Healthy Living

Question of the Month

Q. Fresh fruits and vegetables are so expensive this time of year. What can I do to meet my nutrition needs and save money?
A. Eating "seasonally" is the best way to save money on produce. The fall and winter bring an abundance of fruits including apples, pears and oranges, while parsnips, cauliflower and winter squash are readily available all winter. During colder months when locally grown produce is limited, skip the fresh berries and opt for bagged frozen fruits; they’re flash-frozen to retain nutrients. Instead of flavorless fresh tomatoes, try no-salt or low-salt canned varieties for soups, sauces and main-dish recipes.

Wash Your Hands to Combat the Flu

Based on a variety of studies, improving your "hand hygiene" makes a difference in both lowering your own risk of contracting viral infections and of spreading them among your family and friends. Both regular soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective in removing the H1N1 virus ("swine" flu) and other viruses from your hands.

Limiting hand-to-face contact also reduces infection risk. Viruses can easily enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth. So while you might not be able to avoid the flu this winter, keeping your hands clean and away from your face are both good ways to minimize risk. One related note: The H1N1 virus cannot be transmitted by consuming pork.

Boost Your Weight Loss With Skim Milk

Exchanging your breakfast orange juice for a glass of skim milk might help boost your weight-loss effort. While they both contain about the same number of calories in an 8-ounce glass (around 90), the skim milk is rich in protein, which tends to keep you fuller longer, compared with juice. An Australian study showed that participants who drank skim milk instead of juice for breakfast felt fuller longer and ate less at lunch. Not a skim-milk drinker? For a change, try a slice of low-fat cheese; a small low-sugar, nonfat yogurt; or a Greek yogurt.

In the News:

Since the 1930s, researchers in the social sciences have suspected that behaviors can be "contagious." New data continue to support that "social networks" (your friends) can be a positive or negative influence on your health habits.

Researchers from the renowned Framingham Heart Study, who have examined numerous health markers in a large group of people for decades, have more recently looked at examples of contagious social behavior. Obesity, smoking and drinking appear to be spread socially.

If a Framingham resident was obese, his or her friends were 57 percent more likely to become obese too. Similarly, if a nonsmoking resident had a smoking friend, the risk of starting up increased 36 percent.

Happiness is another factor that seemed to be connected among friends. While changing behaviors doesn’t mean changing friends, it does mean that your social group is a good place to start when you’re trying to change your own actions.

If you have a health question for Dr. Fernstrom, e-mail her at

Dr. Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S., is the founder and director of UPMC’s Weight Management Center. She is the diet and nutrition editor for NBC’s "Today Show" and is the author of The Runner’s Diet. Also visit "Health Journal with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom," a health and wellness blog at



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