The Not So Social Life: The Effect of COVID on Social Wellness

By Joy Golden, LCSW | Manager Behavioral Health

Over the past two years, we have been asked to stay home, quarantine, socially distance, and more to reduce the spread of COVID. This change in our normal behavior has lasted a long time. It has also caused a very real and serious change to normal life and relationships by not going to school or work, or socially interacting with friends and family. 

While good for managing the COVID spread, these changes caused emotional stress for many people. 

How COVID Impacted Us Socially

Did you know your schedules and routines – whether fun or not – help us feel safe? Starting as babies, people rely on predictable schedules, continuing throughout school, work, and life in general. In these routine activities, you meet, talk to, and work with many people. Those everyday interactions are essential to our health and emotional development. 

Social distancing was hard for most people at first because it wasn’t “normal for us. Then, as we began to accept this behavior as the new normal, COVID risk decreased, and society began to relax restrictions moving back toward the old normal.

Now with COVID infections on the rise again, society is seemingly toggling between open and closed. This back and forth does not support the normal daily schedule or feeling of safety and disrupts exposure to important relationships.

What To Do If You’re Struggling

Start by acknowledging this emotional tug of war and monitor your mental health as you continue to navigate the pandemic. One of NOAH’s providers wrote an article about Social Anxiety with helpful tools to help understand some of your feelings.

According to the American Medical Association, symptoms of emotional stress can include:

  • Feeling powerless
  • Low motivation
  • Feeling tired or burned out
  • Sadness
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

Ways to maintain or improve your social wellness:

  • Get fresh air and enjoy the outdoors, don’t stay inside.
  • Limit social media.
  • Use video calling apps for regular check-ins with family and friends or get creative with virtual game nights and happy hours.
  • Find a support person you feel safe talking about your feelings and challenges with. Verbalizing your feelings helps get them out in the open and not stuck inside your head.
  • Slowly introduce more social exposure at parks or outside restaurants.
  • Smile and talk to the cashier at the grocery store, you neighbor walking by, or another person in your day-to-day interactions.

If you or you or someone you know is struggling with social wellness, NOAH behavior health specialists are here to help talk with you, diagnose any illnesses, and help you as you work through these challenges.

Get COVID Testing at NOAH’s FastTrack

NOAH offers FastTrack COVID testing at several health center locations. These FastTrack appointments are drive-up and only take a few minutes, making them easy for patients. Results are typically provided in about 24 hours.

The NOAH FastTrack testing does NOT require a separate telehealth or in-person provider appointment. However, a FastTrack testing appointment must be scheduled in advance, we cannot accommodate walk-in patients for this service. New and existing patients can schedule appointments at the location and time the works for best for them. Some same-day appointments may be available.

How FastTrack works:

  1. Request a COVID Test either online or by calling 480-882-4545.
  2. Show up to the NOAH Health Center at your scheduled time.
  3. Receive testing by a member of NOAH’s team.
  4. NOAH will contact you by phone with your test results (response time may vary but is usually within 24 hours).
  5. Your test results may also appear on your MyChart account.

The FastTrack test is a PCR test, which stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction. These tests are highly accurate and processed by our lab, Sonora Quest Labs. While the FastTrack test is not the same as an at-home test, patients receiving a FastTrack test at NOAH will receive a FREE at-home test kit (contains two tests) for future testing – while supplies last.

If you would like to talk with your healthcare provider prior to scheduling a COVID test, please schedule a telehealth or other type of appointment by requesting an appointment online, calling 480-882-4545, or message your provider through MyChart.

Each FastTrack test MUST have a separate appointment, even if patients – such as family members – plan to drive together. Please schedule all FastTrack COVID tests together if you plan to bring multiple people for testing.

For other questions around COVID and vaccines, visit

Flu Vaccines Myth vs. Fact

By Leslie Shelton, DO | Heuser Family Medicine Resident, PGY-I

There has been a lot of talk about vaccines lately. It can be confusing! So, let’s talk about some information about the flu vaccine and if it’s fact or myth.

“The flu vaccine gives you the flu.”MYTH

The flu vaccine is a dead form of the virus – it can not make more of itself inside the body. The possible side effects of most vaccines include fever, muscle aches and fatigue and that can be confusing because they are also symptoms of the flu. But it does not mean you have the flu, it just means you received a vaccine and your body is preparing for the possible future.

“The flu vaccine changes every year.”TRUTH

As the flu virus makes its way across the world, it is constantly changing and evolving. Based on years and years of data, the flu vaccine is altered every year to protect against the most likely strains of flu in the coming year.

“I got the flu vaccine and I still got the flu, so it does not work.”MYTH

A vaccine is not a magic bullet against getting an infection in the future (but that would be nice)! Instead, it helps make sure that IF you do get sick, your body is much better prepared to fight it so you do not get as ill as you may have without the vaccine.

“Kids should get the flu shot.”TRUTH

Any person 6 months of age or older should get the yearly flu vaccine. For those who are around infants younger than 6 months, it is even MORE important to be vaccinated to help protect them.

“I am allergic to eggs, so I cannot get the flu vaccine.”MYTH

This used to be true, but not any longer! The making of the flu vaccine has changed to be egg-free so that it is now safe to give to people with egg allergies.

Want More Info?

Test your knowledge with 5 Myths About the Flu Vaccine from the World Health Organization (WHO) and get Key Facts About the Seasonal Flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you have any questions about the flu vaccine, the doctors and pharmacists in your community would be more than happy to answer them. NOAH has also compiled 5 Things to Know for Flu Season specific to the 2021/2022 season. We are all in this together, so let’s prevent the flu!

Cook Your Way to a Better Weight

By Kahti Paydar | Registered Dietitian

You can cook healthier at home without sacrificing flavor.  It’s easy to make your own recipes a little lower in fat and calories and make progress towards a better weight.

Just follow these tips to lower the fat content of your meals and snacks.

Cook With Less Fat

It’s great to start with low-fat ingredients, and a little know-how is all that’s needed to keep them low in fat by choosing the right cooking method. Clean up is usually easier, too.

  • Nonstick skillets usually require very little fat for cooking.
  • Bake, broil, microwave, grill, or steam.
  • Avoid frying and pan frying.  Most recipes can be adapted by baking items instead or by using less fat.
  • Defat gravy by using a special cup or chilling so fat rises and hardens at the top.

Reduce Refined Oil, Reduce Fat

Use fat-free salad dressing or a small amount of oil and vinegar to dress salads.

Measure, don’t pour!

Whenever possible, you should use liquid oils such as olive oil and canola oil, instead of shortening, lard, or butter.

Choose Lean Protein for Better Weight

  • Lean cuts of meat/poultry:
  • Chicken or turkey: white meat, no skin
  • Tenderloin of beef
  • Pork loin
  • Seafood without breading or topping
  • Trim excess fat before cooking
  • Use less meat: A 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.  Think of meat as a condiment.  Fill in with more vegetables.

Choose Fat-Free Dairy

There are lots of products on the market to help you make better choices in the dairy case, but going for fat-free or reduced-fat is a great start. Consider these:

  • Skim milk
  • Fat-free sour cream
  • Light margarine (look for trans-free)
  • Fat-free half-n-half (you can cook with it!)
  • Reduced fat cheese (use cheese sparingly)

Use More Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables, for the most part, are naturally low in fat and sodium.  Add more vegetables to casseroles, soups, stews, and pasta dishes. Here are some great produce guidelines from one of NOAH’s other Registered Dietitians.

NOAH’s Nutrition Services team works with patients to help them achieve a healthier, better weight. Learn more here!

NEWS: Latest COVID Surge Impacting Local Healthcare

The newest wave of COVID cases are impacting people, families, businesses, and organizations throughout our community, including NOAH. Staff across NOAH’s eight health center locations are working hard to ensure patients have access to healthcare and that staff are able to provide the best care possible in a safe and supportive environment.

Video message from NOAH Chief Medical Director Dr. Connie Tucker

NOAH health centers will be making changes over the next few weeks as cases continue to rise. We ask our patients and community to help us in the following ways:

  • Be patient with the NOAH team as we are working with fewer staff. NOAH team members may be out caring for sick loved ones, monitoring symptoms, and following isolation and quarantine guidelines.
  • Switch appointments to virtual appointments if possible. Some appointments must be in-person. However, it is better for everyone if appointments that are able to are switched to virtual
  • Limit to just one visitor accompanying a pediatric patient, or patients with disabilities or mobility issues for in-person appointments.
  • Use MyChart to schedule an appointment or COVID test, ask your provider questions, request a prescription refill, and more.
  • Understand temporary changes, including reduced hours/availability for appointments, longer hold times when calling for an appointment, longer wait times for return call/email from our team.

We are all working to keep our community healthy and safe, but we are working with fewer staff. Please be patient as we remain flexible to the surges and to supporting our staff during this challenging time.

Some Helpful Links:

To talk to a NOAH team member, call 480-882-4545.

Celebrate Soup Month With Some New Recipes

Soup can be one of the best meals. Not only can it be an all-in-one meal, but it can make you healthier! A study by Iowa State University found that eating soup was tied to a lower body-mass index, smaller waist circumference, and a reduced risk of being overweight. People who eat soup also usually get more servings of vegetables in their diet.

January is a great time to enjoy your favorite soups and try some new recipes as well. NOAH’s Nutrition Services Team has a number of delicious, nutritious, and comforting soups to enjoy all year!

Three Soups to Try to Celebrate Soup Month

Lemon Chicken Soup

This soup is both delicious and packed with immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C. It is full of vegetables and uses orzo pasta to bring the whole meal together. Substitute another pasta or rice for the orzo if you prefer, and throw in extra vegetables to really increase the benefits from this meal.

Hearty Beef Stew
Hearty Beef Stew

Rosemary & Garlic White Bean Soup

This recipe could not be easier. With just a few ingredients, this dish packs a powerful punch giving you both a healthy, filling meal, and something that is delicious. You can enjoy this as a main dish, or on the side of a lean protein.

Hearty Beef Stew

This is a classic comfort meal during winter months. It is a filling, complete meal by itself. Make a full – or double – recipe for plenty of extra to freeze for another time.

Kale & White Bean Soup

This delicious soup packs a punch of nutrients with turmeric, garlic, and kale accompanying the other ingredients. It is also dairy-free and make a great side dish or main dish.

These and other recipes from NOAH’s Nutrition Team are sure to get you started on a healthy 2022. Contact NOAH if you are interested in meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Is Your Produce Storage Helping or Hurting Your Foods?

By Noel Ugarte, MS, RD | Registered Dietitian

Where we store produce – our fruits and vegetables – impacts their shelf-life. Some fruits and vegetables like high humidity, others can sit on the counter, while some put off high amounts of ethylene gas causing nearby produce to ripen (or spoil) quicker. If you’re trying to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, then knowing where they should live in your kitchen is very important, but it can be confusing. Here is a quick produce storage guide to help you store food in the correct location:

Produce Storage Tips

Crisper Drawer:

  • Apples*
  • Pears*
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Watermelon (cut)
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Peppers
  • Leafy greens (kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.)
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumber*
  • Mushroom
  • Zucchini


  • Bananas*
  • Citrus
  • Stone fruit
  • Tomatoes

Dark and away:

  • Onions*
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes*
  • Winter squash
  • Watermelon (whole)

Pro Tip 1: If you’re wondering about produce that is not on this list, notice where the produce is stored at your grocery store. Are they misted in a refrigerated shelf? Are they in a room temperature bin? This can tell you where to store them at home.

Pro Tip 2: Want to eat a piece of produce that is not yet ripe? Place the unripe produce in a paper bag on the counter for 1-2 days. This traps the ethylene gas around the fruit or vegetable and promotes quicker ripening time.

Pro Tip 3: Is your countertop produce ripening a bit too quick? Toss them in the crisper drawer in the fridge to slow the ripening process and get a few more days out of them.

*These are fruits and vegetables that emit especially high amounts of ethylene gas. Ethylene is a natural gas produced by fruits and vegetables as a growth regulator. The more ethylene a fruit or vegetable produces, the quicker it will ripen. Unfortunately, the gas can also quicken the ripening process of other surrounding produce. Store these fruits and vegetables away from others to help prolong shelf life.

If you have more questions about what foods are helpful for a healthy diet, or for specific health needs, contact NOAH today to speak with one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. To learn healthy meals, snacks, and more to make with your produce, check out the NOAH recipe library!

Pick Your Produce – Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Healthy Eating

By Noel Ugarte, MS, RD | Registered Dietitian

It happens all too often: we purchase loads of fresh fruits and vegetables with big plans of eating a healthier diet, only to toss out the majority of the produce the next week when it goes bad. Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, so let’s find a better way to make them part of your daily life.

As a dietitian, one of the hardest parts of eating more fruits and vegetables is making sure it actually makes it onto your plate before spoiling! We can do a few things to make sure that the shelf-life of produce is extended.

Picking Your Produce

Picking produce – your fruits and vegetables – at the correct stage of ripeness starts at the grocery store. Don’t be afraid to use your sense of sight, touch, and smell to investigate the produce before placing them into your cart.

I recommend planning out meals and snacks for the week to prevent defaulting to fast food or unhealthy snacks when life gets busy. This usually means grocery shopping at least one time per week. If you know you will be enjoying specific fruits and vegetables at the end of the week, you may want to purchase it under-ripe and allow it to finish ripening in your home. If you will be enjoying the produce the same or next day, get it when its ripe to enjoy optimal flavor and nutrients. If you want to enjoy the produce steadily throughout the week, you could purchase a mix of under-ripe and ripe produce. Here are the best tips for different types of produce.


  • Under-ripe: firm and small, green/red/pink/white in color
  • Ripe: slightly yielding and plump, deep purple/blue/red in color
  • Over-ripe: soft and easily squished, wrinkles, black/brown spots
  • Fun fact: blueberries get a dusty, white film called bloom on their outer skins. This bloom naturally protects against pests and retains moisture. Removing the bloom should be done right before the blueberry is consumed, otherwise it may ripen quicker than desired.


  • Under-ripe: empty “plinking” sound when knocked on, light in weight, no smell, firm when pressed at blossom-end
  • Ripe: deep and full sound when knocked on, heavy, sweet smell, slightly yielding when pressed at blossom-end
  • Over-ripe: solid and thudding sound when knocked on, very soft or mushy rind, strong and overly sweet scent
  • Fun fact: watermelon develops a white spot where it sits on the soil without sunlight as it grows. When ripe, the white spot will turn more yellow.


  • Under-ripe: firm when squeezed, little to no smell, green/light yellow
  • Ripe: slightly yielding when squeezed, sweet smell, bright and even color
  • Over-ripe: very soft, dark spots or uneven coloring, leathery and less oily peel

Stone Fruit

  • Under-ripe: firm near stem, underdeveloped color, little to no smell
  • Ripe: slightly yielding near stem, bright and deep color, sweet smell
  • Over-Ripe: soft all over, brown spots
  • Fun fact: stone fruit are fruits with a pit in the center, including peaches, nectarines, cherries, plumbs, and mango. The colors of each type of stone fruit vary significantly. It may be more helpful to use the firmness and smell as a gauge of ripeness if you are unsure of the ideal color.


  • Under-ripe: green peel and pseudo-stem
  • Ripe: bright yellow, firm, little to no smell, brown pseudo-stem
  • Over-Ripe: brown color or spots, soft, sweet smell
  • Fun Fact: Much of the process of ripening involves the fibers of the plant breaking down. As fruit ripens, it generally becomes softer and sweeter with a higher sugar content. The sugar content of an unripe banana versus an over ripe banana is particularly significant!


  • Under-ripe: firm when squeezed, bright green or uneven color
  • Ripe: slightly yielding when squeezed, dark skin color (color may vary; green, black, brown)
  • Over-Ripe: soft and mushy when squeezed, white/ashy mold formation on skin, rancid smell


  • Under-ripe: firm when squeezed, dull skin, uneven color, no smell
  • Ripe: slight yield when squeezed, shiny skin, even color, aromatic smell
  • Over-ripe: very soft when squeezed, wrinkles, leaking juice


  • Under-ripe: dull skin, uneven color
  • Ripe: shiny skin, even color
  • Over-ripe: soft and mushy when squeezed, wrinkles
  • Fun fact: corking is when the ribs and seeds of the pepper grow faster than the outside of the pepper causing small, shallow cracks in the skin. It is thought that peppers with corking have sweeter or spicier flavors depending on the type of pepper you choose.


  • Under-ripe: less than 6-8 inches in diameter when whole
  • Ripe: white in color, tight florets, 6-8 inches in diameter when whole
  • Over-ripe: brown or yellow in color, loose florets, grainy texture when consumed
  • Fun fact: white cauliflower is the most consumed cauliflower variety in America. However, this vegetable can come in a variety of other colors including yellow, green, and purple. Their colors should be vibrant; under-ripe colored cauliflower may look less vibrant while over-ripe may have dark or brown spots


  • Under-ripe: light green color, less than 4-7 inches in diameter when whole
  • Ripe: dark green color, tight florets, 4-7 inches in diameter when whole
  • Over-ripe: yellow or brown color, loose florets, open buds


  • Ripe: bright color depending on variety, firm, crisp and not easily bent
  • Over-ripe: soft, easily bent
  • Fun fact: blushing is when the carrot skin becomes dry and white. As the carrot becomes dehydrated, some of the carrot’s skin cells begin to shrivel and die. Blushing can be an indication of freshness but does not necessarily mean the carrot is over-ripe or sick. Carrots (including dehydrated blushing carrots) have a long shelf-life of 3-4 weeks.


  • Under-ripe: tender silk, difficult to peel husk from the ear, small kernel buds at the top of the ear
  • Ripe: slightly dry silk, large kernels visible at the top of the ear, milky clear/white liquid when kernel squeezed, can have a sweet smell
  • Over-ripe: silk and entire husk dry, wrinkled or shriveled kernels visible at the top of the ear, minimal to no liquid when kernel squeezed


  • Ripe: firm when squeezed, medium-to-dark green in color, can have a fresh smell
  • Over-ripe: very soft when squeezed, wrinkled skin, yellow or brown spots
  • Fun fact: cucumbers are commonly coated in an edible wax to preserve moisture and provide a shiny appearance. This wax coating should be washed off the cucumber right before preparing and eating. Washing the coat off several days before eating may lead to excess moisture loss and may lead to quicker ripening process.

If you want to learn more about healthy changes to make in your daily life, contact NOAH to meet with one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists today!

8 Tips to Help Prevent SIDS

By Tyler Pascavis, MD

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is something that every parent should be aware of.  It is estimated that 3,400 sudden unexpectant infant deaths occur in the United States each year.  The good news is, there are multiple ways you can lower the risk of SIDS.

8 Ways to Reduce SIDS Risk

  1. Your infant should always sleep on his or her back. Placing your infant on their side or stomach to sleep can increase the risk of SIDS.
  2. Use a firm sleeping surface that meets the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Soft mattresses increase the risk of suffocation.
  3. Infants should sleep in their own crib or bassinet. Sleeping in a bed with others, such as co-sleeping with a parent, can increase the risk of SIDS.
  4. Your infant can sleep in the same room as the parent(s) on a separate, safe surface for at least the first 6 months of their life. This can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.
  5. Crib bumpers, loose blankets, and stuffed animals all increase the risk of sudden death and suffocation, and these items should not be placed in the infant’s sleeping area. 
  6. Tobacco smoke, alcohol, and illicit drug use in the household all increase the risk of SIDS. It is important to set boundaries with other family members and friends to not expose your child to secondhand smoke.
  7. Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS. It is recommended to breast feed until at least 6 months of age.
  8. Avoid overheating your infant.  Usually, an infant only needs one more layer of clothing than you do. If you are comfortable in a t-shirt for example, then the infant is likely comfortable in a onesie plus another layer, like their swaddle blanket. Signs of overheating include sweating or your infant’s chest feeling hot to touch.

Although there is no way to completely prevent SIDS, these things can greatly reduce the risk. If you have any questions about SIDS, your NOAH doctor is here for you and your baby. Click here to make an appointment today.