Roasting Adds a New Twist to Vegetables

The farmer’s market season is winding down but there is still time to enjoy the end-of-the-season veggies in a new way. All you need is an oven, a baking sheet, olive oil and seasonings (salt, pepper and your choice of herbs and spices). Roasted vegetables is a mouth-watering dish that your family will enjoy and ask for again. The high dry heat of the oven concentrates the natural sugar in the vegetables creating a caramelized flavor that is both savory and sweet.

Selecting the vegetables to roast is an important first step. Root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, and turnips are delicious when roasted. Other vegetables like winter squash, asparagus and mushrooms are also good choices for roasting. Green colored vegetables like green beans and broccoli are not as well suited because their color may turn to an unappealing olive green. Be sure that cut vegetables are similar in size so they cook evenly.

Set oven temperature between 400-450°F and move the racks to the top third of the oven. The higher rack helps the vegetables to brown. The high heat is important so the vegetables caramelize on the outside. Cooking at a lower temperature will cause the vegetables to overcook before they achieve their browned color. Use a heavy 13×9-inch roasting pan or any large baking pan. Lining the pan with aluminum foil will save time when cleaning up.

Put vegetables that take the longest to cook in the pan first. It is important to leave space between vegetables. If vegetables are crowded together, they will steam instead of roast. In a small bowl, combine olive oil with your choice of seasonings, like lemon juice, salt, pepper. A general rule of thumb: use 1 Tablespoon of olive oil for every 2 pounds of vegetables. Drizzle the seasoned oil over the vegetables in the pan and toss lightly to coat all the vegetables. Remember to keep some oil if you are adding other vegetables later in the roasting process. Coating the vegetables lightly with the seasoned oil keeps them from drying out and adds flavor while roasting. You can also add garlic cloves or sprigs of fresh rosemary, oregano, thyme or sage to your pan to add flavor.

Vegetables cook at different times so use this chart as a guide to determine recommended roasting time. For example, roast onions and Brussels sprouts (tossed with seasoned olive oil), uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring once. Remove the pan from the oven and add red peppers (drizzled with remaining oil). Toss to combine all vegetables together in pan and return to the oven. Continue to cook about 10 to 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and brown on the edges.

Roasted vegetables are a special treat especially this time of year when the vegetables are fresh out of the garden but can also be enjoyed year round. Combining a colorful variety of vegetables together when roasting makes an appetizing and healthy side dish.

The Glycemic Index:  A Tool For Diabetes Meal Planning

The glycemic index, or GI, is a useful tool for people with diabetes to manage their diet for better blood sugar control. The glycemic index measures how much a food containing carbohydrates may increase blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index are digested and absorbed quickly which causes a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.  In comparison, foods with a low GI value are digested slowly causing a slower increase in blood sugar levels.  Low GI foods are typically rich in fiber and protein but may also be high in fat, saturated fat and calories.

This index is based on the weight of the food, 50 grams, and not the portion size. For example, 50 grams is about one cup of cooked rice but is 4 cups of cooked beets. Portion control is important for managing blood sugar and weight, regardless of the GI value of the food.  

Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

Glycemic Index is not related to the nutrition quality of the food. Chocolate and carrots have the same GI value of 49, which is considered a low GI food, but obviously carrots are much higher in nutrient value than chocolate. Keep in mind that the GI is based on a single food being consumed alone on an empty stomach but usually we eat foods together in a meal. One way to use the GI system is to combine high-GI foods with low-GI foods to balance the meal or try to select more medium and low GI foods.  

Several factors can influence the GI value of foods. Fruit juice has a higher level than fruit since the fruit has fiber to lower the glycemic index. The ripeness of the fruit increases the GI value, because the fruit creates more sugar naturally, as it ripens. The more processed a food, generally the higher the GI value. For example, mashed potatoes have a higher GI value than a baked potato.  

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

There is no one diet or meal plan that works for everyone with diabetes.  A good foundation is to select high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, balanced with meat, dairy and healthy fats. Choose more foods in their natural state, and less processed foods. 

Meal plans should be individualized to meet personal food preferences and lifestyle to control blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and maintain a healthy weight. A registered dietitian can develop a personalized meal plan that works for you. To find a registered dietitian in your area, go to https://www.eatright.org/find-a-nutrition-expert .

The Glycemic Index should not be the only guide to determine food choices but is another tool to use in the meal planning process. For more information on the Glycemic Index, go to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.

DASH to Heart Health

Almost half of the American population has hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and having high blood pressure puts you at risk for things like a stroke, heart disease, or even death. Not only are the numbers high, the CDC says only 1 in 4 of those people who have hypertension, have their condition under control.

The University of Maryland Extension health and wellness team are working to help remedy that issue by offering online classes to learn the DASH-Plus high blood pressure management program. DASH-Plus: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – Plus Physical Activities is a community-based education program designed for adults over 55 years old who are managing high blood pressure with or without medication.

The full program includes eight 1-hour sessions, presented online for easy learning from home. Classes include subjects relating to healthy eating habits and incorporating physical exercise into your everyday routine. Learn about salt solutions, dairy, the benefits of fruits and vegetables, and even grocery shopping and budgeting tips to create the healthiest diet plan for your heart.

DASH-Plus classes, led by dietitians and trained University of Maryland Extension Educators, are happening now with a new session beginning Sept. 9, 2021. Interested participants can sign up for all eight classes, or choose the individual workshops that fit your needs.

Go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/dash-plus-september-session to find more information, a class list and registration information for each class.

Women’s Health: Putting a Halt on Gaining Weight Over 40

Recently, several of my female friends who are over 40 noticed they gained weight in the last few years. After a visit to their healthcare provider and finding out that the weight gain was probably not just related to hormones, I was the next one they called, their friend, the Registered Dietitian. My friends assumed I could provide them with a ‘magic bullet diet’ that could melt away 10 pounds quickly. 

Instead, I deliver the news that as we mature our metabolism decreases and how our body stores fat changes. Also, there is no ‘magic bullet diet’ for losing weight quickly that is healthy and can be maintained. In fact, diets in general don’t work; however, having healthy behaviors (diet and physical activity) can promote weight loss, and are easier to maintain than restrictive diets. 

Here are some of the tips I shared with my friends for slimming down after 40.

1. Eat more plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables. These colorful powerhouse foods are low in calories, full of nutrients, and high in fiber which provides satiety or ‘a feeling of being full’, and therefore, you will eat less calories. Add some whole grain-rich foods for an added boost of fiber.

2. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. ‘Breaking the fast’ with a morning meal will jump start your metabolism and burn more calories. Eating breakfast will also prevent that mid-morning hunger which may cause you to eat something that is high in calories. Eating small meals frequently is also a good option for keeping your appetite in check throughout the day.

3. Consider the timing of your meals. There is some evidence that consuming most of your calories by mid-afternoon (before 3 p.m.), may help drop some pounds as opposed to eating a big dinner meal or heavy snacks in the evening. Regardless, it matters what you eat. To reduce calories, make it a habit to choose lower calorie options of the foods you enjoy. 

4. Cooking methods matter. Pay attention to the way you prepare food. Instead of frying food or cooking it in butter or oil, try grilling, baking, or broiling. Do the same at good restaurants too; skip foods that are fried or that come in creamy sauces. 

5. Get moving! Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week and schedule it! Make sure it’s on your weekly calendar, and ask a friend to join you. Having an ‘activity partner’ will keep you both motivated.  Also, mix up the activities and your partners. I run with one friend, bike with another and take a fitness class with yet another friend. It’s a great way to socialize and get those weekly minutes in. 

Don’t be hard on yourself. Accept that your body and metabolism is changing and embrace your ‘maturity’. This could be a great opportunity to revisit your health behaviors and really focus on your health for the next 40 years (or more).

For more weight loss tips and information about women’s health issues, check out these websites:

Discover a Day on the Farm

Where our food comes from can be just as important as what food we are putting into our bodies. Knowing where your food was grown can help you make informed decisions about freshness, nutrition, and quality, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Learning how your food is grown, raised, and brought to market and to your table provides a critical understanding of agricultural systems and the people who work to provide that food.

University of Maryland Extension agricultural agent Racheal Slattery is striving to educate the public on the importance of farm families and understanding food production by offering a virtual tour of a working dairy farm through her Day on the Farm program. 

The public is invited to follow the farm owners, on-farm experts like the herd veterinarian and nutritionist, and UME experts, through a guided tour that demonstrates the birthing and growth cycle of calves to cows, the milking process, animal nutrition and care, and other farming topics like equipment and conservation.

The first Day on the Farm tour introduces the DeBaugh family from Washington County, Md and their fifth generation dairy farm. A virtual map and guided stops takes the public through a video tour of their dairy farm, explaining farm management, facilities, animal husbandry, and punctuated by helpful 4-H youth who explain difficult scientific terms and concepts.

To learn more about where your food comes from, take the tour at https://go.umd.edu/dayonthefarm.

Hot off the Grill: Healthy Grillin’ ideas!

Some of my fondest summer memories include weekend barbeques at the Jersey shore. Eating outdoors and the smell of food cooking on our grill still makes my mouth water. Grilling isn’t only a summer activity. In fact, during the recent pandemic many people, myself included, found grilling to be a great alternative to using a stove or oven. Seeing grill marks on foods and eating outdoors just makes things taste better. 

Grilling is easy and can be a healthy cooking method, especially if you use lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken, or fish. Marinating foods in juices, vinegars, and wine along with your favorite herbs and spices adds a calorie-free flavor punch. If you prefer bottled marinades, choose one that contains a small amount of oil (preferably olive or canola).  

Grilling can also have a downside regarding our health. When high-fat meats are cooked at high temperatures, two cancer-causing compounds are formed — heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAH). When I first read the science behind this I thought, does this mean no more burgers on the grill? The answer is no. The good news is there are things you can do to reduce the health risk from these compounds.  

1. Choose lean meats, cut them in small pieces, and grill them at a lower temperature longer. For example, instead of a one big burger or chicken breast, I grill burger sliders and chicken kabobs with fruits and vegetables. Plant foods add color and nutrients and don’t form HCAs and PAHs.

2. Marinating meats and poultry 1-2 hours before grilling can reduce these cancer-causing compounds, especially if marinades contain olive-oil and herbs and spices high in antioxidants (oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, cinnamon). My favorite marinade for poultry and vegetables is a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and one-two drops of lemon juice.

3. Trimming excess fat will limit the fat drippings and PAHs.

4. Flipping meats often prevents them from charring, limiting HCAs from forming.

Recently I discovered many foods you can grill besides meat, poultry, and fish. My new favorites include grilled Cesar salad and an array of fresh vegetables and fruits. Grilled watermelon wedges and pineapple slices (great on chicken or a burger) are delicious and nutrient-rich, and grilled peach halves with shortbread crumbles and strawberries with grilled pound cake drizzled with balsamic glaze are my two new favorite summer desserts. 

Summer is quickly approaching. If you haven’t already, it’s time to get out the grill, clean and fire it up, and have fun with friends and family over a great meal! For hot tips for grilling safely, visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education:  https://www.fightbac.org/?s=grilling+tips&id=12049.

Try this great grilling recipe!

Grilled peaches with shortbread cookie crumbles

  • 4 peaches, preferable Freestone
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shortbread cookies, finely crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
  • Low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt
  • Amaretto liqueur (optional)
  1. Heat a gas grill to medium.
  2. Cut peaches in half, all the way around. Twist halves off their pits. Remove pits. Brush the cut sides of the peaches lightly with olive oil. Grill, cut side down until grill marks form and flesh softens, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Combine crumbled shortbread cookies with brown sugar and melted butter or margarine. Scoop small amount of mixture into the pit hole of each peach half.
  4. Put peach halves in an aluminum foil pan and move to the side of the grill to continue cooking over indirect heat, another 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Serve with small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt. Optional: Drizzle with amaretto liqueur.

We’ve Missed You!

While Breathing Room has been on something of a short hiatus for the past few weeks, we were diligently working behind the scenes developing a brand new University of Maryland Extension website, complete with an improved user navigation and more ways to help Marylanders find the answers they need.

The UME Family and Consumer Sciences team offers numerous programs and educational opportunities, even above and beyond the scope of this blog. Our experts specialize in health, financial wellness, food safety, health insurance literacy, nutrition, mental wellness, and community outreach.

Visit the new Extension website to learn about them and the wide variety of educational opportunities the Family and Consumer Sciences program offers!

Resources for Personal Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Risk Management Solution Crisis Identity Planning ConceptIt was March 12 when we found out that offices were closed, and the following day that schools would be closed in our state.  At that time, it was supposed to be for a two-week period, but now we have moved beyond that. While many are still working, others are laid off or furloughed. Even if you are still working, you may experience fluctuations in your income or even unexpected bills. Since the beginning, I have been keeping a list of resources shared by my friends and colleagues during this difficult time. 

Now is the time to share them with you.

Several government agencies have pulled together resources for consumers. The list is not comprehensive and focuses primarily on finance related topics. An important note is that the federal tax filing deadline is extended from April 15 until July 15. Now if you are expecting a refund, you probably should not wait to file your taxes. You should also check the filing requirements for your state. Maryland residents have a filing date of July 15.  Click on the links below for government resources in response to COVID-19.

Cooperative Extension has responded with resources available for food preservation, nutrition, mindfulness, and finance. Most of the links provided will focus on finances, as that is the role I serve with Extension. The most important item to remember is that you need a plan. Figure out your current situation and develop a plan in case your situation changes. Always seek credible resources for information. There are people out there that are trying to take advantage of you in this challenging environment. The Cooperative Extension resources listed below are credible. You should also check the Extension resources available in your state.

I am a member of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS).  The organization has pulled together a list of resources around emergency preparedness, cleaning, hand washing, and food safety, family resources, and financial wellness resources.  Click here for its COVID-19 resources.

Some parents are looking for free resources to teach your children at home. 

Colleagues have sent me other resources as pdf files.  If you are interested in them, please email me at jketterm@umd.edu.

It is important to keep in mind that this situation is temporary. Stay positive as this will pass. During difficult times, you need to take care of your mental and physical well-being. Take time to unplug and stop reading all of the negative coverage.  

Stay healthy.