Ask Our Doctors

How can I make my meals healthier?

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Dear Doctors,

I’m overweight and I want to start eating better, but I have no idea where to start. How can I make my meals healthier?

— Hungry for Information

Dear Hungry,

We commend you on your decision to eat healthier! With so much conflicting information out there about diet and nutrition, we understand your confusion.

Here are the facts: Research shows that you can significantly decrease your chances of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases by eating a varied diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat, and low in saturated fats and cholesterol.

These tips will help you build a more nutritious diet:

  • Read the labels on food products. Look for foods that are low in fat, sugar and sodium and high in protein and fiber.
  • Load up on fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least five servings a day of a variety of produce.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.
  • Eat lean meats, such as chicken and fish.
  • Bake or grill your food with heart-healthy olive oil instead of frying it.
  • Choose skim milk and other dairy products that are low in fat.
  • Switch your snack food from potato chips to baked pretzels or air-popped popcorn.
  • Save cake, ice cream and other sugary treats for special occasions.

To create a healthy eating plan that’s right for you, talk with your doctor. A dietitian can provide great information and support, as well.

Bon appetit!

What does board certification mean?

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Dear Doctors:

On my doctor’s Web page, her list of credentials includes the fact that she is board certified. What does board certification mean?

— Curious

Dear Curious,

You’re asking an important question. Over the years, board certification has become an increasingly important and expected credential.

How does a doctor become board certified?

All doctors must graduate from medical school and complete the requirements for licensure, which vary by state and often include an examination and an internship or other graduate medical education. Then, doctors who choose to specialize in one area of medicine, such as pediatrics, family medicine or orthopaedic surgery, complete a residency that ranges from 3 to 7 years, depending on the specialty.

During or after completing a residency, a doctor may choose to take a comprehensive exam to become certified by the medical board that oversees their specialty. For example, my own board certification in Emergency Medicine comes from the American Board of Emergency Medicine.

Some specialty boards require oral as well as written examinations, and surgical boards often require case reviews. The timeline for completing the certification process varies by specialty.

Once passing this rigorous examination process, a doctor becomes board certified. Most medical boards require doctors to maintain certification by continuing medical education and periodically becoming recertified by passing additional examinations.

Why is it important for a doctor to be board certified?

For a doctor to become board certified, he or she must demonstrate thorough knowledge of all aspects of their specialty. The certifying board stands behind the doctor as having achieved the highest level of skill in that specialty. Board certification indicates that a doctor has made a commitment to meeting the highest standards in their field and maintaining those standards.

For most of us, board certification represents the achievement of a goal; the culmination of all our years of training. It marks us as the specialist we set out to become.

The Portage Health medical staff voted in 2004 to require all doctors joining our medical staff after that date to be board certified within five years after completing their residency. Currently, 87 percent of Portage Health’s physicians are board certified.

How can I find out if my doctor is board certified?

You can ask your doctor or the administration of the healthcare organization where they work. At Portage Health, we include our doctors’ board certifications on our Web site.

Thank you for your excellent question!

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