September is here which means that summer heat is coming to an end and the chill of the fall is soon to set in (depending on that Missouri humidity). Chilly fall days often call for cozy comfort foods. Give your comfort dishes a nutritional boost with whole grains.
Did you know that the month of September is dedicated to celebrating whole grains? Arguably, whole grains might be one of the most underrated health foods on the market. In this month’s blog, we’ll talk whole grains 101, why whole grains are often the healthier choice, how to find whole grains, and ways to incorporate whole grains into your daily routine.
Whole Grains 101
So what is a whole grain? By definition, a whole grain is made with or containing whole unprocessed grain. But what does that really mean? All grains are grown naturally in the whole-grain form. A grain has three major parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. The bran is the outer shell of the grain that contains B-vitamins and most of the fiber. The endosperm contains carbohydrate and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Finally, the germ contains the bulk of the B-vitamins, protein, and healthy fats in the grain.
Why Are Whole Grains The Healthier Choice?
Refined grains were created in the early 1800s to create a more edible and longer lasting grain product. To refine a grain, the germ and the bran are removed, only leaving the endosperm. Now if we recall from above, the germ and the bran have the bulk of the fiber and nutrients of the grain. So through refining, the grain loses some nutrition and fiber. According to the Whole Grain Council, “Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, and are greatly reduced in at least seventeen key nutrients.”
As dietitians, we often recommend choosing whole grain versions of grains and starches in order to get the most nutrition and fiber from our foods. Fiber can help promote fullness, increase digestive health, and regulate blood sugars, while B-vitamins can help give us energy, and promote brain health.
Finding Whole Grains
So how can you find whole grains? Many grains like amaranth, barley, bulgur, corn, farro, oats, quinoa, brown rice, or sorghum are often found in their whole grain form. The tricky part is finding whole grains within packaged foods or bread and pasta products.
Don't be fooled by the product color or descriptions like wheat or multi-grain. Use these two simple ways to know if you are getting a whole grain:
Including Whole Grains In Your Daily Routine
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making half of your grain intake from whole grains. Simple ways to incorporate more whole grains in your diet are:
As promised, we have also included some healthy, whole grain, comfort recipes for you to try in these upcoming chilly months!
This month, aim to make at least half of your grains those hearty whole grains. What steps will you take to make whole grains a regular part of your diet? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Katie Gallagher, MA, RDN, LD
In April of this year, dockless bike sharing services rolled out (pun intended) in the St. Louis area. Since then, I’ve been spotting the colorful bikes all over town. I see clusters of the Lime bikes positioned in and around parks in my South city neighborhood. The yellow Ofo bikes popped up along my commute in a more random distribution with a customer’s ride ending at a city street corner or along a neighborhood sidewalk. The new bikes are part of a bike sharing network where bikes are available for short-term use. It’s a trend that has already hit cities like Chicago and D.C. In St. Louis, the system is dockless, meaning you locate the bikes using GPS via a smartphone app. Each bike is self-locking, so it doesn’t require a docking station, providing more flexibility with where you may end your ride.
Our efforts with Let’s Move! STL are to encourage physical activity, and what better way to fit healthy movement into your day than during the daily commute to work or school. Since it is back to school time, I was curious - could bike sharing provide a way for students to try cycling?
My curiosity led me to interview Bill, a Washington University (Wash U) student working as an intern within the Department of Health. Bill moved to St. Louis for school and lives north of the Delmar loop in U City. Though he is no stranger to biking leisurely and owns a bike, his use of the local bike sharing services could offer insight to those of you who may want to try it out.
What led you to try bike sharing?
I used bike sharing on a couple of occasions. The first was to explore Forest Park. I wanted a leisurely bike ride and the flexibility of leaving the bike in the park. If I used my own bike, I’d have to figure out how to get it back to my apartment before meeting up with friends. Bike sharing made it convenient to plan a one-way trip.
The second time I used bike sharing I was meeting up with a friend early in the morning. I didn’t see a convenient bus route and the distance seemed too short for an Uber. My own bike was broken and I spotted the Lime bike. It was right there in the parking lot near my apartment.
It sounds like the bike was right there and it made it very easy to use on that day. How did you locate the bikes at other times?
The smartphone app makes it easy to locate a bike.
Tell us about your experience. What did you like?
It is convenient. The app makes it easy to find a bike and to locate an approved parking zone [you can’t leave them just anywhere]. There is a phone holder on handle bars to make it easier to use the app during your ride.
There are 3 simple steps to get set up:
What could be improved?
It isn’t a comfortable ride on rough roads and paths. The wheels are hard and there is no spring action where the frame meets the wheel so you feel the road with each bump. It may be best for a paved, dedicated bike trail.
With my own bike, I can adjust the gears for hills. This isn’t the case with the Lime bike so it is challenging riding up a hill and there is no traction when riding down hill. The seat can be adjusted for height but the frame is not adjustable. The handle bars are wide set so the bike is more “one size fits all”. Since it isn’t tailored to your size, it isn’t designed for faster cycling.
How do you think the bike sharing could impact active transportation within the city?
My thoughts - without a dock, these bikes offer more flexibility in terms of where you can end your route, but it could mean a more haphazard placement. I’ve seen them knocked over on a sidewalk. I do see them on the Wash U and Saint Louis University campuses so students are using them.
What would you tell others who may be considering using the service?
It’s worth a try. Bike sharing companies are still finding their niche. I think St. Louis has a way to go in terms of “bike culture”. Ofo got started in China where there is more of a bike culture and the cost was more affordable.
If you are a first time cycler, inform yourself of the rules of the road and tips for safely riding, like wearing a helmet. Also, bikes offered in bike sharing programs may be best for adults as bike fit is important when it comes to children riding safely.
Bike sharing may be a great way to try a new form of active transportation or to give cycling a go as a new leisure activity. It sounds like Ofo is pulling out their bikes in the St. Louis area, but Lime bike is sticking around so you still have a chance to try it out.
More great resources:
Greenway Search: Locate Greenways with this handy tool!
St Louis Bicycle Works: Earn a bike program gives kids a chance to earn a free bike while learning about bike safety and maintenance.
St. Louis City resources to help you cycle safely: Bicycling Safety in St. Louis
Trailnet: They are making walking and biking in St. Louis better for everyone with routes, group rides, and advocacy.
Check out their page on Confident City Cyclin
Recent research has shown that recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake are not being met in the U.S. Only about 12% of adults are getting enough fruit intake, and about 9% are getting enough vegetable intake. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals that are not in other food groups. They also have fiber and antioxidants which help us stay healthy! It is recommended to get about 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. Start by slowly increasing your fruit and vegetable intake and build up to the recommendations once you have found an approach that works.
Although the colder winter months bring some challenges with finding fruits and vegetables in season, it can still be done. There are still plenty of ways to reap all the health benefits of produce even when it is freezing cold outside. Try to purchase seasonal produce as much as possible (seasonal produce listed below).
Don’t let the winter months discourage your fruit and vegetable intake. Instead, get creative and and enjoy some different selections and recipes. A little extra time and planning can improve your health in the long term.
The Health Department is striving to increase its reach to those most in need and enhance its inclusiveness for people with disabilities. To that end, Melissa Ramel, a nutrition coordinator with Nutrition Services, along with Saint Louis University (SLU) nutrition graduate students Yiwei Zhao and Allie Howard, provided a fun, interactive series of cooking classes for seniors at the Patch Neighborhood Senior Center. Although the seniors in this neighborhood live independently, about half of the ones at this center were living with disabilities. Being able to learn beneficial skills and behaviors that could be used at home could benefit them greatly.
The goal of the cooking classes was to educate the participating seniors and promote healthy living through proper diet and physical activity. This was accomplished through a series of six classes. Each of the six classes included a specific nutrition topic and a tasty recipe that participants made and enjoyed at the center. The class topics ranged from MyPlate basics to adequate hydration to the importance of protein to nutrition label reading. Each recipe was chosen based on the number of ingredients, time it took to prepare, and likeliness of reproducibility.
The classes were specifically tailored to allow maximum participation from all seniors regardless of ability. Each week, all thirteen participants were encouraged to help prepare the recipe and refresh their memory on food preparation safety and cooking skills. Participants not actively engaged in preparing the recipe were part of the nutrition education activities and discussions. At the end of each class, all participants received a bag of groceries to take home. The groceries included most of the ingredients used for making that week’s recipe. This allowed them to recreate the recipes at home and enhanced their food security, a concern for many seniors on fixed or limited incomes.
Overall, the classes were beneficial for the participants. Through evaluation and observation, behavior changes were apparent. One notable example according to Ramel involved the use of the water cups provided during week three. Participants faithfully brought them to class and only filled them with water. Although the participants had varied backgrounds and ability levels, they all expressed their enjoyment with the class and continued interest in making healthier choices. In addition, working with the Patch Neighborhood Center created a new partnership, one that will allow for additional nutrition educations and cooking demonstrations in the future.
Seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations today. Many are at an age where chronic diseases and disability can set in, and both support and resources may be limited. Teaching these seniors how to apply beneficial cooking skills and health behaviors, will help them to have a better quality of life in spite of whatever challenges they face.
Nutrition Services is a contracted function between the City St. Louis Department of Health and Saint Louis University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrition and dietetics professionals are available to provide health/nutrition education, perform cooking demos/classes, and educate community members on healthy lifestyle changes throughout the City. To schedule Nutrition Services for your agency, please contact us at 314/657-1571 or RamelM@stlouis-mo.gov.
Written by: Melissa Ramel, MS, RD, LD
I remember as a little girl, Halloween was a chance to wear a funny costume and eat lots of candy. While much excitement and advertisement related to Halloween is focused on candy, it doesn’t mean you have to let your healthy eating guard down with your family. Try some of these simple tips to keep a rein on overindulging and keep the fun in Halloween.
Parents know that Halloween extends beyond October 31st; children bring home enough candy to last them weeks, maybe even months. Teaching them moderation is important so they are not filling up on candy and missing out on important nutrients. Instead of making candy and sweets off limits, teach your kids the importance of eating more healthy items and limiting the sweets and candy. Having open discussions about portions, balance, and how our bodies feel after eating certain foods will be more effective and rewarding than setting strict limits. Eating a balanced diet is also better for your teeth. Good dental hygiene in concert with limiting high amounts of sugar can prevent cavities. A great idea to make it easy for your kids to choose healthy foods would be to have options readily available. Some ideas include:
“Eat the pleasers, skip the teasers”
Sometimes we eat foods because they are there, not because we are hungry for them or even enjoy eating them. However, we can teach children to be thoughtful about the foods they choose to eat, including candy. Teach your kids to separate the “pleasers” (the candies they really love) from the “teasers” (the ones they eat just because they’re there). Then give away or throw away the teasers. This idea will teach them mindful eating and to enjoy each bite.
It’s no surprise that a high intake of sugar is a common cause of cavities. Dentist Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says “it’s OK to eat that candy on halloween but it’s important to have a plan”. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends halloween candy shortly after mealtimes. Saliva production increases during meals which cancels out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and rinses away food particles. Another great ADA tip goes along with the idea of “eat the pleasers, skip the teasers” described in the paragraph above. Have your family choose only their favorites and donate the rest. Your teeth (and budget) will thank you if you limit your stash. Check to see if your dentist has a “candy take-back program”. Remember it is important to schedule regular appointments with a licensed dentist for you and your family. Check out the American Dental Association’s website “Mouth Healthy” for more tips on dental hygiene during halloween and all year long. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en?source=ADAWebsiteTab
Walking from house to house can provide a reasonable amount of physical activity for trick-or-treaters and the parents who escort them. However, safety is important too. Be sure to find a safe area to trick or treat. A good rule of thumb would be to look for areas with a lot of other trick-or-treaters. Watch out for cars as you walk through the neighborhoods. Don’t forget to check the parks in your area for Halloween events. Many parks in St. Louis host activities on or before Halloween.
With these simple tips, Halloween can be healthy and safe without ruining the fun. Check out these websites for safe places for trick or treating:
Written by: Vanessa Winegar RD, LD
Are you ready for an emergency? Would you be able to provide for yourself and your family if disaster struck? As the flooding happening in Texas right now has shown us, it is important to be prepared because emergencies do happen, often when you least expect them.
September is National Preparedness Month. During that time, we are reminded to “Be Ready in 3” by 1) Creating a plan, 2) Preparing an emergency kit and 3) Listening for more information related to emergency response. In an emergency, two possible scenarios include sheltering in place (staying where you are) or evacuating to a safer location. Regardless of the scenario, having an emergency food supply is a must.
Right now, you may be wondering a few things: What should I put in my kit to feed my family and what specific types of foods should I stock? How much emergency food should I have in my kit for each family member? How much water should I have? Here are the answers to those questions:
What should I put in my kit to feed my family?
The best foods for your emergency kit are non-perishable, canned or dried foods. These are typically packaged foods that have a longer shelf life. While this may not reflect your normal daily diet, keep in mind that an emergency is not a normal situation. Planning ahead can allow you to make rational choices about your emergency foods and reduce the possibility of not having something appropriate to eat.
Many companies are marketing survival foods, foods processed and packaged specifically for use in emergencies. While these foods may be convenient as well as easy to stock and transport, they are not necessary and are often more expensive too. It is better to select from items commonly found in your local grocery store.
What specific types of foods should I stock?
Select items that are ready-to-eat and don’t require cooking. Some suggestions include canned tuna, raisins or other dried fruits, crackers, peanut butter, trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and cereal. (If you have any canned foods, remember to pack a can opener too.) If you have an infant, be sure to include formula and appropriate baby foods. Make sure all food items are stored in airtight, water-proof containers to preserve quality and keep them safe from pests.
How much emergency food should I have in my kit for each family member?
Pack enough to last for at least 3 days. A 3-day supply is generally sufficient to last until you can get to help or help can get to you.
How long should I keep the food items in my kit?
If you select non-perishable, packaged foods for your kit, check the dates on the packages. Use those dates to determine when to replace food items. Plan to replace your food items so that the items coming out of the kit are still safe for consumption. By rotating your emergency food items periodically, you will ensure that you have emergency food that is edible, and nothing goes to waste.
How much water should I have?
The general recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day, with enough to last at least three days. Water does not spoil, but may need to be replaced if not used in a timely manner.
What about my pets?
On a final note, pets are family members too. You need to provide for them as well in the event of an emergency. If your pet(s) will be with you as you shelter in place or evacuate, please have enough pet food and water to last at least 3 days. However, because your pets may not be able to access the same amenities your human family members can (i.e. come inside a shelter), the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommend having up to 7 days worth of food and water for each pet.
Of course there are other items that should go in your emergency kit besides food and water. If you need more information on how to make a plan, what else to put in your kit or how to be more informed about emergencies, please visit: http://health.mo.gov/emergencies/readyin3/. Additionally, if you need more information about planning for emergencies when you have pets, check out: https://www.ready.gov/animals, the Humane Society or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Written by Lori Jones, MS, MPH, RD, LD
When you have a tight budget, eating healthy and staying within your means can seem nearly impossible. However, healthy eating on a strict budget can be a realistic feat. See our tips below to maintain a set budget without skimping on nutrition.
Please comment with any experiences you have with saving money at the grocery store.
Written by: Vanessa Winegar RD, LD
Summer is the perfect time to fire up your grill! Whether you are grilling meat, vegetables, pizza, or fruit, the smoky flavor you get by grilling is like nothing else. Here are tips for a safe, healthy and tasty barbeque.
Food Safety Tips:
Follow these simple tips to significantly decrease your risk of food poisoning.
Start building your healthy barbecue around fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with nutrients. Look no further than your local grocery store or farmer's' market for fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here are a few ideas for a creating a healthy barbecue without sacrificing flavor.
When the weather is hot and humid, exercising is probably the last thing that you feel like doing. Exercising in the heat can be hot, sticky, and downright uncomfortable when done during the heat of the day. What does this mean for those of us without a membership to an air conditioned gym? It is still important for all of us to find ways to exercise, even in the heat of summer. Getting our heart rate up has many benefits that you do not want to miss out on. Some benefits include: lower risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, improved digestion, improved mental health and mood, and lower risk for developing cancer. So, how can we beat the heat during the hot and humid summer months? Here are some tips:
Written by: Vanessa Winegar, RD, LD
Parents have a major influence on encouraging healthy eating in their kids by creating a supportive environment and modeling healthy eating. It’s true that ‘kids will be kids’ and eat ice cream after a soccer game or eat cake at birthday parties, but what matters more is what they are eating most of the time. This is where parents play an important role. Generally, encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, plant based proteins (like beans), and whole grains is what is recommended. Getting kids involved in the cooking process is a good start to creating this supportive environment. Involve them in the whole process: planning for family meals, grocery shopping, and cooking.
Research has shown that involving children in the cooking process will make them more likely to eat and try different fruits and vegetables. This is not the only benefit to cooking with your children. Other benefits include: kids feel like they are accomplishing something and contributing to the family; kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepare it; parents get to spend quality time with their kids; kids aren't spending time in front of the TV or computer while they're cooking; and they will be learning skills to use throughout their lives. You can start cooking with your child as young as 2 years old.
Here are some ideas for cooking with younger children:
2 year olds:
When cooking with older kids, make sure to teach them proper knife handling skills. When cooking with any age of children, talk to them about healthy foods and where food comes from. Cooking should be a creative process, so encourage kids to use their creative juices! This will make it a fun experience for them.
Comment below with experiences that you have had cooking with your children.