Showcasing Leadership and Expertise in Health

RVNAhealth took center stage recently in two thought provoking discussions about the health care industry and the relationship between nutrition and mental illness.

TEDMED Conversations: “How to Create a Healthier Future for All”

Sandro Galea and Theresa Santoro, TEDMED Conversations

Theresa Santoro, President & CEO of RVNAhealth had the privilege of interviewing Sandro Gale, physician, epidemiologist, author, dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health. The interview, “How to Create a Healthier Future for All,” was presented on TEDMED Conversations – an interview series with some of the world’s brightest minds discussing the hardest topics.

In this 12-minute segment, Santoro and Gale discuss topics ranging from the forces around us that generate good health; success of the healthcare system treating those already ill vs preventing illness; COVID-19 reflections and impacts; and the hope for a healthier future.  Watch Now 


“All Things Life” Podcast: Diet and Mental Illness with Monica Marcello

Niro Feliciano Podcast

The idea that what you eat can heal your body is age-old, but is this true for mental illness? Dietitian Monica Marcello believes it can make a significant difference, now proven through clinical studies. It goes to show how integrated mental and physical health truly are. Learn what you can do to affect mood and mental health simply through diet in this informative episode. Listen Now.

School Lunch Ideas

RVNAhealth wellness and healthy eating

The Question:

Help! I need creative lunch ideas for back to school. What do you recommend for a healthy school lunch? 

Meg’s Response:

Packing lunch for your child — every single day — can be a challenge. And a chore! You want to provide nutritious food to fuel your child’s brain, but at the same time, you want your child to actually eat what you pack, right?

Here are my tips for healthy school lunches:

  • Get your child involved: Make a back-to-school trip to the grocery store to pick out a few healthy school lunch items. Have your child pick one or two items from each section of the grocery store that he or she would enjoy in school lunch. If you leave the store with 2 fruits, 2 veggies, 2 meat/bean foods, 2 dairy foods and 2 grain foods that your child enjoys, that will help to ensure that your child will enjoy what you pack.
  • Have fun: Use cookie cutters to cut foods into fun and appealing shapes. Not a creative type? Find fun, reusable lunch containers in bright colors that will make lunch seem more…. ENTERTAINING!
  • Go for the nibble tray: Instead of packing a sandwich, pack a nibble tray! Find a reusable container with lots of small compartments, and fill each compartment with something different. Kids love variety! Include cream cheese, hummus, SunButter, bean dip, salsa, guacamole and other fun dips and spreads along with fruits and veggies to dip. Add a baggie of whole wheat crackers or a slice of multigrain bread on the side for some healthy whole grains.
  • Don’t feel guilty about combining healthy convenient foods with foods that you prepare from home. What do I mean when I say that? It is ok to purchase items like individual portion hummus cups, guacamole, and bean dips and pair those with baby carrots, grapes, sliced cheese, sliced cucumber circles and some whole-grain crackers for a “snacky” lunch. These “short cuts” can help to provide a healthy – and quick to assemble – lunch. What other healthy, but convenient foods can you think of to add to school snacks and lunches?
  • Keep portion size in mind. Often times parents think their children aren’t eating enough fruits and veggies. Did you know that the portion size of fruits and veggies for preschoolers and elementary-aged children is 1 tablespoon per year of age? That’s right, so a 5-year old would only need about 4 whole strawberries for a serving a fruit and 10 carrot coins for a serving of veggies.
  • Try School Lunch: If there is a meal offered in the cafeteria that your child enjoys, let them buy lunch. It teaches your child how to navigate a public food setting, getting them ready for middle school, high school and college. It also gives your child practice communicating needs and preferences. While school lunches historically have had a reputation of being less than perfect, things have changed. Stop by the school cafeteria and check it out for yourself. And hey – it gives you a break from packing! Can’t beat that.
  • Great Nut-Free Options: Food allergies and intolerances are an additional consideration to be made for many families packing school snacks and lunches. Depending on the school’s policy, you may or may not be able to include peanuts and tree nuts. Here is a list of nut-free protein-rich foods that can be packed as a part of a healthy school lunch
    Hard-boiled egg
    Hummus and other bean dips
    Low Fat Greek Yogurt
    Low Sodium Deli Meat and Cheese roll-ups
    Sunbutter (sunflower seed) and Wowbutter (soy nut butter)
    Cubed grilled chicken
    Beans (chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, pink beans, white beans)
    Cottage Cheese

Deep Dive Into … Water

RVNAhealth nutrition programs, fairfield county, ct

We know! We need to drink more water. Every single day without fail and a single cup won’t do. Correct?

Correct. For those of us who hydrate regularly, we know our bodies catch on. The more water we drink, the more we like it, the better we feel, the more we want it. When we’re low, we notice.

But for those of us who struggle with the immensity of the daily requirements and often simply ‘forget,’ the key questions are: how much do we really need and how can we meet our daily requirements and have a little fun while we’re at it? Are all types of water created equal? And do other beverages contribute to our daily allowance?

Here with advice is RVNA’s nutrition team, Meg Whitbeck, MS, RDN, and her newest colleague, Ava Safir, JD, MS, RDN.

How Much?

How much water do we need each day? Half your body weight in ounces per day, increasing to ¾ or even 1x your body weight if you exercise. You can hydrate with any clear beverage that is unsweetened (real or artificial sweetener), decaffeinated, and alcohol-free. Decaf herbal tea, mineral water, seltzer with a splash of fruit juice… it all counts. If you have a health condition that impacts your need for water – always follow the recommendations that your physician provides.

Are all waters created equal?

Mineral water is typically from a natural, spring-fed source. Water that is from a natural source/spring will have minerals in it from the rock/ground surrounding the area. So, if a spring flows through a limestone rock, it will have higher levels of calcium than water that flows over granite. You can also find sodium, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium and many other minerals dissolved into mineral water. That’s the good news. Pollutants also find their way into mineral water too, so you need to proceed with caution.  Know the source of your water, check the bottling dates, and choose glass bottles!
We recommend no more than 10 oz. per day.

Purified water, meanwhile, is treated and filtered to remove any possible contaminants. Distilled water – a form of purified water — is boiled, and the steam is collected and bottled. Distilled water has no minerals in it. Sounds harmless, right?  So why don’t we all drink distilled water all the time? Well, due to the lack of minerals, distilled water doesn’t contain any of the electrolytes, which are minerals, and we need electrolytes for proper hydration and fluid balance in our body. Without electrolytes, we would perish! Who wants that?
We do not recommend drinking distilled water unless it is used to prepare infant formula. 

What about alkaline water?  Well, alkaline water is water that has minerals dissolved into it that raise the pH to a more alkaline level. These minerals are more of those “good-for-you electrolytes” that we just talked about. However, if you water is acidic or too alkaline (aka ‘hard water’), that could be a tad problematic for your teeth, stomach and appliances!
We recommend alkaline water with a known pH of 7.1 – 9.5. 

And seltzer? There is a huge seltzer trend these days. Fizzy and appealing on a hot summer day and the flavors add a little glamour to the whole situation.

Seltzer is carbonated water, usually with natural flavorings added. Ava Safir, MS, RDN, says this: “Seltzer is a great alternative to sugary drinks and sodas when you have a taste for a bubbly treat with flavor. Just be careful to limit your intake to 8-12oz daily since carbonated beverages can increase symptoms of GERD and negatively impact your bone and tooth health.”
To repeat, we recommend no more than 8-12 oz per day.

What about bottled waters – so sleek and attractive?  We are conditioned to think that bottled water is somehow healthier, but .. behold ..  it is not! Bottled waters are expensive and harmful to the environment. Plus, drinking water that has been sitting in plastic for several weeks (or even months) is not ideal. We understand that there’s a time and a place and sometimes bottled water is the only option, but don’t be fooled into thinking there’s an additional health benefit.
We recommend on an as required/needed basis. 

And last but not least, do you want to know what the best water for you is?  The old standby. Tap water.  Cheap, safe, accessible, contains local minerals, environmentally friendly.  It’s hard to beat. If you have a well, be sure to test your water yearly
Our recommendation: turn on your faucets and enjoy in superfluity.

The upshot: Drink mostly tap water. Enjoy carbonated, mineral, and bottled water sporadically.

Arthritis and the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

RVNAhealth Arthritis in Hands, elder care programs

I know nutrition can help with conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but what about arthritis. Will changing my diet help my condition?

I’m sorry to hear about your arthritis but am happy to report that there are definitely things you can do nutritionally to protect against the development of the condition or lessen the severity of symptoms. Simply put, arthritis is inflammation in the joints that worsens over time. Several types of arthritis together affect millions of Americans and limit their daily activities. So, what’s the nutritional approach to help with the inflammation of arthritis? An anti-inflammatory diet. Here are key elements to keep in mind.

Out with the Bad — Foods that Promote Inflammation
Higher intake of meat and alcohol contributes to increased inflammation in the body. Lower consumption of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, whether in combination with high meat and alcohol intake or not, also contributes.

In with the Good – Foods that Help
Evidence suggests that increasing consumption of vitamin C, vitamin D found in fatty fish, omega 3s found in ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, and nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin may help with arthritic symptoms. Phytochemicals found in a wide variety of foods such as fennel, garlic, basil, rosemary, pomegranate, turmeric, red pepper, cloves, anise, and ginger can also fight inflammation.

Lighten Up
For osteoarthritis in particular, weight loss is effective because excess weight strains the joints. As little as a 5% reduction in weight from a sensible diet— in an overweight person — can bring an 18% gain in overall functioning. While it’s not recommended that people at a healthy weight attempt to lose weight, everyone benefits from vitamins A, C, D, E and omega-3s.

Translating it to the Kitchen Table
The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t new. In essence, it’s similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has myriad health benefits beyond reduction of inflammation. The recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include:

  • Fish: 3-4 oz. fatty fish (cold water fish like salmon, tuna, scallops, sardines, herring) twice a week. If you’re not a fish fan, try taking 600-1,000 mg of fish oil daily. Omega-3s found in these foods and supplements can help with pain, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness.
  • Nuts: 1 ounce per day to provides benefit from vitamins B6 and Omega-3s. Choose walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Nine or more 1-cup servings per day helps due to the antioxidants and phytochemicals they offer. Quick tip — the brighter the color, the higher the antioxidants, so choose broccoli, spinach, kale, blueberries, cherries.
  • Beans: 1 cup at least twice per week. Beans contain fiber and phytonutrients that can help lower a key marker of inflammation in the blood, and are filled with protein which helps with muscle health. Best choices include red kidney beans, pinto beans, and small red beans.
  • Whole grains: 6 oz. of grains per day (at LEAST 3 oz. should be whole grains). A serving boils down to a cup of cooked brown rice or one slice whole grain bread. Much like beans, the fiber here is key.
  • A word about night shade vegetables: Some people report more pain when consuming tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and red bell peppers, sometimes referred to as nightshade vegetables. If they cause discomfort for you, avoid them. Otherwise, feel free to eat them as they contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals!

By following an anti-inflammatory diet, you can keep inflammation and arthritic symptoms at bay. As always, it’s important to talk to your doctor or healthcare team about supplementation and what’s the best fit for you.

Meg Whitbeck, MS, RD, counsels patients in disease management through nutrition. For more information or to schedule a private consultation, contact RVNA at 203-438-5555