How Oral Health Impacts Overall Wellness

Maintaining good oral health is more than a bright white smile and fresh breath; it’s essential for keeping your entire body well. Studies have consistently shown that when we take care of our teeth and gums, it helps our overall health. Adversely, poor oral health has been linked to a variety of long-term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and even breathing issues. Recognizing the connection between oral health and overall well-being is important for taking a proactive approach to your own health care.

Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Health

One of the most well-established connections is between gum disease (periodontitis) and cardiovascular health. Studies suggest that the inflammation caused by gum disease may contribute to the development of heart disease. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream, leading to inflammation in other parts of the body that can affect the heart and blood vessels.

Diabetes and Oral Health

The connection between diabetes and oral health goes both ways. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to an increased risk of gum disease, and gum disease can make it challenging to control blood sugar levels. Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for individuals with diabetes to prevent complications.

Respiratory Health

Oral health can also impact respiratory health. Bacteria in the mouth can be aspirated into the lungs, contributing to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. This is particularly relevant for individuals with compromised immune systems or underlying respiratory conditions.

Practical Tips for Optimal Oral Health:

  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings to detect and address issues early.
  • Proper Oral Hygiene: Brush teeth twice a day, floss daily, and use an antimicrobial mouthwash to maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Balanced Diet: A nutritious diet contributes to both oral and overall health. Limit sugary snacks and beverages.
  • Avoid Tobacco: Smoking and tobacco use increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancers.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking water helps maintain a healthy balance of saliva, which is crucial for oral health.

The link between oral health and overall wellness is undeniable, which is why prioritizing dental care is an integral part of maintaining your overall health. By recognizing and addressing oral health issues, we not only safeguard our smiles but our bodies as well. 

Heart-Healthy Goals: Small Changes for Big Impact

DFD Heart-Healthy GoalsFebruary is American Heart Month – a month to focus on cardiovascular health as an important part of your daily self-care routine. Embracing heart-healthy goals not only contributes to our overall well-being but sets the stage for a vibrant and fulfilling life. Instead of overwhelming ourselves with drastic changes, let’s explore the power of small adjustments that can lead to a big impact on our heart health.

1. Mindful Eating:
Small Change: Incorporate more colorful fruits and vegetables into your meals.

Instead of drastic diets, focus on adding vibrant, heart-healthy foods to your plate. The natural antioxidants and nutrients in fruits and vegetables contribute to cardiovascular health. Try adding a new fruit or vegetable to your grocery list each week and savor the rainbow of flavors.

2. Move More, Sit Less:
Small Change: Take short breaks to stretch or walk during your workday.

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym. Simple movements throughout the day can make a significant difference. Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up, stretch, or take a short stroll. These breaks not only benefit your heart but also boost energy and focus.

3. Hydration Habits:
Small Change: Replace sugary drinks with water or herbal teas.

Staying hydrated is vital for heart health. Make a small but impactful change by swapping sugary sodas or energy drinks for water or herbal teas. Not only does this contribute to better cardiovascular health, but it also supports overall hydration and helps control calorie intake.

4. Stress Management:
Small Change: Incorporate deep-breathing exercises into your daily routine.

Chronic stress can take a toll on your heart. Combat stress by integrating simple deep-breathing exercises into your routine. Practice mindfulness, meditation, or even a short breathing exercise before bedtime to promote relaxation and support heart health.

5. Prioritize Sleep:
Small Change: Establish a consistent sleep schedule.

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of heart health. Create a calming bedtime ritual, limit screen time before sleep, and aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

6. Connect with Others:
Small Change: Schedule regular social activities.

Cultivating meaningful connections is beneficial for heart health. Whether it’s a virtual coffee chat, a walk with a friend, or a family game night, prioritize social interactions. These moments contribute not only to emotional well-being but also to a healthier heart.

In the journey to a heart-healthy lifestyle, small changes can lead to significant and lasting results. By incorporating these manageable adjustments into your daily routine, you set the foundation for a heart-healthy year ahead. Remember, it’s the consistency of these small changes that makes them powerful. Embrace the journey, celebrate progress, and your heart-healthy goals will have a lasting impact.

What to Expect at Your Annual Wellness Visit (And Why You Should Do It) – New Year, New Visit

As the new year begins, many of us set goals to improve our health. However, one crucial step in this journey is often overlooked—your annual wellness visit. This comprehensive check-up is more than a routine doctor’s appointment; it’s a proactive approach to managing your health. Learn what you can expect during your annual wellness visit and why making it a priority can pave the way for a healthier, happier you in the coming year.

What to Expect at Your Annual Wellness Visit

Your annual wellness visit is more than just a quick check of your vital signs. It’s an in-depth conversation with your healthcare provider assessing your overall health and addressing potential risks and concerns. Here’s what you can typically expect during your annual check-up:

1. Health Review and Medical History:

Your healthcare provider will review and discuss your medical history, including any chronic conditions, medications, and past surgeries. This information helps them understand your overall health and identify any trends or changes.

2. Vital Signs and Measurements:

Standard measurements like weight, blood pressure, heart rate will be taken. These metrics provide a snapshot of your current health and can indicate potential issues that need further investigation or provide a baseline for future visits.

3. Health Risk Assessment:

You may be asked about lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption. This information helps assess your risk for various health conditions and provides recommendations for lifestyle changes and preventive measures.

4. Preventative Screenings and Immunizations:

Depending on your age, sex, and medical history, your healthcare provider may recommend various screenings such as cholesterol checks, cancer screenings, or vaccinations. These preventative screenings can detect potential health issues early when they are more manageable.

5. Discussion and Goal Setting:

One of the key components of the annual wellness visit is the discussion about your health goals. Your healthcare provider can offer professional guidance on lifestyle changes, nutrition and exercise, helping you set achievable goals for the upcoming year.

Why You Should Prioritize Your Annual Wellness Visit

1. Early Detection of Health Issues:

Annual wellness visits provide an opportunity for early detection of potential health problems. Regular screenings and assessments can identify conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, and certain cancers in their early stages when they are more treatable.

2. Preventive Care and Immunizations:

Wellness exams often include preventive measures such as vaccinations and screenings. Staying current with these preventive screenings can significantly reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses and contribute to a healthier, disease-resistant lifestyle.

3. Personalized Health Guidance:

These exams involve one-on-one discussions with your healthcare provider about your lifestyle, habits, and family medical history. This personalized interaction allows for tailored health advice, enabling you to make informed decisions about your well-being.

4. Chronic Disease Management:

If you have existing chronic conditions, annual wellness exams play a crucial role in monitoring and managing these conditions effectively. Adjustments to treatment plans can be made, ensuring that your health is optimally controlled.

5. Building a Relationship with Your Healthcare Provider:

Regular wellness exams foster a strong and continuous relationship with your healthcare provider. This connection facilitates open communication, making it easier to discuss any health concerns, track progress, and receive ongoing support for your health goals.

As you begin a new year full of possibilities, make your health a top priority by scheduling and attending your annual wellness visit. Remember, prevention is key, and your annual wellness visit is a powerful tool in safeguarding your well-being for years to come. So, here’s to a new year, a new visit, and a new commitment to your health!

Giving Is Good for Your Health

The holiday season is full of opportunities to spread joy and do good in the world. Did you know that giving—whether helping someone, volunteering, making a charitable contribution, or giving a gift—is good for your mental and physical well-being? Let’s look at the science behind generosity and why giving is good for your health.

Many Reasons to Give Generously

From the times you’ve helped a friend or neighbor, you likely know that giving feels good. Interestingly, research suggests that giving results in more than just a good feeling. It positively impacts our health. In fact, caring for others helps your health so much it made our list of the five lifestyle choices you can make to prevent diseases and be well.

When you do kind things for others, your brain secretes “feel-good” neurotransmitters, including serotonin (which helps with your mood), dopamine (which we experience as pleasure), and oxytocin (which promotes inner peace). We then experience numerous mental and physical benefits as a result. 

How Is Giving Good for My Health?

Helping someone else also helps you! Being generous has been found to: 

  • Lower your blood pressure—to a similar extent as eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise!
  • Live longer. People who volunteer are more likely to live long and happy lives. 
  • Reduce stress. In addition to increasing levels of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, giving gifts or helping others can reduce your cortisol level, making you feel more calm and less stressed. 
  • Cause a “helper’s high,” as a result of the endorphins being released. This improves your self-esteem, increases happiness, and decreases depressed feelings. 
  • Promote social connection and community. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science demonstrated that when we give to others, they are more likely to give to someone else in return. This contagious spirit helps create communities who care for each other, which is central to good mental and physical health. 

How to Give Back When You’re on a Budget

Serving others does not have to cost much—or any—money. You still receive the same health benefits from acts of care when you don’t spend any money. Consider engaging in acts of kindness, such as walking a neighbor’s dog, doing someone’s chores, or smiling at everyone on the street. 

Create a Giving Tradition

A study in 2018 by Fidelity Charitable found that children who are raised in families with strong giving traditions and who are communicative about the value of giving back are more likely to give charitably as adults, be happy, and have closer relationships with their immediate and extended families. 

If you don’t have a giving tradition in your family yet, this might be the year to start! Involve everyone by volunteering as a family on a service project or for a particular shared interest, such as walking dogs at your local animal shelter or making a care package for community members who have less than they need. Also be sure to talk about the importance of generosity, empathy, and respect for others with your children. This legacy of giving you’re creating will benefit your own family and your whole community for years to come.

What’s in Season in Maine?

Fresh fruits and veggies are nutrient-dense foods that are vital to your health. Eating local, in-season produce is the best bet for your money, because you’ll get the highest quality vitamins and minerals—plus in-season fruits and vegetables tend to be more affordable. Not only that, but by buying local you will be supporting Maine farmers. It’s a win-win-win decision for your health, your budget, and your community! 

A Month-by-Month Guide to Fresh Food in Maine

Once you’ve made the healthy decision to add more local, seasonal fruits and vegetables to your diet, knowing what’s available can help you prepare and plan your meals. Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of what you’re likely to find in season from local farms, thanks to the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, along with a favorite recipe for each month’s seasonal produce.

Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, leeks, microgreens, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, swedes, shallots, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Roast that winter squash into a dinner of Stuffed Acorn Squash.  


Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, leeks, microgreens, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Winter calls for hearty, healthy Cabbage Roll Soup. 


Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, leeks, microgreens, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Warm, comforting, vibrantly colored, and packed with vitamins, Carrot Ginger Soup seems made for March in Maine.


Apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, leeks, microgreens, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins are easy to make, easy to eat, and great for your heart.

Parsnips, radishes, salad greens, scallions, spinach

Featuring May vegetable superstars radishes, scallions, and salad greens, our Spring in Maine Salad is simple and bright.

Asparagus, beet greens, bok choy, chives, dandelion greens, kale, lettuce, parsley, peas, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, turnips 

Part comfort food, part spring zing, our recipe for Springtime Herb Pasta with Asparagus is fresh with flavor.


Beets, blueberries, braising greens, broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumbers, fennel, garlic, garlic scapes, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, microgreens onions, mixed salad greens, radishes, raspberries, scallions, snow peas, strawberries, sugar snap peas, summer squash, Swiss chard, turnips

Zucchini season has begun! Zucchini is our #5 pick for the cheapest and healthiest green veggies.  Try making Zoodles. 


Apples, artichokes, beans, beets, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cherry tomatoes, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, garlic, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, melons, microgreens, mixed salad greens, onions, peaches, plums, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, raspberries, scallions, summer squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, zucchini 

Baba Ganoush makes a party dip out of eggplants, which is perfect for dipping all of August’s raw veggies in. 

Apples, beans, beets, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, corn, cucumbers, delicata squash, eggplant, fennel, garlic, greens, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, melons, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, raspberries, scallions, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, zucchini 

There are so many fruits and veggies available in September in Maine. Try this versatile Vegetable Frittata and mix up what you dish out. 

Apples, beans, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, corn, cucumbers, delicata squash, eggplant, fennel, garlic, ginger, grapes, greens, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, melons, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, pears, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, raspberries, scallions, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, tomatillos, turnips, zucchini 

Delight in apple season with these Apple Fritters on your breakfast plate.

Apples, beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, chard, collards, daikon, garlic, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, radicchio, radish, rutabaga, spinach, squash, turnip

Transform potassium-rich parsnips into Gingery Parsnip Fries.

Apples, cranberries, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes 

Combine chicken with December seasonal produce in Maine and you get Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potato and Apple.

Where to Find Local Food and How to Afford It

Now that you know what’s in season each month in Maine, find a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm or farmers market near you. 

Fresh food can be more affordable than other options, and Maine has special programs to encourage everyone to eat locally. Most farmers markets and many CSA shares accept SNAP/EBT funds, and often offer special bonuses, like Maine Harvest Bucks, that can stretch SNAP dollars further. In addition, low-income older adults may be eligible to participate in the Maine Senior FarmShare Program.

Where to Enjoy Fall Foliage in Central and Western Maine

Nature + Exercise = Health

Spending time in nature is excellent for your health, and so is exercise. When you combine these two activities and exercise outdoors, you enjoy many health benefits, including lower stress and anxiety levels, a better mood, and lower blood pressure. This fall, we share our favorite spots in our central and western Maine community to hike and enjoy the breathtaking views on display during peak fall foliage season. 


When Is Peak Fall Foliage Season in Central and Western Maine?

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails this month to enjoy peak foliage in our area. In general, the trees display their most brilliant fall colors during the second and third weeks of October in central and western Maine. If you want to be more precise or travel to other parts of the state, you can find the best dates for peak foliage in the Maine Forest Service’s annual foliage reports.

Where To See the Best Fall Colors, By Region

Best Fall Leaf-Peeping Hikes Near Turner and Leeds

Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner, Maine, offers 2,675 acres with 12 miles of river frontage, making it the fifth-largest park in the state. There are extensive trails available for all ability levels. Please note that hunting is a popular activity in this area, so be sure to wear blaze orange in the fall.

If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge and awe-inspiring views, you might like Bear Mountain Trail in North Turner. At 3.9 miles with some elevation, this moderately difficult out-and-back hike is well worth the views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range in the White Mountains. 

If history is more of what you’re after, try Monument Hill in Leeds, Maine. The 1-mile loop is moderately difficult, rewarding you with healthy exercise as you climb up. When you look west, you’ll see a Civil War monument from the late 1800s erected by Major General Oliver Otis Howard. 

Torsey Pond Nature Preserve in Readfield, Maine, is mostly wooded, which makes for a beautiful autumn display of foliage. The easy paths include two lookout points over Torsey Pond, where you can see wading birds and other waterfowl.

Favorite Hikes Near Turner and Bridgton in Autumn

Hike Hawk Mountain in Waterford, Maine, is a family-friendly 1.4-mile trail with spectacular views. Try going in the late afternoon so you can see the sunset across the fall foliage. 

The Witt’s End Trail is a 4.5-mile year-round, out-and-back hiking trail near Norway in Maine’s Oxford Hills area. The easy walk is family-friendly, including those with strollers. People of all ages enjoy its stone walls and woodlands, which produce a stunning array of colors during leaf-peeping season. 

Also near Norway is the Roberts Farm Preserve. This 212-acre former farm has more than 12 miles of trails managed by the Western Foothills Land Trust. Centered around Lake Pennesseewassee, the autumn colors are especially beautiful because they are reflected in the water. You can also enjoy two large sculptures by Maine artist Bernard Langlais at this location.

For our Bridgton-area community, the Burnt Meadow Mountain Trail, a 3.6-mile loop in Brownfield, and the Jockey Cap Trail in Fryeburg, a half-mile hike, both offer panoramas of the White Mountains. 

Top Spots Near Monmouth for Fall Colors

Considered a great place for a walk, run, or bike ride right by Lake Auburn, the Whitman Spring Road trail in Auburn, Maine, offers an easy 2.1-mile trail on gravel and crushed stone. See loons on the lake and enjoy the peaceful woods.

Kennebec County trails include nearly five miles of paths within the Woodbury Nature Sanctuary in Monmouth and Litchfield, Maine. The Blue Trail offers three lookout points, including beautiful views of Woodbury Pond and Mud Pond. Please note that dogs are not allowed in this sanctuary.  

Colon Cancer Is on the Rise in Young Adults

You might believe that colon cancer is only a problem for older adults—but you’d be wrong. Colorectal cancer cases (which includes both colon and rectal cancers) in Americans under the age of 50 have increased by about 50% in the last thirty years, including new cases in people who are only in their 20s and 30s. Learn what you need to know to safe at any age from this serious disease. 

Why Are Younger People Getting Colon Cancer? 

Cases of younger people with colorectal cancer are on the rise. Researchers point to a variety of possible explanations. Most agree that our diet is one of the likely causes. People whose diets are high in sugary drinks, processed foods, and red meat—foods Americans are eating more and more of—have an increased likelihood of developing colon and rectal cancers. They’re also more likely to have a recurrence of cancer or to die from it, compared to people who eat lots of fresh and minimally processed foods. 

How Can I Protect Myself from Colorectal Cancer?

Know the symptoms. Early symptoms of colorectal cancer include blood in your stool, a change in bowel habits, weight loss for no known reason, feeling bloated or fullness, lower stomach cramping, and fatigue. Report any of these symptoms to your primary care provider. 

Early screening saves lives. While colorectal cancer is expected to be diagnosed 153,020 times and cause 52,550 deaths in 2023, when it’s detected early, it’s very treatable. This, coupled with the fact that many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stage of the disease, makes early, regular screening a lifesaver. According to the American Cancer Society, adults should begin screening at age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, let your health care provider know. 

Eat healthy foods and move your body. More than half of all colorectal cancers are linked to risk factors that you have control over. That’s good news! Eating a healthy diet, including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; not smoking or using tobacco products; being physically active; maintaining a healthy weight; and limiting or eliminating alcohol from your diet may protect you from colon and rectal cancers.

Do I Have to Have a Colonoscopy? 

There are multiple choices for preventative screenings for colon cancer, including a colonoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy, or stool-based tests, such as the fecal-immunochemical test (FIT) or stool DNA test, both of which can be done at home. If you’re age 45 and at average risk with no symptoms, you can typically pick whichever screening method is most convenient for you. If you’re at higher risk due to family history or other risk factors, a colonoscopy will likely be recommended, and you may be advised to begin screening earlier. Speak with your primary care provider about which screening is best for you and at what age you should begin. 

Top 5 Foods for Staying Hydrated

Our cells, blood, muscles, tissues, and brain all rely on water to function properly. Staying hydrated is vital to keep your body well and to avoid overheating, especially in the summertime, during extreme heat waves, and if you work outdoors or are active. To stay hydrated, you need to drink enough water and eat water-rich foods to replace the water and electrolytes you lose through sweat. Read on to learn how much water you need, how to tell if you’re getting enough water, and which foods are best at keeping you well-hydrated on hot summer days.

How Much Water Do You Need Each Day?

So, how much water do you need every day, exactly? It depends. Your hydration needs vary depending on your age, size, activity level, and how much you sweat. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that the average adult drink 92 ounces of water per day for women and 125 ounces per day for men.

Not a big fan of H20? Try infusing water with fruits and vegetables for more flavor. Crush mint and strawberries into water and let it sit for a while for a refreshing summer beverage.

Drinking enough water every day is essential to good health. Even so, you still need to eat water-rich foods to stay hydrated. We recommend that about one-fifth of your daily water intake come from what you eat.

Which Foods Are Most Hydrating?

Most foods contain some amount of water, but which ones are the most hydrating? Fruits and vegetables top the list. In general, fresh, local foods are the best source of hydration—not to mention vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body functioning well. Here are the top five fruits and vegetables to maximize hydration.

Top Five Foods for Hydration

1. Watermelons and other melons: At 92 percent water content, watermelon lives up to its name! Enjoy this summertime favorite, or other melons such as cantaloupe, which contains 90 percent water, to be hydrated and get plenty of vitamin A.

Try this Refreshing Watermelon Salad.

2. Cucumbers: Plentiful in summer gardens, cucumbers come at the right time of year. They are made of 96 percent water, low in calories, and a great source of magnesium and vitamin K, an essential nutrient for blood clotting and healthy bones.

Cucumber Quinoa Salad is a hit at cookouts. Be sure to leave cucumbers skins on for a healthy dose of fiber.

3. Lettuce: Eat your greens! With up to 96 percent water depending on the type of lettuce, salads are a healthy, quick way to stay fresh and hydrated all year long—and Romaine is #2 on our list of the Top Cheapest and Healthiest Greens.

Load up on nutrient-packed veggies and in-season greens with this Great Green Salad.

4. Tomatoes: At 95 percent water, tomatoes top the list of best foods for hydration not only because of their water content, but also for their potassium—it’s one of the key minerals you lose when you sweat!

Firing up the grill? Add some Blistered Cherry Tomatoes on top of your grilled chicken breast for a delicious, healthy dinner.

5. Strawberries: Chock full of vitamin C, manganese, and folate, it’s a good thing that strawberries are so easy to eat. Put them in smoothies or yogurt for a tasty summer treat that has 91 percent water.

While it’s hard to resist eating ripe summer strawberries by the handful, this Sparkling Strawberry Refresher will also quench your thirst.

Still Not Sure If You’re Getting Enough Water?

If you’re drinking water and eating hydrating foods, that’s great news for your health! But how can you tell if you’re getting enough water? There are two easy ways: check in with yourself and see 1) if you’re thirsty or 2) what color your pee is.

If you’re thirsty, chances are you need more water. (If you find yourself thirsty frequently, mention it to your doctor.)

The color of your urine is another quick and easy way to gauge if your water intake is enough. If your pee is clear or pale yellow, that’s a good sign you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker, you probably need to drink more water or eat more of the hydrating foods we mentioned above.

Easy Tips for a Healthy Cookout

Summer: ‘tis the season for cookouts! While a typical BBQ can include some not-so-healthy menu items (hello, hot dogs!), it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these tips to keep your backyard grilling light, healthy, nutritious—and fun!

Taste the best flavors of the season.

In Maine, summertime means plenty of local produce at its peak of flavor and freshness. Now’s the time to indulge! Bring along in-season veggies from the farmers’ market or your garden, fill your plate with fruits and veggies first, and offer some vegetables to the grillmaster.

Simply add a light coat of olive oil and herbs to grillable veggies like red peppers, corn on the cob, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and eggplant; place directly on a hot grill, on a kebab, or atop a piece of tinfoil; and roast until tender and brown for a delicious, easy dish everyone can enjoy.

You can even add fruit to the grill for dessert! Peaches, plums, and nectarines are grill classics. Try a sprinkle of nutmeg before they go on or add some fresh mint sprigs afterwards for a taste that can’t be beat.

Go lean—or vegetarian.

Although some traditional fare at BBQs is loaded with fat, salt, sugar, and calories, a healthy barbecue can be had.

  • Pork has more cholesterol and fat than poultry.
  • Hot dogs contain unhealthy nitrates and a heavy dose of sodium.
  • Try lean cuts of meat, such as grilled chicken, turkey burgers, or fish.
  • Keep your protein portion small—about the size of your palm.
  • Opt for a vegetarian meal: tofu, tempeh, bean-based burgers, and portobello mushrooms are healthy alternatives that are easy to grill up. Consider marinating vegetarian proteins first for even more flavor.

“What can I bring?”

Many of us are trying to eat healthy these days. But what can you do when mayo-laden potato salads, bags of chips, and soda pop are there for the taking?

One simple trick for eating healthy at summer gatherings is to offer to bring a dish you know is healthy and help yourself to it. Chopped salads, veggies and a yogurt-based dip, or watermelon are all good choices. Browse our collection of healthy recipes for more inspiration.


Beverage choices abound at parties. Rather than sugary or alcoholic drinks like soda or beer at your next outdoor bash, drink plenty of water. It’s the heart-healthiest answer to “What would you like to drink?” Consider adding a slice of lemon or lime or some fresh herbs to make it feel more festive. Or mix up a batch of cool and refreshing Watermelon Lemonade.

Add a side of exercise.

Look for fun ways to add some movement to your cookout. Break out a croquet game, set up Twister, play family-friendly Mother May I?, or simply invite others along on a walk. Being outside with friends and family is great for your health—enjoy it!

Top 11 Accessible Trails in Maine

Time outdoors provides a range of physical, emotional, and mental benefits for your health and well-being and is something that people of all abilities should be able to enjoy. Whether you have a wheelchair, walker, stroller, or another mobility device, or simply want to spend time in nature, here’s our list of some of Maine’s best accessible trails.

Wheelchair-Friendly Trails in Central Maine

1. In Central Maine, the Peabody-Fitch Woods and Narramissic Farm in Bridgton is a must. Go for a walk on this Loon Echo Land Trust property and see a Civil War-era farmhouse maintained by the Bridgton Historical Society. There is a half-mile, wheelchair-accessible trail around the meadow that has stunning mountain views.

2. In the Bangor area, the 1-mile Orono Bog Boardwalk is a wheelchair-friendly hike through a wide range of plants and animals in a Maine bog, some of which are described on illustrated signs along the way. Benches are provided at least every 200 feet along the trail. Please note that the bog walk is closed in winter.

3. Range Pond State Park in Poland, Maine, has a couple miles of handicapped-accessible trails, as well as a swimming transition dock for wheelchair users along the sandy beach and two accessible playgrounds. Open year-round, this is a popular place to be in Androscoggin County!

Wheelchair-Friendly Trails in Western Maine

4. The Bethel Pathway is a flat, paved, nearly 1-mile section of the 1.7-mile trail, with a main trailhead that begins at the Davis Park picnic area on ME-26 in Bethel, Maine. This easy-to-follow path connects several public areas, including the skate park, and goes over a miniature covered bridge and a single-span bridge over the Androscoggin River. There is another section of the pathway that is made from crushed stone, which goes east to Sunset Road. Though that portion of the path is not paved, it is still very hard and smooth.

5. The Sandy River Trail in Farmington, Maine, is a half-mile hike on crushed stone to the river banks. It is flat, fully accessible, and dogs are welcome. Begin at Prescott Field and travel out to the water and back.

6. If you’re looking for a chance to see moose, birds, and loons, the Magalloway River Trail has a three-quarter-mile section of the 1.3-mile trail that is wheelchair accessible. OK, technically the trail is in Wentworth’s Location, New Hampshire, but it is part of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which is in both Maine and New Hampshire. Follow the easy trail through the forest to a wildlife viewing platform that looks across the river. The orange and green trails are at least four feet wide and open year-round.

7. Paved and suitable for all ages and abilities, the half-mile Swift River Trail in Rumford, Maine, is through a forest that follows along the shallow, rocky Swift River at the edge of Hosmer Field Park.

Wheelchair-Friendly Trails in Southern Maine

8. In Southern Maine, the Timber Point Trail in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is a 1.4-mile, universally accessible loop near Biddeford. You’ll pass salt marshes, cattail marshes, forest, mudflats, shrublands, and rocky shores on this hike. There is an elevated platform with views of the Little River, estuary, and islands.

9. Near Freeport, Maine, you’ll find Wolfe’s Neck State Park. The park is known for its nesting ospreys, white pine and hemlock forests, salt marsh estuary, and the rocky shoreline on Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River, and there is an ADA-compliant, family-friendly, gravel, half-mile loop trail along the shore there called White Pines Trail. The picnic areas and restrooms are large and include accommodations for people who use wheelchairs. There is a small entrance fee to access the park, and guided walks are offered sometimes.

Wheelchair-Friendly Trails in Midcoast Maine

10. Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson, Maine, has an extensive network of trails over 1,000 acres of protected land in Lincoln County, including a mile of shorefront on Little Dyer Pond. Maintained by Midcoast Conservancy, several trails are made of gravel and crushed stone and are wheelchair accessible. There are guided walks and events here at times.

Wheelchair-Friendly Trails in Downeast Maine

In Downeast Maine, popular Acadia National Park is one of the most accessible parks in the U.S. With several wide carriage roads, it is a popular destination for those with strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes. There are also accessible trails, including Jesup Path and a route from Witch Hole and the Pond Carriage Trail to Eagle Lake. Please note that the national park charges an entrance fee.

Bonus: For more accessible hikes throughout the state of Maine, check out a comprehensive list created by Maine By Foot.