What’s in Your Lunch Box?

October 15th, 2014

packed lunch sandwich healthyWhen making a bag or box lunch for yourself or your child, don’t forget to play it safe! Food that travels from one place to another is likely to stay outside of the refrigerator for more time than the food you serve at home. Therefore, the bacteria that cause foodborne illness have a better chance of growing rapidly in a bag lunch.

Use the Right Container

Gone are the days of a “brown bag” lunch. Choose insulated lunch bags and boxes to keep cold food cold. The lunch container should have enough space so that you can always fit in a reusable freezer pack or a plastic bottle filled with ice. Make sure the bag or box can easily be washed daily with hot soap and water. A dishwasher-safe lunchbox or a bag that can be laundered is ideal. Wash lunch boxes and other lunch containers soon after coming home.

Wash, Wash, Wash!

Wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before preparing any food for the lunchbox. Make sure that any utensil that comes in contact with the food has been thoroughly washed and sanitized. When eating away from home, many people forget to wash hands before eating. This allows germs the perfect chance to transfer to a sandwich or apple. Make it easy for you and your child to eat with clean hands by including hand sanitizer or wipes in the lunch bag.

For more ideas on protecting your family’s health when packing lunches, use the handout titled What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag! available at store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/PM3026.

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No Knead Whole Wheat Bread

October 8th, 2014

NoKneadWholeWheatBread_SmallSandwiches are a packed lunch staple. Homemade bread makes a sandwich special. Try this easy-to-make, tasty, bread recipe. Serves 16

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat milk, lukewarm (100–110°F)
  • 1/4 cup orange or
  • apple juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour

Instructions

  1. Grease sides of an 8.5” x 4.5” loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine milk, juice, and honey
  3. in a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients. Beat vigorously for 3 minutes. Dough will be thick. Scoop the dough into the pan. Cover pan with clean towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 45–75 minutes, until almost double
  5. in size.
  6. When dough is almost doubled, preheat oven to 350°F.
  7. Remove towel. Bake bread for about 30 minutes. Dough will pull away from sides of pan when bread is done. Cool 30 minutes before slicing.

Nutrition information per slice: 110 calories; 0 g fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 2 g fiber; 150 mg sodium

From Spend Smart Eat Smart at www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/.

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Healthier Snacks Sold in Schools

October 1st, 2014

If you have a child in school, you may have already heard about the new “Smart Snack” guidelines going into effect this year in Iowa schools that participate in the federal school lunch program. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act updated the nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in school vending machines, via a la carte sales in the cafeteria, and at school stores and some fundraisers.

The new “Smart Snack” guidelines are intended to limit the availability of high-energy, low-nutrition foods like sugary beverages, candy, chips, and snack cakes.
The guidelines require snacks to:

  • Be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, dairy product, and/or protein food;
  • Provide at least 10% of the daily value of potassium, calcium, fiber, or vitamin D;
  • Contain no more than 200 calories and 230 mg sodium;
  • Provide no more than 35% of its calories as fat and no more than 10% as saturated fat (exceptions: nutrient-rich snacks such as nuts, seeds, and low-fat cheese); and
  • Be no more than 35% sugar by weight.

The below table shows the difference in snacks allowed before and after the “Smart Snack” guidelines.

Snack Chart
School Snacks FAQs

Will I break the law if I put a double-fudge brownie in my child’s or grandchild’s lunch? Although it is important that both schools and caregivers promote healthy eating for the well-being of children, the standards do not apply to packed lunches.

Will cupcakes be forbidden at classroom parties? Nope. These rules govern only food sold to children in school, not food that is given to them free.

How can I find out more about the new Smart Snacks standards? For more information on the USDA Smart Snacks standards, visit www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/smart-snacks-school.

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Ice Cold Facts

September 24th, 2014

ice cubesJust because ice is cold does not mean it is protected against certain viruses and bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Therefore, ice should be handled like any other food.

When planning your tailgating activities this football season, ice will play an important part in keeping your food safe for you, your family, and your friends. Protect yourself, family, and friends by following these “Ice Cold Food Safety Tips:”

• Avoid touching ice with dirty hands or glasses.
• Use clean, nonbreakable utensils to handle ice (i.e., tongs, scoop).
• Store your ice in a clean container. If you are using an ice chest/cooler, be sure to wash it with hot soapy water and let it air dry before using it.
• Keep the ice you want to use in your drinks in a separate cooler from the ice that you are using to keep your foods cold.
• Use ice bags that are sealed shut rather than drawstring bags. By keeping your ice bag closed, you are also preventing your ice from getting contaminated.

For more information about food safety, visit the Food Safety website at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/food-safety-families.

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Get Moving at Work

September 17th, 2014

man as desk exercise ballMost Iowans (about 82%) are not meeting the recommended levels of physical activity of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly. You do not have to attend an exercise class to get your physical activity. Physical activity is the movement of the body that uses energy and may include activities you perform every day like climbing stairs, walking to and from your car, walking the dog, etc.

“Desk jobs” may be contributing to our low levels of physical activity. Making small changes to incorporate physical activity into your workday could add up and help you reach the recommended daily physical activity goal. Try incorporating these physical activity-boosting strategies into your workday.

• Walk to work if possible or park away from the main entrance or use an entrance that is further away from your office. By doing so, you’ll be able to get more steps in daily, helping you reach the recommended 10,000 steps daily, which is about five miles.

• Plan short fitness breaks (3–5 minutes) every hour. This will give you 24–40 minutes of physical activity by the end of your workday. Try these short fitness break ideas:

o Walk up and down the stairs or hallway.
o Take a short walk on your lunch break.
o Do some chair squats, jumping jacks or jog-in-place in your office.
o See if your employer offers a worksite wellness program.

 

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Chicken Fajitas

September 10th, 2014

chicken fajitas meals dinnerMexican-inspired dishes are a great way to combine foods from many of the food groups. This recipe includes foods from the grain, dairy, protein, and vegetable groups! Serves 6

Ingredients:
• 1 pound boneless, skinless
chicken breast*
• 2 teaspoons chili powder
• 2 teaspoons garlic powder
• 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
• 6 whole-wheat tortillas, 8-inch
(or corn tortillas)

Optional Toppings:
• 6 ounces low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
• 1 cup chopped tomato
• Cilantro, chopped
• Jalapeno, sliced

Directions:
1. Freeze chicken 30 minutes until firm and easier to cut. Cut chicken into 1/4-inch strips. Place in a single layer on a plate. Sprinkle both sides of strips with chili and garlic powder.
2. Add oil to a 12-inch skillet. Heat to medium high. Add chicken strips. Cook about 3–5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add bell peppers and onion. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink. (Heat chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.)
4. Scoop chicken mixture (2/3 cup each) onto tortillas. Top with your favorite toppings.
5. Serve flat or rolled.

*Can replace chicken with 1 can (15 ounces) black beans (drained, rinsed), beef, or pork.
Nutrition Information per Serving: 290 calories, 9g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 50mg cholesterol, 270mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g sugars, 21g protein.

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Cleanse Diets: How to Protect Yourself from Fad Diets

September 3rd, 2014

diet on chalkboardIt seems as though you can’t go on Facebook or pick up a magazine without reading about how a high school classmate or a famous actress lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time by going on a “cleanse diet.” Cleanse diets claim to be a natural way to remove toxins from the body through fasting followed by a strict vegetable- and fruit-only regimen. It often includes raw vegetables, fruit juices, fruit, and water. More extreme versions of a cleanse diet entail the use of herbs and other supplements that help cleanse the colon (e.g., enemas). There is no scientific evidence that cleanse diets work to detox the body. The kidneys and liver naturally remove most of the toxins we ingest. The benefits most associated with cleanse diets may actually result from the removal of processed foods, solid fats, and added sugars from the diet. There are many concerns regarding following a cleanse diet for an extended period of time, including fatigue due to limited protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and dehydration.

Fad diets are popular because they promise fast results, which is why it is a billion dollar industry. It is important to remember that if you’re overweight, you didn’t put that weight on overnight and it’s unrealistic to think it can be removed overnight or in 10–20 days.

Protect yourself from fad diets by avoiding diet plans, supplements, or products that make the following claims:

1. Promise of fast weight loss: Slow and gradual weight loss is more sustainable than plans that cause drastic weight changes. A healthy weight loss plan promotes ½ to 2 pounds weekly. If you lose weight too quickly, you can lose water, muscle, and bone!

2. Quantities and limitations: Avoid diets that eliminate or severely restrict food groups. Each food group provides essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that a multivitamin cannot replace.

3. Promotes specific food combinations: There is no scientific evidence to support that eating at specific times during the day or combining certain foods will cause foods to turn to fat.

4. No need to be physically active: Physical activity is essential for good health and weight management and should be part of your daily routine.
For more information about how to better manage your weight safely, use Iowa State University Human Sciences Extension publication “How Much Are You Eating?” (PM 3024), available at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/How-Much-Are-You-Eating.

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Pet Food and Food Safety

August 27th, 2014

pet dogWe know to wash our hands before eating dinner and after using the bathroom, but what about after handling pet food?

You’re running late again, and just as you head for the door, you remember Fido still needs his breakfast. After serving him a hearty scoop of kibble, you’re in the car and on the road, and along for the ride may be the foodborne bacteria Salmonella.

Most pet food and pet treats are processed and handled properly so they’re Salmonella free and safe for your pet to eat and for you to touch. But sometimes pet food and pet treats become contaminated with Salmonella and you won’t know by looking at the food. If you touch contaminated pet food or treats, you may become ill from Salmonella or pass the bacteria on to other people.

The foodborne illness caused by Salmonella is called salmonellosis. The illness may be life threatening in some groups, such as children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems (e.g., those with cancer).

Symptoms of salmonellosis in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, decreased appetite, and decreased activity.

Washing your hands with warm, soapy water after handling pet food is the best way to reduce your risk of foodborne illness from contaminated pet food. Washing your hands is also the best way to reduce your risk of passing foodborne illness on to others. Take time to wash your hands after feeding Fido, even on rushed weekday mornings.

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Investigate the Outdoors This Summer

August 20th, 2014

kids outdoors playing natureSpend your late summer and early fall exploring the nature of Iowa! The U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council public service campaign, Discover the Forest (available in Spanish, Descubre el Bosque), aims to inspire 8- to 12-year-olds and their parents to reconnect with nature. The program offers numerous helpful resources, including The Book of Stuff to Do Outside. This book shows how to have a scavenger hunt, find directions using a compass, and keep a nature journal. It can be downloaded for free at http://www.discovertheforest.org/pdf/book-of-stuff.pdf.

Another Forest Service program that helps children connect with nature is the Junior Forest Ranger program. Children can complete the activities in the 18-page book to qualify for the Junior Forest Ranger pin and card. And when the summer is over, they can get ready to qualify for their Junior Snow Ranger designation.

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Grilled Peaches

August 13th, 2014

grilled peaches fruitQuick cooking on a grill brings out the natural juiciness and sweetness in a peach. Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 large peaches
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • Ground cinnamon to taste

Directions

  1. Grilled peaches are great served with meat, fish, or poultry.
  2. Start with peaches that are firm with just a little give when you gently squeeze them with your whole hand.
  3. Cut the peaches in half and pit them.
  4. Brush the cut sides of the peaches with canola oil.
  5. Clean and oil the grates.
  6. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (you should be able to hold your hand about an inch above the cooking grate for 3 to 4 seconds).
  7. Cook the peaches on all cut sides until grill marks show and the peaches are tender but not falling apart. Total grilling time is about 6 to 8 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Nutrition information per serving
88 calories each; 2 g fat; 0 g sat fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 3 g fiber; 0 mg sodium

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