Archive for the ‘healthy living’ Category

Eggs and Poultry: Safe to Eat

July 15th, 2015

brown eggsAvian influenza has been in the news recently as it spreads throughout poultry flocks in Iowa. Avian influenza does not impact the foods eaten by consumers and cannot be contracted from properly cooked and prepared meats by consumers. The disease is caused by an influenza virus that can infect poultry such as chickens, turkeys, domestic ducks, and geese, and it is carried by migratory birds such as ducks, geese, and shorebirds. It’s possible that humans could be infected with the virus only if they were in very close contact with sick birds.

Following safe food handling and cooking practices for poultry foods will keep
you safe.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw eggs and poultry.
  • Clean cutting boards and other utensils with soap and hot water to keep poultry or eggs from contaminating other foods.
  • Sanitize cutting boards using a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water.
  • Cook poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Consumers can cook poultry to a higher temperature for personal preferences.
  • Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Casseroles and other dishes should be cooked to 165°F.
  • Use pasteurized eggs or egg products for recipes that are served using raw or undercooked eggs, such as Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream. Commercial mayonnaise, dressing, and sauces containing pasteurized eggs are safe to eat.

The Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University has additional information for consumers at

Source: Angela Laury Shaw, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

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Anyday Picnic Salad

July 8th, 2015

AnyDayPicnicSaladPhotoServing Size: 3/4 cup | Serves: 4


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 1 apple (cored and diced)
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped (about 1 rib)
  • 1/3 cup light ranch dressing or creamy salad dressing
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)


  1. Combine chicken, apple, and celery in a medium bowl. Add dressing and pepper and stir to coat. Stir in pecans or walnuts, if desired.
  2. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Serve on a lettuce leaf; spread on bread, tortillas, or a sandwich; or spoon into a halved tomato or cucumber.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories, 10g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 80mg cholesterol, 450mg sodium, 11g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 6g sugar, 25g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart website. For more recipes, information, and videos, visit

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The Hype about Coconut Oil

July 1st, 2015

Many claims tout the health benefits of coconut oil, including weight loss, cancer prevention, and Alzheimer’s disease. So far the scientific evidence does not support these claims. The three types of coconut oil—virgin, refined, and partially hydrogenated—are all high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, tends to raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, and comes mainly from animal food products. Some examples of saturated fats are butter, lard, meat fat, solid shortening, palm oil, and coconut oil.

The two main types of coconut oil used in cooking and baking are “virgin” coconut oil and “refined” coconut oil. Virgin is considered to be unrefined. Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut pulp that is often chemically bleached and deodorized. Since coconuts are a plant and virgin coconut oil has some antioxidant properties, some individuals may view it as healthy. However, virgin coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that can raise both good and bad cholesterol levels. Manufacturers may also use another form of coconut oil that has further processing—“partially hydrogenated” coconut oil, which would contain trans fat. Some research suggests coconut oil intake may be associated with a neutral, if not beneficial, effect on cholesterol levels.

Tips for using coconut oil:

  • Use “virgin” or unrefined coconut oil.
  • Use it in moderation.
  • Limit foods made with partially hydrogenated coconut oil like baked goods, biscuits, salty snacks, and some cereals.

Allergy Alert: Coconut is considered a tree nut. Individuals with tree nut allergies should talk with their health care provider before using or eating foods containing coconut oil.

Source: Jody Gatewood, MS, RD, LD, Assistant State Nutrition Program Specialist, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

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Biggest chunk of calories comes from processed foods, study finds

June 3rd, 2015

Highly processed foods, such as prepared meals, white bread, cookies, chips, soda and candy, account for more than 60 percent of the calories in products Americans routinely buy in grocery stores, according to a new study.

This study found that many Americans have strongly held opinions and beliefs about processed foods. Some consider processed foods to be tasty, convenient, and affordable choices, while others contend that the combination of sugar, fat, sodium (salt), and flavoring in these foods promotes overeating and contributes to obesity.

Not only are highly processed foods a stable part of U.S. purchasing patterns, but the highly processed foods households are buying are higher in fat, sugar, and sodium on average than the less-processed foods (e.g., fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, fresh meat, milk, eggs, and dried beans) they buy.

The biggest contributors to unhealthy diets and chronic disease are added sugars, excessive fat, and sodium. Too much sugar and fat may result in weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, and aggravation of other health issues. Excess sodium can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure, putting extra stress on the circulatory system and increasing the risk for heart disease, heart or kidney failure, stroke, and other health problems.

Add a little spice to your life!

Eating less sodium, sugar, and fat may seem challenging but using herbs and spices can help! Herbs and spices help flavor foods when you cut back on dietary fat, sugar, and sodium.

You can reduce or eliminate sugar with these sweet-tasting spices: allspice, cloves, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When reducing sodium, improve the taste of recipes by adding savory flavors such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, basil, and onion. Instead of using salt for your pasta, try basil, oregano, parsley, and pepper or use an Italian seasoning blend.

Sources: American Society for Nutrition, news release, March 28, 2015;

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Health Benefits of Bicycling

May 27th, 2015

adults bike fitnessBicycling increases one’s physical activity and can reduce weight. In addition, cycling has been shown to have a positive effect on emotional health. It can improve levels of well-being, self-confidence, and stress while reducing tiredness and sleep difficulties. As the weather continues to improve, enjoy the outdoors on your bike. The Iowa DOT’s “Bikes HomePage” provides an interactive map showing the surface type and length of various bike trails at

If you want to know how many calories you burned on your bike ride, check out the “MapMyRide” calculator or find out information on how to download the “MapMyRide” app at


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A Look at Energy Drinks: Paying the Price for Caffeine?

May 6th, 2015

energy drinkEnergy drinks (e.g., Red Bull®, Monster®, Rockstar®, and Full Throttle®) are among the fastest growing beverages in the United States, with half of these highly caffeinated drinks being sold to youth. The caffeine content of an 8-ounce serving can range between 72 and 150 mg. However, most energy drinks come in cans or bottles with 2–3 servings, amounting to 450 mg of caffeine (general recommended intake is no more than 200–300 mg caffeine daily for adults)! There are no guidelines established in the United States for youth regarding caffeine consumption. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks because they are categorized as “food,” caffeine in energy drinks is not “monitored” because they can be categorized as “dietary supplements.”

Energy drinks are promoted as a means to increase energy levels; however, there is little evidence to support this. With the large quantity of caffeine comes serious nutritional consequences. Large quantities of caffeine can hinder how well the body is able to absorb and use calcium, which can impact bone health. Additionally, high caffeine intake is associated with increased irritability, anxiety, tremors, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has expressed concerns for youth because of caffeine’s effect on their developing neurological and cardiovascular systems, as well as the risk of physical dependence and addiction. Many of the “specialty” ingredients (e.g., guarana, taurana) found in energy drinks are also ingredients in over-the-counter diet drugs. This raises significant health concerns because it is unclear what combined health impact these ingredients may have.

Because of the potentially high caffeine content, it is recommended youth avoid energy drinks and healthy adults should limit their use. Teach youth to ask for and enjoy water as the thirst quencher of choice.

For more ideas on better or healthier beverage choices, please look at the MyPlate Better Beverage Choices Handout available at in English and Spanish

Sources:,,, and

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The Garden: Mother Nature’s Gym

April 22nd, 2015

Boost your activity level, burn some extra calories and lower stress by gardening. Gardening activities are great ways to boost physical activity. Experts recommend a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of physical activity per week.

activity chart WOW

Reference: William D McArdle, Frank Katch, Victor L. Katch, Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) (2001); taken from

Don’t have a garden yourself? Offer to help a neighbor or volunteer in a community garden. Go dig in the dirt and enjoy the healthful benefits of gardening!

To learn more about gardening, contact your local county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the online ISU Extension store at to check out these and other gardening publications:

PM 870B—Container Vegetable Gardening
PM 819—Planting a Home Vegetable Garden
PM 534—Planting and Harvesting Times for Garden Vegetables

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Are You Cooking Food Safely?

April 15th, 2015

man microwave foodDo you reach for a quick microwave meal when you’re hungry? Do you read and follow the cooking instructions on the package?

Not following package cooking instructions can result in undercooked food, which can lead to foodborne illness. Follow these steps to keep food safe:

Read and follow cooking directions on packaged and convenience foods.
Not following package instructions can lead to undercooked foods, which means the temperature may not be high enough to kill harmful bacteria.

Know when to use a microwave or conventional oven.
Cooking instructions are calibrated for a specific type of appliance and may not be applicable to all appliances.

Know your microwave wattage before microwaving food.
The higher the microwave wattage, the quicker the food cooks. Compare your own microwave wattage (found on the inside of the microwave door or in the owner’s manual) with that mentioned in the cooking instructions.

Always use a food thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature.
Take the temperature of the food after cooking to be sure it is fully cooked.


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What’s Hot—Bikram Yoga

March 25th, 2015

woman yogaYoga is a good way to be physically active because it promotes increased flexibility, muscle strength, and tone, as well as improved respiration, energy, and vitality. Yoga can also help with weight reduction and circulatory health. There are more than 20 different types of yoga! One variation gaining in popularity is Bikram yoga, often referred to as “hot yoga” because this style specializes in using a heated environment.

Bikram yoga is 90 minutes long and consists of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises, and takes place in a room 104 degrees with 40% humidity. The caution with hot yoga is the room temperature and the potential health risks it poses. Hot yoga may increase the risk of heat exhaustion if your body is no longer able to regulate its usual temperature. Heat exhaustion can lead to heavy sweating, dehydration, decreased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. These effects on your body may make you feel weak, dizzy, or nauseated.

Before starting hot yoga, or any physical activity program, it’s always a good idea to consult your health care provider to make sure it is safe for you to do so, especially if you are pregnant or have a serious health condition. For more information, visit

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Keeping it clean—To wash your hands or to use hand sanitizer?

March 18th, 2015

washing hands soap waterWhenever possible, it’s best to wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice) and rinse thoroughly. Hand sanitizing gel (at least 60% alcohol), foam, or wipes can be used for quick sanitation, but these products are not designed to replace hand washing because sanitizers do not adequately remove all bacteria, dirt, and debris. When hands are dirty, hand sanitizers are not effective.

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