Using and Calibrating Food Thermometers

Checking food temperatures is a key step to ensure food safety. Calibrating a food thermometer ensures accurate readings, preventing undercooking and reducing the risk of food poisoning. The primary way to calibrate a manual food thermometer is by using ice water.

To calibrate your thermometer using ice water, put your thermometer in a glass of ice water and adjust until the reading is 32°F, the freezing point. Once this is done, you know that your thermometer will read the temperatures of foods correctly, which will keep your food safe.

Food thermometer testing meat on grill

Cook foods to these minimum internal temperatures for food safety:

  • Seafood: 145°F
  • Steaks, roasts, chops (beef, pork): 145°F; rest time: 3 minutes
  • Rabbit and venison: 160°F
  • Ground meat (beef, pork): 160°F
  • Any leftovers: 165°F
  • Chicken, poultry: 165°F
  • Casseroles: 165°F


Take-along Trail Mix

Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 16


  • 2 cups unsweetened cereal (e.g., Cheerios®, Wheat Chex®, Fiber One®,,Cracklin’ Oat Bran®, or All Bran®)
  • 2 cups sweetened cereal (e.g., Honey Nut Cheerios®, Frosted Mini-Wheats®, or Life®)
  • 2 cups small pretzel twists
  • 1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, or dried pineapple) (chopped into small pieces)
  • 1 cup peanuts


  1. Wash hands.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Store in an airtight container in cupboard for about 1 week or in freezer for several weeks.


  • Dried fruits and nuts are a choking hazard for young children. Make trail mix without dried fruit or nuts for children under the age of three to reduce the risk of choking.
  • Measure 1/2-cup amounts into snack-size plastic bags so they are ready to grab and go.

Nutrition information per serving:
200 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium, 34g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 9g total sugar, 4g added sugar, 5g protein.

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

Nutrition on the Trails

Two women eating sandwiches on a hike

July is National Park and Recreation Month! If you like hiking, here are some simple nutrition tips:

  • Stay energized by eating carbohydrates. Carbs give you energy, especially for long hikes. Examples of carbs include dried fruit, cereals, or granola bars. Aim for 30–60 grams of carbs per hour for hikes lasting 1 to 2.5 hours, such as an apple, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a cup of pretzels. For longer hikes, eat 60–90 grams of carbs per hour, like 2 bananas, 2 granola bars, or a bagel with cream cheese.
  • Eat protein to build muscle. Carbs are not the only thing you should eat while hiking—protein is also important to eat! Some examples of foods with protein are meats, nuts, and beans. Protein is important for muscle strength during hikes.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water regularly, even if you are not thirsty. If you go on longer hikes or it is hot outside, you may need sodium. Sodium helps the body hold on to water. Aim for 300–600 mg of sodium during long hikes. You can get sodium from salty snacks or electrolyte drinks.

Take-along Trail Mix is a great snack option for hiking because it has carbs, protein, and sodium. Happy hiking!

Source: National Library of Medicine,

Gear Up for Biking

Bicycling is a great way to be physically active and improve mental health. Health benefits include stronger muscles, better coordination and mobility, reduced body fat, and lower stress. Bicycling is a lower-impact activity compared to running and causes less stress to feet, knees, and hips.

Bicycling is versatile. It can be enjoyed alone, with a small group, or as part of big bicycling events like RAGBRAI. Bicycling can be a way to save money on gasoline costs, as a fun way to enjoy an adventure, or as a thrilling way to enjoy competitions such as the Iowa Games or Special Olympics.

Be safe when biking. Always wear a helmet. Use bike paths and lanes when available. Obey traffic rules. Be careful around cars. Do not let distractions like loud music or alcohol put you in danger.

Stay safe, have fun, and get pedaling!

For more information on the health benefits of bicycling, visit the Harvard School of Public Health,, and for more information about bicycling in Iowa, visit the Iowa Department of Transportation website,

Camping Food Safety

Cooking food over a camp fire

Summertime is perfect for outdoor activities like camping, but we need to keep our food safe during those hot summer days. Follow these quick tips to keep your food safe at the campsite:

  • Use shelf-stable foods such as canned goods, nuts, whole or dried fruits, dehydrated foods, and uncooked pasta and brown rice.
  • If you are packing perishable foods, make sure that food remains cold to avoid spoilage. Food items such as raw meat, dairy, eggs, leafy greens, and cut melons must stay at 40°F or below to avoid bacteria growth. Plan ahead to keep these foods cold and use equipment such as coolers with ice or gel packs.
  • Bacteria can multiply rapidly at 40–140°F. This is known as the “Temperature Danger Zone.” Perishable foods should not be left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours, and only 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F.
  • If possible, use separate coolers for raw meat and ready-to-eat items. If they need to share a cooler, put the raw meat on the bottom and ready-to-eat foods above.
  • Bring drinkable water and biodegradable soap for proper hand- and dishwashing.
  • Bring appropriate cooking equipment and a thermometer to check final internal cooking temperatures.
  • Discard any food that is suspected of contamination or exceeding time and temperature requirements. Better safe than sorry!

For more information about food safety during outdoor recreation activities, visit the
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service,

20-Minute Chicken Creole

Serving Size: 1 cup | Serves: 8


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 1 green pepper (chopped, large)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and chicken and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (3–5 minutes).
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes with juice, chili sauce, green pepper, celery, onion, garlic, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt.
  3. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes.
  4. Serve over hot, cooked rice or whole wheat pasta.

Nutrition information per serving:
77 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 21mg cholesterol, 255mg sodium, 6g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 8g protein

Source: MyPlate,

Music and Brain Health

Playing piano

A growing body of research suggests that music may be more than just entertaining but is also health-promoting and helps manage certain disease symptoms. Performing or listening to music activates the parts of the brain involved in sensation, movement, thinking, and emotions. By engaging our brains in this way, music can evoke emotional reactions and memories, promote social bonds, and even changes our brain’s physical structure.

Early research shows that music-based therapy has positive effects on physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs. Music therapists are trained health professionals who provide music therapy in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Music therapy may involve activities like music listening, performance, and improvisation. People with anxiety, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis may benefit from music therapy.

Enjoying and creating music with others is also a wonderful way to increase social and community connections. When we sing or play music with others, we support brain health while having fun!

For more information on music and health research, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health,

Double Up Food Bucks


The Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) Incentive Program helps Iowans with low incomes buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a way to support local economies in your community.

You must use your SNAP EBT card to buy fresh produce at participating grocery stores or farmers markets. DUFB will give you an extra dollar for every dollar you spend up to $10 on fruits and vegetables. That means you can buy even more produce.

If you live in Iowa, visit the Healthiest State Initiative,, to find a DUFB location near you. If you are not in Iowa, check out Double Up Food Bucks,, to find participating grocery stores and farmers markets in your area.

Chronic Conditions? Stay Active

Being active is helpful for people with chronic health conditions. It can help people with arthritis by making their joints less stiff and reducing bone loss for those with osteoporosis. And if you have diabetes, it can even help lower blood-sugar levels.

Due to your health condition, you may be unable to do 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity five days a week or muscle-strengthening exercise at least twice a week. Try your best to stay active by doing what you can. The key is to keep moving.

Do you enjoy walking? Check out the Walk with Ease program, The program was developed by the Arthritis Foundation for people over 60 with arthritis. Those with other chronic conditions will find it helpful also.

Talk with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise. They can help you select a safe activity and identify necessary changes or precautions.

Women walking

Sources: Exercise and Chronic Disease: Get the Facts,

Vegetable Frittata

Serving Size: 1 slice | Serves: 4

Vegetable Fritatta


2 cups vegetables, chopped (mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes)
6 eggs
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese


  1. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add vegetables and sauté until tender, 3–5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, beat eggs and milk together in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in cheese.
  3. Turn the oven broiler on high.
  4. Pour eggs over vegetables. Cover with a lid. Cook until eggs are nearly set, about 6 minutes. Do not stir, and do not remove the lid.
  5. Remove the lid from the skillet and place the skillet in the oven. Broil until eggs are completely set and lightly browned, 2–3 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving:
190 calories, 12g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 295mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 5g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 3g sugars, 14g protein.

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