Mindful Eating and Portion Control

Do you remember what you ate for breakfast? How about last night’s dinner? Eating is becoming a subconscious act, similar to breathing, we do it every day but our focus is often on other things. We chew and swallow without really tasting our food or we focus on the next bite before enjoying the current one. Many watch television or fiddle with their phone, keeping their attention away from their meal. This can contribute to overeating and weight problems. Think about it. Have you ever mindlessly shoveled in an entire bag of chips or ½ a tub of ice cream while watching a movie?

Mindfully savoring your food can be a great tool for portion control. Not only will you be paying attention to your food but also to your body. Are you still hungry or are you satisfied? Follow the tips below to begin your mindful eating practice.

  1. Start with small portions. Choose smaller bowls and plates.
  2. Use all your senses. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, pay attention to color, texture, smell, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try to taste all of the ingredients.
  3. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full.
  4. Put your fork down between bites. The act of setting your fork down forces you to focus on chewing your food rather than letting yourself mindlessly pick at your plate for your next bite.
  5. Eat in silence. Minimize distractions and make sure you’re eating in a calm environment. Close your eyes if you find your thoughts racing to other things.
  6. Focus on finding the sweet spot between hungry and full. Pay attention to how you feel during the meal and how long you stay satisfied after eating. Eventually, you will get more comfortable understanding your body’s cues for hunger and fullness.  


By Laura Harkins, EFNEP Intern

Eat Better, Eat Together

Family Eating Dinner

Take the time to set your busy schedule aside and focus on enjoying meals as a family. All too often, meals are consumed as an afterthought with hastily thrown together with ingredients and family members eating at all different times. Some may eat in front of the TV, some at the kitchen counter, and some in the car while driving to work. Finding time to gather at the kitchen table may seem impossible but the benefits should not be overlooked.

Benefits of Eating Meals Together

  • Families who eat together are more likely to eat their 5 servings of fruit and vegetables
  • Eating together helps strengthen relationships by allowing for a time to connect
  • Allows parents to “lead by example” and show children proper table manners.

 Tips for Eating Meals as a Family

  • Involve children in meal preparation and clean-up
  • Plan meals before grocery shopping
  • Start with one family meal per week or gradually add more meals together each week.
  • Make family meals a priority by writing it on the calendar

When was the last time you sat down and ate a meal with your family? If you cannot remember, now is a great time to start. Make it a pleasant experience for all and have everyone share how their day went.

by Laura Harkins



Sources: https://www.fcconline.org/the-importance-of-family-mealtime/


Get Ready for the Next Storm

Broken power lines on a power pole.

There is much concern about the next hurricane’s arrival to the North Carolina coast.   Residents far inland can also be affected by strong winds that can cause trees and power poles to fall. Loss of power can affect many, and be detrimental if you use your freezer for food storage, so prepare now.

Here are food safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
  • A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. If you have space in your freezer, fill sealable plastic containers about 2/3 full of water and place in freezer NOW to provide insulation if the power goes out.
  • If you are able, stock up on “no cook” food items for your family.
  • If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it’s important that each item is thoroughly cooked to its proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present are destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more – discard it.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water from a safe source before eating.
  • For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.

Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service has a helpful website full of information.

Get Ready!


Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Did you know that one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese? Children with obesity are at a greater risk of developing other health problems like asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes.


There are many factors that influence childhood obesity, making it difficult to prevent and treat. For one, diet has a significant impact on weight and obesity risk. Eating excess calories, saturated fat, and sugar contributes to weight gain. These foods high in calories, saturated fat, and sugar are widely available, inexpensive, and oftentimes are what’s most appealing to children, making it hard for children to decrease intake. An inactive lifestyle can also increase the risk of obesity. Eating too many calories combined with insufficient exercise can make it even more difficult to prevent overweight and obesity. Older children and adolescents are especially likely to not sleep enough, and inadequate sleep can also contribute to childhood obesity.


Weight gain is a part of healthy child development and growth, so it can be hard to know what the balance is between healthy weight gain and too much weight gain. Here are some ways to help your children grow without gaining too much weight:


  • Regular Pediatrician Visits: Your child’s pediatrician can use growth charts and your child’s height and weight to determine if they’re growing at a healthy rate. Annual physicals by a pediatrician can help catch any excess weight gain early and prevent progression to obesity.


  • Promote a Healthy Lifestyle: Providing adequate drinking water, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein can help ensure your children are eating enough nutritious foods and less of the foods that can lead to weight gain, such as chips, desserts, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Be a role model for your children by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising every day.
  • Shape a Healthy School Environment: Knowing your children are in a healthy school environment can give you confidence that they’re in a healthy environment both at home and away from home. Encourage school officials to provide opportunities for children to get physical activity at school through recess, gym class, in-class activities, and after-school sports. Also, you may suggest removing or decreasing access to vending machines and other snacks provided at lunch that contribute to weight gain.


Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults and develop many health problems, so now is the time to take action and prevent obesity for children and adolescents!


Storage of Fruits and Vegetables

With all the different fruits and vegetables available at the grocery store and Farmers Market, it’s hard to know exactly how to store all of them. Here’s a quick reference guide for storing your fresh fruits and vegetables:


Fruits and vegetables that should be stored in the refrigerator (at 40°F or below) include apples (if stored kept longer than 7 days), apricots, Asian pears, berries, cherries, cut fruit, figs, grapes, artichokes, asparagus, green beans, beets, Belgian endive, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cut vegetables, green onions, herbs (not basil), leafy vegetables, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, peas, radishes, spinach, sprouts, summer squashes, and sweet corn. They should be stored in separate, perforated plastic bags in produce drawers (one drawer for fruits and one for vegetables).

A circle arrangement of fruits and vegetables

Fruits that should be ripened on the counter, then refrigerated include avocados, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and plumcots. When ripening, store different fruits separately in either a paper bag, perforated plastic bag, or ripening bowl away from sunlight.

Fruits and vegetables that should only be stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight include apples (if stored fewer than 7 days), bananas, citrus fruits, mangoes, melons, papayas, persimmons, pineapple, plantain, pomegranates, basil (in water), ginger, jicama, pumpkins, tomatoes, and winter squashes. Garlic, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes should be stored in a well-ventilated area in the pantry. Cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers should also be stored at room temperature but can be refrigerated for a few days if they’re used soon after removing from the refrigerator.

Remember to wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before you cut, eat, or cook them. Fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat” or “washed” don’t need to be washed again before using. After they’re cut, all fruits and vegetables should be stored in an airtight food storage container or a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator. Refrigerate cut, peeled, and cooked fruits and vegetables within two hours.

Wash fruits and vegetables in cool running water before freezing. Fruits should be treated with ascorbic acid before freezing, while vegetables should be blanched before freezing. Only use freezer-safe containers or bags when freezing fruits and vegetables. Do not thaw frozen vegetables before using them. Fruit that’s been frozen is best served partially frozen.

  • Cara

Eating More Whole Grains

Grains have gotten a bad reputation these days. While refined grains may contribute to weight gain and health problems, eating more whole grains can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

All grains started as whole grains with the whole part of the seed intact: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran contains antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber; the germ contains B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats; the endosperm contains carbohydrates, proteins, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Refined grains have the bran and germ removed, leaving only the endosperm. Because refined grains have part of the grain removed, they have fewer vitamins, minerals, and fiber than whole grains.Two hands full of grain

Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, whole grain corn, farro, millet, sorghum, and spelt. Packaged foods made with 100% whole grains usually list the whole grain they’re made with at the beginning of their ingredient label. Just because a product like bread is brown instead of white doesn’t mean it’s 100% whole grain. For example, “multigrain” or “wheat” bread aren’t necessarily 100% whole grain, so it’s important to read the ingredients list. Also, The Whole Grains Council’s “100% Whole Grain Stamp” indicates that one serving of the product has at least one serving of whole grains per serving and that all of the grains in it are whole.

Aim to make at least half of your grains whole. You can make these swaps for whole grains gradual. Start by making simple shifts to grains like 100% whole wheat bread, pasta, tortillas; brown rice, oatmeal, and grits. For foods like pasta, you can try starting with half white/refined pasta and half whole grain pasta. Include whole grains in your snacks, such as 100% whole wheat crackers or low-fat, unsalted butter. Some whole grains like brown rice take a while to cook. Save time by cooking double of what you need and refrigerating or freezing the leftovers. When baking foods like muffins, replace half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

Like any lifestyle changes, switching to whole grains does not have to be all at once. Start with small steps towards eating more whole grains! What whole grain products can you try this week?