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Healthy cooking for the individual

March 4, 2015

Here’s a great idea…
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD says, “The best part of cooking for one is that there are no worries about what anyone else wants for dinner. You have the flexibility to enjoy beans with salsa and avocado or a quick omelet with veggies for dinner if you want.”

In other words…
So for National Nutrition Month celebrate yourself by preparing your favorite, easy good for you dishes! You won’t have to worry about creating lots of food waste and extra dirty dishes either when you apply some easy tips to make the most of your shopping trips, ingredients and food preparation time.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or barley and freeze them in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once froze, the portions can be stored in a freezer bag and reheated quickly in the microwave or stovetop for later use. Visit the bulk bins at your grocery store so you can buy exactly what you need. Purchase frozen produce for your one-pot soups, smoothies and stir-fries as you can portion out what you need without worrying about it going bad. Eggs, an excellent source of protein and nutrients like biotin, make a meal for one as they are quick cooking and pair nicely with a variety of grains, vegetables and cheeses.

To find out more…
About easy and inexpensive recipes that use fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins click here: or for more on National Nutrition Month:

The advantage of cooking for one

March 3, 2015

We decide if we  see the glass as half

Drugs effects on the teenage brain

February 27, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

In his book, You and Your Adolescent, Laurence Steinberg says, “Drugs may not rot teenagers’ brains, but they may change the brain in ways that make teens far more likely to develop substance abuse problems, even addictions, later on” (p. 213).

In other words…
Tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use is much worse for the adolescent brain than it is for adults. During adolescence, the reward-related parts of our brains are especially susceptible to environmental agents, such as tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. If drugs are repeatedly taken during these times, these reward regions of the brain can be affected in such a way as to make it necessary to use drugs in order to experience typical amounts of pleasure.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Prevention is the key to solving the adolescent drug problem. Create opportunities to have candid, informational discussions with your youth. Ask them what questions they have about drug use, about why their friends or other teenagers might drink or use drugs. Ask about the pressures they are feeling. As they respond, LISTEN. Do not lecture!

Once you have listened, talk about the myths and facts that go with drug use.

Finally, help your child to anticipate difficult situations where they are offered alcohol or drugs, and role play how they can respond without losing face.

To find out more…

about drug-prevention, check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse:, the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation:, and the Foundation for a Smokefree America:

about parenting, check out The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read You and Your Adolescent.

Strengthen your children’s bones with plant-based foods

February 20, 2015

Here’s a great idea…
Dr. Neal Barnard of the George Washington University School of Medicine encourages “plant-based diets…to strengthen bones and reduce the risk for hip fractures.”
In other words…
Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins like soy, nuts, and seeds can help families stay strong with healthy bones. Building healthy bones is especially important in growing kids when bone size and mineral content is being developed. Healthy bones early in life mean healthy bones later in life too!


Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Try adding fresh spinach or kale to you and your children’s breakfast smoothies and name the green smoothie fun names like Spinana Smoothie or Shamrock Shake. You can make a Spinana Smoothie by adding 1 cup firmly packed spinach, 1 small frozen banana, 2 Tablespoons peanut butter, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 cup plain soy milk into a blender. Process until smooth. Makes one serving.
To find out more…
about easy and inexpensive recipes that use fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and plant based proteins click here: or for more on the research article on a plant based diet and bone health :

Why pay when you can file for free?

February 18, 2015

Here’s a great idea
Save money at tax time by finding your best filing option.  Commercial tax preparers charge $55-$100 for a basic return. Products like refund anticipation loans and refund anticipation checks add $60 or more in extra fees (

In other words
There are filing options at every income level.  Tax filers with complicated returns may need to hire a commercial service. If so, it’s important to find a reliable, qualified preparer. Be sure to shop around and compare prices.  Many people can file for free.  The average tax filer can save $150 or more by using a free service.

How this applies to you
Why pay when you can file for free? Here are some options to consider:

If your income is $60,000 or less

Online – IRS Free File is a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance. Use Free File Software if your income is $60,000 or less and Free File Fillable Forms if your income is greater than $60,000.

My Free Taxes is step-by-step online filing for individuals and families with incomes of less than $60,000. The 2014 MyFreeTaxes Partnership campaign, now in its sixth year, allows free, online federal and state preparation and filing in all 50 states

In person – Volunteer Income Assistance (VITA) sites can be found in community centers, libraries, schools, and other local places.  Trained volunteers provide tax preparation for filers with household incomes of $53,000 or less. The AARP Tax Aide program offers free tax help to people ages 60 and up.  AARP volunteers provide in-person assistance at sites in local communities.

To find out more
Find more information about IRS Free File at

Learn more about tax credits and file free with My Free Taxes at

To find the nearest VITA site, call 1 (800)-906-9887 (toll-free) or search for the closest location online at

To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site call 888-227-7669 or use the AARP Site Locator Tool at

Discover the latest research-based tips for personal finance at

Are your kids overscheduled?

February 13, 2015

Here’s a great idea…
 “As a general principle, there is a line between a highly enriched, interesting, growth-promoting childhood and an overscheduled childhood. And nobody knows where that line is.” –Michael Thompson, a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Pressured Child” 

In other words…
Enrichment activities are important for child development, but so is non-scheduled free time. The trick is finding the balance between offering children opportunities and overburdening them with expectations.  That balance will be different for each individual child.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…
Answering the following questions will help you determine your child’s interests and emotional readiness to commit to extracurricular activities.

  • When looking at your child’s schedule, is the motivation for all the activities coming from you or your child?
  • Are they happy and learning or stressed because of lack of time for homework and sleep?
  • Have you reserved time for you and your child to be together as a family? Healthy child development requires both quality and quantity time with their families.

To find out more…
about parenting, check out Getting Our Hearts Right: Three Keys to Better Relationships, The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read You and Your Adolescent by Laurence Steinberg or Putting Family First by William J Doherty and Barbara Z. Carlson.

Married – filing jointly or separately?

February 12, 2015

Here’s a great idea…
You may have heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but one thing we have in common is that we all have to pay taxes. Married individuals have the option to file joint or separate tax returns. Make the most of your tax dollar by choosing the best option for your financial situation.

In other words …
If you’re married, you may be wondering if it’s better to file your tax return together or separately. For most couples, there are more advantages to filing jointly.  However, there are a few instances when you might want to file separately.  Some deductible expenses are limited based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income (AGI).  So, if one person had a large amount of, for example, medical expenses and a smaller income; that individual might be able to deduct a larger portion by filing separately.

Joint filers often benefit from higher income limits for tax credits and greater allowable deductions.  If you’re married, you must file jointly to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, education credits, and credits/exclusion for adoption expenses. Other credits or deductions may be limited for married couples who file separately. Same-sex couples who are legally married by state law are eligible to file a joint federal tax return.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …
To find out which method would be to your advantage, prepare your taxes both ways (as a joint return or as separate returns). Which method gives you the lowest total due or highest combined refund?  File using whichever method saves you the most money.

To find out more…
See all of the rules for filing status and tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service IRS Publication 501 has 2014 filing status information for married couples

Individuals or families with a combined household income of $60,000 or less in 2014 can file free online.  Visit the U of A Extension website at to learn more about My Free Taxes.

Free, in-person assistance is available for those who qualify.  Find locations and details for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (age 60 and older) at


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