Recap: Family Dinner Tips

“The most essential part of my day is a proper dinner.”

– Rachael Ray

How often does your family enjoy eating dinner together around the table? If your resolution this year involved eating better or having more quality time with your loved ones, dinner is the perfect place to start? What more could you be doing to make the evening meal fun and nutritious? Here are some tips from last week’s full blog post – pick one (or try them all!) at your next meal.

  • Focus on serving healthy meals. Healthy meals don’t have to be complicated or hard to prepare. They don’t always need specialty kitchen tools. They can be enjoyed by people with simple and refined palates.
  • Plan dinner so that your family can eat together and connect. Ask everyone about their day, encouraging communication. Alternatively, you can occasionally use dinner time to learn something new by reading an article or listening to a podcast.
  • The important part about family dinner is establishing a routine. It may not be possible to have every member of the family sit down to a healthy dinner every day of the week, but find a schedule that works for you and stick to is as best you can.

Want to continue to make sure that your family is healthy and protected? Talk to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your insurance portfolio. Review your family’s health insurance and ask if your life insurance policy has enough coverage for your loved ones in case of unfortunate circumstances. A complete insurance review is free, and it’s only a call away, so pick up your phone and dial Vargas and Vargas Insurance at 617-298-0655 now to start the process.

Tips for Having a Fun and Healthy Family Dinner

When you have a family, every day is an adventure. Sometimes just getting dinner on the table can seem like an insurmountable task. It’s never going to be easy all of the time, but we have some tips for how you can foster a fun and healthy dinner for your family from the agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency.

Choosing a Healthy Meal

Many families struggle to consistently put a healthy meal on the table. It’s important to remember if you’re having trouble that ‘healthy’ meals can still be both easy and delicious, even if you have picky eaters at your table (whether they’re 2 or 92 years old!)

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, families should be following the MyPlate guidelines when planning meals. This means that dinners should consist of five food groups in specific proportions – those food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.

Thankfully, there are plenty of resources for finding healthy recipes that you can use for your family. Start with an online search focused on meals with the MyPlate guidelines in mind. If you have children that are old enough, have them help with the meal planning and even the cooking, if possible. This will help to set them up for nutritional success later in life. Having trouble finding the time to put together a meal? Meal prep is a great option to plan out and store a week’s worth of meals (or more) and cut down significantly on daily prep work.

Here in the Dorchester area, there are plenty of resources for you if you need help creating a great meal. The library offers access to a cooking section where you can find plenty of great meal ideas, there are food pantries for those struggling to afford meals, and don’t forget about the wonderful produce offered at farmer’s markets in the area throughout the year.

Encourage Communication and Learning

Family meals are about so much more than just the food. In addition to serving something nutritious, you should make sure that you inspire everyone at the table to bond and engage with the group. Some children can be reluctant to share. To circumvent this issue, you will need to ask more specific questions about their activities and the happenings in their lives. Also make sure to talk about things that they are interested in – let them tell you about their social life or their favorite video game!

Want to mix up your dinner routine a little bit? Designate certain days as ‘learning dinners.’ Instead of focusing on conversation, learn something as a group. Find an interesting and educational podcast that you can all listen to or have someone choose and read an article from the news to bolster discussions about world affairs with older kids. Younger kids will enjoy playing games, so choose something age appropriate and start playing! If you need ideas for appropriate games, check out the ideas from The Family Dinner Project.

Another fun thing to do together while you eat is to plan other family activities. Ask kids where they would like to go – anything from day trips to vacations – and plan out a trip! Making plans together is a great way to bond while also learning about each other.

No matter whether you choose to talk, play, or learn while you’re at the table, remember that it is important that this time is about being together as a family. For most, this means putting away phones and tablets and turning off the tv during meals so that you can focus on each other.

Commit to a Routine

Times can get hectic, so you don’t necessarily have to do a healthy family dinner seven nights a week. Plan out what days you can and try to stick to your schedule as much as you can. Often, this routine will need to be evaluated and reevaluated as school and work schedules change, or when kids start or finish extracurricular activities – and that’s ok!

If it is hard for you to plan family dinners, try another meal – family breakfasts and lunches work just as well. What’s important is that you provide your loved ones with nutritious meals and that you spend time together to bond and communicate. And the more the merrier! Have non-immediate family members join you or invite your kids’ friends or your own friends to vary the routine and bring in new dynamics to your discussions. Just make sure that everyone follows the #1 rule – no electronics allowed at the table!

Want to do more to make sure that your family is healthy? Talk to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your health insurance policy. Call 617-298-0655 to get a free analysis of your current policy or a quote for new coverage. Having great insurance allows you to focus on healing without a major financial burden, so don’t underestimate the value of a great policy. Until then bon appetit and enjoy dinners with your family!

Recap: Sun Safety

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” – Helen Keller

Did you catch our blog post last week about how to stay safe while enjoying the sunshine? As you enjoy the lovely Boston weather, remember that it is important to keep yourself and your family safe from the potentially harmful rays of the sun.

  • If you’re going to be exposed to the sun for more than a few minutes, make sure to wear sunscreen and reapply it as directed for continued protection.
  • Even though you’re wearing sunscreen, it’s important to protect yourself when you’re in the sun by wearing clothing, hats, and sunglasses to cover your skin. Also take plenty of breaks in the shade and stay hydrated.
  • Know the early signs of skin cancer including the ABCDE rule and see a medical professional if you see any of abnormalities on your body. Also have a doctor check your moles and skin abnormalities annually as a preventative measure.

Make sure that you’re always able to put your health first with the right health insurance policy. To speak to one of our agents about your health insurance needs, just call 617-298-0655. We can help guide you through the sometimes confusing jargon and get a policy that is right for you and your loved ones.

Fun in the Sun: Health Safety Tips

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we want to make sure that our clients and friends make the most of the city that we live in while also being as safe as possible. After all, our number one goal is to make sure that you are protected, both through insurance and otherwise. Nowadays, many of you will be spending time outdoors with your families and friends, so we have gathered some tips to help you practice sun safety. Fun in the sun is great, but we want to make sure that it doesn’t haunt you later in life.

The Importance of Sunscreen

Sunscreen is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Using sunscreen when you’re at the beach or the pool (or any day that you’re going to be spending more than a few minutes outdoors) can help prevent certain types of skin cancer.

When choosing a sunscreen, make sure that you take note of their SPF – Sun Protection Factor. The SPF measures the fraction of UV rays that reach the skin, so in SPF 25 sunblock, 1/25 (4%) of UV rays reach the skin. When wearing sunscreen, it is important to reapply the lotion or spray as directed, typically every two hours.

When You’re in the Sun

In addition to applying sunscreen, there are other things that you should do when spending time outdoors to ensure that you stay healthy and protect your skin:

  • Sunblock is effective against the sun’s harmful rays but cannot protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses that block UV light whenever you are outside, including in the car.
  • Your face is hard to fully protect with sunscreen, so consider adding an extra layer of protection with a hat. Make sure to choose something with a brim that blocks the sun from your face.
  • The best way to protect skin from the sun is to cover it. It may seem illogical in the heat but covering up with a shirt and pants can prevent sunburn.
  • When you are spending the day outside (whether at the beach, pool, park, or otherwise) take regular breaks in the shade to cool down. Also try to avoid the time of day when the sun is strongest, typically between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • When you and your family are out playing in the outdoors, make sure that you stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink, but it’s imperative – especially in warmer temperatures.

Follow these tips and you will be much less likely to suffer from a sunburn. Unfortunately burns will still occasionally happen. If they do, continue reading to find out what you can do to treat a sunburn.

Treating Sunburns

If you or a loved one is afflicted with a sunburn, there are a few things that you can do to help. Apply a cool wet compress to the affected area or take a cool bath. Aloe vera gel is helpful and is available in most drugstores. Taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help.

To relieve itching, use moisturizing cream or hydrocortisone cream. If a sunburn blisters do not scratch or pick at them – it could cause the blister to get infected. For serious burns, or if you suspect infection see a doctor right away.

Early Signs of Skin Cancer

Checking yourself for potential signs of skin cancer only takes a few minutes, and it is very easy. Every month, look at your entire body (you will need a mirror) and notice your moles – you are looking for the “ABCDE”s, as follows:

  • A – Asymmetry: Moles should be symmetrical. If you were to draw a line down the middle and the sides wouldn’t match, that could be a red flag.
  • B – Border: “Good” moles usually have smooth and even borders. If you spot a mole with an uneven border, have it checked.
  • C – Color: Moles with a variety of colors can be a warning sign: healthy moles are often one even color, specifically a shade of tan, brown, or black. Moles that are white, red, or blue should also be checked.
  • D – Diameter: Nearly everyone has small moles, but larger moles might cause an issue. Moles larger than ¼ inch in diameter (about the size of a standard pencil’s eraser) might be malignant.
  • E – Evolution: If a mole changes in any way, have it looked at by a doctor. This could be a change in size or color, or a mole that starts to bleed or itch.

Also look for “Ugly Ducklings,” the name given to moles that don’t fit in with their surrounding skin and markings.

Every member of your family should do this. Make sure that you help younger children and teach them about the importance of proper skin care. If you notice any abnormalities, talk to a doctor right away.

For more tips to ensure that your fun time is both enjoyable and safe, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance blog. We love to share useful tips and insurance content that will keep you coming back for more. We also want you to know that our agents are always available to help you with your Massachusetts insurance needs. Just call 617-298-0655 the next time you have a question or need an insurance quote for your home, car, business, and more.

Start Budgeting for Your New Addition

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have clients in all stages of life – from new drivers to newlyweds to retirees, and everywhere in between. This article is for those of you that are growing your family tree. Children are a blessing, and it’s so important to be well prepared for their arrival. Here is some food for thought on budgeting for children of any age:

  • Babies and Toddlers: Babies can be expensive. In addition to the recurring expenses like groceries and diapers, you will have several one-time purchases including a crib, stroller, car seat, and more – especially if this is your first child.
  • Children: Kids grow quickly, so be ready to start a consistent flow of clothing. In addition, kids need to be entertained and enriched, so be ready to pay for field trips, summer camps, sports teams, music lessons, and more. This is also the time to start thinking about a college fund, if you haven’t already.
  • Teenagers: As children grow into teenagers, their toys only become more expensive. Buying them phones, tablets, and/or laptops isn’t cheap, but thankfully Vargas and Vargas Insurance is here for you to help with car insurance once they get a learner’s permit!

And remember, adding a child to your household is an event in your life worthy of a chat with your insurance agent. You will need health insurance for the child, and should probably increase or establish life insurance policies for the child’s providers. Call 617-298-0655 to speak with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about how to get your insurance policies ready for your new bundle of joy.

Do You Wear a Fitness Tracker?

When we turn the page on a new year, many people set fitness goals. They want to lose weight, or just get more active. Having a goal is great, but often that’s not enough motivation to get moving. For many people that need a little extra push, a fitness tracker has been the key to getting focused and motivated. Wearing a fitness tracker has many benefits, including:

Accountability: One of the most important parts of setting a goal is to make sure that it is measurable. “Be more active” is a great place to start, but you’ll be more successful if you use your fitness tracker to set a specific step goal, such as “Get 10,000 steps three times a week” or “Get no less than 6,000 steps a day.”

Social Motivation: Fitness trackers are becoming ubiquitous. Almost everyone seems to have a wrist tracker or an app on their smartphone that’s tracking their steps. Leverage this by becoming ‘friends’ with people you know on your tracking platform. Seeing their progress may spur you to ‘step up’ your game!

Lowering Insurance Rates: Did you know that some health insurance providers will offer discounts to clients that share their fitness tracker data with the company? Ask your Massachusetts insurance agent if you’re eligible for this discount!

Are you using a fitness tracker to be more active this year? We would love to hear about the tools you’re using to meet your goals. And if one of your goals is to save money, let Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency help – with one call to 617-298-0655 we can review your Massachusetts insurance policies to find you savings!

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Did you know that November is American Diabetes Month? Diabetes is a group of diseases indicated by insulin deficiencies or improper reactions to insulin in the body, and result in having too much sugar in the blood. More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and many more will develop the condition in their lifetime.

Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to lessen the likelihood of being affected by type 2 diabetes:

  • Make healthier choices when you eat. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your diet, and cut back on foods high in fat and added sugar. Also decrease your calorie consumption by having smaller portions.
  • Take small steps to be more physically active. Go for short walks a few times every week, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Your goal should be to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days of the week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight (find your ideal weight with BMI calculations).
  • Quit smoking.

If you take just a few of these steps, you will notice your overall health improve. Your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose should be better, and you will be at a much lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke.

Another very important part of making sure that you stay healthy is seeing your doctor regularly. Make sure that you encourage your family and friends to use their Massachusetts health insurance policies to see their primary care physician regularly, as catching symptoms of diabetes early is crucial. For more health insurance information, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Three Common Myths about Flu Vaccines

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? Many people want an excuse to not have to get poked with a needle, but getting a flu shot is one of the best things you can do for yourself in the fall and winter. In this post, we want to clear up a few of the common misconceptions around the flu shot:

Myth 1: The Flu Vaccine can give you the flu.

While it is true that some flu shots are made with an ‘inactivated’ flu virus, it has been scientifically proven that these shots can’t make you sick.

Myth 2: It’s better to risk getting the flu than to get the vaccine.

Some people would rather take their chances, and some will say “I’ve never gotten the shot, and I’ve never gotten sick.” But it’s not worth the risk – the flu can be very serious in some cases, and can on occasion result in complications. The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age receive the vaccine.

Myth 3: You don’t need to get the vaccine every year.

Just getting one shot isn’t enough to keep you protected against the flu virus. The protection that the vaccine offers wanes over time, so you need to get a vaccine every fall in order to maintain maximum defense against the flu.

Make sure that you use your Massachusetts health insurance when you get your flu vaccine – many insurance providers will cover part or all of the cost of the vaccine. And if you have any questions about your health insurance policy, you can always reach out to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Understanding the ABCs of Medicare

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Do you know the four parts of Medicare and what they do? It may seem confusing at times, but once you understand the four distinct coverage types offered by Medicare, you will be on your way to being able to make your selections with confidence. Here is a quick guide of what each of the Medicare parts will cover:

Part A – Hospital Coverage

This coverage is a default part of every Medicare plan – in fact, you are automatically enrolled in Part A coverage when you sign up for Medicare. This coverage plan will provide hospital stays and nursing care, as well as some at home health services and nursing care. As long as you (or your spouse) paid enough Medicare payroll taxes while working, you will not need to pay monthly premiums. If you didn’t pay enough in payroll taxes, you can still purchase Part A coverage – you will simply need to pay a monthly premium.

Part B – Medical Coverage

While you are automatically enrolled in Part A when you sign up for Medicare, part B is optional coverage. It pays for a portion of your visits to the doctor, as well as some health care, medical equipment, outpatient procedures, rehab, lab tests and X-rays, and more. If you have coverage through a union or current employer, you may wish to discuss your coverage options with a health insurance expert, because you may wish to opt out of the coverage initially and switch over to Part B when the time is right for you.

Part C – Private Insurance Option

Also known as Medicare Advantage or Medicare Health Plans, Part C offers you the option of having a health insurance policy through a private company, provided that it is approved by Medicare. It is important to note that you must enroll in both Medicare Parts A and B before you are eligible to enroll in coverage through Part C. If you want to learn more about the advantages of enrolling in Part C, call your local Boston insurance agent today – a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent can help guide you through the process of enrolling in Medicare part C.

Part D – Prescription Drug Plan

If you are enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, you are eligible for prescription drug coverage with Medicare Part D. Like Part C, prescription drug plans are available through private insurance companies. When you have Part D coverage, you will pay a monthly premium and copayment for your drugs. In some cases, a deductible will also be necessary. Find out more about the coverage you could receive by talking to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your needs.

Hopefully, that explanation will help you understand the four types of Medicare coverage. If you need further explanation, or would like to speak with a Massachusetts health insurance expert from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, just call 617-298-0655. We will be happy to help you understand your health insurance coverage options, and select the plan that’s best for your unique needs.

Get the Most from Your Boston Health Insurance

Boston Health InsuranceHealth insurance is a part of life. It helps cover the cost of your visits to doctors and your prescription drugs, and that’s all most people use it for. Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we want to make sure that you get the most out of your Boston Health Insurance policy – that’s why we’re sharing the following eight tips!

Remember, though, that every insurance provider is different and not all will offer each of these benefits. To find out more about what you can get from your health insurance provider, speak to a Boston insurance agent at Vargas and Vargas Insurance.

Get Health Screenings and Shots – Most health insurance plans offer coverage for preventative health screenings (for cancer and other health concerns) and shots and vaccines.

Join Disease Management Groups – If you have a chronic disease or mental health issue, find out if your insurance provider offers counselling, support groups, or education.

Investigate Pregnancy and Baby Support – Mommies (and even daddies) to be can often receive classes, support, and education involving prenatal and postnatal care for mom and baby.

Attend Classes and Seminars – Are you interested in learning more about nutrition, fitness, and other health-related topics? In addition to following the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog, see if your insurance provider will cover the cost of taking a class or attending a seminar on these topics.

Look into Smoking Cessation Offers – For those of you trying to kick a smoking habit, make sure that you take advantage of any and all assistance offered by your health insurance provider. This can include coaching, support groups, and even discounts on certain smoking cessation products.

Inquire about Health Assessments or Coaches – Some Boston health insurance plans offer free health screenings which can test your blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI. In some cases, health insurance companies will also offer free or discounted health coaching to help you reach your health goals.

Take Advantage of Available Discounts – Ask your insurance agent if you qualify for discounts on health products and services through your insurance provider. This can include savings on anything from gym memberships to LASIK eye surgery and much more.

Explore Rewards Programs – Did you know that some health insurance providers will reward you for being healthy? You could get an incentive for exercising, eating well, or meeting certain health goals.

The bottom line is that most health insurance companies want you to be well, and they’re willing to offer these benefits in order to help you get and/or stay that way. Discover what incentives your provider offers, and take advantage of the deals to get the best bang for your health insurance buck.

To find out more about how to get the most from your Boston health insurance policy, speak to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent today – just call 617-298-0655. We will be more than happy to review your policy, get you a quote, and to help find the right health insurance for you and your loved ones.