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.
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.
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.
Potlucks and family events are a fun reason to get outdoors in the warm weather. However, you need to take extra care to keep food safe from foodborne illness. Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer months because bacteria multiply faster with warm temperatures. Read the three simple food safety guidelines below to protect yourself, your family, and your friends from foodborne illness.
Clean. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, touching pets, and using the restroom. After prepping each item, wash and sanitize cutting boards, utensils, and dishes. Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water and scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush.
Separate. Never place cooked food on a dish that previously held raw poultry, meat, seafood, or eggs. Bacteria can spread from raw juices to cooked or ready-to-eat food. Instead, use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for raw food items.
Cook. Pack a food thermometer to ensure the safety of meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. These food items must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that could cause foodborne illnesses. Use a food thermometer to test for doneness:
Toss in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss until vegetables are coated.
Tear 2 large squares of aluminum foil and place half of the vegetable mixture on each piece. Place an equal piece of foil over the top of the vegetable mixture and fold bottom piece with top sheet to form a packet.
Place on heated grill for 20–30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. If you don’t have a grill, bake Veggie Packets in the oven at 400°F for 20–30 minutes.
Before you open the packets, poke holes in the foil with a fork. Be careful opening the foil because the steam will be very hot and could burn you!
Empty vegetables onto serving plate or serve from foil packets.
Nutrition information per serving: 133 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 144mg sodium, 29g total carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein. This recipe is courtesy of MyPlate website, USDA MyPlate Recipes, www.myplate.gov/myplate-kitchen/recipes.
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, blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline.
Iowans with limited incomes receiving SNAP have access to locally grown farm-fresh food at selected farmers markets with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services’ Wireless EBT Project. This project provides wireless machines to farmers across the state. This allows farmers to accept SNAP EBT, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express cards. The program is a win-win for Iowans! You can use your EBT, credit, or debit card to purchase food at the farmers markets, making it easy to access fresh local Iowa food. The project helps farmers sell their products to people that may not have been able to buy them before. For more information and to see if you qualify for SNAP, call the hotline number, 1-855-944-3663.
Check out your local farmers market to see if they participate in the Wireless EBT Project.
The health benefits of regular physical activity are well known, but many of us do not make it a part of our daily routine. Are you active for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week, or 150 minutes a week? Do you engage in muscle strengthening activity 2 days each week? If not, check out these tips:
Keep track! Schedule time on your calendar for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days each week. Find activities you enjoy like taking a walk outside or going for a swim.
Ask for a partner to join you. Enjoy time with friends and family when you are active. Find an exercise partner to support you and hold you accountable.
Join a fitness class. Joining a class can help you stick with it.
Find activities you can do all year. Find an indoor place to walk like the grocery store or Walmart or watch an online exercise video when it isn’t nice outside.
5 cups of vegetables cut into uniform sized pieces (carrots, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash)
1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Spread vegetables evenly in a single layer on the pan.
Sprinkle oil on the vegetables. Stir. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, ground black pepper, and salt. Stir.
Bake for 20-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Bake until vegetables are tender.
Nutrition information per serving: Nutrition Information per serving: 90 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, 16 g total carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 2 g protein. This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu