Protect Your Eyesight

Man at eye exam

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for adults over age 50. The macula is part of the back of the eye that detects light. When the macula breaks down, central vision becomes blurry. This affects the ability to see fine details.

Early signs and symptoms of AMD:

  • Increased blurriness of smaller print
  • Fuzzy appearance of straight lines
  • Increased difficulty adapting to dim light
  • Difficulty recognizing faces

AMD can be prevented and/or treated. To help lower your risk of AMD, keep the following in mind:

  • Wear sunglasses to prevent UV damage.
  • Choose lutein-rich foods. Lutein maintains eye health. The body does not make lutein, so it needs to come from the diet. Lutein-rich foods include egg yolks, dark green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, and fruits such as kiwi and grapes. Check out your local farmers market, go.iastate.edu/E16ZAI, for lutein-rich produce.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can advance AMD damage. If you are ready to quit, call the tobacco hotline at 1-800-784-8669. The hotline is open 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Get regular eye exams. Early treatment is critical to prevent common eye diseases from causing permanent damage. EyeCare America, go.iastate.edu/HBIWUX, provides free eye exams for adults ages 65 years and older.

Sources:
Dry Macular Degeneration, go.iastate.edu/SX6LN1
Age-Related Macular Degeneration, go.iastate.edu/AJCG3Z

Go SNAP, For Healthy Foods

More than 38 million adults and children in the United States are going hungry. In Iowa, 1 in 11 Iowans face hunger. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest anti-hunger federal program. It fights poverty by improving access to affordable and nutritious food. SNAP allows individuals and families with limited income to buy food. It can also be used to buy seeds and plants to grow food.

People can use SNAP benefits at grocery stores, convenience stores, and even farmers markets, bit.ly/3B6xYdc! Farmers markets sell fresh, local produce that help you enjoy the taste of summer.

If you need help completing the online or paper application, you may contact your local DHS office. You can also call the Iowa SNAP Hotline, 855-944-3663, to speak with someone who can help with the SNAP application. The hotline is open 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Sources:
Food Bank of Iowa, foodbankiowa.org
Food Security in the U.S., bit.ly/3sWyiI8

Menu Planning Tips and Tricks

5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet

Sticking to your budget while eating healthy is possible! Planning is the first step. Menu planning helps you save time, save money, and make healthier choices.

You can personalize your menu by choosing nutrient-dense foods you enjoy. Nutrient-dense foods are high in vitamins and minerals without much saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.

Start with these tips below:

  • Check what you have on hand. Check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for foods that will soon expire or need to be used up. Make a note of how to use those ingredients in your planner. This can save you money at the grocery store and decrease food waste.
  • Don’t throw that away! Plan for leftovers. For example, if you make a spinach salad on Monday, use the leftover spinach to make a smoothie for breakfast. Another idea is if you make grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in chicken salad.
  • Use MyPlate. Healthy meals can be simple and tasty. Plan a meal that has something from at least three MyPlate food groups. This is an easy way to make sure your meals are healthy and nutrient-dense.
  • Think ahead to your family’s schedules. Do you need quick and easy meals? Are you hosting company? Do you need to harvest your garden? Using a five-day meal planning worksheet can help you plan a menu based on your weekly needs.

Source: MyPlate, myplate.gov

Spring Clean Your Refrigerator

Man spraying cleaning fluid on refrigerator shelves

A well-organized refrigerator helps reduce food waste and save money. You should aim to deep clean your refrigerator every three to four months. Follow these steps to clean and organize your refrigerator:

  1. Remove everything. Throw out food that has spoiled or expired and leftovers more than four days old.
  2. Put perishables, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and eggs, in a cooler with ice or ice packs to keep cold while cleaning the refrigerator.
  3. Wash all shelves, drawers, and walls with hot soapy water. Rinse with clean, hot water and let air dry. Replace drawers and shelves once they are dry.
  4. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is 40ºF or below, so your food is safe to eat.
  5. Group similar foods together as you put them back in the refrigerator. Label and date all foods.
    • Crisper drawers: Keep fruits and vegetables.
    • Deli drawers: Store deli meats and cheeses.
    • Lowest shelf: Place raw meats on a plate, so they do not drip onto other foods.
    • Back of refrigerator: Keep milk and eggs, so they stay cold.
    • Door: Store sauces and condiments.
  6. Once a year, clean the back and bottom of the fridge. This helps it to operate efficiently.

For more information, watch the Organize Your Fridge video, bit.ly/3CT20lS, on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website.

Tend a Garden to Make Your Health Bloom

Two people gardening

Spring is finally here, and many families are enjoying the warmer weather by planning their gardens. The fresh produce from gardens certainly improves our diets. As a bonus, gardening helps us be active! The Centers for Disease Control considers gardening a moderate intensity activity. Gardening helps get us the recommended 2 1/2 hours of activity we need each week. Working in a garden allows us to get vitamin D from the sun. It helps relieve stress. It might even lower our risk of dementia!

To learn more health benefits of gardening, listen to the Sow, Grow, Eat, and Keep videos, bit.ly/3JiahSB.

Fermented Foods Support Your Health

Bread

People have been fermenting foods for nearly 10,000 years. Fermented foods we eat today include sourdough bread, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.

  1. In fermentation, Lactobacilli, which are natural bacteria found in fresh vegetables, feed on carbohydrates and excrete lactic acid. The lactic acid helps preserve the vegetables and gives foods a bright color and tangy flavor.
  2. Fermented foods have many health benefits. They give the body needed probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms that live in the gut. They improve digestion, lower inflammation, and strengthen the immune system.
  3. To add more fermented foods in your diet, consider the following:
    • Eat yogurt for breakfast or a snack. Enjoy it alone, with fruit, or made into a smoothie.
    • You can also use kefir to make a smoothie. This tangy dairy beverage provides a different variety of Lactobacilli than most yogurts do.
    • Toss a little sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) into a sandwich or wrap.
    • Enjoy tempeh or miso, which are fermented soybeans. Tempeh has a nutty, hearty, mushroom-like flavor. Add it to a noodle bowl with vegetables.
    • Have naturally fermented dill pickles as a snack or a hamburger topping. Most pickles at the grocery store have been packed in vinegar and spices, not fermented. Be sure to buy “naturally fermented” pickles. You can also make your own fermented pickles. For recipes, see the ISU canning pickles instructions, https://bit.ly/3i7P4yQ.

Source: Taking a New Look at Fermented Foods, bit.ly/361haJI.

Walk with Ease: A Program for Better Living

Tying walking shoes

A team at Iowa State University (ISU) is leading the statewide rollout of Walk with Ease (WWE). It is an evidence-based program to help older adults establish healthy patterns of physical activity. The ISU team is currently inviting adults over the age of 60 to take part in an enhanced version of the virtual, self-directed WWE program. This includes access to an online portal as well as personalized support to help older adults incorporate more steps into their daily lives. All programming, including a guidebook, is free for those willing to provide feedback on the enhancements. For more information and to enroll in the program, visit Walk with Ease, www.walkwitheaseisu.org.

Sources: Walk with Ease at Iowa State University, www.walkwitheaseisu.org.

Meatless Meals

Quesadilla

Eating plant-based meals improves your heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Eating meatless meals may also save you money at the grocery store. According to the American Heart Association, “People who eat less meat tend to consume fewer calories, and foods such as beans are one of the most cost-effective sources of protein available.”

Follow MyPlate, myplate.gov, to plan healthy meatless meals that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts, and/or lower fat or fat-free dairy foods. Eating one meatless meal a week is a great way to start. Visit the American Heart Association, www.heart.org, for more tips on keeping your heart healthy.

Easy meatless meal ideas include the following:

  • vegetable quesadillas
  • spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • bean burritos
  • vegetable stir-fry with tofu
  • lentil tacos
  • stuffed potatoes

Source: American Heart Association, www.heart.org, and Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

Move It

chair workout web page

To promote health and well-being, healthy adults should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity weekly. Although spring is around the corner, it still may not be warm enough to get moving outside. Get moving in the comfort of your home with Spend Smart. Eat Smart.® physical activity videos. You can access these at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., https://bit.ly/3ol6oE6.

Take a Tastebud Adventure

Bowl of rice and vegetables

March is National Nutrition Month. This year the focus is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” While food patterns are influenced by family traditions and ethnic or cultural groups, it is also wonderful to try and explore new foods. Here are four reasons to try new foods.

  1. Gain Appreciation for Other Cultures. Trying foods from other areas of the country or world can give you a greater appreciation and understanding of a different culture. Try nearby restaurants that serve cuisine you’ve never tried before. Go to a specialty grocery store (such as an Asian market or bodega) to buy something to try at home. Cook a new recipe. Explore the USDA Culture and Food website, https://bitly/3AR0Bek.
  2. Expand Your Options. By being adventurous and trying new foods, you’ll increase your meal options. This will help stop meal prep boredom of cooking the same meals or going to the same restaurants.
  3. Improve Nutrition. Eating and enjoying a wider variety of food also means that you’ll get more nutritional variety. This means finding new sources of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in which your current food patterns may be lower.
  4. Find Common Ground. A common social activity across nearly all cultures is eating. Mealtime is an opportunity for people to gather lowering feelings of loneliness and enhancing happiness.

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