Kitchen Towels Can Be Home to Dangerous Bacteria

Dish towelsHow often do you wash your cloth kitchen towels? In a recent study, researchers examined the bacterial content of 100 kitchen towels that families used for one month without washing. They found significant bacterial growth on 49 of these towels, including bacteria that can cause serious illness, such as Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli. The towels most likely to harbor bacteria were made of cotton. Because cotton is more absorbent than nylon and other synthetic fabrics, it’s better able to hold the moisture bacteria need to grow. Towels used for just one purpose, such as only wiping utensils, held much less bacteria than multipurpose towels used for drying dishes, wiping hands, and cleaning up spills.

To prevent illness, toss reusable dish towels into the laundry after each use. A damp dish towel, especially, should not be reused before laundering. Air-dry dishes and utensils in a rack rather than wipe them with a cloth towel. Be sure to wash and sanitize sinks, counters, and refrigerator handles daily to reduce the risk of bacteria transferring from these surfaces to your clean towels.


Mini Salmon Loaves

Serving Size: 1 loaf | Serves: 6


  • 1 cup canned Alaska salmon, drained (skinless, boneless, flaked)
  • 1 egg, large (slightly beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon milk (fat free)
  • 1 teaspoon minced dried onion
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill weed, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat bread crumbs


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place salmon in a medium bowl.
3. Break apart chunks of salmon using a fork.
4. Add egg, milk, onion, dill weed, lemon pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well.
5. Divide salmon mixture into 6 even portions.
6. Shape each portion into a mini loaf.
7. Bake for 15 minutes. Heat to 160°F or higher for at least 15 seconds.
8. Serve 1 loaf (about 1 1/2 oz. cooked).

Nutrition information per serving: 82 calories, 3g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 101mg cholesterol, 197mg sodium, 3g total carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 11g protein

Recipe source: USDA What’s Cooking?

Intermittent Fasting? Not So Fast!

Intermittent fasting (IF)—the practice of abstaining from food for limited periods—is growing in popularity as a dieting fad. Two main types of IF are the 5:2 diet and time-restricted feeding. On the 5:2 diet, a person eats normally five days of the week and then eats just one meal a day on two nonconsecutive days. Time-restricted feeding involves fasting for about 16 hours a day, with an 8-hour eating window, usually from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Place setting with clock

Some people are attracted to IF as a way to lose weight because it doesn’t require calorie-counting. However, fasting can cause headaches, fatigue, and lightheadedness. Fasting at certain times may lead to overeating at other times. This practice is dangerous for people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes.

In the short term, according to the American Heart Association, IF does not help people lose weight or lower their cholesterol levels any more than conventional methods of dieting do. The long-term effects of this way of eating are unknown.

If you are interested in exploring proven and safe methods of weight control, visit the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). Consult your doctor before beginning any weight-control program.


Staying Active Benefits Mental Health

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.Wellness

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

Prevent Cross-contact at Home

Salad barFollowing 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

Confetti Rice and Bean Salad

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


  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Let cool.
  2. Wash and cut up tomatoes, carrots, and onion while rice is cooling and put into a large bowl.
  3. Add corn and drained and rinsed black beans to the bowl.
  4. Add cooled rice to the bowl.
  5. Whisk together lime juice, oil, salt, and ground black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over rice and veggie mixture. Stir gently to combine.
  6. 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

Reduce Food Waste at Home

trash on fork





“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.Meal Planning Worksheet

  • 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

Sheet Pan Meal Safety

Sheet pan mealSheet pan meals are a popular trend for those on a busy schedule. These meals often contain a protein source for the main dish and two vegetables for sides—cooked together on a single sheet pan in the oven. Cooking multiple menu items in one pan appeals to those looking for recipes that require little preparation and use minimal dishes. Sheet pan meals can be very convenient and nutritious. However, it is important to keep food safety in mind. Follow these tips for a safe sheet pan meal:

  • Wash the vegetables thoroughly before cooking. This can prevent the introduction of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
  • Use separate utensils and cutting boards for produce and raw meats.
  • Cook the protein source to the correct internal temperature:
    • Chicken—165oF
    • Beef (steaks, chops)—145oF
    • Pork—145oF
    • Seafood—145oF

Join in on the Fun by Biking

Family bikingEach year, Iowans celebrate RAGBRAI in July. Iowa cities and towns hold mini festivals for the bicycle riders—complete with food stands, entertainment, and displays of Iowa culture. However, the focus is still on the cyclists.

Live longer by bicycling. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity daily contributes to longevity. By making physical activity a regular habit, one can greatly reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, and prevent sarcopenia (muscle wasting) in older age.

Bicycling is ideal for any fitness level, and there are different types of bikes to fit one’s style (road, mountain, and hybrid). Has it been several years since you enjoyed this activity? The American College of Sports Medicine provides recommendations for beginning a bicycling routine. You can also order a map of bike trails through the Iowa DOT.

Chicken Fajitas

Serving Size: 2/3 cup | Serves: 6


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1 green bell pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1 medium onion (thinly sliced)• 6 (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 6 ounces low fat cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • 1 cup tomato, chopped (optional)
  • Cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • Jalapeño, sliced (optional)


  1. Freeze chicken 30 minutes until firm and easier to cut. Cut chicken into 1/4” strips. Place in a single layer on a plate.
  2. Wash hands, knife, and cutting board. Sprinkle both sides of strips with chili and garlic powder.
  3. Add oil to a 12-inch skillet. Heat to medium high. Add chicken strips. Cook about 3–5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add bell peppers and onion. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink. (Heat chicken to at least 165°F.)
  5. Scoop chicken mixture (2/3 cup each) onto tortillas. Top with your favorite toppings.
  6. Serve flat or rolled.

Nutrition information per serving (1 tortilla with 2/3 cup filling): 260 calories, 9g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 50mg cholesterol, 410mg sodium, 4g dietary fiber, 27g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, 22g protein

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

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