Strength in Stress

The past seven months have been stressful, so over the next few weeks we are going to have a series of blogs on stress. Contributors to the blogs who have expertise in the area of stress will teach us more about what it is, how to manage it, and how to use stress for good! The blogs will include how stress affects the body, eating habits, physical activity, sleep patterns, and family relationships. Today’s blog was written by Share Kelley, an Iowa Concern Hotline staff member, and will cover how stress affects the body.

Think of your body like a computer. It takes in information, and puts out responses. Pressure can be useful or harmful, which can result in brief responses like ‘Fight or Flight’. If our body had to respond all day, every day, it would drain our system. Like any computer, the body needs breaks.

Here are six ways you can recognize when your body needs a break:

  1. Headaches: Stress can trigger and intensify tension headaches. Drink a lot of water, avoid caffeine, take brain breaks, and limit screen time.
    1. Pro Tip: Schedule water breaks throughout the day.
  2. Stomachaches:  Stress can make tummy aches, nausea, and GI upset worse. Make healthy food choices for meals and snacks. Choose vitamin rich fruits and vegetables.
    1. Pro Tip:  Plan regular meals and snacks to refresh yourself.
  3. High Blood Pressure:  Stress tightens blood vessels causing high blood pressure. Schedule time during the day to do some deep breathing.
    1. Pro Tip:  Try 4-7-8 deep breathing. Inhale on a count of 4, hold for 7, exhale on a count of 8.
  4. Tense Muscles:  Stress tightens muscles causing stress aches in the head, neck, and back. Take time throughout the day to loosen tight muscles.
    1. Pro Tip:  Use muscle relaxation. Tighten then fully release one muscle group at a time from your toes all the way up to your forehead. Then sit with all muscles fully relaxed.
  5. Insomnia:  Stress can make it hard to fall asleep. Try reading, listening to relaxing music or guided meditation. Avoid screens before bed.
    1. Pro Tip:  Schedule sleep and block interruptions during that time. No calls, texts, or screens.
  6. Frequent Illness:  The immune system cannot function as well when the body is already stressed.
    1. Pro Tip: Use the tips above to create a routine so your body is ready to fight infections.

If you are struggling with stress or if you would like more information, check out the Iowa Concern website.

In addition, the State of Iowa has received federal funding to offer free virtual counseling and assistance to those affected, in any way, by COVID-19. COVID Recovery Iowa provides counseling, virtual activities, referrals and help finding resources to any Iowan seeking assistance or a listening ear. For more information, visit https://covidrecoveryiowa.org.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Ways to Enjoy Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are a nutritious legume grown all over the world and popular in many cuisines. Garbanzos are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They are very inexpensive and can be found canned or dry. They can be used in many dishes and can be swapped for other beans or lentils in your favorite recipes.

Try them:

Here are some ways to cook dried chickpeas:

  • In a large pot, using 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until desired tenderness (usually anywhere between 1 hour to 2 hours)
  • In a slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours
  • In a pressure cooker with a sealed lid (12 minutes if pre-soaked or 50 minutes without pre-soaking), and naturally releasing the pressure for 10 minutes

My favorite way to prepare garbanzos is to cook them until soft and mix them with a stew made of pureed carrots, onions, peppers, and garlic. The veggies can be cooked (without chopping them) with the garbanzos and then pureed separately to make the stew. You can add whatever spices on hand to the stew such as salt, pepper, cumin, and turmeric to taste. I then add the garbanzos to the stew and serve over rice.

I encourage you to give garbanzo beans a try!

Written by: Paula Gutierrez, ISU Dietetic Intern

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Super Snacks for Super Kids

The return to school can be hectic for both children and parents. This year, school may look different for your family, but no doubt, your children will still be hungry come snack time! The good news is that snacks are a good way to make sure your child is meeting their nutritional needs. Sometimes it can be difficult to meet these needs simply through food at mealtimes.

While it is easy for kids to grab a bag of chips to snack on, there are some ways you can make snacking both hassle-free and nutritious!

  • Choose snacks that your kids enjoy: Make a list of snack options and ask your kids which ones they like the most.
  • Plan ahead: Choose and prepare nutritious snacks ahead of time so that they are ready to go. Your kids may be able to help in preparation as well!
  • Keeping them accessible: Keep nutritious snacks where kids can easily see or grab them.
  • Make snack time fun: Having snacks with bright colors and different textures is visually appealing to kids.

Luckily, there are many different ways you can incorporate nutritious food into your child’s diet through snack time. You can find them in every food group, so you can always switch it up to fit your child’s needs. Here are some quick and easy snack ideas you can try at home:

For additional snack and recipe ideas, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Written by Jonnee Sulzberger, ISU Dietetic Intern

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Cool Treat for Summer’s Heat

berry banana popsicles

During the summer, I can often find my kids looking through our freezer to see what kind of frozen treat they can find. Usually they can find some sort of popsicles and, once in a while, some ice cream. They also like making their own popsicles. One of Paige’s favorite kind of popsicles to make are the Berry Banana Popsicles from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

I like the recipe too because it is a simple, yet filling, snack for my kids. The only ingredients are strawberries, bananas, and yogurt. We like to chop the fruit up and mix in the yogurt before putting into the molds to freeze. You can also mix all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth before putting into the popsicle molds.

If your family doesn’t like strawberries or bananas, use different fruits such as blueberries, cherries, or raspberries. We also have a recipe for Apricot Pops.

Making the popsicles is a fun way to get kids involved in the kitchen. They can chop the fruit up with a butter knife or plastic knife and stir into the yogurt.

Share with us what kind of fruit you would use in your popsicles.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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What’s Cooking in Jody’s Kitchen? Part 2

On Monday I shared that my family’s list of favorite meals has been helpful for meal planning while we are spending our days at home. Today I’ll share some of our favorites that I’m planning to make. Normally, we are on the go and I plan meals for specific days based on how much time I will have to cook. Now that we are just home, I have a list of recipes that I can make and I choose in the afternoon what we will have for supper. If I am cooking then I get to pick! Mom’s prerogative! For breakfast and lunch, we are keeping it simple. If you would like some snack ideas, check out my blog on snacking

Here are some of our favorite meals:

Lentil Tacos
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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What’s Cooking in Jody’s Kitchen?

Last week Katy kicked off our series of sharing how the members of our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team are meal planning and cooking during the current pandemic. This week I’ll share what I’m cooking in my kitchen!

I’m currently working from home while also trying to do a little homeschooling with my 10 year old son and 6 year old daughter. Never a dull moment! My husband is in law enforcement so he is still going to work during the day.

When I first learned that I was going to be working from home and my kids would be home with me, I started working on a schedule and thinking about my meal plan. I have to admit though, we didn’t even follow the schedule on the first day. I quickly realized we were going to need to be flexible based on my work commitments. The one part of that schedule that has stuck is when we eat. This helps my kids know when the next meal or snack is coming so I’m not constantly asked if they can have a snack or when we are going to eat. This is also a nice sense of normalcy for them as meals and snacks at school happened on a schedule.

Something that has been helpful for meal planning during this time is a list I keep of my family’s favorit meals. I created this a while ago and have it hanging on a board in my kitchen. I look through it to see what meals use items that I can keep on hand or are easy to adapt. For example, tacos is one of our favorite meals. And I like that they are simple to make! I have a few packets of taco seasoning on hand (and I know I can make some homemade taco seasoning as well)). I’ve bought some extra hamburger and shredded cheese to put in the freezer and I have a couple packets of taco shells in my pantry. I almost always have salsa and sour cream in the refrigerator because we use them frequently. We also like to have spinach leaves with our tacos but if we haven’t been to the store recently and don’t have any, we just go without.

To help with meal planning during this time, I’d recommend making a list of your family’s favorite meals. I find it helps meal planning go quicker and I’m not spending as much time trying to think about what we should have. Sometimes we have to adapt the recipe based on what’s available but are still getting to enjoy foods we like. 

Family Favorite Meals
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Mom, I’m hungry!

These are words I hear often in my house these days. As my family spends our days at home, snacking is something my kids want to do more often. If you’ve found yourself in the same boat, here are some tips that I use for snacks (and meals too!) at our house.

  1. Set a meal and snack schedule. This is something we always do, it’s just that our routine has changed. Even though our days are less structured, I still keep a meal and snack schedule so my kids know when the next opportunity to eat is. I offer a meal or snack for my kids every 3-4 hours.
  2. Offer foods with protein, fat, and fiber. These three things provide us with the nutrition we need each day and help to fill us up until it’s time to eat again. For example, Goldfish are a popular snack for kids. However, they are low in protein, fat and fiber. Therefore, if they are offered as a snack, provide a cheese stick with them since it has protein and fat (and calcium!) and will help make this tasty snack more filling.
  3. Eat in the kitchen. At our house, we eat in the kitchen. This keeps us from mindlessly eating in the living room or our bedrooms. And it prevents crumbs from being found all around the house!
  4. Eat from a bowl or plate. One of my daughter’s favorite snacks is popcorn. She likes to get it from the cupboard and start eating it from the bag. Then I gently remind her that we eat our meals and snacks from a bowl or plate. This also helps us not mindlessly eat. 

Here are some snacks we like at our house:

  • Popcorn
  • Cheese sticks
  • Beef sticks
  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Pepper strips, carrots and snap peas with hummus
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peanut Butter Balls
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Muffins 
  • Trail mix
peanut butter balls
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Meals and Snacks from the Pantry

In the coming weeks many of us will be spending most of our time at home and doing lots of food preparation for ourselves and our families. As you prepare your grocery list and plan your meals for the weeks ahead, below are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that can be made from pantry staples or made ahead and frozen.

These recipes use items I keep on hand to help with quick, nutritious meals for my family.  Some of my go-to staple ingredients are canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned fruit, chicken broth, peanut butter, quick oats, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread, frozen chicken breast, and onions. Since most of us are still able to get to the grocery store, there is no need to buy excessive amounts of food, but buy some extra items each time you go so you have a good supply on hand and do not need to go as often.

Winter Black Bean Soup

Oatmeal Pancakes

Peanut Butter Balls

Crispy Granola

Make Ahead Burritos

Berry and Greens Smoothies

Mexican Chicken Soup

Vegetable Quesadillas

Lentil Tacos

And to help you with your meal planning, check out our 5 Day Meal Planner.

Stay healthy!

Make Ahead Burritos
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Strength Training: It does a body good

Last week I shared a sample plan on how to include our at-home workouts into your weekly exercise plan. This week I want to share some more information and tips on strength training. It is recommended to do muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. Strength training is important for everyone. As we age, if we don’t use our muscles, they get weaker and we are less able to do normal daily activities.

I find that most often, people are comfortable doing physical activities that strengthen their heart and lungs such as walking, running, biking, or swimming. And they are less comfortable doing activities that strengthen their muscles such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and core exercises. Often this is because they aren’t sure how to properly perform these exercises. That is where following our Beginner Strength Training video is helpful. 

Good form is very important when strength training to prevent injury. Here are some tips to keep in mind when strength training.

  • Keep your core tight by pulling your belly button in toward your back. This helps to support your low back while being active.
  • Exhale during the difficult part of the exercise. For example, when doing an overhead press, exhale when you push the weight over your head. Inhale as you lower the weights back down. 
  • Choose a weight that allows you to complete the full range of motion for each exercise. For example, if you cannot raise your arms up to shoulder height for front shoulder raises, choose a lighter weight. 

As your fitness level improves, increase the difficulty of the At-home Beginner Strength Training workout by increasing the amount of weight you use or repeat the set of exercises 2-3 times.
For additional strength training exercises, check out the American Council on Exercise website.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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A Happy, Healthy Heart

February is American Heart month. It’s a time to focus on habits that can help us live heart healthy lives. This is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. 

One habit that makes your heart happy is being active. Any opportunity to move is good for your heart, such as taking the stairs or playing with your kids. It’s also important to include some planned physical activity in to your week to increase your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. 

Last year we added some at-home workout videos to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website that can help you increase your activity. Below is a sample calendar for how to incorporate them into your weekly workout plan

Sample week

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7
At-home workoutBeginner Strength Training30 minute walkRest or stretchingAt-home workoutCardio IntervalAt-home workout Beginner Strength TrainingRest or stretching30 minutewalk

Here are some key points to keep in mind.

  • Exercise Safely – Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise plan.
  • Consistency-The most important key to success is consistency. The recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week is a goal. However, it is better to be active for a short amount of time on a regular basis than not do anything because of limited time or energy. 
  • Variety-Variety in your workouts and in the intensity of the workouts throughout the week helps prevent boredom. It also allows you to move your body in different ways to strengthen different muscle groups. 
  • Rest days-It is important to include rest days throughout the week. This allows your body time to recover and get stronger. Rest days may also include some gentle stretching. Listen to your body and, if needed, add an extra rest day.
  • Fuel your activity-In order to have the energy and strength to be active, it is important to fuel your body. Use the MyPlate Plan to determine how much you need to eat from each food group. 

Use the Move Your Way Activity Planner to start planning your weekly routine to build a healthy and happy heart!

woman stretching
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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