Restaurant Code Words For Healthy Eating

Editor’s note: Ronda Elsenbrook, is a registered dietitian at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and the Houston chapter of the American Diabetes Association have partnered together to BEAT Diabetes in November.

(CNN) — For many of us, eating out happens more often than we would like to admit. It’s only natural that with our busy, can’t-catch-a-break lifestyles we farm out cooking to our favorite local restaurants.

That’s OK — it’s not so much eating out that’s the problem. Rather, it’s what we eat at restaurants that can cause health issues. Too many carbohydrates, too much fat and too much salt can lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol issues.


The problem is, restaurant menus are designed to entice your sense of taste, not tell you whether the foods they’re advertising are healthy. But I’m here to take the guesswork out of dining out.


Fried foods

Restaurant Code Words: Crunchy, tempura, battered, crispy, breaded, crusted, golden, sizzling

If you’re making a healthy choice, you’re probably not purposely choosing a fried food item. Look for words like crunchy, battered, crispy, breaded, crusted, golden, tempura; some of these options are a double-whammy on your caloric intake because the item is fried with an additional carb-based coating.


Fried foods may taste great, but tend to be high in fat and calories — and deep frying robs food of nutrients. A grilled, baked or roasted 4-ounce chicken breast (the size of a deck of cards) will run you about 170 calories, whereas the deep fried selection can pack a whopping 370 calories.


To make matters worse, many restaurants (usually of the fast food variety) use partially hydrogenated oil because it can be reheated and reused over and over again. Partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fats (the worst of the fats) which raises your LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers your HDL (good cholesterol), leading to a higher incidence of heart disease.


High-sugar foods

Restaurant Code Words: Teriyaki, BBQ, glazed, sticky, honey-dipped

Powdered doughnuts may be self-explanatory on a menu, but options labeled as Teriyaki, BBQ, glazed, sticky or honey-dipped could also be high in added sugars. It is wise to ask if sauces of any kind are made with sugar, including salad dressings and vinaigrettes.


Watch out also for meals that are high in carbohydrates. Carbs turn into sugar when they are broken down by your digestive system. The usual suspects are items like pasta, potatoes and rice, but even menu items like “healthy” couscous, quinoa and faro are high in carbs and should be eaten with the same moderation as traditional offerings.


High-calorie foods

Restaurant Code Words: Loaded, stuffed, creamy, cheesy, gooey, smothered, melted, rich, velvety

It’s funny how adjectives describing foods can elicit Pavlov’s law in even the most rigorous health fanatic. That’s the point. Foods described as loaded, stuffed, creamy, cheesy, gooey, smothered, melted, rich and velvety are triggering a “feeling” that you get when you eat that particular menu item. Don’t fall into the trap!

These “comfort foods” may take you back in time to a simpler place where a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich on brioche could right all of the wrongs in the world, but the one wrong it won’t right is the number of calories packed into one bite.


Something described as “loaded” or “stuffed” is going to also be loaded or stuffed with calories — and no one wants to feel like a Thanksgiving turkey.


Healthier options

Restaurant Code Words: roasted, baked, braised, broiled, poached, rubbed, seared, grilled, steamed, sautéed, spiced, seasoned


Chefs at local restaurants everywhere are catching on that Americans are looking for healthier options when dining out. Restaurants that specialize in foods that are “made-to-order” or that focus on locally sourced foods will likely have more options.


Even some fast-casual restaurants are retooling mainstays and developing new menu items that won’t bust your caloric intake for the day.


Words like roasted, poached, baked or grilled are your best options — just don’t order the grilled 26-ounce ribeye steak. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu, and if nutritional information is available, read through and choose the meal that will balance your health with your desire for something tasty.


read more
OnNovember 7, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Moms Stress Ends Up in Childrens DNA

Just how bad was an epic 1998 ice storm in Canada? You can read all about it in the DNA of kids who were born around that time.

An intriguing study in PLoS One finds that women who were especially stressed during the storm gave birth to kids whose immune cells have telltale signs of their mothers’ trouble, reports Raw Story.

The storm was brutal, leaving people without power for more than a month. Researchers at the time surveyed expectant moms to gauge their “objective” distress, measuring things such as how many days they went without electricity.

Then they tracked down their kids more than a decade later and found that moms who were in the most distress bore children whose DNA had specific markers as a result.

The genes affected are related to immune function and sugar metabolism. Toronto’s Globe and Mail has a nice explanation of what’s going on, with help from Suzanne King of McGill University.

It involves “epigenetics,” as opposed to genetics:

“An individual’s genetics are like a musical score, and what’s written comes from the mother and father. … Although nothing can change what’s written on the page, environmental factors act as an orchestral conductor might, amplifying some aspects and tempering others, leaving markings, or methylation of the DNA.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

A pregnant woman in a famine, for instance, might “amplify” traits that would give her child a better chance of surviving—traits that could then backfire in terms of health if the famine goes away.

It’s not clear what, if any, health effects the Canadian kids will see as a result, explains a post at McGill University. But given the genes affected, they might have a greater risk of developing asthma, diabetes, or obesity.

read more
OnOctober 23, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Is Your Coffee Intake Genetic??

– You can blame that third cup of Joe on your genes.

A recent study has found six new genetic variants that could dictate the volume — and frequency — of a person’s daily coffee consumption.

The research was led by Marilyn Cornelis of the Harvard School of Public Health, and published on Tuesday by the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

“Overall, we have known for a long time that there are some genetic components for our coffee-consuming behaviors,” Cornelis told CNN.

Researchers were able to identify six regions in human DNA that were not previously linked to coffee-drinking behavior, which could explain why one drinker will lie awake at night twitching after one cup while another can gulp down the whole pot before their REM cycle.

The study analyzed data from several studies that polled more than 120,000 people on how much coffee they drink a day, then scanned their DNA.

Cornelis said researchers will be able to use these genetic variants to study the health effects of coffee — and caffeine — better.

“Most (human) population studies of coffee and heath assume everyone responds to a given amount of coffee in the same way,” she said. “We know that isn’t true and we now have specific genetic variants that we can apply to our studies which will enable us to generate better results.”

According to the National Coffee Association’s 2014 drinking trends study, 61% of American adults consume coffee on a daily basis.

read more
OnOctober 10, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Respiratory Infections Spreading Across the Country

CNN) — In July and early August, doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta diagnosed 15 to 20 children a week with serious respiratory infections — a normal number for the summer months.

Then, pediatricians started to see more children who were having trouble breathing, more parents with worried looks on their faces.

Since school started, the hospital has seen an average of 100 cases a week.

“We are seeing a double to quadruple increase in the number of children with respiratory infections,” says Dr. Andi Shane, hospital epidemiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

More than 10 states around the Midwest and Southeast have reported seeing similarly high numbers of hospitalizations for children with severe respiratory illnesses. The virus has sent more than 30 children a day to a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital, where about 15% of the youngsters were placed in intensive care, health officials said.

Doctors say they think the increase is due to a bug called Enterovirus D68, an uncommon type of enterovirus that seems to be exacerbating breathing problems in children with asthma.

But nailing down the culprit, and tracking the number of cases, is easier said than done.

Children’s Healthcare, like most hospitals around the nation, tests samples from children with respiratory illnesses to determine if they have a viral infection. But the tests don’t distinguish between the rhinovirus, which is the most common cause of the common cold, and enteroviruses, which can cause a variety of symptoms.

Once hospitals noticed this upward trend in severe respiratory illness cases, they requested help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in identifying the specific virus at fault. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is working with the Georgia Division of Public Health to submit specimens to the CDC, which is already testing samples from states like Alabama, Utah and Michigan.

Six states — Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa — have confirmed cases of EV-D68. Yet even in those states, not all samples came back positive for this specific type of enterovirus.

Nineteen of the 25 samples sent from Children’s Hospital Colorado were EV-D68, said Dr. Christine Nyquist, medical director of infection control. Kentucky submitted 10 samples; five came back positive. In Missouri, 19 of 22 specimens sent to the CDC were confirmed to be EV-D68.

The problem is that there are more than 60 enteroviruses that are known to infect humans, according to the CDC; these viruses cause an estimated 10 million to 15 million illnesses each year. Symptoms can range from the sniffles to stomach issues to a severe respiratory infection.

The average healthy adult gets two to three colds a year, the CDC says; children usually get more. They’re more at risk because their immune systems haven’t had a chance to build up immunity to these common viral infections.

The CDC doesn’t require state health departments to track these types of infections, since they are usually dealt with at home and patients recover with a little TLC. So getting a firm count of the number of people infected — or what other states may be at risk — for EV-D68 is difficult.

“CDC is watching this situation closely,” the public health agency’s website states.

read more
OnSeptember 10, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

My Life With Cystic Fibrosis

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Simple, right? The first thing anyone does in this world is take a breath of air — it should be effortless. For me, and nearly 70,000 people across the world like me, it’s not so easy. I have cystic fibrosis (CF) and I have never been able to take a full breath of air.

I was dealt a certain hand of cards at birth and I am making the very best of it. It’s not anyone’s fault I have CF. It isn’t a curse. It isn’t bad luck. It just happened  –Gunnar Esiason, cystic fibrosis patient

Every day for 23 years, it has been a struggle to breathe. I often get asked what CF is, or what it is like to live with CF. There is no one true answer. The best I can come up with is, imagine living every single day with something like bronchitis, or, a little more simply put, imagine having to breathe through a straw all day, every day.

The mucus that fills my lungs and traps some of the most deadly bacteria imaginable as a result of my genetic defect has always been inside me. So, how do I live with it? I never feel bad for myself. When it comes to living with a chronic illness, self-pity, in my opinion, is the root cause of failure.

I was dealt a certain hand of cards at birth and I am making the very best of it. It’s not anyone’s fault I have CF. It isn’t a curse. It isn’t bad luck. It just happened.

I have every reason in the world to stay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself, but I don’t. I get up and carry out my day like most people. I graduated college in four years, have a job and take care of all of my responsibilities. I don’t hold anything back.

Between all the inhaled treatments, mucus clearing therapies and the 80 pills or so that I ingest every day, the amount of time I spend taking care of myself is the equivalent of a full time job … and that’s only when I am healthy.

The physical treatments themselves may only take about two to three hours total, but every single decision I make throughout the day has some impact on my health, one way or another. Am I going out with my friends on a Friday night? Is it OK to skip a treatment because I am too tired? Can I go away for the weekend, or am I starting to feel sick? Questions like these constantly go through my head.

As far as I am concerned, this is all just a part of my life. I don’t know any other way.

When it comes down to it, I don’t have any complaints; I think I live a great life. I have the best friends I could ever ask for. I have an amazing sister. I had the best four years of my life at Boston College. I am able to work a few jobs and I was an athlete growing up. (I might still consider myself an athlete, but the jury is still out on that decision!)

There is a difference between being alive, and truly living. In 70 years, when I am 93 years old, I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I have an enormous collection of unforgettable experiences. I think the experiences and memories we create for ourselves are what define our personalities. I want people to say, “Wow. That guy Gunnar Esiason has lived a great life.”

I realize I am still pretty young, but I like to think that I have a pretty good understanding about the value of life and how fragile it can be. I could be having the greatest day of my life one day, but the next I could be hunched over coughing up blood. It is just the reality of the disease I live with. Every day, good or bad, has shaped who I am.

The bottom line, though, is that cystic fibrosis has taught me how to be resilient. I don’t take no for an answer and I know I can be whatever I want to be. I was sort of born into a unique situation. Because my dad’s a national figure and my parents’ were willing to take on CF in a public way, I have been given the chance to make a difference.

Some may call me the poster boy for cystic fibrosis, but I don’t think anyone should have that title. We’re all in this together. Every family that has to carry the CF burden is in this fight. All I want to do is give CF patients a voice, so that one day we aren’t dealing with the pain that comes along with the disease. One day, it will be behind us.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Earn the air.

read more
OnAugust 18, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Families May Get Money Back After Supreme Court Ruling


One of the nation’s most powerful labor unions could face a costly onslaught of lawsuits seeking tens of millions of dollars in dues, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the money was collected improperly, legal experts said.

In a ruling Monday, the high court held that Service Employees International Union cannot force people who care for loved ones to be union members and deduct dues from the government checks of those they care for. The practice has gone on for several years in a handful of states, creating a lucrative stream of cash for the powerful labor organization, which represents more than 2 million workers and takes in about $300 million per year.

“The whole point of the decision was that the folks milked by the SEIU weren’t really public employees and should not be forced to pay union dues at all,” said Hans Bader, senior attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “So they should be able to sue for refund of their compelled union dues back as far as the statute of limitations will allow.

Paul Kersey, an attorney and director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, which represented plaintiff Pamela Harris in Harris v. Quinn, acknowledged the next step may be to recoup dues.

“It’s something that we are looking at,” Kersey said. “We’re pleased with the decision and are definitely looking at possible options going forward.”

Home health aides have become a key segment of SEIU’s base, comprising about 20 percent of the union’s membership. In Illinois and other states, they were classified as public-sector workers, paid out of the proceeds of entitlement checks and thus automatically members of the SEIU. Harris’ 25-year-old son, who suffers from a genetic disorder called Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, receives a monthly Medicaid check of approximately $1,300, from which about $90 was automatically deducted for union dues.

It is unclear exactly how much the SEIU reaped in the stricken dues collection scheme, but in Illinois, the union took in an estimated $20 million per year in dues collected from home health care and day care workers. Many of those workers are employed by state contractors and could opt to continue to be represented by the union.

Home health care unions are structured differently from state to state, but the broad interpretation of Monday’s ruling is that home health care workers cannot be forced to join unions and can opt out of paying dues even if the union bargains on their behalf. Although Monday’s ruling specifically applies to 26,000 home health care workers in Illinois, it could eventually affect hundreds of thousands of unionized home health care workers in states including California, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont and Connecticut.

Although the SEIU did not address the dues collection issue specifically, officials expressed confidence that workers will continue to see value in collective bargaining.

“No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”

But if workers cannot be automatically signed up, the union will have to actively court them and membership will almost certainly drop. In Michigan, where the SEIU had dues deducted directly from Medicare checks sent to people cared for in their homes by loved ones, the practice ended when lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 making it a right-to-work state. Membership among people previously classified as home health workers plunged by 80 percent by some measures.

In Michigan, the SEIU kept people previously classified as union members on its rolls unless they affirmatively opted out during a one-month annual period. The legality of that under the state’s right to work law is in dispute, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has launched a class-action suit to recoup $3 million worth of dues collected after 2012 from claimants who believed their membership ended when the law was changed. Monday’s decision could prompt them to go back even further, subject to Michigan’s three-year statute of limitations.

“Now that there is a constitutional violation, there is a possibility of looking for a claim [going back much further],” said Mackinac Vice Presidents for Legal Affairs Patrick Wright. first reported in April about the Michigan suit, with Mackinac plaintiff Patricia Haynes decrying how the union took dues out of entitlement checks she and her husband used to care for their two adult children who are afflicted with cerebral palsy.

“They couldn’t get me a raise, they couldn’t get me more vacation time and they certainly did nothing to improve my children’s care,” Haynes said. “I’d hate to say it, but in my opinion, they were stealing.”

Rick Berman, executive director of Center for Union Facts, said the decision could spark several class-action suits in states where the union collected dues from people who didn’t willingly join.

“It could be a case where individual people bring suit for restitution,” Berman said. “In any particular state where dues were collected this way, that would definitely meet the test for a class action, because they would be similarly situated.”

Even if workers previously classified as public-sector union workers can’t claw back dues that were improperly collected, the ruling will have a big negative impact on SEIU going forward,” he added.

“I don’t know if they’re going to have to give the money they collected back, but they won’t be able to deduct it that way going forward, and that is a big hit,” Berman said.

read more
OnJuly 1, 2014, posted in: Latest News by

Mother Wins Fight With Major Union

An Illinois woman who took her fight against one of the nation’s most powerful unions all the way to the Supreme Court and won, said all she ever wanted was to care for her ailing son.

Pam Harris, the lead plaintiff in the landmark Harris v. Quinn case, in which the high court ruled people who care for loved ones in their home can’t be compelled to join the Service Employees International Union, said the ruling was a victory for her son Josh, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder.

“It means no third party intrusion, it means that there’s not going to be a union contract inserted between my son and I, there’s not going to be union rules and regulations dictating how I can provide the care that Josh needs,” she said.

Harris is the primary caregiver for her 25-year-old son, who suffers from Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. His illness has left him mentally and physically disabled and in need of ‘round the clock care at his home in Winthrop Harbor, Ill.

“We feed him, help him wash his face, shave him, brush his teeth,” she said.

The family receives a Medicaid check each month for approximately $1,300 to care for Josh, but its “not nearly enough” to pay for all his medical bills and other needs. In order to receive that check, under state law, the Harris family must undergo eleven visits per year by state employees checking on Josh’s welfare, be required to submit monthly summaries detailing care on a time sheet and provide specific information about Josh’s care.

And, until Monday’s ruling, join a union.

That last requirement came from an executive order signed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, which made home healthcare workers state employees, and those state employees must be part of the powerful Service Employees International Union, or SEIU.  Harris tried to fight the order, which she said she learned about when two SEIU members came knocking on her door a few years ago.

Joining the union meant the Harris home would become a union shop, the Harris family would have to start following union rules within their home and some of the money provided by the state to care for Josh for would be deducted for union dues. Harris estimates about $90 per month came out of the check and went to the SEIU.

Harris fought back and won a decision with far-reaching implications.

“I don’t want to be forced to join a union and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let the union take Josh’s support .” she said. “Filing a lawsuit was a last resort” she said.

While the decision does not completely punch a hole into unions, it does make separation for those who care for family at home.

The court ruling handed down today cites the First Amendment and states that “… no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support. The First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from personal assistants in the Rehabilitation Program who do not want to join or support the union.”

Union leaders had argued that they work hard to improve benefits for state employees and its only fair that all state employees help pay for those efforts.

In response to today’s ruling the SEIU put out a statement which said in part “…The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care in Illinois that has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care–and having a strong union for home care workers is the only approach that has proven effective.”

Paul Kersey, of the Illinois Policy Institute, said the case shows unions went “way too far by organizing families.”

“At the heart of Harris v. Quinn is a mom who’s trying to do what’s right for her son and protect his supports and services,” he said.

Harris told Fox News she never intended to create such a national firestorm and that she is not anti-union.

“I am anything but an activist,” Harris said. “I don’t rock the boat. But when it comes to taking public funding intended for people with disabilities, someone has to stand up.”


read more
OnJune 30, 2014, posted in: Latest News by