Sunday, July 19, 2015

4 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD 

Think you're leading a healthy lifestyle? Aside from occasionally veering off the path, most of us think we do a fair job of maintaining our health with good (or at least OK) eating habits and physical activity whenever we manage to fit it in. But is that enough to be considered "healthy?"

According to a recent study, very few adults actually meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that only 3% of American adults got a perfect score on what the authors say are the four basic criteria for healthy living. Just 13.8% met three of the criteria; 34.2% met only two criteria. Women scored slightly better than men.

See how well you measure up on the researchers' four keys to healthfulness:
·         Do you smoke?
·         Are you able to maintain a health weight (a BMI of 18-25), or are you successfully losing weight to attain a healthy weight?
·         Do you eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
·         Do you exercise 30 minutes or more, 5 times a week?

4 Steps and More
While those four habits are indisputably important for a healthy lifestyle, some may argue that more factors should be taken into consideration. What would be on your list?
Just for fun, I came up with my own personal top 10 list of healthy behaviors (beyond the four basics) that contribute to wellness and satisfaction with one's lifestyle:
·         Brush and floss daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy and free of disease.
·         Get a good night's rest. Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but may also have better control of their appetites. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can put our "hunger hormones" out of balance -- and possibly trigger overeating.
·         Enjoy regular family meals. This allows parents to serve as good role models, can promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively conversations. Being connected to family and/or friends is a powerful aspect of a healthy life.
·         Smile and laugh out loud several times a day. It keeps you grounded, and helps you cope with situations that would otherwise make you crazy. Read the comics, watch a sitcom, or tell jokes to bring out those happy feelings.
·         Meditate, pray, or otherwise find solace for at least 10-20 minutes each day. Contemplation is good for your soul, helps you cope with the demands of daily life, and may even help lower your blood pressure.
·         Get a pedometer and let it motivate you to walk, walk, walk. Forget about how many minutes of activity you need; just do everything you can to fit more steps into your day. No matter how you get it, physical activity can help defuse stress, burn calories, and boost self-esteem.
·         Stand up straight. You'll look 5 pounds lighter if you stand tall and tighten your abdominal muscles. Whenever you walk, think "tall and tight" to get the most out of the movement.
·         Try yoga. The poses help increase strength and flexibility and improve balance. These are critical areas for older folks especially, and both men and women can benefit.
·         Power up the protein. This nutrient is an essential part of your eating plan, and can make up anywhere from 10%-35% of your total calories. Protein lasts a long time in your belly; combine it with high-fiber foods and you'll feel full on fewer calories. Enjoy small portions of nuts, low-fat dairy, beans, lean meat, poultry, or fish.
·         Last but not least, have a positive attitude. Do your best to look at life as if "the glass is half full." You must believe in yourself, have good support systems, and think positively ("I think I can, I think I can…") to succeed.

It's All about You

Your list of healthy lifestyle behaviors may be different from mine. The most important thing to remember is that you can make a difference in your health and well-being. Take charge of your life, and be mindful of small behavior changes that can make your lifestyle a healthier one.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

10 Steps to Growing a Productive Vegetable Garden

Few gardening endeavors are as enjoyable or rewarding as growing your own vegetables. The pure pleasure of strolling through your garden as you harvest tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and the like for that day’s meal is only heightened by the knowledge that you’re experiencing the freshest, most flavorful and nutritious produce nature can create.

Growing vegetables isn’t all that different from other types of gardening. However, there is less room for mistakes. Successful vegetable gardening is about consistency – making sure growing conditions are properly maintained for the entire growing season. Let plants go dry just for a little while, or forget to fertilize, and you may sacrifice a large portion of your harvest.

Follow these 10 steps to help you enjoy the bounty of a productive vegetable garden:

1. Choose locally adapted varieties. Not all vegetable varieties grow well in all areas. Ask your local nursery or cooperative extension office which varieties are best for where you live. There may be varieties that resist diseases specific to your area, or that produce better crops under your climate conditions.

2. Plant at the right time of year. Seed packets generally state the proper time to plant. In some areas planting windows are very narrow and you must hit them fairly precisely for a bountiful harvest. In other areas, you can plant several times over the summer and maintain a longer harvest season. Your local nursery or cooperative extension office is the best source for local planting dates.

3. Prepare the soil properly before planting. Work in generous amounts of organic matter such as compost or composted manure. If you don’t use composted manure, which already contains nitrogen, also work in a complete fertilizer.

4. Plant properly. Sow seed at the proper depth and space, following directions on seed packets. Vegetables planted too closely together will produce poorly. If you’re planting transplants, take care not to set them too deeply or the stems may rot – use your trowel to dig a hole just deep enough so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the ground.

5. Water consistently. Maintain even soil moisture so plants do not dry out, but don’t over-water. Water deeply, then give the soil time to dry partially before watering again. Inconsistent watering will reduce yields in most vegetables, and make others – like cucumbers and lettuce – taste bitter. Installing a drip irrigation system connected to an automatic timer is your best bet.

6. Fertilize regularly. Maintaining vigorous growth is very important with almost all vegetables. Most should be fed with a nitrogen fertilizer at least every 4 to 6 weeks. However, be careful not to over-fertilize, which can cause some vegetables, especially tomatoes, to produce less.

7. Mulch. A 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter applied over the roots of your vegetable plants will cool the soil, reduce weeds, and help prevent soil moisture fluctuations that ruin quality.

8. Eliminate weeds. Weeds compete with vegetables for water, nutrients and sunlight, thus reducing yields. Pull weeds by hand and cultivate the soil frequently to keep them to a minimum.

9. Harvest often. Many vegetables, especially beans, squash, peppers and cucumbers, will stop producing if not harvested frequently. Pick every few days. If you can’t eat all you gather, share with friends or neighbors.

10. Control insect pests. Many insects enjoy fresh vegetables as much as you do. Always keep an eye open for insect damage, and protect your plants with a solution labeled for use on vegetables.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to Choose a Water Filter

There are many reasons that you may want to filter your water. Maybe you don’t like the chemicals used by municipal treatment plants. Perhaps you want a back-up plan in case of an emergency.
Regardless of WHY you want to filter your water, knowing how to choose a water filter before you invest your hard-earned money just makes sense.
Why Filter Water?
Even the clearest stream may be full of invisible protozoa, bacteria and viruses that can make you sick or even kill you. Never assume that any water source is safe just because it looks clean; most of the contaminants in water are too small to see with your eyes.
Even if it comes straight from your tap, your water may still contain harmful contaminants. Many water treatment facilities were built so long ago that they’re just not equipped to filter water properly. Pipes get old and leak and the sheer mass of pollution produced by a large city can overwhelm an aging system.
Also, many cities add fluoride to your water. The potential dangers of fluoride are a source of controversy, so many people don’t want to drink fluoridated water.
If disaster should strike, water services may go down or something may happen to make your tap water unsafe. You may even have to depend upon other sources of water to survive.
In the event of a radioactive event, the water won’t be safe to drink. In these cases you absolutely MUST filter and purify your water before you drink it.
What’s the Difference Between Water Filtration and Water Purification?
You need to understand the difference here because it’s critical to your decision. There are three types of disease-causing pathogens in water, not counting minerals and pharmaceuticals:
  • Bacteria: Some examples that you’ve probably heard of are E. coli and salmonella. There are many more and, so that you know what filter to look for, they can be as small as 0.1 microns, though a 1-micron filter will capture 99.9% of bacteria.
  • Protozoan Cysts: these are hardy little “eggs” that have an extremely hard shell. The only way to kill them is by boiling them but they can be filtered out. Examples include Giardia and Cryptosporidium. They range in size from 1-300 microns.
  • Viruses: Right now, these are rarely found in American or Canadian waters but that could change quickly in case of a disaster. Viruses include hepatitis A and rotavirus and range in size from 0.005-1 micron. Only purification by some means can remove these from the water; filters won’t work because the viruses are so small.
Here are the different water filtration units commonly available:
  • Standard water filters filter out sediment, Giardia and other large protozoa and some bacteria that may be in the water.
  • Micro filters remove most microorganisms including bacteria and protozoa. You’ll still need to add a disinfectant to kill viruses. They also often remove most toxic heavy metals such as lead and fluoride.
  • Water purifiers remove all microorganisms from the water, including viruses but they may not remove debris such as dirt. They may come in the form of tablets or liquid such as iodine or bleach. Distillation, boiling and desalination processes also purify water.
As you can see, there’s a big difference here. Most water filters nowadays are micro filters. Just read the micron size on the box or in the advertisement to make sure that the filter is made of material that will filter the water based upon your needs.
Thanks to modern technology and good old fashioned common sense, there are many different types of water filters and purifiers on the market.
You should consider, at the very least, using a micro filter that’s no larger than 1 micron: that will eliminate about 99.9% of the bacteria in the water. Many micro filters start at .2 microns. Of course, viruses are still an issue but there are other alternatives to that.
What Type Of Water Filtration are You Looking For?
This is a major factor in deciding what type of filter is best.
Home Filtration Units
If you want to filter water for your entire house, we recommend using a point-of-entry system or a point-of-delivery system. The latter is going to be much cheaper and just as effective. We recommend using a reverse osmosis (RO) or distillation system if you want to filter out everything.
You can pick a really good RO system up for under the sink for about $200. The filters are about $20 but you’ll also see a hike in your water bill.
Reverse osmosis filters out the clean water and pours the excess water, or brine, down the drain. Most systems lose about 3 gallons of brine to get one gallon of fresh water.
Many people adjust for this by re-routing the brine to a bucket that they use for watering plants or other uses that don’t require purified water.
You can also get standard carbon or ceramic filter units that are just about as good as reverse osmosis, though they don’t filter out viruses and some heavy metals. Some do come with chemical components that take care of the viral worries, though.
Refrigeration Units
You probably already know about these and may even have one in your fridge. It’s a carbon or ceramic filtration unit that holds anywhere from a quart to several gallons of filtered water. They’re great for improving the taste of your water and removing particulates, bacteria, heavy metals and most protozoa.
Portable Units
These consist of water bottles and survival pieces such as straws that allow you to drink directly from the water source because they filter out impurities, bacteria and some heavy metals as you drink. Most don’t filter out viruses though. 
There are also portable bags that purify by using the UV rays in sunlight. They’re light and take up very little space; in fact, the Life Sack, currently used to purify water in 3rd world countries, doubles as a grain delivery package that is then used as a water purifier. It even has a 15nm water filtration unit at the point of exit.
Desalination Units
These units turn salt water into drinkable water while also removing bacteria, protozoa, heavy metals, most prescription meds and even viruses.
Basically, the type of water filter that you need depends upon what you need it for. Before starting your search, ask yourself these questions:
  • Do you want a system for your house or one that’s portable?
  • What do you want to use the filter for (whole house, drinking/cooking, survival)?
  • If you want a portable one, how much space and weight can you allow?
  • Compare what the filter removes to what you want it to remove (what is the micron rating?)
  • How long does the filter last?
  • Can you clean or easily replace the filter?
  • How much clean water does the filter produce daily compared to what you need?
  • How much water does the filter waste?
  • How difficult is the filter to use or install?
  • How much are you willing or able to spend?
Once you answer these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what type of water filter or purifier that you need.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Food Storage

Back to basics . . . from


"Our Heavenly Father created this beautiful earth, with all its abundance, for our benefit and use. His purpose is to provide for our needs as we walk in faith and obedience. He has lovingly commanded us to ‘prepare every needful thing’ (see D&C 109:8) so that, should adversity come, we may care for ourselves and our neighbors, and support bishops as they care for others."

"We encourage members worldwide to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings. We ask that you be wise, and do not go to extremes. With careful planning, you can, over time, establish a home storage supply and a financial reserve."
What am I supposed to have in my food storage?
There are three main components of food storage:
·         Food supply (three-month and long-term)
·         Water supply
·         Financial reserve
Store foods that are a part of your normal diet in your three-month supply. As you develop a longer-term storage, focus on food staples such as wheat, rice, pasta, oats, beans, and potatoes that can last 30 years or more. 

How much food storage do I need?
Take the amount of food you would need to purchase to feed your family for a day and multiply that by 7. That is how much food you would need for a one-week supply. Once you have a week’s supply, you can gradually expand it to a month, and eventually three months.
When calculating how much you might need for your family in long-term food storage, multiply the number of people in your family by 2. That is an estimate of how many cases you will need of each of the main food staples (wheat, rice, etc.). Then double the number of cases of either wheat or rice, depending on your preference, to complete your long-term storage.
Where should I store my food storage?
Make sure your food storage is properly packaged and stored in a cool, dry place.
If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source, then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pretreat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for juices or soda. Keep water containers away from heat sources and direct sunlight. 
How much does it cost?
Costs may vary depending on where and how you purchase your food storage. It is important to remember that you should not go to extremes; for instance, it is not prudent to go into debt to establish your food storage all at once. Develop it gradually to diffuse the overall cost over time so that it will not become a financial burden.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our Path to Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance

Additional information can be found at
There are great needs among us. A recent survey of LDS church members in several countries showed that many worry regularly about having enough food to feed their children and themselves. To survive life’s challenges, each of us will need to grow our faith and trust in the Lord.
The Savior invites us all to act, to stand independent, and to become as He is. He will help us. He has promised: “It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way” (D&C 104:15–16). His way includes learning and living the principles of self-reliance.
Principles of Self-Reliance
Accepting and living the following principles will help you to receive the spiritual and temporal blessings promised by the Lord.
1. Exercise Faith in Jesus Christ.The Lord has all power. He can and will work great tender mercies among those who trust Him in all things.
► Ask yourself: How will my faith in Jesus Christ affect my spiritual and temporal self-reliance?
2. Be Obedient.Obedience to God’s laws, principles, and promptings leads to spiritual and temporal blessings.  
► Ask yourself: Do I obey the promptings of the Holy Ghost in both temporal and spiritual matters? Is any lack of obedience keeping me from receiving blessings?
The Savior invites us all to act, to stand independent, and to become as He is. He will help us.
3. Act. Individual accountability and action activate blessings.
► Ask yourself: Why does Heavenly Father want me to take personal responsibility for my life? Am I acting or being acted upon?
► Read: 2 Nephi 2:16, 261 Nephi 3:7Helaman 14:30; D. Todd Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 16–19: “God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become”.
4. Serve and be united. Service and unity build Zion—this is the way of the Lord.
► Ask yourself: What does it mean to “be one,” and how does this relate to self-reliance? Who have I served in the last week? Who can I serve this week?
► Read: Moses 7:18Doctrine and Covenants 104:15–17;38:2782:17–19Jeffrey R. Holland, “Are We Not All Beggars?Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 40–42: “Rich or poor, we are to ‘do what we can’ when others are in need”.
Prophetic Promises
The First Presidency invites you to study and apply these principles of self-reliance and teach them to your family members.
“We invite you to diligently study and apply these principles and teach them to your family members. As you do so, your life will be blessed. You will learn how to act on your path toward greater self-reliance. You will be blessed with greater hope, peace, and progress.The First Presidency has said: “The Lord has declared, ‘It is my purpose to provide for my saints’ (D&C 104:15). This revelation is a promise from the Lord that He will provide temporal blessings and open the door of self-reliance, which is the ability for us to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and our family members. …
“Please be assured that you are a child of our Father in Heaven. He loves you and will never forsake you. He knows you and is ready to extend to you the spiritual and temporal blessings of self-reliance” (First Presidency letter, in My Foundation: Principles, Skills, Habits [2014], 2).
New Resources

Over 1,100 stake self-reliance centers in international areas of the Church can help members learn and live the principles and habits of self-reliance.
A new booklet, My Foundation: Principles, Skills, Habits, has been prepared to help members of the Church learn and put into practice principles of faith, education, hard work, and trust in the Lord. Accepting and living these principles will help you to receive the temporal blessings promised by the Lord. The booklet and accompanying videos are available online.
During 2014, over 1,100 stake self-reliance resource centers were established in the international areas of the Church to help members learn and live the principles and habits of self-reliance. Many of these centers are shared with local family history centers. These resource centers help participants learn how to start and grow their own businesses, find better jobs, or create education plans that will lead to better work. Over 5,000 members have already volunteered to help mentor their brothers and sisters to become self-reliant. For more information see

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Glory of God is Intelligence

"Education is the only temporal means we have to accomplish our life's goals." Watch this video to be inspired to make your life one of continual learning.


Starting a Savings Plan

Starting a savings plan may seem like an overwhelming thought, especially when you consider the need for emergency funds, car or home purchases, children’s education, retirement, and the myriad other needs on the saving list. But a few simple action items for today will get you on the right track for tomorrow. 

Action Item #1: Start where you are
Determine an amount - any amount - that you can begin setting aside and do it regularly - starting now. In the beginning, the amount is less important than the habit and the earlier you start the better off you will be in the long run. You can work on increasing the amount of the regular contribution over time. You should begin by contributing to an accessible emergency savings fund. Once you have reached your emergency fund target (usually between 9 and 12 months of living expenses), you can divert those funds to your longer-term savings goals.

Action Item #2: Segregate your savings
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a powerful concept, particularly when it comes to money. You should segregate your savings dollars from those used for regular expenses so you do not consider them to be “available” for routine needs or wants. Many employers will facilitate this effort through direct deposit, which often allows you to direct your pay to more than one account. If your employer does not support direct deposit, you can use your bank to set up an automatic monthly funds transfer into a savings account.

In addition, you should take advantage of your employer’s retirement plan that will not only facilitate the “out of sight, out of mind” approach, but may also help you to increase your savings rate through pre-tax contributions and employer matches. A common target for retirement savings is 10% of your gross income. If you are working on your emergency fund and retirement at the same time, contribute to both until you have reached the desired emergency fund level and then divert those dollars to your retirement savings.

Action Item #3: Save your raise
When you find out about that next raise or bonus, resist that urge to think about what you will be able to buy with those excess funds. Instead, plan to save as much of that raise as you can by increasing the amounts being direct deposited from your pay check to segregated savings or to your employer sponsored retirement plan. Certain cost of living increases may require you to utilize some of your raise or bonus for regular expenses, but it is likely that a good chunk of it can be stashed away for later.

Action Item #4: Practice intentional buying

Before you head to the store for any reason, prepare a thoughtful list of the items you intend to buy. Once you are at the store, stick to your list. If you see something that is not on your list, determine quickly if 1) this is something you simply forgot to put on the list or if 2) this is something you didn’t know you wanted/needed until you saw it. If it falls into the second category, use the 30-day rule. Wait for 30 days, and if at that time the item is still something you want/need and you can fit it into your thoughtful shopping list using your normal spending funds, then move forward with the purchase. Many times, you will find that the 30 days will pass without another thought about the item you thought you wanted. Other times, you will find that you still want the item, but it cannot be purchased with your normal spending funds. In those cases, you can start a short range saving goal for that item and work toward its purchase.

Remember that saving is a habit, and like most good habits, needs to be nurtured more in the beginning. Put some effort into developing a solid saving habit today and you can rest a little easier tomorrow.