Happy Health Literacy Month!

Consulting with a DoctorOctober is Health Literacy Month! Today I’d like to offer you some of our best health literacy resources. Here’s a preview of the Health Literacy handout that’s usually reserved for people who get the popular Health Literacy PowerPoint from the Nutrition Education Store.

What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (source).

There are three main components of health literacy:

  • Obtain
  • Process
  • Understand

Step One: Obtain

To obtain good health information, you need to know the difference between scientific facts and unfounded opinions.

Consider the source. What’s in it for them? For example, a health food store might tell you to purchase something that you don’t really need, while the Tobacco Institute asserted that smoking was safe to consume for many many years.

Choose scientific resources. Scientific studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals are a great place for obtaining good evidence. You don’t have to go through the journals themselves — try consumer-friendly sources like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.

Seek the truth, not a magic bullet. Sometime change is hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your while.

Step Two: Process

The more you read and learn, the more you will be able to process information and evaluate what you read. To successfully process health information, you must have the ability, will, and capacity to change.

You can’t always control your condition. You can control your participation and willingness to learn.

Step Three: Understand

Do you understand enough of what you’re learning? Will you be able to make decisions based on your understanding?

Try these steps to build up your understanding…

  • Read as much as you can (remember those credible sources).
  • Ask questions when you visit your healthcare team.
  • Find professionals that you trust.
  • Take notes.
  • Come up with your own action plan.

That’s just the beginning. For a comprehensive look at building health literacy, don’t miss the Health Literacy PowerPoint presentation. It has a detailed guide to each of the 3 steps for improving health literacy, along with a look at the benefits of being well-informed, suggested questions to ask a healthcare provider, a list of the best sources for consumers, and much much more!

And I would never leave you without a handout! Here’s a free PDF that covers the basics of health literacy.

Health Literacy Handout

There are lots of ways to help your clients build health literacy! Check out these fantastic resources from the Nutrition Education Store

MyPlate DVD

Dietary Guidelines Poster Set

DIY Health Plan Game

Pumpkin Ideas for Halloween and Beyond

Cheryl Sullivan is here with a perfect pumpkin update!

Pumpkin FunDid you know that a single 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin provides 4 grams of fiber, no fat or cholesterol, and only 50 calories? Pumpkin also has more beta-carotene per serving than any other common food. Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, and that may protect against heart disease and some cancers.

Let’s Talk About Fresh Pumpkins

Fresh pumpkins are available from late summer to well into the fall. Small sugar (a.k.a pie) pumpkins are the best for eating, though you can eat the large ones, too. Be sure the pumpkins are clean and dry, then store them a cool, dry, and dark place. Pumpkins may last for several months, depending on the storage conditions.

Cooking with Pumpkins

To prepare a pumpkin for cooking, cut off the top. Flip it over and cut a thin slice off of the bottom. That way, the pumpkin will sit flat on your cutting board. Using a large knife, cut slices of the skin off from top to bottom, working your way around the pumpkin, just like you would cut the skin off of an orange. Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, then cut the pumpkin into chunks.

To make pumpkin puree, steam those pumpkin chunks until they’re quite tender. Drain them, then puree in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, mash them as fine as you can with a potato masher. Press the mixture through a fine sieve or coffee filter and voila! Pumpkin puree is yours.

You can also bake unpeeled, seeded pumpkin halves at 325° until tender. This takes about 1 hour. Scoop the flesh out of the shell and puree it. Since this puree will be drier than the puree in the other method, you won’t need to drain it.

All homemade pumpkin puree may be frozen for up to six months.

You can also make pumpkins into a tasty side dish. Cut a peeled, fresh pumpkin into cubes and toss the cubes with 1 tablespoon oil, 2 tablespoons thawed apple juice concentrate, and a dash of nutmeg. Put the whole shebang into a baking pan coated with cooking spray and roast in a 400° oven for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

Make a delicious and speedy pumpkin soup by heating 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin with 1 can of low-sodium broth, 1/2 cup of water or skim milk, and 1 teaspoon of mild curry powder. Heat the whole thing in a saucepan and serve warm.

You can even use pumpkin puree to make your own quick pumpkin ice cream. Soften 1 pint nonfat vanilla ice cream, then fold in 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, 2 tablespoons sugar (or artificial sweetener), and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Refreeze, then scoop into 4 dishes to serve.

What About Canned Pumpkin?

Canned pumpkin puree is easy to use and works very well in recipes. Be sure to purchase plain pumpkin and not the pie filling. Pumpkin pie filling is loaded with sugar and other ingredients. Read the label carefully to see which one you are buying.

What are you doing with pumpkins this year?

By Cheryl Sullivan, MA, RD.

Looking for other seasonal resources? Check out the holiday materials in the Nutrition Education Store! My personal favorites include…

Holiday Survival Tips Poster

Holiday Challenge Toolkit

Holiday Exercise Poster