Craving Comfort Foods

Casserole with meat and potatoes

In the fall, we crave warm, hearty foods like cheesy casseroles and hearty soups. Often, though, these “comfort foods” are high in fat, sodium, and calories.

The next time you make your favorite “comfort foods,” try these tips to make them healthier and even more enjoyable:

  • Add extra vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables—without added sauces, fats, or salt. Double the vegetables in a soup or casserole recipe to add extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Switch up your grains, making at least half of your grains whole grain. Like rice? Try replacing white rice with brown rice in your recipe. This month’s recipe uses brown rice.
  • Choose reduced-fat dairy foods, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, in casseroles and cream soups. Reduced-fat cheeses, for example, have less fat but just as much favor and melt just like full-fat cheese.
  • Use lean protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Cooking on a budget? Canned meats are just as nutritious, cheaper, and easier to use in casseroles.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, bit.ly/3kf72S4.

No Excuses to Moving More

Many people say they don’t have the time, energy, or resources needed to be active. Here are ways to overcome these barriers:

Workout equipment
  • Lack of time. Find two or three time slots of 10–15 minutes each day to schedule short bursts of activity, such as going for a walk. You can even find time to get active while you are at your desk. Try Desk Fit, 20 Essential Desk
  • Exercises, nasa.gov.
  • Motivation. Make activity a social event. Ask friends or family to join an activity. Encourage each other! This will benefit everyone, both physically and emotionally.
  • Low energy. Many people feel tired after work or doing household chores. Consider being active at the start of your day. This will keep other things from crowding out the opportunity later in the day. Moving your body first will improve your ability to manage whatever daily tasks you have ahead of you.
  • Fear of injury. Visit your health care provider to make sure activity is safe. Look for activities with low risk, such as walking or riding a stationary bicycle. SpendSmart. EatSmart has a chair workout, strength training, and stretching videos to use at home. See Physical Activity Videos, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.
  • Cost. Look for outdoor fitness equipment and recreation trails in your community. Libraries may offer exercise DVDs. Senior centers sometimes have free programs or equipment.

Source: Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity, cdc.gov.

September Is Breakfast Month!

Bowl of yogurt, granola, and blueberries

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day. Yet many skip it. If you’re someone who skips breakfast, try to change that as you get into your fall routine.

Breakfast provides the following:

  • mental alertness
  • important nutrients
  • reduction of chronic disease risk

Remember, a meal is simply a combination of foods from at least three food groups. Thus, breakfast doesn’t have to be huge. Here are some simple, nutrient-rich ideas:

  • Yogurt parfait with berries and low fat granola.
  • Whole wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter rolled around a banana.
  • Coffee Cup Scramble with eggs, milk, and cheese (Recipe, iowaegg.org, from Iowa Egg Council). Enjoy with a slice of toast and a cup of juice.
  • Whole grain cereal, topped with fruit and low-fat milk.

Check out more ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 6 Tips for Better Breakfasts, eatright.org.

Source: Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative, mdpi.com.

Creek Walking

Creek with water and rocks

Looking for a way to keep cool this summer? Try creek walking! It’s a great way to enjoy nature with family and friends, get a little exercise, and experience the outdoors. You don’t need much equipment to creek walk, just a pair of dirty tennis shoes or water socks to protect your feet.

Walking in the creek allows you to explore wildlife and native plants; find a fossil, bone, or antler; and leave the video games at home. Any stream can be unpredictable at times, so walk in the water when you can see the stream floor. Pack drinking water and snacks if you plan to walk a longer stretch. Towels and a change of clothes will provide a dry ride home. If walking alone, let someone know where and when you are going.

Find walking trails at Iowa Walking Trails and Maps, www.traillink.com.

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, www.iowadnr.gov.

Keep an Eye on These Nutrients

dark, leafy greens

August is National Eye Exam Month—a good reminder for us to get an eye exam! A simple checkup can reduce your risk of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts. Researchers have linked these nutrients to improved vision and overall eye health: lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and omega-3 oils.

Dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients protect eyes from sun damage. Eating them with olive oil helps our body absorb these nutrients.

Beta-carotene is found in deep orange and dark green vegetables, such as carrots, butternut squash, spinach, and collard greens. It helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness.

Vitamin C may help lower your risk of cataracts. Vitamin C is found in citrus foods, but also in sweet bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and cantaloupe.

Healthy fats such as omega-3s may be beneficial for eye health. Salmon and trout are good sources of omega-3s. Include fish in your meal plan two to three times each week.

Sources: Eat Right, eatright.org. American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org.

Take a Walk in the Park

Did you know Iowa has more than 70 state parks? Iowa State Parks celebrated their centennial in 2020. Didn’t make it to the celebration? That’s okay! The Iowa Department of Natural Resources still has “20 Walks in 2020” mapped routes, www.iowadnr.gov, to help you explore 20 of Iowa’s state parks. These routes are ideal for one or a small group or family.

Iowa By Trail is an app providing interactive maps for 2,000+ miles of Iowa trails. Users can fnd the closest trail to their current position. The app also provides other points of interest along the route, including museums, natural resources, and local restaurants.

What are you waiting for? Get out and walk or bike the trails this summer! You can also enjoy these other activities in Iowa parks:

  • Horseback riding
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Fishing

Sources: 20 Walks in 2020, iowadnr.gov; Iowa by Trail, inhf.org

Walk Abouts

We have heard a lot about the benefits of walking, but sometimes it seems boring to walk the same route all the time. There are ways to make it more interesting for everyone. Examples include the following:

  • Research community history and explore it on a walk.
  • Have you wondered about an interesting house or building in your community? Check with your local public library; they may have information about community history.
  • Another idea is to listen to a podcast or an audiobook on your walk. There are many interesting podcasts—some are educational, inspiring, or entertaining. Audiobooks are also available through most public library apps, including Libby and Overdrive, as well as paid services.

Keep these safety tips in mind when walking:

  • Let someone know where you are going.
  • Take a cell phone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Take a walking buddy for companionship.
  • Keep the volume of your headphones at a reasonable level so you can hear others, cars, etc.

June Is Hunger Awareness Month

In 2019, more than 35 million people in the United States struggled with hunger. Hunger is the physical sensation of discomfort due to not getting enough food. Every community in the country has families who struggle with food insecurity. Food insecurity is the lack of money or other financial resources for food. The pandemic has only increased the number of people facing food insecurity and hunger.

Living with food insecurity and hunger affects our mental and physical health. For children, hunger makes it difficult to concentrate and learn at school. Long periods of food insecurity can negatively impact growth and development in children and accelerate aging in older adults. Food insecurity increases the risk of infectious disease, chronic disease like diabetes or heart disease, and anxiety and depression.

Ways you can help:

  • Donate—If you are able, donate money and/or healthy foods to your local food bank or food pantries. Check out options for healthy food pantry donations at https://bit.ly/38Gmmkv.
  • Host a Food Drive—Contact your local food pantry for information on how to start a food drive.
  • Volunteer—Food banks and pantries can always use extra help. Spending just a few hours once or twice a month volunteering will make you feel great, too.
  • Spread the Word—Many people are unaware of the resources available in their community or how they can fight hunger.

If you or someone you know needs help, these resources are available:

Iowa Food Assistance Hotline, 855-944-FOOD (3663), to speak with someone about the Food Assistance Application.
2-1-1 connects callers to resources such as food pantries and support for older adults and persons with disabilities (such as home health services).

Source: Feeding America, www.feedingamerica.org.

Need a Workout Partner? Check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Physical Activity Videos.

Exercise mat and tennis shoes

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website has new physical activity videos. These are a great way to learn some new exercises. They can even serve as your virtual workout partner. They allow you to explore several types of workouts.

Like any good workout partner, these videos will also supply you with motivational tips to keep you going!

Go to Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video-category/physical-activity/, to check them out.

Two Rules for Safe Outdoor Meals

When cooking and serving meals outdoors, remember to make food safety part of your planning. Keep these two guidelines in mind:

Grilling meat and using a food thermometer
  1. Don’t Cross Contaminate
  • When marinating food for grilling, refrigerate during the marinade process.
  • Keep your raw fish, meat, and poultry away from any cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Have a clean plate to carry food to and from the grill.
  • Wash and sanitize all surfaces and utensils after they have been in contact with raw fish, meat, or poultry.
  • Be sure to have an extra clean utensil to remove cooked food from the grill.

2. Use a Food Thermometer

Experienced cooks may think they know when food is done just by looking at it, but this may not be the case. Burgers can turn brown before they are fully cooked. Germs that cause foodborne illness are not killed until a safe internal temperature is reached. This is where a food thermometer comes in. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know your food is done and safe to eat.

Use a thermometer to test for doneness:

  • Fish—145°F
  • Steaks, chops—145°F
  • Ground meat—160°F
  • Poultry—165°F

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