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How to Stay Healthy this Winter

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words |  Dr. Karen Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P., medical expert

Late one busy afternoon during flu season, I was charting away on my computer before going to my next patient when a six-year-old boy walked by me and said, “Doctor Prentice, do you live here?” I looked up from my work in a daze and said, “Feels like it honey.”

Flu season, for anyone who works in the medical field, can be extremely busy and exhausting. As a doctor, I have researched ways to help my patients, my family and myself stay healthy. It isn’t easy when everyone around me is sneezing and coughing, but these tips are tried and true:

Tip #1 Wash your hands. I can’t stress this enough. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after being in a public place, before eating, and before touching your face.

Tip #2 Get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Anything less than seven hours can compromise the immune system, making you three times more likely to get sick.

Tip #3 Eat an antioxidant-rich diet. Food is my favorite topic! I truly believe that by being intentional about what you eat, you can prevent health issues and illness. Try to eat at least three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables each day. Top choices include sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, blueberries, prunes, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, citrus fruits and strawberries. Other foods rich in antioxidants include beans, avocado, eggs, mushrooms, fish, nuts and spices such as garlic, ginger and turmeric. Avoid processed foods, sugary foods, fried foods and soda. Limit alcohol to no more than four to six ounces of red wine per day (if you are over 21 and choose to drink alcohol at all!).

Tip #4 Reduce stress. When your body is in a constant state of stress, your immune system has a harder time fighting off illness. Find activities such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness exercises that can help you manage your stress better. Laughter is truly great medicine. Spend time with people who bring joy to your life and make you laugh.

Tip #5 Exercise daily. Even if your time is limited, find a way to get at least thirty minutes a day. Whether it’s walking, hiking, running, biking or working out at the gym, it really doesn’t matter. The act of exercising and keeping a fit body will improve your blood flow, improving the circulation of your immune cells.

Tip #6 Get some fresh air and sunshine. Studies show that those who are nature deprived suffer from more illnesses and infections than those who “play” outside daily. Combining exercise and outdoor time is a great way to avoid illness. If that isn’t your “thing” then just go outside and sit with a friend or a good book. Outdoor time means vitamin D time! Vitamin D is an essential vitamin we get from the sun and certain foods. Those who live in northern climates often suffer from severe vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to depression and increased infections – see tip #7.

Tip #7 Take your vitamins. I believe that even the healthiest of eaters cannot always take in all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Take a vitamin D3 supplement to avoid vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to a weakened immune system, increase in bony fractures, depression and exhaustion. I also recommend taking a good multivitamin and probiotic on a daily basis. More and more research is showing that by taking a probiotic (a supplement containing live bacteria that adds to your healthy gut bacteria), you not only will improve your digestive health, but can improve your immune system and possibly your mental health as well. Ask your doctor what doses and supplements are right for you.

Tip #8 Have a cup of tea. The polyphenols found in tea have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce inflammation and illness in your body. Drinking green, white or oolong tea have been shown to reduce cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and bacterial and viral infections. Try to avoid canned or bottled teas with added sugars and chemicals and stick to loose-leaf tea or tea bags.

Tip #9 Get a flu shot. According to the CDC, in the last ten flu seasons an average of 34,000 people per year died in the U.S. of influenza – some years reporting as low as 12,000 flu-related deaths and some years as high as 56,000 flu-related deaths. Many of these deaths could have been prevented simply by getting a flu shot. Despite what many people think, getting the flu shot will not give you the flu, although your arm may be sore and you may get a slight fever for a day or so. Ask your doctor if the flu shot is right for you.

I hope this article has empowered you to make some healthy changes in your life. Simple things like a positive attitude, managing your stress, improving your nutrition and exercising a little can make a huge difference. You have the power to improve your health and prevent illness, so get started! I’ll leave you with a quote from Mother Teresa, “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today, let us begin.”


Dr. Prentice is a physician and author, see more at



 43388665 - a tired young woman is having a cup of tea and is resting her head on a table

Here comes the Sun

Summer, Sweet Summer:  Enjoy your summer but please protect your skin!

words |  Dr. Karen Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P., medical expert

Oh summertime…..beach towels, flip flops, the smell of freshly mown grass, the faint hint of sunscreen and chlorine that lingers on your skin, and reading a good book just for fun. These are just a few of my favorite summer memories. And yes, I do enjoy that sun-kissed glow on my skin, but hello, we need to talk. I know many of you think that being tan makes you look thinner or makes you more beautiful. Many of you sunbathe for hours or go to tanning beds. Unless you want to look like a Shar-Pei (I call them wrinkle dogs) by the time you are forty, you need to stop now. Worse than wrinkles is the very real threat of skin cancer.

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Did you know, according to the National Cancer Institute:

  • Melanoma (the deadly kind of skin cancer) has tripled in the U.S. over the last thirty years.
  • The incidence of melanoma in teens is increasing by 2.9% every year.
  • In 2016, 76,000 Americans were told they had melanoma.
  • In 2016, 10,000 Americans died of melanoma.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates over two million Americans get skin cancer each year, usually the nonfatal forms--basal and squamous cell cancer.
  • Children and teens who get five or more sunburns or have intermittent intense exposure to the sun are twice as likely to get melanoma.
  • Melanoma risk greatly increases for those who start indoor tanning before twenty-five years old and have more than ten indoor tanning sessions in a lifetime.
  • Squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma increases by more than 60% for those who use tanning beds in college and/or high school.
  • In 2009, the World Health Organization declared that the ultraviolet light emitted from tanning beds is a carcinogen

Enough stats, let’s break it down. Skin cancer occurs when we have repeated damage from ultraviolet light that naturally occurs in sunlight and in tanning beds. The ultraviolet light damages our DNA and starts changes that result in malignant (cancerous) transformation. Melanoma seems to happen more often in people who have repeated intense exposure to sunlight. Studies show that children and teens with more sunburns or intense exposure to the sun have twice the chance of getting melanoma. Most melanoma seems to show up on the backs of men and the legs of women.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of nonfatal cancer, but it’s no picnic. This type of cancer is invasive, aggressive and destroys the skin and structures below the skin including bone. Most basal cell cancers appear on the face and head. The most important risk factor is exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight or tanning beds especially in childhood or teen years.

Squamous cell cancer is also caused by exposure to ultraviolet light both in sunlight and tanning beds. Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by day to day cumulative exposure to the sun. This type of skin cancer shows up more on the face, tops of hands, and forearms and can be disfiguring and sometimes deadly if ignored. According to a study published in The Archives of Dermatology, both squamous and basal cell carcinoma can be reduced by almost 80% with aggressive sun protection before eighteen years old. Is anyone seeing a pattern here? Young people really need to protect their skin!!! Not that the rest of us shouldn’t.

What about tanning beds? Have you ever heard this one: “Before you go on vacation, get a base tan at a tanning bed, then you won’t burn.” This is a deadly misconception. A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at people who use tanning beds with and without a history of sunburn. Among those people who said they had no lifetime history of sunburn, melanoma was four times more common with those who used tanning beds. Recent surveys have found that among eighteen to twenty-five year olds, nearly one-third of white women admit to using tanning beds in the last year. Yikes!

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Here’s what you can do to prevent skin cancer:

1.     Never use tanning beds! Surely, I’ve convinced you of this!

2.     Avoid midday sun exposure when the sun is most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

3.     Seek shade when possible.

4.     Wear hats, sunglasses, and photo protective clothing with a UPF rating 25 or more.

5.     Apply sunscreen lip balm SPF 30.

6.     Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher that is broad spectrum meaning it has UVA and UVB protection.

7.     Apply sunscreen fifteen to thirty minutes before you go out and reapply every one to two hours or after swimming.

8.     Use enough sunscreen. A handy guideline is the teaspoon rule:

  • 1 teaspoon for your face and neck
  • 2 teaspoons for your front and back
  • 1 teaspoon to each arm
  • 2 teaspoons to each leg

9.     Avoid sunscreen sprays. Sprays may be quick, but you risk inhaling unhealthy chemicals and you may miss protecting areas of your skin which will then increase your skin cancer risk.

10.  Avoid retinyl palmitate, a chemical in some sunscreens which when tested on animals caused skin tumors.

11.  Avoid oxybenzone, a chemical in some sunscreens that can cause rashes and disrupt hormones in your body.

12.  Pick a sunscreen with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and/or avobenzone.


The moral of this story is that you don’t need to be tan to be beautiful and in fact, going for that tan can be deadly. I leave you with a quote from Lady Gaga, “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes.”


Dr. Prentice is a physician and author, SEE MORE AT

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The Big Lie: Part 1

Why Diets Don’t Work and Why We Should Seek Beauty and Wellness in Our Own Skin Today

words |  Dr. Karen Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P., medical expert

Ok, we all ate too much during the holidays and probably didn’t exercise enough. Now with the thought of shorts, sundresses, prom dresses and …… yes, I’ll say it, swimming suits, right around the corner many of us will go into a panic and try some crazy diet or scheme to shed the extra weight. DON’T DO IT!!! Crazy diets, pills, powders, drinks, or simply starving yourself is an extremely dangerous thing to do and in the long run will not work.

The definition of a fad or crash diet is any diet that promotes quick weight loss by using diet pills, supplements, or extreme calorie or food group restrictions. This is hard on your body for many reasons. Many of the “diet pills” or supplements are not tested since they are considered a “food” product and not a medicine. In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not have to regulate them or guarantee their safety. So basically, you don’t know what exactly you are taking and what it will do to your body. Many of these products can cause liver, kidney, gallbladder or pancreas problems.

A major problem with extremely low calorie diets is that the diet deprives people of essential nutrients needed for day-to-day body function and for preventing disease. These diets can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that can lead to heart problems. Calorie and/or carbohydrate restriction can cause your body to metabolize your muscles, not just your fat, as you hope, which can lead to decrease in muscle mass. Restricting calories and food groups can also cause low vitamin, mineral, and phytochemical levels which then can lead to immune system problems causing more frequent infections and illness.

The worst part is that many studies have shown that the majority of people who lose weight quickly on a “crash” diet, ultimately regain all the weight they lost and often weigh even more than when they started. Why? I believe the reason crash diets, pills or supplements do not work is that they do not teach you how to eat in a healthy fashion and exercise so that you can create balance and maintain a healthy weight.

So here is the big message that I want all of you to remember: LIKE WHO YOU ARE RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW! Too big, too small, just right, it doesn’t matter. True beauty comes from inside of you and seeps out like rays of sunshine. You were all made wonderfully and uniquely perfect. However, it’s your responsibility to nurture and care for yourself and part of doing that includes keeping a healthy weight. Please pay attention to this next piece of advice! A healthy weight does not necessarily mean being thin.  In fact, many of us do not need to lose weight and just need to get in better shape, meaning working our muscles through exercises like yoga, dance, sports, or lifting weights and working our heart and lungs more through exercises or sports that involve walking, running, hiking, biking or swimming. Shoot for thirty minutes every day or every other day and work your way up to one hour a day. Find something you enjoy doing and you will have much better success.

Many of us also need to eat healthier. Eating healthy does not mean suffering! It does not mean eating a diet solely of lettuce and carrots. The goal of a healthy “diet” or what I prefer to call the goal of a nourishing diet means to take in foods that are real foods, not processed foods. Real foods provide your body with essential nutrients it needs such as protein found in fish, poultry, meat, beans or tofu; carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as rice, pasta, or quinoa; healthy fats found in olives, olive oil, avocado, dairy foods, and nuts; and of course water. Try to make half your plate vegetables and fruits and the other half a healthy protein and carbohydrate. Watch your portion size. A serving of meat or protein should be about the size of your palm, a serving of cheese the size of your thumb, and a serving of fruit or vegetables your entire fist. Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water a day. Avoid sodas, juices, and sugar drinks. Dink water or milk instead. Limit sweets and treats to once a week.

So as you start your new plan of eating healthier and exercising more, please remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Do the best you can and love yourself right here and right now just as you are. Being happy in your own skin is true beauty!

Eating celery aggressively

Dr. Prentice is a physician and author, see more at


Eating celery aggressively

Empowering Wellness

words |  Dr. Karen Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P., medical expert

Empowering Wellness, Dr. Karen Prentice

How many of you have considered your overall wellness? Do you feel well? What does wellness mean to you?

According to The Alliance Institute of Integrative Medicine, wellness is not only good physical and mental health, but “emotional stability, clear thinking, the ability to love, create, embrace change, and experience a continuing sense of spirituality.” 

This may sound complicated, but if you break it down it is pretty simple. This article is intended to empower you to enjoy wellness through exploring your spirituality, enriching your family and social support, getting good sleep, exercising, spending time in nature, eating a healthy diet, and surrounding yourself with positive experiences and thoughts.

Spirituality/Faith: Medical studies tell us that people who have a faith belief system are less likely to suffer from self-destructive behaviors such as smoking, drugs, alcohol abuse, and suicide. Having spirituality in your life also promotes good health by boosting your immune system and reducing depression and anxiety. Take some time to explore what you believe in.

Social Support/Family/Friends: According to Greek Philosophy, humanity can be differentiated from other forms of life by our deep need to associate with others. We need friendship, family, a sense of belonging, and human touch! A hug or touch on the shoulder from a loved one can lower blood pressure, decrease pain, and elevate mood. Spend some time with those you love and give them a hug!

Sleep: A good night’s sleep helps the body heal and fight off illness. In fact, as we sleep our body clears brain waste metabolites which if not cleared can lead to decreased concentration, stress, anxiety, and illness. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Shut off all electronics one hour before bed and get them out of your bedroom. Studies show that the blue light emitted from electronics inhibits our sleep.

Exercise: We all know exercise is good for our bodies, but did you know it can make you happy? Exercise is critical for good mental health reducing depression and anxiety, helping us to focus better, and decreasing our risk of illness. Try to get one hour of enjoyable exercise per day. Split up your exercise between cardio or heart pumping activity and muscle building activity such as yoga, Pilates, or weight lifting. Sports are a great way to combine all exercise types that you need.

Nature: Studies show spending time in nature helps us stay calm, improves our self-esteem and our overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, most of us are nature-deprived. Take a walk, ride a bike, go hiking, garden, or just sit outside and read a book.

Nutrition: Eating a healthy diet not only reduces our risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes but it also improves our mental wellbeing. Here is a breakdown of what your body needs every day: 4-5 servings of vegetables and 3-4 servings of fruit (organic if possible); 3-4 servings of food that contains calcium and vitamin D such as milk, yogurt and cheese; 5 servings of whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa or whole intact or cracked grain bread; 3 servings of protein foods per day such as beans, nut butter, fish, tofu or chicken.  Eight to ten glasses of water per day totaling around 2 Liters (more if you are working out a lot or spending time in the heat).

Positive Thoughts/Activities: Focus your mind on positive thoughts, friends, and activities that bring you joy and help you to grow. To paraphrase my favorite verse, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Appreciate what makes you unique and wonderful and be the best you that you can be.


Dr. Prentice is a physician and author, see more at


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I am Iron Woman: Nutrition for the Female Athlete

words |  Dr. Karen Prentice D.O. F.A.A.P., medical expert

As I was struggling to keep up with my friend during a morning bike ride, she commented that she didn’t consider herself an athlete since she didn’t play sports. When I caught my breath, I asked her what she called someone that bikes 120 miles a week.

In my mind, an athlete is anyone who participates in physical exercise on a regular basis. We all think of soccer and basketball players as athletes, but what about dancers, gymnasts, swimmers, cyclists, and cheerleaders. Clearly, these ladies are athletes as well.

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Why is it important to talk specifically about nutrition for female athletes?

Women athletes who do not pay close attention to their nutrition, are subject to menstrual issues, stress fractures, fatigue, growth delay, impaired immune system, and poor athletic and school performance. A woman’s menstrual cycle can deplete her of iron and nutrients, setting her up for problems. In addition, many female athletes, especially those in activities that promote leanness such as dancers, gymnasts, and cheerleaders consume less than 70% of their recommended daily caloric needs.

What does the female athlete need?

1. Carbohydrates: “Carbs” get such a bad rap, but they are absolutely necessary for energy.  55-65% of daily calories should consist of healthy carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and grains, oats, and beans. Avoid processed and high sugar foods.

2. Protein: Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. 15-20% of daily calories should come from protein foods such as turkey, chicken, lean beef and pork, fish, eggs, beans, nut butters, dairy and tofu. Avoid synthetic protein bars, shakes, and powders.

3. Fat: Fats are necessary to help us repair our cells and absorb vitamins. Limit trans-fat and saturated fats, but include 25-30% of daily calories from healthy fats such as: protein foods, nuts, seeds, nut butter, fish, avocados, eggs, and olive oil.

4. Vitamins and Minerals: By eating a well-balanced diet you should get enough vitamins and minerals.  However, many of our diets are lacking, and many female athletes are iron deficient due to menstrual blood loss. Try to eat iron-rich foods daily such as meat, fish, dark green leafy vegetables, soy products, dried fruit, and beans. Talk with your doctor to see if you need a multivitamin with iron.

5. Water: This is the most essential nutrient of all! Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. By then, it’s too late. One to two hours before exercise drink 8-16 ounces of water. During exercise drink 8-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes. If you are working out longer than 60 minutes or it is hot, drink an electrolyte solution containing sodium, potassium, and chloride, such as Gatorade or Powerade, in addition to water.

6. Pre and Post Work-Out: Make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a healthy snack that includes a carbohydrate and a protein food such as whole grain bread with peanut butter and fruit.

Take Home Points:

  • Eat real food and avoid processed, packaged, or boxed foods
  • Eat when you are hungry
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise
  • Drink electrolyte solution on hot days or for workouts over an hour
  • Avoid dehydrating substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and energy drinks
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Talk to your doctor about vitamins or supplements you may need
  • Nurture and nourish your body well and treat it wisely. You are an athlete, and you are amazing!


Dr. Prentice is a physician and author, see more at


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Nourish, Exercise, Sleep, Spread Joy...

Have you ever felt like you were riding a Tsunami from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and barely getting by?


We run ourselves ragged “enjoying” the holidays-- running errands, buying the perfect gift, gift wrapping, parties, volunteer work, oh, and don’t forget finals, school work, work, and extracurricular activities. At some point, our health seems to take last place. How in the world can we break this cycle when we have so much to do?

Take a breath and remember the reason you are “celebrating.” Most of us are celebrating either our faith, cultural traditions, or just the pure fun of getting together with family and friends. Whatever the reason, here are a few things you can do to stay healthy and truly enjoy the holidays.

Tip #1 Take Care of Yourself: I’ve found in my day to day work as a doctor, if I take good care of myself, I do a much better job of caring for others.

Tip #2 Nourish: The goal of eating is not only to nourish our body but to nourish our mind and spirit. Beyond sustaining us, food has great cultural, religious, and social importance. So eat!!! It’s ok to have Aunt Megan’s amazing apple pie at Thanksgiving, Aunt Iris’s potato latkes at Hanukkah, or Grandma Sharlene’s famous Christmas cookies in December. However, make sure you add in some nourishing food like fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain pastas; healthy protein and fatty foods like eggs, turkey, tofu and nut butters; and plenty of water. As you run your errands be sure to pack healthy snacks like nuts, cheese, and whole grain crackers, or sliced apples, peanut butter, and water. When you go to a party, be intentional about what you put in your mouth. Drink plenty of water, and make sure you load your plate with salad, vegetables, fruit, cheese, nuts, whole grains, and any other “healthy” option you see. Then grab a dessert or two, but don’t overdo it! By making good choices, you will feel better and suffer from fewer colds and flus.

You will also feel better and stay healthy if you balance your “input” (calories eaten) with your “output” (calories burned). This leads us to my next tip.

Tip #3 Exercise: My motto has always been, “the more I exercise, the more I can eat” and boy can I eat! Seriously though, I could talk all day about the benefits of exercise which include: stress relief, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your body strong, and improving your immune system. Find something you enjoy doing that involves exercise and try to do it every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes in the morning and 20 or 30 minutes at night. Over the years, I’ve found running to be a cheap, easy exercise that I can squeeze in at different times of the day depending on my schedule. I’m not particularly good at it, calling myself a “slogger” or slow jogger, but I enjoy it and it makes me feel strong and healthy. The most important thing is to do what you love and try to do it daily.

Tip #4 Sleep: This one is a little tougher during the holidays. Did you know that as we sleep our brain gets rid of toxins that if left to build up can cause anxiety, depression, and a poor immune system which then leads to infections and illness? Cold and flu season peaks during the holidays, so make sure you get at least eight hours a night.

Tip #5 Be Present in the Moment: Make sure to be “present” in the world around you. Say hello to people, open the door for someone with lots of packages, stop and chat with your neighbor even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even though your head is filled with all the things you need to get done, put down your list, put down your phone, and look your friends and family in the eye. Listen to what they are saying to you. A few minutes of intentional listening is a great way to say, “I care about you and I love you.” It’s a perfect way to spread the joy and love of the season!

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Dr. Prentice is a physician and author, see more at


 47967113 - cozy winter still life: mug of hot tea and warm woolen knitting on vintage windowsill against snow landscape from outside.

Dr. Karen Prentice

I got hungry. No, really. All of a sudden I was a working woman, had a husband and baby and we were hungry. I had a lot of nutrition knowledge from college and medical school, but not a clue how to cook. I wanted my baby to be as healthy as possible and eat as healthy as possible--like any parent does. I desperately searched for quick, easy recipes that were healthy. Over time, I developed some cooking skills, had another baby and figured out pretty quickly what the boys would and wouldn’t eat. I made a lot of mistakes which often ended with pizza being called. However, I figured a lot out. As most of you know, we sometimes learn more from our mistakes. Back then, (twenty years ago) when my kids were babies, most kids’ menus were awful and school lunches were not much better. Don’t get me started with the snacks after t-ball! As I learned how to feed my kids healthy foods, I passed on as much information to my patients’ parents that I could. Everyone kept telling me, "write this down!" I finally wrote it down and that is how my book, An Apple a Day the Doctor’s Way: Dr.Karen’s Nutritional Guide and Cookbook, was born.

Now the boys are grown and out of the house. My book just got published so that’s done, and I am the type of girl that likes to be busy. I mean really busy. I usually knit a scarf while I watch a sporting event or movie, I have an organic vegetable garden that is doing surprisingly well, and I am always training for some 10K or ½ marathon (not that I am any good at running). Oh, did I mention I work full time as a pediatrician? My true joy has been spending time with my family and my patients! Oh, do I love the kids and the families that I care for. I love talking with them, teaching them, and watching the kids grow up.


See more at


Dr. Karen Prentice
An Apple a Day the Doctor’s Way: Dr.Karen’s Nutritional Guide and Cookbook

An Apple a Day the Doctor’s Way: Dr.Karen’s Nutritional Guide and Cookbook



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