Aim for a Healthier YOU in 2019

Aim for a Healthier YOU in 2019

Carrots, zucchini, and green pepper stir fry in a wok.

Make SMART changes for your health. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Northwest District

“New Year, New Me!” – the same phrase we hear and see posted all over social media every time the new year rolls around.  More often than not, resolutions tied to each new year involve diet and weight changes.  But how does one actually commit to these new resolutions year round?

Step 1: Forget Fads and “Dieting” 

The world of nutrition can seem overwhelming with the various diets that are continuously marketed as “the next best thing for your health.”  However, most diets, such as Paleo, Vegan/Vegetarianism, Keto, etc., exclude one or more food groups from the diet, which only makes things more challenging. In reality, eating healthy does not need to be that difficult.  According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy eating pattern “accounts for ALL foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.”  Essentially, moderation is key!

In addition to fads, scratch the word “diet” from your vocabulary.  Dieting implies something short term or there is an end date in mind.  To build healthy, sustainable eating patterns, we want to make lifestyle changes.  A healthy lifestyle not only incorporates what you eat, but includes exercise and a healthy mind as well!  Use SMART goals to help attain your healthy eating/lifestyle changes for 2019: SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, & Time-bound.

Step 2: Focus on Food Groups

Instead of counting calories in 2019, let us count food groups!  How many food groups does your meal have?  Is there a protein?  Vegetables? Healthy fats?  Foods are generally classified into three main groups, or macronutrients.  By definition, macronutrients are types of food required in large amounts in the diet. Such foods are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Proteins include all types of meats such as chicken, turkey, fish, and beef. Other foods high in protein include eggs, dairy products, legumes (peas and beans), various nuts, and soy products.  Proteins are the basic building blocks of your bones, muscles, skin, and blood. Your body uses proteins to build and repair your tissues and it is an essential nutrient for the human body.  Strive to include a rich source of protein at every main meal!  How much protein do you need? Aim to include 20-30 grams, or 4-6 ounces, at every main meal.  That is the equivalent of a chicken breast that is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.

Carbohydrates include simple sugars, all types of grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of and preferred fuel for daily activities.  It may be somewhat confusing as to what are appropriate carbohydrates to add in your diet.  To simplify things, aim to include at least two different carbohydrates in your meal.  Perhaps that includes a grain (aim to make half of all your grains whole grains) plus a variety of vegetables.  If you really want to add a cookie to your lunch, then make sure to include some fruit or vegetables as well!

Fats are a food group that often carry a negative reputation.  However, fat plays an essential role as an ingredient in hormone production, in helping to protect our organs, absorption of vitamins and nutrients, as well as providing a good amount of energy!  Fats are subdivided into four groups: Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. The word unsaturated indicates that these types of fats are liquid at room temperature and make up much of our healthy fats we want to include in our diet.  Such fats are those found in olive oils, avocados, nuts, and seed oils and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and include butter, cheese, and fatty streaks you find in meats.  Trans fats are a manufactured form of fat in which food manufacturers add hydrogen to liquid fats in order to make them more solid.  Trans fats have been known to increase LDLs or bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol or HDLs, and are linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.  According to the American Heart Association and 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we want to limit trans and saturated fats in our diets and focus on including more oils, nuts, and fish.

Step 3: Make Small, Adaptable Changes

If you are used to consuming large amounts of processed foods and sugary beverages, the thought of completely giving up those things can be very daunting. Implementing new strategies to eat healthier begins with small and adaptable changes.  Slow incorporation of more lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables can help make the transition far less challenging.

For example, most often, macaroni and cheese is made with white pasta and high fat cheese.  To modify this meal and make it healthier, try substituting whole grain pasta for regular pasta.  Next, experiment by adding some of your favorite vegetables and a lean protein such as chicken or tuna.  Look for 2% or low fat cheese in the grocery store to replace the regular high fat version.   These simple changes will allow you to still enjoy your favorite meal, reduce the sodium and fat content, and increase your consumption of vegetables and proteins!

Small subtle changes are key to creating long-term healthy habits. The transition to building healthier eating patterns will be much easier if you shift the focus to include more of what our bodies need and less on “dieting.”  If you find yourself struggling to make healthier meals, https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate is a great resource to educate yourself on how to build and maintain a healthy diet!

Why Your Numbers Matter

Why Your Numbers Matter

Do you know what the different types of cholesterol are in your body? Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Do you know why your numbers matter? Cholesterol can be a contributing factor to heart disease. It’s important to understand your numbers so you can take the best care of yourself. Making simple changes in your daily routine can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Talking to your doctor is the first step so he or she can request blood tests to help determine your risk. One of the tests the doctor may run is called a lipid profile, which checks your body’s cholesterol.

What should my cholesterol numbers be?

  • Total cholesterol should be somewhere between 125 to 200 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol is called “bad” because it can block your arteries. The level should be less than 100 mg/dL. If it starts with “L”, aim for a lower number.
  • HDL cholesterol is called “good” because it helps to clear out the LDL (bad) cholesterol. This number should be greater than 40 mg/dL for men and greater than 50 mg/dL for women. If it starts with “H”, aim for a higher number.
  • Triglycerides are fat found in the blood. You want these numbers to be less than 150 mg/dL.

If you don’t understand what your numbers mean, be sure to talk with your health care provider. The more you know about your numbers, the more incentive you have to make any recommended changes.

What Can Cause Unhealthy Levels of Cholesterol?

  • Habits like smoking, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy eating patterns.
  • Genetics (family medical history)
  • Some medications
Hands holding knife cutting orange carrot on wooden board with red and yellow peppers, lettuce, and bread

Prepping for a healthy diet
Photo source: UF/IFAS

What Can You Do to Help Lower the “Bad” Cholesterol and Increase the “Good” Cholesterol?

You can make simple changes to your daily routine to help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Eat more heart-healthy foods

  1. Eat foods like oatmeal, apples, and pears to give your body more soluble fiber.
  2. Add salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed to your diet. These are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Eat less red meat and switch from whole or 2% milk to skim milk.

Move!

  1. The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week.
  2. Find out more about how to fit physical activity into your day

Stop Smoking!

  1. There are many different resources available to help you or someone you know quit smoking.
  2. Check out how to quit for quitting tobacco tips from A to Z

Drop those extra pounds

  1. If you lose just 5% of your body weight, it can help your heart!
  2. See what a 5% weight loss can do for your health

By making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Change takes time and effort, so don’t get discouraged by trying to make all the changes at once! Pick one habit to work on, such as slowly switching from whole milk to 2% to 1% then finally to skim milk. Once drinking skim milk becomes part of your everyday routine, choose another habit to work on, such as getting more exercise. Adding a half hour walk in the morning or in the evening is a great way to get you moving. To make the walk even more enjoyable, take your dog with you – pets need exercise, too!

Your good health is why your numbers matter. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in improving your heart health. And since February is Heart Health Awareness month, now is a great time to start.

Contributing writer – UF Intern Jennifer Bryson

New Year’s Health Observances

New Year’s Health Observances

January 24th is Global Belly Laugh Day!

Store aisle with 5-shelf racks of calendars for sale.

Make health and wellness a part of your calendar and daily routine.
Photo source: UF/IFAS Northwest District

Each year, we celebrate many holidays, but there are also many observances and commemorations scheduled throughout the calendar year. Some are odd, like National Science Fiction Day, Word Nerd Day, and even National Dinosaur Day. Others serve as a good opportunity to raise awareness about important health topics and remind us to take control of our health.

Celebrating the new year means leaving the past behind, making positive changes, and the continuation of success and happiness. National observances such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Family Health History Day, and World AIDS Day help us come together to spread awareness and show support for each other.

Organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Association have created nationwide awareness month campaigns to draw attention to some of the leading causes of death in America. Other observances, such as Take a Loved One to the Doctor Month from the Florida Department of Health, encourage people to take charge of their own health and to urge their loved ones to do the same.

So, as you are looking forward to the new year, make health and wellness a part of your calendar and daily routine.

UF/IFAS Extension wishes you and your family a year fully loaded with happiness, prosperity, and health.
To learn more about health observances and how to encourage your loved ones to take control of their health, contact Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Gadsden County, (850) 875-7255, or osgoodlb@ufl.edu

Dine In:  More Favorite Family Meals

Dine In: More Favorite Family Meals

FCS Ine In Day December 3 Banner

FCS Dine In Day December 3

Is your busy, busy life making it difficult to spend time eating a meal at home with your family?  Research tells us families are healthier in so many ways when they eat at home together.  Maybe these favorite family meals from some of our readers will give you some inspiration.

Italian Night

My mother’s chicken cacciatore. She’s Italian and a great cook. She makes it with boneless chicken breasts, rice, sliced peppers, onions, tomatoes, and of course, garlic. It is so good and probably healthy. But maybe not, since I eat way too much of it. Friends and family come together on “Italian Night” to enjoy this and other Italian specialties. Molto delicioso.   Rick W.

My favorite meal was always when my mom made homemade spaghetti sauce for pasta. Wow, that’s good stuff. When I brought my girlfriend home, it became one of her favorite meals too. Thanks mom!   Alex H.

Father and son set the dinner table

Father and son set the dinner table. Photo Source: Wendy Meredith

Home Away from Home Meal

My favorite family meal was pork chops, broccoli, mashed potatoes, rolls and sweet tea, because my son, (my first born), cooked his first meal in his first home away from home at the age of 21 and invited our family to dinner. He was always the one out of five children who liked to have everyone in the family sit at the dining room table together and enjoy a meal as often as possible. Our lives consisted of football, cheerleading, church events, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, school events, jobs, etc. Our family of seven was a very busy family and always running here and there, but somehow due to the persistency of our son, we managed to have one or two meals a week together as a family. I was a very happy and proud mom when I received the invite to have dinner that night. The food was delicious, but the fellowship during “My Favorite Family Meal” was something I will remember and cherish forever.   Wendy M.

Let Them Eat Cake or Bread

Celebrations were very special in my family. Every year on my birthday, my grandmother would always cook my favorite food and bake my favorite cake (Red Velvet – Yum). When I was young I always thought it was about the food. But it was about so much more; we learned about manners and etiquette, and family coming together to share old traditions and make new ones. Whenever I see a red velvet cake or smell one baking, it brings back happy memories. I’m transformed back to when I was a 10 year old girl.   Dorothy L.

Growing up on a farm in Michigan, I’ve got a lot of good memories involving food! From making butter in a churn, to picking blackberries in the woods for Mom to make pie, to getting ripe tomatoes from the garden for a tasty bacon and tomato sandwich and many more.  I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up knowing exactly where our food comes from!

A favorite and happy memory is Mom making bread on cold days, letting the loaves rise by the heat registers, then baking it in the oven. The whole house smelled like delicious bread. Once it was done, Mom would cut it while it was still warm and give us thick slices with warm, melting butter on it!   Cheryl V.

December 3rd is Dine In Day.  It’s a chance to make a commitment to have a meal at home with family. So, make the decision to eat with your family at home this December 3rd.

FCS Dine In Day circle logo

FCS Dine In Day

 

 

 

Healthful – and Yummy – Holiday Treats!

Healthful – and Yummy – Holiday Treats!

Cranberries cooking

It may seem like the year has barely started, but the holiday season is here! A little bit of planning now can go a long way toward avoiding that, “I blew my diet and need bigger jeans” feeling. Believe it or not, there are holiday treats that are nutritionally guilt-free, as long as you don’t go overboard. As with so many other things, moderation is the key! Below are some classic holiday favorite foods with hidden health benefits:

Sweet Potatoes: It’s no secret that sweet potatoes are good for you – but they may have even more benefits than you think! Sweet potatoes contain a lot of Vitamin A. That’s a great source of alpha and beta carotene that helps keep your eyes, bones and immune system in top shape. Sweet potatoes are also one of the top food sources of potassium, with almost twice as much of the mineral as you find in a banana. When choosing sweet potatoes, look for ones that are firm with tapered ends and a uniform shape and color. Miniature sweet potatoes are fun and pack the same great health benefits.

Cranberries: Bright red cranberries are a little too tart to eat alone but they add a beautiful festive touch to any holiday table. With only 45 calories per cup plus a healthy dose of Vitamin C and fiber, they’re a winner all the way around. Cranberries also have more disease-fighting antioxidants than almost every other fruit and vegetable. Buy cranberries fresh in the fall and winter and use them soon, as they don’t last long. Store them in a tightly sealed bag in your refrigerator to keep them fresh longer.

Nuts: Yes, they’re high in calories – and fat – but nuts are also loaded with vitamins and minerals. Eating a handful of nuts a few times a week may lower your risk of heart disease. Nuts are full of antioxidants, energy and protein. Think of nuts, in moderation, as a Christmas gift for your body!

Cocoa: What better way to begin – or end – the day than a steaming hot cup of chocolate? Knowing the health benefits of cocoa give us even more reason to love it. Remember those healthful antioxidants? Dark chocolate is loaded with them. In fact, if you choose dark chocolate with a high percent of cocoa solids, you may help lower your blood pressure, improve your blood vessel health and control your cholesterol. So, give in to those chocolate cravings – in moderation, of course!

There are lots of ways to make healthier holiday dishes. Check with your local UF/IFAS Extension Office for delicious recipe ideas that won’t break your budget or your waistline.

Peanut Butter Helps Hurricane Victims

Peanut Butter Helps Hurricane Victims

You want to help but don’t know how? Maybe you don’t have much money and you don’t have skills, time, or transportation to get to hurricane Michael victims for clean up or rebuild. One easy, low-cost way to help is peanut butter.

 Yes, peanut butter helps hurricane victims

Peanut butter tastes good. It is safe at room temperature – no need to refrigerate or heat. Great when there is no electricity. And it’s super easy. Spread on bread or nosh on a spoonful.

Nutty for Peanut Butter
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

“I am so hungry. What are we going to eat?”

These words were repeated throughout affected areas of the Florida panhandle after the Michael disaster ripped through towns. Peanut butter was the answer for many. A great filler upper loaded with important protein.

The Peanut Butter Challenge

During the months of October and November, UF/IFAS Extension offices in the Florida panhandle are collecting peanut butter for the Peanut Butter Challenge. Peanut butter is dropped off at collection sites by gracious donors – like you. Then at the beginning of December, the peanut butter is distributed to hungry families in need at local food pantries. Because so many of our family, neighbors, and friends were affected by hurricane Michael, much of this peanut butter will also be headed to them this year.

Peanut Proud

Peanut Proud and others have already donated 36,000 jars of peanut butter to affected areas. While many jars will be “spread” throughout all Florida panhandle county pantries, much peanut butter will be distributed to hurricane Michael affected areas.

Gift Cards

Looking for other ways to help. Gift cards to Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, Walmart, etc. are greatly appreciated. These cards allow people to get what they need. No guesswork involved.

To find out how and where to donate as well additional recovery information, contact your local Northwest District UF/IFAS Extension office. University of Florida IFAS directory