August 16, 2015 signature

Let’s say you have a school project to do about immunization. You and a classmate sit down at computers next to each other and start your research. You both log on to the same search engine, but one of you types in the words vaccine safety, while the other searches using the words vaccine dangers.

Can you guess what might happen from there? Those two combinations produce very different search results and a lot of them. A search for vaccine safety, for instance, brings up more than 900,000 Web pages; depending on the search engine, vaccine dangers can produce from 100,000 to more than 3 million results. Hope that project isn’t due tomorrow, because you have a lot of reading to do! But more important, how do you know which sites have the right information? Fortunately, there are ways of sifting through all the online “noise” and bogus information.

Getting It Right

When it comes to health information, finding a reliable source doesn’t just raise your chance of getting an A. If you or a loved one has a disease or health condition, you might turn to the Web to learn more or to find support. Many people go online for exercise or nutrition tips and information. The key is sorting out the facts from the fakes.

Take vaccine safety land vaccine dangers, for example. High school students in Texas were asked to search online for those phrases and use the sites they found to answer questions about vaccines. Then researchers checked whether the students’ answers were correct. While 59 percent of students believed what they learned from the Web sites, the researchers found that only 33 percent of the search results contained accurate information.

“There’s a lot of inaccurate information on the Web, and I think that’s contrary to what a lot of people think,” says Philip Kortum, a professor in the psychology practice at Rice University in Houston. He was one of the researchers who studied how teens found the vaccine information online. Here are the steps Kortum recommends for being a health-savvy Web surfer.

Be aware. “Just knowing that there’s a lot of inaccurate info on the Web is an important thing for people to, ” Kortum says. Verify the information you find with other sources, especially if it sounds too good (or bad) to be true.

Start smart. Begin at a known, trusted Web site, and travel from there to other reputable sources. Kortum recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov), and the American Medical Association.

Think critically. “Just because a site looks and sounds professional doesn’t mean that it contains accurate information,” Kortum says. For example, be wary of a site promoting the ideas of one doctor. For more on how to tell whether a site is trustworthy, see “Clues to Clicking.”

Seek out facts. Make sure the information you find is backed up by facts and statistics. People tell a lot of good stories on the Web, Kortum says, but not all of them are grounded in science.

On Trial in Cyber Court

Sometimes, a combination of online research and old-fashioned detective work can lead you to the right answers. One place to start is your library–sure, the building is full of books, but chances are your library is full of computers and helpful people too. You might not even have to leave your home to get there–you can probably access your library’s resources online.

The library is one of the places New York City teen Faizunnahar D. checks when she’s doing research. “If it’s some minor information that I’m just curious about, I usually start to research on Google and check out a few of the Web sites. But if it’s for school, I use the Brooklyn Public Library databases,” she says. “The information is already verified and updated frequently.”

In a South Carolina program, librarians are helping teens learn how to search smartly, but not by standing at the front of a classroom or distributing photocopied handouts. The librarians and students take Web sites to Cyber Court, a role-playing activity.

In the “courtroom,” the students hold a health-related Web site responsible for its content. Some students act as judges, while others play the roles of people who have been affected by Web sites’ claims. In one case, a student played a mom who was angry about a Web site her child had used. Other students take on the roles of lawyers for and against the Web sites on trial. “In order to defend their site, [students] had to really look at their Web site and determine whether it was reliable,” explains Janice C. May, coordinator for the Hands on Health-South Carolina program at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Students consider six factors about each of the Web sites that come to Cyber Court: site sponsorship, the accuracy of content, the qualifications of authors, editorial policies of the Web site, privacy protection, and the availability of “contact us” information. May recommends using those factors to evaluate any Web site. Whether you’re looking to buy an iPod or writing a research paper, you should know who runs a site and what that person’s or group’s intentions are, she says.

Wisdom Beyond the Web

Just like all the other sources of information out there TV shows, advertisements, books, magazines, your friends anything you learn online should be just one part of your complete health picture. Don’t forget to turn to the people in your life, especially if you need help or advice. “Certainly the Internet is a great place to start,” says Kortum. “If you use these trusted sites, you can get accurate information in the privacy of your own home, but you should also seek out the advice of a trusted individual a school nurse, doctor, your parents.”

August 4, 2015 signature

Spa recipes too yummy to be good for you (but they are). Plus: * Fizzy, fruity, low-cal cocktails * Permission to eat that creamy spinach dip everyone loves * Couscous meals you can throw together in minutes

Need some diet inspiration? Ditto. So we asked chefs at America’s top spas for their most popular dishes and skinniest cooking tips, Steak, chocolate, Mexican food, yay!

Filet of beef with tomato, red onion, and basil salad Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, TUCSON, AZ

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
4 large plum tomatoes, seeded, julienned
1/2 small red onion, julienned
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned
1/2 tsp each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 (4-0z) beef filet steaks, about 3/4 inch thick
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 oz fresh goat cheese, cut into 4 thin slices

1. Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer until it’s reduced by half and becomes thick and syrupy, about 8 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, onion, basil, and half of the salt and pepper; set aside.

3. Season beef with remaining salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet
over medium-high heat until hot. Add steaks and cook 2 minutes per side, until seared. Reduce heat to medium and cook another minute per side for mediumrare.
Transfer steaks to a plate and let rest 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, toss tomato salad with 1 Tbsp of the balsamic syrup. Divide salad
among four plates. Place a steak on top of each salad and top with a slice of goat cheese. Drizzle remaining balsamic syrup over steaks.

Makes 4 servings.
Each serving: 246 cal,
14g fat, 22g protein,
10g carb
“People mistakenly assume that steak is a diet no-no. Tenderloin filet, New York strip, and top sirloin are all healthy choices.”

Chef Chad’s skinny tip

“When you’re making tuna or chicken salad, mix one part low-fat mayo with three parts nonfat plain yogurt that’s been strained for 20 minutes. The salad will contain 75 percent less fat.”

Shrimp a la diabla Rancho La Puerta, TECATE, MEXICO

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

1 Tbsp olive oil
16 jumbo shrimp (1 lb), peeled and deveined, with tail shells intact
2 medium leeks (white and light green parts), thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/4 cup tequila
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

2. Add leeks and garlic; cook, stirring until leeks start to soften, about 1 minute. Add lime juice, shaking pan to combine. When lime juice begins to boil, stir in chiles.

3. Remove pan from heat; pour in tequila. Return to heat; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cilantro; swirl in butter just until it melts. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.
Each serving: 207 cal,
lOg fat, 19g protein,
9g carb
“Guests love that this dish is so different from how restaurants typically serve shrimp: swimming In butter and lemon juice.”

Chef Gonzalo’s skinny tip

” When buying veggies, remember that the brighter the colors, the higher the level of nutrients. To retain all the good stuff, blanch them: Put veggies in a pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then transfer them to an ice bath. Or saute them for a few minutes in a hot skillet.”