Friday, December 14, 2012

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

Want to give healthier gifts to the people you care about this holiday season? Consider one of the following ideas aimed at boosting activity, eating well and feeling good!

1.  Activity tracker – Whether you opt for a basic pedometer or a more sophisticated wireless device that also monitors the wearer’s sleep cycles, keeping track of things like distance walked, steps taken and calories burned is a great motivator.

2.  Gourmet nuts – Nuts are a good source of plant protein and are high in dietary fiber, which makes them a filling snack. In moderation, they’ve been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower “bad” cholesterol levels.

3.  Subscription to a health or fitness magazine – Some popular titles include Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Shape, Cooking Light and Prevention.

4.  Group fitness classes – Consider buying a gift certificate from a local gym so that a friend or family member can try out classes like Zumba, spinning, yoga or pilates.

5.  Vegetable or herb garden kit – Encourage loved ones to prepare natural, healthy meals using home-grown herbs or vegetables. Look for options that can be grown indoors for easy access from the kitchen.

6.  Exercise, outdoor sports or camping equipment – Giving gifts to be used outside when the weather warms up can encourage children and adults to stay active all year.

7.  Dark chocolate – Eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day may help to curb cravings for both sweet and salty foods. Its antioxidants also combat free radicals, the destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

8.  Interactive video games – When playing or exercising outdoors is out of the question, movement-oriented video games may be a fun alternative.

9.  Food steamer – Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook a variety of foods. Steamers come in multiple sizes and are made of several materials suitable for stovetop, countertop or microwave cooking.

10.  Foot massager – For those who are on their feet at work (or have been standing in line to purchase holiday gifts!) a foot massager might be the perfect thing to relieve pain and reduce stress.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stay Healthy This Winter!

“Whether you love or hate the winter season, the combination of short days, cold temperatures, wind, snow and ice often takes a toll on our immune systems,” says Robin Motter-Mast, DO, primary care physician for GBMC at Hunt Valley. “Fortunately, there are many simple, inexpensive things we can do to ward off illness.” She offers the following tips for staying healthy throughout the winter months when sore throats, sniffles and the flu seem to be everywhere. 
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water.
  • Get a flu shot (except children under 6 months and adults who have experienced severe reactions to flu shots or who are allergic to eggs).
  • Exercise 30-60 minutes per day on most days of the week. Regular exercise keeps your immune system healthy so it can effectively fight infections. Plus, maintaining strength and flexibility helps to prevent injury from slips, trips and falls.
  • Strive to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and try to avoid eating processed foods.
  • Aim to sleep for 7-8 hours each night. Getting enough sleep is another way to boost the immune system and prevent stress.
  • Consider taking Vitamin D supplements.
  • Decrease alcohol consumption.

Dr. Motter-Mast also notes the importance for patients to talk with their physicians before making significant lifestyle changes. “Your doctor knows your medical history and can tailor a wellness plan around your specific health needs,” she says.  

Many of GBMC’s primary care physicians are currently accepting new patients. To find the doctor that is right for you, visit or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sweet Alternatives - Is Natural or Artificial Right for You?

The use of sugar substitutes is becoming increasingly popular, and the options continue to grow. “Choosing to use a sugar substitute is a decision that has many variables,” explains Adina Fradkin, dietitian for GBMC’s food vendor, ARAMARK. “You should consider your own health history. For example, if you are an individual with diabetes, you’re going to want to avoid adding table sugar to your foods. After health comes personal preference – are you more concerned with consuming foods that are all natural or are you OK with something artificial?”

Table sugar (glucose) is natural, but it has about 45 calories per tablespoon in addition to carbohydrate content. It has a moderate effect on glycemic index, which measures how fast a food raises your blood sugar.

“Natural” Alternatives
According to Ms. Fradkin, there is no legal definition set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for calling something “natural.” However, some natural – or not artificial – sugar substitutes to consider include agave nectar and stevia. Agave nectar (fructose) has 60 calories per tablespoon but has a lower glycemic index than sugar. It is also about one and a half times sweeter than sugar, so theoretically, less can be used for similar effect. “Because it has a slower impact on raising blood sugar, it may be an option for someone with diabetes to consider or someone who just wants to be healthier and would like to try a new ingredient,” says Ms. Fradkin. However, she cautions,
“Studies have shown that fructose can actually increase body fat and have a negative impact on insulin production, so that is something to keep in mind.”

Stevia (found in Truvia®) is a natural alternative that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant and has no effect on glycemic index. It is calorie free, sweeter than sugar and is regarded as safe by the FDA. However, there hasn’t been much research regarding the long-term effects of stevia on the body.

Artificial Sweeteners
Sucralose, (Splenda®, as many would recognize it) is a chemically altered sweetener. Sucralose has zero calories and doesn’t impact the glycemic index. But, there aren’t long-term studies on sucralose. “As with most food options, anything in moderation is OK,” says Ms. Fradkin. “Just be aware that your sucralose intake might not stop with that packet of Splenda you put in your coffee. Because it’s gained so much acceptance in the food industry, it’s in a lot of foods – even outside of the ‘sugar-free’ and ‘low-sugar’ category. Just be sure to read your labels.”

Saccharine and aspartame are other artificial sweeteners. Saccharine has been shown more definitively than aspartame to be correlated with cancer, but aspartame, which is much more widely used than saccharine, continues to be studied.

“Education is key when it comes to sweetener options,” says Ms. Fradkin. “You can go with all natural, zero calorie, or artificial – or any combination of the three. In the end, what it really comes down to is which option is going to help you achieve your personal health and lifestyle goals.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Even More Top Docs than Ever Before

Year-over-year, more and more GBMC physicians are recognized for outstanding care in Baltimore magazine’s annual list of “Top Doctors.”

With 120 members of our medical staff named to the 2012 list in 60 different specialties, we are proud to say that our numbers keep growing. GBMC has more physicians recognized than ever before–still more than any other community health system or hospital in the region!

To compile this year’s list, the publication surveyed nearly 10,000 area physicians to learn where they would send a member of their family for care. This question mirrors GBMC’s vision of providing each patient with care worthy of our own loved ones. 

A full list of recognized physicians is available at 

To find a physician that is right for you and your loved ones, simply visit, or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars

• 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
• 1 cup quick-cooking oats
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 6 tablespoons butter, melted
• 3 tablespoons orange juice
• Cooking spray

• 1 1/3 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
• 3/4 cup sour cream
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
• 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 325°.

2.  To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 1/2 cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3.  To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Servings: 24
Serving size: 1 bar
Calories: 133
Fat: 4.6g
Carb: 21.9g
Fiber: 0.9g
Protein: 1.5g
Sodium: 67mg
Calcium: 20mg

Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light