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Mix Some Whole Grains with Local Fruits and Veggies

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator, UConn Extension

strawberriesLest this article appears to be written by the food police, I confess I am a real fan of a plate of regular, white flour pasta, ciabatta bread, and, once and a while a fried bologna sandwich on good (well, maybe not so good) old fashioned store bought white bread with mustard. But, as a nutrition professional that was well trained years ago, I know that it is important to eat a diet that is well stocked with whole grains.

As June turns to July, and farmers markets offer up with new fruit and vegetable options with each passing week, consider serving them up with a side of whole grains.

An article published in this week in Circulation Online, “Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies,” by Geng Zong, Alisa Gao, Frank B. Hu, and Qi Sun (find the article here: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/133/24.toc) reported on a meta-analysis of 12 published studies as well as data from unpublished survey results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III and NHANES 1999-2004.

What is a meta-analysis you ask? This type of study looks at the results of many studies and analyzes them, with the goal of developing conclusions that are statistically strong due to the larger numbers being considered. This analysis included information from 786,076 study participants. The conclusions derived from this review include:

  • People who ate the most whole grains appeared less likely to die of any cause during the study than those who ate the least, with the strongest relationship identified with death from cardiovascular disease and, to a lesser extent, cancer (stronger association with colon cancer than others).
  • Those with diets higher in whole grains had lower risk for cardiovascular disease and adult onset (Type II) diabetes.

Generally, these results confirm what has been considered to be good dietary practice for a while. The Dietary Guidelines Dietary Guidelines, 2015-2020, released in January 2016, called for Americans to eat (based on an 1800 calorie diet), six ounces per day of grains, half of which should be comprised of whole grains. It can be hard to figure out what six ounces is without an actual kitchen scale, but generally, the guidance is six servings of grain foods, with portion sizes as follows:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread (approx. one ounce)
  • 1 ounce 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

You might need to use measuring cups or even invest in a kitchen scale just to help you see what is, in fact, a true serving size. I know that it is more than likely that I eat two servings (at least) when I have a plate of pasta. Of course, your calorie needs may be higher or lower than the 1800 standard illustrated here. Some folks may need only 1200 calories with four ounces of grain foods (if you are a smaller person, are very sedentary or want to lose weight) or 2200 calories or more if you are very active, including seven ounces or more of grain foods. The Dietary Guidelines can be found here: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

How can you incorporate more whole grains in your daily menus while enjoying locally grown greens, berries, scallions, and soon, the peppers, tomatoes and zucchini?

First, you could even purchase locally grown/milled grains. You may have to stretch your definition of local to include other states in the region, however. The Northern Grain Growers Association included growers from Vermont, Massachusetts, and one from Connecticut. These growers produce spelt, wheat, barley, oats and/or cornmeal.

Once you have made the commitment to eat more, try introducing whole grains slowly. Initially, my family was not a great fan of whole grain pasta. We ate half and half. Start cooking the whole grain product first as it takes a bit longer; then add the white flour pasta. Serve whole grain pastas with heartier sauces that can stand up to the stronger flavor and texture: a Bolognese made with turkey; a sauce of tomatoes, lentils and pesto; whole grain pasta lasagna. Search the grocery aisles for whole grain couscous or pasta made from white whole-wheat flour. Make an Israeli (the larger diameter couscous) whole grain couscous salad with oil, lemon juice, feta, olives, tomatoes and cucumber. Serve it on locally grown spinach. This makes a great Greek style salad. Use whole grain basmati or jasmine rice for dishes that may be inspired by Asian or Indian ingredients. You really will not miss the white rice—though keep in mind that it can take as much as twice as long to cook a whole grain rice product.

Moving on to breads and cereals, there are so many options in the marketplace. Try whole grain raisin bread—make French toast with it. If you cannot find it in your store, ask for it. Whole cornmeal makes delicious muffins and pancakes with much more flavor and texture than the boxed pancake mixes that use white flour. Or try oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes. Add local maple syrup or blueberries and you will experience breakfast nirvana!

Finally, when purchasing breakfast cereals, look for those with “whole grain” as the first ingredient, whether it is whole wheat, cornmeal or oats. Serve with some local milk and strawberries.

For more information incorporating whole grains into your daily eating plan, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Get Healthy Connecticut

SNAP-Ed photo SNAP-Ed photo

UConn Extension SNAP-Ed partnered with the Get Healthy CT Know Your Numbers campaign at Iglesia ‘El Olivar’ food pantry in Bridgeport, CT.  Heather Peracchio provided healthy eating tips and recipes as folks were being screened for elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. For more info about upcoming screenings in Bridgport this month visit, http://gethealthyct.org/know-your-numbers/

Teen Mentors Attend National 4-H Congress

4-H Congress group
Photo caption:  Top Row: Kirsten Krause, Alea Pettengill, Susan Dearborn and Paul Rouleau. Bottom Row: Victoria Footit, Jessica Roberts, Ciara Broggy, Yanis Aracena

CT 4-H FANs IM Teen Mentors, and Danbury High School seniors, Ciara Broggy and Yanis Aracena, were selected to participate in the National 4-H Congress held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 27th through December 1, 2015. Both attendees were required to submit an application and attend an interview. While at the National 4-H Congress, they enjoyed many activities including lectures, a dinner dance, interactive workshops, a tour of the Atlanta History Center and Atlanta Aquarium, as well as collaborative projects with other 4-H participants that included community outreach.

Both students found the event to be life changing. “My experience at National 4-H Congress has allowed me to gain a better understanding of cultural diversity,” Ciara says. “Throughout the week I had the chance to meet and talk with other 4-Hers from throughout the United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. I discovered that my focus on fitness, nutrition and gardening is very different from that of other 4-H participants. For example, I met 4-Hers who, participate in singing competitions, cattle showings and gymnastics. Despite these differences, we all still share a central bond within our 4-H community.”

Ciara and Yanis joined CT FANs IM as Teen Mentors at Shelter Rock Elementary School. They work with younger students in activities centered on fitness, nutrition and gardening.

“This opportunity has not only been a learning experience for the youth, but also myself,” Ciara says. “I have developed a deeper understanding about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. The three branches of my 4-H program have become a part of my every day life. I strive to live a healthier lifestyle both physically and nutritionally. In addition, my leadership and speaking skills have increased dramatically through working with the youth. This has been a truly gratifying experience and has contributed largely to my self-confidence. I look forward to expanding my involvement in 4-H.”

Yanis agrees that her experience as a Teen Mentor has been an extremely valuable experience. “Working with CT FANs IM has helped me develop skills I did not have or was not confident in,” she says. “I feel much more confident with being able to speak in front of an audience, I have learned to enjoy working in a group, rather than by myself, and lastly I have gained valuable leadership skills. I hope to continue my involvement in 4-H.”

The students both plan to attend college. Ciara hopes to be accepted into UConn’s nursing program for the fall 2016 semester, while Yanis has not yet chosen a major, and is considering several colleges.

Make the Holidays Healthy

Heather at Daily Bread

Extension educator Heather Peracchio was at Daily Bread food pantry in Danbury yesterday. She was providing clients with healthy eating tips during the holidays and food safety information. For 10 tips on Making Healthy Holiday choices, visit:
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-make-healthier-holida…

Eat Smart Live Strong

Heather-Elmwood Senior CenterUConn Extension’s SNAP-Ed Food Security partnered with Elmwood Senior Center in Danbury to offer the USDA Eat Smart Live Strong program this summer. Programs are led by Heather Peracchio, Extension Educator and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.  Seniors are provided  $15 vouchers towards fresh produce and round-trip transportation to the Farmers Market twice per month thanks to a Buck Foundation grant given to the Danbury Farmers Market Community Collaborative. The program aims to increase seniors fruit and vegetable consumption, daily physical activity and increase access to the farmers market. Heather is pictured with the bulletin board that has been placed at Elmwood Senior Center to promote the program and use of the Danbury Farmers Market this summer at Kennedy Park. Each class includes USDA Eat Smart Live Strong program materials, an interactive nutrition class and a cooking demonstration.

 

Making Soup

Minestrone soup

At St. Luke’s food pantry in Bridgeport UConn Extension reaches SNAP recipients with healthy eating tips and recipes. Heather Peracchio made minestrone soup with attendees. Canned vegetables are best for our health when labeled “no salt added,” or if you have regular or reduced sodium rinsing and draining the veggies or beans can help to remove up to 40% of the sodium. Here is the recipe.

 

Meal Preparation for Infants

UConnExtension’s Heather Pease worked with students at the New Britain CREC Medical Professions and Teacher Preparation Academy to make meals for children ages 6-months to 12-months. Some food groups are not represented because they did not have access to all food groups. The focus was on portion and texture of mainly vegetables, fruit and cereal. They also learned how to make formula and the importance of measuring. A special thank you to teacher Julia Porter for all of her efforts on this.

meal for 7-8 month old

 

See RED on Valentine’s Day

By Alice Henneman, MS, RDN

Nebraska Extension Educator

 

red heartSee “Red” on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year. Red fruits and vegetables contain many health-promoting phytochemicals including lycopene and anthocyanins. This color group may help promote:

  • A lower risk of some cancers
  • A healthy heart
  • Memory health
  • Urinary tract health

Red fruits and vegetables include: Tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, tomato juice, red peppers, red onions, beets, red cabbage, kidney beans, apples, pink grapefruit, red grapes, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, raspberries, cranberries and pomegranates. Some “red” ideas for Valentine’s Day (or any day!) include:

– Heart-shaped pizza. Shape pizza dough into a heart. Or, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make individual hearts from pizza dough. Spread with your favorite tomato pizza sauce. Add your choice of toppings.

– Pasta with tomato sauce. For added fun, serve heart-shaped pasta — check with stores offering specialty pasta shapes or order some online. Check delivery time if you order online.

– Add a few of those tiny red-hot cinnamon heart candies to a popcorn snack

– Tossed salad with such red additions as red bell peppers, cherry or grape tomatoes

– Make a polka-dotted open-faced peanut butter sandwich. Cut bread into a heart shape, spread with peanut butter and dot with dried cranberries. Or, make a smiley face with the dried cranberries. Another idea would be to purchase some heart-shaped crackers, if available at your local store; substitute for the bread.

– Cole slaw made with such red foods as red peppers, red onions, and apples or made with red cabbage Cranberry sauce — use that bag of cranberries in your freezer that you bought when they were on sale

– Oatmeal topped with a heart shape, made with dried cranberries or dried cherries

– Raspberry smoothie — Put 3/4 to 1 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt in a blender. Add a few tablespoons of frozen raspberries at a time; blend until desired consistency. After mixing — if desired — blend in 1 or more teaspoons of sugar or no calorie sweetener to taste.

– Pink/red grapefruit half topped with a sprinkle of brown sugar

– Red grapes as a side dish to your sandwich for noontime nibbling

Garden Programs in Fairfield County

Originally published by Naturally@UConn on December 16, 2014

Written by: Kim Markesich

Fairfield County gardening programs teach nutrition, integrated pest management and life skills

The Fairfield County Extension Center Demonstration Garden

The Fairfield County Extension Center Demonstration Garden

The Fairfield County Extension Center hosts a variety of gardening programs, and the season just past was a successful and bountiful one.

With the support of a five-year grant from USDA/NIFA’s Children,  Family, and Youth at Risk Program (CYFAR), Edith Valiquette, 4-H youth development educator, coordinates an urban 4-H garden program for sixth through eighth grade students at Barnum Elementary School in Bridgeport. German Cutz, associate extension educator, serves as principal investigator for the grant.

Students attend the program four hours each week during the school year and eight hours a week during the summer. The curriculum focuses on gardening, workforce readiness and technology.

Students learn about nutrition, gardening and healthy meal preparation while working together as a group. They explore agriculture by visiting local farms and participate in community service projects. Students designed, filmed and edited videos to teach healthy eating and used these guides to mentor younger students. Students also participated in a Christmas program presented in nursing homes.

“The program allows kids to have fun while learning valuable skills such as leadership and life skills,” says Valiquette. “The program brings these 4-H opportunities to urban neighborhoods.”

 

The group produced 2,000 pounds of vegetables in 24 raised beds. Their carrots won Best of Show at the Fairfield County 4-H Fair. A portion of the harvested produce is used for cooking classes, while the remainder is sent home with students to supplement family meals.

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