We are well on our way into the new year, so that means you have kept up with your new year’s resolutions, right? Most individuals begin the new year with a resolution that they are going to participate in healthier habits, whether that be eating right, drinking more water, or exercising regularly. After the first few weeks, it can be hard to keep yourself on track. I know that I tend to fall short when I make meal and snack choices. Follow along below to learn more about why it is important to make healthy choices, as well as how to keep up with these healthy habits!
Why should I make healthy choices?
That is a great question! As a busy mom of two, I am always trying to balance work, school, family, and our social calendar. Your eating habits can contribute to physical movement, sleep, health, energy levels, and education. I can tell a large, positive difference in my overall attitude, energy levels, and sleep when I am making healthier choices. This is not something that someone can force upon you. Only you can make the decision to make these changes.
When you say healthy choices, what does that mean?
This does not mean “diet” or that you cannot have the cookies or ice cream. Busy people don’t have a lot of time to prepare and eat healthy meals. It can be helpful to have a quick list of ideas to maintain healthy eating. It is important for you to balance your meals. Consider eating at least 3 of the following every day: dairy, fruit, grains, healthy fats, proteins, or vegetables. Check out MyPlate to learn all about healthy eating habits, food groups, and how to shape your meals to you. Foods in moderation are okay but try to not overindulge.
Some high protein breakfast ideas:
Boil eggs at the beginning of the week and offer them with a low-sugar, high-protein cereal, and an apple to go.
Make breakfast burritos filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, chicken, or beef on a Sunday and freeze them.
An egg sandwich, a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit, and peanut butter on wholegrain toast can all be eaten on the way to school.
If I keep junk food in the house, I tend to eat it. I always make a point to keep healthy snack options available rather than boxes of junk food. Healthy snack options at home include fruits, vegetables, and healthier beverages. Soda is high in sugar, so to help cut the sugar, I keep water, milk, and pure fruit juice in the fridge. (NOTE: Fruit juices contain natural sugars, so they should also be consumed in moderation.) It is easy for me to make those choices since I am the adult that goes grocery shopping.
Ideas for healthier alternatives:
Instead of fried chicken, try baked or grilled chicken.
Instead of potato chips, try baked vegetable chips or nuts.
Craving something crunchy? Try carrots or celery.
Craving something sweet? Try vanilla Greek yogurt with some fresh fruit.
Craving something salty? Try popcorn or edamame.
On top of eating from different food groups, cut down on fats or sugars and remember to drink lots of water. Your body is unable to continue functioning properly without fluids. Staying hydrated may seem like a difficult task, but it is extremely important for us to stay hydrated for optimal health and performance throughout the day. Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
What about exercise?
It is extremely easy to come up with excuses as to why you cannot exercise.
I don’t have time.
It costs too much.
I don’t like physical activity.
I can’t do this by myself.
Your new healthy habits should be made a priority. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you will not be able to take care of others. Physical exercise does not always have to be drastic. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking an extra block to work or around the neighborhood, or standing up instead of sitting.
How do I hold myself accountable?
Accountability for your new healthy habits can come in all shapes and sizes. The most helpful way that I have found is tracking my progress. This helps me find strengths, areas I can improve on, and helps me stay on track. You can record what you ate, how much water you drank, as well as any activity you performed. Try record keeping on an app, online, or the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper. There are several apps for your phones and websites online that will let you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach your personal goals within a specific time period.
October is one of my most favorite times of year. Fall is in the air and the temperatures are starting to “fall.” School is back in session for our kids. The holiday season is beginning. Did you know that October is also National Seafood Month? There is no better time than National Seafood Month to start trying new recipes with your family and digging into heart-healthy meals!
“For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating two, 3.5 oz servings of fish per week” (Picklo, 2020). According to the USDA, there are several studies that show that eating fish reduces risk of heart disease. Fish is an excellent source of protein, which is great for losing weight or building muscle. Fish is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help reduce blood clots, triglycerides, and irregular heartbeats.
Try to incorporate more seafood into your diet by adding it in twice a week. Fried shrimp or fish is so delicious but can contain more fat than we need to consume. For heart-healthy-conscious meals, consider baking or grilling the fish instead. You may be surprised at the delicious results. If you are unsure of where to start, take a look at the Med Instead of Meds curriculum. Many counties throughout the state of Florida are offering classes, in person and virtually.
Med Instead of Meds focuses on a Mediterranean diet and provides a variety of simple and delicious recipes! Recipes range from salmon and tuna burgers to fish tacos and much more! You can easily tweak the recipes to get creative with the herbs to make it your own dish. The possibilities are endless! Click here to visit the Med Instead of Meds website, created by a group of nutrition and health professionals from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Division of Public Health.
One of my personal favorite recipes from their website is the “Honey Balsamic Glazed Salmon.” This recipe is simple to make, but the results are oh so sweet. The balsamic and honey glaze complements the salmon in ways I could not imagine, so much so that my mouth is watering just thinking about it! My family does not like the rosemary taste as much, so we tend to use oregano or thyme instead. Again, a simple change that my family loves. Little do they know they are eating heart-healthy seafood!
Summer is coming to a close, and Fall is in the air. What better way to kick off the Fall season than by bobbing for a deep red, bright green, or yellow apple? Currently, there are over 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States, and 7,500 varieties grown throughout the world. Apples are also grown in all 50 states. That is a lot of apples to celebrate throughout the month of October!
Have you ever heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? This was something that I was told throughout my childhood. I did not believe that an apple a day would keep me healthy and away from the doctor’s office. Now I understand that the saying is a tribute to the apple’s nutritional value and its health benefits. Per the USDA, an apple is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C!
Fiber affects the rate of digestion of foods, the absorption of nutrients, and the movement of waste products (stool) through the colon. It also provides a substrate for beneficial intestinal bacteria (Cornell). Vitamin C supports your body’s health by forming collagen used to make skin, tendons, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps heal wounds, repair or maintain bones and teeth, and helps absorb iron (Medline Plus). It is best to eat the apple with the skin on, because the skin contains fiber and right under it is most of the vitamin C. One medium sized apple, about 2.5 inches in diameter, has a total calorie count of about 80 calories.
Apples are a great fruit to add to our diet! Check out a few ideas below on easy ways to add them in.
Apples chopped up into bite size pieces taste great mixed in with a salad.
Mix up a yogurt dip using yogurt, cinnamon, and vanilla, to dip apple slices in. Or try spreading peanut butter over apple slices.
Add a peeled apple into a smoothie for added nutrients.
If you are not convinced yet, consider this. Apples are delicious, easy to carry around for a snack, low in calories, and can be refreshing on a hot day! With the hundreds of varieties available, there is an apple to suit almost anyone’s taste. Apples can be sweet, tart, crisp, crunchy, soft, or mushy, however you like them. Try an apple today!
Fiber, digestion, and health – Cornell University. (n.d.). https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/fiber-digestion-health.pdf
Food data Central Search Results. FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171688/nutrients
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2023, January 19). Vitamin C: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm
When you look at your children, do you see a picture of a healthy, active child? The United States Pentagon just released a report stating “77% of young Americans would not qualify for military service without a waiver due to being overweight, using drugs, or having mental and physical health problems.” Even worse, this is a 6% increase from the previous study. No matter the wish of a parent or youth as to their desire for military service, this study paints a disturbing picture of the health of our youth in the United States. Where have things gone wrong and what could be some simple corrective actions?
Exercise is a word many people dislike. But reframing the chosen exercise activity as a family outing, such as a daily debriefing walk to discuss the day’s events or an indoor activity such as a basic yoga class at a local gym or via video at home, can be a fun, purposeful way to incorporate physical activity without it seeming like “exercise.” The point is to increase the activity level of not just the youth but also the parent or guardian.
Replacing sugar sweetened beverages with water or fruit-infused water is an easy way to decrease excessive caloric intake and provide better hydration. Water is a basic need of the body and performs many roles from joint health and nutrient delivery to cells to regulating body temperature and proper organ functions.
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future research indicates that persons who frequently prepare meals at home eat healthier. Eating more fruits and vegetable with attention to healthier preparation methods can lead to better health outcomes over time.
It’s time to paint a new picture with you as the role model. Slowly adjusting to the adoption of a healthier lifestyle can take time. Speak openly with the youth in your life and let them help to decide the changes they feel they can make. Place this in writing using SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Revisit these goals and adjust them as needed. The reward over time could be a picture of health.
July is National Grilling Month, and there is nothing quite like the aroma of delicious food sizzling on the grill. However, it is important to prioritize safety when it comes to outdoor cooking to avoid any accidents or mishaps. Whether you are a seasoned grill master or a novice, here are six essential grilling safety tips to keep in mind for a worry-free barbecue experience.
Choose the right location. Selecting the appropriate location for grill setup is crucial to ensuring the safety of people and property. Place the grill on a stable, non-flammable surface, such as concrete or bricks, and ensure it is a safe distance away from any flammable objects like trees, fences, or wooden structures, or heat-sensitive objects like vinyl siding. Avoid grilling in enclosed spaces, such as garages or covered patios, as it can lead to carbon monoxide buildup. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause death if inhaled in a large enough quantity. Grilling in open spaces will allow this gas to dissipate to safe levels.
Keep a safe zone. Establish a designated “safety zone” around the grill to prevent accidents and injuries. Create a clear area of at least three feet in all directions, free from children, pets, and any foot traffic. This zone will provide a buffer between the hot grill and any potential hazards, reducing the risk of burns or accidental contact.
Practice proper handling of propane. When using a gas propane grill, it is essential to handle the propane cylinder with care. Always inspect the cylinder for any signs of damage, rust, or leaks before connecting it to the grill. When transporting or storing propane cylinders, ensure they are in an upright position and never place them in hot or enclosed spaces. When connecting or disconnecting the cylinder, make sure all burners are turned off, and never smoke or place any other open flames (such as citronella candles) near the grill.
Follow proper food safety practices. Safe food preparation practices are just as important as the grilling process itself. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked foods. Keep perishable items refrigerated until they are ready to be cooked, and don’t let them sit out in the heat for too long. In hot summer temperatures, food should not sit out longer than two hours. If the temperature is 90 degrees F or higher, the time limit is one hour. Use a food thermometer to ensure that meats such as poultry are cooked thoroughly and reach the appropriate internal temperature to prevent foodborne illnesses. Contact the Extension office for a list of proper internal cooking temperatures for different food types.
Monitor the grill. Never leave the grill unattended while it is in use. Grilling requires constant attention to avoid accidents and flare-ups. Stay vigilant and keep a close eye on the grill at all times. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, ideally a Class B or multipurpose one, and know how to use it effectively. In case of a grease fire, never use water to extinguish it, as it can cause the flames to spread. Instead, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires.
Clean the grill. Maintaining a clean grill is not only essential for food safety but also for preventing flare-ups and extending the life of the grill. After each use, scrub the grates with a grill brush to remove any residue. Additionally, periodically inspect and clean the burner tubes and ports to prevent clogs and ensure proper gas flow.
By following these six grilling safety tips, outdoor cooking can be safe and fun.
As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, including a decrease in bone density, which puts us at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures. This condition is especially prevalent in older adults, and it can significantly affect their quality of life. However, there are some foods that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis in older adults.
Dairy products are rich in calcium, which is essential for strong and healthy bones. Calcium is the primary mineral that makes up the bones, and getting enough of it in your diet can help prevent bone loss. Older adults are advised to consume at least three servings of dairy products per day, including milk, cheese, and yogurt. It is also important to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Leafy greens are another great source of calcium, and they also contain other essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, which helps with bone metabolism. Some of the best leafy greens for bone health include kale, spinach, collard greens, and Bok choy. These greens can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways, such as adding them to salads or smoothies.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are excellent sources of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, while omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and promote bone growth. Older adults are advised to consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week. If you are not a fan of fish, you can also get vitamin D from fortified foods, such as milk and cereal, or by spending some time in the sun. About 10 minutes of sun exposure a day can help boost vitamin D production in the body.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in several nutrients that are essential for bone health, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some of the best nuts and seeds for bone health include almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. These can be added to salads, oatmeal, or eaten as a snack. These seeds are also rich in fiber, which is important for digestive health.
In addition to natural sources of calcium and vitamin D, there are also many fortified foods that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. These include orange juice, cereal, and tofu, which are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. It is important to check the label of these products to ensure that they contain enough of these nutrients to make a difference.
In conclusion, osteoporosis is a significant health concern for older adults, but it can be prevented by consuming a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. Incorporating dairy products, leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and fortified foods into your diet can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and promote healthy bones. However, it is important to note that diet alone is not enough to prevent osteoporosis, and older adults should also engage in regular exercise and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. By taking these steps, older adults can improve their bone health and maintain their independence and quality of life.