A 2016 FDA survey showed 49% of consumers use their smartphones while preparing food. However, only one-third washed their hands with soap after touching the devices! Why is this a big deal? Whenever you touch a phone, the bacteria on that phone travel to your hands. If your unwashed hands then touch food, you transfer those bacteria to the food. This can cause foodborne illness.
Here are three tips to keep your phone from contaminating your food:
- Clean and sanitize your phone regularly with a lint-free cloth.
- Avoid taking your phone into the bathroom.
- Scrub your hands at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after touching a phone and before handling food.
Sources: FDA, National Institutes of Health, Phys.org
With spring cleaning right around the corner, it’s important to prioritize what needs cleaning in our homes. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the kitchen is the dirtiest place in the household. This place where meals and snacks are prepared and served daily tends to have the most germs. The “germiest” area in the kitchen as well as the second “germiest” item in the household is the sink. This spring, clean everything and the kitchen sink to reduce germs in your home. Wash and sanitize the sides and bottom of the sink once or twice a week with disinfecting cleaner or in a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. Clean kitchen drains and disposals every month by pouring a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water down them.
Sources: Germiest items in the home. National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org); Cleaning the germiest items in the home. National Sanitation Foundation (www.nsf.org)
Being active benefits you in many ways besides helping control weight. Exercise can improve chances of living longer, the strength of your bones and muscles, and your mental health. In addition, exercise decreases risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Just one hour of exercise a week is related to lower levels of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Making physical activity part of your daily routine means you are less likely to have depression, panic disorder, and phobias (extreme fears). One study found that for people with anxiety, exercise had similar effects to cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing symptoms.
It is recommended adults get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise. That can be broken down into ten minutes at a time, fifteen times a week. Daily small changes can create huge gains for overall fitness and mental health.
Source: University of Arkansas
Following safe food handling practices is not only important to avoid foodborne illness, but it is critical to avoid cross-contact with allergens in food.
Cross-contamination and cross-contact are different. Cross-contamination is when harmful bacteria are transferred to a food from another food or surface. Most bacteria can be killed through cooking. Cross-contact is when the food allergen is transferred to a food meant to be allergen free. This food allergen is still dangerous after cooking.
To avoid cross-contact:
- When shopping, avoid foods from bulk bins, salad bars, and the deli counter, which are common sites for cross-contact. Read ingredient labels every time you shop.
- When storing, dedicate shelves to allergen-free foods. Place allergen-containing foods on shelves below allergen-free foods in the pantry as well as in the refrigerator and freezer.
- When cooking, use separate sets of utensils and small appliances. Wash and sanitize everything that comes in contact with the allergen-free food being prepared.
Source: Preventing Cross-contact at Home
Serving Size: 3/4 cup | Serves: 6
- 1 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped (1 medium)
- 2 carrots (finely chopped or grated)
- 2 tablespoons onion (finely chopped)
- 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup oil (canola, vegetable, or olive)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook rice according to package directions. Let cool.
- Wash and cut up tomatoes, carrots, and onion while rice is cooling and put into a large bowl.
- Add corn and drained and rinsed black beans to the bowl.
- Add cooled rice to the bowl.
- Whisk together lime juice, oil, salt, and ground black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over rice and veggie mixture. Stir gently to combine.
- Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving to let flavors mingle.
Nutrition information per serving: 260 calories, 11g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 36g total carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 3g sugar, 7g protein
Recipe courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu
“Waste not, want not” is a saying used in tight times—a reminder that what we save today we will have tomorrow. That holds true for food as well as money. Food waste is a big problem in the United States. According to Feeding America, nearly half of the food grown, processed, and transported in the United States goes to waste. Much of this food waste (43%) comes from our homes. We can fix that!
Reduce food waste in planning, shopping, and cooking.
- Plan meals so you know what you need to buy. Check for foods that need to be used up and include them in your menus. Plan for ways to use the same dish twice—roast chicken for one meal and use cooked chicken in a salad the next day. Use the 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. to help you plan meals.
- Buy only what you need and can use in a reasonable time. If you buy extra food that is on sale, ha
- ve a plan for how you will use it or store it for future use.
- Use the food you buy creatively. Have ripe fruit? Make a smoothie. Have bits and pieces of cut-up v
egetables? Create a ready-for-soup container and add chopped broccoli stems, cauliflower pieces, and leftover cooked vegetables. Have leftover meat or beans? Add them to a rice or pasta dish or to soup.
- Properly store foods to extend their shelf life. Store bread in the freezer that you won’t be using soon. Eggs will keep in the refrigerator for three weeks after their sell-by date.
Sources: Let’s Talk Trash and Reducing Food Waste at Home
Geocaching is an electronic treasure hunt. It is a great low-cost activity and can be fun year-round. It is easy to catch on to and caches are literally around the world—in two million places, to be exact.
To get started, set up a free account at geocaching.com, then download the free app to your smartphone or purchase a GPS unit. Search near you for a cache, use your app, or plug the coordinates into the GPS to start hunting.
Many geocaches are found in safe places like rest areas, parks, and cemeteries, or near landmarks. What you will find may be very small like a pill fob or larger like an ammo box. Some will be harder to find than others, but they are never buried. Inside will be a log to sign. There may also be “swag” like geodes, stickers, patches, pins, marbles, keychains, lanyards, and geocoins.
Here are some tips for successful geocaching:
- Dress appropriately for the weather.
- Let someone know where you are going or enjoy navigating with someone like a grandchild.
- The caches are secret so don’t let passersby know what you are doing!
- If you take something, you should leave something of equal or greater value.
- Always return the cache to its hiding place.
- Bring your own pen to sign the log, then enter your find at geocaching.com.
Discover what is hiding near you today! How many will you find?
Submitted by Sandra McKinnon, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach family finance specialist and geocacher since 2009.
We’re often told, “Just get up and move. Get the blood flowing.” Sound advice, but how much movement will counteract the effects of prolonged sitting? What types of movements are best? How often should I get up from my chair?
Researchers investigated the health benefits of reducing the amount of time spent sedentary to improve cardio-metabolic health in middle aged and older adults. Thirteen participants who were active middle-aged and older adults with six or more hours a day of sedentary behavior and had one or more cardiometabolic disorders (high cholesterol, high fasting blood glucose, and elevated blood pressure) participated in the study.
Researchers had participants stand up every one to two hours and do low- to moderate-intensity activities for five to ten minutes. They wanted to determine how often and how long participants needed to be active in order to see changes in cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Results showed that HDL (“good”) cholesterol increased while triglycerides and blood glucose concentration decreased most favorably when participants stood up every hour and were active for five minutes. The benefits of these short activity bouts were reversed after participants returned to normal sedentary behavior habits for one week. With behavior change, consistency is essential. Even small repeated behaviors make a huge difference over time.
Bottom line: low-intensity movement interruptions are an effective means of combating sedentary behavior. If a person is capable and willing to get up and move once per hour, five minutes of activities such as washing dishes, folding laundry, or taking out the trash is sufficient to improve HDL, triglycerides, and blood glucose.
What’s more striking is the fact that regular exercise programs don’t always lead to positive results to the extent seen in this research. These study results do not mean that regular, structured exercise is unimportant for better health. Rather, focus on both regular exercise and reduced sitting time.
Source: American Council on Exercise,
Summertime is here—time for children to go outside and play! Whether being active inside on rainy days or outside on sunny days, children need 60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity each day. Families that are active together improve their physical as well as their emotional health.
Most days, include physical activities such as
- playing outside,
- helping with chores,
- taking the stairs,
- picking up toys, or
- walking the dog.
For strength and flexibility, encourage tumbling, swinging, martial arts, rope climbing, pushups, or yoga 2–3 times a week.
For aerobic exercise, activities could include cycling, running, relay races, basketball, swimming, kickball, or soccer 3–5 times a week.
Sources: Designed to Move; Be Active (HS 4)