Archive for December, 2016

Don’t play cat-and-mouse with rodents: Tips to keep your home pest-free

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

(BPT) – Though catching mice has been a popular theme in games and cartoons for decades, preventing rodent invasions is not child’s play. Even the most fastidious homeowners can fall victim to a pest invader at some point.

Research by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reveals that invasive rodents have broken into 29 percent of U.S. homes, bringing with them a slew of health and property hazards.

The two rodent species most commonly found in homes are the house mouse and the Norway rat.

House mice are the most common invasive rodents, with females producing up to a dozen offspring in as little as three weeks. House mice will eat many kinds of food, and they boast excellent climbing and jumping skills. House mice construct nests using paper products and other materials. They also carry several diseases and their urine and feces can trigger allergies and asthma, especially in children.

Norway rats, much like roof rats, are nocturnal and social, burrowing closely to one another. Norway rats are credited with the ability to gnaw through plastic and lead piping to find food and water. These rats are also known to chew through electrical wires, putting homes at risk for fires.

The NPMA offers these tips to help homeowners keep rodents rummaging out in nature – not in the kitchen pantry:

1. Investigate your home from the outside. As mice can enter through an opening as small as a dime, seal all holes and replace loose mortar and weather stripping. Use steel wool to close gaps.

2. Store firewood at least 20 feet from your home and at least 5 feet off the ground.

3. Screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, which could allow unwanted guests into your home.

4. Landscape with pests in mind by trimming back shrubbery and tree branches, which could provide pathways into the home.

5. Use proper storage in the kitchen, basements and attics to prevent rodents from having easy access to food and nesting in cupboards and boxes.

7 unlikely foods that sabotage fat loss

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

(BPT) – The basic idea behind fat loss is simple: eat better, exercise more. However, hidden in this formula are numerous caveats and footnotes. No wonder there are so many books and television specials about the 100 different ways people are supposed to exercise and eat right.

According to Becca Hurt, MS, RD, and program manager of Life Time Weight Loss at Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, “one of the most confusing parts of dieting is the fact that many of the foods people think will help them lose weight actually pack on the pounds.” Hurt notes there are enemies lurking in common foods that almost everyone eats or drinks. So, what’s to be done? To help identify some of the most common weight-loss enemies, Hurt has provided a list of seven culprits everyone will want to weed out of their diet.

Coffee shop drinks

Never mind the french fries and potato chips, Hurt says that liquid calories are more often one of the biggest downfalls when it comes to losing weight. For many, it starts with their morning coffee. While 1-2 cups of coffee with only cream added is no harm, the danger is in the sugar loaded, caramel-chocolate dieting disasters many people believe to be perfectly healthy because they ordered the non-fat options. “Not only do these drinks lead to a sugar rollercoaster and energy crashes, they may be loaded with as many as 500-plus calories,” says Hurt.

Skim milk

“Only recently, Americans started to realize fat isn’t always the bad guy,” explains Hurt. “There is no difference in fat loss between diets with no-fat and full-fat dairy consumption, according to recent studies.” In fact, Hurt notes that people often add sugar to enhance the taste of their skim milk, which quickly turns it into a decidedly unhealthy option.


Yes, even whole grain pasta is stripped of beneficial nutrients, bleached and loaded with preservatives to make it more shelf-stable. Pasta portions can also be confusing. “A pasta meal should begin with a big salad, and the high protein meatballs should be larger than the portion of pasta,” says Hurt. “Instead of spaghetti and meatballs, it should be meatballs with some spaghetti on the side.”

Reduced fat snacks 

For many, reduced fat, no fat and low fat labels on foods can be a green light to what they believe is guilt free snacking. The principle to remember here is not all calories are the same. “A 100-calorie pudding pack is not as healthy as 100-calories worth of almonds,” explains Hurt. “Food that is naturally healthy doesn’t have to have the “no-fat” label.” A handful of nuts, a few slices of full-fat cheese or some Greek yogurt are healthier options by far.

Energy drinks
 For those looking to shed some fat, drinking one of these sugar-loaded bad-boys means putting the brakes on their body’s fat burning process. Hurt adds that people should get no more than 5 percent of their calories from sugar and just one energy drink will put someone well over this limit.

 While many think ordering a sandwich is a diet-friendly alternative to a burger, consider this: one sandwich has as many carbohydrates as a Kit-Kat bar! “Carbs are not a sustainable source of energy,” says Hurt, “and are responsible for that sluggish, hungry feeling that leads many to skip workouts and snack more.” The solution: ditch the bread and add a salad!

Protein bars

They might be marketed as the fat burning, muscle gaining snack, but don’t be fooled. Heavily processed protein bars are loaded with sugars and carbohydrates. To get the necessary protein, Hurt suggests looking to nuts or animal sources such as meats or yogurt instead.


Holiday baking with kids is easier than you think

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Looking for a low-cost activity that brings the family together and produces delicious results? Try introducing your children to baking.

Involving your kids when preparing a meal provides time to bond as a family and can help kids learn a few basic kitchen lessons at an early age. When you start with bread or pretzel dough, you have plenty of simple and fun options that will lead to entertaining adventures in the kitchen.

From the joy your children will derive from making shapes with dough to the simple and tasty dishes you can make together, a day of family baking will leave your whole family smiling and satisfied.

If you’re looking for a place to start, consider Auntie Anne’s At-Home Baking Kit, which includes pretzel dough mix, yeast, and fixings like salt and cinnamon sugar to top your hand-twisted soft pretzels. Here are a few examples of the types of meals and snacks you can prepare using the dough as your base:

Pretzels: What better way to start than with something simple and delicious? Twist into the classic pretzel bowtie or keep it simple with pretzel sticks. Coat sticks with cinnamon sugar for a sweet spin on a savory delight. Or for a fun activity for the kids, create numbers, letters and shapes with your pretzels.

Appetizers: Beef up your pretzels by wrapping dough around mini hot dogs for tasty pretzel dog bites. Or cut dough into small pieces, coat with salt and serve pretzel nuggets along with a variety of your family’s favorite dipping sauces like queso and honey mustard.

Pizzas: One of the easiest and most fun doughy recipes is the simple homemade pizza. Make mini crusts for each of your kids, lay out the toppings and let them go to town making the pie of their dreams. Also great for dessert pizzas.

Breakfast goodies: Monkey bread is a great family baking adventure. Your children can help tear the dough into pieces as you build your masterpiece, then have tons of fun ripping apart the finished product when they dig into the baked pastry.

Desserts: Fried dough is a simple yet divine snack, and you can add extra sweetness with chocolate, caramel or cinnamon and sugar. Or concoct some bread pudding for a sweet and doughy dessert that your kids are sure to love. Or try making apple dumplings for a crisp, sweet seasonal treat.

For more dough-based recipes, visit or try this easy deep-dish pizza recipe:

Dough preparation:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve contents of one yeast packet in 1 1/4 cups lukewarm tap water (105 F). Let sit about 2 minutes. Water temperature must not exceed 115 F.

2. Add one packet of Auntie Anne’s dough mix to yeast/water mixture. Using a rubber spatula (or your hands), mix until dough ball forms.

3. Place dough ball onto lightly floured surface and knead until soft, slightly tacky dough is formed (approximately 5 to 7 minutes). Add a small amount of flour if dough is too sticky.

4. Place dough ball into a large bowl that has been coated with nonstick spray. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and place on top of dough ball, tucking sides down around dough (to prevent dough from drying out).

5. Place bowl in a warm spot (85 to 95 F) for 30 minutes so the dough can rise.

Pizza instructions:

 1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray pan with nonstick spray and dust with flour so the dough won’t stick.

2. Place dough ball in center of pan and gently stretch the dough out to the edge. Press edges up the side of the pan to contain sauce.

3. Pour pizza sauce in center of stretched dough and spread evenly, leaving an inch of uncovered dough around the edge. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the sauce. Optional: top the pizza with your favorite seasonings, meats or vegetable toppings.

4. Place pizza on bottom rack of oven. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese starts to bubble and the bottom crust is crisp. Baking times may vary due to oven variances.

Let cool, serve and enjoy.

Making wellness programs work for your wallet and lifestyle

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Wellness programs aren’t just for those with red flag factors for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or tobacco use. Rather, wellness programs are beneficial to everyone including otherwise healthy people who may simply be trying to lead a healthier lifestyle by increased exercise, weight loss or managing stress.

In fact, the concept of “wellness” goes far beyond merely keeping up with your annual physical and taking medications to manage chronic conditions. Wellness encompasses eating right, regularly exercising, avoiding unhealthy activities such as smoking, and being an active participant in your health decision making progress.

Wellness programs, often provided through employer-sponsored health insurance or through employers themselves, provide participants with information and tools to help avoid illness and injury. But, the path to good health is different for everyone and it is important that programs are not only designed to help the right people at the right time but also to engage people in a personalized, impactful way.

For example, a wellness offering such as Health Dialog’s WELLNESS Dialog program begins with an innovative Well-Being Assessment to better understand physical and emotional health, capacity for change, work-life satisfaction, and health risk. It then reports on personal strengths and opportunities, offers suggested goals and actions, provides people with the tools they need to realize their own personal lifestyle goals and incorporates fun group activities to engage participants for the long term.

In order to truly make a difference, a wellness program needs to be relevant to the people using it. Participating in a wellness program can be useful, as long as the program supports not only those who are well and maintaining their current level of health or improving it, but also those who are ill and managing their care.

If you would like the chance to make a wellness program work for you, here are a few steps and guidelines to help:

* Find out what your employer offers. Many support wellness programs through their health insurers, but others supplement those plans with specialized programs. Perhaps your employer offers free exercise or stress reduction classes, or offers a stipend for health club membership as part of your benefits. If your employer doesn’t currently offer any kind of wellness program, ask for one – keeping employees healthy is in a company’s best interest.

* Learn your program’s tools. Most programs offer help lines that you can call and discuss your specific needs and concerns, and receive information on available tools to help you. Your plan administrator may also be able to provide information. Or you can check the program provider’s website to learn more.

* Discuss your wellness program with your doctor and ask for his feedback on what tools might be of most use to you. Look for tools that address your specific needs, age and lifestyle. For example, if weight management is a concern, your wellness program’s nutritional counseling might be helpful. If you’re looking for ways to become more active, ask if your program offers advice on exercise.

* Take advantage of incentives. Some programs offer incentives for successful participation in weight loss or smoking cessation programs. These incentives are a great tool for tracking your progress and keeping yourself motivated to achieve your goals.

You can learn more about wellness programs like Health Dialog’s at or

Germaphobes 101: Expert tips to stay healthy

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Clean kitchens
 According to the National Sanitation Foundation, more than 20 percent of foodborne illnesses come from mistakes in the kitchen. The bacteria that could be in the raw chicken you’re cutting up for tonight’s casserole can instantly spread once you wipe your hands on the dish towel. So here’s how to stay vigilant:

* Stop sponges from spreading bacteria-that you just cleaned up. Replace sponges regularly and wash them thoroughly with soap after using. You can also kill harmful bacteria by tossing a damp sponge in the dishwasher or by zapping it in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds.

* Wipe down countertops, faucets, refrigerator and oven handles, cabinet knobs, light switches and the telephone regularly with soapy water or disinfectant wipes.

* To control the spread of bacteria in and around the kitchen sink, a hands-free faucet, like the Moen Haysfield pulldown kitchen faucet with MotionSense technology, will make a significant difference by limiting the number of surfaces you’ll have to touch, especially while cooking. Simply wave your hand over the ready sensor or place your hands below the spout to start the flow of water. Bacteria are instantly washed away – rather than lingering on the faucet handle.

* Often overlooked, the ice dispenser is a proven area of concern for yeast and mold, which are a problem for those with allergies. To properly clean, turn the icemaker off, empty the ice and wash the bin with mild dish soap and warm water.

Bacteria-free bathroom
 Hot and humid areas like bathrooms are breeding grounds for bacteria. In fact, even small surfaces like the bathroom faucet handle can be home to 6,267 bacteria per square inch, according to WebMD. Keep the bathroom cleaner by taking the following steps:

* Before mold takes hold, launch an attack on shower gunk by cleaning tiles, shower curtains and doors with an all-natural cleanser; not bleach which can eat away at grout. For extra cleaning power, heat diluted vinegar in a bowl and pour into a spray bottle. To prevent mildew and mold build-up in the shower, leave the shower doors open when not in use.

* Keep surfaces clean and disinfected-to reduce the spread of stain- and odor-causing bacteria. Did you know, on an unprotected surface, bacteria can double in number every 20 minutes? Luckily, the new Moen Ashville two-handle bathroom faucet featuring Microban antimicrobial protection will help guard against stain- and odor-causing bacteria, mold and mildew. Microban technology is built into the faucet finish, so it works continuously, even between cleanings.

Healthy home
 It’s also important to tackle the rest of the house with the same consciousness. Here are a few tips that will keep harmful germs and allergens from spreading room to room:

* Clean your cleaners. You may clean out the dust container routinely, but when was the last time you cleaned the vacuum upholstery tool or brush roll? Rather than sucking up allergens, these attachments could be spreading them throughout your home.

* The washing machine is actually swarming with bacteria that can find their way onto your clothes – and eventually you. Kitchen towels and undergarments are the biggest culprits and can harbor bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli, which detergent doesn’t kill. To prevent harmful germs from spreading, combine these items together and wash with hot water and non-chlorine bleach. Take extra precaution by cleaning the washer out with a disinfecting wipe after washing a load in hot water.

* A dusty ceiling fan can send dust mites scattering to bedding and furniture, contributing to allergies and sinus infections. Ceiling-fan dusters are a quick and easy way to get this job done. This should be done every other month if you use the fan year-round.

This season channel your inner germaphobe and take a few extra steps to prepare your home to fight off bacteria.

For more information about Moen products, visit or call 800-BUY-MOEN.

Know how to keep young athletes playing safe and strong

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

A sports injury sends a young athlete to the emergency room every 25 seconds in the U.S., according to the report “Game Changers.” Made possible with support from Johnson & Johnson, the report takes an in-depth look at data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to explore the types of injuries sidelining young athletes.

“We uncovered some surprising and disturbing data about how often our kids are being injured playing sports,” says Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. “But we also found some inspiring stories from people and programs that are making a marked difference and helping kids learn how to play smart, strong and safe.”

A few of the most eye-opening findings of the report were:

* The most common types of injuries were strains or sprains (33 percent), fractures (18 percent), contusions and abrasions (16 percent), and concussions (12 percent).

* The most commonly injured body parts were ankle (15 percent), head (14 percent), finger (12 percent), knee (9 percent) and face (7 percent).

* While it may not be surprising that the sport with the highest concussion rate is football, wrestling and ice hockey have the second and third highest concussion rates, respectively.

* In sports played by both boys and girls, female athletes were more likely to report concussions than boys.

Safe Kids recommends communities, coaches, parents and athletes adopt four key strategies to help reduce sports-related injuries:

* Get educated and then share your knowledge. Many parents and young athletes dealing with a sports injury say they wish they had known sooner about sports injury prevention resources. Anyone interested in staying at the top of their game can attend a Safe Kids sports clinic or go to to learn more.

* Teach children how to prevent injury, including staying hydrated, warming up with exercises and stretching, protecting injury-prone areas like pitching arms and knees, and getting plenty of rest between games and throughout the year.

* Make sure kids know not to suffer in silence. Injured athletes may not report how they’re feeling because they’re worried they will let down their team, coach or parents if they ask to sit out a game or in practice. In reality, speaking up about an injury can help ensure the child suffers no serious, long-term effects – and can return to play sooner.

* Half of coaches who responded to a Safe Kids survey admitted they’d been pressured by a parent or athlete to keep an injured child in the game. Support coaches when they make injury-prevention decisions that protect the wellbeing of the athlete.

“Most states have laws to protect young athletes from injuries or repeat injuries,” Carr says, “but parents and coaches are the front line of protection for our kids. Working together, we can keep our kids active, healthy and safe so they can enjoy the sports they love for a lifetime.”