Probiotic Primer

Bottle with pills

Probiotics are live microorganisms that may aid in improving gastric discomfort, reducing diarrhea caused by antibiotics, help with the digestion of lactose (the sugar in milk products), and lower the risk of infections. Probiotics can be found in some supplements. When choosing a supplement, look for the strain and number of live bacteria to help ensure an effective dose.

Some foods have probiotics too, like fermented foods, which can contain live bacteria and aid in digestive health. It’s important to note that not all fermented foods have probiotics due to processing that can kill or remove the live microorganisms. Some foods with probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut (sold refrigerated), kefir (fermented dairy), and kombucha (fermented tea). The food label should state the type of live bacteria.

Talk to your doctor about the strain and amount of probiotic recommended for the health benefit you are seeking and if probiotics are appropriate for you.

International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics,

Is Radon in Your Home?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms in rocks, soil, and water. We cannot see, taste, or smell radon, but it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the entire state of Iowa is considered high risk for radon gas in homes, and they have found the average indoor radon concentration in Iowa is more than six times the national average.

Testing your home is the only way to know if the radon level is high. To order low-cost kits and find answers to your radon questions, call the Iowa Radon Hotline at 1-800-383-5992 or go to

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Environmental Protection Agency,
Iowa Department of Health and Human Services,

Workout Videos to Keep You Motivated!

Online workout videos give you the flexibility to choose what you do and when you do it. A variety of physical activity options can help you get out of a rut and be active in the comfort of your own home.

For free, easy-to-use videos, go to
Spend Smart. Eat Smart., Workout options include cardio, stretching, and strength training. Low impact and chair workouts are also included.

Being physically active improves your mood, helps manage weight, reduces risk of disease, improves brain health, and strengthens bones and muscles. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Spend Smart. Eat Smart.,

Meal Planning to Save Money

Fruits, vegetables, and a notepad and pen for planning

Want to take the guesswork out of meals for the week? Here are some tips for creating a meal plan.

  • Use a meal planning worksheet: Print a 5-day meal planning worksheet,
  • Look at your calendar. Think about school, work, and other events you have scheduled and include those in your plans.
  • What do you already have at home? Check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for food you already have on hand and write those on your meal plan worksheet.
  • Use grocery store ads. Check grocery store ads and write in sale items that pair with foods you already have on hand to make a meal.
  • Include all food groups. Review your meal plan to make sure you have a good variety of each food group throughout your meals and snacks. Explore MyPlate,, to learn more about what to include.

It’s okay to be flexible with this plan and make adjustments on the fly. Stock simple foods, like fruits and veggies you prepped over the weekend, to grab on those busier days. Include leftovers in your meal plan by making a double batch of a recipe and serve it again the next day or freeze to use later. Using freezer meals are great for busy days when you don’t have time to cook.

How to Create a Container Garden

Is your garden limited on space? Consider growing your vegetables in containers! Container gardening occurs when plants are grown in containers such as pots rather than in the ground. This method reduces potential problems with infertile garden sites and “free-living” bacteria such as nematodes.

Tomatoes growing in container
  • Containers. Almost any type of container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom. Common containers include plastic, clay, ceramic, or wood. Check out this resource,, for more information on size of containers recommended for various vegetables and the amount of potting mix.
  • Growing mixes. Select quality mixes that are free of plant disease organisms and weed seeds, are less likely to compact, drain well, are lightweight, and hold moisture and nutrients. Soiless potting mixes can be purchased from garden centers and retail outlets and can be prepared with fertilizer included.
  • Summer care of container gardens.
    • Location. Vegetables grow best in full sunlight. Plants that bear fruit require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Leafy vegetables tolerate more shade.
    • Watering. Plants grown in containers require more frequent watering because they dry out from the sun and wind. Never allow the soil to completely dry out between waterings. Overwatering will also kill plants. Avoid wetting leaves when watering to prevent the development of plant diseases.
    • Fertilization. A soluble fertilizer (15-30-15 or 20-20-20) applied once every week is recommended. If using a commercial potting mix, it may not be necessary to begin fertilization until midsummer.

Summer Bounty Salad


Serving Size: 1 cup | Serves: 8


7 cups vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, carrots, radishes, green onions)
1 pepper (green, red, or yellow)
2 tomatoes (red, yellow, or mixed)
2/3 cup light or fat free salad dressing


  1. Wash and prepare the vegetables as follows:
    • Cut broccoli into florets.
    • Chop zucchini, carrots, radishes, and green onions.
    • Slice pepper (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
    • Chop tomatoes.
  2. Combine vegetables and salad dressing in a bowl, stirring to coat vegetables with dressing.
  3. Cover and refrigerate 1–3 hours to blend flavors. Store any leftovers in refrigerator and use within 3 days.

We have a video for you! Make Summer Bounty Salad, This is a recipe,, that is easy, delicious, and perfect for this time of year.

Nutrition information per serving:
60 calories, 1.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium, 10g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 6g sugar, 2g protein

Produce Safety in Gardens

Gardening is a fun and satisfying summer activity. It can increase your family’s food security and have physical and mental health benefits. However, gardens can be a dangerous place. Here are some essential gardening safety and health tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Use safety gloves to protect your hands from cuts and irritations. Wear long sleeves, safety goggles, long pants, a straw hat, and boots. Apply sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher and use insect repellent if needed.
  • Consider temperatures. Weather conditions can change excessively from morning to afternoon. Check the weather first and then plan your gardening day. Remember to stay hydrated!
  • Use chemicals carefully. Read the chemical label before use. This ensures it will be used correctly and for its intended purpose. Store away from children and animals.
  • Focus on posture. Gardening includes a lot of bending and kneeling. Take time to ensure you maintain the right posture. Ask for assistance when lifting anything heavy.

Journey with Mindfulness

Stress is a regular part of life, but coping with it can be difficult. Many continue to feel overwhelmed, unsure, and exhausted. One way to welcome a fresh start and clear the head is to explore meditation practices. Meditation practices have a variety of health benefits such as improved sleep quality and reduced physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, and they can help you learn to stay centered and keep inner peace. See below for apps and music for meditation.

  • Insight Timer is a free app for your device. It provides guided meditations and talks led by the world’s top meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, and psychologists.
  • The Stop, Breathe, Think app is available for Apple and Android devices. It allows the user to check in with emotions and recommends short, guided meditations as well as yoga and acupressure videos.
  • The Calm app includes guided meditations, sleep stories, music, classes, and calm body programs.

Double Up on Food Bucks

Did you know more than 380,000 Iowans rely on food assistance programs? Iowa ranks 50th in the nation for fruit and vegetable consumption, according to the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative website. The Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) Incentive Program matches the value of food assistance benefits and makes it easier for low-income Iowans to consume fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers and economies. For more information, read the tips below.

  • If you are on food assistance, you get more money to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables! DUFB gives you $1 for every $1 you spend on any fresh fruits and vegetables with your SNAP EBT card. You can use the extra money to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at local grocery stores or farmers markets.
  • In Iowa, find a DUFB location,, near you.
  • Outside of Iowa, see if your state has this program and find participating grocery stores and farmers markets near you at Double Up Food Bucks,

Get Fired Up! Grill What’s in Season

Vegetable kabobs on grill

Warm weather is a wonderful time to fire up the grill. From asparagus to early zucchini or grilled chicken with mushrooms, onions, and peppers, using your grill to make the most of the summer crop of vegetables adds a variety of colors to summer meals! Did you know that there are several different ways to grill perfect vegetables? Check out the tips below!

  • Directly on the grill. On a gas grill, preheat the grill to medium heat, about 375°F. Marinate your veggies or season them with your favorite spices and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Put your seasoned vegetables on the grill in a single layer, placing the ones that take the longest to cook in the back of the grill. Close the lid and let the vegetables cook for ~20 minutes. After 10 minutes, open the lid and flip the vegetables until done to your liking.
  • Kabobs. A kabob is made by skewering pieces of meat and/or vegetables and then grilling them. Grilling kabobs is a great way to grill a bunch of vegetables together! Toss vegetables in desired sauce and seasonings. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before threading on the vegetables to avoid burning. Combine vegetables with similar cooking times onto skewers (peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes). Place skewers on the grill over medium heat. Grill for 20 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork through the vegetable.
  • Foil packets. This way of grilling requires no pots and pans to scrub! To create foil packets, place ingredients in the center of the foil and tightly seal the packet to trap the steam inside. You can serve the packets directly from the grill or stack them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. Check out this month’s recipe!
  • Grill basket. Using this method is similar to a foil packet but easier. A grill basket is a wire container made out of large-weave mesh. You can use it to hold food while cooking on a grill. For more information, check out this Iowa State University Extension article on Grilling those summer veggies,
  • Questions about grill safety? Read Safe Summertime Grilling,