Monday, December 22, 2014

Recipe: Zucchini Lasagna

In the video below, Mercy Hospital Chef Chris Damiani demonstrates how to make zucchini lasagna. He is joined by Karen Calandra, RN, a certified Lifestyle Coach.


  • 4 small size zucchini, 1/8 inch thick sliced
  • 1 pound lean beef – grass fed
  • 1 can black beans – drained, rinsed, and mashed
  • 3 cups baby portabella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large size egg
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 15 oz. low- fat ricotta
  • ½ onion
  • 3 garlic gloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoon black pepper


  1. Slice the zucchini thin sliced, lengthwise. Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a colander. 
  2. Cook the beef in a sauce pan until it becomes brown. Remove it to a colander to drain. 
  3. In a sauce pan, add olive oil, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until cooked. 
  4. Add the meat and beans to the pan. Add the tomatoes, basil and spices. Cook the meat sauce  on low for about 20 minutes. Do not add extra water, as the sauce should be thick. 
  5. While the meat sauce cooks, mix the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and  egg in a small bowl. 
  6. On the bottom of a 9×13 inch deep casserole, add one half of the meat sauce and one layer of zucchini. Cover with a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture and cover the ricotta with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat: one layer meat sauce, one layer zucchini, one layer ricotta cheese mixture, and one layer mozzarella, topped with the sauce. 
  7. Cover the casserole with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 375 F.
  8. Uncover the casserole and bake for another 15 minutes.

Cooking Well at Mercy

This video was filmed at our Cooking Well at Mercy Show in the hospital's Mercy Café. This series of brief cooking demos are free and open to all associates, physicians, volunteers and hospital guests.

Chef Christopher Damiani

Christopher Damiani serves as the assistant director of Food Services at Mercy Hospital. A professional chef with a Culinary Arts degree from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, he oversees the menu planning for hospital patients and the Mercy Café.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Recipe: Gluten-free Pizza

In the video below, Mercy Hospital Chef Chris Damiani demonstrates how to make gluten-free pizza. He is joined by Karen Calandra, RN, a certified Lifestyle Coach.

Get the Recipe

Cooking Well at Mercy

This video was filmed at our Cooking Well at Mercy Show on January 29, 2014 in the hospital's Mercy Café. This series of brief cooking demos are free and open to all associates, physicians, volunteers and hospital guests.

Chef Christopher Damiani

Christopher Damiani serves as the assistant director of Food Services at Mercy Hospital. A professional chef with a Culinary Arts degree from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, he oversees the menu planning for hospital patients and the Mercy Café.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thank You For Reading

After some consideration, we have decided to take a break from the Catholic Health blog and will not be adding new articles for the time-being.

We will continue to send our monthly email newsletter, which includes health tips, a prize giveaway, and healthy recipes. You can subscribe to the newsletter using the sign-up form in the sidebar.

We will also continue to answer your health questions, submitted to our experts using our Ask Us Anything form.

Thank you again for your support.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baby & Me – Tobacco Free: Helping Pregnant Women to Quit Smoking

Baby & Me – Tobacco Free helps pregnant women to quit smoking for good and provides free diapers to moms who have successfully quit smoking after their baby's birth.

The program is offered to patients at Mercy OB/GYN Center, Sisters OB/GYN Center, Ken-Ton FamilyCare Center. It is also available at Catholic Charities locations.

If you would like to enroll in Baby & Me – Tobacco Free, please contact one of the sites listed above to complete an application or click here to contact Baby & Me directly.

Read the Book

Laurie Adams is a smoking cessation specialist and the creator of The creator of Baby & Me – Tobacco Free. She has authored a book with Pamela McColl to share strategies on how to quit smoking while pregnant. Click on the image above to learn more.

Q&A with Laurie Adams

In the Q&A below, Laurie Adams shares how anyone (pregnant or not) can successfully quit smoking.

Some smokers are worried that if they try to quit smoking, they’ll gain weight. What would you say to them?

Adams: Besides the major addiction to nicotine, smoking creates an oral fixation. If a person smokes a pack a day, that is 20 cigarettes. Each cigarette smoked takes about 8-10 puffs to complete. That means in the course of the day, the hand-to-mouth for the addiction is up to 200 times per day. When a smoker quits, that reflex is still a habit.

Many think that quitting smoking means you will gain weight. That is not true if the smokers is prepared to convert the hand-to-mouth response with water, fresh fruits or veggies. To help with improving lung function, exercise is greatly encouraged.

Are electronic cigarettes a good idea? Why or why not?

Adams: I feel they are another tool the cigarette companies are using to trap young ones into becoming nicotine abusers. The health commissioner of New York State published a letter in the New York Times about the impact of e-cigarettes. Click here to read the letter.

When people are resisting the urge to smoke, resisting their food cravings at the same time can seem impossible. What do you recommend?

Adams: How you think and what you do is the best approach to quitting. The best offense is a good defense. When smokers quit, they need a game plan to be prepared to curb their nicotine and smoking addiction to other healthy choices.

How can people keep up their motivation to quit smoking, especially if they are surrounded by others who smoke?

Adams: Tell your family and friends you are quitting and that you need their help. You are not asking them to quit, just be considerate of your goal to becoming a non-smoker.

It may be critical to avoid social events where there are smokers for the first few weeks of quitting.

Go prepared to any event by bringing a water bottle or twizzle stick to chew on.

Some businesses offer hypnosis as a way to quit smoking. What do you think of this strategy?

Adams: The only recommended means for quitting is by the best practice approach researched by the CDC and the Health and Human Services. It does not recommend any alternative means for quitting, such as hypnosis, acupuncture, or other non-researched results, due to the lack of testing.

Click here for the CDC manual.

If you are pregnant and would like to enroll in Baby & Me – Tobacco Free, click here to visit their website.

Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Quit Smoking for Good

Making the decision to quit smoking can have a profound affect on your life. You’ll live longer, save money and keep your family and pets healthy. Not only that, but you’ll feel more confident as the physical effects of smoking begin to fade: the smell of cigarette smoke and the yellowing of hands and teeth, for example.

You’ve probably heard these reasons before, and you may have tried to quit in the past, without success.

Don’t give up yet! With the right resources, you can quit smoking for good.

Read below to find out how.

1. Call the New York State Smoker’s Quitline.

Karen Hamp, a registered nurse at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, taught a smoking cessation program at Catholic Health for 16 years. In her experience, the most successful people did two things: they used nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches, and they had support in their efforts to quit.

You can obtain both through the New York State Smoker’s Quitline.

The quitline can provide a starter kit of patches or gum that can double your chances of quitting and reduce your symptoms of withdrawal. Their counselors and coaches will speak to you about quitting and will check in with you on a regular basis to find out how you’re doing and keep you motivated.

What is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?

Nicotine replacement therapy gives you a small amount of nicotine to help you to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. It can take the form of patches, gum, a nicotine inhaler and lozenges.

“For nicotine replacement therapy, my personal preference is the patch,” said Hamp.

“The problem with the gum is that every time you are having a craving, you are supposed to take a piece of gum, chew it and then park it inside your mouth. Then you bring it out and chew it again. It is actually feeding the craving.”

Laser therapy and hypnosis have been marketed as other solutions for smokers, but their success rates are lower than with nicotine replacement therapy. “I know people who had laser therapy and never smoked again. But that number is low,” said Hamp.

However, Hamp doesn’t discourage people from trying laser therapy or hypnosis. “If you are ready to quit, you're going to have the motivation to do it and eventually will be successful.”

2. Speak to your doctor about your plan to quit smoking.

Your doctor may prescribe Zyban or Chantix to help you curb your urge to smoke. Both are anti-depressants.

“Zyban or Chantix can be very effective in helping people to maintain more positivity about the whole process,” said Hamp.

“It can be an overwhelming and a frustrating to quit smoking. A lot of people feel like they are losing their best friend. There are so many activities that they associate with smoking that when they quit, it's like a part of their life is gone.”

Zyban or Chantix, available by prescription only, can help you to maintain a positive outlook.

3. Reach for celery sticks or a straw.

After quitting, you might feel the need to have something in your mouth, where the cigarette used to be.

Hamp recommends sugar-free hard candy or pre-cut celery sticks or carrot sticks.

“If you’re having a craving and you want something to satisfy the oral gratification, you're not going to stop and cut something up. If you have them already cut up, you can grab those.”

Some people find licorice root helpful. They’re like cinnamon sticks – you can suck on them and chew on them, but you don’t eat them. “People find them very helpful, but you have to be careful. It's like black licorice. It will deplete your body of potassium. Eat bananas, orange juice, and broccoli.”

Hamp also recommends cutting a straw into the length of a cigarette, which provides a feeling that is similar to a cigarette, in terms of shape and size.

4. Treat yourself with a gift.

To recognize your hard work and keep up your motivation, use the money that you’ve been saving and buy yourself a reward. Plan a trip or buy something that you’ve been wanting.

“It's important to reward yourself periodically, maybe every couple of months,” said Hamp.

5. Don’t worry about weight gain.

Weight gain is a common concern among those who want to quit smoking, but for some, it’s unfounded.

“Not everyone gains weight when they quit smoking,” said Registered Dietitian Deborah Richter, who provides nutritional counseling at Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joesph Campus.

“On average, people who quit smoking only gain 10 pounds,” said Richter.

Those most likely to gain weight are people who have smoked for 10 to 20 years, more than one pack per day.

“A person would need to gain 100 to 150 pounds after quitting to make the health risk as high as with continuing to smoke!” said Richter.

Registered Nurse Karen Hamp recommends that you focus on quitting first, without worrying too much about weight gain. “It is difficult to deny yourself two things at the same time. Tackle one first, then the other.”

Quitting smoking is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for yourself and your family. If your efforts in the past have failed, make sure that you have both a support system and nicotine replacement therapy. Call the New York State Smoker’s Quitline to put yourself on the path to success. Speak to your doctor about your plan, and don’t forget to reward yourself for a job well done.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ask Us Anything: I am Pregnant and I Travel for Work. When Do I Need to Stop Traveling?

"I am at 22 weeks. My work requires travel. Sometimes I have to drive 14-16 hours to Georgia or fly to Atlanta then drive 3-6 hours to arrive to the work site. These trips are for typically for 1 week at a time. At what point in my pregnancy should my travel be restricted to purely in-state travel? Will my in-state travel ever have to be restricted as long as I take breaks along the drive?"

Ginny Lyons, RN, Responds:

First, congratulations on your pregnancy. You indeed have a busy schedule. Now at the present state of your pregnancy, your long haul drives need to be broken up to rest, hydrate, stretch your legs, and move about and obtain nutritious snacks.

Generally speaking, air flight is not recommended at around the seventh month of pregnancy.

Again, your long drives out of state will have to be curtailed as well. As your pregnancy advances, your comfort level for long drives in a car diminishes due to many factors: more frequent need for rest, increased urination, and an enlarging abdomen, just to address a few.

In any long trip, whether pregnant or not, you want to move your legs about, get up and walk around, and make circles with your feet both forward and backward, preventing the pooling of blood in the lower extremities that can cause a clot formation.

Your general state of health, stamina, and energy levels will dictate to you a time of reference to even lessen your in-state duties.

I wish you a happy and safe delivery of your baby.

– Ginny Lyons

Ginny Lyons, RN is a coordinator for Catholic Health's women's service line, WomenCare, a nurse clinician in women's health, a community health educator and a public health speaker for Catholic Health on wellness and prevention seminars.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

7 Tips for Weight Loss Success in 2014

In the past two years that I've written this blog, our nutritionists and health experts have shared tons of tips on how to improve your diet.

I've put together a list of my favorite tips that can help you to keep off the pounds in the new year.

1. Choose Your Diet Plan Wisely

Opt a diet plan with proven results, such as Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem.

Avoid Atkins, South Beach or Paleo – they ban essential nutrients and will leave you hungry.

See: Diet Plans That Are Too Good to Be True; And Those that Really Work!

2. Focus on Improvement, Not Perfection

When you make a mistake – maybe you chose pizza for lunch or ate a candy bar after dinner – don't be too hard on yourself. Focus on your successes, not your failures.

Ask yourself, “Am I improving?” instead of looking for perfection.

By focusing on your progress, you can approach mistakes in a kinder, gentler way and recognize them for what they are: opportunities to learn, not signs that you’re doomed to failure.

See: 6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Without Exercise

3. Watch Your Sodium

Extra sodium in your diet can cause high blood pressure and put you at risk of stroke and heart failure.
Foods high in sodium include pizza, pasta, hamburgers, meat and bread.

Choose recipes with no more than 600 mg of sodium per meal. Visit our Pinterest boards for recipes that are low in sodium.

See: 4 Ways to Make Time to Cook.

4. Go Vegetarian for One or Two Nights Each Week

Eat one or two meatless meals per week. Options include veggie burgers, pita bread and hummus, chili and baked beans.

Se: Smart Eating: Eat 1 or 2 Meatless Meals Per Week

5. Avoid Bad-for-you Ingredients

When grocery shopping, choose whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat breads and brown rice, as opposed to their white counterparts.

“Refined” or “Enriched” ingredients should be avoided. Also avoid added sugars (sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, or raw sugar).

See: Smart Eating: Choose Whole Grains Instead of Refined Grains

6. Drink Two Cups of Water Before You Eat

It has been found that people who drank two cups of water right before eating a meal ate between 75 and 90 fewer calories during that meal.

In fact, over the course of 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals, three times per day, lost about 5 pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake.

7. Make a Healthy Dessert 

Even when you're eating healthy, you don't have to go cold-turkey on dessert. Smart choices include:
  • Lemon ice 
  • Sorbets 
  • Sherbet 
  • Italian ice 
  • Cakes and cookies made with applesauce and yogurt
  • Desserts made with olive oil (see: Olive Oil Desserts)
  • Dark chocolate, containing at least 70% cacao
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ask Us Anything: Can Wearing Tampons Cause a UTI?

"Can wearing tampons cause a UTI?"

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Responds:

Wearing a tampon should not cause a urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI.

Women are more likely than men to get a UTI , since the urethra is shorter.

To prevent a UTI, you should:
  •  Void regularly, every 2-3 hours 
  •  Increase fluid intake of water and unsweetened cranberry juice 
  • Wipe from front to back after urination or defecation 
  • Wear underwear with a cotton crotch 
  • Avoid douches and powders 
  • Void after intercourse 
As for tampons, they should be changed every 4-8 hours. On the first days of your period, you may want to change them more often, since the menstrual flow can be heavier. Leaving a tampon in for a long period of time has been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome, a rare, life-threatening complication of bacterial infection.

You may prefer to use just pads or a menstrual cup. A menstrual cup is made of plastic or rubber. They are inserted into the vagina and emptied every 8- 12 hours.

– Beth Nicastro, RN

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Which Buffalo, NY Gym is the Best Value?

If you're thinking about joining a gym or switching to a new location, you have plenty of choices in Buffalo, NY.

Generally, the more you pay, the more amenities will be available to you, such as a pool or child care. If these features are unimportant to you, you may be satisfied with a lower cost gym, in the $10 to $25/mo. range.

Also, be aware that some lower cost gyms require a yearly contract, whereas month-to-month gyms may charge a higher fee but are less of a commitment.

Side by Side Gym Comparison

To help you find the gym that meets your needs, I've created a comparison of several popular gyms in the Buffalo area.

Data was taken from the gyms' websites and by phone when information was not available online. Please call or visit the gym to confirm the details below before making a purchase. 

An "S" indicates "select locations."

BAC Fitness 360 Planet Fitness World Gym L.A. Fitness JCC YMCA
Buffalo X X X X X
Orchard Park X
Depew X
Hamburg X
Lancaster X
West Seneca X X
Amherst X X X
Cheektowaga X X
Clarence X
Getzville X
Niagara Falls X X
Tonawanda X X
Williamsville X X
BAC Fitness 360 Planet Fitness World Gym L.A. Fitness JCC YMCA
Before 6 a.m.  S X X X X X S
After 6 p.m. X X X X X X X
Pool S X X X
Suana S S X X S
Day care S X X X X
Pilates S S X X X
Spinning S S X X
Yoga S X S X X X
Zumba S X X X X
BAC Fitness 360 Planet Fitness World Gym L.A. Fitness JCC YMCA
Monthly X
Yearly X X X
None X X
Unknown X
Monthly Rate $29.99 $10-$20 $10-$25 $29.99 $44.67 $24-$50
Enrollment $99 $10 $99 $49 $47-$85
Start Up Fee $0-$49 $29
Annual Fee $29-$39
Unknown X
Avg. Yelp Rating  3.64 1.5 2.5 2.88 3 4 3.25
The Yelp rating is an average across all rated locations, at the time of this writing.

No-Pressure Calls at Three Gyms, BAC Gives Sales Pitch

For this article, I called Planet Fitness, the Jewish Community Center, the YMCA and the Buffalo Athletic Club (BAC).

The first three were friendly, no-pressure calls. Planet Fitness told me that they keep things "basic and simple to reduce overhead." Many of their members are new to the gym, and they want to make them feel comfortable. They're also open 24 hours per day for your convenience.

The Buffalo Athletic Club was a different story. I've called several locations and have had the same experience each time. Before they respond to questions about pricing, they will give you an overview of their club and its amenities. When asked again about pricing, their default answer is that "the cost depends on the program" and that you must come in and speak to a fitness coach. Once there, you can tour the facility and fill out an application. So, if you call the BAC, be prepared for sales pitch.

Have you been a member of or had contact with any of the above gyms? What was your experience?

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Giveaway Winner: Joel Harper's Slim & Fit exercise DVD

Thank you to everyone who entered our giveaway for Joel Harper's Slim & Fit exercise DVD.

Unfortunately, Nancy has not contacted us to claim her prize by the December 6th deadline.

According to contest rules, a new winner has been chosen using a random number generator.

The winner is:

Karen L.

Karen says that she goes to Planet Fitness but also enjoys "Dancing to the Oldies" on DVD at home.

Congratulations, Karen! To claim your prize, please email Amy Kirst ( by December 27.

Don't Miss Our Next Giveaway

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