Playful family on sunny beach

Hey guys. Is your good health a perception or reality?

(BPT) – When it comes to health, perception is not always reality. This is especially true when considering how men care for themselves when faced with a health condition. In fact, while most men would say they are more focused on their health than they have been in the past, physicians report a different truth. This difference is especially concerning when it comes to treating chronic conditions, because failure to follow treatment regimens may lead to bigger health problems in the future.

Missed appointments and opportunities

According to research from the American Academy of Family Physicians, which surveyed its member physicians, one in five doctors said up to half of their male patients failed to fill a prescription. In addition, one in three doctors said that up to half of their male patients did not take a prescription as directed. Four in ten reported that up to half of their male patients failed to follow up with a regular routine test when ordered for their condition.

In addition, nearly a quarter of surveyed doctors said up to half of their male patients failed to show up for planned follow-up visits.

These missed opportunities come at a time when chronic conditions among men continue to rise. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Survey, diagnoses of three common, yet potentially severe, conditions all have increased year over year. The data shows that cases of high blood pressure (4 percent increase), high cholesterol (5 percent) and diabetes (2 percent) have all seen notable increases.

“People may not take these conditions seriously because they don’t have any noticeable symptoms, and that’s a big mistake,” says John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the AAFP. “High blood pressure and high cholesterol have been called ‘silent killers’ for a reason. If they aren’t controlled, they can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. In addition to these complications, uncontrolled diabetes also can cause blindness, nerve damage and loss of limbs.

“So it’s vital that men see their doctors, get preventive care and follow instructions for any chronic diseases they may have.”

Finding solutions for ongoing care

Fortunately, taking a more proactive approach to health care is easier than most men think. A visit to your family physician is the first step toward taking charge of your health and identifying any health issues. Your family physician will help you learn about any chronic conditions you might have and how to treat them. For health information that is easy to understand, visit familydoctor.org. You’ll find a men’s guide to preventive health care, and information about healthy diets and weight control. Follow the advice provided here, as well as your doctor’s recommendations, and you’ll turn your goal for good health from simple perception into reality.

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Young adults seek opioid alternatives for pain relief after wisdom teeth extraction

(BPT) – Summer vacation is the time of year students of every age look forward to. Warm weather, no school or homework, and summer travels — there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the break from the classroom. However, it’s not all fun and games, especially for college students. Summer break is also the busiest time of year for wisdom teeth extractions, and if complications arise, the procedure could be problematic long past summer’s end.

A common prescription

Those who have had their wisdom teeth extracted can attest that the pain associated with the procedure can be excruciating and long-lasting. Because of this, many dentists and oral surgeons also prescribe opioids to patients to help them manage their pain. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that dentists are among the leading prescribers of opioids. The research also finds that these medicines are most commonly prescribed for surgical tooth extraction for patients between the ages of 14 and 24.

Finding a better alternative

While opioids remain the popular course of pain relief in instances of wisdom tooth extraction, more and more oral surgery patients — and/or their parents — are becoming interested in non-opioid alternatives. The addictive properties of opioids are part of this concern, but increasingly there is also consideration being paid to their other side effects.

New research from Nielsen’s Harris Poll Online, sponsored by Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc., finds that 90 percent of survey respondents said they experienced adverse side effects after taking opioids. These side effects included nausea, vomiting, confusion or feeling “spaced out,” all of which impaired their daily activities. Respondents also reported being unable to drive, go to school, work or participate in sports for several days.

These experiences associated with opioids, in addition to potential addiction concerns, are motivating many to seek alternatives for pain relief after wisdom tooth extraction. The same study found 70 percent of oral surgery patients would choose a non-opioid medication for pain if they were given the choice. Eighty percent said they would be interested in an alternative even if it resulted in a higher expense.

However, despite the clear demand from patients, the industry appears slow to move forward. Seventy percent of respondents reported that they were prescribed an opioid after having their wisdom teeth out.

Realigning on care options

“It’s evident that opioids continue to be the cornerstone of pain management following third molar extraction, despite their association with unwanted side effects and the risk for abuse or addiction,” says Dr. Pedro Franco, Immediate Past President of the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. “This research shows us that an overwhelming majority of patients — many of whom are likely exposed to opioids for the first time following an oral surgery procedure — would prefer a non-opioid option. I am hopeful that these findings will encourage clinicians and patients alike to be more proactive in their pain management discussions, especially as it relates to the availability of opioid alternatives.”

While patients — or their parents — may not be used to discussing such things with their health care providers, it’s an opportunity they can’t pass up. Discussing pain management options — including non-opioid options and long-acting local anesthetics — with your oral surgeon remains the most effective way to feel comfortable about your wisdom teeth treatment, both at the moment of the procedure and all along the path to recovery.

For a list of questions you can ask your oral surgeon prior to surgery, visit www.oralsurgeryprep.com.

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5 simple ways parents can make the world gentle for baby

(BPT) – The big day has finally arrived and your newborn is here. Your baby is as perfect as you imagined and you’re filled with a love you never knew existed. Even before she or he arrived, you started making more careful choices and looked for gentle alternatives with natural-based ingredients for your little bundle of joy.

One thing that needs to be considered when seeking out gentle options for babies is their skin — and that starts with the precious threads in babies’ clothing, according to pediatric dermatologist Dr. Jody Levine.

“As a pediatric dermatologist and mother of five, I know that babies’ skin can go through many changes throughout infancy, and the majority are perfectly normal,” Levine says. “There are simple ways parents can protect babies’ skin from irritants, such as pre-washing clothes before first wear and choosing gentle fabrics.”

Levine offers parents some tips on how to keep the world gentle for your little one:

1. Moisturize when needed.

Peeling skin around the wrists and ankles is a normal part of a baby’s development, and requires no treatment. However, if dry or sensitive skin persists after the first few weeks of life, special care may be needed. Keep baths short, use water that’s warm, but not hot, and a small amount of gentle cleanser. For babies with dry skin, moisturize twice daily using an ointment or a cream, preferably one with many ceramides.

2. Choose the gentle fabrics.

Infant skin is definitely more sensitive than adult skin, so the fabrics you put against your baby’s skin can affect her comfort and skin health. Choose light, comfortable clothes that are free of pleats or seams that can put unnecessary pressure on a baby’s skin. Fabrics should be soft and absorbent, such as cotton or cotton blends like cotton polyester or cotton spandex.

3. Wash clothing before using it for the first time.

“Nine out of 10 dermatologists recommend parents wash baby’s clothing before wearing it for the first time, according to a survey by Dreft laundry detergent and I agree,” Levine says. While 97 percent of parents surveyed by Dreft said they believe it’s important to pre-wash baby clothes, just 40 percent actually do so every time. New clothing can harbor dirt, excess dyes and processing chemicals, so it’s important to pre-wash clothes using a gentle, yet effective detergent like Dreft purtouch that is 65 percent plant-based and made from naturally derived ingredients. Wash your newborn’s clothing separate from the rest of the laundry.

4. Use products specifically made for babies.

When choosing a skin care product for your baby, such as sunscreen, look for one specifically designed for use on infants. These baby products have been tested and proven to be gentle and less irritating to a baby’s skin. For example, baby sunscreen, which parents should start using after a baby turns 6 months old, usually contains physical blocking elements like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, rather than the chemical blockers used in some adult sunscreens.

5. Do your best at diaper duty.

The diaper region requires extra attention since it’s prone to wetness and irritation. Change your baby’s diaper frequently, especially when it’s wet or soiled. A more absorbent diaper will help keep moisture away from baby’s skin longer. Always dry the diaper area well after cleaning or a bath. If your baby is prone to diaper rash, try a zinc-based diaper cream with every diaper change to help soothe and protect skin.

“All parents want to care for their baby in the best way,” Levine says. “Little things, like prewashing new baby clothing in a gentle baby detergent and moisturizing as needed, can help keep the world gentle for your little one and his or her skin.”

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The eyes have it: 5 things you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to harmful blue light

(BPT) – A generation ago, limiting a child’s screen time meant putting restrictions on how much television they could watch in a single day. “No more than two hours a day and don’t sit too close to the screen.” Those were the rules, and while enforcing them was a challenge, it was easy to remember.

Times have changed.

These days, the challenge parents face regarding their children’s screen time has grown exponentially and protecting their eyes from too much blue light exposure is more important than ever.

Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hosted a national conference involving more than 10,000 pediatricians. The focal point of discussion was children and screen time. Concerned about the effects of screen time — and blue light — on young children’s eyes, the AAP officially recommends:

* no screen time for children 18 months and under.

* one hour per day for children ages 2-5.

* limited screen time for children ages 6 and above.

Prolonged exposure to blue light (the blueish glow emitted from digital device screens), has been shown to cause headaches, dry eyes and even hamper sleep, so it’s no surprise the AAP would recommend limits for children. Monitoring your child’s overall screen time can be easier said than done, so don’t try to go it alone. For parents, however, there are things you can do besides simply monitoring your child’s time in front of their favorite device:

* Plan for breaks. Consider recording shows and then allowing your children to watch them with the expectation that their session will end at the show’s completion rather than continue on into the next program. If computer/smartphone use is the problem, consider using parental controls within the device settings to limit usage. If that’s not an option, you can install apps that set off an alarm at pre-timed intervals to inform your little one it’s time to do something else.

* Discuss your child’s screen time with your eye doctor. Just as you would consult the pediatrician for a question regarding your child’s general health, your optometrist is there to answer any questions you have about your child’s eyes. If a trip to the optometrist isn’t covered under your current insurance plan, VSP Individual Vision Plans, a national family and individual vision insurance provider, can help. VSPDirect.com offers affordable access to high-quality eye care and eye wear, and people who use individual or family vision plans typically save hundreds of dollars on their eye exams and glasses.

* Be aware of when they use devices. In some cases the amount of screen time a child has isn’t as important as when they have it. Research shows that blue light exposure shortly before bed delays REM sleep, leading to poorer sleeping habits. Eliminate screen time a couple of hours before your child goes to bed and they’ll wake up more rested.

* Adjust device settings. Some easy settings you can adjust to make your child’s screen more readable are increasing the font size, reducing the screen brightness or increasing the contrast of the screen. And the easier it is for children to use the device, the less they’ll feel they have to get their nose right against the screen.

* Be the alternative. The easiest way to protect your children from the risks of digital eye strain is to give them something to do that takes them away from the device altogether. Engage them in a board game, a trip to the park or a visit to the mall. Just make sure you do it together and device free — for both of you — and you’ll have a great time in a way that’s healthy for the entire body.

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3 cornerstones to a longer, healthier, happier life for your pet

(BPT) – Your pets are members of the family. They are the source of some of your best memories, they are your travel companions, your confidantes and your evening snuggle partners. You love them and you want them to live the longest, healthiest and happiest life possible.

Like it is for you, achieving the healthiest, happiest life for your pet is directly tied to the cornerstones of preventive care, nutrition and exercise. To provide insight into how each of these can benefit your pet, Dr. Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer for Purina, offers this advice:

Regular veterinary exams

Your veterinarian and his/her team are the experts when it comes to the health and well-being of your pet. Prevention is a key component of regular vet visits; the earlier a potential problem is identified, the easier it is to treat and the greater the chance of success. The physical examination, routine diagnostics, vaccinations, heartworm prevention and parasite control will help keep your pet in tip-top shape. You can also work with your veterinarian to create a tailored health plan for your pet that takes into account their age, activity level and any medical considerations.

Nutrition

In a recent Purina survey, three in five dog and cat owners (60 percent) would consult their veterinarian for food safety and quality advice, while just about half refer to their pet food companies’ websites. Furthermore, when it comes to nutrition, it is important to work with your veterinarian to select the ideal diet for your pet that is appropriate for their life stage (i.e., puppy vs. adult) and lifestyle (couch potato vs. sporting dog). It is also important to look beyond just the ingredient list and marketing claims on the bag.

The nutrients inside should also meet or exceed AAFCO, USDA and FDA standards. Many pet owners are unaware of the rigorous process that goes into ensuring quality and safety in pet food, with three in five pet owners admitting they didn’t know about the process after learning more about what goes into the pet food quality-checking process. For pet owners, it’s also important to take the time to look at the company’s manufacturing reputation, along with safety and quality standards. Ask these key questions when evaluating different pet foods:

* Who formulates the food and what are their credentials? Look for brands with nutritionists and veterinarians on staff to formulate the diets. Purina has over 500 pet experts globally, including nutritionists, veterinarians, behaviorists and immunologists who use their expertise to improve pet nutrition and care.

* What are the company’s quality and safety standards? Purina conducts more than 30,000 quality checks involving ingredients, packaging, receiving, processing and packing in a typical 24-hour production period.

* Where is the food produced? Does the company own their manufacturing facilities? At Purina, 99 percent of our food sold in the U.S. is made in our own facilities.

Exercise and enrichment

An appropriate amount of daily exercise can help reduce the incidence of common behavioral problems in pets. This includes excessive barking, inappropriate chewing and general hyperactivity. In addition, exercise — combined with appropriate diet quality and quantity — can reduce the incidence of obesity and associated health conditions, such as osteoarthritis in dogs and diabetes in cats.

Physical exercise can take on a variety of forms, from leash walks to ball fetch to playtime at the local dog park. For those dogs with a predilection for the water, swimming can offer a fun and effective alternative. And don’t forget that mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Obedience training, food puzzle toys, chew toys and trick training — such as roll over or paw — are all beneficial for pets.

Before starting any exercise regimen with your pet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian to find answers to your questions and learn what activities would best support your pet based on their breed, age and needs.

Taking steps to improve your pet’s health today

Your pet gives you so much and you naturally want to return the favor. You can do so by following the three simple suggestions above. Do so and you and your pet will be able to live a longer, healthier, and happier life together.

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Healthier kids, healthier communities: 4 ways to get involved

(BPT) – It’s no secret that experiences in early and middle childhood are extremely important for a child’s healthy development and lifelong learning. Yet schools — the places where kids spend the majority of their time outside of the home during the week — often lack the resources and support needed to enable and inspire students to adopt healthier lifestyles.

The solution is within reach; it rests in the hands of parents and other concerned community members who make investments (even small ones) in kids inside and outside of school to help build healthier communities and a healthier world.

Dominique Dawes, an Olympic Gold Medalist, three-time Olympian and child nutrition advocate, shares her tips on how caregivers can get involved in manageable, meaningful ways to impact change within their children’s schools and communities.

1. Understand you’re not alone. Look to organizations with a footprint in your community, and seek out ways to volunteer. There’s a great organization called Action for Healthy Kids. With the help of sponsors like GoGo squeeZ, their volunteer network works to improve the health and wellness of students in schools nationwide and highlight the link between nutrition, physical activity and learning. They even have an “Every Kid Healthy Week” to celebrate the great effort schools are making. Programs like these are impactful resources for parents, students and teachers alike.

2. Reach out to your local parks and recreation department. Chances are, they’re looking for volunteers. You may be able to help out with something on a recurring basis — a wellness or athletic program of particular interest to you. Also, ask about other ways you can serve your community. They may have park cleanup programs or other projects that can get your whole family moving and contributing.

3. Make it fun. Talk to the administration at your child’s school about activities and competitions to help students take ownership of their own health. Action for Healthy Kids offers free online activities to help improve physical activity and nutrition in school, but you can also encourage your school to apply for a grant to expand your local resources. Sponsors like GoGo squeeZ fund new grants every year!

4. Don’t underestimate your own abilities. Did you grow up learning gymnastics? Speak to the parents of your kids’ friends about organizing a gymnastics workshop at the park one weekend. Do you have a passion for making (and eating) healthy food? Volunteer to bring easy, nutritious snacks to a local after-school program, sports group or camp whenever you’re able. Bonus: nothing builds new friendships faster than food!

“I talk to so many people who care about the issues we’re facing with childhood health and wellness but don’t know how to get their foot in the door,” Dawes says. “My best advice is to start small, but start somewhere. Just one small change can make a significant difference in the life of a child and the health of a community.”

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Need care today? Here are 4 choices to try before the emergency room

(BPT) – A health concern rarely strikes when it’s convenient for you, and in most cases it occurs at the worst possible time. When you need care and don’t have time to schedule an appointment, what do you do?

You head to the emergency room, of course. You wait in the long ER lines and pay the hefty bill that concludes your visit, all for a non-emergency situation that required immediate treatment. It’s hardly the most efficient solution, and while your health is certainly your most important concern, there are ways to receive the same quality care without the long wait and extravagant expense of an emergency room visit.

Considering the three C’s

Years ago the emergency room was your only option when you needed immediate care, but today’s health care market is home to a number of flourishing alternative options. To find the right solution for your situation, consider the three C’s: care, convenience and cost.

* Care: Evaluate the severity of your symptoms and identify what services you need. An emergency issue should always be treated at the ER, but if the problem is not life- or limb-threatening, it can be treated somewhere else.

* Convenience: It’s a good idea to know what health care facilities are near you, as well as their hours of operation.

* Cost: Not every provider will be covered by your insurance, so it’s important to understand your coverage area as well as your pre-authorization requirements.

Finding the best health care option for you

If you face a serious health issue, you should head to the emergency room immediately. However, if the issue merits immediate care but is not life- or limb-threatening, the Urgent Care Association of America offers this quick guide to your on-demand health care options.

Urgent care centers

Urgent care centers are equipped to handle illnesses and injuries that require X-rays, intravenous fluids and/or on-site lab tests. With an emphasis on convenience, urgent care offers short wait times — often 30 minutes or less compared to four hours in the emergency room — and affordable care, made even more so because it is covered by most insurance providers.

Retail clinics

Otherwise known as walk-in clinics, retail clinics are commonly found in supermarkets or pharmacies and specialize in treating less serious conditions than urgent care centers or emergency rooms. If you have a minor illness or you need preventative care, like a vaccination, then a retail clinic is a logical stop for you.

Telemedicine

A product of the digital age, telemedicine connects patients with providers via virtual visits, resulting in lower costs and decreased travel time. Telemedicine services are an attractive option if you live in a rural community or for times when the treatment you require does not extend beyond a consultation. They are also a handy tool for follow-up appointments that do not require an in-person visit.

On-site clinics

Finally, you may consider an on-site clinic. This option is now offered by many employers as a way of providing increased health care access to their employees. Similar to retail clinics, an on-site clinic specializes in offering wellness and preventative services — though the specific services offered by each clinic may vary.

Finding the best solution for you

You’ve read all the care options above and you have a pretty good idea of the best solution for any care need. Match that need with the right treatment option above and you’ll receive the same quality care without the long wait and hefty bill of that emergency room visit.

To find an urgent care center near you, visit www.whereisurgentcare.com.

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Transportation safety: How seniors can maintain independence outside the home

(BPT) – It can be hard to admit your vision isn’t what it used to be, especially when it comes to driving. Maybe you’ve noticed some difficulties reading traffic signals, or you’ve found it challenging to drive at night.

If you’re a family member noticing these warning signs in a loved one, pointing out these challenges may seem like a daunting and delicate undertaking. But when it comes to being on the road, safety is one thing you can’t ignore.

Encouraging your loved one to prioritize safety can be hard, especially when it feels like their independence is at stake. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest discussion to determine the best options for maintaining independence outside the home.

Step 1: Address driver safety

Vision is the most important sense for driving safety. Annual vision screening is important for everyone, but it is especially critical for older people, since the sensory data used for driving is predominantly visual.

For seniors still able to drive, a defensive driving class can be beneficial. These classes allow students to brush up on skills while gaining confidence and introduce them to alternative transportation options for the times and locations of their preference. What’s more, many insurance companies provide discounts to seniors who complete these courses.

Giving up driving doesn’t have to mean choosing between all or nothing. For example, start limiting driving to daylight only, non-rush-hour periods. Then look into supplementary transportation options that eliminate the need to drive while still allowing you to get where you need to go.

Step 2: Research transportation options

It’s important to educate yourself or your loved one about locally available transportation options for seniors. When you know there are reliable, cost-effective transportation options available, it can help maintain a high level of independence for a trip to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment.

Rides in Sight is a nationwide, online database of senior transportation options built by ITNAmerica, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sustainable transportation options for seniors. Visit www.ridesinsight.org and enter basic information like your state or zip code, and you can find the ride option that’s best for your situation. If you prefer to access information by phone, call 1-855-60-RIDES (1-855-607-4337).

Rides in Sight makes it easy to find customized transportation, no matter what a person’s needs. For example, you can find wheelchair accessible transportation options or door-to-door driver assistance if that’s what you need.

Step 3: Implement a trial period

Giving up the keys is easier if you do it over a period of time. Pick a date and schedule your first ride with a transportation service during a time you normally drive. Any change takes time to adapt to, so try it out for a while before reassessing and making any necessary adjustments. After this trial period, you should feel more comfortable with someone else driving you, and you get to be in control of your mobility.

For older Americans, it’s important to be able to maintain independence when they limit or stop driving. When they are encouraged to create their own driving transition plan, more emphasis can be placed on finding new passions and activities to engage with their communities. The result is a positive impact on people of all ages.

To have that impact, reliable, secure transportation is essential. Having the necessary conversations and researching appropriate transportation options helps keep everyone happy, healthy and safe.

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The important role vaccines may play in helping keep children and adults healthy

(BPT) – Every one of the nearly 12,000 babies born in the United States each day may be susceptible to infectious diseases. The good news is that vaccines can help protect children from some of these diseases.

As National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) approaches, it is timely to remember the role that vaccinations can play in helping to prevent certain diseases among infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that routine vaccination of the nearly 4 million babies born in the US each year may help to prevent about 20 million cases of diseases that they could develop over their lifetime. In fact, over time, successful vaccination campaigns have contributed to the near elimination or elimination of some diseases in the U.S., like polio.

Vaccination is considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements since 1900. NIIW, which is held April 22 – 29 this year, highlights the importance of helping to protect infants from diseases for which there are vaccines and celebrates the achievements of vaccination programs in helping to promote healthy communities.

“Today vaccines can help to protect against 14 diseases before age two,” explains Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., M.S., Executive Director, Merck Vaccines Global Health & Medical Affairs. “Failure to vaccinate may mean putting your children at risk for potentially serious diseases.”

“In the U.S., most young children receive many of the recommended vaccines, but there is room to improve vaccination rates among all groups, including adolescents and adults,” says Bresnitz.

In fact, the CDC has specific recommended vaccination schedules that cover children, adolescents and adults. Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccines that may be recommended for you and your loved ones, and visit www.vaccinesandyou.com to learn more.

This information is provided by Merck.

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Fresh ways to enjoy pizza night and make a balanced meal

(BPT) – You know a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is best for your health, but achieving that can be a challenge given everything you have to accomplish in a day. Daily meal planning doesn’t have to be such a chore if you turn to your freezer for a little help. In fact, starting with frozen prepared foods as the foundation of your dinner plate and adding side dishes with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and/or low-fat dairy can make it possible to serve a balanced meal that is quick and tasty. And that works for pizza night, too!

“Eating a balanced meal doesn’t mean you have to give up favorite foods like pizza,” says Bobby Parrish, Food Network personality and Today contributor. “It just means you need to be mindful of portion sizes and balance out your plate with a nutritious side dish of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains.”

Research shows that Americans struggle with meeting recommended dietary guidelines. In fact, nine out of 10 people don’t get the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say. A simple way to improve the mix of foods you’re eating is by supplementing something you already enjoy — like pizza — with side dishes made up of other food groups.

Nestlé USA’s Balance Your Plate educational program aims to help you put together delicious and nutritious meals that incorporate both frozen and fresh foods. The website www.nestleusa.com/balance provides information, tips and recipes to help consumers create easy, balanced meals that meet dietary guidelines.

By choosing your favorite frozen dishes, like pizza, as the foundation of your meal, you can build a more balanced plate with these tips:

* Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables. For example, if you have a slice of cheese pizza, pair it with a fresh salad or your favorite vegetable side dish.

* Figure out your portion by looking at the recommended Serving Size in the Nutrition Facts label. Here’s an easy idea for pizza portions: picture your hand as a pizza slice and plan to enjoy one or two hands’ worth.

* Don’t be afraid to mix vegetables right into or on top of your pizza. For example, top cheese pizza with fresh tomato and basil after it comes out of the oven.

* Bagged salad greens, spinach or salad kits are a great, speedy way to add greens to your plate.

Parrish, who partnered with DiGiorno to create original side dish recipes, offers these two nutritious and tasty salad recipes to pair with your favorite pizza to create a more balanced meal:

Quinoa and Grapefruit Herb Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked quinoa

1 grapefruit

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped and roasted (optional)

1-2 small carrots, grated

1 tablespoon each of fresh parsley and dill, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil and add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Add 3/4 cups of raw quinoa. Stir well, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Check the quinoa; the water should be absorbed and the grain should be fluffy. If the quinoa has not unraveled, add another 1/4 cup of water and cook until the water evaporates and the quinoa looks cooked. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for up to two hours, or you can make ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.

Place the cooked, cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Using a knife, cut away all the skin from the grapefruit and cut all segments directly into the bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Check for taste; you may need to add more lemon juice. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shaved Apple and Romaine Crunch Salad

Ingredients:

2 hearts of romaine lettuce

1 sweet apple, like gala or pink lady

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon fresh chives, sliced

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

For the salad dressing:

3 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Zest and juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2-4 tablespoons water

Directions:

Use a slicer or mandoline to thinly slice the apple. Place the slices in a large bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over the slices to prevent them from turning brown. Slice the romaine thinly and add it to the bowl along with the remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

For the dressing, add everything but the water to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add enough water to loosen the dressing so it’s able to be poured. Check for seasoning; you may need a little more salt or lemon juice.

Keep the dressing and salad in the fridge until ready to serve. Right before you dress the salad, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a couple cracks of pepper to the romaine mixture. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat everything, making sure not to over-dress the salad. Once the salad is dressed, it must be eaten and cannot be stored in the fridge.

For more recipes, information and meal ideas, visit www.nestleusa.com/balance.

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