Picnic Safety

Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager, Hebrew Health Care

Getting outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather is one of the perks of this time of year. If picnics are part of your plans, take caution with time and temperature to make sure nothing spoils your fun. Eating outdoors can be a great way to get some fresh air during your lunch break. Unfortunately, many of us tend to forget some of the basics of food safety when it comes to eating outdoors. To make sure that food borne illness does not spoil your outdoor eating, follow these simple rules.

  • Wash Your Hands-This effective step is not always so easy when you are outside. Consider washing your hands right before you head out or bring some hand wipes with you.

  • Maintain Food Temperature-Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The bacteria that can make you sick enjoy warm weather as much as you do. To keep your food safe from unwanted bacteria, keep food below 40F or above 140F. Consider ice packs or hot food containers if you don’t plan to eat your food right away. If you can’t do this, remember that anything left out for more than two hours, or one hour if it is really hot out, should be thrown away.

  • Handle Leftovers Carefully-If you bring your lunch outside and have some leftover, put it in the refrigerator as soon as you get back. If you can’t get it into a refrigerator, toss it into a cooler with ice. As good as it might have been, the risk is not worth keeping it around.

Healthy Myths vs. Facts

Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager, Hebrew Health Care

Warm Weather vs. Cold Weather
Myth: When engaging in outdoor recreation, you only need to worry about drinking enough water only during warm weather sports and activities.
Fact: Outdoor winter activities require at least as much water as outdoor activities during the rest of the year. Your body loses fluids when inhaling cold winter air, particularly during days when humidity is low and air is crisp and dry.

What about Fruit Juice?
Myth: Drinking fruit juice is a good way to meet the majority of your body’s fluid requirements as long as it is 100% juice.
Fact: While it’s true that fruit juice has high water content, the calories can add up quickly making it poor choice as a hydrating beverage. Try diluting a few ounces of your favorite fruit juice plenty of water or making a spritzer by adding a few ounces of fruit juice or nectar to a tall glass of seltzer.

Bottled Water Safety
Myth: Bottled water is safer than tap water.
Fact: Most bottled waters are safe, but it depends on where the water comes from, how it’s treated and whether or not it is tainted. In fact, an estimated 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle – sometimes treated, sometimes not. A recent survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that out of 103 brands of water tested, one-third contained significant contamination. If you’re buying bottled water, choose a major brand from a store that sells a lot of water. Once you drink from a bottle, refrigerate it, and finish it within one or two days.

Reusing Water Bottles
Myth: There’s nothing wrong with rinsing out and reusing plastic water bottles.
Fact: Reusing and refilling empty water bottles seems like a responsible practice since it helps reduce wasteful discarding of plastic. However, according to the International Bottled Water Association, these bottles, made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are intended for onetime use. Over time, the plastic loses its integrity and develop cracks of leaks. In addition, they are difficult to wash and dry due to a narrow neck. If not properly sanitized, they could harbor bacteria. It’s true that water is not the most likely environment for bacteria to grow in, but since water bottles come in contact with the mouth, particles of food mixed with saliva could flow back into the bottle where-under the right conditions, such as warm temperatures or even room temperature-bacteria could thrive. If you want to be environmentally conscious, purchase a reusable water bottle sold in bike shop or outdoors/sporting goods stores.


Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager

Staying hydrated is so crucial especially during the summer months.  Now that the weather is getting warmer, we are more likely to be involved in more outdoor activities.  These are the times we really need to make sure we are drinking more than enough water.

Below are some tips to staying hydrated during the summer months:

  •  Keep water with you.  Seeing the glass or bottle sitting next to you can remind you to drink.

  • Add citrus fruits or fresh herbs to give your water a flavor boost.

  • Try frozen fruit bars for a water-packed dessert.

  • Do the at-home test.  Check how dark or light your urine is.  While not as exact as lab tests, it will give you an idea of how you are doing.  Aim for almost clear.  It if is dark, it is time to drink more.

The Difference between Taste & Flavor

Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager, Hebrew Health Care

Everything about a food, from the smell to the packaging to the place or time we are eating can influence how we perceive flavor.  We can even be swayed by how a food is described by someone before we try it.  If something is labeled “very sweet” we tend to believe it tastes sweeter than it is.  Now add our individual genetics into the mix and it is easy to see how flavor is about much more than just taste.

Give healthy a chance.  One unfortunate example of taste vs. flavor is the myth that healthy food “tastes” bad. If you believe this stereotype, consider giving some healthy items another try with a clean slate. For a fun spin, try some foods through a blind taste test. You may be surprised with the results.

Keep trying.  With so many factors influencing flavor, it is worth giving foods a few tries before putting them on your dislike list. Vary the preparation and even the time or location and be open to the possibility of a new flavor.

 Eat Mindfully.  Part of mindful eating is awareness of many of the factors that can impact how we perceive flavor. When you eat, reduce distraction and dedicate your focus to eating.

Caffeine and Performance: Fact Sheet

Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager,  Hebrew Health Care 

For centuries, caffeine has been one of the most studied ingredients.  There is evidence that caffeine can be beneficial, both physically and mentally, during athletic performance.

Caffeine and Mental PerformanceSeveral studies have proven that caffeine increases key aspects of cognitive function.

Caffeine and Physical Performance: There is evidence that caffeine can improve physical performance.  It is shown to improve endurance during physical exercise when consumed before the activity.

Caffeine and HydrationContrary to popular belief, studies have shown that beverages with caffeine in them can help keep an athlete hydrated during physical performance.

Alternatives to Emotional Eating

By Linda McDonnell, Director of Quality Improvement

When you feel the urge to eat something, stop and ask yourself “Why?” Is it mealtime or are you feeling tired, bored, angry, stressed or lonely? If your answer isn’t physical hunger, why not try some healthier alternatives to soothe yourself?

  1. Meditation. Known to reduce stress and induce calmness in addition to other health benefits. There are many styles to choose from: concentrating on one thing, focusing on sounds, or paying attention to your thoughts. Find the one style you are comfortable with.

  2. Breathing. We all breathe automatically in order to survive but paying close attention to our breathing for a short time can help distract us from negative feelings. Find a comfortable spot to sit in and close your eyes, breathe in slowly and hold for a few seconds then slowly let your breath out. Repeat this for 5 or 10 minutes, or until you are more relaxed.

  3. Get social. Volunteer, call a friend, write a letter. A pet can be a great distracter and stress reliever if you live alone.

  4. Do some physical activity. Take a walk, rake the yard, do some weeding, go on a bike ride, or clean the house. Keep busy.

  5. Relax to music. Pick music that will soothe or calm you. Have some standby favorites ready at home or on your iPod.

  6. Do some craft or artwork. Knitting, crocheting, whittling, painting or use modeling clay. Start or finish a puzzle. We’re never too old to play!

  7. Take a bath. Relaxing in a warm tub – with or without bubbles – can help soothe away the stress.

  8. Take a nap. Give yourself permission to lie down with no distractions. Even if you don’t fall asleep, just resting can be beneficial.

  9. Make a cup of tea. Sit back and relax with a hot or cold cup of tea and look out a window at the scenery or people watch.

  10. Laugh. Yes, laughter can be the best medicine. Read some jokes from a joke book or watch a favorite comedy movie. Laughter can have many health benefits.

The most important thing is to decide what alternative may work for you and be prepared ahead of time: download the music, buy the modeling clay and special tea, sign up to volunteer. Get your toolbox set up and open it up whenever you need to.

Go Red! Celebrate Your Health & Know where You Stand!

Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager

On February 1st, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health celebrate National Wear Red Day to bring attention to the number one killer of women- Heart Disease. Despite the fact that heart disease kills more women than the next four causes of death combined, including cancer, most women still think of it as a man’s disease. This misperception leads many of us not to take the steps we need to keep ourselves healthy.

80% of all cardiac events could be prevented if women made healthy choices for food, fitness, and smoking.

When it comes to heart health, there are some changes that pack a big punch. Celebrate your health and the health of women in your life by making these strategies a priority.
• Move more. The more active you are, the better you will feel and the lower your risk for heart disease will be. All activity counts so don’t skip it if you are short on time. Ten minutes, three times a day is enough to make a difference.
• Eat more of the good stuff. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are delicious foods that can help to lower your heart disease risk.
• Eat less of the not so good stuff. Foods that are high in sodium (salt) and Trans or saturated fat, such as bacon or packaged snacks and desserts, increase your heart disease risk and should be limited or reduced.
• And of course, don’t smoke. If you do, February 1st makes a great quit date!

Not all risk factors are obvious and most women developing heart disease have no symptoms at all. Check in with your doctor regularly to see what your personal heart disease risk is. Don’t assume that they will be the ones to start the discussion. Be proactive and have questions ready. Both the Go Red for Women and The Heart Truth websites have great tools to get you started.