December 2020 Live Well Northeast

Cynthia Stephens, Russell, Markaye H., Agan, Cathy B., Sims, Joy K, Butcher, Kimberly

Holiday Eating Survival

The holiday season is here, and you may notice a change in your weight. Your metabolism slows down a small bit each year with increasing age. However, the main cause of this is decreased muscle mass. So, if you stay active, it is possible to maintain your current metabolism, or your body’s ability to burn calories. This is harder to do during the holiday season because festivities provide opportunities for you to eat a lot more than you usually do.

What is causing the weight gain? Weight gain is caused by an intake of calories. Calories are a unit of heat equal to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram (kg) of water by 1 ºC. In layman’s terms, calories are the energy in food that can contribute to weight loss or gain.

To eat healthier during the holidays, start off by skipping the butter with your bread, removing the turkey skin, opting for white meat over dark meat, going low on salad dressing, and taking only one small piece of pie (buy no-sugar-added pie filling). Alter recipes to reduce fat and calories by substituting skim milk and low-fat sour cream for higher-fat products. Try reducing oil in recipes, and using lite or fat-free cream cheese instead of regular. You can also buy leaner meats to cook. These are just a few ways to substitute when cooking.

Take your time, chew slowly, and allow yourself to taste your food. Enjoy the flavor and texture of food and try to put your fork down between each bite. Learn to stop eating when you are physically full and start learning how to recognize the difference between physical and emotional hunger.

Try this Banana Nog as an alternative to the traditional Egg Nog that is high in calories and fat!

Banana Nog

  • 4 bananas
  • 1 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

Instructions: Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Be Active, Stay Strong

Core strength is essential. Do newborn babies have core strength? Of course not. Their little bodies slouch and we have to physically support them. As they become stronger, they move their heads and hold steady. They sit without support, stand alone, and walk without falling. As we age, our core strength weakens. While aging does negatively affect our core strength, we can slow it down through staying active and exercising our core muscles.

The core consists of a lot more than the abdomen. Along the side of the torso are the obliques. The deepest layer of the muscles are the transverse abdominis. The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and other pelvic organs, and there are a group of muscles that surround the spine. Most fitness professionals consider the butt and hips and the lats and traps that are in the middle and upper back as part of the torso. When we wake up in the morning, our torso must go to work! If our torso isn’t strong, we will have trouble twisting, bending, and doing almost anything. This month, we will focus on the stomach muscles and how to strengthen your core.

Knee Lifts: Sit with your back straight, your feet planted firmly on the floor, and your knees a few inches apart. Raise one foot at a time so that so that your knee comes straight up from its resting position. Try to raise your foot three to ten inches off the ground. Repeat this exercise five to 15 times with one leg and repeat with the other leg.

Seated Side Bends: Using the same starting position as the knee lifts, hold one hand behind your head and extend the opposite arm straight out to the side. Lean to the side as though you are reaching for something with the outstretched hand. The goal is not to touch the floor, so don’t push yourself too far. Contract your stomach muscles as you rise into an upright position once more. Repeat this exercise five to 15 times in each direction.

Work on these core exercises and watch for additional core exercises each month!

Whole Grains for Better Health

The Grain Group is an important part of MyPlate from USDA. This food group includes foods made from grains such as wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley and rye. Most adults should aim to eat for six ounces from the Grain Group every day. While that may sound like a lot, it is easy to do, considering a serving size of one ounce may be less than you think. One ounce equals one slice of bread, one cup of most ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, cereal, or pasta.

Do you know the difference between refined grains and whole grains? Many of us eat largely refined-grain foods such as white bread, white rice, crackers, bagels, and pretzels. However, whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and popcorn, provide better health benefits because they contain the entire grain kernel. That is why MyPlate encourages us to make half of our grain servings come from whole grains. This means we should eat at least three ounces of whole grain foods every day.

Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain the highly nutritious bran layer and germ. These are lost during the milling process used to create refined grains. The bran and germ contain most of the grain’s beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help to slow down the aging process and may lower the risk of many diseases. Recent research suggests that whole grains may help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes.

You can make economical choices and still get whole grain foods. Oatmeal in large canisters is one of the lowest-priced whole grains. Look for store-brand whole grain cereals. Store-brand whole-wheat bread often costs about the same as white breads. However, many “wheat” breads are made mainly with refined white flour with added coloring from caramel or molasses. Check for whole-wheat on the label rather than just “wheat.” You can also check the Nutrition Facts label on the package to see how much fiber is in the food before you buy. Look for whole grains on the label. You can also enjoy these whole grain foods: oatmeal, brown rice, and popcorn. Make half your grains whole and enjoy the health benefits!

Healthy Communities

A system is a group of interrelated and interdependent elements that function together as a unified whole. Similarly, a food system includes all of the individual units that procure, consume, prepare, distribute, process, market, and more to get food from farm to table. Changes to one part of the food system can affect one, some, or all parts of the food system. Many Louisianans have likely witnessed changes in their local food systems firsthand since the COVID-19 outbreak, such as changes in how children receive school meals, increased utilization of food pantries, and decreased availability of some food items at grocery stores.

Did you know that everyone plays a part in their local food system? Even if you only connect with the food system as a consumer, your role is an important one. Community members’ food preferences, dietary habits, and shopping habits, along with other factors, can all influence and shape the local food system in a particular area. For example, you might not find some Louisiana staples, like crawfish, succotash, or turnip greens, if you travel a few states north! A food system is incomplete without its consumers, but in some communities – especially rural Northeast Louisiana – healthy food isn’t always accessible to everyone. Food access is tied to health equity, and it is important that a food system functions in such a way as to ensure that every consumer has the opportunity to make healthy choices, whether they shop at the most high-end grocery store or purchase their milk from the local gas station. As a part of the LSU AgCenter, Healthy Communities works to identify barriers to food access and find solutions to improve the food system in a community. Healthy Communities serves every parish in Louisiana with a focus on six parishes with adult obesity rates over 40%. Four of these high obesity parishes are located in the Northeast Region. These parishes also face high levels of food insecurity, which means not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. According to America’s Health Rankings in 2019, Louisiana ranked 48 out of 50 states in food insecurity, and while the nation’s food insecurity percentage has declined over time, the number of Louisianans unable to provide proper food due to lack of resources has continued to rise well above the national average. Food insecurity is a complex problem and disproportionately affects some populations.

Food is essential for every person, and it is imperative that we tackle these conditions on a larger scale to ensure equal opportunities to be healthy. Here’s a challenge – identify your own food systems!

  • On your usual trip to the grocery store, observe what items stand out to you when you walk in the store and as you walk around. Do you notice the produce or snacks first? Do you notice a lot of healthy options that your family would enjoy? Allow children to share what they observe as well.
  • At home, make a creative model of your family food system. Make a poster showing how food gets from the farm to their bellies – don’t forget to mention your local growers!
12/11/2020 8:09:36 PM
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The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture