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COVID-19, social distancing and recent stay at home orders have impacted all aspects of life, including our finances. Protecting health has been a top priority in recent times.  We all need to be following guidelines and making our best efforts to stay physically and mentally healthy to prevent disease. Maintaining financial health during these times is also critically important. Financial wellness is an aspect of wellness that focuses on the successful management of finances. Improve your financial wellness today with these tips:

  • Create a budget. Take a close look at your spending and adjust your budget accordingly.  Saving wherever possible will help your budget in the future.
  • Establish an emergency fund. If you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start one. If you have money set aside for non-essential spending or travel, consider using these monies for emergencies instead. Any amount you can put aside to help support you and your household during an emergency will make an impact on your finances.
  • Pay down high-interest debt. If you have any high-interest debt (besides credit card debt) a personal loan or similar and your income has not yet decreased, consider paying off that debt now. The benefits of reducing debt are immense as this provides financial freedom.
  • Consider a balance transfer. Transferring any credit card balances to a 0% for 12-18 months is an option.  Look for no- or low-fee transfers and do your research on any new credit cards before committing. This will give you time to pay down the balance interest free which will free up more cash on hand for the unexpected and add to an emergency fund.
  • Look at your investments. Fight the urge to take a loss and withdraw all your money from the market. For mid-long-term time, it is important to stay the course.  No one can predict what will happen short term, yet over the long run, the economy and markets will come back.
  • Consider insurance options. Some insurance rates may have dropped offering discounted rates. Contact your insurance providers to see if you are eligible for a discount or lower rate. Compare rates with different providers.
  • Talk with your family about money. Discuss how market fluctuations are normal and be open about any negative impacts on your finances. Discuss ways you can save money as a family.
  • Get your credit reports.  AnnualCreditReport.com provides a yearly free credit report.  Read over your reports carefully for any suspicious activity.  If your reports reveal negative borrowing habits from your past, brainstorm ideas to correct them and improve your score.

Practicing financial wellness can have positive mental health benefits, including boosted self-confidence. Take charge of your finances today and be prepared for the future.

For free financial assistance, contact us at:  go.osu.edu/FinancialAssistance

Written by: Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Jenny Lobb, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County. lobb.3@osu.edu

References:

Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/

Ohio Line, Ohio State University Extension. Preparing a Net Worth Statement. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5245

Ohio Line, Ohio State University Extension. Some Options for Resourceful Living. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5248

3 milk in glass containers with a blue background

What were once considered to be novelty products, plant-based milk alternatives are now a norm in the grocery store. Whether you choose to consume plant-based milk alternatives due to health complications, personal beliefs, or purely based on preference, deciding on the best plant-based beverage for you or your family can be challenging. There are a lot of factors to consider  such as  protein and calorie content.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on the main contenders: rice, soy, oat, and almond milk. Furthermore, we will only be focusing on the nutritional components of these products. Please keep in mind that taste and price are factors to consider when choosing a plant-based beverage.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is commonly sought out by consumers who are allergic to both soy and nuts. Rice milk is relatively comparable to cow’s milk in terms of calories, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D.1 Rice milk is actually higher than cow’s milk in terms of iron content.1 However, one drawback of rice milk is that it lacks an adequate amount of protein. Rice milk contains 1 gram of protein per 8 oz serving.1

Soy Milk

Soy milk compares to cow’s milk in terms of the amount of protein found in soy milk. An 8 oz. serving of soy milk offers 7-8 grams of protein.1 Soy milk is also rich in calcium, vitamin D, and iron.1 Soy milk also contains vitamin B12,2 a vitamin often under consumed in vegans and vegetarians.

Oat Milk

If iron is of main concern to you, then consider oat milk. Oat milk (1.8 mg) is higher in iron compared to cow’s milk (0.05 mg) and other plant-based beverages. When comparing calcium content, oat milk contains more calcium (350 mg) than cow’s milk (293). Oat milk is also rich in vitamin’s A and D, but is lacking in terms of vitamin B12. Lastly, oat milk is low in the category of protein content (4 g/ 8 oz. serving)

Almond Milk

bowl of milk with almonds next the bowl and a yellow napkin with various almonds

If you are looking for a low calorie plant-based milk alternative, almond milk is the option for you.1 Almond milk is also a good source of calcium (450 mg) compared to cow’s milk (293 mg).1 Almond milk is also a comparable option in terms of vitamins A and D. However, if you are looking for a beverage that is a good source of protein, almond milk is not the product for you (1 gram protein/8 oz. serving).

Bottom Line

Plant-based beverages are not a “one size fits all” for consumers. There is not one plant-based beverage that will meet will every consumer’s needs. It’s important to do your research on plant-based milk alternatives in order to ensure that your beverage of choice meets your personal nutritional needs because not all plant-based milk alternatives are created equal.

Figure 1. Comparison of plant-based beverages to 2% cow’s milk.1

Note– 2% milk was used as the cow’s milk comparison

Authors: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County and Brittany Kralik, BGSU Dietetic Intern with Wood County Extension Office.

Reviewer: Margaret Jenkins, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clermont County

Sources:

  1. Bridges M. Moo-ove over cow’s milk: the rise of plant-based dairy alternatives. Practical Gastroenterology. https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-content/uploads/sites/199/2014/06/January-18-Milk-Alternatives.pdf. 2018 Jan. Accessed: 2019 Jan 28.
  2. Wright KC. The coupe in the diary aisle. Today’s Dietitian. 2018 Sept;20(9):28. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0918p28.shtml

a young child using a laptop

Raising children in this ever-changing digital world can be a challenge. Some articles warn of the dangers of screens, while others urge us to help our kids keep up with technology. Caregivers are often actively encouraging these forms of passive entertainment, and electronic devices are always available as babysitters. Some factors for a child’s excess screen time could be the need for the caregiver to address everyday household activities or an exhausted caretaker who simply needs a break.

Too much screen time can have negative effects on children regardless of the device. So before turning that device over to your child, there are some things that you should consider first. According to Mayo Clinic, too much screen time can have unhealthy effects as a child grows and has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Attention deficit
  • Cognitive delays
  • Impaired learning
  • Violence

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages media use by children younger than 24 months. Video chatting with family and friends is an exception which is considered quality time interacting with others. Children between ages 2 and 5 should be limited to one hour or less a day of quality and educational programming. The following is suggested to ensure safe and quality screen time:

  • Do your homework: Research games and apps before getting them for your child. Search for games and apps that educators and doctors suggest. Organizations such as “Common Sense Media” can help you determine what is appropriate.
  • Always be present: Be with young children during screen time and interact with them.  Discuss what you are watching with your child.  
  • Schedule plenty of non-screen playtime:  Family meals and bedtimes are important times to put the screens away and interact with your child. Preschoolers learn by physically interacting with others and their surroundings.
  • Discourage screen use in your child’s bedroom or at bedtime: Screen use in the hour before bed can stimulate your child. The blue light from televisions, computers, tablets and phones might suppress melatonin levels and delay sleepiness.

You can help ensure a safe and healthy digital atmosphere by developing household rules. As your child ages, you will need to review and adjust the rules by deciding how much media your child should use each day and what is age appropriate.

a young child using a smart phone

As caregivers of young children, it can be hard to maintain a healthy family balance and keep up in these demanding times. Even elementary school-aged children have been completing school work online and participating in Zoom sessions, which has most likely increased their usual screen time. Now that the school year is ending, this could be a great transition opportunity to set device and screen time rules for the summer months.

Many of us can fall short when it comes sticking to device rules. Managing the use of screens and media will be an ongoing challenge as your child grows. You might have a rough day, week or even month, and it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Today is always a good day to try again.

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County and Alonna Hoffman, Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development Program Assistant, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Mayo Clinic. (June 20, 2019) Screen time and children: How to guide your child. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/screen-time/art-20047952

American Academy of Pediatrics. (November 2016) Media and young minds. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162591

Common Sense Media https://www.commonsense.org/

Photo credits

https://pixabay.com/photos/boy-mobile-phone-addiction-phone-3360415/

https://pixabay.com/photos/baby-boy-child-childhood-computer-84626/

Today is often considered the “unofficial” start to summer. That means longer days and warmer weather for getting outside. However, this summer brings a new and unsettling guest: COVID-19. To help you stay safe while you are outdoors, the Ohio Department of Health and the National Recreation and Park Association have made the following recommendations:

  • Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on personal hygiene. Wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, and stay home if you have any symptoms.
  • Follow recommendations for face masks and physical distancing.
  • Only go outdoors with those who live under the same roof.
  • Visit places that are close to your home. Refrain from travel that requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others.
  • If a parking lot is full or blocked, move on. Do not park in grass or on roadways.
  • Warn others of your presence and step off trails to allow others to pass safely.
  • Expect public restrooms to be closed.
  • Bring water or drinks. Drinking fountains should not be used.
  • Bring a bag for trash and leave no trace.
COVID-19: Physical Distancing in Public Parks and Trails

Plan Your Trip Before Heading Out

Currently, most outdoor spaces in Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, forests, natural areas, and preserves are open. This includes trails, dog parks, docks, fishing piers, and boat ramps.

At this time, state lodges, visitor centers, playgrounds, and rest rooms remain closed. Visit Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for the most up to date information about what state facilities are open and closed.

If you plan to go somewhere other than an ODNR facility, do some research before leaving. Most places have a website or a Facebook page with updated visitor information.

Expect places to be crowded. If you step off a trail, avoid poison ivy or tall grass that might have ticks. Practice sun safety to protect your skin and your eyes.

Find New Places to Explore

If you need help finding new places to explore, try these tips:

  • Start local. Ask neighbors and friends to recommend their favorite places to explore. A quick internet search can help you find local destinations, depending on what you want to do. Try a search such as “places to hike near me” and you will quickly find destinations, reviews, and images.
  • Visit Ohio Trails Partnership. Click the “Find a Trail” tab to find destinations based on geographical regions.
  • Diversify your destinations. In addition to state wildlife areas, forests, and nature preserves operated by ODNR, there are also private nature centers and preserves. For recommendations, try a search such as “nature areas near me.”

Get Outside and Experience the Great Outdoors

Remember to be safe and do some homework before leaving home. Be sure to check the CDC, ODH, and ODNR websites since COVID-19 updates happen frequently. Then, get outside, breath in some fresh air, and reap the physical, mental, and psychological benefits of being outdoors. Enjoy!

Sources:

Cloth Face Coverings (Masks) COVID-19 Checklist. Ohio Department of Health. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/checklists/english-checklists/cloth-face-coverings-covid-19-checklist

Dolesh, R.J. and Colman, A. (2020, March 16). Keeping a Safe Physical Distance in Parks and on Trails During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.nrpa.org/blog/keeping-a-safe-social-distance-in-parks-and-on-trails-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Ducharme, J. (2019, February 28). Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier. Here’s What Else Being Outside Can Do for Your Health. Retrieved from https://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness

Social Distancing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

Symptoms of Coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

WRITTEN BY: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County.

REVIEWED BY: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food Nutrition and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension.

A person using a laptop with a smart phone within reach

If there has ever been a time when we have realized the communication opportunities and flexibility that online platforms can provide, it is now. Many of us who are working from home are now using technology in ways we would never have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago. For some, telehealth visits have replaced traveling to see doctors and specialists in their offices. And many have been keeping in touch with friends and family using mobile phones or tablets. 

But even with all the productivity while staying at home, you have most likely experienced technology overload as well. Each year during the first week of May, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood promotes “Screen Free Week.” In response to our current situation, this year they have instead changed to “Screen Free Saturdays,” encouraging families to rest their eyes and minds from the screens of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones. 

Some call it unplugging. Some refer to it as digital detoxing. Whatever the name, it is a purposeful act of refraining from or limiting our exposure to digital technology for a specified time. Dr. Scott Becker is the director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center and specializes in researching the impact of digital technology on mental health. His research has found that the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships.

The overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, identity, intimacy and empathy.

Here are some practical ways to be intentional and mindful about your use of electronic devices this season:

  • Take some time to reflect on the ways you use technology in your daily life. What kinds of habits do you have now that you didn’t three months ago?
  • If you are on a screen often during your workday, follow the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. You could set a timer or there are apps like “Break Time” on Google Chrome that will pop up on your screen to remind you take a break. 
  • When you are indoors, mimic natural outdoor conditions by exposing yourself to bright light during the day, dim light in the evening and darkness at night. Our bodies are designed to respond to light in this way. Studies show you could improve your sleep by staying off electronic devices close to bedtime. And check out the settings on your phone or tablet to automatically adjust to a warmer color at night.
  • Increase productivity and focus by managing your phone use and email response. While at work, turn off email notifications and establish certain times to check and respond to email rather than immediately responding to that urgent ding. Designate times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects.
  • Set times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen.

Here’s wishing you Digital Wellness this coming week!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood https://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Stateside Podcast (2017). Just about everyone is addicted to screens. What can we do about it? https://www.michiganradio.org/post/just-about-everyone-addicted-screens-what-can-we-do-about-it

American Optometric Association (2016) Save your vision month: Counsel patients about digital eye strain in the workplace. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/save-your-vision-month-counsel-patients-about-digital-eye-strain-in-the-workplace-

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012). Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep. https://news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

Act FAST, Save a Life

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Did you know that every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke?

Every stroke and TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack, aka “mini-stroke”) is a medical emergency. If you know the warning signs of a stroke and act FAST, you could save a life. FAST is the acronym for noticing the major warning signs of a stroke and taking action:

Face Drooping – one side of the face is drooping or numb. Ask the person to smile and look for this sign.

Arm Weakness – The arm is weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both arms to the side. One arm may drift down.

Speech Difficulty – The speech may be slurred or difficult to understand. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase, such as “the sky is blue”.

Time to call 9-1-1 if any of these signs are present.

Learn the signs of stroke. Face. Arms. Speech. Time to call 9-1-1. cdc.gov/stroke

More than 40% of Americans cannot recall the major warning signs of a stroke. If you are one of them, now is the time to commit them to memory! Recognizing these signs could save a life because every moment counts when someone is having a stroke. Unfortunately, emergency rooms across the country are reporting declines in the number of non-coronavirus patients they are seeing, and doctors are worried that coronavirus fears are keeping patients from calling 9-1-1 when they need help. A stroke is not something to “tough out” at home. Recognize a stroke for what it is – a medical emergency – and encourage friends, family members and love ones to seek help when needed.

To prevent strokes from happening in the first place, make healthy lifestyle choices – like eating nutritious food and getting enough physical activity– and encourage friends, family members and loved ones to do the same. The CDC estimates that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. If you have suffered a stroke, making healthy lifestyle changes is still worth the effort, as they can help prevent future potentially more serious strokes from taking place.

A healthier you starts with change. Change starts with you. What changes will you make to become a healthier you? Take action today to avoid falling victim to a stroke, and commit the FAST acronym to memory to help save the lives of others.

Written by: Loretta Sweeney, Senior Series Program Assistant, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

SOURCES:

Over the last two months, the topic of global financial reset has shown up on news feeds alongside headlines about the COVID-19 pandemic, economic shutdowns, and stay at home orders. In our households, we have experienced an unprecedented schedule shift that has changed the way we do work, school, social activities, and yes, even finances. Reload reset technology update digital

This disruption of what was previously considered normal can also provide an opportunity to reset, to review and bring back processes that work for our families.  Assessing what works and what needs adjusting might be seen more clearly in times of disruption, and a reset becomes possible. For some, it has been a slower time with the ability to save money. For others, it has been a chaotic time that may include the loss of income or increased expenses.

The wellness of the family unit can be defined in many domains, financial wellness is one of them. When life brings a new chapter: marriage, empty nest, downsizing, new job, new home and perhaps even a global pandemic; it is a good time to look at financial wellness and make decisions to stay the course, set a new course or reset a course that is not working for us.

Take time to reset:

  • Reset the spending plan. Does your family follow a spending plan? A spending plan is a basic financial process to match income to expenses to meet family goals. If your spending is more than your income adjustments must be made, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes as a new normal.
  • Reset family goals. Family goals may or may not be about money. Schedule a family meeting to check in on the thoughts, dreams, and goals of individual family members. Work together to create family goals that the family can achieve together. When built together, the whole family including children are invested in the outcome. When goals involve a financial shift, family members are more likely to support the spending plan reset to achieve the goal they helped create.save-3402476_1920
  • Reset spending patterns. One possible advantage of global disruption is that we have had an opportunity to see our daily and weekly patterns more clearly through the forced change in our routine. The drive-through coffee on the way to work, ball games, and even dinner out with a movie contribute to our spending but may not always reflect our goals or our spending plan. Depending on the situation, these may be a type of spending leaks. Consider what expenses may not be as important as you once thought, or where savings can be created.

OSU Extension provides a direct educational response to your financial well-being questions. Have you struggled to identify spending leaks or complete financial goal setting? These and many other questions can be submitted privately through our financial tip line.  An Extension Educator will respond directly to you. Follow this link to submit a question: go.osu.edu/financialadvicesurvey

Working together, you can re-establish financial wellness for your family. Starting now allows you to emerge from an uncertain time of change with a new financial perspective and goals.

Written by: Melissa J. Rupp, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Fulton County

Reviewed by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Lucas County