Former Biggest Loser contestant to help children form healthier eating habits

Forming healthy eating and lifestyle habits at an early age can save that person money down the road. The sooner families get started, the better. UT/TSU Extension in Madison County is offering two programs to educate and motivate.Eat Right Future Bright Logo2

Frustrated parents and grandparents often ask how to get little Johnny or Suzi to eat better. There’s no silver bullet answer to the question. However, adults can be good role models, recognize their job is to provide wholesome food, and keep the best options in sight. Allowing for “sometimes” foods on occasion helps children to learn that no food has to be off limits. Those are just a few ideas to get started.

While childhood food choices don’t always lead to obesity, the combination of poor choices and inactivity can cause health problems both sooner and later. With childhood obesity in Tennessee the tenth worst in the county, August’s Kids Eat Right Month is a perfect time for young people and their family members to learn how to work together for healthier eating and lifestyle habits. UT Extension in Madison County has two upcoming offerings to help families.

Joe Ostaszewski, former Florida Gator and Biggest Loser season 14 participant, has partnered with National 4-H Council and will be stopping in Jackson at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 16 as part of his bike ride across America. The purpose of Joe’s Riding it Forward tour is to inspire young people and their families to live active, healthy lives. He will share the story of how he overcome his battle with obesity.

UT/TSU Extension’s Healthy Habits Day will run from 9-11 a.m. at the Madison County Ag Complex, 309 N. Parkway. It will include games and sample snacks that can motivate youth to enjoy healthier foods. This event is free to the public and all ages are welcome to attend.

University of Tennessee Extension in Madison County also plans to extend the learning into September with Eat Right! Future Bright! This interactive program is for parents and their school-age children who exceed the recommended weight for their height and age. This program will be Tuesdays, September 9, 16, 23, and 30 / 5:30‐7 p.m. More information will be available at Healthy Habits Day.

For more information about any health and human development programs from UT/TSU Extension in Madison County, send an email to

Plan before you do the back-to-school shopping

The back-to-school shopping season is second only to Christmas for times when parents spend money. Expenses add up for supplies and clothing. The children also seem to have their own ideas about how to start the school year off right. Here are some ideas for parents who want to plan before going shopping:
1) Allow children to be in on planning. Help them to understand that some items are necessary and some are more flexible.
2) Get a list from an office supply or other store. You can estimate what the cost will be before actually making purchases and comparison shop.
3) When making a budget, remember extra fees for workbooks or special supplies, or items that teachers need brought in such as hand wipes or sanitizer.
4) School lunches will have to be purchased until a child knows if he or she will be eligible for free or reduced cost lunch.
5) Extra-curricular and after-school activities have their own costs that hit at this same time.
6) Consider postponing clothing purchase for cooler weather, especially for a child who is growing rapidly.
7) Keep in mind that kids feel intense pressure to fit in. Having the latest character lunch box or designer jeans is important to them. If parents can’t afford or don’t wish to pay for costly items, they can ask older children who have some money to pay for costs above the basic. For younger children, consider compromising for at least one special item.
8) If a child routinely wants more than their parents can afford, or think they should spend, it is past time to consider an allowance that covers such expenses. Shifting decision-making power usually ends arguments.

Are you planning to pay for college/grad school for your children?

grad-school-yellowThis morning I talked with my son about an exciting idea–his college graduation! He’s spent time wavering between 1) double major in finance and environmental studies; 2) major in finance with an environmental studies study-abroad component; and 3) finance with a environmental studies minor….still wants to study abroad. It appears he’s going to go for option 1 or 3. Three is the preference if he gets a plan where he can work through an exchange between UT and another institution.

The good news is that he can graduate on time with the finance major, the minor and no study aboard. The other news (I’m not considering it bad) is that he’s decided to go on and get a Master’s degree….maybe in another state.

My parents paid for my college and early graduate studies…so that’s my aim for my son. Because I am a planner, I have been working for some time to build additional funds to assist him with graduate school beyond the potential 5 years to earn a double major.

Not all parents feel the need to do this and that’s okay. After all, there’s no scholarship for retirement…there are scholarships for postsecondary education. Families’ values and beliefs about who and how much the parents or the child will pay for school vary widely. Most are based on their own experiences.

My son can expect me to keep up certain living expenses that I covered while he was in undergrad. Graduate assistanceships can assist with tuition costs, as can working for the school or having an employer who covers graduate school costs.

No matter what stage a family is in when they start planning, saving and/or investing for education, it’s important to discuss who will be responsible and to what extent they will be responsible for the child’s post-secondary education costs. By discussing early, there are fewer surprises for anyone involved. Children can understand the realities. Parents can consider differing opinions. If starting to save or invest for your child’s college seems like the impossible dream, start now by understanding where your money is going. That way you can make informed decisions about how you spend and find ways to save. Consider taking the Personal Financial Management Made Easy course today!

How to Build a $1,000 Emergency Fund in 10 Months

By Katie Bryan, who works for America Saves. America Saves is managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of green pigAmerica (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.

Do you have $1,000 set aside for emergencies? If you already do, you could probably use another $1,000 in that account. Experts recommend keeping at least three months expenses in a reliable, liquid account – though even an extra $1,000 can be a life-saver. But finding $1,000 to save isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this 4-step plan on how to save $1,000 in 10 months.

Get Started with These 4 Steps

  • Find a Safe Place to Save Your Money – You will want to save your money in an account that you can access easily in case of an emergency. That means you should probably not keep this savings in a U.S. Savings Bond or in mutual funds. Choose a traditional savings account or a short-term certificate-of-deposit (CD), currently the most attractive accounts. (Early withdrawal penalties on a CD rarely lower the yield below that of a savings account.) Consider opening a new account or sub-account for this money so you’re not tempted to spend it. Most importantly, do not keep savings in a checking account, which pays no or low interest and is too easy to access.
  • Save $100 a month – If you are already saving $100 a month, great! Skip to step 3. If not, you need to either earn $100 more a month or cut back in order to find that $100 to save. America Saves has a list of 54 ways to save money to get you started. It can also help to pay yourself first and save the $100 at the beginning of the month instead of waiting to see if you have money left over to save at the end of the month.
  • Automate Your Savings – Setting up an automatic way to save is one of the best ways to save. Once you set it up, then it happens without having to think about it. Here are two ways to automate your savings. 1. Every pay period, ask your employer to deduct $100 from your paycheck and transfer it to a savings account. Ask your HR representative for more details and to set this up. 2. Ask your bank or credit union to transfer $100 from your checking account to a savings account every month. Talk to your local bank or credit union to set this up.
  • Watch Your Savings Grow for 10 Months – The final step is to sit back and watch your savings grow. How often do you look at the calendar and think it’s half way through 2014 already? The same will apply to your savings; Before you know it you will have that $1,000. They key is not to touch the money unless you have an emergency – that’s what the money is there for after all.


Once you have at least $1,000 in your emergency account, continue your savings success and continue to build your emergency savings or apply that money to a new savings goal. Perhaps you have debt you need to pay down or want to save for a car or home.

No matter what you are saving for, America Saves can support you with tips and advice through emails and text messages. Sign up for these by taking the America Saves Pledge Today.

Getting healthy can save you money down the road – Why wait to get started?

ImageI hear it so often–”It costs too much to eat healthy!” What’s interesting is that it isn’t true. Eating out costs more than preparing foods at home and home-cooked meals typically have fewer calories, less fat and less sodium. Plus, you’ve probably read it here before–we don’t typically sit down and eat a whole bag of apples, but we could wipe out a bag of chips in one sitting.

This summer consider making changes to your thinking on eating healthfully!

Summertime provides a change of pace for many people. Children are out of school so families’ and individuals’ schedules may be a little lighter. Throw in longer daylight hours, more readily available fresh produce, and you have the perfect combination for implementing new (and healthful) habits.

Recently, a friend called to ask if I would talk with her teenage son about making changes to his eating habits. He was interested in losing weight and was training with a coach to be more effective in his favorite sport. She and her husband kept healthful food options in the home, but she admitted that their foods probably were too extreme for the child’s tastes. As mother-son relationship go, he wasn’t interested in listening to his mother’s advice so she told him she was calling me. He didn’t seem to have a problem with that. I shared a few ideas that she planned to convey under the topic “Miss Amy said….”

So what did I share? What words of advice are there for children, teens and adults on losing weight and making better food choices? First, become aware of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. and smartphone and computer apps can help with that. The magic number depends on age, gender and amount of physical activity. It’s important to keep in mind this isn’t as much about appearance as it is nourishing one’s body….although teens tend to be interested in appearance.

Next, I suggested the young man keep track of what he eats either by using an app or keeping a written record. Reading food labels and understanding portion sizes helps one to begin to understand how many calories are consumed. 3,500 calories equals one pound—whether you want to lose or gain.

My friend and I agreed that once her son began to understand about balancing calories consumed with calories burned, I would get together with him and talk about trying some new foods that would nourish his body better than the choices he has been making.

Are you a parent struggling to help your child with weight and health? If so, you may be interested in a new program that’s been developed by UT Extension along with Aimee Evans, Jackson-Madison County School System guidance counselor, and Leanetta Allen, registered dietitian at The Jackson Clinic. Eat Right! Future Bright! is for rising third through fifth graders and their parent. The program will provide insight and tools for parents and fun for children while learning about foods and themselves. Cost for the program is $20 for the four sessions, which begin Tuesday, June 17 and continue three additional weeks 6:30-8 p.m. Registration is required by June 13. Forms may be obtained by calling 668-8543 or by email to

Children and young people aren’t the only ones who need to make healthful choices. Sometimes we adults know what to do but find it difficult to get started. This summer I’ll also be offering Pathweighs to Health. Participants of this program will learn to identify low-nutrient dense foods, discover the effect they have on hunger and satiety, and gain skills to make healthy alternatives a part of everyday life—despite the barriers. Other lessons examine the impact of stress and sleep on weight, as well as the how to critically analyze food promotions from various types of media. This series also starts Tuesday, June 17. It runs for six weeks at the cost of $30 for the series and will be held 4:30 to 6 p.m. Registration for this program is also due June 13 by calling 668-8543 or by email to The programs will be held at the Madison County Agriculture Complex, 309 North Parkway.

Here’s to a happy, healthy summer!

Daddy’s 92! What we can all learn from the Greatest Generation

In honor of my Daddy’s 92nd birthday—A repost of what we can learn about finances from a member of the Greatest Generation written when he turned 90!T and me

I got to spend some time with my Daddy one day this week. He went with me to RIFA to pick up information for the capital funds campaign and to record a program at Union University for Jackson 24/7 , etc. On some of the stops I ran in and he stayed in the car (windows down rather than running the air conditioner). He climbed the stairs with me at Union rather than take elevator (“need the exercise”). Along the way he showed me the location where he bought his Mercury back before I was born. Regardless of his age, he’s always been independent, frugal, health conscious, and hard-working. He has instilled those traits in me.

I recognize that some lessons he taught me about money are contrary to today’s culture. But I believe that for the person who wants to be financially free and independent, these hold as true today as they have at any time in the past 90 years.

1) Don’t allow yourself to get tempted to spend what you don’t have.

2) Pay cash.

3) When you owe somebody, you are working for them–not really your employer and not even yourself; AND you cannot start saving money.

4) If you have to take a loan, pay if off as quickly as you can to avoid paying interest.

5) Paying interest on something makes it cost more SO YOU CANNOT START SAVING MONEY. Why would you want to pay more?

Yes, these ideas are contrary to alot of what society is telling us. There’s even the idea that if the interest rate you are paying is not much different than the interest you are getting on savings–why bother to pay loans off early…enjoy what you want now. But the bottom line remains: when you owe somebody, you owe somebody.

If you need to find a way to save money and/or decrease your debt, consider taking Personal Financial Management Made Easy. Get started by enrolling today. The class is free and you can do the program as quickly or slowly as you wish.

Invest in equipment, then save on your food dollars

2014 Canning CollegeVegetables seeds and slips are beginning to fly out garden center doors this spring as West Tennesseans look for ways to save money, live green, and know where their food is grown. Others of us may choose to purchase locally grown produce at the West Tennessee Farmer’s Market.

Either way, novice or unpracticed home food preservers need the facts about safe home food preservation. Even experienced canners may want a refresher course. This is why UT Extension is once again offering Canning College, a two-part food preservation workshop. While water bath canning of jams and pickles are topics of the workshops, pressure canning of vegetables, or its alternative—freezing, are also covered.

The hands-on workshop will be held Thursdays, May 15 and 22 4:30 to 7:30 pm at the Madison County Agriculture Complex, 309 N. Parkway. Pre-registration by May 1 is required. Cost is $60 and includes a copy of So Easy to Preserve. For registration information, call 668-8543 or email



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