healthy eating

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.

 

 

 

Italian Veggie Balls Recipe with UConn EFNEP

Heather Pease from our UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) walks us through the process of making Italian Veggie Balls. You can make this delicious and nutritious recipe with a few simple items. It’s healthy and budget-friendly.

 

Velazquez Answers Nutrition Questions on Radio Amor in Bridgeport

Zoraida Velazquez talks about MyPlate on Radio Love in BridgeportThe global pandemic is challenging everyone. It’s made many of us more conscience of the threats surrounding us every day. Many people are more aware of the food they eat and health impacts of their nutritional choices. Extension educator Zoraida Velazquez is answering questions for Bridgeport and residents of surrounding communities each Friday morning on Radio Amor/Radio Love 690 AM. Her nutritional advice and guidance are helping the community improve their health and wellbeing.

Zoraida joined UConn Extension in 1978. She’s an educator in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (UConn EFNEP). EFNEP helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. She began her career in UConn Extension’s New London County office before moving back to the New Haven County office. Zoraida grew up in New Haven and is well-known among the community.

“I’m always involved in the community because I love working with people in need,” Zoraida says. Zoraida has served as a pastor for the last 43 years, in addition to her work with EFNEP. She and her husband are currently pastors in Wallingford.

Zoraida began working with Radio Amor in 2015. She had a weekly ten-minute spot called Salud y Nutrition where she answered listeners’ questions. The station manager initiated the program with the goal of bringing services to the community.

Keyla Negron was a nutritional science in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. She heard the program in 2016 and called our Extension office to learn more. Keyla went down to the New Haven County office during her summer break and helped Zoraida with the radio show as a volunteer. They prepared answers for each week’s questions and resources to share with listeners.

The program remained popular with listeners. Then, there were administrative changes at the station in 2017. The station discontinued Zoraida’s program, along with many others.

In January of 2020, Javier Cabrera, the new manager of Radio Amor, reached out to Zoraida. “He remembered hearing the program and told me that it was very informative to the Spanish community, and he wanted to bring back this and other programs for the listeners to benefit from,” she says. “Radio Amor is a Christian radio station, but it’s open to the community with no discrimination to color or race.”

The show quickly resumed with the first episode airing on March 6, 2020. COVID halted it for a second time. It took a couple of months, but in mid-May, Radio Amor had adjusted to the challenges created by the pandemic. Zoraida is back on the air for twenty minutes a week, answering nutrition-related questions for listeners.

“I started in March with MyPlate,” Zoraida says. “I wanted to go back to the basics with the listeners. Then we progressed into the importance of families eating together at the table, I encouraged moms to take advantage of helping their children with healthy eating.”

Other popular topics include stretching the food budget and learning what to make from products that are on hand. Zoraida recalls one person calling in to say that they used to make arroz con leche when things were tough, and white rice with just eggs because there was not enough money for other food products.

“Zoraida Velazquez has been such a blessing to Radio Amor for many years,” says Javier Cabrera, the Operations Manager at Radio Amor. “Pastor Velazquez shares very helpful and important information with our audience, educating them on how to stay healthy. Radio Amor is honored to have Pastor Velazquez as one of our educators empowering our community with the necessary resources to help them stay healthy.”

Zoraida’s 20-minute radio show is rarely long enough to answer all the questions. It regularly becomes a 45-minute segment. Zoraida stays on the air until she’s answered all of the questions.

“When I came back on air in May after the break because of coronavirus, food safety was understandably a hot topic,” Zoraida explains. “We started talking about foodborne illness. Questions I received included whether or not it was okay to leave food out, understanding what to do if there is food recall because of E. coli or salmonella. Other people wanted to know where they could go for food assistance, or how they could participate in EFNEP. Parents want to know how to get their children to eat more vegetables.”

Topics continue evolving, and Zoraida caters each program to the needs of her listeners. She did a segment on the importance of keeping the body hydrated since many of her listeners admitted that they didn’t like drinking water unless it was flavored. She’s received numerous questions about energy drinks and Zoraida encourages parents not to let their teenagers consume energy drinks because they can be harmful.

UConn Extension’s EFNEP staff work statewide to empower participants and provide knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits. Although in-person programming is currently limited, all our EFNEP staff continue working in their communities and serving residents.

Zoraida exemplifies the spirit of service and community assistance that the EFNEP program is known for. Zoraida and other EFNEP staff understand the needs of the communities they are serving because they live and work in these communities.

“Salud y Nutrición is one of the best segments we air weekly understanding the need of health education in our community,” Javier continues. “We want to thank UConn Extension for allowing Pastor Velazquez to share her knowledge and years of experience as a Nutrition Educator. Today, we can say that thousands of our listeners have benefited from her knowledge. Radio Love is here to help and serve our community and Pastor Velazquez has been a vessel to our community.”

Questions related to food and nutrition will continue to arise. Zoraida is ready and waiting for them each Friday morning on Radio Amor, or through another channel with UConn EFNEP. Additional resources from the EFNEP program are available at https://efnep.uconn.edu/.

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.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Pasta Salad – A Healthy Recipe with Dianisi Torres

Dianisi Torres of our UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) makes a healthy pasta salad with you using ingredients from the Dollar Store. The presentation is in English and Spanish.

Dianisi Torres, de nuestro programa Educación Alimentaria y Nutricional Expandida de la Extension de UConn, conocido como EFNEP, prepara una ensalada de pasta saludable con usted utilizando los ingredientes de la tienda de Dólar. La presentación es en Inglés y Español.

Halloween is coming, but you can eat healthy

Halloween can be can be scary time of year for folks trying eat healthy. How do you stay selfish with your health when there are so many temptations?

Change your mind!

Have a plan:

Use apps to track your calories – so you know the true calorie cost of eating candy, or another helping of food.

Start a new tradition:

Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010 Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010
Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010

Eat a healthy meal before trick or treating. Try a hearty vegetable soup with lots of harvest fresh vegetables –

Support your local farmer- give trick or treaters small apples or pears for healthy alternatives to candy

Give trick or treaters non-food items like pencils or stickers

Track your steps around the neighborhood while trick or treating –

Have a Healthy Halloween Dance party instead of trick or treating – make healthy Halloween foods like the Pear Witch Project 

Halloween witch made with a pear and other healthy foods

Try visiting your local farmers markets and farms for the season’s local harvest!

 

For more practical ideas on how to improve your low-income client’s food and nutrition behaviors contact the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program for a series of free nutrition and cooking classes at your agency.

Article by: Heather Pease Nutrition Outreach Educator, Hartford County Extension

Kid Eats

Kid Eats app

A new interactive app named Kid Eats, designed to help parents and teachers promote healthy eating and introduce cooking skills, is now available at the Apple app store. The program incorporates youth-adult partnerships, with adult and child working together in the kitchen. Designed for youth grades three to six, the app is a collaborative effort between UConn Extension 4-H Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion, a 4-H STEM after school program funded through USDA-NIFA, and the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Media Productions. Kid Eats app is currently compatible with iPad iOS 11.0 or later.

The UConn team brought their nutrition and health promotion background to the project while NMSU Media Kid Eats app visualproductions developed the app. The teams created the app to pilot the effectiveness of video instruction to encourage healthy habits. UConn 4-H FANs IM was designed to promote healthy eating and exercise for youth, through fun and engaging activities.

The app includes a step-by-step instructional recipe, while directing users to the KidEats website, which includes seven recipe videos along with one on safe knife skills. Recipes are available to download and include, Banana Breakfast Cookies, Fruit Slushies, Garden Salsa, Hummus Dip with Veggies, Kale Chips, Tortilla Pizza and Sautéed Veggies. The teams plan to expand the app to include additional kitchen skills, recipes and Spanish videos.

By Kim Colavito Markesich

Mix Some Whole Grains with Local Fruits and Veggies

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator, UConn Extension

strawberriesLest this article appears to be written by the food police, I confess I am a real fan of a plate of regular, white flour pasta, ciabatta bread, and, once and a while a fried bologna sandwich on good (well, maybe not so good) old fashioned store bought white bread with mustard. But, as a nutrition professional that was well trained years ago, I know that it is important to eat a diet that is well stocked with whole grains.

As June turns to July, and farmers markets offer up with new fruit and vegetable options with each passing week, consider serving them up with a side of whole grains.

An article published in this week in Circulation Online, “Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies,” by Geng Zong, Alisa Gao, Frank B. Hu, and Qi Sun (find the article here: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/133/24.toc) reported on a meta-analysis of 12 published studies as well as data from unpublished survey results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III and NHANES 1999-2004.

What is a meta-analysis you ask? This type of study looks at the results of many studies and analyzes them, with the goal of developing conclusions that are statistically strong due to the larger numbers being considered. This analysis included information from 786,076 study participants. The conclusions derived from this review include:

  • People who ate the most whole grains appeared less likely to die of any cause during the study than those who ate the least, with the strongest relationship identified with death from cardiovascular disease and, to a lesser extent, cancer (stronger association with colon cancer than others).
  • Those with diets higher in whole grains had lower risk for cardiovascular disease and adult onset (Type II) diabetes.

Generally, these results confirm what has been considered to be good dietary practice for a while. The Dietary Guidelines Dietary Guidelines, 2015-2020, released in January 2016, called for Americans to eat (based on an 1800 calorie diet), six ounces per day of grains, half of which should be comprised of whole grains. It can be hard to figure out what six ounces is without an actual kitchen scale, but generally, the guidance is six servings of grain foods, with portion sizes as follows:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread (approx. one ounce)
  • 1 ounce 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

You might need to use measuring cups or even invest in a kitchen scale just to help you see what is, in fact, a true serving size. I know that it is more than likely that I eat two servings (at least) when I have a plate of pasta. Of course, your calorie needs may be higher or lower than the 1800 standard illustrated here. Some folks may need only 1200 calories with four ounces of grain foods (if you are a smaller person, are very sedentary or want to lose weight) or 2200 calories or more if you are very active, including seven ounces or more of grain foods. The Dietary Guidelines can be found here: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

How can you incorporate more whole grains in your daily menus while enjoying locally grown greens, berries, scallions, and soon, the peppers, tomatoes and zucchini?

First, you could even purchase locally grown/milled grains. You may have to stretch your definition of local to include other states in the region, however. The Northern Grain Growers Association included growers from Vermont, Massachusetts, and one from Connecticut. These growers produce spelt, wheat, barley, oats and/or cornmeal.

Once you have made the commitment to eat more, try introducing whole grains slowly. Initially, my family was not a great fan of whole grain pasta. We ate half and half. Start cooking the whole grain product first as it takes a bit longer; then add the white flour pasta. Serve whole grain pastas with heartier sauces that can stand up to the stronger flavor and texture: a Bolognese made with turkey; a sauce of tomatoes, lentils and pesto; whole grain pasta lasagna. Search the grocery aisles for whole grain couscous or pasta made from white whole-wheat flour. Make an Israeli (the larger diameter couscous) whole grain couscous salad with oil, lemon juice, feta, olives, tomatoes and cucumber. Serve it on locally grown spinach. This makes a great Greek style salad. Use whole grain basmati or jasmine rice for dishes that may be inspired by Asian or Indian ingredients. You really will not miss the white rice—though keep in mind that it can take as much as twice as long to cook a whole grain rice product.

Moving on to breads and cereals, there are so many options in the marketplace. Try whole grain raisin bread—make French toast with it. If you cannot find it in your store, ask for it. Whole cornmeal makes delicious muffins and pancakes with much more flavor and texture than the boxed pancake mixes that use white flour. Or try oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes. Add local maple syrup or blueberries and you will experience breakfast nirvana!

Finally, when purchasing breakfast cereals, look for those with “whole grain” as the first ingredient, whether it is whole wheat, cornmeal or oats. Serve with some local milk and strawberries.

For more information incorporating whole grains into your daily eating plan, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Making Soup

Minestrone soup

At St. Luke’s food pantry in Bridgeport UConn Extension reaches SNAP recipients with healthy eating tips and recipes. Heather Peracchio made minestrone soup with attendees. Canned vegetables are best for our health when labeled “no salt added,” or if you have regular or reduced sodium rinsing and draining the veggies or beans can help to remove up to 40% of the sodium. Here is the recipe.