Archive for December, 2014

U.S. failing to meet minimal dental access standards for older adults

Monday, December 29th, 2014

The oral health of older Americans is in a state of decay, according to a new national report released by Oral Health America (OHA). A State of Decay, a state-by-state analysis of oral health care delivery and public health factors impacting the oral health of older adults, reveals more than half of the country received a “fair” or “poor” assessment when it comes to minimal standards affecting dental care access for older adults.

One reason for the decline in oral health care is that many older Americans do not have dental insurance. In fact, only 2 percent of Americans who retire do so with a dental benefit plan. In addition, transportation issues, mobility limitations, fear of dentists, and lack of awareness of available oral health services are other factors which impact dental care.

According to the report, the factors negatively affecting the oral health care of older Americans include:

* Persistent lack of oral health coverage – 21 states do not offer dental benefits for low-income Americans or only provide emergency coverage through Medicaid dental benefits.

* Strained dental health providers – 31 states have a shortage of dental health providers, meaning they only have enough providers to cover 40 percent of the population.

* High rates of tooth loss – Eight states had extremely high rates of edentulism – the loss of all natural permanent teeth. Loss of teeth often results in a person forgoing nutritious food choices due to the inability to chew properly.

* Deficiencies in preventive programs – 13 states have about 60 percent of residents living in communities where fluoride is not added to drinking water, despite the fact that it’s been recognized for 68 years to markedly reduce dental decay.

“While we are seeing improvements in certain areas of older adult dental care, there is still a lack of progress in advancing the oral health of such a vulnerable population,” says Dr. Ira Lamster, professor, Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Older adults face significant health challenges if their oral health is poor, and there is no coordinated program to help fund necessary services.”

In response to the need for reliable, readily available, cost-effective, and digestible oral health resources for older adults, Oral Health America has created, a user-friendly website that connects older adults and their caregivers with local oral health resources. With funding from the DentaQuest Foundation and support from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and the Special Care Dentistry Association, offers dependable oral care information from oral health experts across the country, so older Americans can learn why it’s so important to care for their mouths as they age. Visitors to the site can also utilize an interactive map to find resources where they live for affordable dental care, transportation, social services, financing care and support for caregivers.

Breakfast is more than the first meal of the day for kids

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

A significant percentage of elementary and an even greater percentage of middle and high school students skip breakfast daily or a few times a week. On a given day, up to 30 percent of teens in the U.S. skip breakfast. As they get older, homework, jobs, sports teams, the arts and the Internet result in all-too-short nights for students, and the need to catch a few more moments of sleep in the morning.

Breakfast allows students to break the fast of nighttime, reigniting brains and concentration abilities. “It’s everything you’ve heard about in terms of it being a critical meal of the day,” says Sue Moores, a registered dietitian and consultant to schools in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. “Miss or skip breakfast and you start the day playing catch up.”

According to Moores, many kids already lack important body-strengthening, body “building” nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein and fiber. Without breakfast, which is a meal that can easily offer all of these, there’s extra pressure to fill the nutritional gaps with snacks and other meals. Including carbohydrates in the morning meal (whole-grain carbs, says Moores) is key, as carbs are the preferred source of energy for the brain. Add in a bit of protein to help distribute the energy carbohydrates offer, and you have the start of a great meal.

Skipping breakfast may not only put students behind the eight-ball for morning nutrition, adds Moores, it may also set them back by way of poor food choices for the rest of the day. Some studies show breakfast-skippers actually crave salty, higher fat, sweet foods throughout the day compared to people who eat a morning meal. What they eat in place of breakfast is far from nutritious fare.

Beginning this school year, school breakfasts are required to meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s new food-based meal pattern, which outlines increased amounts of fruits/vegetables, grains and milk food components.

Amy Harkey, a registered dietitian and director of Child Nutrition Operations with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina, says that this fall the Universal School Breakfast Program is being implemented in her district, meaning that more than 140,000 students will receive a balanced morning meal at no charge. Previously, these breakfasts were offered to all students based on their eligibility.

“We want to remove any misperceptions that breakfast is only for those children who are economically disadvantaged,” says Harkey. “It’s important for all students to ‘break the fast’ and get the nutrition they need to begin their busy academic days.”

Harkey explains that they provide a variety of “Quick Bites for Breakfast,” offering both hot and cold options that meet the complete school breakfast requirements. “We learned in our pilot test of the program this spring that the students are reacting positively to our breakfast menus. They enjoy having the menu board outside the cafeteria so that in the afternoons they can see what will be offered the next morning,” says Harkey.

Companies have stepped up to the plate, delivering whole grain and protein-rich options that, when paired with a calcium-rich, low-fat milk, provide a solid start to the day. Schwan’s Food Service offers the new Beacon Street Cafe (TM) 51 percent whole grain Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sliders this fall, with 8 grams of protein, 11 grams of whole grains, 0 grams of trans fat and only 160 calories per serving (two pieces).

“Whether students catch a brain-boosting breakfast at home or at school, it’s important to find a way to fit nutrient-rich foods in for a good day of learning,” says Moores. “It may seem inconsequential to skip a morning meal, but results in the classroom show that breakfast is key.”

Holiday recipes with a twist

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

The invitations are arriving. Office parties, family parties, school parties and the list goes on; it’s a sign the holiday season is fast approaching.

To make your season a little less stressful and a lot more delicious. Here’s a list of the perfect holiday dessert recipes, all with a unique pretzel twist. So instead of bringing the typical cookies and cupcakes, make your dessert stand out with a trip down the snack aisle for pretzels.

Holiday Pretzel Wreath


1 package (about 6 ounces) of your favorite chocolate (milk, dark, or white)

1 bag (9 or 10 ounces) of pretzels (mini’s, thins, or homestyle)

Red and green candies (chocolate shell candies, jelly beans, sugar sprinkles)

1 package of red shoestring licorice

Wax paper


Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler; stir. Using tongs or a fork, dip the pretzels into the chocolate and layer in a circle, like a wreath, onto the wax paper. After the wreath(s) are formed, use the red and green candies to sprinkle or place on top of the wreath(s). When you have completed the wreath(s), cool until set. Once the chocolate has set, use the shoestring licorice to tie into a bow, at the top of the wreath.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chunk Cookies


1 cup butter, softened

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 cups crushed Mini Pretzels

1 (11.5 ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chunk morsels or chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat butter, peanut butter and sugars until creamed. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well. Add flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix. Finally add crushed pretzel pieces and chocolate chunks, mix until combined. Using a small cookie scoop, place cookie dough on ungreased cookie sheets, making sure they are 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for eight to 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. 

Fruit Tart with Pretzel Crust



3 cups finely crushed pretzels

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups cold butter or margarine


1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon lime zest

1 1/2 cups whipped topping

7 cups assorted fresh fruit, sliced


In a large bowl, mix crushed pretzels and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a 9-by-9 brownie pan or small casserole dish. Bake at 375 Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until set. Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine milk, lime juice and lime zest. Fold in whipped topping. Spread on cold “pizza.” Top with fruits. Keep refrigerated.

The invitations are coming, but now you’re prepared. Just make a quick run to the grocery store and visit the snack aisle for a wide selection of  pretzels, including minis, sticks, or home-style.