Health

Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally

Pumpkin’s a Good Pick for Your Health!

Written by UConn Dietetics Student Alexa Horkachuck

Autumn is finally here, which means that pumpkin flavored products are flooding into your local grocery store. If you’re a fan, you will find everything from pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin pastas and soups. There is bound to be a recipe that you would enjoy making and eating!

carved pumpkin on a tablePumpkin is a tasty vegetable that is packed with healthful benefits for you and your family to enjoy. It is low in calories, sodium, and fat, while high in fiber to help keep you full throughout the day. It is also a great source of beta-carotene which your body converts to vitamin A – a powerful antioxidant which helps improve your skin and eye health. Pumpkin also has vitamin C to keep your immune system strong through the upcoming winter. It also is packed with potassium, and low in sodium which can help prevent high blood pressure!

When cooking with fresh pumpkin, it is important to pay attention to what type of pumpkin you are using and how much of the pumpkin you need to use! For cooking at home, purchase fresh sugar-pumpkins (also called pie or sweet pumpkins), which are small and round. Field types of pumpkins are larger, have watery, stringy flesh, and are best used for decorating like Jack-O-Lanterns.

Check this out to learn about different types of pumpkins!

https://www.thekitchn.com/the-best-pumpkins-for-baking-ingredient-intelligence-211333

Fresh pumpkin is easy to prepare in an oven, check it out!

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-roast-pumpkin-4115845

You can replace fresh, pureed pumpkin with equal amounts of canned pumpkin in your favorite recipes. For example, substitute 1 cup fresh, pureed pumpkin called for in a recipe with 1 cup canned pumpkin.

  • Canned pumpkin is certainly more convenient and relatively inexpensive, typically costing around $1-2 for a 15-oz can. Be sure to buy 100% pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin pie “mix” by accident! The “filling and mix styles” add unwanted sugars that you do not need in most recipes.
  • Once opened, canned pumpkin can be stored in your refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. You can also stir canned pumpkin into oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, and vanilla yogurt for added flavor. Add it to soups and stews to thicken them.
  • Be sure to transfer any leftover canned pumpkin to an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Here are two delicious ways to use fresh or canned pumpkin.  For more tasty, healthy, and low-cost recipes, visit: https://communitynutrition.cahnr.uconn.edu/recipes/

Pumpkin Soup Makes ~6 cups bowl of pumpkin soup on a saucer

Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter

½ small onion, finely chopped

1 can (15 oz.) solid packed pumpkin

2 cups water

½ cup milk

1 tbsp. maple syrup

¼ tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and cook, stirring often until very soft, about 8 minutes. Do not burn.
  2. Add pumpkin, water, milk, syrup, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking often.
  4. Let cool and then cover and chill. Bring to a simmer before serving.

Pumpkin Apple Cake Serves: 24

Ingredients:

1 package white cake mix

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

1 tsp. cinnamon

⅔ cup apple juice

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

Nonstick cooking spray and flour

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350℉.
  2. Combine cake mix, pumpkin, cinnamon, apple juice, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour into a 12 cup Bundt pan or a 9” x 13” cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and floured.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake center comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes. Then invert onto wire rack to cool completely

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Fall is Here – Stay Hydrated

Written by UConn Dietetics Masters Student Shawn Lada

person drinking water backlit by sun
Drink water the day before and during physical activity or if heat is going to become a factor. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, especially before strenuous exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Rhett Isbell)

We may be having cooler days now, but it is always important to stay hydrated. Keeping your body hydrated helps your heart, brain, muscles, and joints to stay healthy, along with keeping you regular and preventing urinary tract infections! During hotter days and summer months your body needs more fluid because you lose fluid when you sweat. Guess what? Sweating also occurs if you are working out in a gym in the winter! Even if you are not working out, your body loses fluid every day and you may not be drinking as much fluid as you need to rehydrate1.

Bottom line: Be aware of your fluid intake each day and adjust as necessary.

Depending on your activity level, from low activity like washing the car and walking the dog, to high/athletic activity like running a number of miles or lifting weights–and even depending on your gender–you may need around 90 ounces to 180 ounces of water a day. (That is up to almost 1 ½ gallons or 23 eight-oz cups!) The good news is you get around 20% of your fluid intake from fruits and vegetables2.  Do you know how water packed they are? Think of sweet juicy watermelon and crunchy apples! That’s water making that ‘crunch’!

The other 80% of your daily fluids come from water, milk, coffee, tea, and other beverages3. Other sources of fluids include foods like plain yogurt, broth-based soups, and popsicles.

For the rest of your hydration needs–and to get into a healthy routine–keep a reusable water bottle nearby, or a glass of water if you are at home, sipping as you go through the day4.

Remember: if you’re feeling thirsty, listen to your body and drink up! By the time you are thirsty, you are probably already on your way to becoming dehydrated. A way of knowing if you are dehydrated is to look at the color of your urine. It should be clear or pale yellow5. If it’s not, it’s time to drink some refreshing water!

Struggling to take a liking to plain drinking water? Try adding sliced fruits, like lemons and limes, and vegetables like cucumber slices, or even some mint!

Visit this page for more inspiring ways to flavor your water! https://communitynutrition.cahnr.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3067/2020/08/Drink-Up-English-Spanish.pdf

Citations:

  1. French, K. A., & James, L. (2020, September 16). Water, Water Everywhere. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://extension.psu.edu/water-water-everywhere
  2. Appel, L. J., M.D, Baker, D. H., Ph.D., Bar-Or, O., M.D, Minaker, K. L., M.D., Morris, C., Jr., M.D, Resnick, L. M., M.D, . . . Whelton, P. K., M.D., M.Sc. (2004, February 11). Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2004/02/report-sets-dietary-intake-levels-for-water-salt-and-potassium-to-maintain-health-and-reduce-chronic-disease-risk
  3. French, K. A., & James, L. (2020, September 16). Water, Water Everywhere. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://extension.psu.edu/water-water-everywhere
  4. Water & Nutrition. (2016, October 05). Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html
  5. French, K. A., & James, L. (2020, September 16). Water, Water Everywhere. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://extension.psu.edu/water-water-everywhere

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Cholesterol Education with the UConn Dietetics Program

Written by UConn Dietetics student Madeline Fulton

93 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Nearly 29 million adult Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL.1

Too much cholesterol circulating in your blood can put you at risk for developing heart disease and stroke. What is cholesterol? It’s a waxy, fat-like substance made by our livers. Cholesterol is needed for our bodies to produce hormones, digest fatty foods, and other important jobs. Our bodies produce the right amount of cholesterol needed. There are two types of cholesterol we care most about: “GOOD” (aka HDL) and “BAD” (aka LDL). We want more “GOOD” cholesterol in our bodies because it helps our bodies get rid of the “BAD” cholesterol. The “BAD”, or less healthy cholesterol, can build up over time and cause our arteries to become stiff and narrow. This reduces the blood flow which could result in blockage to the heart (a heart attack) or the brain (a stroke). Cholesterol in our blood is affected MOST by eating saturated fats (fatty meats, butter, baked goods) and trans fats (fried fast food, vegetable oil, microwave popcorn, some stick margarines).

The way you can help yourself and improve your cholesterol levels is to:

  1. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Don’t miss doctor’s appointments or lab work.

    chart with cholesterol guidelienes
    National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines, 2018
  2. Learn and be aware of the foods that can help you control your good and bad cholesterol, as well as, the saturated and trans fats you eat:
    • “Good” cholesterol (aka HDL) is affected in a good way by foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil, canola oil, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), flax and chia seeds, avocado, high fiber fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
    • “Bad” cholesterol (aka LDL) is affected by foods like fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, deep-fried fast foods, processed foods (chips, cookies, other snack foods), and butter.
    • Review your diet. Only on occasion should you eat rich (highly marbled) meats, cream, butter, and fried foods.
  1. Participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Aerobic exercise (those that increase your heart rate) can help improve your GOOD cholesterol levels. Aerobic types of exercise include: walking, running, biking, or jumping rope.2
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation. The current recommendation for females is up to one drink per day; while the recommendation for males is up to two drinks per day. “One drink” is considered one glass (5 oz.) of wine, one beer (12 oz), or 1.5 oz of hard liquor.3
  3. If diet and exercise plans don’t seem to be lowering your cholesterol numbers into a healthy range, medication might be necessary. Make sure to speak with your doctor to see what plan will work best for you!

Tip: Small changes go a long way when it comes to managing your cholesterol! The small changes will add up, helping you to develop long-lasting lifestyle and nutrition changes.

Citations

  1. Virani SS, Alonso A, Benjamin EJ, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2020 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008. Health (San Francisco) 2008 Physical Activity. Accessed September 21, 2020.
  3. Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of. 2015. “2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (8th edition). Accessed September 21, 2020.

This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Power Up with Breakfast! Go-Grow-Glow!

Written by UConn Dietetics Student Alyson Gaylord

You have probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but why? The term breakfast means “break- the- fast.” After 8-10 hours of fasting as you sleep, your body is looking for calories and energy. Scientists tell us that kids who eat breakfast tend to focus better on their schoolwork and do better on tests. Let’s do it in the healthiest way possible!

mom and boy at a table with food

 

 

Breakfast is the perfect time to teach your kids some fun nutrition tips! It is always good to include foods in your breakfast that make you Go, Grow and Glow!

 

 

*GO with energy using foods like whole grain breads and oatmeal! 

*GROW with protein-rich foods like low-fat milk, yogurt, eggs, lean meats, fish and nut butters!

*GLOW foods include fruits, vegetables and beans!

Get creative at breakfast! Include foods that help your child (and you!) to Go, Grow and Glow! 

Check out these simple and yummy examples! 

  • Starting your day with a boxed cereal made from whole grains paired with cold skim or 1% milk gives your body a ton of nutrition through vitamins, minerals and fiber!
  • A low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt with your own added fruit and topped with low-sugar granola or your favorite dry cereal is a bang up, crunchy way to start your day!
  • Guess what? An egg scrambles in less than 5 minutes on the stove and is an excellent source of protein! Add veggies such as spinach and tomatoes to ramp up the nutrition. 
  • Love peanut butter? Add it to your breakfast by putting some on your toast! Allergic to peanuts? Try sunflower butter for a great substitute.

All of the above will fuel your body in great ways to tackle whatever the day throws your way!

Do you think all breakfast choices are equal? They are not! There are breakfast choices that might make your body grumble at you a bit.  

  • A lot of breakfast-type foods are high in sugar, such as certain cereals, pancakes, donuts and bakery-type items. These foods digest in your tummy pretty quickly and could lead to a quick burst of energy, followed by a really empty feeling, which defeats the purpose of the meal.
  • While smoothies can be great, you should be careful about how many ingredients you add! You could find yourself drinking too many calories and lots of sugar for breakfast. 

If you know your tummy has a hard time eating soon after awakening, try out these grab-and-go food combinations that can easily be made the night before and taken in a lunch box or bag to work or school for a “later morning breakfast”:

  • Apple slices and nut butter
  • Rice cakes and nut butter
  • Fruit cups
  • Peanut butter sandwich with sliced banana
  • Vanilla yogurt with low-sugar dry cereal 
  • Overnight oats (easy recipe below!)

EASY OVERNIGHT OATS

Ingredients:

½ cup raw oats

1 cup milk (preferably low-fat)

1 tsp sweetener of choice (maple syrup or honey) 

Optional toppings: fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, nut butters 

Directions:

Place the oats, milk and sweetener in a mason jar or to-go container. Stir until combined. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight, about 8 hours. In the morning, top with desired toppings and enjoy!

Good luck! Go get your GO, GLOW, GROW on! 

For more breakfast recipes for kids, visit the following link:

https://communitynutrition.cahnr.uconn.edu/recipes/#breakfast

This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

 

 

What to Eat (and Drink) Before, During, and After Exercise

Article by Mackenzie Lane, UConn Dietetics Student

Do you ever stop to think about taking a bite of a granola bar before your morning jog? Or force yourself to skip a mid-hike snack so you can feast at the next meal? Or think post-workout meals will make you gain weight?

No need to look any further for fact-based nutrition and exercise information! Here are tips to keep you healthy and help you reach your exercise goals.

Before Exercise: Fuel up!

Just as you put fuel in your car before you drive, you need to put fuel in your body before you exercise.” – Internationally-recognized sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD

Not eating anything before exercise can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This can cause fatigue, blurred vision, and lightheadedness – all factors that can make exercise less enjoyable and can lead to injuries. Working out is a mental game just as much as it is physical, so your BRAIN needs fuel to stay focused on your goals, too!

Fuel up two hours before exercise with:

  1. Water – plain water is best!
  2. Healthy carbohydrates – complex carbs like whole grain bread or your morning oatmeal are great choices. Simple carbs, like toaster pastries and sugar-sweetened cereals, are not good choices. These sugary foods will not keep your energy levels up for very long.

If you can’t fuel up a couple hours before exercising and you only have 5-10 minutes, eat a piece of fruit. Bananas are a great choice for quick digestion and energy!

TIP: Avoid eating too much fat or protein foods before exercise. They take longer to digest than carbohydrates, take oxygen and blood away from your muscles, can cause an upset stomach, or speed up digestion too quickly.

During: Water, water, and more water!

family playing soccerStay hydrated with small, frequent sips of water throughout your workout. This is true for high intensity workouts that last for several hours, as well as for low to moderate intensity exercise sessions.

If you are exercising for 1 hour or less: No need to fuel with food during your workout.

If you are exercising for longer than 1 hour: Fuel up with 50-100 calories of carbohydrates every half hour. Try pretzels, bananas, sports drinks, energy bars (more for high intensity endurance exercise).

TIP: If you can’t tolerate food during exercise, try sipping on a sports drink.

After Exercise: Refuel time!

This is when your muscles take protein from your blood to repair and build your muscles. It is also when your muscles best absorb carbohydrates from your blood to make up for your lower stores from exercise.

Aim to refuel 20-60 minutes after exercise with:

  1. Fluids – plain water, 100% fruit juice, and low-fat or skim milk are great options
    • Sports drinks are NOT recommended after exercise. Drink them during exercise lasting more than one hour.
  2. Carbohydrates – whole grain bread, crackers, cereals, pasta; brown rice; fruits and veggies
  3. Protein – combine protein foods with carbs such as peanut butter and whole grain toast, or low-fat cheese and turkey sandwich!

Keep in mind, each type of physical activity is different for each person’s body. These are general recommendations. Follow what works best for you and your exercise goals! Keep up the hard work and remember to fuel your body with nutritious foods!

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

Part-Time Agriculture Program Coordinator In-Training Position Open

making the three sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket tribe
Extension educators make the Three Sisters recipe with members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

We are seeking a part-time (20 hours/week) Agriculture Program Coordinator-in-Training to work on our Mashantucket Pequot Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program (FRTEP). The incumbent will work collaboratively with a team of Extension professionals, tribal members, and leaders to empower members of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) and communities through nutrition education and youth engagement. This includes a mix of responsibilities related to youth engagement, nutrition education and agriculture programming. The position is based in the MPTN reservation, which is located in Mashantucket, CT though the individual hired will be an employee of the University of Connecticut.

Read the full position description, including details on how to apply.

UConn Extension Releases Evidence-Based Information Sheets on the Impacts of Trails

Meriden TrailUConn Extension and the National Park Service are pleased to announce the publication of the Impacts of Trails info-sheet series. As communities throughout the U.S. and the world cope with the devastating toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has brought a renewed focus on the importance of local trails. 

These one-page color, downloadable resources provide evidencebased information on the impacts of trails on physical and mental health, building community, stimulating economies, and fostering climate resilience. Each includes key data points from existing literature, a case study and a short list of recommendations. Communities highlighted include Meriden, Connecticut, New Haven, Connecticut, Canton, Connecticut, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The health info-sheet includes six major benefits that trails have on promoting health. It recommends that communities animate trails with programs, increase public awareness about trails, and engage people not currently using trails. A case study on the Walk and Talk with a Doc initiative between Get Healthy CT and Yale Medicine in New Haven documents how trails have improved health outcomes for residents.

Trails drive economic development in communities through their positive impact on property values, expenditures at local businesses, and quality of life, among other attributes. The authors recommend that communities take a systems approach, connect their trails with downtown amenities, and engage and involve anchor institutions and local property owners in trail development. The Farmington Canal Trail in Canton provides further evidence of how the trail increased economic activity in the town.

Woman in Meriden“Our vision was a trail network that offered something for everyone in the community, from easy walks around Lake Mansfield to a rigorous hike along our piece of the Appalachian Trail,” says Christine Ward, Director of the Great Barrington Trails and Greenways in Massachusetts. Trails in any community are catalysts for increasing environmental awareness, creating connections, and strengthening community resilience. Steps to build community with trails include programming, analyzing trail use, and thinking community wide.

Climate change will bring many public health and safety threats to our communities and trails enhance resiliency through mitigation and by providing habitats for plants and wildlife. Trails also help decrease the carbon footprint of residents as more use the trails for travel. Communities enhance resiliency on their trails by making them feel safe and protected, encouraging residents to replace short vehicle trips, and connecting to transportation networks. A case study of Meriden shows how the trails and open space saved the downtown from flooding. 

 

View all the impact sheets with the full benefits of trails and recommendations for community leaders at https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/trail-impact-series/.

 

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Hurricanes and COVID – 19

Preparing for the 2020 hurricane season or severe storms during the COVID – 19 pandemic requires more planning than usual. 

First, make a “go kit” – a bag you can grab and go should you need to evacuate!  Pack a kit for each household member and pet with a 2-week supply of emergency food, water, medicine and a thermometer for storing refrigerated medicines, flashlights, chargers, cell phones, close contacts list, important documents (unless you store these in the cloud) and personal items.  Since the pandemic, you should pack hand sanitizer and/or hand wipes, gloves, disinfectant/disinfectant wipes, soap, and at least 2 masks per person for people older than two years. 

If you are exempt from wearing a mask for medical or behavioral reasons, discuss how to manage community requests with your health care provider.  If you require specialized care, discuss potential shelter, hospitalization or other options with your health care provider well in advance of approaching storms. 

Check with your town hall to learn about shelter admission policies since COVID – 19, occupancy limits, and perhaps new locations for both people and pets.  Bring copies of veterinary records such as a rabies certificate and vaccines, certificates of adoption or ownership, photos of you and your pet, and consider getting a microchip for your pet. 

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/covid-19/prepare-for-hurricane.html