Healthy eating, healthy lifestyle

Hello everyone! Yay for nicer weather – finally!

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Nicole Keller, D.O.

This blog is going to be a two-parter – this week I’m going to offer you healthy eating tips and with my next blog I’ll follow-up with tips to stay fit and active.  Combine these two subjects and you’ll be well on your way to encouraging your kids (and yourself) to live a healthy lifestyle.

Eating well and staying fit is a family affair.  It is something the entire household should be a part of.  Here are my healthy eating tips for your family:

Re-vamp the way you grocery shop

  • Make sure you make a healthy shopping list and stick to it.  Only allow yourself one to two “extras” that weren’t on the list to avoid buying unhealthy, but good looking, items.  If you don’t have the willpower to do that, try online grocery shopping.  Oh and don’t go shopping when you are hungry!  That’s when the cookie Food Shoppingaisle is the most enticing.
  • Skip certain aisles all together; the snack/chip/cookie aisle, the baking aisle, sometimes even the cereal aisle.  If you need something in these aisles look specifically for those items then turn that cart around and get out!  My husband and I love Oreos.  We rarely even go down the aisle that they are sold in so we aren’t even tempted.
  • Look at labels.  I admit, they aren’t the easiest things to read, but, if you take a second to compare two items you might be surprised with what you learn.  Just because something is marked at “low fat” or “low sugar” doesn’t mean it is the healthiest option.  Look at calories (the lower per serving the better), fat (trans fats are bad!), fiber (more fiber makes you more full), and protein (lots of protein will keep you full longer) to get a well-rounded grocery item.
  • Spend time in the fresh section.  Even though fruits and veggies can be expensive, if you spend some time, you can find items on sale that will feed your family well.
  • Pick whole grains.  Make sure to do this for your bread items and whatever other options offer it.

Watch what your kids drink

  • Drink more water.  Four to eight cups a day for school-aged kids is a great range to shoot for.  You can start giving your baby/toddler water after six months of age in a sippy cup or a cup with a straw.
  • Milk is a healthy alternative to water for kids. From one to two years of age, kids should be on whole milk to get the necessary fat needed for brain development.  After two years of age, fat free milk is a healthy way to get them their dairy without the extra fat.
  • Get rid of pop and juice. They should only be given on special occasions and in small quantities.  They are loaded with sugar and have little to no nutritional benefit (yes, even the ”all-natural fruit juices”).
  • Cut out caffeine.  Caffeine is dehydrating and can make you crave more of that sugary drink it is coming from.  Plus, rarely do you need to give your kids more energy than they already have!

Get creative in the kitchen

  • Eat at home and skip the restaurants.  Eating out is hard on your wallet and on your waistline.  Buying groceries and cooking at home will always be the cheaper and healthier option – and great for family bonding.
  • Be sneaky with vegetables.  It is hard to get a picky toddler or school age child to eat all their veggies – this is a fact!  So try to “sneak” things in meals in a way your child might not even notice.  You can puree in cauliflower with mashed potatoes or mix it in with macaroni and cheese dishes.  Chop up carrots and acorn/butternut squash together – put a teaspoon of brown sugar on top to sweeten the dish and your kids will be gobbling it up before you know it.
  • Be realistic with what you want your kids to eat.  Children’s taste buds are different than adults.  I remember as a kid I did not like brussel sprouts (I thought they tasted like feet!) but now I love them.  Offer your kids a variety of veggies and see what works – they might not have liked something in January but now in May they don’t mind it.  Don’t expect them to eat huge amounts either.  Sometimes just a couple spoonfuls are a victory.child-with-food-choice
  • Make sure your kids know that they have to at least try their veggie (and other food items offered) before refusing them outright.  If they try a bite and don’t like them, then have a back up veggie ready (kids tend to like carrots, corn and green beans – try to have those around all the time).  Other than having a second veggie on hand, your child should eat what is offered to them at meal time and try not to become a short-order chef with whatever their demands at meal/snack time are.
  • Snack healthy. For example, celery with light ranch dressing or a small bit of peanut butter can make for a wonderful healthy mid-day snack.  Chopped up apples are always a kid favorite and grapes are another filling fruit option.  Yogurt, string cheese or sliced cheeses are other good options too.
  • Easy on the toppings.  Sometimes kids will like a veggie because it is loaded with butter, dressing or ketchup. It is fine to spice things up to get kids to like something initially, but, make sure you aren’t taking away all the nutritional value by overloading their veggies with toppings.
  • Have a well-balanced plate at each meal.  Veggies and/or fruits should take up at least half your plate, grains/carbs (like potatoes, rice, bread) should take up about a fourth of your plate and your protein (usually a meat or fish item – or maybe beans for our vegetarians out there) should take up the remaining fourth of a plate.  Visit for great online resources regarding healthy balanced food options.
  • Make dessert healthy – but still fun.  Forget the chocolate cake and cookies, instead buy some mixed berries (frozen or fresh) and mix with light cool whip – tada!  You have a healthy sweet dessert light on calories and high in nutrients. Or, try low-fat yogurt with some honey or a fourth cup of granola – sweet, crunchy and healthy!  Remember, mom and dad, these desserts are for you too!fruits and veggies
  • Use free recipe websites/hand-outs.  I personally love for ways to find how to creatively use a certain ingredient.

Watch your portions

  • Visit for easy to use portion guides to make sure you and your family are getting the right amount of food.
  • Make sure to look at serving sizes.  Many times a food will boast “100 calories only” but you can only have a half a cup of that item to reach that caloric amount.  Make sure to glance at the serving size before you decide if that food is really as good as it is claiming.

Sweets are treats

  • Cookies, cakes and candy should only be offered on special occasions.  Having them as an option for a daily dessert or snacks during the day can lead to bad habits.
  • Don’t give in to a child who demands sweet treats.  Hunger strikes at meal times can be frustrating, but, giving in by letting your child have a sweet treat is no way to teach healthy habits.  They will soon only eat sweets and it will get harder and harder to get them to eat healthily.  Stick to your guns!

Now, try not to be overwhelmed – make small changes at first and keep at them.  If your child is overweight, they should be seen by their pediatrician several times during the year to monitor their weight closely.

If you would like more resources, check out  It is a great website designed to help you and your family find ways to eat healthy.

One last thing!  Now that farmer’s market season is here, make sure to check out your local vendors.  Here are a couple options:

Oswego, Plainfield, Naperville:

Please let me know if you have any questions or want more info – I’m happy to offer more suggestions or clarify my tips as needed. 

Head Back to School Healthy

Rebecca Wilson, FNP-BC

Rebecca Wilson, FNP-BC

This time of year we are bombarded by back to school sales and shopping for school supplies. The end of summer signifies that it is time to pack the backpacks and pick out clothes for the first day of school! There are plenty of things to overwhelm a parent’s mind this time of year, but if you keep in mind the following suggestions your children can have a successful transition into the school year.

  • Make sure your child has had their school or sports physical exam. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your child’s general health (readiness for sports if applicable),
    evaluate their vaccination status, and ensure they have any necessary medications.
  • Hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection! Make sure your child knows how to wash their hands and why it is important. Frequent hand washing is best, especially prior to eating.Classmates
  • A healthy breakfast with protein will keep your child’s stomach satisfied and their mind ready to learn the morning’s lessons.
  • Dedicate time to help your child with their homework so they don’t fall behind with assignments.
  • Bedtime routines and ensuring your child gets enough sleep at night will help them wake up refreshed and ready for the school day ahead.
  • After a full school week make sure to integrate some fun with the family on Friday evenings or weekends.
  • The flu season is coming. To prevent your child from getting the flu this year, schedule a flu shot. Check with your child’s healthcare provider to see when the flu vaccine will be available.

Enjoy the transition! Back to school can be cool; if you are enthused about it your children will be too!

Exercise to Prevent Heart Failure

Every January millions of Americans make a New Year’s resolution to exercise. The scientific evidence of the health benefits of exercise has been clear. Heart disease, diabetes and even cancer risk decreasing significantly with increasing exercise. Add one more disease to the list of those improved with exercise: Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body. Symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue and leg swelling occur. The causes are many including coronary artery disease, heart attack, hypertension, valvular heart disease and even stiffening of the heart that occurs with aging.

A recent publication in the prestigious journal Circulation confirmed the benefits of exercise to prevent the most common form of congestive heart failure, termed “heart failure with preserved ejection fraction” which is caused by stiffening of the heart muscle making it difficult for it to relax over time. The overall strength of the heart  (ejection fraction) remains strong in this situation, however the heart has a hard time filling with blood reducing the overall ability of the heart to pump enough blood with each heartbeat leading overall to a lower pumping output and eventually symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF).

This study took middle aged individuals (average age 53) that were sedentary at baseline and randomized them to two years of exercise training versus no change in physical activity. Complex parameters of heart function were measured to detect changes in heart stiffness and overall function.

The group of study participants in the exercise arm had quite significant improvements in heart stiffness and overall “stroke volume”, the amount of blood pumped out with each heartbeat. Thus, researchers concluded that in previously sedentary middle aged adults, exercise training may prevent against the development of congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure remains the #1 reason in America for hospitalization, thus any intervention that can prevent CHF from developing in the first place would be very important. With dramatically increasing healthcare costs in the US, more cost efficient and effective interventions are desperately needed. The typical heart disease, coronary artery disease, is at least 80% preventable according to the World Health Organization and many say nearly 99% with strict diet and lifestyle interventions. Simple interventions like exercise can have a dramatic impact improving the health of America.

What better way is there to improve a person’s quality of life while decreasing healthcare costs besides preventing diseases from occurring in the first place? Take control of your health and focus on exercise and healthy eating changes to prevent the chronic diseases that are crippling America, now including congestive heart failure.

Rethink Your Drink

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Happy New Year everyone! I know we are well into 2015, but, I am still feeling the aftershocks of the holiday season. Boy can all those holiday gatherings impact your life! I don’t know about you all, but my little guy (who is now just over 4 months old) had a hard time sleeping after all the excitement and my husband and I are still recovering from the sugar overload induced by every type of bread, cheese and candy we consumed over the last month or so. As we try to return to our everyday schedule we are also trying to remind our bodies (and our minds) what healthy eating is. So for this blog post, I want to talk about an important part of a healthy diet that often goes overlooked…your drinks!

The Illinois Chapter for the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) has recently launched a campaign to “Rethink your Drink.” Here’s what ICAAP is recommending (and what I would have to agree with!):

  • “Red light” drinks – drink RARELY: regular soda, energy/sports drinks, sweetened coffee/tea, fruit drinks
  • “Yellow light” drinks – drink OCCASIONALLY : diet soda, low-calorie/low-sugar drinks, 100% juice
  • “Green light” drinks – drink PLENTY: water, seltzer water, skim or 1% milk

This got me thinking about how much my liquid consumption is part of my diet – and a part of all my patient’s diets! Fluids are one of the best ways to keep your body hydrated and healthy if you are choosing the right ones. In our grocery stores today, the juice and pop aisles take up a huge amount of space which points to how much we consume these items as a society. While juice and pop may seem like a good option to drink (they are fizzy, fruity and sweet of course!), they are some of the most common culprits for a lot of medical problems. Obesity, dental cavities, diabetes and other medical conditions can be brought on or worsened by what we drink.sugary drinks

Here are some tips to make sure your kids and your family are on the right track for choosing healthy drinks throughout the year:

  • Water should be the primary drink you and your kids consume. You can offer water to infants starting at six months of age (in a bottle or preferably a sippy cup). Water should be available at all times of the day.
  • Pop and juice should be reserved for special occasions. Holidays, birthdays, or other family celebrations (for example) should really be the only time these are offered to your kids.
  • When offering juice, water it down. Cut the juice in half with water to make it less sugary.
  • When you choose a juice, look for the 100% fruit juice label. This is still a very sugary drink and still should only be offered on occasion, but, if you are going to give it, this option would be best.
  • Offer water or milk only with each meal. Remember infants one to two years old should be on whole milk (the extra fat helps their brain development) but milk in general should be limited to no more than 24 ounces in a day.
  • Stay away from sports drinks. While those drinks are great for athletes who are exerting lots of energy during practices and games, they are not meant to be used on a regular basis. There are way too many carbs and sugars for frequent consumption.
  • If you follow these guidelines you can easily make sure the beverage portion of your family’s healthy diet stays on track. As always, let your pediatrician know if you have any questions about healthy eating and drinking – we are always here to help!

Get Moving this Summer


In my last blog post I talked about healthy eating habits to start with you and your family.  To round out the discussion on leading a healthy lifestyle, I now want to discuss how to get your kids active and healthy along with the rest of the family. It is recommended to get 60 minutes of physical activity 5 to 6 days a week – that’s a lot!  But I know you can get your kids (and yourselves) there if you make some effort during your everyday activities.

Here are my tips:

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Nicole Keller, D.O.

Change your family’s daily habits – Instead of taking the elevator or escalator, take the stairs together. Instead of finding the closest parking spot at the store, park far away. Little changes like this can add up to make a big difference if done consistently.

Exercise during your favorite TV show – Instead of fast-forwarding through commercials, let them play and get off the couch!  Try running up and down your stairs, doing push-ups or jumping jacks, or running in place during commercials. Those two minute breaks during a TV show (or two) will add up to a good workout!

Better yet, ditch the TV (or tablet/computer, etc) – Instead of sitting in front of a screen, get your family moving!  Go for a walk, take a bike ride (don’t forget your helmets), or play running bases or tag.  Doing this with your kids will help them want to forget about their favorite electronic gadgets to spend fun active time with you.

Make a plan and get in a routine – Pick a time of day that works best for your kids and you to get active. For some people taking a walk after dinner might be a way to ensure the family gets moving. For others, you may want to set the alarm a half-hour earlier to get up and fit in some exercise in the morning. No matter when you do it, plan for it in your day and make it part of your everyday lives.

Small amounts often – You might see a trend here.  All my tips involve doing little things through your day to add up to a larger time being active at the end of the day. family bikingExercising does not have to happen all at once.  If the kids are waiting for a friend to pick them up, go play catch until that happens.  Take 10 minutes together to jump rope, do some jumping jacks or run in place together in the home.  Whatever it is, by fitting in small activities during the day you’ll much more easily reach your activity goals.

Getting fit and staying active doesn’t have to be expensive, doesn’t need special equipment and doesn’t need to take up all your free time.  Find creative ways to encourage your kids get off the couch, turn off the electronics and get moving.  Good habits started earlier in life are more likely to stick later on when they are adults.  Plant the seeds now and go have some fun as a family!

Enjoy this warmer weather and stay safe everyone!  Don’t forget to look back at some of our older posts about staying safe around water and in the sun too.  Cheers!