Nutrition and Health 

Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions

Caregivers and those with diabetes are encouraged to attend this program.  This is a course will help you make changes toward a happier, healthier, lifestyle by managing diabetes.  The classes will be offered on Fridays beginning June 24 and continuing through July 29 2016 from 2:00 - 4:30 p.m. at the University of Missouri Cass County Service Center in Harrisonville.  Some topics covered during the 6 week long program include:  Healthy eating, calculating carbohydrates, monitoring blood sugar, problem solving, avoiding complications and working with health care providers. Participants will receive the book:  Living a healthy Life with Chronic Conditions. The program is supported through the Regional Arthritis Foundation and was created by Stanford University.  If you have any questions about food safety, nutrition or any other health related topic please Holly Jay at or at 816-380-8460.


Food Preservation Party

Do you want to enjoy fresh, delicious foods preserved at home?  In this hands-on workshop participants will learn the basic canning principles, food safety, proper equipment to use, food selection for optimum flavor, and storage guidelines.  The party will be on June 11, 2016 from 8:30 am - 5:00 pm at the Cass County Extension Center located at 201 W. Wall Street in Harrisonville.  Cost is $80 per participant and pre-registration and payment is required.  Contact the MU Cass County Extension Center to register no later than June 6, 2016.  Please see the link for more information at Preservation Part (PDF) or to register please use Registration Form (PDF).


Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill!

The websites states to Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill our foods.  These four words are packed with meaning when preparing foods for your family and friends.  Food safety is a topic we hear a lot about.  But until we know someone who becomes ill we really don’t think it will happen to us.

As a Nutrition and Health Education Specialist for MU Extension I receive a lot of calls about foods.  Most callers are concerned about the safety of the food.  Let’s focus on our refrigerator and the “Chill” or temperature of our food storage.

After we have prepared and served a dish to our family any remaining food or leftovers, must be stored properly to prevent bacterial growth.  Such bacterial growth can cause infections and illnesses when consumed.  These illnesses are known as foodborne illness.

According to the National Restaurant Association, Foodborne illness causes flu like symptoms and can be especially serious for those with underdeveloped immune systems or compromised immune systems such as children and the elderly or those with chronic conditions.

Now that we know what an illness is we can lessen the likelihood of becoming ill by storing foods properly.  According to we need to keep cold foods cold and store leftovers as soon after a meal as possible.

Leftovers should be stored in shallow airtight packages or containers that are moisture and vapor proof.  Place containers in the refrigerator on different shelves so food cools quickly.  Ready to eat foods should be stored above raw meats and seafood.

Leftovers should be used within three to four days as a general rule.  Some foods like gravies and ground meats should be used in one or two days.  Do not depend on how a food looks, smells, or tastes to indicate if it is safe to eat. A close personal friend ate some three day old leftovers and was very ill for several days.

A good rule of thumb is: “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!”  Why take a risk in becoming ill?

Let’s focus on our refrigerator for a moment.  When storing food in the refrigerator we assume it is safe going in and safe coming out.  But could putting it in the frig introduce bacteria?  When was the last time you cleaned the frig?  We store foods in packages from the store which have been handled by many people.  Spilled or spoiled foods may be in the refrigerator right now.  All of these situations could allow bacteria and pathogens to contaminate other foods in our refrigerators.

When it comes to your refrigerator/freezer take a few preventative measures.

  • Clean spill when they happen.  It is much easier to do when fresh than a week or even a day later.                                    

  • Wash the outside of packages that are soiled.

  • Use clean air tight and moisture proof containers to store foods.

  • Clean your refrigerator on a regular basis.

  • Wipe condiment containers off after use and/or before placing in the frig.                                                                

  • Store ready to eat foods above uncooked meats.

  • Maintain a temperature of 400 or below in the frig and 00 or below in the freezer.

  • Throw out unused leftovers after a few days.


According to Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters for Adults Leader Guide, a simple bleach solution could be used to wipe shelves and door handles.  Mix ¼ teaspoon bleach with two cups of water in a spray bottle.  Store in a cool, dry place for no more than one month.  Wear rubber gloves when using the bleach solution. The bleach solution could also be used to sanitize countertops and cutting boards.


Remember when you finish your meal and have foods left over:

  • Store in airtight containers or packaging.

  • Place in the refrigerator or freezer promptly.

  • Keep your refrigerator at 400 or below.

  • Freezer temperatures should be at 00 or below.

  • Use within three to four days depending on the food.


Some bacteria such as, Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures. states, “Listeriosis has the second highest fatality rate among all infections caused by foodborne pathogens.”  Utilize these tips and remember When in Doubt, Throw it Out.


Useful websites with information about food safety include:                                                                                                         

If you have personal questions about food safety or would like more information about food safety, nutrition or any other health related topics please visit, stop in or contact me at the Missouri Extension Service Center in Cass County - 816-380-8460.  I would be glad to help you have a healthier and food safe life.



Protein Intake Crucial to Surgery Recovery

If you’ve been an active, independent adult for most of your life, suddenly finding yourself a patient can be a mixture of frustration and challenge.  There are always do’s and don’ts following surgery, but good nutrition is crucial to speed wound healing, improve immunity and ensure the best outcome.  Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition Specialist with MU Extension shares, “As a recent knee surgery patient, I planned ahead to make sure that my post-operative diet had plenty of heart-healthy, low-fat protein.  Research is conclusive that this one of many tools that increases one’s ability to recover quicker.”   It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a joint replaced; a hysterectomy or a bypass operation, the body requires extra nutrients to heal, so focusing on nutrition can mean the difference between bouncing back and a lengthy recovery.

On average, a person can expect to lose 5 to 10 percent of total body weight after surgery.  Protein is needed to repair tissue, slow muscle loss and decrease the inflammatory phase. Recent research has shown good results healing wounds with protein consumption of 0.84 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.  For example, a 180-pound female who had major surgery would need about 150 grams of protein per day (180 x .84).  “Keep in mind the average amount of protein for someone this weight is only about 75 grams, so this is a substantial increase,” adds Mills-Gray.  If you’re not sure how much protein you may need, ask to speak with the registered dietician associated with the hospital.

After surgery, medications, fatigue and complications can make eating unappealing. The mouth and throat can be sore or dry, medicine can make food taste metallic, and even the sense of smell can be diminished. In these circumstances, it’s best to experiment to see what’s the most appealing. Also, eat small portions throughout the day, standard portions can seem overwhelming to someone who does not feel well.

Choose low-fat meats, poultry, fish and dairy, as well as beans, nuts and seeds.  Other tips to make meals more desirable include marinating meat to improve flavor; adding herbs or spices (if tolerated) to bland foods; incorporating flavored protein powder into whole-food shakes; and trying hard candy, strong chewing gum or lemonade to relieve dry mouth and perk up taste buds.

For more information, contact your local MU Extension center or this faculty directly at

(Sources: Tina Ruggiero, M.S., R.D., L.D., USDA, NIH)

Dried Fruit – Smart Choice or Health Risk?

We know fruit is healthy, so can dried fruit meet our daily needs?  Dried fruit is high in fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Dried fruit can help relieve constipation, lower blood cholesterol and keep your stomach full and satisfied.  Dried fruit is also high in potassium and iron. Depending on the specific drying process and treatments used, sulfur dioxide, a common additive, can preserve vitamins A and C.  “Dried fruit is great choice for a portable, nutritious snack, but there are drawbacks,” says Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition/Health Specialist with MU Extension.

“Many dried fruits have added sulfites, so for those who are allergic to sulfites, make sure to choose organic dried fruits,” shares Mills-Gray.  She adds, “Also, between pretreatment and dehydration processes, there is actually nutrient loss, for example, B vitamins.” Also, dried fruits are calorically dense. One cup of fresh apricot halves has 74 calories, while about 1/4 cup of dried apricot halves (its equivalent) has 313 calories (more than four times the amount).

While nibbling on dried fruits can be a great alternative to munching on cookies, crackers, candies and other snacks, consume them in moderation; just because they're fruit, doesn't mean you should eat them in large amounts.  While fresh fruits contain more vitamins and minerals than dried fruits, both count toward the suggested daily two to three servings of fruit. Stick to fresh fruit as much as possible, and when you still want dried fruits, choose varieties without added sugars.

For more information, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center, or this faculty member directly at

Tracking weight loss accurately

It’s a new year and like so many, you may be trying to lose weight. Should you weigh daily? Invest in an expensive weight scale? Is weighing yourself even the best option to track loss? “Being able to track real weight loss is important for motivation and progress, “shares Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition Specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Research shows that weighing regularly tends to help more of us be successful at losing or maintaining weight loss. Weighing once a week is usually enough, because you can become discouraged by the minor fluctuations that you may see day to day or even throughout a day. If you do weigh daily, check your weight at the same time each day – right after rising and using the toilet is a good time – then take an average over the week. If your average weight increases for two straight weeks, then its real weight that you need to address. “Various factors can cause your weight to fluctuate throughout the day and week, such as sodium intake, fluid intake, even medications.” adds Mills-Gray, “So focusing on weighing weekly or figuring an average for the week gives you the most realistic snapshot of your weight.”
If you want to monitor your weight, any basic bathroom scale — dial or digital — that gives consistent readings is sufficient. Models that have advanced options may give you more information, but are rarely more accurate. When shopping try out different models — sit the scale on an even floor, weigh yourself several times to see if the reading is the same. Keep in mind that when you shift from side to side the reading shouldn’t change.

You may be increasing physical activity — keep in mind as you gain muscle you may also gain weight! “Judging progress toward better health solely on your weight number on a scale may be disheartening for many. I suggest you use the waist measurement method for tracking true progress.” says Mills-Gray. Place a tape measure at the narrowest point between your lower rib and the top of your hip bone. The tape should be snug, but not cutting into the skin. If you can’t fine the narrowest point, measure just above your belly button. Stand straight and breathe out normally — don’t suck in your belly! Just like the recommendation for weighing, do this first thing in the morning before eating. If your measurement is 37 inches or higher for a male, or 32 inches or higher for a female, you are at increased risk for health challenges. Readings over 40 or men and 35 for women represent significant increased risk for poor health.

For more information contact your local MU Extension Center or Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition and Health Specialist at or by phone 816-380-8460.

(Sources: University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2013; NIH; American Diabetes Association)

Pay attention to your child’s good behavior

All children will misbehave at times. Parents often try to teach children by spending a lot of time attending to their misbehavior.  But when children behave appropriately, parents sometimes miss the opportunity to acknowledge it. When parents focus on children’s misbehavior, the information that children receive is generally negative, threats, or criticism which may lead children to misbehave more. Think about this — if you were criticized all the time and were not given credit for things you did right and good, how would you feel? Children have the same feelings and reaction.

If a parent ignores good behaviors and always criticizes the child and pays attention to bad or annoying behaviors, the child begins to talk back, or argue, and then the parent gets angry. This pattern becomes a negative cycle. Bad behaviors will occur more often in the future.

According to Dr. Alan Kazdin of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, “attention to bad behavior increases bad behavior (yelling, lecturing, scolding, spanking and punishing are all forms of negative attention), while attention to good behavior increases good behavior.” Clearly, catching your children being good can help increase good behavior.

When you really like what your child is doing, tell them right away. Be specific to praise the action, words, or behavior to let the child know what it was he did right. For instance, saying “I like how you clean your room” is more effective than saying “You are a good boy.” Use a smile, give them a hug, a high five, or a touch on the child’s shoulder.

Every child needs attention. It is better to give them positive attention for good behavior than negative attention for misbehavior. Don’t save attention for perfect behavior. Pay attention to your child for good or appropriate behavior. The more immediate your positive attention to your child’s good behavior, the more likely your child will associate the good feelings with the behavior he did and will do more positive behavior. Show your enthusiasm and let your child see how thrilled you are with their good behavior.

Nina Chen, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

Becoming more resilient

Life is challenging, we all know that. But many of us wonder why some people seem to have better coping skills? What are the secrets for people who are able to navigate through tough times and bounce back? Dr. Robert Brooks at Harvard Medical School indicated “some people are naturally more resilient.” But resilience can also be learned. Here are some suggestions to build resilience:

Make connections with others. Stay connected with family members, friends, people who can help you celebrate good times, listen to you and provide support through tough times. Social support and friendships are very important for building resilience and improving self-worth. Resilient people have good friendships, supportive relationships and strong social connections.

Have a positive and optimistic attitude. Resilient people are generally optimistic and see things from the bright side when facing difficult situations or crises. One study conducted at University of San Francisco found that caregivers who did not find positive meaning in their caregiving were more likely to become depressed after their loved one passed away. Positive attitudes enable people to have hope and confidence in their abilities to make changes. Flexibility, accepting change and making adjustments help resilient people put their energy into things they can control and let go of things they cannot change.

Give back. Many people find that they become happier and more resilient by helping others. This experience helps build a sense of competence and fulfillment. Research shows that giving back to the community and helping others is a great tool for resilient people.

>Be humorous and playful. Resilient people are playful and laugh at themselves or find humor in a situation even when dealing with difficult events. They learn to deal with stress instead of being stressed. They also learn from their experience and adapt quickly.

Be spiritual. Resilient people are spiritual. According to a Duke University study, those people who participate in religious activities were less likely to experience depression. Even when they experience depression, their depression lifted faster than those people who were less religious. People who are active in religion are likely to cope with stress and difficult times better.

Stay healthy. Eating right and being physically active on a regular basis are also important components in coping with stress. Resilient people take care of themselves, get enough sleep and find ways to relax to stay healthy physically and mentally. When people are in good physical and mental health, they deal with distractions and tough events better and have an easier time bouncing back.

Nina Chen, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension