violence. Second, watching favorite TV superheroes acting violently, may sand a message that such behaviors are acceptable, justified, and desirable. Lastly, TV violence may send a message that the world is a scary place and aggression is a form of survival.

A few decades ago, a theory was born that the rapid changes of images and sound on television may overwhelm the neurological systems of young children and lead to problems with attention later in life. Recent scientific findings reported that television viewing at age 1-3 years is associated with ADHD at age 7 years (Christakis, Zimmerman, Giuseppe, et al., 2004). Researchers found that watching 5 hours of TV per day at age 1 year was associated with a 28% increase in the likelihood of having ADHD at age 7 year.

Risk-Taking Behaviors
Television portrays many risky behaviors. Countless movies are filled with images of drinking, cigarette smoking, and obscene language. Ads marketing beer are prominent and send a message that “cool people” drink alcohol, thus influencing pre-teens’ and teens’ attitudes toward drinking. Several studies showed that the more exposure teens had to alcohol and cigarettes on television, the more likely they were to engage in drinking and/or smoking.

Intimate relationships shown on television often portray sex as an inconsequential behavior, or a game. Rarely, shows mention the need for protection, or discuss the meaning of responsible sex in a context of a serious relationship.

A Note to Parents
There is no doubt television is an integral part of the 21st century life. However, it should never be taken for granted. The effects of television on children are real. Parents can use television as a tool in teaching children about various aspects of life. The key is that they exercise control of what is watched and how much time their children spend in front of the TV.

Suggestions for Healthy TV Viewing
 Have TV in a central location (not your child’s bedroom), so you can monitor the quantity and quality of programs watched
 Do not allow snacking while watching TV (or allow only fruits and vegetables)
 Watch TV together. You’ll be available to discuss what’s going on on the screen
 Teach your children to watch TV critically (TV has a point of view!)
 Reinforce positive messages of television programs, and discuss the negative ones. Television may serve as a spring board for a good family discussion and teach your children right from wrong

American Obesity Association (1999). The facts about obesity in youth [online]. (9-23-00).
Andersen, R., Crespo, C., Bartlett, S., Cheskin, L., & Pratt, M. (1998). Relationship of physical activity and television watching with body weight and level of fatness among children: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition examination Survey. JAMA, 279, 938-942.
Christakis, D., Zimmerman, F., Giuseppe, D.,et al. (2004). Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children. Pediatrics, 113(4), 708-713.
Jahns, L., Siega-Riz, A., & Popkin, B. (2001). The increased prevalence of snacking among US children from 1977 to 1996. The Journal of Pediatrics, 134(4), 493-498.
Linebarger, D., & Walker, D. (2005). Infant’s and toddler’s television viewing and language outcomes. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(5), 624-645.
Muller, M., Koertzinger, I., Mast, M., Langnase, K., & Grund, A. (1999). Physical activity and diet in 5 to 7 years old children. Public Health Nutrition, 2, 443-444.
Troiano, R., Flegal, K., Kuczmarski, R., Campbell, S. & Johnson, C. (1995). Overweight prevalence and trends for children and adolescents: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1963-1991. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 149.
Zimmerman, F., Christakis, D., & Meltzoff, A. (2007). Media viewing by children under 2 years old. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 161. Available online at:
Zimerman, F., & Christakis, D. (2005). Children’s television viewing and language outcomes: A longitudinal analysis of national data. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 159(7), 619-625. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Finger Foods for Your Baby

Cheryl Tallman
When your baby is between eight and nine months old, you can begin to introduce finger foods to encourage your baby to begin self-feeding. It is very important that the texture of finger foods be very soft, so that your baby can “gum” the foods. To get food soft enough for gumming, many of them will need to be cooked.
Examples of finger foods that can be served raw include small pieces of:
Semi-hard cheeses -- Jack, Colby, (introduce over 12 months)
“O” shaped cereal
Puffed rice cereal

Examples of cooked finger foods:
Apples slices
Pear slices
Whole asparagus spears
Carrots sticks/rounds or baby carrots
Zucchini or yellow squash rounds
Broccoli spears
Sweet potato slices or cubes
Whole green beans

To smooth the way for introducing finger foods here are few tips that may help you out:
Always feed your baby in a “seated position.” The risk of choking rises as you introduce finger foods.
Never let your baby eat foods without adult supervision.
Don’t be in a rush. Introduce finger foods one at a time and slowly add different ones.
Continue to feed your baby softly, pureed baby foods for most of the meal, and transition to more finger foods over a six- to eight-month period.
Start with foods your baby likes.

Here are few finger food recipes to help you get started with finger food fun!

Sweet Potato Cubes
Your baby will like the bright orange color and sweet taste of these little morsels. Babies have a natural sweet tooth developed from drinking breast milk or formula, which are sweet. The natural sweetness of sweet potatoes make them a favorite among babies!
Wash, peel and dice a sweet potato into small cubes about ½-inch in size. Place the cubes in microwave-safe dish, cover, and cook them in the microwave on HIGH for 5 to 7 minutes. Let them stand for 5 minutes. You'll know they are done if you can mash them with a fork.
Add a little spice in her life: Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg or ground ginger on the sweet potato cubes before you cook them for a little extra flavor.
Storage: Covered container. Stays fresh four to five days in the refrigerator or up to two months in the freezer.
Age to introduce: About nine months

Cinnamon Apple Slices
Your baby will like the sweet juicy flavor and the challenge of picking these up will help develop her fine motor skills. These are super easy to make and great for any meal or as a snack!
Wash, peel and core 1-2 golden delicious apples. Cut the apples into slices about ¼-inch thick. Place the slices of apples in plastic bag and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon over the apples slices. Close the bag and shake it up so the cinnamon is distributed evenly over all of the slices. Place the slices in a microwave safe dish and cook them in the microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Let them stand for 5 minutes. They are done if a fork slides into them easily. Cool completely before serving.
Storage: Lasts four to five days in the refrigerator or up to two months in the freezer.
Age to introduce: About nine months

Dusted Tofu Cubes
These nutritious, little cubes are fun to pick up and they taste good too! For a little variety, you can use banana instead of tofu.
1/4 teaspoon flax seed, finely ground
1-2 tablespoons of Cheerios (or other cereal) OR 2-3 graham crackers
5-6 1/2-inch cubes of firm tofu
Place ground flax seed and cereal/graham crackers in a bag and crush into crumbs. Add tofu and shake lightly to coat the tofu cubes with the crumb mixture. Serve immediately.
Age to introduce: Over 12 months (without flax seed 8-10 months)

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new bookSo Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Helping Your Teen Deal with Aggression

Adina Soclof
Children learn by example. Teenagers are no exception. If they live in a household where shouting, profanity or worse goes on, it is more likely that the teen will deal with aggression in the same manner. But even in households where these examples have not been set, many teens go through an aggressive or acting out phase.
Trying to deal with your teen in the middle of an aggressive episode is like trying to pick up leaves in a windstorm. You may need to remove your teen from the situation, but trying to reason with him/her is best left until he/she calms down.
Anger is being upset. Aggression is acting out. It is important to find out why there is so much aggression in your teen. Don’t overlook that it could be a chemical imbalance. Other reasons could be guilt, deep seeded anger, fear, feelings of betrayal, frustration, entitlement or insecurity.
In some cases outside help might be needed. Counseling at school or by a third party can, on occasion, work wonders if your child is able to openly discuss concerns with a non-biased person. At other times, you may be able to work toward a resolve with your teen as you discover that your teen harbors feelings that you didn’t even know existed.
While not acceptable, these hidden, unresolved feelings can manifest themselves in outrage. Aggression is often brought on by certain triggers. Sit down and discuss these triggers with your teen.
He may be able to tell you that when someone tells him what to do he gets furious. That’s a good starting point to figure out where the control issues are coming from. The fact is, all our life people will tell us what to do. That doesn’t stop into adulthood. There needs to be a non-aggressive outlet to channel that emotion.
While not directly dealing with the emotions, a physical outlet can certainly help. Enroll your teen in a martial arts class. There he will have an opportunity to spar in a controlled environment. He can also learn respect and discipline.
A Tae Kwon Do class may not solve all your teen’s problems, but it is a step in helping him or her deal with aggression. You may also want to try other activities such as running, cycling, dance, concentrate on their breathing and heartbeat, or even suggest that the kids bounce out their anger on a trampoline.
Whichever way your teen finds most effective is the way to go. As long as it is an acceptable way to respond and respect is always shown. Helping your teen deal with aggression now will definitely help him or her maintain control of the emotions and thoughts during tough times.
Adina Soclof is a certified speech pathologist and parent educator. Her website offers informative and inspirational parenting workshops designed to help parents create a calm, happy home.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Your Healthy Newborn

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP
So you came home with your baby. Whether it is the first-born or not, it’s always an exhilarating experience and an opportunity to learn new things everyday. Your baby probably already had the first Hepatitis B vaccine and the newborn screen at the hospital. Also, he or she already passed the hearing test. Congratulations!
There are some essential things to know when you bring your neonate home. First of all, per the hospital’s recommendations, set up a follow-up appointment with your baby’s healthcare provider (usually 3-4 days post delivery). It is important to evaluate your infant, i.e. check the weight, listen to the heart, etc. Also, you may have questions that need to be answered: prepare a list before the visit so that nothing gets forgotten. Most healthcare providers like when patients come to the appointment well prepared. It helps us address all of your needs!

Below are some important things to know about your baby from the very first day.

Your baby should respond to noise. For example, she should startle at the sound of a slamming door or a barking dog. By one month of age, she should be able to distinguish between the mom’s voice and voices of other people. However, some babies have this ability from the very first days after birth. Your baby’s vision is intact, but right now she can best see objects and faces placed 8-12 inches away from her face. Also, she does not like bright lights. Babies like to open their eyes in dim light by the adult standards.

During the first few weeks, don’t worry about schedules: your baby should eat on demand, on average every 2-4 hours. However, babies experience rapid growth spurts from time to time, and during those times they may be hungry every 1-2 hours. Just play it by ear. Also, keep in mind that your baby’s stomach is very small (about the size of her fist), so it can’t hold more than a couple of ounces at the time. If you feed your infant formula and notice excessive spit ups, decrease the amount of the formula but feed your baby a little more often. Don’t let more than four hours pass between feedings. You do not want you baby get frustrated with hunger and make the feeding experience unpleasant. At any time your breastfed or formula fed baby spits up excessively, talk to your health care provider. She may suggest a formula change or, on rare occasions, medication.

A healthy newborn should pass the first bowel movement (BM) within 36 hours after being born. After establishing a healthy BM pattern, your baby may go to the bathroom once or a few times a day, or every other day, or so. One thing to keep in minds is that not everybody has a BM every day! As long as you infant is comfortable between BMs and they do not look like pebbles, there is no reason for concern. Also, keep in mind that breast milk has much less waste than formula. Therefore, your baby may have less frequent and malodorous BMs than a formula-fed infant. Urination is a good indication of hydration. At a few days old, baby should have at least 4-5 wet diapers and work her way up to more than 6 a day!

The safest sleeping position for your baby is on her back. It decreases the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Co-sleeping of infants and parents is no longer recommended. Such sleeping arrangements create an unsafe environment for the baby who can suffocate on bedding or be crushed by a sleeping adult. Every baby should sleep in her own bassinette or crib. Smoking should not be allowed around your baby as well. Cigarette smoke exposure not only increases the risk of SIDS, but it also increases your baby’s susceptibility to catching upper respiratory tract infections. Practice measuring your baby’s temperature. Should the temperature be 100F or above, undress the infant and let her cool off. Small babies overheat easily! After 15 minutes, check the temperature again. If the temperature is still 100F or above, your baby needs to be examined by a health care provider right away. That is true until the infant is 3 month old, because until then the immune system does not know how to work efficiently and fever may be a sign of a serious illness. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Critical Skills Needed to Raise Good Kids

Raising the Kid of the Decade
Dr. Susan Bartell
It’s a new decade and if you’re like me, milestone years get you thinking…how do I want my child to grow up over the next decade and beyond? What key tools should I give my child to ensure that he becomes a caring, self-sufficient, courteous and industrious member of the community? 
In my twenty plus years working with children and parents, and also raising three kids, I have discovered that there are four critical life skills each child should develop. I hope you, too, will be impressed with their importance in your child’s character development. If you model these behaviors and help your child achieve them, the result will be a confident, well-behaved, happy child, and then a young adult who respects you, whom others respect, and who is able to achieve great success.

Frustration Tolerance is a crucial life skill to impart. You must say ‘no’ and follow through; set limits and stick to them; not give in to whining and tantrums. Young children must learn to sleep in their own beds, without extensive intervention. Teaching your child to soothe herself is a key to learning frustration tolerance. Older children must learn that they won’t get everything they want: some things will be deferred, others they may never receive. This is not deprivation; rather, it is your duty to teach your child to cope with not having his every demand met. You should role-model frustration tolerance by being patient in long lines, not yelling frequently at your child or others, and by striving until you achieve a goal.

Teach your child compassion for others, which can be done in many different ways. Ensure that your child says ‘I’m sorry’ when he injures someone or hurts their feelings—even by accident. Help him take responsibility for his own behavior by making sure you role model this. Make giving to charity an important part of your family life—by donating time or money. Look for other opportunities to make compassionate behavior a priority for your family.

Regardless of socioeconomic level, every child needs to learn the value of hard work and money. In elementary school, begin teaching your child to take pride in his work product by selectively praising your child’s artwork, and schoolwork, only when it truly reflects effort. It’s fine to tell your child that next time he should work harder. Your child will learn the value of money if you give her an allowance and then enforce the use of it to purchase items she desires, rather than buying them for her. As she gets older, increase the allowance and its spending power, while reducing your contribution to her spending. This is how she will learn to budget and save.

Finally, your child must learn to respect others. As early as possible, teach your child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,' to write thank you notes and to show all other forms of appreciation—enforce these niceties in every single situation, even with family members. Insist on polite behavior in public places. Role model this by removing your child when he doesn’t behave politely (even if it inconveniences you). Before entering a situation, advise your child of a consequence for inappropriate behavior and then follow through. Have zero tolerance for bullying, rudeness, hitting, punching or kicking—whether your child does this to you or anyone else. Enforce immediate consequences.

If you use the next decade to teach your child these four life skills, there is little doubt that he or she will become a young adult who will enter the world with confidence and in whom you will take great pride.
Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her on her website at

Friday, March 23, 2012

Budget Meal Planning

Ed Jackson
Amber S. is a stay-at-home mother of three. With only her husband's income to count on, budget meal planning has become an art form, as well as a necessity.

Amber was happy to share one of her weekly menus with us, which we've reproduced below. The first meal listed for each day is what she served her family for breakfast, the second is lunch, and the third is dinner.

Pancakes from a box mix
Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
A roast with potatoes and a canned vegetable

Amber makes a full box of pancake mix every Sunday. She freezes the extra pancakes in bags of 3. This way her children can choose pancakes or cereal every day of the week. It costs Amber less than a dollar a day for each breakfast, whether it's leftover pancakes or cereal.

Leftover pancakes from the freezer, or cereal
Mac & Cheese (3 boxes) and hot dogs with fruit
Cheesy Ham and Potatoes

For Cheesy Ham and Potatoes, Amber cooks 2 family size boxes of scalloped potatoes, according to the package directions, and then adds 1 can of canned ham, diced up. The recipe is super easy and only costs about $5.00.

Pancakes or cereal
Leftover Cheesy ham and potatoes
Spaghetti with garlic toast

Spaghetti is just a can of Hunts pasta sauce (because it's usually only $1 a can), a can of diced tomatoes, 1 pound of cooked ground beef, and 1 pound of spaghetti noodles. This meal cost Amber about $3.56.

Pancakes or cereal
Leftover spaghetti
Chicken and Rice

Click here for Amber's Chicken and Rice recipe. 

Pancakes or cereal
Leftover Chicken and rice
Beef Stroganoff

Click here for Amber's Beef Stroganoff recipe.

Pancakes or cereal
Canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Three Bean Chili

Click here for Amber's Three Bean Chili recipe.

French Toast
Leftovers (clean out the fridge day)
Spanish Rice

For Spanish Rice, Amber combines 6 cups cooked rice, diced tomatoes, canned corn, and 1 pound cooked ground beef.

Amber also shared her grocery list and prices with us.

1 box Pancake mix -- $1.27
2 loaves bread -- $2.50
1 (5 lb) roast -- $4.97
3 boxes of Mac & Cheese -- $1.79
1 package of hot dogs -- $0.99
2 family boxes of scalloped potatoes -- $2.50
1 can of canned ham -- $2.49
2 lb. box spaghetti noodles -- $1.39
1 can Hunts spaghetti sauce -- $1.00
4 cans diced tomatoes -- $0.86 ea
1 pound ground chicken -- $1.00
2 family cans cream of mushroom soup -- $1.92
1 family can cream of chicken soup -- $.96
5 pounds ground beef -- $4.95
1 bag of egg noodles -- $1.06
1 family can baked beans -- $.96
1 family can chilli beans -- $1.05
1 family can kidney beans -- $1.05
1 box of instant rice -- $1.74
10 cans of various vegetables -- $3.00
2 gallons milk -- $5.00
2 bags cereal -- $4.50

for a total of $49.53

Prices may vary depending on your location's cost of living and the types of stores available to you. But here are Amber's tips for always getting a bargain:

 Don't do your shopping all at the same store.
Amber shops at three different stores to get the best bargains: Cub Foods (which is a wholesale store like Costco or Sam's Club) for meats and canned goods (canned vegetables are on sale twice a month at Cub Foods -- 10 for $3.00!), Super Walmart for pasta, potatoes, pancake mix, cereal, family size cream of mushroom and chicken soups, and a budget store like Rainbow, Roundy's, Aldi, etc. for the rest of her necessities like bread and eggs.

 Do your research.
Amber says she always talks to the butcher in the meat section to find out when meats are going to be marked down. At Cub Foods, they knock the price of ground beef down from $1.97/lb to just $.99/lb. on Sunday mornings. Amber keeps out a pound or two of beef that she will use right away, then freezes the rest in 1.5 pound bags.

 Don't be afraid of store brands.
"There are some store brand foods that my family just won't eat," says Amber, "like Mac N Cheese--it has to be Kraft. They don't like the flavor of the other brands. But cereal and pasta, beans, canned or frozen veggies--they're all made by the same few manufacturing companies so the flavor is the same."

 Stick to your list.
Amber checks out the ads, and sets her menu based on the items that are on sale that week. She makes a list according to that menu and does not deviate from it. Adding extra impulse items will put you over your budget within seconds.

 Plan your trips.
"We do shop at three different stores," says Amber, "but we try to combine the trips so we aren't wasting a bunch of time and gas. We hit Cub Foods and Walmart on Sundays after church, because all three are within a couple miles of each other. We hit Rainbow on Monday because it's on the way to our son's preschool. Some weeks we get lucky and one store will have all the items we need for what we are willing to pay. Thats always a bonus."

 Always make enough for leftovers.
Each of Amber's recipes yield 12-14 servings. By making larger quantities, you'll have enough to feed your family at least two times, maybe three. This saves on the budget, as well as multiple trips to the store.

Check out all of Amber's recipes here: Budget Meal Recipes
Ed has a business degree and years of experience in management and marketing in both the mortgage and automotive industry. He is currently a marketing and financial consultant, and shares his financial advice with parents via He is a seasoned world traveler and loves good food.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Conjunctivitis: The Pink Eye

Anna Tielsch-Goddard CPNP-PC
The most common causes of pink or red discoloration in the conjunctiva (the clear membrane which covers the sclera, the white part of the eyes) are bacterial, viral, or allergic conjunctivitis. This condition is also known as "pink eye."
If your child has pink or red eyes, complains of itchiness, and has any sort of crust or drainage around the eyes, you should make an appointment with your child’s primary care provider (PCP) for diagnosis and treatment. Your PCP, a pediatrician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, will be able to determine whether or not the pink eye is most likely caused by a bacteria, virus, or allergies.
Pink eye usually causes sleepy crust or "a glue" in the eyes, upon awakening. If your practitioner determines that the pink eye is caused by bacteria, he or she will prescribe a topical antibiotic, usually in the form of eye drops, which will reduce your child’s symptoms, shorten the duration of the illness, and reduce the risk of contagiousness.
If your child has cold symptoms, such as a cough, runny nose, or nasal congestion, the cause of the pink eye is most likely viral. If your PCP thinks that the pink eye is caused by a virus, he or she will recommend cold compresses, artificial tears, and other symptomatic treatment.
Another type of conjunctivitis, allergic pink eye, is usually affiliated with allergies, eczema, and asthma. This type of pink eye causes itchy eyes and watery discharge. Treatment involves avoiding exposure to allergens and using artificial tears or prescription eye drops to alleviate the red eyes.
Other causes of red eyes include subconjunctival hemorrhages and blepharitis.
Subconjunctival hemorrhages are caused by broken blood vessels in the eye that cause redness in the conjunctiva. They are caused by minor trauma such as vomiting or prolonged coughing, are painless, and usually resolve on their own in 2-3 weeks.
Blepharitis, a more severe inflammation of the eyelid, may also make the eyes appear red and will usually be accompanied by a swollen eyelid or crusting in the eyelid margin. Treatment, including warm compresses and a topical antibiotic, is necessary to help with healing. In severe cases a referral to an ophthalmologist is necessary.
In all cases of pink eye, you must teach your family to practice strict hand washing and avoid sharing any personal items that might spread infection. Any time your child touches or rubs the eyes, he or she should wash hands right away or use an anti-septic hand sanitizer. Avoid sharing wash-clothes and other cleansing objects.
Contact lenses should not be worn until the infection clears up. If your child wore the lenses during the course of the pink eye, discarded them and obtain a new lens case. Cross contamination usually subsides after 24 hours of antibiotic therapy.
If you child’s red eyes do not get better in a couple of days after seeing your primary care practitioner, you should make another appointment for a re-evaluation in case there is a re-infection or another cause for the red eyes.

Cronau, H., Kankanala, R., & Mauger, T. (2010). Diagnosis and management of red eye in primary care. American Academy of Family Physicians, 81(2), 137-144.
  1. Hovding, G. (2008). Acute bacterial conjunctivitis. Acute Ophthalmologica,86(1): 5-17.
  1. Leibowitz, H. (2000). The red eye. The New England Journal of Medicine, 343 (5): 341-345.
  1. Sethurama, U., & Keepak, K. (2009). The red eye: evaluation and management.Clinical Pediatrics, 48 (6): 588-600.
Anna Tielsch-Goddard CPNP-PC is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for Children’s Medical Center Dallas at Legacy. She practices on the Perioperative Surgery teams in both presurgical assessment and pediatric-surgery.Read More >>

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Autism and Diet

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Autism is a complex developmental and neurological condition that typically appears during the first three years of life. It affects brain function, particularly in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Classic symptoms include delayed talking, lack of interest in playing with other children, not wanting to be held or cuddled, and poor eye contact. There is no known cause for autism, but both genetics and environment are believed to play a role.

Approximately one in every 150 American children has autism or a similar disorder. The number of children being diagnosed with autism is growing at a rate of 10 percent to 17 percent per year. It is four times more common in boys than in girls.
People with autism often repeat behaviors and have narrow, obsessive interests. These types of behavior can affect eating habits and food choices. This can lead to health concerns like:

•                Limited Food Selection/ Strong Food Dislikes. Someone with autism may be sensitive to the taste, smell color and/or texture foods. They may limit or totally avoid some foods and even whole groups of foods. Common dislikes include fruits, vegetables and slippery, soft foods.
•                Not Eating Enough Food. Kids with autism may have difficulty focusing on one task for an extended period of time. It may be hard for a child to sit down and eat a meal from start to finish.
•                Constipation. This problem is usually caused by a child’s limited food choices. It can be remedied through a high-fiber diet, plenty of fluids and regular physical activity.
•                Medication Interactions. Some stimulant medications used with autism, such as Ritalin, lower appetite. This can reduce the amount of food a child eats, which can affect growth. Other medications may increase appetite or affect the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. If your child takes medication, ask your health-care provider about possible side effects.

What About a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet?

Some people feel a gluten-free, casein-free diet improves the symptoms of autism. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Casein is a protein found in milk. Proponents of the diet believe people with autism have a “leaky gut,” or intestine, which allows parts of gluten and casein to seep into the bloodstream and affect the brain and central nervous system. The belief is, this may lead to autism or magnify its symptoms.

To date, controlled scientific studies have not proven this true. However, some people report relief in symptoms after following a GFCF diet. If you are considering a GFCF diet, talk with your health-care team, including a registered dietitian. There can be side effects and potential nutrient shortfalls when a GFCG diet is self-prescribed.

Working With a Registered Dietitian

Just about every child, with or without autism, can be choosy and particular about the foods he or she eats. A registered dietitian can identify any nutritional risks based on how your child eats; answer your questions about diet therapies and supplements advertised as helpful for autism; and help guide your child on how to eat well and live healthfully.

Find a Registered Dietitian.

Reprinted with permission from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Introduction to Indian Cuisine for Babies

Cheryl Tallman

Indian cuisine seeks a balance of four tastes - sweet, sour, salty and bitter. This goal is based on a 5,000 year-old science that focuses a belief that eating balanced flavors encourages proper digestion and the release of positive, nurturing energy.
The food of India reflects the great variety of Indian life.  What Indian people eat depends on the crops raised locally in their area and the ethnic and religious traditions and their lifestyles. On crowded city streets, vendors peddle a selection of tasty on-the-go food such as samosas, a vegetable (or meat) stuffed pastry. Religious affiliations also dictate Indian diets. As a result, people in India eat far less meat than do other people around the world. This emphasis on meatless dining has led to a unique cuisine of vegetarian delights.
Common Spices used in Indian Cooking:
Curry Powder (Yellow)* 
Garam Masala* 
Note: Curry Powder and Garam Masala are both Spice blends.  They can be purchased in markets or homemade using a variety of spices.
Common Foods Used in Indian Cooking:
Chick Peas 
Leafy Greens 
Winter Squashes 
Chutneys (a sweet and sour condiment)

It's simple to add a "Taste of India" to your baby's food by making Indian-inspired sauces, freezing these sauces in single-serving cubes and adding them to your baby's pureed or mashed foods.
Coconut Curry Sauce Cubes

Yellow Curry Powder is often associated with Indian cooking.  It's a blend of spices, which vary by region, food, and cooking style.  Most Indian curry powders contain turmeric, coriander and cumin. At the market, choose a curry powder labeled "mild" for this recipe.

This recipe uses coconut milk which can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket.  Coconut milk sometimes separates into a thick layer of white coconut and a watery liquid. Shaking the can before opening can recombine it, but if that doesn't work, pour the contents of the can into a blender and whirl it, or pour it into a bowl and use a whisk to blend it together.

1 (13.5 oz) can Coconut Milk 
¼ cup Chicken Broth 
¼ cup Onion, chopped 
1 Garlic Clove, chopped 
1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste 
1-2 Tsp. Curry (mild) Powder 
¼ tsp. Cinnamon 
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
Place all contents in a blender and process to smooth texture. Pour into a saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour the sauce into an ice cube tray, cover and freeze until ready to use.  

Serving: Remove a sauce cube from the freezer, defrost and combine it with pureed or mashed beans, meats rice or vegetables.  When first introducing the sauce, try a small amount and work your way up to more. Here are some delicious combinations for awesome coconut curries:
Lentils, Carrots and Apples 
Sweet Potatoes, Cauliflower and Beef 
Brown Rice, Spinach and Chicken

Apple Chutney Cubes

Chutney is a popular Indian Condiment that is made from fruits or vegetables with vinegar, spices, and sugar. It is commonly served with roasted meats or vegetables and curries.  It also makes a great snack with cream cheese and crackers.   

3 large Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, and chopped 
1/2 cup Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Golden Raisins 
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar 
1/2 cup Brown Sugar 
1 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, chopped 
1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Let cool. Pour into a blender or food processor and process to a smooth texture. Pour the sauce into an ice cube tray, cover and freeze until ready to use.  

Serving:  Remove a chutney cube from the freezer, defrost and combine it with pureed or mashed beans, meats rice or vegetables. At the beginning, try a small amount of chutney and work your way up to more. 

Here are some winning combinations for tasty chutney-infused dining:
Banana and Yogurt 
Pork, Butternut Squash and Brown Rice 
Roasted Cauliflower, White Potatoes and Black Beans 
Combine Apple Chutney with Vanilla Yogurt for great dipping sauce

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.