Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie

March is National Nutrition Month, and we’re celebrating by embracing the joys of home cooking! This Strawberry Shortcake smoothie recipe combines fruit, protein and vegetables for a healthy, satisfying treat.

A study by the National Center on Disability and Journalism found that only 57% of adults with disabilities reported eating fruits and vegetables daily. Almost 90% of Americans are not getting enough vegetables – and 80% are not getting enough fruits to meet nutrient requirements.

Smoothies are often assumed to be healthy because they are full of fruit, but some recipes may contain large amounts of added sugars. This recipe uses alternatives to give the smoothie a sweet taste and even more healthy benefits!

Ingredients needed for this recipe:

-1 cup spinach

-1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries

-1 tbsp nut butter

-3 dates

-1 cup nut milk

-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1 scoop vanilla protein powder

-4 oz vanilla yogurt

-A cupful of ice cubes

Start with the nut milk for liquid and add spinach and berries for our serving of fruits and veggies. Yogurt and protein powder add lean protein to help you stay fuller longer and maintain muscle and skin health. Nut butter is a healthy fat and spices add flavor. Dates, great for the gut and rich in antioxidants, are a great way to add sweetness to a smoothie without adding extra sugar. Once you have all the ingredients, add the ice and blend it well to create your balanced, healthy smoothie!

This month, we want you to cook with confidence! Our goal is to empower people with disabilities to become confident chefs in their own kitchens. Check out our YouTube channel to boost your confidence and increase your knowledge of fundamental nutrition concepts, info on adapted tools that support cooking and recipes tailored to specific health goals. Try this recipe and many more from our channel to add to your new healthy diet!

15 minutes or less Mediterranean meals with three photos of the meals

The new year means new meals! Try these three healthy meals from the Mediterranean diet. With short prep times and nutritional benefits, each recipe could be a delicious addition to your cooking routine in 2024. The Mediterranean diet is a highly recommended, healthy diet because it includes whole grains, beans, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, herbs and spices.

Recipe 1 – Baked Salmon over Summer Succotash

Serving size: 2 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

For the ingredients, you will need:
2 salmon fillets
½ cup black-eye peas
½ cup shelled edamame
½ cup kale, chopped
1 cup squash & zucchini
¼ red bell pepper
1 small tomato
1 garlic clove
1 cup vegetable stock
4 basil leaves
Tabasco (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. First, we will prepare the baking sheet and the salmon fillets. Season your fillets with salt and pepper. Then they are ready for the oven, which you will have preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 min or until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145 degrees.
  2. While the fillets are cooking, dice all vegetables into ½ inch cubes. The device used in the video demonstration is a food chopper, which is beneficial for individuals with limited hand dexterity or those looking to save time prepping ingredients.
  3. Once the bell pepper and onion are chopped into ½ inch cubes, place to the side and prepare the pan.
  4. Add some oil to your skillet, followed by a spoonful of garlic.
  5. Then add the chopped vegetables and let cook.
  6. Next, dice the tomato. Once chopped, place to the side.
  7. Add the black-eyed peas, salt, and pepper.
  8. Now, chop the zucchini and squash. Add to the pan with some chicken broth and let it simmer for a minute or two.
  9. Toss in the kale, edamame, and Worcester sauce. For a little kick, add some hot sauce.
  10. Cut the end off the lemon and squeeze into the succotash.
  11. Now, we can add the tomatoes and a little more salt and pepper!
  12. Turn off the stove. The salmon should be ready to pull out of the oven. Grab a dish and add the succotash to the base of the bowl. Place salmon on top and garnish with ribbons of basil.

Recipe 2 – Shrimp and Artichoke Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes

Serving size: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes

For this recipe, you will need:
1 Lb. frozen shrimp
1 ½ cups artichoke hearts
1 Tablespoon oil
1-2 garlic clove
8-10 oz. linguini
½ cup sun-dried tomato
½ cup shredded parmesan
2 cups spinach
1 Lemon
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup pasta water and save for later.
  2. Once the pasta is ready, switch out for a clean pan and heat one tablespoon of olive oil to medium-high heat.
  3. Add shrimp, giving a quick sear, tossing until just pink and season with salt and pepper.
  4. When finished cooking, remove from pan and wipe clean.
  5. Add oil and the pine nuts. Toast pine nuts until lightly golden.
  6. Add artichoke heart and sundried tomatoes.
  7. Pour the leftover pasta water and the edamame.
  8. Now add the parmesan cheese.
  9. Next, add the garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about two minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and top it off with some lemon juice.
  11. Begin plating by adding the drained pasta to the bowl, followed by the shrimp and vegetables.
  12. Lastly, grab some fresh basil and chop finely to use as garnish. Your Shrimp and Artichoke Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes dish is done!

Recipe 3 – Lemon Chicken Soup with Ginger

Serving size: 2 | Cooking time: 10 minutes | Prep time: 15 minutes

For ingredients, you will need:
2 chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
4 tbsp ginger paste
2 cloves garlic
2 Lemons
4 oz cooked pasta
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 bay leaf
fresh parsley

  1. Start by preparing the chicken breast. Cube the chicken into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Prep the pan with oil and heat the oil on medium-high heat in a medium pan.
  3. Sear chicken in the pan for 3-4 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add ginger paste and garlic to the pan.
  5. Mix the ingredients and add the broth to the pan, followed by lemon juice.
  6. Add the noodles and cook for 6-8 minutes until pasta is tender and stir throughout. To help with stirring, we use an assistive device called an automatic stirrer in the video. Place the device in a pan or pot, push the button to turn it on, and the stirrer will automatically rotate.
  7. Add some bay leaves and a little more lemon and ginger paste.
  8. The dish is ready! Ladle soup into a bowl and finely chop parsley to use as garnish.
A graphic with the words Great American Smokeout 2023 on it with the NCHPAD logo below it and an image of a no smoking simple.

The Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday of November every year, encourages smokers across the nation to commit to quitting smoking for at least one day, in the hopes that it will lead to a smoke-free future.

While the focus of this event is on the broader population, it’s important to know how this initiative can be especially impactful for people with disabilities.

Smoking poses unique challenges and risks to individuals with disabilities, making the event a prime opportunity for change, empowerment and improved health outcomes.

Tobacco Prevalence in People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face many barriers to health and wellness access. As a result, people with disabilities often are more susceptible to preventable health problems that decrease their overall health and quality of life. Contributing factors include limited access to health programs and services that meet their needs.

According to the CDC, current cigarette smoking is significantly higher among adults with a disability (19%) compared to adults without a disability (11%). The percentage of adults with disabilities using E-cigarettes is also higher (8%) compared to adults without disabilities (3.9%). Adolescents with disabilities are also consistently more likely to smoke cigarettes compared with their nondisabled peers (Senders et al., 2020) .                           

Access to tobacco prevention and cessation programs and public information campaigns can significantly improve the health and wellness of people, including those with disabilities. It’s especially important to provide inclusive programs aimed to provide equal access to people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. This includes those having physical or intellectual disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.

Strategies for Tobacco Avoidance and Cessation

Quitting smoking is important for many reasons. It improves quality of life, reduces the risk of many smoking-related diseases and can add up to 10 years to life expectancy.

Public health organizations promoting health and wellness must prioritize access to resources, education and programs that will lead people with disabilities to engage in positive healthy behaviors related to a smoke-free life. The graphic below highlights strategies for avoiding – and quitting – tobacco.

An infographic with the NCHPAD logo, Special Olympics Health logo, and CDC logo at the top with the following text below it: Stay Smoke-Free and Take Control of Your Health Today Choose Health, Avoid Tobacco and secondhand smoke. Why Tobacco avoidance is important. Staying tobacco free helps you breathe better. Tobacco use affects your lungs, heart, bones, teeth, and causes cancer. Tobacco use is an expensive habit – Save money and use it on things that help you live healthy. Breathing in secondhand smoke is also harmful to your health. What is Secondhand Smoke? Smoke from a cigarette or tobacco product Smoke breathed out by a smoker. Avoid Tobacco in All Forms Avoid cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping, chew, and all tobacco products. Almost 30% of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are affected by secondhand smoke. How to avoid secondhand smoke? Decide to have a smoke free home and car. Choose to go to places that are smoke-free or leave the room. Say “I want to stay healthy and fresh air helps me stay strong” so you can stop smoking or go elsewhere. Call a friend and join them to do something outside. Support friends and family as they quit smoking. Choose Health, Not Tobacco Here are things I can choose to do: If I do not use tobacco, I choose not to start. If I smoke, I will ask to my doctor to help me quit. If I chew tobacco, I will ask my doctor to help me quit. If I smoke or chew tobacco, I will ask my friends and family to support me to quit. If you avoid tobacco, you can… Live a long and healthy life. Stay active with a positive mind.
Group of older adults sitting in a group exercise class

This is the first blog in a three-part series on exercise and balance, presented with our friends at Allard USA. Please note that if you have severe balance problems or have been losing your balance more often recently, see a healthcare provider before you get started with these exercises.

Balance exercises can not only help you improve your balance but also increase your confidence in exercising and activities of daily living. Including some balance training with your other daily or weekly exercises is also a great way to prevent injury and maintain independence.

What we call our sense of balance is actually a complex combination of multiple body systems working together. Balance is our ability to move and stabilize our center of mass (head to hips) on top of our base of support (hips to feet).

Loss of balance happens when one of those is displaced in relation to the other. When we lose our balance, our visual (gaze stability), vestibular (inner ear fluid) and somatosensory (spatial relationships) systems become flooded with information. In short, you might fall. But you can improve your balance with practice.

“To optimize our ability to improve balance, we must be consistent and deliberate in our practice of balance,” says John Reams, NCHPAD Exercise Physiologist. “Consistency and repetition will improve our ability to stabilize our body position in those moments when we feel out of balance. This is what some people call muscle memory, but it’s really just consistency and repetition.”

A good way to start testing and improving your balance is something called “faces of the clock” weight shifting.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Start from a stable position where you can stay focused and “in the moment.” This can be seated or standing.
  2. Imagine your body is positioned at the center of a clock.
  3. Start by moving your torso and hips toward and away from each number on the clock, then include each of your limbs independently. The goal here is to challenge the distance over which you can shift your weight without losing control.
  4. Try this 10 minutes a day up to 6 days a week.
How do you like to spend time in nature? National Trails Day

June 3 is National Trails Day, the “nationwide movement to give back to trails and build a world where everyone feels welcome and has access to enjoy the great outdoors,” according to the American Hiking Society.

Recently, our friend Dr. Scott Crawford shared how he was able to enjoy some time in nature on a hike – thanks to a wheelchair-accessible trail at the Mississippi Agriculture Museum in Jackson, Miss. The accessible route took him through the woods to enjoy an overlook of Eubanks Creek. “I was there for a meeting, but arrived early to ‘explore,’” said Dr. Crawford. “People with mobility limitations rarely get out in nature, so I try to savor every opportunity I get.”

Images by Dr. Scott Crawford

Outdoor time in nature is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. It’s also one of 11 evidence-based elements of health that our MENTOR program is based on. Each element is part of the acronym MY SCORECARD: Mindfulness, Your spirit, Self-care, Core Values, Outdoor time in nature, Relationship building, Exercise, Contribution to others, Arts and leisure, Rest and relaxation, and Diet. In the MENTOR program, our expert health coaches and instructors combine these elements through personalized instruction and resources to help you reach your health goals – at no cost to you.

Learn more about the MENTOR program here, or reach us at or 866-866-8896 to sign up.

John Reams - Mentor SPotlight

In this week’s edition of MENTOR Spotlight, we caught up with John Reams, our exercise physiologist here at NCHPAD. As exercise physiologist, John designs and leads our weekly exercise programming in the MENTOR program. We chatted with John about his role, his background, and his many hobbies and talents!

How long have you been with NCHPAD?

I’ve worked on MENTOR with NCHPAD for two years.

Tell us about your background & education. What brought you to NCHPAD?

I have a degree in biology and two master’s degrees: one in exercise physiology and one in nutrition sciences.

Before coming to NCHPAD, I worked at the Lakeshore Foundation for 12 years, transitioned to the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine for 5 years, and now I’m in my second year here at NCHPAD.

How long have you worked with people with disabilities?

18 years.

What do you do?

I am an Exercise Physiologist for MENTOR and NCHPAD. I combine my experience in clinical and wellness settings with my depth of education in exercise physiology and nutrition sciences.

What is your favorite thing about NCHPAD or this program?

I love sharing resources associated with the transformative qualities of exercise and nutrition with underserved populations. One of my favorite things about this job is guiding participants toward discovering resources for health-protective behavioral choices.

I love sharing resources associated with the transformative qualities of exercise and nutrition with underserved populations. One of my favorite things about this job is guiding participants toward discovering resources for health-protective behavioral choices.

What hobbies do you have outside of work?

Playing guitar.

What’s your favorite food, favorite thing to cook or favorite recipe?

Donuts…any flavor!

What’s your favorite music, movies or tv shows?

I like to listen to punk, metal and jazz. As far as tv, I am a huge fan of documentaries.

What’s the last book you read? How was it?

Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act. It was really thought provoking.

What inspires you?

Sincerity and authenticity.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Are you simply interested, or are you invested?” – Source unknown

If you could switch careers for a day, what would you choose?

Studio session musician.

What’s one thing (not related to your job) that you could teach someone else how to do?

Build a staircase.

mentor spotlight
pressure sores

What are pressure sores? How do you spot them? Can you prevent them? What do you do if you get one? Watch as Karneshia Shantel shares what you should know about pressure sores.

What are pressure sores?

Pressure sores are injuries to the skin and tissues beneath the skin that are typically caused by pressure. Pressure sores occur especially over bony areas like heels, elbows, hips and backsides.

If you use a wheelchair, sit or lie down for long periods of time, you’re at a higher risk.

How do you prevent pressure sores?

Conditions like diabetes and vascular disease can put you at a higher risk for pressure sores, and so can unhealthy behaviors like smoking. But a healthy lifestyle and a good diet can help prevent pressure sores.

If you’re malnourished and not maintaining a healthy weight, the loss of fatty cushion around pressure points also increases the risk. And not getting enough protein or vitamins can lead to slower wound healing.

Pressure sores typically develop over time but can progress rapidly. Here are a few things you can do to prevent pressure sores.

  • Perform pressure reliefs. These exercises allow you to take the weight off areas that are under the most pressure. Do these every two hours while in bed and every thirty minutes while using a wheelchair.
    • In bed, roll over on your side. Just be sure to change the position you’re lying in.
    • In your wheelchair you can lean back or lift yourself up and float. Be sure to do these for 30-90 seconds.
  • If you use a wheelchair, make sure it fits. This will cut down on pressure and friction that contributes to pressure sores. Work with a physical or occupational therapist to get a chair that fits and discuss cushion options.
  • Perform daily skin checks. Use a mirror to check hard to see places or have someone help you.
    • Pay attention to the places most likely to develop pressure sores, like heels, ankles, knees, hips, spine, tailbone, elbows, shoulders, shoulder blades, ears and the back of your head.

What happens if you develop a pressure sore?

If you develop a pressure sore, see a doctor right away. Pressure sores can progress into serious medical issues quickly, so it’s important to treat them quickly. Otherwise, you risk the chance of hospitalization or serious illness. Here’s what else you should know:

  • Pressure sores progress through different stages. This could start with no skin tearing all the way to deep tissue wounds. A doctor will be able to determine which stage the sore is in and treat accordingly.
  • Keep the wound clean to avoid any infection.
  • Be especially careful if you experience any kind of incontinence (loss of bladder control).
  • You may not be able to feel the actual pressure sore.
  • Be on the lookout for other signs of infection:
    • Fever, malaise (feeling unwell), headaches, or redness or swelling around the wound.
    • Growth in the size or depth of the wound.Discharge from the wound.
    • Any other change in how you may feel.
  • If found early, infections may be treated with simple antibiotics. But if left untreated, infections from pressure sores can cause serious life-threatening illness.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe creams and lotions. These lotions protect the wound and encourage new tissue growth. They can also break down the tissue that needs to be cleared for healing.

What happens after I see a doctor?

Once your pressure sore is treated by a doctor, they may refer you to a physical or occupational therapist to explore ways to cut down on pressure. The therapist may look at your chair to see how it fits you. They may also recommend a special mattress or positioning device to reduce the risk of pressure sores while in bed.