Summer Fun

sandcastle on the beachThe grill has been pulled out of hibernation and pressed into service for the first of many backyard BBQs.  Kids, reveling in their freedom from books and classrooms, chase after the ice cream truck as it makes its afternoon rounds through the neighborhood.  Yup, summer has arrived; time to hit the beach, drive with the windows open and spend time with friends and family on vacation or weekend getaway.  The start of summer is brimming with anticipation and potential for fun outdoor activities, but there are a few things to consider as you enjoy these fun and carefree days.    

The first and most important thing to remember is it can get HOT!  This may sound like stating the obvious but it’s very easy to underestimate the effect hot weather has on our bodies.  High heat and humidity make it difficult for the body to cool itself properly, a risk factor for developing a heat-related illness like heat exhaustion.  Warmer weather can also affect blood glucose levels, so you may find you need to test more often as the weather heats up.  You’ll also want to protect your testing supplies and medications (including insulin) from extreme temperatures—never leave them in a hot car or trunk when traveling—and out of direct sunlight. 

Dehydration also becomes a concern when the temperature rises.  We lose a lot of fluid through sweating, so stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day (stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol, though).  Also, try to limit outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.  Exercising somewhere with air conditioning is best on hot days, but if you prefer exercising outdoors go out either in the early morning or in the evening when it’s a bit cooler. 

Beaches and pools are popular summertime destinations.  But while you’re cooling off by the water, it’s still important to keep your feet protected from sharp rocks, shells and other debris.  Wear a comfortable pair of beach shoes while walking and avoid crossing hot sand or pavement with bare feet.  And always, whether you’re at the beach or in your own back yard, wear sunscreen!  Sunburns can raise blood sugar, and blistered or peeling skin can potentially become infected.  Keep your skin protected from sunburn (as well as other harmful effects of sun) by applying sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 to any exposed skin before going outside (including face, neck and tops of feet) and reapply throughout the day, especially after spending time in the water.     

Hope everyone has a safe and happy summer!

(Information reviewed by MGH Diabetes Center)

Summer Poll

There’s always so much to do during summer.  What are you looking forward to the most this season?   

Nutrition, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient Is…Arugula

Spatula on an orange backgroundHave you ever watched Food Network show Iron Chef?  It’s a competition between two chefs to create several gourmet dishes in an hour.  The catch is each dish has to feature a secret ingredient revealed just prior to starting the competition.  The idea of a secret ingredient is the inspiration of this new series.  Each month, we’ll profile a different food item or “secret ingredient” and discuss some of their health benefits, unique characteristics and preparation tips.  Some may be brand new, while others are old favorites.  If you’ve ever wondered what is that? we hope this will be the place to have your questions answered.  We welcome you to leave suggestions for future “secret ingredients” in the comments section. 

We’ll begin our series by profiling arugula. 

Arugula is a dark green leafy vegetable originally from Europe and the Mediterranean.  Although similar to lettuce or spinach, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.  

Most often served raw in salad, you can sometimes find arugula in packages of salad mixes in the supermarket’s produce section.  Unlike iceberg lettuce and other mild tasting salad greens, though, this green veggie has a distinctive strong peppery flavor.  When cooked, arugula wilts down much like spinach and can be added to soups and healthy pasta dishes.   

As with other brightly colored vegetables, arugula is a good source of important vitamins and nutrients.  In particular arugula is a good source of vitamin A, an important vitamin for maintaining eye health, and vitamin C which helps support the immune system. 

The balanced plate guide for healthy eating recommends devoting half your plate to vegetables.  But remember also to include a variety of colors with each meal to get a good assortment of nutrients in your diet.  Each food “color group” contains a number of nutrients beneficial for maintaining health and wellness.

Information reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department
Nutrition, recipes

Easy Summer Salad

 Spices and measuring spoonsA light crisp salad can be the perfect meal on a hot summer day.  This healthy, modern take on a classic summer lunch is courtesy of MGH’s Nutrition & Food Services Department 

Chicken Cilantro Salad

2-4 oz cooked chicken breasts, shredded or cubed
2 tablespoons almonds, slivered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons jalapeño peppers
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (if fresh is not available, 1 teaspoon of dried can be substituted)
¼ cup light sour cream
¼ cup yogurt, plain, fat free
½ cup roasted red peppers, diced
Salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp is used to calculate the sodium content of the recipe)

Use leftover chicken or cook chicken ahead of time and chill thoroughly before serving. Pull chicken apart using hands or dice into small cubes. Mix all ingredients, except chicken, and combine well. Add chicken to mixture and stir to combine. Serve on 100% whole wheat bread, lettuce cups or a bed of mixed spring greens (also known as mesclun greens).
Yield: 16 ounces (4 servings)

SODIUM: 273mg
FAT: 7.5g Sat Fat: 1.5g


Warm Up, Cool Down

Young woman stretchingRegular exercise has a number of benefits for overall health and wellness.  It can help with reducing stress, strengthening the heart and bones, and is a key factor in weight loss and management (to name just a few).  Regular physical activity also plays a role in helping to control blood sugar.  But did you know that what you do immediately before and after exercise, regardless of the activity you choose, is just as important as the exercise itself? 

Before starting your exercise session, it’s best to do a warm up.  It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous—in fact it shouldn’t be.  The purpose of a warm up is to prepare the body for more strenuous exercise by raising the heart rate slightly and increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles.  A low-impact version of the activity you’ll be doing (i.e. walking and jogging before going for a run) is a perfectly acceptable way to warm up, as is using a foam roller.  How long you warm up varies by individual and activity, but a good guideline is 5-10 minutes before starting more strenuous exercise. 

In addition to getting the body ready to move, warming up properly can help prevent injury and improve performance.  Think about it this way:  an elastic band kept in a desk drawer is easier to stretch and less likely to break than one that’s been in the refrigerator.  Your muscles are just like that elastic band; warming up makes the muscles (as well as ligaments—the connective tissues in joints) more flexible and respond to commands more efficiently. 

A cool down is like a warm up, except in reverse.  Where the purpose of a warm up is to increase blood flow and body temperature, a cool down brings the heart rate and breathing back down to resting.  Gradually slowing down your activity level can also prevent feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness that’s caused by blood pooling in the legs and feet (which sometimes happens when you stop exercising suddenly).  Just like a warm up, the length of time spent doing a cool down varies by individual but the general recommendation is again about 5-10 minutes. 

Granted, sometimes it can be difficult to find the time to exercise period, let alone add extra time at the beginning or end.  Diving right in might seem like a good shortcut, but taking the time to warm up and cool down properly is better for your body and can help get the most out of your workout.  In short, that “extra” time is time well spent. 

 Finally, a few reminders: consult your health care provider before starting an exercise program, monitor your blood sugar and keep a snack or fast acting glucose on hand in case of lows.

(Information reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park)