Close
Search

Enter the words or phrases you want to find

Blog

What Does Fitness Mean To You?

athletic black male performing a clapping push up mid-air with hands together.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fitness as: “the quality or state of being fit.”

Wow, that seems broad.

When I ask someone what “being fit” or what fitness means to them, most people will talk about only physical health. A lot of times we use it as an adjective for people who look a certain way. Maybe they are lean or have big muscles. The younger me would have agreed with this definition. The younger me would have also spent 2 hours in the gym only to go to a nearby restaurant and eat an entire meat lover’s pizza by myself. The younger me couldn’t touch her toes, didn’t care about her emotional or mental wellbeing, and barely slept. But I looked “fit!” In this case, my physical appearance was not an accurate reflection of my overall health.

Fitness is more than just physical. To be physically fit we must feel our best in other ways. We must feel good because we are sleeping adequately, eating well, and supporting our mental, spiritual, and emotional health. Fitness is a fluid concept and can change depending on the phase of life that we are in.

So, what does fitness mean to you? Maybe that’s meeting a daily step count goal, or that you can play a recreational sport. For some people, attending a yoga class can be great for their physical and mental health. Sometimes we are in a phase of our life where being fit means you’re able to run or bike in a race or achieve ambitious strength and power goals. Other times goals may be more functional such as climbing stairs without being winded or comfortably completing household chores. We all go through phases where our physical goals are more ambitious while in other phases we seek to maintain our physical fitness. Sometimes we need to focus on our mental health or reset to focus on nutrition goals.

Maybe, fitness is as broad as Merriam-Webster says. To me, being fit means feeling confident in my whole body (physical and mental) strength and being physically able to do whatever I want to do. Whether we are in an ambitious phase or more of a maintenance phase with our physical health, it is important that we keep eating well and keep moving to support our overall fitness.

So, in your current season of life, what does fitness mean to you? Share in the comments.

You might also enjoy:


Essential Tips for Taking Breaks During Work

How to Plan for Busy Fall Schedules

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

Bean & Butternut Squash Chili

It is not officially Fall and the warm temperatures in North Carolina are a reminder of this fact. However, I’ve decided to manifest Fall all the same, which I am mostly blaming on the seasonal Fall items at Trader Joe’s. I have already seen butternut squash more prominently displayed in the grocery stores and thought I would share this chili recipe from our colleagues at NC EFNEP.

Ingredients

  • Non-stick cooking spray 
  • 2 cups diced butternut squash (about ½ of a medium squash)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef 
  • 1 cup or 1 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans 
  • 1 cup or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 3 cups or 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder 
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated
  • Shredded cheese and non-fat sour cream for topping (if desired)

Directions

  1. Spray Dutch oven or large pot with non-stick cooking spray. 
  2. Peel and chop butternut squash into a medium dice (discard the skin and seeds) and set aside. 
  3. Peel and dice onion. 
  4. Place chopped onion and pepper in skillet. 
  5. Cook ground beef and onion over medium heat in a non-stick skillet until meat is browned and onion is soft (about 5 minutes). Drain. 
  6. Add butternut squash, undrained red kidney beans, undrained black beans, tomatoes, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, red chili flakes, and chopped cilantro stems to cooked ground beef and onions. Stir to mix well.
  7. Bring to a boil and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes. Stir several times to be sure chili is not sticking to the pot. (Temperature should reach 160°F.)
  8. Top with cheese and non-fat sour cream if desired. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Nutrition Information per Serving

Recipe serves 4

  • Serving Size: approximately 20 ounces
  • Calories: 430 calories
  • Fat: 6 grams
  • Sodium: 970 mg *
  • Carbohydrates: 63 grams
  • Fiber: 20 grams
  • Sugar: 9 grams (Includes 0g Added Sugars)
  • Protein: 32 grams

*You can rinse and drain canned beans to reduce the amount of sodium

You may also enjoy:

Easy Side: Lemon Artichoke Quinoa Salad

Instant Pot Mexican Quinoa

Smart Start for the Holidays: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

“I feel good and my A1C is now 5.4. It was 6.3.”

Below is a testimonial from an Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes participant:

“Karen B. taught my class last year. I could not break my weight. I started at 169 and could not break my plateau at 159 or 160. I just needed to lose 2 lbs. I have used what she taught and now weigh 154. And, I feel good and my A1C is now 5.4. It was 6.3. EVERYBODY can do this… it just takes some of us a little longer.”

– Simone, A recent Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes participant

You may also enjoy:

“My doctor took me off the prediabetes meds as a result. That is real progress I think.”

“This program helped me learn how to eat better…”

“By making relatively simple changes to our diet and lifestyle, I was able to lose 10% of my initial body weight…”

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

How to Use Leftover Pumpkin Puree

White ceramic ramekin filled with pumpkin puree on a white table.

Pumpkin spice everything season is upon us. Maybe you made our delicious Pumpkin Mousse recipe or Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes and have leftovers. If you find yourself with leftover pumpkin puree, don’t let it go to waste!

Ideas for Leftover Pumpkin Puree

  • Breakfast: add to oatmeal, yogurt, or pancakes.
  • Drinks: make a pumpkin latte at home or add it to a smoothie for a healthy dose of vitamins A and C.
  • Snacks: add to a batch of muffins or make a pumpkin-based soup.

Pumpkin Blogs

Until you decide how you want to use the leftover puree, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. If you don’t get around to using the remaining puree within a week, freeze it. It can be very helpful to store the puree in pre-portioned amounts. Use a cookie scoop and freeze the puree on a sheet pan in the fridge before placing the frozen puree scoops in a zip-top freezer bag. You can also use an ice cube tray or a muffin tin. Defrost portions as you need them.

You might also enjoy:


Essential Tips for Taking Breaks During Work

How to Plan for Busy Fall Schedules

Fall and Winter Fruit: Easy Persimmon Recipes

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

Essential Tips for Taking Breaks During Work

happy black professional enjoying  a rest from his computer screen

Have you been finding yourself extra stressed, tired, or distracted during work? Truth is, you may be overworking and could benefit from taking breaks throughout the workday. There are many physical and mental benefits of taking breaks at work and they can also boost productivity significantly. This blog will teach you why breaks are essential to our work schedules and how to implement them!

Benefits of Breaks at Work

Work breaks are great ways to decompress or get your body moving and can act as a reset button for work tasks and projects. Work breaks not only increase productivity and a more balanced physical, mental, and emotional health day-to-day, but they also preserve our long-term health and reduce burnout. Here are a few other positive results of taking work breaks:

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Limit injuries due to cramps, tightness and strain
  3. Reevaluation of tasks, goals, and projects
  4. Boost employee mood and morale

As we are past the one-year mark that many of us have been working from home, dissociation from work and personal life may become a little more difficult. Additionally, some of the good Work From Home practices that we picked up at the beginning of this transition may have fallen behind or become less consistent. Even for the folks that have begun moving into the office or on a hybrid work schedule, our bodies may become significantly more tired after transitioning to a new workspace or interacting with others in the office. These are a few ways to spend your break:

  1. Go for a walk: Sitting at our desks for long periods of time causes stress and strain to certain parts of the body. Getting up out of the chair and going for a walk gets our joints moving and blood flowing resulting in less aches and pains after a long day.
  2. Mindfulness & meditation: Work often has us overthinking about our long to-do lists and the large amount of tasks we have to complete. This causes us extra stress and pressure throughout the day and may result in less efficient or lower quality work. Taking a mental break and practicing mindfulness or meditation will help you focus on what is in front of you at the moment. This will also help you feel relaxed and refreshed when returning back to work.
  3. Stretch: Not all breaks have to be a long period of time. Stretching is a great way to take a quick break in between meetings or intensive work periods. Another great thing about stretching is that there are endless varieties of stretches that can be done sitting or standing. Check out the 8 Stretches to Do During the Workday blog for some ideas of stretches to loosen up your body and increase mobility.

You Might Also Enjoy:


8 Stretches to Do During the Workday

Stretch the Stress Away

5 Tips to Stay Motivated For Exercising at Home

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

“My doctor took me off the prediabetes meds as a result. That is real progress I think.”

Below is a testimonial from an Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes participant:

“I just want to express my gratitude to my instructor who was such a great nutrition coach during the entire program.  Although I did not lose as much weight as I had hoped, my husband participated as my buddy and he lost 40 pounds.  We are going to continue to work towards our weight goals and use this as a lifestyle change. 

Unfortunately, I had a couple of injuries that prevented me from being more successful in the weight loss area, but I was successful in dropping my A1c as well as glucose levels as a result of the diet modifications.  My doctor took me off the prediabetes meds as a result. That is real progress I think. My instructor was instrumental in me being able to reach my goals and that of my husband, and I am truly thankful!”

– A recent Eat Smart, Move More, Prevent Diabetes participant

You may also enjoy:

“This program helped me learn how to eat better…”

“By making relatively simple changes to our diet and lifestyle, I was able to lose 10% of my initial body weight…”

“I’m walking more, my metabolism is better, and I lost inches from my waist.”

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

BEST way to cook okra – GRILLED

char-grilled okra piled on a white plate

I grew up in the south. This means that fried okra was on the menu frequently. In fact, I am not sure I knew that you could eat it any other way until I was an adult. Lucky for me, my mom was a health-conscious southern cook and did not use heavy batter or deep fat. It was, however, still fried. When I started to cook on my own, okra was just not on the menu. That is until a few years ago when I discovered THE best way to prepare okra – GRILLED.

Okra is a great choice and is loaded with vitamins and fiber. It is only 30 calories or so per cup.

Okra pieces scattered on an outdoor grill top being cooked

This is a non-recipe recipe as the proportions are not critical. For about a pound of okra, you will need about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. I prefer to use Maldon or other flaky salt but kosher salt will do just fine too.

Wash and dry a pound of okra. You can slightly trim the ends but do not cut off the whole top. You can also leave as is. Dry completely using a kitchen towel or place in the refrigerator uncovered for a few hours. In a large bowl, toss the okra with olive oil. Toss well so that each pod gets a little oil. You can also spray with oil if you like. You really don’t need much oil. Grill using an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan. Turn the okra frequently. They are done when they are well charred and soft. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with salt. You can serve hot or room temperature.

I love to serve these as an appetizer as finger food. You can just pick them up using the stem end and enjoy. I have even served these to non-okra eaters who now profess their love of grilled okra.

You may also enjoy:

Easy Side: Lemon Artichoke Quinoa Salad


Med Side Dish: Broccoli, Tomato, Mushroom Medley

How to Make Fridge Pickles

Instant Pot Mexican Quinoa

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

Healthy Pancakes Do Exist!

You may think that pancakes are off the menu for you. Too many unhealthy carbohydrates, sugar in the syrup – no pancakes for you. However, it is possible thanks to this great Med Instead of Meds recipe. There is truly such a thing as healthy pancakes and the biggest plus is, they are super easy to make.

A friend recently said it best, “I don’t know why anyone would eat pancakes any other way after having these…yum!”

This recipe continues to be clicked on more than most on Med Instead of Meds. So, whether for a special breakfast during the week OR a dinner treat, enjoy these guilt-free, delicious cakes. Bet you too will be sharing the recipe with someone as you will be so happy with yourself. Enjoy!

You may also enjoy:

More Reasons to NOT Skip Breakfasts

Easy Acorn Squash Breakfast or Dinner: Egg-in-the-hole

Vegetables for Breakfast – Avocado Tomato Salad

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

Best, Easy Corn Salad: EVER

white plate with a scoop of corn salad in the center and squash peels and cherry tomatoes as a garnish

With all the fresh corn available you may be tired of just plain corn on the cob. I have been experimenting with using corn to make a cold summer salad. I like cooking the corn in the husk in the microwave. The corn comes out perfectly every time. I like a sherry vinaigrette but you could use any vinaigrette you like. Here is my latest version of this delicious salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 ears fresh corn, unshucked
  • 1 small zucchini or yellow squash
  • 12 cherry tomatoes – a variety of colors is best
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • 4 T sherry vinaigrette

Directions

  1. Cook each ear of corn separately in the microwave for 4 minutes.
  2. Use hot mit to remove and cut off end. Grab the silk end and shake, the corn should come out without any silks. See a video here.
  3. Cut the corn off of the cob and toss with vinaigrette.
  4. Use a vegetable peeler to make squash ribbons.
  5. Plate according to picture.

Nutrition Information per Serving

  • Serving Size: 6.5 ounces
  • Calories: 170 calories
  • Total Fat: 8 grams
  • Sodium: 70 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams (Includes 0g Added Sugars)
  • Protein: 4 grams

You may also enjoy:

Chicken Cutlet with Cucumber and Greens

Whole Grain, Chickpea, and Black Bean Salad

Khichdi – Instant Pot Recipe

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now

Chicken Cutlet with Cucumber and Greens

Chicken cutlet is a year-round favorite and a simple way to get more bang for your buck. One boneless skinless chicken breast makes for two hefty cutlets when pounded thin. The surprising addition of crackers goes the distance by adding both crunch and flavor. When paired with a simple summer salad – one full of fresh cucumbers – this meal is sure to be on the summer-time menu plan. 

Recipe from NC EFNEP

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 10 whole-wheat ritz crackers or saltines, pounded to crumbs
  • 1  teaspoon salt, divided 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 1 lemon, zested, then juiced 
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (about 16 ounces)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 bag mixed greens (about 5 ounces) 
  • 1 cucumber

Directions

  1. On a plate or shallow bowl combine the flour, half the salt, and half the pepper. Mix to combine.  
  2. One a separate plate, add the egg, and zest from one lemon. Mix until fairly beaten, without any streaks of white. 
  3. On a third plate, add the crushed crackers. (This is a three-step breading station.)
  4. Slice the chicken breast in half horizontally and season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Cover with an ample layer of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin or the back of the sauté pan (that will be used for pan-searing the chicken breast) pound the chicken until it looks like it has doubled in size, but not thickness. Repeat this process for the other half of the chicken breast. Place them on a cutting board
  6. Place a large skillet on medium heat and add the olive oil. 
  7. Dredge one piece of the chicken in the flour, then egg, then crackers and place into the skillet. Repeat for the other chicken breast. Wash hands throughly after handling raw chicken.
  8. Cook the chicken in a single layer, so that neither breast is touching. Cook for 5 minutes per side, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165˚ F. Once cooked, transfer the chicken onto a paper towel lined plate. Cut the 2 cutlets in half to create 4 servings of chicken.
  9. Cut the cucumber and add it to a large bowl. For added appeal, peel the cucumber alternately then cut it in half half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and then cut horizontally into crescent shapes.
  10. Add the remaining salt, pepper, oil, and lemon juice and toss to combine. 
  11. Add the mixed greens to the bowl and toss to combine. Serve next to the chicken cutlets. 

Nutrition Information per Serving

  • Serving Size: ~ 4 ounces of chicken with a quarter of mixed greens bag
  • Calories: 320 calories
  • Total Fat: 14 grams
  • Sodium: 730 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 2 grams (Includes 0g Added Sugars)
  • Protein: 31 grams

You may also enjoy:

Whole Grain, Chickpea, and Black Bean Salad

More Reasons to NOT Skip Breakfasts

Quick meal for a Busy Weeknight: Build Your Own Burrito Bowl

Don’t miss another great blog: Subscribe Now