If you’ve tried to find nutrition information in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, you probably got more than you bargained for. Recently, I searched “nutrition and COVID-19” and in less than one second, I got 590,000,000 hits. That’s a lot of information! With so much health and nutrition information available, especially connected with the ongoing pandemic, it can be TOUGH to separate fact from fiction. What makes it even tougher is that everyone seems to be passionately and totally convinced that their information is the right answer. How do you tell the hype from the truth?
Confusing Nutrition Choices
Photo Source: Ginny Hinton
The best way to protect yourself against questionable information and products is to become an informed consumer. That can be challenging as so many of us are becoming more used to getting our information from social media, websites, advertisements, friends and family. While information from those sources can be accurate, very often it is misleading. Use the following tips to evaluate nutrition information:
Know Your Experts:
Have you ever seen nutrition advice from a “nutritionist” or “diet counselor”? Beware, because those terms aren’t regulated, and almost anyone can use them to look like an expert. Registered dietitians (RD) or licensed dietitians (LD) hold specialized degrees and are good sources of solid nutritional information.
The internet, books, newspapers, and magazines can be good sources of information, if you know where to look. If you’re surfing the net, select websites from credible web addresses like ones ending in .edu (universities or medical schools), .gov (government agencies), or sometimes .org (not-for-profit research and education). If you’re reading an article, always look for the author’s qualifications and membership in a professional nutrition organization. With all media, check the sources they used (If they don’t cite credible sources you can check, that’s a big red flag) and scan to the bottom to make sure they’re not trying to sell a product. If you can buy a “miracle” product, a solution, or a quick fix from them, watch out! Their information may be convincing, but it is likely biased or incomplete. At best, it calls for caution and some deeper research.
The flood of health and nutrition misinformation isn’t going away, but learning to be an informed consumer is a powerful step in learning to protect yourself from being duped.
Some house plants are very easy to keep alive, even if you are a first-time gardener. Photo source: Melanie Taylor
As July begins, one mental health topic we repeatedly hear or read about is how stress is negatively affecting so many Americans right now. In these unprecedented times, many people are reaching out for guidance from their doctors, therapists, friends, and family. Depending on how your stress levels are affecting you, there are numerous suggestions ranging from exercise to therapy to medication and the list goes on. There may be one solution right at your fingertips that can help you begin to find a little peace of mind starting today. Gardening…. Let’s DIG IN!
Gardening does not have to be growing a large vegetable garden in the backyard. It can be planting flowers and plants in your landscape, maintaining potted plants on your front porch and deck, or growing houseplants inside your home. One easy way to start if you have never been a gardener is by growing herbs inside or out. Many people find gardening helps them escape to a place of peace as they dig in the soil and watch their plants and flowers grow and prosper.
This idea is not new. Horticulture is the art and science of growing plants. Horticultural therapy is the practice of engaging people in plant or gardening activities to improve their bodies, minds, and spirits. Research confirms that healthful benefits accrue when people connect with nature and plants by viewing and/or interacting with them.
Enjoy socializing with friends and neighbors in the garden. Photo source: Julie McConnell
Horticultural therapy has been around for a very long time. In the 1600’s, the poor often worked in gardens to pay for their medical care. Physicians quickly noticed these patients recovered faster and had better overall health than patients who did not work in the garden. Today, many hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, prisons, schools, social-service facilities, and community centers use people-plant interactions as a form of treatment for persons with physical or mental disabilities. Horticultural therapy may include meeting with a therapist specializing in this area or trying something on your own or with family, friends, or a local gardening group.
Saturday mornings are family time at the local community garden plot. Photo source: Julie McConnell
Some benefits you may receive from gardening include:
- Physical: Provides exercise at various levels. (Easy, medium, and strenuous levels – it all depends on what you decide to create.)
- Emotional: Promotes and satisfies your creative side, increases your feelings of confidence and self-esteem, promotes a new interest and enthusiasm for it, and even relieves tension.
- Physiological: May help lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and ultimately relieve stress.
Even if you think you do not have a “green thumb,” you should try gardening on any level and see if it will be a healthy mode of stress release for you. Happy Gardening!
UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Document ENH970: Horticultural Therapy, Elizabeth Diehl and Sydney Park Brown.
April is designated as National Financial Literacy Month to increase awareness about financial literacy, especially with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) causing economic worry for families across the United States. When it comes to financial literacy, knowledge is power!
Consumer debt has become a major challenge for families. If you owe money to multiple creditors, managing this debt can be overwhelming. Many Americans have more debt than they can afford to pay. Developing strategies for overcoming this challenge is essential. These strategies should include building financial knowledge, developing a budget, and setting savings goals to improve your financial outlook.
Financial literacy means understanding how to save, borrow, invest, and care for your money, leading to greater financial well-being. Research has shown that our physical health and well-being are directly linked to our financial health and well-being.
Florida Saves is a statewide initiative that helps inspire Florida families to set savings goals, lower debt, and build personal wealth. The Florida Saves pledge, located on the Florida Saves website, can help us establish personal financial goals. With this pledge, you’re making a commitment to work toward a savings goal, such as college tuition, an emergency fund, or down payment on your first home. Visit the Florida Saves Initiative website to learn more about financial literacy.
Whatever your savings goals are, becoming financially literate can help you achieve those goals. For more information about financial literacy and management, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.
Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations.
Have you thought about your mental and emotional health lately? If you haven’t, it’s a great time to take some time to invest in you. Emotional wellness is the ability to handle and overcome challenges and obstacles that we often must deal with in everyday life. It doesn’t mean you will always be happy, but you are aware of and in control of your thoughts, behaviors, and actions when you have negative feelings or setbacks. Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are many ways to improve and maintain your emotional health so you can adapt to changes as they happen.
Tips for Emotional Wellness:
Spend time with loved ones to strengthen your relationship.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS
- Stay positive. Purposely develop a positive mindset and hold on to the positive emotions and appreciate the good times as long as you can. Focus on your outlook. Ask yourself: What gives me inner peace? What gives me purpose? Remember to forgive yourself and others for making mistakes.
- Reduce stress. Stress can push you to your limits. It can also motivate you with a rush of energy when needed. It is important to eliminate long-term stress, if possible, and strive for balance. Learn what relaxation techniques work best for you. Deep breathing, meditation, and exercise are healthy ways that could provide release. Set priorities and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
- Take care of your physical health. Plan to eat healthy meals, get enough rest, and exercise. Your physical health directly relates to your mental health. There are so many things we want to fit into a day but there’s not always enough time. Establish set times to help keep you on track. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants, especially late in day when it could affect your nighttime routine.
- Strengthen your relationships. Build strong connections with your partner, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. These social relationships help us to find purpose and meaning. Join a group focused on a favorite activity or hobby. Take a class and learn something new. Volunteer in your community and share positive habits with others. Others can have powerful effects on our health and link us to opportunity.
- Think before you act. Be aware of your emotions and reactions so you can harness them when you are triggered, or something is bothering you. Notice what makes you happy, sad, or mad, and take a few minutes to think before you address or try to change a situation. It’s okay to express your feelings to others and not keep everything within. We must be mindful of how it comes across or affects the other person. Take a walk or some deep breaths and allow yourself to process during a difficult time.
How you feel can affect your daily activities and relationships. People who have good mental health can still have mental illness, so remember to consult your doctor for ongoing concerns. There could be chemical imbalances that need the right kind of treatment. There are also counseling and support groups that can help when you need extra support. It’s up to you to start making healthy choices and taking control of your overall wellness. I hope you feel encouraged and take steps to develop resilience in the face of adversity. For more information on healthy living or other Extension-related topics, you can contact your Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
Fall is in the air! In addition to the crisp, cool weather comes the season of two of the top consumer spending events: Halloween and the winter holidays.
Receipts add up quickly
Photo Source: Heidi Copeland
In 2019, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, U.S. consumers spent $2.6 billion on Halloween candy alone, about $25 per person. This does not even take into consideration all the other bits and pieces that can go into more elaborate Halloween celebrations: decorations, entertainment and activities, costumes (for kids, adults, and animals), cosmetics, food and drink, and even stationery such as cards and party invitations. Overall, Halloween retail spending was estimated at $8.8 billion in 2019.
Next in line are the winter holidays. These include Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, and Christmas. Even with the Covid-19 quarantine, consumers are on track to start the 2020 seasonal spending spike. For many, Covid-19 has provided a state of anxiety, isolation and uncertainty. The upcoming seasonal events can be a big boost in providing a bit of nostalgia, normalcy and fun.
It is important, however, to heed the words of The Cat in the Hat: It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how!
The truth is the US economy thrives on consumer spending! But, be honest, does derailing your budget for stuff you might have to pay for later really make you feel better? Seasonal spending is the type of spending that can lead families into the New Year with stress and anxiety. Be aware of spending temptations and triggers.
Wikipedia defines temptation as a desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment. Anything that promises pleasure can be tempting. Triggers are a stimulus that alerts your brain and body to an old, known experience, which makes it more likely that we will engage and buy something.
For example, a trigger could be a smell. You might think, “I smell cinnamon. Cinnamon reminds me of fall at grandma’s. Her house always smelled like cinnamon.” The temptation would then be: “Cinnamon brooms are at the check-out cashier. I think I will buy one.”
Recognize what sets you up – smells, prices, product placement, etc. There is a method behind the madness of marketing, all of which is geared to attract a consumer to make a purchase. This year especially, anything that offers nostalgia, normalcy, or fun will be a hot commodity.
Knowing your values and goals, and creating a plan for spending (budget), will help you organize your spending. Know, too, it is reasonable to spend money on fun stuff this season of spending. But also remember: happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. It is very hard to buy that!
Families across the country are adapting to the challenges in daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Families with children face even more challenges. The task of keeping children occupied, and attempting to keep up with schoolwork, monitoring “screen time,” feeding, etc. is NOT easy!
Nonetheless, it is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance. We can help make lemonade out of lemons, even in the face of a pandemic by focusing on the positive. Adults can model a whole host of problem-solving skills for children of all ages. We can also show children how to be flexible, how to make do and improvise, and how to be compassionate.
As we all work though adjusting to a new normal, know that WFSU public television has expanded their educational services by providing emergency at-home learning content to assist families, students, and teachers throughout their viewing region during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 requires Public Media (WFSU) to serve everybody, everywhere, every day for free. WFSU Public Media is doing just that.
WFSU Public Media is working hard pursuing their education mission, clearing their normal daytime schedules, broadcasting grade-appropriate instructional programming, as well as creating and curating educational games and other online content. WFSU educational television programs are geared to helping children succeed in school and in life (https://wfsu.org/education/).
The new daytime WFSU At-Home Learning block of programs begin at 6 a.m., focusing on preschool to 3rd grade learners. You will find “Wild Kratts,” “Daniel Tiger,” “Curious George” and other classic PBS KIDS programs.
At 11 a.m. programming shifts to target middle and high school students. Programs like “Nova” focus on science, “The Great American Read” on English Language Arts, “Masterpiece” on British literature and “American Experience” on U.S. history, just to name some of the PBS programs featured.
Plus, WFSU is working with local school districts to ensure that they can link students to these resources and utilize PBS Learning Media, an online repository of content that is aligned to Florida curriculum standards.
Additionally, WFSU, knowing that their youngest viewers and their families count on the entertaining and educational programs normally shown on the HD channel in the daytime, moved the PBS Kids 24/7 channel, to one of their digital services available free over-the-air and also to Comcast channel 203. It is also live streamed on the WFSU website: https://wfsu.org/education/watch-live-wfsu-pbs-kids-360/.
WFSU Public Media is also providing critical assistance through public safety communications and local programming that gives our communities trustworthy information about every aspect of the health emergency.
Thank you, David Mullins, general manager of WFSU Public Media, including the Florida Channel, and Kim Kelling, director of content and community partnerships at WFSU Public Media. Your timely assistance to every person in your viewing area is much appreciated.
WFSU – TV, Channel 11: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Hamilton, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Suwannee, Wakulla counties and Georgia counties Decatur, Grady, Thomas and Seminole.
WFSG – TV, Channel 56: Holmes, Washington and Walton counties