All posts by pk_admin

About pk_admin

Penelope Kokkinides is a lifelong New Yorker and health care professional. Here, I plan to share with you the wide-ranging things I find interesting day-to-day. I love to travel, by horseback or jet plane, and hope you will tag along on this journey with me.

Health Fads vs. Health Facts

Every day, the Internet provides some new trend or article about how to be a healthier you. Take a shot of this vinegar or eat this “superfood” eighteen times a day. A recent American Heart Association report, however, debunked the unsupported theory that coconut oil is a health conscience food choice. So, how do we know which health tips are legit? Here are a few recommendations on how to see through the fake (health) news:

1.       Check the Source

Always be sure to check the source of whatever article you’re reading. If the information is coming from a registered dietitian or a doctor, it’s more likely to be valid than if the article is just a columnist with no background in health.

2.       Recognize the Dietary Restrictions

Any diet that’s telling you to completely cut out any one part of your diet—sugars, carbs, etc.—is a no-go. Depriving our bodies of any one food group will ultimately lead to a binge. You’re better off eating smaller portions of well-rounded meals to keep you full, healthy and content. 

3.       Be Wary of the “Quick Fix”

If any product or diet promises “immediate results” or a quick cure, it’s probably not going to work. The only way to achieve your health goals is to eat a well-rounded, balanced diet and pair that with daily activity. It’s a process of transformation, but it’s a lifestyle development that will pay off in the long run. 

Regardless of the validity behind any new health craze, you should always consult with your doctor before making any significant dietary change. For more information, check out the FDA’s rundown of how to spot health fraud. And feel free to leave a comment in the section below to let me know about any of the fads you’ve tried — what worked, what didn’t, and what to be on the lookout for!

Healthy, Yummy, Summertime Foods

With summer (somehow) already in full swing, this time of year is not only a peak for high temperatures, but also the height of the season for some of the most delicious foods! Known as the season of fresh fruits and vegetables, summer does not disappoint in its offerings of delicious, healthy snacks. In addition to being delicious, many of the foods in summer’s bounty are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – plus, many naturally help you stay hydrated!

Some of my favorite healthy summer foods include:

1.      Berries — strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries (you get the picture)

2.      Avocado

3.      Watermelon

4.      Tomatoes

5.      Cucumber

6.      Zucchini

Click here for a full list of foods in season this summer.

The best way to find the freshest food near you is to head to your closest farmers’ market. There, you can often talk with the people who grow the foods you’re eating and get the inside scoop on what’s best when. An added bonus is buying this farm-fresh food also supports the local economy. Talk about a win-win!

Celebration: Red, White and Blue

Before we know it, flags will be waving, fireworks bursting and John Philip Sousa tunes blaring. While some people relish in family holiday traditions, there are celebrations happening across the country for the patriotic enthusiast who’s looking for a larger July 4 celebration. Below are a list of the top places to enjoy all things red, white and blue this Independence Day.

Washington, D.C.

It doesn’t get more patriotic than spending Independence Day in our nation’s capital. Not only is D.C. a mecca for all things American history, but there is a pretty fantastic firework show to boot. Take a seat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or a grassy spot on the National Mall to see the show.

New York City

You’re sure to never be bored in the City that Never Sleeps. Whether you take a day trip around the harbor to visit Lady Liberty and Ellis Island or spend the day perusing the newest exhibits at The Met, you have to make sure to catch the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show. Recognized as the nation’s largest celebration of Independence Day, this 25-minute spectacle of pyrotechnics is a must see – even at the Big Apple’s high standards.

Boston

As one of our country’s oldest cities, Boston is keen on its Fourth of July celebrations. The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is accompanied not only by the renowned Boston Pops orchestra but also real cannon fire. You can have a great view of all of the festivities from anywhere along the 3-mile stretch of the esplanade along the Charles River.

Philadelphia

Where better to enjoy some good ole fashioned patriotism than in America’s birthplace? Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed), so you won’t be without a surplus of American pride and joy. Join in on the Philly fun by attending their eight-day festival that culminates with one of the largest free outdoor concerts in the country and a grand fireworks show that lights up the sky over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Wherever you decide to spend your holiday weekend, make sure to celebrate the Fourth in a safe, patriotic way!

Beat the Heat with Summer Style

I can be daunting to look at the forecast only to see high temps creeping towards triple digits. In order to tackle the summer heat and keep your cool, just follow these few simple tips.

Sunglasses, SPF and Hats – Oh My!

It’s pretty obvious as to how an itchy, uncomfortable sunburn can ruin an outfit. Protect your skin, and sanity for that matter, with continual application of a sunscreen (SPF 50 research says). To keep your outfit stylish and your face safe, you can always opt for a floppy hat. Also, if the eyes are the window to the soul, think of your sunglasses as black-out curtains, protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Keep it Cotton (or other natural fibers)

Wearing breathable fabrics like cotton or linen is a sure-fire way to keep your internal body temperature in check. These breathable fabrics are key in making sure that you can enjoy the outdoors without compromising your comfort.

Opt for Lighter Colors

We all know that wearing all-black is a slimming option, but in terms of keeping cool, it’s best to leave the darker hues for winter. Go with lighter colors because they reflect the heat instead of absorb it. Besides, who wants to be drab when white or a bright color can lighten your mood and the feeling of stifling heat?

The Looser, the Better

Flowy clothes don’t cling to your body, allowing air to circulate to your skin. While the common misconception may be that to stay cool you need to shed as many clothes as possible, you’ll feel more comfortable and be more protected from the heat and sun in non-clingy skirts, tops, dresses and pants. 

How to Keep Pets Feeling Fresh

The first “official” day of summer might not be here yet, but most of us are already feeling the heat. With weather this nice, it’s impossible to stay inside. But before you pack up to take on the great outdoors with a furry friend, check out these tips on how to keep your pet happy and safe this summer season.

  1. Don’t leave your pet in an unattended vehicle.
    This is a biggie. Cars retain more heat than an open area, even in the shade. No matter if you roll down your windows, it’s easy for dogs to overheat and become dehydrated quickly. If this hasn’t already hit it home, some states have laws in place making it illegal to leave animals in a confined vehicle.
  2. Keep your pet hydrated.
    Just like you and me, pets get thirsty. In fact, they get dehydrated even quicker because they don’t have the pores to sweat, so they can’t control their body temperature. Make sure to always have fresh, clean water on hand for your pet whether you’re out taking a walk or just playing in the yard.
  3. Be smart about your outdoor time.
    To avoid dehydration, it’s best to limit when and how much you do when it’s hot outside. Opt to be outside with your pet early in the morning or in the evening so your pet still gets the exercise he needs with a smaller risk of overheating. If you can’t avoid the hottest times of the day, at least do your best to avoid hot surfaces like asphalt that could overheat your pup’s paws.

The best way to keep your pet safe is to just be aware. Don’t let the heat spoil your summer; follow these simple tips to keep your pet healthy, happy and hydrated!

How to Avoid Bug Bites

Summer time is almost here, and that means lots of time outside. Whether you are going on a camping or hiking trip, or just planting a garden in your backyard, protection against bug bites can prevent you from irritated and itchy spots on your skin.

Bug spray, such as Repel Lemon Eucalyptus or Sawyer Picaridin (safe for children), should be applied before any outdoor activity to prevent bites.

Wearing long sleeves and pants can help prevent bites. Avoid wearing bright colors that attract bugs. Don’t wear sandals.

Don’t wear perfume or scented hair or body products.

Stay away from still-standing water and remove bodies of water around your home to prevent mosquitoes laying eggs.

Use screens on open doors and windows. Use air conditioning during hot, summer days.

Taking these steps will help you spend lots of time outside this summer without pesky bugs attacking you!

Let’s Talk About Moving

Moving. I don’t mean the “get off the couch and exercise kind.” I’m talking about gathering your belongings and relocating to another house or apartment. It’s May, which means you may even have kids of a certain age who will likely be moving to or from a dorm or apartment.

Here are some tips to keep the transition stay as simple as possible.

Invest in plastic bins: Especially if you are going to be moving every year or so due to an expiring lease, these are life savers! You can fit a lot in them, you don’t have to buy new cardboard boxes every year, they are easier to carry and they are unlikely to bust open on your way to the car.

Clean AFTER you’re finished: When you move, you notice a lot of dirt you probably didn’t know was there before. It is tempting to get out the vacuum immediately to handle it right away. But keep in mind that you will likely have to clean at the end of your move regardless since you will be constantly moving furniture and tracking dirt in.

Breathe: Take things one thing at a time and start early. Moving can be stressful. Relax, manage your tasks and enjoy the process as much as possible: one room at a time.

Is Organic Really Better?

With the increasing options at the grocery store, how do you know what to buy to get the best nutritional value for your money? A number of studies have been done on the nutritional value of organic food vs. inorganic food, so let’s break down the basics.

  • One study found a significantly higher level of antioxidants in organic foods than in conventionally grown foods. Nutrients and antioxidants are two different things and affect the body differently. However, based on their findings, these researchers declared organic food to be a more nutritious option.
  • Researchers also found higher levels of pesticides on conventionally grown foods, which they said made them more unsafe.
  • None of the studies have detected levels of pesticides or chemicals that approach anything near what would be classified as an unsafe level.
  • There is no known difference between organic and conventionally grown food with respect to nutrient content.
  • The most recent study found that organic crops are lower in protein.

As you can tell, opinions and research findings vary greatly, making it hard to feel confident in one decision on this subject. When it comes to eating healthy, ultimately the answer is to eat a balance of foods that are nutrient-rich and processed as little as possible.

Vaccinated for Vacation?

Going on vacation across the world can be very rewarding, but there are a few steps of preparation you have to take to protect yourself from coming home with a harmful disease or illness.

First, you should make sure you are up-to-date on all of your general vaccinations and any medical conditions you have are controlled (such as asthma).

General travel vaccinations include Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis, and Yellow Fever. Whether you need all of these vaccinations or just a few depends on which countries you are visiting, what activities you will be participating in (indoor or outdoor) and the time of year (is it mosquito season).

To see which vaccines you need before your vacation or trip, check with your doctor and go online to the CDC website. Taking these precautions will help you have a great time on your trip and prevent you from obtaining any unnecessary diseases. Bon voyage!

Ways to Boost Creativity

Feeling tired of doing the same thing every single day? Stuck in a creativity drought? Here are a few scientifically proven ways to boost your creative juices and get out of your rut:

  1. Exercise before work.
  2. Mix up your routine.
  3. Travel abroad.
  4. Go see a movie.
  5. Take a walk outside.
  6. Paint a picture.
  7. Start an idea notebook.
  8. Listen to classical music.
  9. Do something that scares you.
  10. Stop watching TV.

Letting yourself try new things without fear of failure, mixing things up and getting out of your routine will help you become more creative. The key is that no idea or thought is out of the question. Creativity makes room for unexpected ideas and thoughts. Let go of the thought that you are not creative, because everyone has creative potential – it’s just a matter of tapping into it!