Take Safe Food to the Potluck

Irish stew in a slow cooker potPotluck meals are a fun, low-cost way to celebrate the holidays at friend’s homes and in offices, classrooms, and churches.

During the rush of the holidays, show your concern for others by following these food transportation safety tips:

  • Car seats are often contaminated with germs that can cause illness. Cover your car seat with a clean sheet or large towel before placing the food container on it.
  • Keep cold foods cold, 40°F or below. Take cold foods out of the fridge just before leaving home. Keep them in insulated containers with a cooler pack.
  • Keep hot foods hot, at least 140°F. Put your piping hot food in a slow cooker set on low. Just before getting into the car, unplug the slow cooker and put it in a quilted carrier or insulated bag. Do not keep the food in the car for more than an hour. At your destination, plug in the slow cooker immediately.
  • If hot food has cooled during the car trip, or if you brought refrigerated food that needs to be served hot, do not try to reheat it with a slow cooker. Reheat the food in a microwave or on a stove top until it is 165°F. (For more tips on slow cooker safety, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/content/slow-cookers.)

Sponge Safety

Clean sponge in sinkSponges are great at absorbing all things…including germs! Practice these tips to use them safely:

  • To sanitize, microwave damp sponge for one minute or put it in a dishwasher with a drying cycle. According to the USDA, these methods will kill more than 99% of bacteria, yeasts, and mold.
  • Clean sponges after two or three uses.
  • Avoid using sponges when wiping up meat juices and on countertops. Instead use a paper towel and a sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.
  • Wring out a sponge after each use and store in a dry location.
  • Once a sponge starts to smell, throw it out immediately.
  • Finally, don’t forget about the dish towels and dish cloths. Launder them frequently in hot water and consider using a separate dish towel for hand and dish drying.

Source: eatright, www.eatright.org/resource/homefoodsafety/four-steps/wash/dos-and-donts-of-kitchen-sponge-safety

Less Waste, More Money

Woman Throwing Away Out Of Date Food In RefrigeratorIt’s that time of year when lots of food is made and enjoyed at holiday gatherings. However, sometimes too much food is made and then thrown away before it can be used. About 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year in the United States. Yet 1 in 7 Americans struggles to get enough to eat. On average, $370 worth of food per person per year is thrown away. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) breaks this down by types of food:

Grains (bread, pasta): $22 per year
Fruits (apples, bananas, oranges): $45 per year
Proteins (beef, chicken, pork, fish): $140 per year
Vegetables (onions, lettuce, peppers): $66 per year
Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese): $60 per year
Added Fat and Sugar (chips, candy): $37 per year
Total: $370 per year

The main reason food is thrown away is because it spoils before it is eaten. The USDA has created a resource called Let’s Talk Trash. In it they offer tips on how you can put a stop to food waste in your home.

  • Plan and Save: Plan your weekly menu. Then look in your pantry, freezer, and fridge to make a list of what you need to buy before grocery shopping. This can help you buy only the food you need and keep money in your pocket.
  • Be Organized: Keep your food pantry and refrigerator organized so you can see what needs to be eaten first. Write the dates on food containers so you know what needs to be used first.
  • Repurpose and Freeze Extra Food: Reuse leftovers in another recipe. Use leftover taco meat to make a taco pizza. If you chopped up vegetables for a salad, use leftover vegetables to make a vegetable soup. Make a smoothie with overripe fruit. Freeze extra food to enjoy at a later time.

For more tips on reducing food waste, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart at www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings.

Source: Let’s Talk Trash, www.choosemyplate.gov/lets-talk-trash

How to Get Your Vitamin D

Sour cream, milk, cheese, yogurt and butterMost Americans are not consuming enough vitamin D. A study by the Centers for Disease Control found some groups of Americans were deficient in vitamin D—a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for human health. Vitamin D helps sustain bone health, but it may also prevent chronic disease (e.g., heart disease, diabetes) and cancer. It is made by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight and is found naturally in very few foods. Therefore, fortified foods are the primary way we can get enough vitamin D through the diet. It is recommended that people up to the age of 70 years consume 600 International Units (IU) and those over the age of 70 consume 800 IU of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D has been used in milk and soy beverages for some time. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an increase to the amount of vitamin D that may be added as an optional ingredient to milk; to plant-based milk alternatives like rice, almond, and coconut beverages; and to plant-based yogurt alternatives. This new allowance by the FDA for increased amounts of vitamin D for milk and milk alternatives will be another valuable source of this important nutrient that is not always easy to obtain.

Source: FDA.gov

Planks for a Strong Core

Fitness training athletic sporty man doing plank exercise in gymNeed a way to strengthen your core muscles? Try planks. They hit all major abdominal muscles while also working the muscles of your back, chest, shoulders, glutes, and quads. Planks help to improve posture, increase flexibility, and improve balance. They can be easily modified based on your fitness level and abilities.

Traditional plank:

  1. Lay stomach-down on the ground and press your chest up until your shoulders are directly over your elbows.
  2. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels.
  3. Engage your core muscles to maintain this position.

Plank for beginners:
If you are new to exercise, try these modifications that will allow you to build up to achieving the traditional plank. Rather than placing your hands on the floor, you can hold on to a variety of objects, such as a bench or a platform. The further away your upper body is from the ground, the easier the exercise. Your elbows and shoulders should be in a line with each other. Make sure you engage your core to keep your hips and shoulders from dipping.

Plank for people who use a wheelchair:
Transfer onto a low bench, table, or platform. Your toes, knees, or hips can be supported by the bench depending on your level of function. This is called the pivot point. Your body should form a straight line from your head to the pivot point. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.

Source: Planks 101, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, http://www.nchpad.org/1391/6235/Planks~101

The Real Deal on Raw Flour

Rolling Pin on Woooden Floured BackgroundYou may be aware of the dangers related to eating raw dough because of the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with Salmonella. However, did you know that there may be harmful strains of E. coli in flour?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating E. coli O121 outbreaks related to raw flour. General Mills is conducting a voluntary recall on its three brands of flour: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, and Gold Medal Wondra. The varieties include unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising flours. A person doesn’t need to consume the raw flour to become ill. You can become ill if you handle it and forget to wash your hands.

Follow these food safety tips from the FDA when handling flour and raw dough:

  • Do not let young children handle “play” clay that is homemade from raw dough.
  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
  • Keep foods made with raw flour separate from other foods during preparation to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily because of its powdery nature. Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.

For more information, please visit: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm508450.htm

Carver Dip

carver dipServing Size: 1/4 cup
Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 ounces) sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Instructions:

  1. Drain the liquid off the sweet potatoes.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl.
  3. Cook in microwave for 1 1/2 minutes or until heated through.
  4. Stir until smooth.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 20mg sodium, 16g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 1g protein

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

Healthy Choices for Healthy Events

Fresh fruits and vegetablesEveryone has a role in helping to create and support an environment for healthy eating. Try these tips to encourage healthy choices at meetings, conferences, parties, and other events.

  • Strive to provide half of the food served from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruit makes a great dessert. Beans and legumes, such as black beans and chickpeas, are vegetable-based protein sources.
  • Provide 100% whole-grain products in a variety of forms such as breads, rolls, crackers, or tortillas. Include whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains as part of healthful salads, mixed dishes, and casseroles.
  • Serve smaller portion sizes such as mini bagels, 6-oz. bottles or cartons of 100% juice, or 3 oz. of meat, fish, or poultry. For more information about portion sizes, visit https://store.extension.iastate.edu to download publication PM 3024, How Much Are You Eating?
  • Limit availability of processed foods, which tend to be higher in sodium and added sugars. Instead choose less-processed snack options like raw or dry-roasted nuts, fresh fruit, whole-grain chips with healthier dips (e.g., salsa, guacamole, or bean dips), or whole-grain baked products.
  • Go green; provide pitchers and cups for drinking water during the event. If needed, offer non- or low-calorie beverages (40 calories per 12-ounce serving). Try water infused with fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs.

Sources:
Tips for Offering Healthier Options and Physical Activity at Workplace Meetings and Events, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/tips-for-offering-healthier-options-and-pa-at-workplace.pdf

Safe Preserving Using a Steam Canner

Home canned peachesThe University of Wisconsin–Madison published research saying that an Atmospheric Steam Canner is safe to use for home canning of acidic foods such as fruits, or acidified foods such as salsa or pickles, as long as the following guidelines are observed:

  • Foods must be high in acid, pH of 4.6 or below.
  • A research-tested recipe developed for a boiling water canner must be used with the Atmospheric Steam Canner. Do not rely on the recipes that come with the steam canner.
  • Jars must be heated prior to filling with hot liquid, the steamer must be vented so that the jars are processed in pure steam at 212o F for 45 minutes or less. Cooling must be minimized prior to processing.
  • The steam canner may be used with recipes approved for half-pint, pint, or quart jars.

For further information: fyi.uwex.edu/safepreserving/2015/06/24/safe-preserving-using-an-atmospheric-steam-canner/.

Surfing the Web for Accurate Nutrition and Health Information

tablesThe internet can be a great information resource that is quick and easy to use. You can find breaking nutrition news, healthy recipes, and sound nutrition advice. Like other media outlets, however, the web can also be crowded with misinformation and poor nutrition guidance. Here are tips to help make you a whiz on the web in searching for credible nutrition and health information.

Perform an “advanced search” to help limit the search to be more specific to your needs. For instance, you can search within a specific site or domain. The three-letter suffix on a website address such as “.com” or “.edu” is the domain. Some domains may be more credible than others.

Remember, dependable sources often state where information is coming from, who funds the studies or organization, and what credentials and education qualify the writers on the topic. For more information, download the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach publication.

Survivor’s Guide to Healthy Web Surfing and Phone Apps (N 3418), store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/N3418

Sources:

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