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Some tips on healthy holiday eating

Global Thanksgiving

Did you go a little overboard on Thanksgiving?  Did you take that extra helping of mom’s mashed potatoes and a too large piece of Uncle Mark's pumpkin pie?

It's true the holiday season is now in full swing and rich, fattening food beckons from all directions.

So how do you stay healthy at a time like this, while still indulging a little at the office party or church potluck?

First, even if you've been packing it in, don’t worry. You can still get back on track for the rest of the holiday eating season, says Shannon Perrett, a dietician at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

"You have to change your mindset and forgive yourself and then get back on a healthy eating pattern," she says. "Don’t throw your hands up in defeat."

Perrett says there are just a few things to keep in mind to avoid gaining weight over the holidays. 

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Are loud toys on your Christmas shopping list? Be careful

Emily Orpin/Flickr

Parents can use smartphone apps to test a toy's noise level.

Kids love loud toys. But Dr. Hamid Djalilian, an ear, nose and throat specialist at UC Irvine, says their ears don't.

Too loud

For the seventh year, Djalilian went to several stores and bought the loudest toys he could find. Then, in a double soundproof chamber, he measured their noises using a calibrated sound-level meter.

He measured more than two dozen toys that make noise about 85 decibels, a level that can cause irreversible hearing damage over eight hours, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Among them was the Space Raider Glow Space Gun, which clocks in at 115 decibels. That's somewhere between a buzz saw and standing next to a speaker at a rock concert. Noises at that level can cause hearing damage in about 30 seconds, Djalilian says.

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5 tips to avoid poisoning your dinner guests this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Rana Faure/Corbis

Make sure your bird's internal temperature hits at least 165 degrees before serving.

Thanksgiving means feasting and fun with family and friends, but skip a few important food preparation steps and an unwelcome guest may turn up at your dinner table: food poisoning.

Each year, one in six Americans is felled by food poisoning, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And many of those cases happen on holidays, such as Thanksgiving.  

That’s the bad news.

The good news?  Public health agencies say all you need to do is follow simple food preparation safety tips to protect your family, your friends and your reputation.

They include:

1. The safe thaw:  It’s best to defrost your frozen turkey in its original wrapper in your refrigerator.  Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds. If you're running short on time, simply place the  bird (keeping it in its original wrapper) in a bowl of cold water. Then replace the water every 30 minutes. You'll need about 30 minutes of water thaw for each pound of meat.  Still not enough time?  Defrost it in your microwave, then cook it immediately.  Never attempt to cook a partially thawed turkey. 

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Help! Should I still drink milk?

milk cookies

hjhipster/Flickr

Milk and cookies sure taste god. But several studies have questioned whether milk actually does a body good.

Milk is a big beverage in a lot of households, especially those with kids. But is it time to change our dairy-swigging habits? Some recent studies say yes. 

Americans are drinking 37 percent less milk today than they did in 1970, according to a Washington Post blog that analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Why? The Post points to several reasons:

  • Americans – especially young people – are choosing other beverages.
  • Milk has become more expensive.
  • And: Several studies have questioned whether milk actually does a body good.

More about those studies

This New York Times blog offers a rundown of recent analyses of the health benefits of milk. Reporter Aaron E. Carroll describes one study that was published in JAMA Pediatrics this year:

"Subjects were asked to report on how much milk they had consumed as teenagers, and then they were followed to see if that was associated with a reduced chance of hip fractures later in life. It wasn't."

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Should flu shots be mandatory for health care workers?

A flu shot would have helped protect young adults, but most didn't get it.

/iStockphoto

In Los Angeles County, health care employees must get a flu shot - or wear a protective mask.

If you, or a loved one, end up in a hospital in Los Angeles County during this flu season, the health care workers who treat you will either be vaccinated against the flu – or will wear a protective mask.

That was ordered by the LA County Department of Public Health in 2013 - to both protect health care workers from contracting the flu, and to prevent them from transmitting it to patients.

More than 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu-related complications each year. That begs the question: Should flu shots be mandatory for health care workers? Or are there other effective ways of preventing the spread of flu in hospitals?

Patients and hospital employees, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Vaccination rates at hospitals

In an effort to increase flu vaccination rates among health care workers, California law requires hospitals to offer free flu shots – if a hospital staffer chooses not to be vaccinated, he must sign a declination form. Hospitals are required to report their vaccination rates to the state Department of Public Health.

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