EFNEP California
University of California
EFNEP California

Posts Tagged: nutrition

Why we need a finger on the pulse of these California crops

Pulses are leguminous crops harvested for the dry seed, including dried beans, lentils, and peas.
Do you have your “finger on the pulse” of foods that pack a powerful nutritious punch and trending globally? Then you may know that the United Nations has declared 2016 as The International Year of Pulses. But you may not know what pulses are or California's role in the pulse industry. 

Pulses are leguminous crops harvested solely for the dry seed. They include dried beans, lentils, and peas – those staple, nutritious and humble foods that our ancestors began cultivating more than 10,000 years ago. 

The United Nations strives to raise awareness about pulses through its slogan, “Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future.” The goals: to draw attention to the protein power and health benefits of pulses, to encourage global food-chain connections to better utilize pulses, to boost the global production of pulses, to better utilize crop rotations, and to address the challenges in the trade of pulses.

In California, farmers, the dry bean industry, and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers are doing their part with research and outreach programs that focus on dry bean production. Our state produces four classes of dry beans, including garbanzos (chickpeas), limas (baby and large), blackeyes (cowpeas), and common beans (such as kidney and cranberry) planted on a total of 50,000 acres and valued at about $70 million. 

While not a big economic force like some crops, beans are nonetheless very important to our farming industry. They are needed in crop rotations to help control weeds and they improve soil health by adding biomass back into the soil after harvest and by fixing nitrogen. As such, pulses can contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing dependence on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Beans also are an important part of our food security. For example, California lima growers produce virtually all of our nation's dry limas, as well as 60 to 80 percent of the world's market.

Current UC ANR research focuses on improving integrated pest management of dry beans with minimal impacts to the environment. This includes collaborative studies with UC Davis and UC Riverside scientists to breed pest and disease resistant dry bean varieties that have both high yields and quality. Two new releases of garbanzo beans are expected this year. Additional projects focus on drought and heat tolerance in our warming world.

The new UC ANR Agronomy Research and Information Center website features the many agronomic crops grown in California, including beans. Resources available include current research work, cost of production studies, crop production guidelines, and a database of research supported by the California Dry Bean Advisory Board that goes back more than three decades. Stay tuned for additional resources, including online fertilization guidelines for dry beans, to help develop Farm Nutrient Management Plans, as well as the 2016 Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Guidelines for Dry Beans. (Click here for the current IPM guidelines)

Meanwhile, let us all join forces with the United Nations, UC ANR, and our state's Dry Bean Industry to raise the awareness of the benefits of pulses for a more sustainable world. This starts with adding more beans to our diet. Beans are packed with nutrients. They are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in fiber. They can lower cholesterol and help in the control of blood sugar and in managing diseases like diabetes, heart conditions and obesity.

Experiment. Prepare bean burritos often, use a variety of beans in your favorite chili recipe, try humus as a delicious vegetable dip, and garnish your salad with beans. The California Dry Bean Advisory Board website provides terrific bean recipes at http://www.calbeans.org.  This we know: beans are pulses vital to our diets, just as our pulse rate is vital to monitoring our health.  

 

Planting 2015 dry bean research trials at UC Davis.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 8:11 AM
Tags: dry beans (1), nutrition (108), pulses (1), sustainability (4)

Both in-person and online nutrition education are effective for teaching WIC participants

WIC participants receive nutrition education and counseling along with assistance to buy nutritious foods. (Photo: USDA)
The flexibility and convenience of online learning doesn't diminish the effectiveness of training for families receiving nutrition education from the federal WIC program, according to new research by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources nutrition scientists that was published in the December issue of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Established in 1974, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is the only federal nutrition program that provides education and counseling to recipients who receive assistance to buy nutritious foods. Depending on the learning style and time restraints of the recipients, however, staying at the WIC center for training and counseling can be a barrier for participation.

The researchers, who are part of UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), showed that lessons about the importance of eating a healthful breakfast everyday were as effective when presented in person as they were when the participant completed the class on a smart phone, tablet or computer.

“Access to the Internet has rapidly increased in the United States,” said Lauren Au, NPI assistant researcher and lead author of the research article. “To our knowledge, however, the effectiveness of online vs. traditional classes in delivering nutrition education in WIC has never before been studied in a randomized trial.”

The researchers selected breakfast as the lesson topic because it had not been taught before as part of WIC nutrition education even though there is ample evidence to show that regularly eating breakfast is associated with a higher quality diet and decreased risk for obesity.

During the online and classroom training, participants learned why skipping breakfast can lead to poorer health for children and adults and how WIC foods – such as fruit, vegetables, milk, and whole grain cereals– can be used to make healthy breakfasts. Each of the participants was asked to set personal goals for eating healthy breakfasts and making sure their children did as well.

Before the classes began, the participants took a pretest to gauge their knowledge on the topic, and immediately after the class, the test was administered again. Two to four months later, follow up assessments were made to determine whether the participants breakfast behavior had changed and whether they remembered important facts from the training.

“All the participants increased and retained knowledge about how much juice WIC recommends per day – no more than half a cup – and how much sugar per serving of cereal is recommended – no more than 6 grams,” Au said.

Au said the researchers were pleased to confirm that online education is an effective supplement to in-person training.

“Both education types have advantages and disadvantages,” she said. “There's group peer support in the in-person education, and that can be a very powerful motivator.  WIC appointments can be faster with online education, which can provide more flexibility and convenience. Both of these education approaches are incredibly beneficial for promoting healthy dietary behavior in WIC participants.”

A six-minute interview with Au about the research project may be viewed online.

An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 8:30 AM
Tags: Lauren Au (1), nutrition (108), online education (1), WIC (2)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving without unzipping

A typical Thanksgiving meal has more calories than many people need in a whole day. (Photo: Satya Murthy, Flickr)
For many of us, Thanksgiving is truly a feast, and we are preparing our appetites for large servings of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. In fact, the majority of people consume more than 2,000 calories in their Thanksgiving meal, including appetizer, turkey and the trimmings and dessert, reports Diabetes.org. That's more than a sedentary man should eat in a whole day to maintain a healthy weight, according to the USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov. This year, you can enjoy the holiday without overeating by serving a healthy and balanced meal. 

  • Portion control: Thanksgiving is about choices. Think about which dishes you don't mind skipping, and plan to fill your plate only once. It's easy to get carried away going back for second and third helpings.

  • Fruits: Get your serving of fruit with a fruit-based dessert. Baked apples, poached pears and fresh figs are a few festive options.

  • Grains: Use whole grain or 100 percent whole wheat bread for a stuffing rich in fiber. 

  • Protein: Serve yourself 3 ounces of roasted turkey or a portion the size of your palm. Skip the fat by removing the skin on your turkey before eating it. Go easy on the gravy.

  • Vegetables: Choose vegetable side dishes that include roasted or cooked vegetables, and skip the creamy sauces and added fat. Instead, season vegetables with fresh herbs to add flavor.  

  • Dairy: Try non-fat Greek yogurt as a healthier topping for side dishes than sour cream or butter.

  • Don't forget to be active. After the holiday meal, go for a walk, bike ride or play football with the family. 

Not sure what to do with your leftovers? Reinvent your Thanksgiving feast with these quick and easy one-sentence leftover recipes. 

  • Cranberry smoothies
    Whirl cranberries with frozen low-fat yogurt and orange juice.

  • Crunchy turkey salad
    Toss cubed turkey with celery, apples, and light mayo with shredded spinach.

  • Stuffing frittata
    Mix stuffing with egg and cook thoroughly, pancake-style.

  • Turkey berry wrap
    Wrap sliced turkey, spread with cranberry sauce and shredded greens in a whole wheat tortilla. 

 

 Recipe source: www.eatright.org

 Author: Melissa Tamargo

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 11:17 AM
Tags: nutrition (108), Thanksgiving (3)

Farm to fingers: Schools provide fresh fruits and vegetables for children’s meals

Congress considers reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.

If fresh fruits and vegetables are made available, children will choose to eat them.
Several grade school students set down their forks to eat their green salad, picking up individual lettuce leaves with their fingers and pushing them into their mouths. Not that I was there to judge for style, it was just an observation as I looked around the cafeteria festooned in colorful hand-cut paper banners to see how many of the kids had taken a salad.

The youngsters are required to take at least a half-cup serving of fresh fruits or vegetables as part of a healthful meal to meet national nutrition standards, but I noticed they were voluntarily eating the fresh leafy greens and orange slices.

The children had selected the food themselves from a new serving line, which was made possible by a grant from the USDA aimed at encouraging children to eat healthier school lunches. U.S. Department of Agriculture has been providing a new round of grants since 2013 to upgrade kitchen and cafeteria equipment. Ygnacio Valley Elementary School is in Mount Diablo Unified School District, which received a USDA grant.

About one-third of children in California are overweight or obese, which is associated with serious health risks.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, 93 percent of school districts in California, and 88 percent nationwide, need at least one piece of equipment to better serve students nutritious foods.

Students serve themselves in Ygnacio Valley Elementary School's new serving line. When the children select their own food, less food gets thrown away.
With Pew funding, the Nutrition Policy Institute in the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is conducting case studies of selected California schools, including Ygnacio Valley Elementary School, to evaluate the effects of the USDA grants program.

Kenneth Hecht, director of policy for the Nutrition Policy Institute organized the Sept. 3 visit to the Mount Diablo Unified School District for Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and USDA executives to see the improvements.

A student's lunch tray. Photo by Deanna Davis.
The school district serves about 20,000 meals each day, nearly half of which (46.2 percent) are free or reduced price for children from low-income families. By replacing a refrigerator bought in 1973 with a new walk-in refrigerator, the central kitchen is able to store and serve twice as much fresh produce while saving energy and energy costs, said Anna Fisher, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Mount Diablo Unified.

The new serving line allows for food to be displayed so the children can select their own food, whereas before, each tray was filled by a server and handed to the students.

“We've seen that when the children select their own food, less food gets thrown away,” said Fisher.

“The examples we are seeing at Mount Diablo Unified School District are perfect illustrations of what these USDA grants can do, from the procurement of food to serving healthy meals to children,” said Hecht.

Ken Hecht, left, Mark DeSaulnier, center, and Jesus Mendoza, USDA Western Region administrator, check out the new walk-in refrigerator.
“At the central kitchen, the modern walk-in refrigerator holds the large quantities of fresh produce the district needs to cook on-site fresh, healthy meals and to keep the salad bars fully stocked,” he said. “The new serving line at the elementary school means the kids can move quickly through the line, pick up fresh food at just the right temperature, and have maximal time at the table to eat.”

Congressman DeSaulnier, who ate lunch with the students, is sponsoring the School Food Modernization Act (HR 3316) to continue and strengthen the USDA grants program.

Another piece of federal legislation aimed at improving child nutrition is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which includes farm to school support and expires on Sept. 30, 2015.

“This fall is a pivotal time for the future of Farm to School programs across the country,” said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

RUSD's Chef Ryan shows visitors his summer salad made fresh from local produce.
On Sept. 2, SAREP and the Urban Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College hosted a tour of farm-to-school sites in the Riverside Unified School District where Los Angeles-area participants were able to meet with farmers, school chefs, food service directors, advocates, researchers and elementary students and to witness firsthand the benefits and challenges of providing farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to Southern California schoolchildren.

Riverside schools have transitioned from heating prepackaged meals to buying local produce and preparing fresh food on-site.

According to Kirsten Roloson, director of Nutrition Services, and Adleit Asi, operations manager, Riverside Unified now buys $400,000 worth of produce from local farmers. One farmer, Bob Knight, who supplies oranges and other produce to Riverside Unified, said he's making five to seven times more money selling to schools than he did before. 

“Farm-to-school programs increase access to fresh, healthy produce among school children while also supporting local farms,” said Feenstra. In California, she noted that 2,626 schools participate in farm-to-school programs, serving 1.8 million students and buying more than $51 million in produce from local California farmers.

Feenstra will be leading a similar farm-to-school tour for policymakers in Sacramento on Sept. 29.

Riverside Unified School District's produce is purchased fresh and whole from local farms and prepared in-house.
Mount Diablo Unified School District is also a recipient of a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant.  “We will be hosting Life Lab to spend a day training teachers at Sequoia Elementary School on Sept. 21,” Fisher said. “We hope to get an implementation grant.”

"With new equipment and fresh produce, schools can prepare healthy and more appealing school meals that may be the most nutritious meal a child receives that day," Hecht said.

Whether children eat with forks or fingers, the nutritional quality of the food they eat can affect their lives, long term.

The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 at 12:11 PM

NPI study: Law improves beverage environment in California childcare

Childcare providers must serve only fat-free or low-fat unsweetened, plain milk for kids two years or older.
Obesity among preschoolers is a serious health problem, with one in four obese or overweight by the time the child is ready for kindergarten. Given that well over half of preschool age children are in childcare, UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute researchers decided to investigate whether healthy beverage standards in childcare could improve their nutrition. Another reason to focus on this age group is that young children are still developing their eating habits. Those who get an early start at eating a nutritious diet will likely have better health outcomes than children who get in the habit of eating junk food and drinking sugary beverages.

In 2008 and 2012, NPI researchers conducted a survey of more than 400 randomly selected California licensed childcare facilities to look at beverages in childcare before and after California's Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (AB 2084) took effect in January 2012. Under this law, only fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) unsweetened, plain milk for children two years of age or older is allowed, and no more than one serving per day of 100 percent juice. No sugary drinks are allowed at all. Also, drinking water must be readily available throughout the day, including at all meal, snack and play times.

NPI Director Lorrene Ritchie presented NPI's research findings on June 30 at the 8th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego. The NPI study found that the policy was effective at improving the beverage environment in California childcare. Provision of whole milk dropped from nearly 30 percent of childcare facilities in 2008 to less than 9 percent of facilities 2012. The provision of other beverages also improved. In 2008, 27 percent of facilities offered juice more than once a day, compared to just 20 percent in 2012. Facilities offering any sugar-sweetened beverages dropped from 7.6 percent in 2008 to 6.9 percent in 2012.

“We know the beverages children consume can put a child at risk for overweight and obesity,” said Ritchie. “The good news is that the healthy beverage standards did improve the beverage environment in California childcare. This law impacts potentially a million young children in our state.”

Despite the improved beverage environment, NPI found that only 60 percent of childcare facilities were aware of the law, and only 23 percent were in full compliance with all provisions.

Water is a healthful beverage for children.
“We need to do more to improve the beverage environment,” said Ritchie. “Based on our findings, we recommend that all childcare providers have access to nutrition training so that more understand and are able to comply with California's childcare beverage standards.”

The NPI study also looked at the effects of serving water at the table with meals and snacks.  While this was not a provision of the California law, it is a best practice for teaching children to reach for water first for thirst. Putting water on the table did not have an impact on children's intake of milk and other foods, which was a common concern of providers caring for young children. However, the study found the law didn't make much of a difference in increasing children's water intake either.

“Simply serving water at the table with meals and snacks is not likely to interfere with intake of other healthy things,” said Ritchie. “But we don't know what would happen if water were provided in such a way as to substantively increase water intake.”

The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

 

Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Affiliations: USDANIFAUC DavisANR

Webmaster Email: matamargo@ucdavis.edu