6 effective ways to alleviate allergies

I will never forget the day I underwent my first allergy prick test. My primary care physician recommended I see an allergy specialist after he had treated me for multiple sinus infections over the course of a year.

I scoffed and said “I don’t have allergies!” But I scheduled the appointment with the otolaryngologist nonetheless. A few weeks later, as I sat there with my arm and back on fire, nose running like a fire hose and eyes feeling like I’d been hit with pepper spray, I thought, “Hmm … maybe I do have allergies.”

What’s followed since that day is a constant battle against my many year-round allergies. Outside of medicinal remedies, there have been many tricks I’ve learned over the last few years that have helped me alleviate allergies.

1. Get informed. I have a little app on my phone that I check every day to check what allergens are in the air and what their level is. It may seem like a no brainer, but since I know ragweed is my mortal enemy, if ragweed levels are high, I know not to spend too much time outdoors. Most television weather forecasts also include allergen information.

2. Be prepared. Until I win the lottery (fingers crossed!), I’m going to have to mow my own lawn. Being allergic to grass I’ve learned that wearing a protective mask, immediately showering after I come inside and throwing the clothes I wore to mow the lawn in the washer all help keep my grass allergy in check as much as possible.

3. Be clean. In addition to taking a shower before I get to bed to get any allergens out of my hair and off my body (lest I take them to bed with me), I also make sure to wash my bedding once a week in hot water. This helps prevent allergens from building up, including dust mites, which some people are allergic to.

Washing your bedding once a week in hot water can prevent allergens from building up Click To Tweet

4. Seriously, be really clean. High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filters may help keep the air in your home a bit more breathable. Do your homework as you could spend a small fortune on these if you’re not careful. Make sure you change them regularly. Rugs and carpets can become cesspools for allergens. If you have a choice, go with bare floors. You may also want to make sure you dust regularly, especially in places like mini blinds and fans that seem to get dusty very quickly.

5. Drive carefully. That’s always good advice, but I mean be smart when driving. Keep your windows up and make sure your air conditioner is recirculating air and not drawing it in from outside the car. If you’re car has cabin air filter (most newer cars do), make sure you change it at least once a year or as suggested by your car’s manufacturer.

6. Talk to your doctor. If I hadn’t had a conversation about this with my primary care physician, I wouldn’t have gotten that allergy test. Now that I know what I’m up against, it’s been easier to stay healthy.

These are just a few things that others have shared with me over the years that have helped me cope with my allergies. Until NASA starts selling space suits to walk around in, I’ll keep fighting the good fight against allergens.

How do you tell the flu from a cold or allergies?

You usually notice it as you pour your morning coffee. The guy in the next cubicle or office doesn’t sound so good. He’s coughing and sniffling as he types away, hoping you won’t notice. You ask him if he’s doing OK even though you know what he’s going to say.

“I’m great. It’s just allergies,” he says with a hoarse voice in between coughing fits.

Those “allergies” turn out to be the flu and before you know it you’re burning four sick days (or worse, vacation days) because Larry couldn’t self-diagnose and refused to go to the doctor.

Don’t be that guy.

It’s important to get your annual flu shot and to wash your hands regularly Click To Tweet

I asked primary care physician and general internist Dr. Natalie Dryden for advice on how to distinguish between a cold or allergies and the flu – for which you should go to the doctor immediately.

“Distinguishing between allergies, a cold and the flu is not always easy,” she said. “While two are infectious illnesses (colds and flu) caused by viruses and the other is an immune response to some environmental trigger, the body often has overlapping and similar responses, so symptoms can be similar as well.”

Here are five clinical features that may help you tell the difference:

  1. Fever: The flu generally causes high fever fairly consistently, while viral colds don’t often cause fever, and if they do, it’s generally a low-grade fever. Allergies should never cause fever.
  2. Body aches: They tend to be very pronounced with the flu, and while they can occur with a common cold, they are typically mild. Body aches are not a common feature of allergies.
  3. Cough: A flu cough tends to be more severe than with a cold. Like a fever and body aches, a cough is much less common with allergies.
  4. Runny nose: Can occur in all three.
  5. Sore throat: Common with colds and flu. Typically people with allergies report having an itchy throat and not actual pain.

Keeping an eye on the seasons can also help clue you in on what may be going on. While all three conditions can occur year round, flu season typically occurs fall through spring in the United States. If you don’t believe me, just check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national flu map. Dr. Dryden says to keep in mind that people who travel abroad might be exposed to the flu since flu seasons occur at different times throughout the world.

CDC flu map
The CDC keeps an up-to-date map that shows which states have the highest number of flu cases.

Common colds mostly occur in the winter and allergies occur often with changes in the season depending on what a person is allergic to. Some people (like me, sadly) have then year round. Allergy symptoms tend to last as long as a person is exposed to an allergen or trigger while viral infections will usually last between a few days to two weeks.

It’s important to get your annual flu shot and to wash your hands regularly; especially during flu season.

The next time you feel an itchy throat and dull body aches coming on with a fever, consider what might be ailing you before you go to work and get your co-workers sick. Visit a doctor immediately. Your office mates will appreciate it and you’ll be back on your feet faster.

What are male health warning signs?

Playwright George Bernard Shaw said that youth is wasted on the young. If you don’t understand what this means, you’re not 40 yet. Alas, having reached this milestone (a few years ago), I know perfectly well what it means.

Beyond things like not belonging to the “right” demographic advertisers covet or having 30-year-olds call you “sir,” the nagging aches, pains and medical issues that sometimes come with age are probably the worst things some men have to look forward to.

What are the health warning signs that things may not be right that every man should heed? I sat down with Dr. Timothy Boone, chairman of the Houston Methodist Department of Urology, to talk about men’s health – specifically an aging man’s health. Dr. Boone cautions that there are several warning signs that should send any man to visit their doctor right away.

“You should be aware of a strong family history of prostate cancer – mainly first-degree family members. So if you have a father, a brother or an uncle who’ve had prostate cancer you probably should get checked as early as 45 to 50 years old,” Dr. Boone said.

This doesn’t mean that men in their late 40s and early 50s without a history of prostate cancer shouldn’t have a conversation about a PSA test with their doctor – they should. PSA – or prostate-specific antigen – is a protein produced by cells in the prostate. An elevated level of PSA can sometimes point to cancer.

Perhaps a scarier warning sign something may be wrong is finding blood in your urine. Even if it’s not accompanied with pain, it’s still something you should get checked out immediately.

There are several warning signs that should send any man to visit their doctor right away Click To Tweet

“It could be something as simple as a small stone that isn’t really causing you any trouble. But it could also be something much more serious like bladder cancer – especially if you’re a smoker,” Dr. Boone said.

You should also pay attention to how often you’re urinating. “Frequent urination may be a sign of diabetes,” Dr. Boone said. “Diabetes can affect your bladder function if it gets out of control.”

If you’re feeling dehydrated and notice you’re going to the bathroom more than normal, you may want to call your doctor.

And while it’s probably no man’s favorite subject of discussion, if your erections are dropping off in terms of rigidity it’s probably time to make an appointment with your doctor.

“It’s an early warning sign of significant cardio vascular disease. In fact it may be the first sign because the blood vessels in the penis are so small they’re real sensitive to narrowing long before your cardiac vessels are,” Dr. Boone said. “Loss of erective function in men in their 40s and 50s warrants careful attention.”

Dr. Boone said that the best way to prevent some of these issues to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. “Weight loss, good diet and exercise all have preventative features relevant to urology.”

As to how do you get the younger generations to stop asking you about the Cold War, the first moon landing or disco … I can’t help you.

Making the traditional tamale healthier

or many households of Mexican descent in the United States, the weeks following Thanksgiving aren’t only about wrapping gifts but also about wrapping tamales. The savory treats – traditionally prepared with generous amounts of lard and lots of salt – don’t have to be unhealthy. 

talames-recipeFor those unfamiliar with the delicacy, a tamale is made with seasoned, cooked pork surrounded by cornmeal, or masa, encased in a corn husk (or banana leaf). It is then steam cooked. Tamale recipes can vary greatly with the only mainstays being the masa shell and the husk. Unfortunately for those who enjoy tamales, they are often not very healthy.

“My grandmother would use an entire carton of lard when preparing the masa. The amount of salt is also extensive as salt is often added to the meat as well as the masa,” said Jennifer Pascoe, a registered nurse in the Houston Methodist Hospital Weight Management Center, who educates patients on how to eat healthier and maintain special diets. “Salt should be limited in all diets especially those with diabetes, hypertension, and congestive heart failure. The recommendation is to not exceed 2 grams per day.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. Latino populations face even higher risks of heart disease as a result of their preponderance for obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

There are many substitutions that can be made to make the traditional tamale healthier, according to Pascoe. In addition, you can use a healthier recipe for tamales.

“For starters you can buy a leaner cut of pork or at the very least trim the fat off the meat before cooking, and then make sure you drain the fat off the meat before preparing the mixture,” Pascoe said.

Here are more tips for healthier tamales:

  • Replace the pork with a healthier alternative such as ground or shredded white chicken or turkey meat, beans or vegetables. Popular vegetarian tamale recipes call for cooked vegetables such as serrano peppers or spinach, black or pinto beans, and low-fat cheeses.
  • Replace lard or vegetable shortening with vegetable oil.
  • Replace the pork drippings some people use to flavor the masa with chili powder since it’s the chili powder that gives the pork drippings some of its flavor.

Pascoe said the biggest challenge to removing the lard or vegetable shortening in the mixture will be spreading the masa on the corn leafs, which will take more time and patience but will be worth the fat and calories saved.

There are many substitutions that can be made to make the traditional tamale healthier Click To Tweet

“If you know you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you probably shouldn’t eat traditional tamales,” Pascoe said. “For these people I would recommend preparing a dozen or so healthy tamales, which use all of our healthy substitutions.”

And everyone should limit the amount of tamales they eat regardless of how they’re prepared.

Healthier Chicken Tamales
Yields 16
A healthier version of the traditional chicken tamale
Write a review
253 calories
26 g
60 g
5 g
25 g
1 g
216 g
358 g
2 g
0 g
4 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 253
Calories from Fat 46
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 60mg
Sodium 358mg
Total Carbohydrates 26g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 2g
Protein 25g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. Filling
  2. 2.5 pounds chicken breasts
  3. 3.5 cups water (or enough to cover chicken in pot)
  4. 1 teaspoon canola oil
  5. 1 medium onion
  6. 1 medium bell pepper
  7. 3 garlic cloves
  8. 1 tomato
  9. 2 teaspoons cumin
  10. 2 teaspoons dried chili peppers, crushed
  11. 1 teaspoon low-sodium salt
  12. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1/2 cup tomato paste
  14. Masa
  15. 4 cups masa corn flour
  16. 4 teaspoons canola oil
  17. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  18. 2 teaspoons chili powder
  19. 1/2 teaspoon low-sodium salt
  20. 2 cups chicken broth (reserved from cooking the chicken)
  21. 18 to 20 dried corn husks
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Bring pot to a low boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the meat is cooked.
  2. Remove chicken from the broth (set broth aside) and let it cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it and chop. You may add a little broth to keep it moist.
  3. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion, garlic and peppers until tender. Add the tomato, chili peppers, pepper, cumin, and low-sodium salt. Add tomato paste and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir the mixture as needed.
  4. Puree the sauce in a food processor or blender and return it to the pan. Add the shredded chicken, stir and let the mixture simmer for 10 to 15 minutes on low heat. Allow to cool.
  5. Soak the corn husks in a large bowl of hot water for about 20 minutes. Make sure they are pliable.
  6. Prepare the masa mixture by combining all ingredients and mixing until the mixture clumps together. Add broth as necessary to make the masa pliable. Turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a minute. Divide the masa mixture into 16 equal balls.
  7. Drain and rinse the corn husks. Pat dry and keep covered with a warm damp towel. Tear two or three corn husks into 1/4 inch strips to use for ties. You will need 16 corn husks for the tamales.
  8. Flatten the corn husk on a flat surface. With a spoon or spatula spread one ball of dough over the husk leaving about a 1-inch margin on all sides. You may add a few tablespoons of warm chicken broth to the masa to make it more pliable and easier to spread. Add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of filling to the center. Roll up lengthwise into a cylinder and wrap with the corn husk. Secure the ends by tying with a strip of husk. Repeat with remaining dough, filling the remaining husks. You may freeze the tamales to cook at a later date or steam cook immediately.
  9. Place the tamales in a steamer basket and set over one inch of boiling water. Cover tightly and reduce heat. Steam the tamales between 30 to 45 minutes until cooked. Check frequently and replenish water as needed. Frozen tamales should be thawed for at least one hour and will require a longer cook time.
Healthy Knowledge http://blog.houstonmethodist.org/

Tips for avoiding holiday illnesses

It’s often said that the holidays are a time for giving. For me, they seem to be a time for getting … sick, that is. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve spent hard-earned vacation time sick in bed instead of enjoying the time off I’ve scheduled for Christmas and New Year’s because I couldn’t avoid a bug. 

Before I headed out to join the crowds to buy gifts this year, I reached out to Dr. Joshua Septimus, clinical associate professor at Weill-Cornell and Houston Methodist Hospital, for any advice he could give me for avoiding holiday illnesses. But first I asked Dr. Septimus why it seems that people get sick more often during the fall and winter.

Getting sleep, exercising, eating well & washing your hands can help prevent seasonal illnesses Click To Tweet

“We think people get sick more often during the winter months because they are in close quarters and outside less,” Dr. Septimus explained. “Certain viruses also just follow certain seasonal trends that we don’t understand. For example respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the fall and influenza (flu) in the winter.”

So perhaps joining the mass of humanity at the mall isn’t the best way to avoid germs. But it’s not always easy to avoid crowds during the holidays, especially when there’s shopping to do and people to visit. However, there are some things that we can do to help prevent getting sick.

“The most important may sound trite but isn’t: wash your hands!” Dr. Septimus says. “This is especially important when touching doorknobs. I always use a tissue to turn off faucets in public restrooms and to open the doors.”

While the advice may seem cliché, it’s something to consider as you reach for that Elsa doll that who knows how many runny-nosed children have handled in the last few days. During the holidays, thousands of shoppers are liable to put their hands on surfaces you’ll come into contact with – and inevitably some of those people will have cooties.

If you don’t have the opportunity to wash your hands, alcohol-based hand sanitizer also works well when you’re out and about, according to Dr. Septimus.

While some people gobble up things like vitamin C or products that claim to boost your immune system, Dr. Septimus says those things don’t really work. Instead, he recommends a more common sense approach to staying healthy.

“Get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly,” Dr. Septimus says, as these things really will boost your immune system. One more thing that you can do is to get a flu shot as the fall and winter are flu season.

Staying healthy during the holidays may take a little work, but it’s not impossible. But if you want to avoid any possibility of catching a bug in the next few months you could also consider doing all your shopping online. With my track record, I might catch a computer virus.

Protect your child from RSV (photo credit: CDC)


The trouble with e-cigarettes

Growing up I was a big fan of bubble gum cigarettes – basically a pink bubble gum stick coated with powdered sugar and wrapped in a faux cigarette wrapper. After blowing intensely into the gum, you’d usually produce a small puff of “smoke” before unwrapping the gum and chewing it. My fascination with these bubble gum cigarettes was more a result of my love of sweets than a latent desire to smoke.

Today’s youth are also being tempted to emulate this very dangerous habit by e-cigarette manufacturers. E-cigarettes are cigarette-shaped devices used to deliver nicotine to the user by way of vapors instead of smoke. They are often marketed as a smoking cecession device and as a healthier option to cigarettes. The first e-cigarettes were introduced in 2007.

“E-cigarettes are still fairly new and there have been a few concerns about them,” says Dr. Adelola Ashaye who does smoking cessation counseling. “I generally don’t recommend them as I think additional research is warranted.”

Sage advice, but advice that is being ignored by many young people as evidence is mounting that e-cigarettes often serve as a gateway to other tobacco products. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “E-cigarette experimentation and recent use doubled among U.S. middle and high school students during 2011–2012, resulting in an estimated 1.78 million students having ever used e-cigarettes as of 2012.”

According to the CDC report almost 10 percent of these students who reported using e-cigarettes had never smoked traditional cigarettes before. In other words, they were introduced to smoking by e-cigarettes.

Just because e-cigarettes aren’t traditional cigarettes doesn’t mean they’re automatically safe (Click the graphic to see a full version)

The American Heart Association (AHA) is taking no chances and just called for state and federal laws and regulations that would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors as part of its recently released policy statement on e-cigarettes. “There is a concern among public health advocates that e-cigarettes could increase nicotine addiction and serve as a gateway for the use of tobacco products, particularly among youth” the AHA writes.

Youth in my day had to deal with cavities and being picked last for kickball if they chose to imitate the nasty habit of smoking by chewing too much bubble gum. However, today’s youth who choose to partake in this activity could be facing more severe consequences.

The CDC report says that increased use of e-cigarettes among youth “is a serious concern because the overall impact of e-cigarette use on public health remains uncertain. In youths, concerns include the potential negative impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development, as well as the risk for nicotine addiction and initiation of the use of conventional cigarettes or other tobacco products.”

Increasing numbers of teens are being introduced to smoking via e-cigarettes Click To Tweet

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has oversight over any tobacco product in the United States, e-cigarettes fall outside of its jurisdiction as they contain no actual tobacco. As a result tobacco companies that manufacture e-cigarettes “have been rapidly expanding using aggressive marketing messages similar to those used to promote cigarettes in the 1950s and 1960s” according to a recent scientific review on e-cigarettes in Circulation Magazine. “E-cigarette advertising is on television and radio in many countries that have long banned similar advertising for cigarettes and other tobacco products and may be indirectly promoting smoking conventional cigarettes.”

In other words, tobacco companies are coming for you and your kids with clever marketing campaigns and by offering e-cigarettes in flavors like cotton candy and yep – bubble gum.

“It may be some time before we fully know the risks of using e-cigarettes, but it’s not too early to sit down with your kids to discuss the potential harm in using e-cigarettes and cigarettes, too,” Dr. Ashaye added.

For more information and tips on quitting, look to  our Kicking The Habit Pinterest board!

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Kicking The Habit on Pinterest.

Reviewed by Dr. Adelola Ashaye

The limitations of body mass index (BMI)

 166608586A few days ago a friend on Facebook reposted a cartoon of a woman declaring that according to the BMI chart, she was too short. For those who aren’t familiar, Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a simple measurement tool used to calculate height-to-weight ratio.

Some people argue that BMI is too simple a measurement. Is BMI still useful for someone concerned about their weight?

“It can be helpful as one factor to consider in determining chronic disease risk in the general population,” explained Chelsea VanDusen, a clinical dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital.

She explained that other factors such as age, gender, past medical history, family history and lifestyle factors including diet, smoking and physical activity levels all play a part in helping to determine risk and must all be considered in order to have an accurate picture.

The limitation of BMI as Chelsea explained it is that it’s intended as a “measure of fatness” but doesn’t actually take body fat percentage into account. “It’s therefore skewed in individuals who are highly muscular or those who have muscle wasting,” she said.

BMI doesn’t take body fat percentage into account, making it a skewed metric Click To Tweet

For example, a bodybuilder – whose weight may be higher than normal due to increased muscle mass – may appear obese according to his BMI number. In comparison, an elderly person’s BMI number may appear in the healthy range (<27) even though they’ve had significant muscle loss.

166596238“In fact, elderly people may have increased mortality risk with a BMI of less than 22, whereas that is considered in the ‘healthy range’ for younger adults,” Chelsea said.

Another limitation of BMI is the fact that it does not differ between men and women even though men tend to have larger frames in addition to a more muscular build. So even though a man and a woman may have the same BMI, the woman would likely have a higher percentage of body fat than the male.

BMI also doesn’t take fat distribution into account.  For example, a person’s waist circumference can be used to determine their amount of visceral fat, which is located around vital internal organs and is often associated with increased levels of inflammation and chronic disease risk.

Why do people continue to use BMI as a measurement to determine how healthy someone is?

“While other measures of body fat including waist measurement, skin-fold measurements and bioelectrical impedance are useful, they tend to be more expensive, intrusive and/or difficult to standardize due to human error,” Chelsea explained.  “Therefore, BMI continues to be widely used.”

Regardless of your BMI number, remember – it’s only one piece of the puzzle. And unless you’re planning on growing a few more inches, the best way to reduce it is by eating better and getting some exercise

Want to see what your BMI is? Try the calculator below:

Recipe: Fruit Salad With Cannoli Cream

Our goal at Houston Methodist is to make sure our patients get healthy and stay healthy. But we understand that we have to also be healthy if we’re going to help our patients. This is the reason that Houston Methodist has established a strong culture that promotes employee health.

Getting healthy and staying healthy sometimes requires us to establish good habits, such as getting exercise on a regular basis, and eating a healthy diet. Many people believe this entails long hours at the gym and sacrificing your favorite foods.

While that’s certainly one way to do it, it can be time consuming and difficult. Believe me, I know. However there are many simple habits you can develop to help you accomplish the same thing and they only require us to choose healthier alternatives. You’d be surprised how effective these simple tips can be:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Don’t take the closest parking space at the mall – park farther away and walk.
  • Drink water or tea, instead of soda or sugary beverages.
  • Pack a homemade lunch instead of stopping at the fast food drive through.

Our president and CEO, Dr. Marc Boom, lives a healthy lifestyle and encourages all my fellow employees to do the same. He recently shared this fruit salad with cannoli cream recipe with me – and now I’m sharing with you.

It’s not as healthy as eating an apple, but it’s better than a slice of pie. And again, sometimes getting healthy is about finding a healthier alternative – and this one is loaded with delicious fruits. You’ll be amazed how wonderful and delicious cold fruit can be in the summer, making this dessert perfect for the Fourth of July.

Fruit Salad With Cannoli Cream
Yields 6
Write a review
Total Time
45 min
Total Time
45 min
179 calories
24 g
22 g
9 g
4 g
4 g
189 g
19 g
15 g
0 g
4 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 179
Calories from Fat 76
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 22mg
Sodium 19mg
Total Carbohydrates 24g
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 15g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  2. 1/3 cup whipping cream; (plus 2 tablespoons)
  3. 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  4. 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  5. 12 ounces fresh strawberries; hulled, quartered (about 2 1/2 cups)
  6. 1/2 pint fresh raspberries; (about 1 1/4 cups)
  7. 1/2 pint blueberries
  8. 1/2 pint blackberries
  9. 1 tablespoon sugar
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  11. 2 kiwi; peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  12. 3 tablespoons sliced almonds; toasted
  1. Stir the ricotta and 2 tablespoons of cream in a medium bowl to blend.
  2. Beat the remaining 1/3 cup of cream, powdered sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl until semi-firm peaks form.
  3. Fold the ricotta into the whipped cream.
  4. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to stiffen and yield a creamier filling. (This can be prepared 4 hours ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate.)
  5. Toss the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and/or blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl to combine.
  6. Let the fruit stand until juices form, tossing occasionally a few times for about 15 minutes. Add the kiwi.
  7. Spoon the fruit mixture into 4 dessert bowls.
  8. Dollop the ricotta cream atop the fruit.
  9. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve.
Healthy Knowledge http://blog.houstonmethodist.org/
 Special thanks to BigOven user Debbie Painko for her photo of this recipe.

Summertime snacks fit for kids

In just a few days, my teenage son will come spend the next month with me, and there are three things I’m certain of: He’ll stay up long after he’s supposed to; he’ll sleep way longer than he should; and he’ll eat me out of house and home.

While I don’t have the energy to control the first and I have to work and can’t always control the second, I do know I have some power over what he eats when he’s at my house. As anyone with a teenage boy in the house will attest – they can eat … a lot. Just because he’s going to eat doesn’t mean he can’t eat healthy.

While we can't control everything our kids do, we can help them make healthier decisions when it comes to food Click To Tweet

I reached out to Kristen Kizer, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietitian with Houston Methodist Wellness Services for some healthy food suggestions for my son. She provided me some great (and simple!) summertime snacks that should keep any teenager properly fueled for most activities.

Guacamole and baby carrots:

“All this simple guacamole requires is jar of salsa and some avocados. You mix them together and you have an instant dip for veggies,” Kristen said. She recommends baby carrots because they’re already washed and ready to eat. “The vitamin C in the salsa will keep the guacamole from turning brown and the healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado will keep your hungry teens satisfied,” she said.

Whole wheat rotini and veggies and pasta sauce:

“Pasta is versatile and can easily be made in large quantities. Take a bag of frozen mixed veggies together with a jar of pasta sauce and heat up in a sauce pot while you cook the pasta,” Kristen said. To make it easy for your teenager to heat up, Kristen suggests putting everything in the refrigerator in a covered glass container once it’s been cooked. “All your kids have to do is grab the complete meal and heat it up in the microwave, and with all the sauce and vegetables, they won’t even know they’re getting a healthy dose of fiber, magnesium, manganese and selenium,” she said.

Greek yogurt with fruit:

“I prefer to add frozen fruit to Greek yogurt over fresh because it makes it a cool, refreshing treat, and as the fruit melts, the juice spreads throughout the yogurt, making it sweeter,” Kristin said. She suggests buying 32-ounce containers of yogurt and adding your teenager’s favorite fruit. “The extra protein from the Greek yogurt will keep your hungry teen full and he or she will also be getting fiber from the fruit, as well as vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and calcium.”


When you don’t have time to leave something prepared, cereal is always an easy alternative. “Keeping a box of lower sugar cereal on hand can be helpful when teens are around. I suggest something with no more than 6 grams of sugar, like Kashi’s Heart-to-Heart or Honey Sunshine,” Kristen said. “Original Cheerios  can also be jazzed up with some vanilla extract and cinnamon, or PB2, a natural, dried peanut butter powder that can make plain Cheerios taste a lot more like their peanut butter variety without all the added sugar.”

Thanks to Kristen’s help I think I’m ready for the onslaught my kitchen will face these coming weeks, and perhaps more important, my son will have healthy alternatives to enjoy instead of typical junk food and snacks.

For healthy cooking ideas, check out our Snack Smart Pinterest board.

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Snack Smart on Pinterest.