nutrition

Umekia “Mickey” Taylor: Educator Spotlight

Merging Fitness and Nutrition to Create Healthy Lifestyles 

Umekia TaylorUmekia “Mickey” Taylor ’83 (CAHNR) merges fitness and nutrition to help people create healthy lifestyles. She is a community nutrition extension educator and the supervisor for Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in New Haven County. “UConn Extension’s nutrition outreach education is valuable because we meet people where they are. Then, we bring them to whatever level they want to go to,” Mickey says. “We’re here to serve the people of Connecticut and bring value to their lives.”

Growing up in Meriden, she always had an interest in food and experimented with recipes in her family’s kitchen. She wanted a health-related career that included food and education. Taylor found a brochure in her high school guidance department about the Allied Health Sciences dietetics program at UConn. She had not heard about it this career, but it intrigued her. 

Seniors in UConn’s dietetics program complete different practicums. Taylor gravitated towards the community nutrition practicum. She went on to earn her master of science degree in human performance from Southern Connecticut State University. “I wanted to incorporate fitness as a thread in my career,” she says. “Fitness is practical choices too. Parking farther away from your destination and walking makes a significant difference. Speed walking while running errands, all these small actions add up.” 

Her first role was the nutritionist with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in New Haven. Taylor is bilingual and immersed in the Spanish language as she worked with the program participants. She began her career with UConn Extension in 1993.    

“In working with EFNEP, there’s a lot of linkages we make with other fields in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources and throughout UConn,” Taylor says. “I had close relationships with the UConn 4-H program through Wanda Little, who is a retired UConn 4-H educator and was my mentor. I’ve kept that model in my programming.”  

Taylor works with collaborative teams at UConn. One of these is the People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability (PATHS) team. The team uses trails and exercise to improve health outcomes in residents statewide. Extension educators are not islands, and she emphasizes the benefits of different expertise. 

The rewards of being an Extension educator are when participants are engaged and learning – that is when you can make an impact. Taylor and the EFNEP teamwork with people over time. They start slight changes with them that have positive impacts on their health. 

“Nutrition involves balance and variety is important,” she says. “You don’t need to go to one extreme or another. We all have cravings, and it is okay to have a treat occasionally, and then get back to healthy eating. A diet should be a well-balanced approach and fun.” 

New discoveries and recommendations challenge nutrition and health educators. All science-based educators face this same challenge. This causes mistrust or negative public perceptions. Taylor follows the research and educates her audiences as the science changes. She addresses those misconceptions because people are looking for accurate information.

Taylor’s recent focus is on social media, online education, and training community leaders. “I love the model where we work with teens and then they teach nutrition education in their communities,” she says. Taylor had a USDA-AFRI grant to build this model and is pursuing another grant for further work in the field. Other 4-H and nutrition programs replicated her project.

The past few years have also highlighted the racial inequities that still exist. Taylor participated in UConn’s Anti-Black Racism Course. She connected to the topics and concepts as an African American woman whose parents are from South Carolina. She found the course enlightening, and timely in the wake of violence, hate crimes and injustice against black and brown people. She continues engaging in topical discussions with the Extension Anti-Racism Learning Group.  

Taylor’s community nutrition and fitness programs improve the lives of Connecticut residents. Her work is representative of the land-grant mission as she engages audiences with UConn’s research and teaching. Taylor brings enthusiasm and creativity to community nutrition and established models that are enhancing the lives of residents across the nation.  

Article by Stacey Stearns 

Extension EFNEP Programming Positively Impacts Participants

Heather and a volunteer in their masksOur Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) shifted during the pandemic, just as everyone did. Last summer I had the opportunity to work with Bristol and New Britain HRA programs teaching their summer youth employment program. Their Program Director asked me to create a five-week virtual class, with 16 hours’ worth of work per week for their students. We had 20 students on each program. The program started three weeks after I received the request and I had to quickly think about how to best teach EFNEP nutrition education virtually to teenagers!
I was lucky to have a UConn student intern, Autumn Blasi, to help with the program! Although we never met in person, we worked together virtually to create a one of kind program!
I learned and used  Google classroom to create meaningful lessons for students. Each week students had to watch videos,  research, and complete project-based assignments. Students had to photograph their gardens each week to show progress. Students researched how to do different exercises and had to create beginners’ guides. Every week we had a virtual WebEx class.
Each week of the EFNEP/HRA program was theme-based on the growth of a plant. Week one was seeds and roots, week two was stems, week three was leaves, week four was flowers, week five was fruits and vegetables. Each week students had to find foods and recipes based on the week’s theme. They also had to research and report on nutrient and calorie content, selection, and storage of foods from the weeks theme.  I decided to do three “distribution” days every other week, that gave the students the tools to do hands-on, project-based learning at home.  I also divided the program into four concentration areas: gardening, nutrition, fitness, and future self with four hours of work in each. We had the students create SMART goals for each concentration area. Students had to photograph their gardens each week to show progress. Students researched how to do different exercises and had to create beginners’ guides. Every week we had four separate virtual WebEx classes with different groups of students. On distribution weeks we had a hands-on virtual class where we made recipes together.
In the beginning of the process I thought students would want connection to other students and tried to create group projects. I also thought students would want to be “seen” through the process, but they usually did not want to have their camera on. It was always their choice! It seemed that they liked the affirmation of the grading process best. They strived to do the work and wanted to make sure I SAW it. They were polite and engaged and asked for more work! They would ask for the  next weeks work if they finished the present weeks work. They started to become more confident and comfortable with the process over the last weeks. I  learned a lot during the process. I am grateful for the project!
On week one, we scheduled a safe, socially distanced distribution to students. Each student received a “EFNEP cooking kit”- with a meat thermometer, measuring cups, recipe books, and an insulated grocery bag. They also received a “container pizza garden”- students had a chance to identify each plant and plant their containers, it was like 40 – 10 minute lessons from afar! These distribution were done in the community at two different locations.
On week three we distributed the ingredients for overnight oats, and a fear factor food (spinach) to do our online recipe together. We had many technical difficulties that day and our intern stepped in to “show” the recipe because I lost video! We had the students “use your oats again,” and use your fear factor food and post the pictures. The students did an amazing job!
On week five we distributed prizes and the ingredients for our last WebEx virtual recipe, ” Salsa Pasta.” I had hoped to use the vegetables from the student’s container gardens, but the plants the agency provided were very small. I had to replace some students’ plants during the program due to critters eating them! This was my most successful video and audio! I finally figured out how to just use my office for the recipe. I made the recipe four times – two groups on Wednesday and two groups on Thursday. I also gave students other ways to make the recipe into soup and macaroni and cheese.
I heard from parents who said they benefitted from the class, in addition to their child. Especially downloading a step tracker and food diary app. They liked the SMART goals and saw improvement in some of their children’s behavior and confidence.
Our student intern, Autumn added so much to the program! She added assignments for the students on body image, diabetes, how to dress for an interview, and critiquing nutrition information on social media.
Article by Heather Pease, UConn EFNEP Educator

Ready, Set, Go! For a Healthier You!

Welcome any youth between the ages of 7 and 18 interested in challenging themselves to improve how they feel and how they feel about themselves.  Join us for the next 6 weeks in learning about ways to practice good habits, and getting rewarded for doing it.  We will be holding a weekly workshop on a variety of healthy living topics that will be followed by a week-long challenge related to that topic. Your participation will earn points towards fun prizes – the more workshops you attend and challenges you complete, the more prizes you will become eligible for. No charge to participate!! This activity is sponsored by an award from National 4-H Council and the Walmart Foundation.

Ready, Set, Go! For a Healthier You! – Weekly Topics

  • Let’s Get Moving – June 15th, 7 p.m. – Focus on physical fitness and making summer safety a breeze
  • What’s Cooking? – June 22nd, 7 p.m. – Summer fun in the kitchen
  • Lettuce Learn about Nutrition – June 29th, 7 p.m. – What’s on your plate?
  • Go Bag Go! – July 6th, 7 p.m. – Make a go-bag 
  • Ready to be Mindful – July 13th, 7 p.m. – Taking a closer look  
  • Hydration Station – July 20th, 7 p.m. – Getting bored with water?
  • 4-H Healthy Living Awards and Recognition Ceremony 

 Secure your place now – first workshop is next Tuesday, June 15.  Special offer to the first 50 registering – free 4-H zippered bag to be used for storing supplies in case of emergency.  Any questions, email Margaret.grillo@uconn.edu

Click Here to Register

UConn EFNEP Adult Course May 2021 Graduates!

Heather, Molly, and Juliana of our UConn Expanded Food and Nutrition Program led participants through a virtual nutrition and cooking class. 

After completion participants shared:

“Best class ever!”

“The class was great, complete information, I liked it and learned a lot about food, hygiene, and sugary drinks. The drink class was very informative! Thank you to both educators and the translator. We really appreciated the materials and utensils.”

“I looked forward to this class each week, you have been part of our home the past 5 weeks.”

“I didn’t like cooking before but I do now.  I have tried the recipes and my family enjoys them. These last 12 months have been so hard. I never thought being on the computer would bring me joy.”

“When I made the lentil burgers I thought they would taste disgusting, but I tried them and they were SO good!” 

We love the wonderful feedback. Congratulations graduates!

Click here to learn more about UConn EFNEP

people in a zoom meeting

Danbury Head Start and EFNEP Zoom Graduation

“Me encanto aprendí mucho.”

Fue de mucha ayuda y ahora lo pongo en práctica. Me ayudo mucho a comer más saludable y a gastar menos dinero comprando comida en ofertas.”

“Tratare de integrar a mis comidas todos los consejos que aprendi en esta clase ya que son muy productivos. Gracias por compartir con nosotras todos sus conocimentos de cocina.” 

“Me fijaré más en la lista de nutrición de los productos, para controlar en no exceder en los valores diarios, tratar de poner en práctica las recomendaciones de relajación para cuando tenga mucha presión en mis tareas diarias, consumir comida más sana de manera divertida para mis niños.”

Some words shared by Danbury Head Start parents after completing their EFNEP course. 

Learn more about our UConn EFNEP program at https://efnep.uconn.edu/.

people in a zoom meeting

UConn EFNEP Celebrates National Nutrition Month

vegetables on a white dinner plateMarch is National Nutrition Month! This past year has proven that nutrition and health are more important to all of us than ever. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is UConn Extension’s outreach nutrition program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Since EFNEP’s inception as a USDA demonstration program in 1968, community educators work with low-income, limited resource families with children to learn how to food shop, prepare and eat more healthily as well as increase physical activity.

National Nutrition Month is a natural connection for EFNEP’s year round healthy lifestyle education. Designated in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this promotion began as a weeklong campaign to promote the profession as well as to communicate nutrition messages to the public. As a result of growing consumer interest, there was a transition to month long event in 1980. Each year a theme is chosen to embody health through nutrition and physical activity.

This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate because everyone is unique in regard to body type, goals, cultural background, taste preferences and experiences. During this unprecedented past year, EFNEP has pivoted along with the rest of the world to social media for connection and engagement with friends, family and acquaintances. Through the EFNEP Facebook page and Extension Instagram and website, messages have included recipes, video short talks and cooking demonstrations to highlight how to Personalize Your Plate. Join us on social media and our websites to learn more about nutrition and healthy lifestyle education.

National Nutrition Month Video Topics:

March is National Nutrition Month: English https://youtu.be/b-nDAgkU9ks
                                                        Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GpfOweLl-s
What is EFNEP: English https://youtu.be/9NeSq0Tk2es
                           Spanish https://youtu.be/fRh7QoiyX3Q
                           Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGE3HrSJ30Y&feature=youtu.be

Article by Umekia R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN; UConn Educator/EFNEP Supervisor

Reference

Denny S. National nutrition month: a brief history. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106 (3):365-366.

CT Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Member Spotlight: Heather Peracchio MS, RDN, CD-N

Heather Peracchio MS, RDN, CD-N

Heather at Daily Bread

Do you have a current/past  position with the CT AND Board?

I have been many positions on the CT AND board but currently I am the Food Security and Sustainability Co-Chair.

 

What inspired you to become a RDN?

My first year at UConn I found the course ‘The Science of Food’ fascinating and was inspired to take more classes in Nutritional Sciences. I have had an interest in food and cooking from a young age. In fact, my mom taught after school cooking programs for elementary age students and I was her assistant. 

 

Where do you work now and where have you worked in the past? 

I currently work as an Assistant Extension Educator at the University of Connecticut based out of the Fairfield County Extension office.  I have been faculty at UConn since 2008, first working in the Department of Allied Health Sciences as a community nutrition preceptor (2008-2012) and then transferred to my current role and office in Bethel, CT (2012-current) as my husband and I settled in nearby Brookfield and started our family.  I also worked part-time as an outpatient dietitian at Community Health Center, Inc. covering Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford locations 2012-2018. 

 

What is your favorite recipe/food?

I could never pick just one! I love cooking and have many favorites. I especially enjoy sharing recipes with friends and clients that are delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare.

 

How is food related to your culture?

My parents and grandparents valued food and its origin.  My grandparents on my fathers side were farmers and very much connected to the land. My grandfather grew up on a dairy farm, Quinnequack Farm in Northeast Connecticut and my grandmother as the daughter of a dairy owner, Arrow Lakes Dairy in Cranston, RI. My grandparents on my mothers side were avid gardeners and wonderful cooks. Growing up my parents and grandparents shared many stories and recipes that had been passed down to them.

 

General tip for improving diet?

Make half your plate fruits and veggies! I am always sure to share this simple tip in presentations as it can easily shift one’s diet in a more healthful direction. 

 

If stranded on island-what one food or beverage you would want an unlimited supply of?

Coffee

 

What is the best part of your job?

I love my job because each day is different. At times I am working on research projects or writing grants, other times I am connecting with community partners such as emergency food sites or I might be in the field giving presentations or attending health fairs. No two days look alike.

 

How has Covid-19 changed the way that you do your job?

The majority of my work has shifted to telecommuting, spending much of my day in virtual meetings or chatting with colleagues on Microsoft teams. My nutrition presentations and class series have transitioned to a virtual format. Also all data collection tools that were traditionally pen and paper have been transitioned to online survey formats.  It is certainly different but I am still doing what I love.

Where do you want to see the RDN/NDTR profession in 10 years?

I would love to see RDNs working more in primary care.  In my role at CHC I saw the value and appreciation for RDNs in primary care and enjoyed working as part of an interdisciplinary team.  I hope that model of care expands and RDNs work more in primary care clinics as well as alongside pharmacists in community pharmacies.  Pharmacies are quickly becoming the go-to resource for primary care and will become more important as vaccination efforts increase. I feel this could be a great place for multidisciplinary work and a great way for RDNs to connect with patients. 

Original Post

Eat SMART in the New Year!

Written by UConn registered dietitian-nutritionist Donna Zigmont, RDN, CD-N

 

Goal Setting graphic
Source: Free goal setting clip art

Every January, millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to make positive changes in their lives. After a very difficult 2020 due to COVID-19, we are hopeful that 2021 will be more promising for all of us. Many of us have had to put our own health and well-being on pause during the pandemic due to emotional and financial stress, changes in our routine, loneliness, caring for loved ones, or homeschooling our children.

With the start of a new year, it’s a good time to think about making positive changes to improve our nutritional health.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Focus on making small, doable changes in your habits that you can do over time. This is the best way to change behaviors for the long-term.
  • Write your goals down on a piece of paper (or enter them on your computer, tablet, or Smart phone!). This can improve your chances of reaching your goals. It’s like making a personal contract with yourself!
  • bullseye target and goalsEnlist the support of family and friends. Sharing your goals with others makes your goals more concrete or real. Plus, family and friends can provide you with encouragement and help motivate you to reach your goals.
  • Use SMART goals to maximize your success.

What is a SMART goal? SMART goals are much more than simply stating something you want to accomplish. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time based.

  • fruitsSpecific – Make sure your goals are very specific, rather than general, in terms of what you want to accomplish. Instead of saying “I will eat healthier,” be more specific as to how you will eat healthier, such as “I will eat more fruits and veggies.”
  • Measurable  Have a way to track and measure your success to know if you’ve met your goals. Include numbers whenever possible! Are you working on trying to eat more whole grains? Set a measurable goal such as “I will eat at least one serving of whole grains daily.”
  • Achievable – Set goals that are realistic – goals you can achieve without setting the bar too high. If you typically eat donuts every day of the week, are you realistically going to be able to give them up altogether? Nor should you. Make a starting goal to cut back on eating donuts to 3 days a week, eventually eating donuts only as a special treat
  • calendarRelevant  Make sure you are working on a goal that makes sense to you and fits in with your other goals. If you’re not motivated to work on including more low-fat dairy foods in your diet, select a different goal to work on.
  • Time-Bound  Set a target date to achieve your goal. Again, use numbers here! Such as, “I will eat seafood at least once a week this month.”

Here are more examples of SMART goals:

“I will eat a piece of fruit for a snack 4 days out of the week for the next 2 weeks.”

“I will try a new recipe with beans this week.”

“I will fill half my plate with veggies at dinner 4 nights this week.”

“I will drink 8 ounces of water with each meal this week.”

“I will try 2 new whole grains this week, like barley and quinoa.”

Now you try it! Record one SMART goal you want to focus on. Check to see that it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time sensitive. Ask yourself: What specific part of my diet will I work on first? How will I track and measure my success? Can I realistically achieve this goal? Is it relevant to me and am I motivated to make this change? What is the short-term time frame I will work on this goal? This week, the next 2 weeks, this month?

Once you reach your goal, set another SMART goal to work on. Before you know it, your small changes will add up to HUGE results!

Make it a goal to try a plant-based, meatless meal this week!

Veggie Pizza Pita Pockets – Makes 1 Serving

Ingredients
Veggie Pizza Pita Pockets1 pita, whole wheat (or use whole wheat English muffin)
4 Tbs. tomato sauce, unsalted
4 Tbs. shredded mozzarella cheese, part-skim
2 of the following vegetables: (or use more to increase your veggies!) green & red peppers, sliced mushrooms, chopped broccoli, chopped red onion, chopped spinach

Instructions

  1. Spread tomato sauce on pita.
  2. Sprinkle various chopped vegetable over sauce.
  3. Sprinkle cheese on top of vegetables.
  4. Microwave 35-45 seconds or broil in oven until cheese melts. Slice in half, let cool, and enjoy!​

One Skillet Meal – Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients

One Skillet Meal1 package broccoli (10 ounces, frozen, can also use mustard greens, collard greens or spinach)

2 cans stewed tomatoes, low sodium (about 30 ounces)

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1 can white beans (15 ounces, rinsed and drained)

Pepper, oregano, basil, or hot pepper (other spices to taste)

Directions

  1. Steam greens in the stewed tomatoes using a small pan, pot, or electric skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Cook greens 10 to 20 minutes, until they are as soft as you like them. Stir gently.
  3. Add the rice, canned beans, and seasonings; cook until heated through.

For more tasty, low-cost recipes visit Healthy Family CT Recipes:  https://communitynutrition.cahnr.uconn.edu/recipes/

UConn SNAP-Ed logoThis material was funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
This institution is an equal opportunity employer.

 

UConn 4-H in 40: Surviving the Holidays

UConn 4-H presents

4-H in 40

A Series of Virtual Workshops for Adults the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm. 

These workshops are open to any interested adults- volunteers, 4-H leaders, parents, and community members. The opportunity to register will continue through the year. Each presentation is 20-30 minutes long, followed by 10-20 minutes discussion time (so the workshop is done in 40 minutes!).

Click here to register. The Zoom login will be emailed to you, along with any handouts that accompany workshops.

Alli is a social worker, nutrition and health coach, and personal trainer with an extensive back ground in mental health. She works with adults to find their bio-individual balance and achieve goals with nutrition, health, wellness, and lifestyle.

Register Here

words, basket with vegetables, christmas wreath

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.