30 Jun

by John Porter

Eating fresh produce from the garden is truly one of the pleasures of the season. Fresh salads, tomatoes, peppers and onions highlight the summer table. I can still remember the first big Sunday dinner of the summer at my grandparents’ house — a table full of nothing but corn on the cob, green beans cooked with new potatoes (with, of course, some form of pork), onions and cucumbers in vinegar, fresh tomatoes (and maybe even fried green ones) and corn bread. That was all that was needed. No main course, just the bounty of the garden.

But another important part of the garden was planning ahead to grow enough produce to “put food by” for the winter. Canning was always an important part of our summer and fall life at home and at my grandparents’ farm. Tomatoes, green beans, pickled beets, kraut and apple butter fill many fond memories of my time growing up. But aside from more traditional Appalachian families, canning and other preserving methods had been in decline over the past few decades. The convenience of the grocery store and a lack of connection to the farm or to food led to fewer and fewer home canners.

But that trend has reversed. Not only is home food gardening at the highest level it has been in years, home food preservation is also. People of all ages are starting to can, whether they did it years ago and are finding their way back to home preservation or are learning for the first time. Fermenting and drying are also becoming popular means of preservation. Some people are even planning out their home preservation to reduce or eliminate the need to purchase certain produce items from the grocery store year-round.

Growing for preservation

Home gardeners have a leg up when it comes to fresh ingredients, since they get to grow their own. Sure, you can buy fresh produce at the farmers market for canning, but the beauty of preserving what you grow at home comes in the cost — home-canned foods are pretty economical (after a few reuses of your jars). But planning is needed! Make sure you have what you want to preserve, in the right quantities, and at the right time.

Planning for what you want to preserve is the first part of the process. The most commonly canned goods are tomatoes and jams and jellies, mostly because they can be processed with a hot-water bath and do not require pressure canning. I would suggest a tomato like roma for canning, as they have less water than slicing-type tomatoes. Beans, pickles and corn are also popular candidates.

A friend recently suggested planting a “theme” garden around a certain end product. The example he used was a salsa garden, which would include tomatoes, hot peppers, onions and cilantro. This certainly would be a great idea — having all homegrown goodness in one jar. You could do something similar for tomato sauce by adding herbs like basil and oregano and bell peppers.

Planting the right amount is also a good practice to adopt. Planting too little means either not enough for canning or for fresh eating. Of course, there is no set-in-stone answer as to how much you should plant, but a good estimate would be to double the number of plants for what you would plant for fresh consumption. And hey, if you have extra, can up some great gifts or make friends and earn good karma by giving away some produce.

Planning for harvest time

Another issue I have been guilty of is one of timing, or rather, scheduling when things are ripe. Most people plant everything at the same time, which usually means that most of the produce ripens or is in full production at the same time. I know that I’ve found myself standing in a stupor over a hot stove at 1 a.m. canning the 10th batch of something or other.

This is a good lesson for all vegetable gardeners — a practice called relay planting is key. Rather than planting, say, 10 tomato plants at the same time, plant two sets of five plants a few weeks apart to stagger the harvest. Heck, you could probably still get a good tomato harvest if you planted them this late in the year. This will give you more time to process the harvest without everything ripening — and demanding attention — all at once.

You can also plant different varieties that have different maturity times to stagger the harvest. This can also be done in fruits, where you pick different varieties to ripen at different times so that you are canning what seems like your millionth batch of blueberry jam at midnight one hot summer night.

And for goodness’ sake, use a tested and approved recipe! For information on canning, and for tested safe canning recipes, visit the Center for Home Food Preservation at or contact your county extension office for approved recipes. Be aware that recommendations for recipes and canning times and pressures changed around 1998, so recipes published before that may not be considered safe.

This week in the garden

  • Sow lima and pole beans.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs.
  • Renovate strawberries after last harvest.
  • Pinch back garden mums.
  • Treat lawn for white grubs.
  • Prune pine trees.
  • End asparagus harvest when spears are smaller than a pencil.
  • Turn compost.
  • Plant late tomatoes and peppers.

John Porter is the WVU Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources in Kanawha County. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter at @WVgardenguru, and online at Contact him at or at 304-720-9573.

25 Mar

by Sheldon Owen, WVU Extension Service Wildlife specialist

Strange sounds keeping you up at night? How about waking you up early in the morning? The strange noises you could be attributing to insects or birds may actually be from frogs and toads. Spring has sprung and the male frogs are in full calling mode.

Get out and explore the sounds of West Virginia’s frogs and toads

On warmer evenings you may hear the ‘peeping” call of the Spring Peeper ( listen ) or maybe the high pitched “trill” of the American Toad ( listen ). What about the low “banjo” call of a Green Frog ( listen ) or the low “groan” of the Bullfrog ( listen )?

Spring is the time for male frogs to begin the annual cycle of calling for a mate. Wet areas are perfect spots to hear the cacophony of frogs calling. Or get outside after a spring rain and listen for the calls of West Virginia’s tree frogs (Spring Peeper included) in wooded areas around our state. So go on an evening adventure and see how many different frog species you can hear. Test yourself and your family.

Where do you want to start your adventure? Start in your very own backyard. Then visit a local park or natural area. West Virginia has numerous State Parks, State Forests and natural areas that you can visit. Not to mention the National Parks and Refuges. Get out and enjoy Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.

Check out these links for places to explore.

Learn about and listen to the frog calls of West Virginia

Try these activities

  • Take a walk in the woods.
  • Visit a natural wetland, stream, or pond.
  • Visit your local botanical gardens or arboretum.
  • Go for a walk and see how many frog calls you can identify.
  • Go for a walk and see how many bird songs you can identify.

Frog and Toad facts

  • There are 15 different species of frogs and toads in WV.
  • Frogs and toads are amphibians.
  • Amphibians spend part of their life in water (larval or tadpole stage) and part on land (adult frogs and toads).
  • Frogs generally have long-lean bodies, smooth-wet skin, and longer back legs for jumping or leaping.
  • Toads have short-stout bodies, dry warty skin and have shorter back legs than frogs and generally hop or crawl.
  • Each frog and toad has a distinct call that can be used for identification.
26 Feb

America Saves Week, February 24-March 4, serves as an opportunity for Americans to begin saving for their financial future, or to assess their current money saving practices.

According to, making a commitment to save money is the first step to create a stable financial household and financial future. Setting savings goals—no matter how big or small—can help ensure long-term financial success.

West Virginia University Extension Service offers up a few pieces of financial advice for families on its website,

  • New graduates are often faced with a mountain of school loan debt and a whole new world of responsibilities, which can be overwhelming. Learn how WVU Extension Service experts can help with financial management tips for recent grads.
  • Exciting events and holidays can sometimes put pressure on a household budget. A seasonal holiday, a child’s birthday or other occasion that prompts a larger-than-average-purchase can put a burden on parents to spend. It’s important to avoid holiday debt and create a budget by planning expenses and gift purchases.
  • Another way to avoid spending a large sum of money all at once is to take advantage of layaway programs. Layaway is making a huge comeback in the retail industry with the increase of budget-conscious consumers. By using layaway wisely, it can help effectively purchase the items you need—without breaking your budget.

Although it’s important to create a realistic budget and spend sensibly, it’s even more important to save for the future.

Opening a savings account at your federally funded, local bank is a safe way to start saving for the future. Used alongside employer-sponsored retirement and 401K investment plans, building a strong financial future can be easy.

America Saves Week isn’t just for adults. There are more than 54 Ways to Save Money. Children and young people can also learn smart, money saving habits from an early age.

Parents have the power to encourage their children to start saving, from earning an allowance to birthday presents and gifts, teaching children responsible saving habits is key to create adults who are successful managing their money.

Click to learn more about America Saves Week.

11 Feb

“Aware,” an oil and gas safety training course developed by West Virginia University Safety and Health Extension specialists and industry experts, has earned accreditation by the International Association of Drilling Contractors Rig Pass Program.

The Rig Pass Program monitors curriculum to ensure it meets SafeLandUSA endorsement standards. SafeLandUSA is a volunteer organization which sets minimum requirements for the oil and gas industry’s safety orientations.

“This is a high-risk industry,” explains Tiffany Rice, WVU Safety and Health Extension specialist. “It’s crucial that employees are trained before entering the workforce so they can learn to recognize, and potentially avoid, hazards on the jobsite. ‘Aware’ helps them to do that.”

The “Aware” course provides a unique picture-based learning system which helps the participant to relate safety hazards in a practical and clear manner for employees. Current and potential oil and gas employees can register for the course on the WVU Safety and Health website,

WVU Safety and Health Extension is also accepting applications to train future “Aware” curriculum instructors. Potential instructors must have two years of experience with health, safety and environmental work and/or experience in the oil and gas industry. Relevant training and teaching experience is also required.

For information on applying for the instructor course, or more information on “Aware,” contact Rice at, or call 304-293-2852.



CONTACT: Cassie Waugh, WVU Extension Service

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

11 Feb
welcome Applications are now being accepted for summer positions in a unique statewide program administered by the West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps that helps 3,000 West Virginia children maintain and improve their reading skills.

AmeriCorps is recruiting mentors and community coordinators for Energy Express, an award-winning, 8-week program offered in rural and low-income West Virginia communities.

The program is designed to provide learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer months, when children are most at risk for falling behind on reading levels – a preventable loss known as the “summer slide.”

“Energy Express brings opportunities for enrichment, growth – and just as important – a little fun for children who might not otherwise have access to these resources,” said Terri Collier, WVU Extension Service 4-H Literacy and Academic Success specialist. “We find that when children can have fun during the learning process they become more focused and driven.”

There are two ways in which people can serve Energy Express through AmeriCorps: as a mentor or community coordinator.

mentor Energy Express mentors are college, or college-bound, students who make learning fun for small groups of school-age children by creating a safe, enriching environment focused on reading, writing, art and drama.

In addition to the learning activities, mentors eat nutritious, family-style meals with children, make family visits and complete a community service project.

The community coordinator recruits volunteers to assist Energy Express children during reading, writing, art, drama and non-competitive recreation activities.

Other community coordinator duties include raising awareness and involving the community and family members in children’s learning. Each community coordinator will also complete a community service project with other Energy Express AmeriCorps members.

In return for their 300 hours of service, AmeriCorps mentors and community coordinators receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,175 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award valid for up to seven years to pay for college tuition or loans.

Each summer, AmeriCorps engages college-bound graduating high school seniors and currently enrolled college students to serve communities in need. AmeriCorps’ Energy Express mentors must be at least 18 years of age before June 13.

Community coordinators must also be 18 years of age by the above date. However, these positions are not limited to college students.

Applications for both positions are available online at, or by calling 304-293-3855. The selection process begins March 1. Applications are accepted until all positions are filled.

Energy Express is a program under the leadership of WVU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program. This AmeriCorps program is funded, in part, by grants from the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts and Volunteer West Virginia. Volunteer West Virginia encourages West Virginians of all ages and abilities to be involved in service to their communities.

Based on the success of Energy Express participants and the unique aspects of the program, the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University named Energy Express program one of the nation’s best summer learning programs in 2009.

For more information about Energy Express, visit, or call 304-293-3855.



CONTACT: Cassie Waugh, WVU Extension Service
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

4 Feb

by John Porter

homegrown-brews One of the hottest new trends in gardening is beverage gardens. This trend includes options for the health-conscious (growing your own teas and ingredients for juices and smoothies), the DIY crowd (growing ingredients for homemade sodas) and those who enjoy an intoxicating beverage or three (ingredients to brew or flavor homemade alcoholic beverages).

There are lots of things you can grow to drink instead of eat. Authors and bloggers are picking up on the trend and a flood of books has been hitting the shelves on how to grow and create their own special beverage concoction.

Why the interest?

This groundswell of interest in growing and making your own beverage is influenced by a few different factors. First, there is a growing DIY movement around the country. Believe it or not, young people are more and more interested in growing things, making things, home canning, knitting, quilting and more.

A second influence is a growing trend in appreciating unique and interesting beverages, both homemade and commercial. This has given rise to an increase in local microbreweries and vineyards, a swell in the popularity in old liquors such as bourbon and gin, and the desire to experiment by making your own.

What can you grow?

There are lots of different plants that can be used to make or flavor beverages. Herbal teas are a pretty straightforward affair, and herbs can be dried for use in teas throughout the year. To find out what plants are in your favorite intoxicating beverage, I suggest “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks” by Amy Stewart. The book is basically a laundry list of plants and how they are used in alcohol, with lots of history, lore and science thrown in. It’s a great little book that is a quick read.

Fruits lend themselves both to a large number of uses, from juicing and sodas to producing wines. Grapes, of course, are the fruit of choice to make more traditional wines, but fruit wines such as raspberry and peach are popular homebrews as well. Last week I sampled a homemade red currant wine that was pretty tasty. It’s not all that easy to grow European wine grapes here in West Virginia, so you won’t be making your own cabernet or merlot, but several varieties of American and French-American hybrid grapes, such as Van Buren, Catawba, Norton, seyval and chambourcin, make good wine.

While it is possible to grow your own barley and other grains to make beer, the most common homebrew ingredient that is home-grown is hops. Hops, a nonintoxicating member of the Cannabaceae family, gives beer its bitter flavor profile. They grow as long bines (similar to a vine, but it doesn’t have tendrils or suckers to guide it) that need to be trellised. They will grow out of control, so you have to cut around the plant root area with a spade in the spring to keep it at bay.

A variety of herbs can be grown for both tea and flavors for liquors and liqueurs. Herbs and flowers such as chamomile, calendula, lemon balm, mint and bergamot are all common tea plants that can be used dried or fresh for a cup of tea. In an article last year, I shared that I grow the camellia used to make actual black, green and white teas, but you’ll only be able to do this if you are in Zone 7, which is along the river between Charleston and Smithers (though I’m still waiting to see the full effect of the recent arctic vortex on my shrub).

Herbs and other plant parts are also infused into alcoholic beverages too. Juniper is the main flavor in gin (though there’s lots of other stuff in there too), lemon balm can be made into a liquor (and is also an ingredient in absinthe), and even violets can be used to make liqueurs. There’s a whole host of plants that can add a licorice flavor to drinks (but I’m tired of things that smell like licorice, so I’m ignoring those).

Making fermented beverages

There are lots of resources out there on how to make your own beverages, so all you have to do is visit a bookstore or online retailer to get a book. There’s also plenty information online, but be sure to check multiple sources to make sure the information is accurate. Currently, I’m looking through a book called “True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home” by Emma Christensen. It looks to be a beginner’s guide with lots of good information.

I’ve made root beer before (from a kit), but plan to make some ginger ale in the near future and keep on moving up. Sodas and fizzy drinks tend to be fairly simple. You use juices or extract flavors into liquid, add some sugar and a little yeast, bottle them up for a few days to allow the yeast to eat sugar and produce carbon dioxide (and a very small amount of alcohol), then refrigerate to slow the fermentation process. Beer and wine are more complex and require specialized equipment, so you will definitely have to plan.

And if you are interested in making your own beverages at home, there’s no better source than a local expert. There are several homebrew and home-winemaking groups around the area — so be on the lookout to join and get great tips from people who are already making their own.

21 Jan

Winter weather can make for hazardous driving conditions during commutes to work, school and while traveling across the state and beyond during the chilliest months of the year.

A West Virginia University Extension Service expert offers advice to help motorists prepare their vehicles for cold weather travel by providing safety tips when winter-weather driving.

WVU Safety and Health Extension Specialist Dan Whiteman recommends following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “three P’s” of safe winter driving—prepare for the trip, protect yourself and prevent accidents on the road.

The three P’s can help reduce the risk of being in a wreck, or assist when you’ve become immobilized in a stopped or stalled vehicle.

“Take steps now to maintain your vehicle and keep necessary emergency items on-hand,” said Whiteman. “Doing so can reduce worry and distress if you are involved in an automobile accident, or if your vehicle breaks down while traveling.”

Before setting out on a trip through town or across the state, you can utilize your computer or mobile device to get a look at traffic reports and detailed road conditions in your area.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation’s 511 website offers a quick glance at the traffic and road conditions on major roadways throughout the state of West Virginia. If you’re on the go, you can download the free “WV511” application for any iOS or Android phone.

Prepare for winter driving and follow these OSHA guidelines to help ensure that your vehicle transports you safely from point A to point B:

  • Check your car’s battery. A normal battery lasts approximately four years before it needs to be replaced; a battery close to the end of its life may fail during cold temperatures.
  • Be sure windshield wiper blades work properly and replace them if they cause a streaking effect when wet. Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with no-freeze fluid and keep vehicle windows clear.
  • Check the vehicle’s antifreeze levels.
  • For long trips, or if you’re unsure of your vehicle’s reliability, consider having a professional garage or dealership perform an inspection of the vehicle.
  • Use the coin test. Insert a penny into your tire tread—head-side down—and make sure that part of the tread covers the head of President Lincoln. If none of the president’s head disappears below your tire tread, it is less than 2/32” and should be inspected by a qualified mechanic.

“Tires have wear bars molded into the rubber. When these wear bars start touching the pavement the tire should be replaced,” added Whiteman.

Whiteman suggests keeping an emergency kit in each vehicle you own. The contents of the kit may vary by season and length of travel. Food and water should be kept for long distance travel, while a flashlight, blankets, jumper cables and a shovel are important when driving all distances.

Special considerations should be made for winter travel, including some items that may seem unconventional on first glance.

“Keeping an abrasive material in your vehicle—such as sand or kitty litter—adds weight to your vehicle which can help with traction in the snow. It can also be spread in snow surrounding tires to help them grip the ground,” remarked Whiteman.

If you become stalled or stranded during winter travel, stay in your car and don’t overexert yourself. Only run your car long enough to stay warm.

“Run your vehicle for 10 minutes each hour to keep warm and conserve fuel,” said Whiteman.

Before setting out, it’s important that you plan the route you anticipate to reach your destination. Allow for extra travel time if the forecast is calling for wintry weather conditions.

“Familiarize yourself with the trip’s directions; let someone know when you are leaving and an approximate expected arrival time,” added Whiteman.

“Take your time when driving in hazardous conditions to ensure the control of your vehicle, and be sure that visibility through the windshield and windows is good.”

When driving during any season, it’s important that you always wear a seatbelt—protect yourself and children by wearing it properly. If an infant, rear-facing car seat is being used, never place it in front of an air bag. Children under 12 years old should always sit in the backseat where it is safer for them. Air bags can seriously injure or result in death to younger children.

Finally, be responsible when taking the wheel. Alcohol, mixed with driving and unsafe winter road conditions can result in accidents or death. It’s important to designate a sober driver to ensure you make it to your destination safely.

Learn more about how to stay safe this winter season from WVU Extension experts, visit


bg 01/6/14

CONTACT: Cassie Waugh, WVU Extension Service

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

13 Jan

How do you feel about your marriage or dating partner? Your family relationships? Roller coaster? Stuck in a rut? Research shows that satisfying relationships affects our emotional, physical, and even financial health.

The New Year is a great time to pause and reflect on how you might tweak your relationships to make them easier and more satisfying. If that feels like a lot of work, know that small, simple steps can make a big difference in the relationships you cherish.

Remember the “Change Yourself First” rule

None of us can change our partner, but how we act influences how he or she reacts. At any moment, you have the power to change how things are going between the two of you. Trying something simple, like raising your head and greeting your partner when he or she comes into the room, can have a positive effect.

Seven Great Relationship Intentions for 2014:

1. Play together

“Couples who play together, stay together.” Psychologist Art Aron and colleagues found that couples that participated in physically exciting activities together, like navigating an obstacle course, felt happier in their relationships. New and physical shared activities made the most difference.

Not up for rock climbing? These ideas can bring a spark into your relationship:

  • Try a new hobby together
  • Bike or hike through an unexplored area
  • Take a weekend trip to a nearby town
  • Learn to cha-cha or salsa dance as a couple

2. “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel”

According to relationship experts, James Taylor had it right. Research finds that giving and receiving messages of affection improves both the health of the relationships and the individuals in supportive relationships. Don’t expect that your loved ones automatically know how much you appreciate their actions.

  • Say you love each other more often
  • Figure out their Love Language and use it to show you care!
  • Not familiar with the Five Love Languages? Take this quiz.

3. Choose to focus on the positive: The 5-to-1 nice-to-nasty ratio

Dr. John Gottman found that couples who maintain a ratio of five positive moments (interactions) to each negative moment have relationships that last. In fact, he was able to reliably predict divorce in couples who had four negative moments for every three positive. Despite some of your partner’s annoying habits, it is important to think before you criticize or make snide comments that can damage your relationship.

  • Consciously choose to have positive moments (showing interest, being kind) each day
  • Stop yourself from commenting on every irritating habit or action of your partner

4. Put away your cell phone

Research shows that the presence of a cell phone during a face-to-face conversation, even if it is never touched, reduces people’s satisfaction with the conversation. It may surprise to realize that having your cell phone on the table while talking with your partner sends the message that your attention could be called away at any moment.

5. Talk positively about your mate to others

Within earshot of your mate, say something sincere and positive about your other half. This can be about either something they did or a character trait.

6. Make regular date nights a priority

The idea is to make well-deserved time for the two of you. It can be easy and cheap, like taking 15 minutes to eat pizza by candlelight or put on music and dance together. To make sure you keep the date, mark it on the calendar. Take turns planning your date night! Dates for special “one-on-one time” with your teenager or child who needs extra TLC can be beneficial, but make the couple time a priority, too. That’s usually what gets squeezed out in most families.

7. Use technology

During your day, send an unexpected text message letting your partner know you are looking forward to spending the evening together. Remember how you felt when you sent notes or cards while first dating? That affectionate text or tweet can have the same result! Depending on your partner, they might like a Facebook post that shares a photo of a fun time you had together.

Here’s how to use the Relationship Resolutions:

  • Review the tips above and pick 1-2 that seem doable this week
  • Pick small positive changes that you can track. Example: I will say something kind each day to my partner
  • Write them on your calendar or your smartphone reminders to keep your intentions in mind daily

Sources and Resources:
Aron, A., Norman, C., Aron, E., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78 (2), 273-284.
The Positive Perspective: Dr. Gottman’s Magic Ratio! Gottman Institute Blog, December 3, 2012.
Pinterest Group on healthy couple relationships

6 Jan

by Emily Murphy, WVU Extension Service Obesity Prevention specialist
It is the second week of 2014, and if you are like many Americans, you have already slipped or completely given up on your New Year’s Resolution for 2014. But don’t worry, you still have 51 more weeks to be successful in making a positive change in your life this year.

One of the most important things that you can do to improve you overall health is live a physically active lifestyle, so why not make this a priority for 2014 and years to come. Regardless of your size and shape, physical activity has been proven to add years to your life, and life to your years. The benefits of physical active are endless and include such things as:

  • Reducing your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • Increasing muscle tone and your metabolism.
  • Improving learning and keeping your brain fit.
  • Improving self-esteem and body image.
  • Improving stress and lifting depression.
  • Improving sleep habits.

If you are thinking about starting or improving your physical activity routine, here are some simple tips for long-term success:

1. Make the time.

  • The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • If you are just starting out, start slowly. Gradually build up to 30 minutes on most or all days of the week.
  • Schedule your exercise time into your daily calendar so that it becomes a regular part of your life.

2. Have reasonable expectations for yourself.

  • If you have been sedentary for a long time or are at risk for chronic disease, consults your primary care provider before starting an exercise program.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or two.

3. Have fun!

  • Choose activities that you enjoy and add variety to your workout routine.
  • Ask family members or friends to join you. Social support is an important component to maintaining a physically active lifestyle.

4. Set goals and celebrate your success.

  • Check your progress each week by setting attainable and realistic goals. Try to set a plan that will allow you to go farther, faster or longer each week. Remember to make your goals realistic for your ability level.
  • Making a healthy lifestyle change is not always easy. Being physically active on a consistent basis is something worth celebrating. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Small Steps to Better Health

Believe it or not, you do not even have to go to a gym or a formal exercise program to reap the benefits of physical activity. A simple way to increase your physical activity level, is to simply incorporate more activity into your daily routine. In fact, research has shown that simply reducing the amount of time spent sitting each day can improve your health. Here are a few simple ways to increase your daily physical activity routine:

  • Take the stairs.
    Make it a rule that if you have to go up two flights (or less) or down three flights (or less) to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Remember every time you take the stairs instead of the elevator you are making a positive choice to improve your health.
  • Park farther from the door.
    Whether you are at work, the mall, the grocery store or school, parking the car at the edge of the parking lot forces you to add steps to your daily routine. This will only add a few seconds to your trip, but if done every day it could add minutes to your life.
  • Garden or do yard work.
    Gardening or yard work are great because they not only increase your physical activity level, but they also give you an excuse to be outside. Planting vegetables, mowing the grass, raking leaves and shoveling the snow are all great ways to be active outdoors.
  • Turn off the TV.
    Time spent in front of screens are an independent predictor of disease, especially for kids. Research has shown that watching less TV not only translates into increased physical activity levels but it also results in a healthier diet as well. When you watch TV, you not only sit for a long period of time, but you are also exposed to commercials for high-sugar and high-fat foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 2 hours or less of TV each day.

This year, make physical activity a priority, it is one of the best things you can do for your health. Remember, any amount of activity is better than none, but the more you get the better. Have a healthy, happy New Year!

30 Dec

by Cindy Fitch, director of Families and Health for WVU Extension Service

Each New Year brings an opportunity to reflect on the past and look toward the future. For many of us, that includes resolutions for change. Whether we are looking for stronger relationships or better health, or developing new habits for self-improvement, the New Year is a great time to set goals to improve our quality of life.

Weight Loss

A common resolution for adults is to lose weight. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Excess weight impacts health and quality of life. Many people resolve to “go on a diet” to lose weight. They omit certain foods, usually ones that they enjoy, and restrict others. It is no wonder that few people succeed.

Going on a diet does little to improve quality of life! However, it is possible to make small changes in the way we choose to eat that will

  1. provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients,
  2. improve health,
  3. help manage weight, and, last but not least,
  4. bring pleasure to eating.

For a resolution you’re likely to keep – add not subtract

Keeping a resolution to add something may be easier than a resolution to restrict something. The foods that have the most nutritional value tend to be the most filling, and leave us less hungry for empty calories.

The suggestions below are based on many years of research studies on weight management and health promotion. Some of them may be brand new to you and you can try them out. Others may be things that you do sometimes, but could do more frequently. The “best practice” recommendation is given in the list, but it is okay to start slowly and set small, realistic goals.

  • Eat breakfast every day. When we skip breakfast, or lunch for that matter, our metabolism (the rate at which we use calories) slows down to preserve energy stores. Eating at regular intervals triggers changes in the body that promote energy use.
  • Eat two cups of vegetables every day. Vegetables contain fiber and water, both of which fill the stomach, and they are good sources of vitamins and antioxidants that promote health. Eat a variety of colors to get a variety of nutrients.
  • Eat one and a half cups of fruit. Fruit has similar healthy properties to vegetables with a sweet taste. Eat fruit more than fruit juice for more nutrition with less sugar.
  • Have three cups of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese. These foods provide more calcium and vitamin D than other foods do and they provide high-quality protein.
  • Eat fish twice a week. Fish is a lean source of protein and many types contain omega-three fatty acids, which decrease inflammation.
  • Make half your grains whole grain. Aim for three ounces or more. This can include whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, and other whole grains. Whole grain has the outer bran layer for fiber and the inner germ layer for healthy fats along with minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium – essential nutrients that are in short supply in most foods. If you cook from scratch, try substituting whole wheat flour for half of the white flour in recipes.
  • Keep your protein lean. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, and nuts are all good sources of protein. Think of meat as a flavor enhancer instead of the centerpiece of the meal.
  • Be mindful of your eating. Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full. Enjoy the different flavors of the foods.

This year, make a plan to eat what you need first, then, if you are hungry, eat what you want. Have a healthy, happy New Year!