Flu Shot Time!

Wintertime is flu season, and getting your influenza vaccine (flu shot) in the fall is the best way to prevent the flu and its complications. It can take nearly two weeks to build immunity after a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cdc.gov, recommends an annual flu shot for everyone age 6 months and older. It can lower your risk of having serious illness from the flu and the need for a hospital stay. You can still protect yourself against late flu outbreaks even if you get the flu shot in February or later in the season.

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about getting the flu shot or visit your local public health office for more information.

Slow Cooker: Your Best Friend for Plant-based Meals

Slow cookers are popular and an easy dinner option. Slow cooking is exactly what it sounds like—a process of cooking slowly. Using a slow cooker can retain some of the nutrients typically lost when frying or boiling.

Plant-based slow cooker meals focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Plant-based meals are a great way to focus on choosing foods from plant sources, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating meat and dairy.

Research has shown plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression, and a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.

Here are a few tips to get started with a plant-based slow cooker meal:

  • Add a whole grain with root vegetables, like potatoes and turnips, for soups and stews.
  • Try dry beans for soups and stews.
  • Layer vegetables, starches, and sauces for a casserole-style meal.
  • Use a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor.

Enjoy a nutritious and delicious plant-based recipe perfect for slow cooking at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., go.iastate.edu/FR22GX.

Source: Harvard School of Public Health, go.iastate.edu/OYSCUO

Sleeping Is Time Well Spent

Person laying in bed reaching for alarm clock

Sleep is as important to our health as good diet and exercise. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and many people do not get enough. Quality sleep allows our brains and bodies to rebuild and repair. Lack of good sleep raises the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, and dementia.

Healthy sleep is not only the amount of time spent in bed, but also getting quality, uninterrupted rest on a consistent sleep schedule. Use these tips to give your body and brain the restful recharge it needs for optimum health:

  • Be physically active during the day.
  • Create a good sleep environment that is quiet, dark, and cool.
  • Go to bed and get up at a consistent time, even during weekends.
  • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom.
  • Avoid stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine.
  • Limit alcohol and large meals close to bedtime.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have persistent sleeping issues.

For more information about sleep and sleeping disorders, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/sleep.

CDC, www.cdc.gov
National Institutes of Health, newsinhealth.nih.gov

Cooking in a Hurry

When time is short for cooking, having a stocked pantry and freezer can be a game-changer. By keeping healthy staple ingredients on hand, you can shorten a meal’s cook time and save money. Try these tips to save time and money the next time you need a meal in a hurry.

Use Quick and Easy Recipes: Planning and purchasing ingredients for easy recipes that only need a few ingredients can simplify cooking. Many healthy, quick recipes can be found at
Spend Smart. Eat Smart., go.iastate.edu/1E3RBW, and MyPlate, www.myplate.gov.

Purchase Pantry Staples: Nonperishable food items are budget friendly, and their long shelf life reduces food waste. Many delicious meals only need a few canned goods, a protein, and a whole grain pasta or rice. Some canned foods are very high in sodium, so choose low-sodium or no-salt-added options when available.

Soups in a Snap: Many quick meals can center around a nutritious bowl of soup. Make it a meal when served with a salad, whole-grain bread, and a glass of low-fat milk.

Use Frozen Vegetables: Frozen vegetables are a great way to add flavor, nutrients, and color to your meals. Frozen vegetables have nearly the same nutritional benefits as fresh, and many entrees and side dishes can be planned around a frozen vegetable.

Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/
MyPlate, myplate.gov/myplate-kitchen

Fiesta Skillet Dinner

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 5

Fiesta Skillet Dinner, carrots, celery, banana pudding on a plate


  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) Mexican style tomatoes
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup frozen (or canned) corn
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 1 cup prepared instant brown rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Mix the tomatoes, black beans, corn, chili powder, and chicken in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until heated through.
  2. Add the cooked rice and stir thoroughly. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.
  3. Serve hot.

Nutrition information per serving:
360 calories, 4.5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 55mg cholesterol, 790mg sodium, 50g total carbohydrate, 10g fiber, 6g sugar, 31g protein. This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

November Is National Diabetes Month

Girl testing blood sugar

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects more than 37 million U.S. adults. In the last 20 years the number of adults diagnosed has more than doubled, and one in five of all adults with diabetes do not know they have it.

Most of the food we eat is converted into glucose (sugar). Glucose is used as energy to fuel our bodies, including our muscles and brains. Too much glucose in our blood causes damage to our eyes, nerves, kidneys, and hearts. Insulin is a hormone that allows our body to use glucose for energy.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when a person’s body does not use insulin well. More than 90% of people with diabetes have type 2, which develops over many years. You can manage symptoms or prevent type 2 diabetes by being physically active, eating nutritious food, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Type 1 diabetes is when a person’s body does not make enough insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin to manage their blood glucose.

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about diabetes or visit the CDC Diabetes website, www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics, for more information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
Iowa Public Health, go.iastate.edu/QC72N8

Is shrinkflation affecting your finances?

Aisles in grocery store

We’re used to our favorite cereal costing $3.50 per box, so when the price goes up to $4.00 it’s something we notice. But do we notice when the box contains only 15 ounces instead of the 18 ounces it used to hold? From fewer toilet paper sheets to less toothpaste ounces, consumers are reporting “shrinkflation”—reduced product amounts for regular purchases, due to inflation.

Because we pay more attention to price when we shop, we don’t notice subtle changes in packaging or read details about the size or weight of a product. During periods of high inflation, companies may downsize products so they can keep prices unchanged, resulting in shrinkflation.

Unit pricing is a way to compare similar products to find the best value. Check out Iowa State University’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app or webpage, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, for a unit pricing calculator!

Creating a self-care plan

What does self-care look like for you? The emphasis being on “self,” meaning it’s personal. What works for you may not work for others. Self-care is about engaging in healthy activities that you can do to fill your cup.

There are eight “ACTION” areas that we can take to preserve or improve our health. These are listed below. As you read through them, consider what it is that you do for your own self-care under that dimension of wellness.

Community/Social Health—A sense of belonging, connecting with friends or your partner, attending community gatherings, volunteering

Intellectual Health—Exploring creative abilities and interests, expanding knowledge and skill, reading, brain games

Physical Health—Exercising, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, preventative care

Emotional Health—Adjusting to challenges, coping with life’s stressors, enjoying life, relaxation techniques, journaling

Environmental Health—Activities that focus on “reduce, reuse, recycle;” learning and relaxing in natural places (When was the last time you took a walk that reconnected you with nature?)

Occupational Health—Satisfaction from one’s work, coworker relationships, work-life balance

Spiritual Health—Activities that focus on expanding your sense of purpose and meaning in life, finding balance and peace

Financial Health—Steps for your current and future financial goals

Having a better understanding of the things that you can do to recharge better prepares you to handle life’s stressful situations. Consider creating your own self-care action plan with your favorite strategies in each of these eight dimensions of wellness.

Source: SAMHSA, go.iastate.edu/JNRAUJ

White Bean Dip

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons | Serves: 8

Bowl of crackers with white bean dip and vegetables


  • 1 can (15 ounces) white beans (drained and rinsed) (cannellini, great northern, or navy)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or olive)
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried herb (basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary)


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. Serve right away or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 4 days.


  • Serve with cut up vegetables or crackers. Use as a spread for a wrap or sandwich.

Nutrition information per serving:
90 calories, 3.5g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 180mg sodium, 11g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 0g sugar, 4g protein.

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website.
For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu

Load up on these nutrients to fuel your brain!

Magnesium: spinach, pumpkin and chia seeds, soy milk, black beans, almonds, cashews, peanuts

Omega-3 fatty acids: walnuts, chia and flaxseeds, salmon, herring, sardines

Folate: beef liver, rice, fortified cereals, black-eyed peas, spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts

Iron: oysters, beef liver, fortified cereals, spinach, dark chocolate, white beans, lentils, tofu

Zinc: oysters, chicken, pork chops, beef roast, Alaska king crab, lobster, pumpkin seeds

B vitamins: chicken breast, beef liver, clams, tuna, salmon, chickpeas, potatoes, bananas

Vitamin A: beef liver, herring, cow’s milk, ricotta cheese, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe

Fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut

Remember the quality of your diet is more powerful than any one decision you make in a day. Foods play an important role in mental health, but they won’t have a significant impact on their own if you aren’t prioritizing overall diet quality, self-care, and other stress management strategies.

Harvard Health Publishing, go.iastate.edu/KP8LPX
Mental Health America, go.iastate.edu/TZYXXY
Health Line, go.iastate.edu/S8ZYMP