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February 2018

Start now for year of good eating

2018 number with fruits as shape of the numberMarch is National Nutrition Month, but good habits you start now can last all year. UHS Clinical Nutrition Coordinator Jaclyn Zindell, RD, CDN, and the UHS Clinical Nutrition staff offer some advice about healthful eating and meal planning.

“The top barriers I hear about related to healthy eating are expense and time,” says Ms. Zindell. She explains that many inexpensive staples - such as dried beans, frozen fruits and vegetables and brown rice - also fall into the healthful category. Meal planning in advance enables economical shopping and eliminates last-minute stress about missing ingredients or the temptation to have a less-healthful but faster meal alternative.

Eating well is also about moderation - every day can’t be three meals of salads and quinoa. “Saying you can never, ever have your grandma’s macaroni-and-cheese again isn’t realistic," notes Clinical Dietitian Kelvin Lee, MS, RD, CDN. "Moderation and portion control are key. Paying attention to possible substitutions, such as items labeled 'low,' 'reduced' or '- free,' can make a beloved family dinner less of a calorie or sodium bomb." Substitutions can also be made in baking. A simple web search can highlight possible replacements for fats, oils, eggs, sugar and other ingredients.

The Clinical Nutrition staff’s best added advice?

  • Make a grocery list and stick to it. Don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach.
  • Stock your house with fruits, veggies and healthful snacks you can grab on the go, such as unsalted nuts, dark chocolate, Greek yogurt, and fruits and vegetables.

Once you have your meal plan and have shopped for your ingredients, don’t forget about portion control. The "My Plate" method (visit for details) is an easy way to think about what and how much you should be eating, without the need for measuring cups or a scale.

Says Kelvin Lee, “Think of a standard dinner plate: As long as you make half the plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter starch/carbohydrates, and a quarter proteins, it acts as a natural measuring device.”

Jaclyn Zindell also recommends keeping serving bowls off the dinner table to reduce the temptation for seconds. When eating out, ask for a takeout container as soon as your meal arrives and separate half to take home before you even start eating. To expand your understanding of calories, exercise and their impact on your overall health, check out an app like "My Fitness Pal," which can help track food intake and exercise.

Overall, healthful eating isn’t about a short-term fad diet or giving up everything you love. It's about making good choices and incorporating foods you love into a sustainable lifestyle plan.

To learn more about how to "Go Further With Food" (this year’s National Nutrition Week theme), stop by UHS during the month of March. Staff and visitors can pick up informational handouts at displays in the lobby at UHS Wilson Medical Center and in the cafeteria at UHS Binghamton General Hospital, or click here.

Put family medical history in writing

magnifying glass focusing on the words family history on a document"Genetics is not always about blood tests and technology,” explains Luba Djurdjinovic, MS, executive director of the Ferre Institute and director of genetic programs for the NYS Teratogen Information Service. “It’s as much about writing down your family’s health history, being aware of past medical patterns and partnering with your healthcare provider to look for chronic health issues that might suggest an inherited predisposition."

If your doctor sees clues that certain illnesses run in your family, technology comes back into the game, with additional care or screenings to minimize, postpone or prevent the onset of certain diseases.

Family get-togethers are a great time to ask relatives about your family’s health history. Your doctor will be looking for at least two relatives diagnosed before the age of 50 with the same disease. A family health history should include as much of the following information as possible:

  • Collect health information for three generations of relatives, including parents, children, siblings, nieces/nephews, aunts/uncles, cousins and grandparents.
  • Include all significant medical issues for each relative, such as birth defects, learning problems/delays, intellectual disabilities and chronic medical conditions. Be sure to include diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Note the age when first diagnosed. This is essential, since diagnoses at or beyond 50 years of age weaken any link to genetic predisposition and may be due more to the natural aging process.
  • Add details about disease type. Try to go beyond recording that a cousin had “breast cancer.” You want to also note if the cancer spread, if it was in one or both breasts, the tumor type and any additional known specifics.
  • Talk about your family’s health history with as many relatives as possible. You may hear different stories, which can be the root of family health myths, or you may gain “secret” medical information, which previous generations chose not to discuss.
  • Designate a family medical history record-keeper. This gives relatives one resource where they can deliver and retrieve family health information. It also promotes a comprehensive family medical record that can be passed on to future generations.

UHS health experts note that a family health history is a tool, not a magic bullet. Always discuss the comparative significance of the history with your healthcare provider before jumping to conclusions.

Take athletic performance to the next level

Men's legs with workout gear around their anklesIf you're a student athlete or know one who could benefit from focused strength conditioning under the direction of medical experts, a sports performance academy may be just the ticket.

At a performance center, physiologists and other specially trained coaches work with athletes to maintain performance, decrease the risk of injury and move to the next level of fitness.

The UHS Sports Performance Academy is part of Sports Medicine at the UHS Orthopedic Center, located at 4433 Vestal Parkway East, across from the campus of Binghamton University.

UHS Sports Performance Academy offers strength-and-conditioning contracts to high schools in the region, with sports performance coaches assigned to work directly with students to help them achieve new fitness levels.

Other Sports Medicine services include a bridge program to help athletes return to vigorous activity following an injury, as well as programs specializing in athletic training, hand therapy, physical therapy and concussion care.

To learn more about performance coaching offered to local schools by UHS Sports Medicine, click here for student testimonials.