These 'Humor Pills' Are Hard to Swallow

Ask Your Pharmacist: A Leading Pharmacist Answers Your Most Frequently Asked Questions By Lisa M. Chavis St. Martin's Press, $29.95, 401 pages. *

I don't typically ask my pharmacist much, because he's a whiz at filling my prescriptions and getting me quickly out the door. But I don't doubt he's gathered some excellent experience in his many years--as has pharmacist Lisa M. Chavis. In this new book, she shares her deep knowledge of health matters, jumping into the home health reference market that lately has included books by other trusted health-care professionals, such as doctor-moms and nurses.

Chavis provides useful tips on dealing with allergies, bites, injuries, common illnesses and accidents, along with conditions such as varicose veins, diarrhea, athlete's foot and stomach gas. Her format begins with a question and an answer about the problem, then lists treatments of both the over-the-counter and prescription sort. The book covers all the bases: children's health, senior health, men's and women's unique health concerns. It tells you what to keep in your medicine cabinet and includes a brief but valuable glossary of medical terms and pages of resources for further information.

That said, Chavis' style is often over the top. To distinguish herself from other health reference book authors, she adopts the persona of "The Drug Lady" with boxed tips on many pages. Some of her "Humor Pill" anecdotes fell flat; others were tasteless, such as the ones about HMOs and breast exams, Viagra and impotence. And this is supposed to be a family book.

Improving Kids'Eating Habits

Sugar Busters! For Kids By Dr. Sam S. Andrews, Dr. Morrison C. Bethea, Dr. Luis A. Balart, H. Leighton Steward Ballantine Books, $23.95, 317 pages, available Aug. 21. *

"Sugar Busters!" became a bestseller soon after its 1998 release because it gave people a clear-cut way to recognize and avoid the sugary foods, simple carbohydrates and processed foods that can pack on the pounds.

The idea was to help readers make lifelong adjustments in eating and exercise to avoid diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. The plan centers on reducing the consumption of refined-sugar foods--the obvious ones such as candies, cakes and sodas, and the less obvious ones, such as white rice and potatoes, carrots and beets, because the body turns excess sugar into fat. Followers of the plan are instructed to substitute whole grains, vegetables and low-sugar fruits into a plan that is 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat.

Now, the authors have modified their first book to help parents tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity--one of every four U.S. children is overweight. They recommend that kids consume a diet of 50% carbs (of the high-fiber, whole-grain variety), 30% fat and 20% protein.

"Sugar Busters! for Kids" should appeal to families already following the basic Sugar Busters guidelines and others trying to help instill decent eating habits in their kids.

Although it may be hard to get kids off fast food and sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals, this book suggests gradual substitutions, some ways to encourage better eating behaviors, and sitting kids down for a family dinner, which tends to be more nutritious than dinner-on-the-run.

It targets the "terrible trio" of sugary sodas, French fries and candy, which offer little nutritional value, and lays out menus targeted to various ages and tastes, complete with recipes.

The Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal, with its unsweetened apple juice and walnuts, sounded great, as did the chicken-sausage gumbo, turkey burgers. and chicken fajitas. Healthful, it seems, doesn't have to be boring.

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