Archive for the ‘healthy living’ Category

Springtime Learning = Summer Safety

May 21st, 2014

young boy on tabletUse technology to introduce your children or grandchildren to food safety basics they can put to use all summer long. Below is a list of technology-based resources that can help make learning food safety fun. The first two are free apps for iPads, iPhones, or iPod touch that can be downloaded from iTunes:

Perfect Picnic Game: This app helps kids learn how to build and run a food safe picnic park.

Solve the Outbreak: This app allows kids to become a food detective and uncover the what, why, and how of foodborne illness outbreaks and to see the type of work that real-life “Disease Detectives” do. (Created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Scrub Club: This interactive website teaches kids about hand-washing through the use of games, songs, videos, and other downloadable activities. (From the National Science Foundation International) Go to:

For more information on these and other food safety applications, please visit:

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GREEN—It’s the Color of the Season!

May 7th, 2014

spring saladAfter a long winter, the first, fresh vegetables of spring taste wonderful, whether from your garden, a farmer’s market, food co-op, or local grocery store! Lettuce is plentiful, being a fairly easy vegetable to grow, but many kinds of leafy greens are available.

Many people make iceberg lettuce the base of a fresh salad, but spring and summer bring many more options! This summer, try something new like arugula, frisée, kale, or spinach. The different colors, flavors, and textures make an attractive salad and the fresh greens are loaded with nutrients.

Arugula: This leafy green offers a spicy, peppery flavor which gives a zesty “punch” when added raw to salads. Arugula is rich in phytonutrients, which may reduce the risk of several kinds of cancers, including breast, stomach and colon.

Frisée: This frilly, funky-looking green adds fun to a fresh salad! It contains many vitamins and minerals and is especially high in folate, and vitamins A and K. The feathery leaves also can give a touch of elegance to a fresh salad.

Kale: Kale is considered a “powerhouse of nutrition,” with beautiful leaves that provide an earthy flavor. It is an excellent source for vitamin K, and helps lower cholesterol.

Spinach: This dark green leafy vegetable is fairly mild in flavor overall. It is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, being packed with vitamins (especially A and C) and minerals (especially iron).

Jazz up your fresh salad by adding:
• Fruits: Use fresh or dried berries, apples, and oranges. Fruit juice could be part of the dressing.
• Grains: Try adding cooked whole grain pastas, brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, or bulgur.
• Protein: Include proteins like nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, lean fish, and meats.
• Dressing: Keep it light in both calories and saturated fat, yet high in
flavor with small amounts of juices, spices, herbs, flavored oils, and flavored vinegars.

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Spring: An Egg-citing Time of Year!

April 9th, 2014

eggs easter color dyeCooking, coloring, hiding, and eating eggs are a sign of the season. Follow these easy tips to ensure the safety of the eggs.

1. Use eggs that have been properly stored in the refrigerator and are not past their “use by date.” Uncooked eggs can be stored three to five weeks in the refrigerator.

2. To hard cook eggs, put eggs in a single layer in a pan; completely cover all eggs with cold water. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boiling point; then turn off the heat, and leave pan on the burner for 15-17 minutes. Cool under cold running water to stop the cooking process.

3. Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their cartons if you won’t be coloring them right after cooking and cooling. Refrigerate the eggs again right after you dye them. Cooked eggs can be safely stored in the refrigerator for one week.

4. Everyone who helps dye the eggs should wash his/her hands thoroughly (before and after handling eggs).

5. Eggs should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours if they will be eaten. If they will be hidden in an egg hunt or used as a centerpiece, they should be thrown away
after use.

6. Color only uncracked eggs. If you plan to eat your dyed eggs later, use food coloring or specially made food-grade egg dyes dissolved in water that is warmer than the eggs. If any eggs crack during dyeing or while on display, throw them away along with any eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours.

For more information contact ISU Extension and Outreach Answerline 800-262-3804 or email questions to

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MARCH into Spring

March 5th, 2014

family eatingMARCH into spring armed with habits that help you become your healthiest self. Consider these tips:

Move every day – Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily for better blood pressure, stress reduction, and weight control. This can include three 10-minute bouts of physical activity throughout the day. Choose activities you enjoy, raise your heart rate, build strength, and increase flexibility. An activity buddy can help you stay faithful to your plan.

Avoid Skipping Meals – When making a shopping list and planning meals, consider MyPlate ( Include healthy snacks (e.g., low fat yogurt, vegetables with low fat dip, whole grain bread with peanut butter) to meet your family’s nutritional needs. Healthy snacks sustain energy levels between meals and help you stay on track with your health goals.

Read food labels – Aim high (20% or more) for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Aim low (5% or less) for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. For more information on how to read a food label, watch the “Label Reading for Health” video at

Choose foods carefully – Become a smart shopper by reducing the amount of convenience foods eaten, choosing fruit canned in juice, and buying no salt added canned vegetables. When you are choosing foods, make half your plate fruits and vegetables and watch portion sizes.

Have family meals – Make family meal time a priority. Research shows family meals promote healthier eating. Eat as a family a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime and turn off the TV, computers, and phones. Have all family members help in meal planning and cooking.

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The Diet That Is All Fluff

February 5th, 2014

Many crazy diets appear in the headlines. Some recent offerings include the feeding tube diet and the tapeworm diet. The latest diet to make headlines is the cotton ball diet, and the science behind it resembles the structure of cotton—unsupportive fluff.

The diet involves consuming five cotton balls dipped in orange juice, lemonade, or a smoothie. The claim is that you will feel full without gaining weight. Some dieters consume these before their meal to limit calorie intake, while others rely exclusively on the cotton balls as their “food” intake.

Medical experts agree that nothing good can come of this diet, and in fact it is very dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Cotton balls may not be cotton—most are bleached polyester fibers that contain lots of chemicals
  • Eating synthetic cotton balls is similar to eating cloth, or even buttons or coins
  • Risks include choking, malnutrition, or even worse, a blockage in the intestinal tract, which can be life-threatening

A healthier and safer approach to feel full is to make sure you get plenty of fiber in your diet. Follow these tips to get the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day:

  • Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas), which are all good sources of fiber
  • Look at the Nutrition Facts Panel for a product’s fiber content—20 percent or more is considered high
  • Include fiber-rich foods with meals and snacks

For more information on how to safely achieve and maintain a healthy weight, visit MyPlate

Want to know more about choosing high fiber foods? Check out these resources:

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Herbs and spices – part II

August 6th, 2013

Last week we talked about the distinctive flavor of spices and herbs. Here’s some information on how to use them when cooking fruits and veggies and details on how to substitute fresh for dry or vice versa.

Can I substitute fresh for dry herbs and spices?

  • ¼ teaspoon powdered = ¼ to 1 teaspoon dried crumbled = 2 to 3 teaspoon fresh
  • Chop fresh herbs fine to allow for more flavor to be released.
If you are cooking: Try flavoring it with:
Asparagus Caraway, mustard, nutmeg, tarragon
Beets Bay leaf, caraway, cloves, ginger
Berries Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla
Broccoli Mustard, nutmeg, oregano, tarragon
Cabbage Caraway, celery seed, cumin, curry, fennel
Carrots Cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, marjoram
Cauliflower Cayenne, celery seed, chili powder, nutmeg
Corn Celery seed, cumin, curry powder, onion, parsley
Cucumbers Chives, dill, garlic, mint, parsley, vinegar
Green Beans Dill, curry powder, oregano, tarragon, thyme
Greens Onion, pepper
Melons Cardamom, ginger, mint, pepper
Peaches Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Pears Anise, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg
Peas Dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage
Rhubarb Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla
Spinach Cinnamon, mint, nutmeg, oregano, sage, thyme
Summer Squash Cloves, curry powder, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
Tomatoes Basil, bay leaf, dill, onion, oregano, parsley

How long should I keep spices and herbs?

As a general rule, keep herbs or ground spices for 1 year; keep whole spices 2 years.

  • Buy a smaller container until you know how fast you’ll use a spice or herb. If it smells strong and flavorful, it’s probably still potent.
  • Rub a small amount of an herb or ground spice in your hand. If the aroma is fresh, rich, and immediate, it can still flavor foods.
  • Check a whole spice—such as a clove or cinnamon stick—by breaking, crushing, or scraping it before smelling it. Avoid smelling pepper or chili powder as they can irritate your nose.
  • Label date of purchase on container with a permanent marking pen and store away from any sources of heat (e.g., oven, stove top) to maintain their quality.

Source: University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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Iowa Launches Healthy and Happy Outdoors

July 23rd, 2013

Healthy and Happy OutdoorsHealthy and Happy Outdoors (H2O) is a new initiative designed to connect Iowans with the outdoors as a means to reduce stress and improve health.

The H2O website provides information on more than 30 types of outdoor activities at over 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas. Each time you complete an outdoor activity, you can have your name entered into a drawing for recreational prizes, including bikes, binoculars, and vacation getaways.

This is a great way for families to enjoy Iowa outdoors while being physically active.

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USDA Standards that Define Food Terms on Packaging

July 5th, 2013

Packaging for foods, like meat, poultry,and eggs may contain terms such as “free range,” “natural,” and “cage free,” but these USDA terms do not imply a level of nutrition or health. They simply describe how the animal or plant is raised and/or grown prior to market, and in the case of “natural,” how it is processed for sale.  Each of the terms explained …

Term Definition
Grass Fed Grass fed animals have constant access to pasture during the growing seasons and are not given grain or grain byproducts. Grass fed animals also can eat hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources.
Free Range This USDA designation means the poultry (raised for meat) has been allowed some access to the outdoors.
Cage Free These laying hens live uncaged, typically within a barn, warehouse building, or other enclosed area. These hens are given continuous access to food and water and the freedom to roam within the enclosed area during their egg-production cycle.
Natural Food with this definition does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or other artificial or synthetic ingredient, and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed.
Organic Foods that are classified as “organic” are produced by farmers using renewable resources and conservation efforts for soil and water, as a means to maintain the environment. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that were not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic insecticides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. In order for a food product to be classified as “organic,” the farm must be inspected to ensure it is meeting the government regulations. Companies that handle the foods also must be certified that they meet the USDA’s organic standards.

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Brown Bagging It! Lunches to Go

April 11th, 2013

When you’re packing a lunch bag, creativity and smart planning are keys to eating food that fits a healthy lifestyle. lunchSack lunches don’t need to be boring. Create a more flexible, nutritious pattern by basing your food choices on MyPlate.

Use whole grains and lean proteins

To break away from the traditional peanut butter/jelly or luncheon meat sandwich on white bread, look at other possibilities. Perhaps make your bread whole grain or opt for a whole wheat tortilla, flat bread, pita, Kaiser roll, or English muffin. Use cuts from lean meats left over from dinner the night before or pack other prepared, left over food.

Add color and crunch with fruits and vegetables

Vary your fruit and vegetables, selecting what’s in season that can be packed whole or sliced and packed in plastic bags or cups. Add a healthy dip like hummus to enjoy with vegetables. Also consider low fat or skim milk, or 100% fruits juices if you pack a drink.

Follow food safety measures

Be sure to wash whole, fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before packing. Make meat sandwiches the night before and refrigerate or freeze overnight. Put prepared, left over food in a well-sealed container and refrigerate. Pack food in an insulated bag with two ice packs lining the container. Use gel packs, frozen juice boxes, or frozen fruit items in the insulated bag.

For more information, download “What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag!”.

food preparation, healthy living

Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

March 28th, 2013

Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Food prices likely will increase two to four percent in 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is in addition to the two to three percent increase in prices you already saw in 2012. Since 2002, the world food commodity price index has increased approximately 60 percent. According to the University of New Hampshire, using four strategies can save you 15 percent at the grocery store.

They are:

  1. Use grocery store ads when planning to shop,
  2. Complete a menu plan,
  3. Write a grocery list, and
  4. Use unit pricing to select the best buys.

If a family spends $500 a month on groceries, these strategies would result in a $75 monthly savings!

To help you put these four strategies into practice, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach created Spend Smart. Eat Smart. This site provides resources for families to:

You also can connect with Spend Smart. Eat Smart. through social media sites like:

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