Super Fresh: 6 Tips for Turning Your Backyard Into A Summer Vegetable Garden

Backyard gardenIf you’ve been enjoying the recent influx of fresh produce at your local market or famer’s stand, consider doing one better and creating your own summer garden. You might be surprised at how easy it can be to grow fresh vegetables — green thumb not required! Even people with little gardening experience or yard space can grow something this summer.

Why should you start your own garden? Let us count the reasons! First, it’s fun. Second, it’s delicious. And third… cha-ching, it can save you the other kind of green! Just imagine: a $2 tomato plant can easily deliver $30 worth of tomatoes over the season. And with you in control of helping them grow, you can be comfortable knowing just what they’re made of! Plus, watching your tomatoes go from green to red will probably drive you to eat more of them, and when is eating more veggies ever a bad thing?

Ready to dig in… literally? Here are six ways to start your own vegetable garden this summer!

  1. Know what to plant and when to plant it. To get the best life out of your vegetables, you’ll want to plant your seeds at a time when the weather allows your vegetables to grow. To find out the best time to start planting your favorite vegetables in Philadelphia, check out this great gardening resource via the Almanac.TIP: The best time to plant beans, tomatoes, spinach, peppers and onions in Philadelphia is NOW!
  2. Find your sunshine. Does your gardening space (this includes a porch or balcony if you’ll be using containers) have full sun, partial sun, or shade? While relaxing outside for eight hours is one way to find out, a far more practical option is placing a sunlight calculator in your proposed spot. The device will measure the amount of sun it receives over the course of a day and let you know exactly what category you fall into. You can also do this the more affordable old-school way on a day you’ll be home by mapping the shade patterns in the yard at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. When you know how much sun your space receives, you can choose the best plants for your garden’s conditions.
  3. Prepare your plots. Are you using containers or building raised beds? Building a raised or isolated gardening area will help to mature the soil, prevent weeds from growing, and minimize uninvited guests, such as critters, insects and pests. No yard space to spare? Container gardens planted with varietals designed to grow and thrive in pots are perfect for city dwellers.
  4. Get rich or they’ll die trying. Different plants prefer unique growing conditions. Since a plant’s chances of survival greatly depend on good growing conditions, do your research on the best types of soil for your vegetables.
  5. Sitting, waiting, wishing. Starting a new garden as your summer project is exciting. Just remember to be patient with your plants’ growth. If you expect a pumpkin patch the day after planting the seeds, then you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. Instead, choose a variety of plants that will mature at different times of the season so that you see a steady progression of your gardening success!
  6. Take care. While some plants are super-hardy and require minimal coddling, you’ll have to tend the garden a bit. No rain today? Give your veggies a drink in the morning before work. Weeds growing? Pull them out! The more work attention you put place on your garden’s conditions, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Share your garden pictures in the comments for a chance to be featured as a follow-up to our blog post!

Not ready to start your own vegetable garden just yet? Check out these other helpful resources:

Travel fearless: What you should know before you travel internationally

USA Passport on World MapIf you’re lucky enough to be travelling overseas anytime soon, take some steps now, before you leave, to help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Start off on the right foot
See your doctor to discuss any vaccines, medicines, or precautions you should take before your leave. If possible, schedule your visit 4 – 6 weeks before you travel, so that any vaccines you received have time to take effect and there’s enough time to get a second dose, if necessary. Remember to check with your health plan to find out which vaccinations and services are covered.

The GeoBlue Travel Medicine and International Health Insurance website, as well as local travel clinics, are great resources for information about possible risks and preventing health problems associated with your destination.

Pack smart
What you take on vacation will vary widely by destination, length, and season, but there are a few useful things to have with you no matter where you go. Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pack Smart list of suggested items.

If you’ll be taking prescription medication with you, also check out the Transportation Security Administration website for updates on permitted and prohibited items that you are allowed to carry on a plane.

Leave your worries behind
Travel insurance is one of those things — like the extra coverage on a rental car — that many of us waffle over. But when talking about international travel, the answer is a definite yes.

Whether it’s a one-time trip, a semester abroad, or a long-term commitment, GeoBlue health plans provide medical coverage when you travel outside of the U.S., including:

  • Emergency medical evacuation — coverage for unexpected emergency situations.
  • Comprehensive coverage — hospitalization, doctor visits, and prescriptions.
  • Cashless, paperless service — direct billing for both inpatient and outpatient care.
  • A profiled, elite network — best-in-class English-speaking doctors in over 180 countries.
  • 24/7 concierge support — VIP assistance scheduling appointments and managing medical care.
  • Online tools — accessible through the GeoBlue App.

GeoBlue health plans are offered in cooperation with many Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® companies, including Independence Blue Cross. And you don’t have to be currently enrolled in an Independence Blue Cross medical plan to purchase a GeoBlue plan.

Where are you planning to go this summer?

Sources:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Traveler’s Health website
Transportation Security Administration website

GeoBlue is a trade name of Worldwide Insurance Services, LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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Sheila

The problem with being a copywriter who writes about health and wellness is that I struggle daily with what I know I should do and what I want to do. Some days I practice what I preach — or as they say around here “Walk the Talk” — some days I don’t. Regardless, I love what I do, where I work, and the IBX members I write for.

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How Nutritional Counseling Can Help Healthy Eating, Weight Loss, and More

Registered dietitian, Janelle Eligon-Ketchum, teaches a patient the importance of healthy eating and proper nutrition.I’ve always assumed that nutritional counseling is something you do when you’re finally serious about healthy eating and losing weight. But after speaking with registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Janelle Eligon-Ketchum of Nutrition Unlimited, I learned that nutritional counseling can help you achieve even more — whether it’s improving your race time in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run or managing a chronic health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.

And guess what! Many IBX members are covered for six free annual visits with a registered dietitian! Here’s a look at what else I learned from Janelle about nutritional counseling and registered dietitians:

Q: What is a registered dietitian?
A: Registered dieticians provide nutritional counseling, such as meal planning services, in order to help their patients achieve their individual dietary goals. A registered dietitian typically holds higher academic and professional qualifications than a nutritionist.

Q: Why should someone get nutritional counseling from a registered dietitian?
A: We can all benefit from a healthier diet, and a registered dietitian can give you the answers, resources, and motivation you need to make a healthy change. Here are some of the reasons you should consider nutritional counseling:

  • You want to lose or gain weight
  • You want to eat healthier, help your family eat smarter, or have more energy
  • You have a medical condition that requires a strict diet, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, or high blood pressure
  • You are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding
  • You are thinking of having or have had gastric bypass surgery or another type of weight loss surgery
  • You want to improve your performance in sports, such as a 5k race, baseball game, basketball game or triathlon
  • You want someone to offer nutritional guidance, healthy eating tips, motivation, and accountability for your health goals

Q: What can someone expect out of the first visit with a registered dietitian?
A: Typically the first visit lasts an hour and allows the registered dietitian to get to know the patient. The sessions are completely private and typically start with basic questions like height and weight, eating routines and preferences, health concerns, and medications. It’s helpful if the patient can bring in a list of what they ate within the last 24 hours and also if the patient has blood work done to check cholesterol, blood sugar, iron, and vitamin/mineral levels.

As the sessions continue, the patient can expect the registered dietitian to create a custom meal plan that is tailored to the individual needs of the patient and to discuss what types of barriers could be in their way. For example, a registered dietitian can take into consideration where the patient shops for food, where affordable produce is available, and whether the patient is cooking for just themselves or for their whole family. (Oftentimes family members are invited to the nutritional counseling sessions to help build support for the patient, and also to ensure that everyone understands how they can help.)

Q: Are there any common myths you want to dispel about nutritional counseling?
A: Registered dietitians are not the food police! Patients should not be afraid to come in because they think we’re just going to tell them what they can or can’t eat, and that people should only eat fruits and vegetables. That’s not our goal. We want to help our patients achieve health and wellness goals and come up with a plan that’s realistic to maintain. We want to help our patients make lifestyle changes, and to reach them as gradually as needed so that they stick.

Make a nutritional counseling appointment today!

Schedule an appointment with a participating registered dietitian, your primary care provider, or another network provider. Independence Blue Cross members can get started by searching our Provider Finder Tool or by calling 1-800-ASK-BLUE.

Other IBX health and wellness tools to take advantage of include:

  • Healthy Lifestyles(SM) Solutions – Reimbursement and discount programs specifically for Independence Blue Cross members
  • Health Coach – 24/7 registered nurses who can help address everyday health concerns
  • WebMD Health Tools – Access to create a personal health record and profile to keep track of your medical history and information. You’ll also be able to receive health alerts and watch
    educational health videos on thousands of health topics.
  • Nutritional Counseling – Learn more about nutritional counseling services offered to Independence Blue Cross members.
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Susan

I'm a copywriter at IBX and have worked here for the last 5 years. Now that I'm a new mom, it's even harder to find time to exercise and eat healthy. But I also have a darling little girl reminding me why I need to take care of myself. Follow my posts as I strive for balance when it comes to leading a happy, healthy life.

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Login or registration support for ibxpress.com

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Broad Street Beats 2015

In less than a week, thousands of runners will be lining up along North Broad Street for Philadelphia’s most famous 10-mile race. After weeks of hard training, athletes from all over the city will get to reap their rewards in this awesome feat of athletic endurance. But before that happens, this final tapering week of training can be crucial for setting a runner up for a great race day. We’ve asked members of IBX’s running club what their favorite songs to train to are and here is the ultimate Spotify playlist to get you pumped!

Timber by Pitbull ft. Ke$ha
“Because how can you NOT move when a Ke$ha song comes on?”
Helen Nowotnik, Corporate Communications

Towards the Sun by Rihanna
“I’ve started running again after a few setbacks this winter so I’m really into strong songs. The current repeat on my playlist is Towards the Sun by Rihanna from the movie soundtrack for Home.”
Heather Falck, IBX Foundation

1901 by Phoenix
“When I run, I need songs that will keep me pumping my legs to a beat. This particular tempo is perfect for me when I am trying to keep a faster, yet sustainable, pace.”
Michael Holmes, Corporate Communications

Can’t Shake It by Kate Miller-Heidke
“It’s a fun, catchy pop tune that keeps me moving.”
Sarah Matthews, Corporate Communications

Ain’t No Stoppin’ US Now by McFadden & Whitehead
“Reminds me of PHILLY — and Pumps me UP!”

- Elyse J. Fiorillo, IS Production Control

queensUprising by Muse
“Between the beat and the lyrics, Uprising makes you feel like you can overcome anything. It’s a great song for the last mile.”
Nate Gach, Product Development and Strategic Marketing

Forest Whitaker by Bad Books
“Even though this song is kind of glum, I love it as a cool-down tune. It’s quietly energetic but still has a heavy beat with easy lyrics to sing along to!”
Kim-Thao Nguyen, Corporate Communications

Heroes (We Could Be) by Alesso feat. Tove Lo
“With lyrics like ‘we can do anything’ and ‘anybody’s got the power,’ this song reminds me that I’m accomplishing my goals with every step, and that I’m part of an amazing running community.”
Daina Havens, Preventive Health and Wellness

Don’t Panic by Coldplay
“I tend to pick songs that are slower-paced and relaxing to help me tune into my breath and keep it steady while I run.”
Mandee Metzger, Ameriheath Casualty

Take Ü There by Jack Ü (feat. Kiesza) (Missy Elliott Remix)
“Last year my BCBSR playlist was mostly Lindsey’s Stirling’s Shatter Me (the entire album). This year Jack Ü – Take Ü There (feat. Kiesza) (Missy Elliott Remix) is on repeat. I tend to stick with songs that have a high bmp and the beat here definitely pushes the tempo, but at the same time the verses and breaks help to keep my pace in the pocket.”
Allison Krumm, Corporate Communications

Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
“It’s my power jam. And the entire Robyn catalog.”
Rebecca Finkel, Corporate Communications

Apollo by Magic Man
“A good song for the first or last mile.”
Josh Simon, Corporate Communications

The Power by Snap!
“BECAUSE YOU’VE GOT THE POWER.”
Shane Romeo, Corporate Communications

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Blue Cross Broad Street Run 2015

Blue Cross Broad Street Run 2015

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Benefit spotlight: Milestone birthdays that matter for dental and vision coverage

1913, 16, 18, 21…you may consider these birthdays important milestones in your child’s life, but when it comes to health coverage and benefits, the important ages to remember are 19 and 26. That’s because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made it possible for children to remain on their parents’ medical plan until age 26. However, the basic pediatric preventive and routine dental and vision coverage required under the ACA that your children get as part of their medical plan ends at age 19.

When a child reaches these milestone birthdays, it’s important for parents to seek coverage so that they can ensure that care is not interrupted.

Aging out of pediatric dental and vision benefits at age 19

When it comes to pediatric dental and vision coverage, children are covered until age 19. That means at the end of their birthday month (for vision) and the end of their birthday year (for dental), they will no longer be eligible to receive the pediatric dental and vision benefits that are included in most ACA-compliant medical plans.

That’s why Independence Blue Cross (Independence) created adult dental and vision plans for anyone age 19 and older. These affordable plans feature large provider networks, out-of-network coverage, discounts on services, and more. Plus they can be purchased any time of the year, with or without a medical plan.

Here are ways you can ensure you and your family are getting dental and vision care:

  • If you don’t have an adult dental or vision plan, enroll in one today.
  • If you have an existing adult dental or vision plan, you can enroll children between 19 – 26 years of age.
  • Adults age 19 and older can purchase their own individual dental and vision plans.

To find out more about our adult dental and vision plans, call 1-844-315-4891 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.) or go online at ibx4you.com/adultplans.

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IBX Insights Team

Health care delivery is in the midst of reform and rejuvenation — an exciting prospect, but one that can also cause confusion and questions. With IBX Insights we want to be your first line of member-focused information, helping you understand the new health care model, how it affects your quality and cost of care, and the opportunities available through IBX to improve your health. Join the conversation with IBX associates who work every day to make health care more accessible and transparent for you.

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Gear up to ride Indego

IndegoIn case you haven’t heard, Philadelphia is the place to be in 2015. With so much to see and do, all you need is a way to get there.

Enter Indego, the city’s new bike share system! Independence Blue Cross is proud to sponsor Indego, which gives residents, commuters, and visitors a convenient, affordable, and healthy new way to enjoy what the New York Times is calling our urban outdoor oasis.

Ride Indego for only $5
With Indego, you can rent a bike, go for a ride, and return it to any station in the system. We’re offering Independence Blue Cross members a special discount to ride:

Log on at ibxpress.com to get a promo code to save $10 on your first month* when you sign up for an Indego30 membership. An Indego30 membership is $15, so the discount makes it just $5 for members to take unlimited, one-hour trips for 30 days. Indego30 memberships are available to purchase at rideindego.com.

Enjoy the feeling of two-wheeling
Saving money is always a great incentive, but there are plenty of other reasons riding a bike is good for you — it’s a low-impact way to burn calories, it can help you meet new people, and research suggests commuting by bike makes us happier. All this, and it’s just plain fun!

Gear up to ride Indego by checking out these tips for safe riding. Whether you consider yourself a Tour de France contender, or the last bike you rode had a banana seat and handle-bar streamers, remember to wear a helmet and follow the rules of the road.

I’m looking forward to exploring historic Old City on an Indego bike this summer. Where will you ride Indego?

*This offer is valid through September 30, 2015, at initial enrollment only and cannot be combined with other offers.

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Mary Eileen

I am a senior copywriter at IBX. For me, the key to personal health and wellness is having simple goals and sticking to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug once in a while. When I’m not busy wordsmithing, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.

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How Can Your Kids Celebrate Earth Day?

Luna FarmEarth Day is Wednesday, April 22, and it has us thinking about the connection between healthy bodies and a healthy planet. As adults, we know what we can do to help protect the environment, but you might be wondering how you can get your kids involved. We put together some fun ideas from each branch of the Healthy Futures Initiative.

Eat Right — Keep it local, really local
Eating locally helps cut down on pollution caused by shipping foods all over the world. Luckily, the Philadelphia area is home to lots of farms, so kids can enjoy seasonal, local produce all year! Find a farmers’ market near you and let kids see, touch, and taste the fresh fruits and vegetables. They might even find something they’ve never seen before, like kohlrabi or watermelon radishes.

Even more fun than visiting a market is getting your hands dirty. Greener Partners, an Independence Blue Cross Foundation Healthy Futures Initiative partner, offers a variety of farm-to-school programs that show kids how fruits and vegetables are grown. They can even help schools start their own gardens.

Get Fit — Take it outside
What better way to appreciate nature than to run, jump, and play in it? Even if a child doesn’t have a backyard, he or she can join a baseball, softball, or soccer league. Philadelphia also has tons of parks; some even have hiking trails, horse stables, and boathouses. But sometimes the best thing to do is find a patch of green and play a simple game, like tag or hide-and-seek. See this list of activity ideas for other ways to play outdoors.

Stay Well — Keep sneezing to a minimum
Spring brings leaves, flowers, grass, and, for many kids, allergies. Playing outdoors on certain days can also exacerbate asthma. But that doesn’t have to keep children indoors! If a child appears to have seasonal allergies or trouble breathing, we recommend taking him or her for a screening right away. A health care professional will be able to provide guidance on how to safely and comfortably enjoy the great outdoors.

What are your suggestions on getting kids active on Earth Day?

100+ Reasons to Get Excited for Philly Tech Week 2015

Philly Tech WeekWith more than 100 workshops, talks, meetings, lunches, happy hours, brainstorming sessions, and demos, Philly Tech Week, April 17 – 25, showcases Philadelphia as a hub for innovation. A true testament to how big tech is in the city, last year 25,000 people attended 130 events organized by 250 partners. And the 2015 Philly Tech Week is set to break the record.

As part of our ongoing commitment to innovation, the Center for Health Care Innovation at Independence Blue Cross is a presenting sponsor of the Development track. We’re excited to fill our schedule with events that will continue to help us redefine the health care delivery system.

Want to know a few events we’re really looking forward to?

Wednesday, April 22: Business Day
Everyone has to start somewhere, and for those small businesses with big ideas, this is the day to take part in targeted business boot camps, get expert advice from investors, and learn from local leaders on how to make it in the entrepreneurial world. IBX’s Corporate Development and Innovation Director Tom Olenzak will be speaking to an audience of early-stage entrepreneurs, startups, and students at the Entrepreneur Boot Camp.

Thursday, April 23: Dev Day
From programming professionals to those just beginning to master their first codes, this full-day conference will include workshops on popular programming languages, and a dev-focused conference with more than 15 high-level developers — including a look at big-data case studies with IBX’s Senior Vice President and Chief Informatics Officer Somesh Nigam. The day wraps up with an inclusive after-party to celebrate all you’ve learned.

Friday, April 24: Ideas in Life Sciences
Our very own Center for Health Care Innovation will host an idea session where small groups will come up with ideas about how we can leverage new technology and social media to engage and impact the health care community.

Events will be held all over the city organized into one or more tracks: Development, Creative, Media, Civic, Business, or Access. There are opportunities to hear from industry experts, pitch your ideas to influencers, get hands-on with technology you love, and learn about developments you’ve never heard of…yet. Check out the full, packed calendar — there’s sure to be something that resonates with your industry or interests.

We hope to see you getting your tech on along with us!