Picnic Safety

Summer has officially arrived! Like many of you, I like spending time outdoors especially having cookouts, picnics and other activities centered around food. Good food, fun, and family are my summer favorites. But before planning any outdoor food activity, here are a few simple tips to consider to ensure that unwanted bacteria won’t have a place at the table.

Wash Hands Often Bring moist towelettes or soap and water to clean your hands and surfaces often. Also, make sure your cooler is clean.

Keep Raw Meats, Poultry, Seafood and Eggs and Ready-to- Eat Foods Separate
Bring extra plates — one for handling raw foods and another for cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination.
Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
Don’t reuse marinade used on raw meat or poultry unless boiled.
Properly packing a cooler can help reduce cross-contamination that might lead to food poisoning.

Cook to Proper Temperatures
Cook your favorite foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer; hamburger to at least 160°F and chicken breasts to 165°F.
Never partially grill meat or poultry to finish cooking later.

Refrigerate Promptly below 40°F
Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs to keep the temperature below 40°F.
Transport the cooler in the back seat of your air-conditioned car instead of in your hot trunk.
Remove from the cooler only the amount of raw meat that will fit on the grill.
Defrost meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator before taking them to the grill.
Don’t leave food outside in hot weather (90°F or above) for more than one hour.

Enjoy!

Stephanie

Stephanie is an Extension Associate for NC EFNEP.

Source: http://www.eatright.org/resource/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/outdoor-dining/keep-your-picnic-safe

 

Quick and Easy Summer Salad

Summer is the time when I am looking for great recipes to add to my go-to list. My new found Tomatoes, Onion & Cucumber Salad has been on my rotating list for side-dishes for a few months now, and it’s delicious every time I make it.

It tastes great with everything from grilled fish to chicken. You can also add pasta to this and make a great tasting pasta salad for your next picnic or get-together at home.

The salad is best served at room temperature but tastes excellent otherwise as well. I have made the recipe as is but I have also used red onions and cherry tomatoes because that is what I had on hand that day. However, I reduced the amount of red onion because it is bit overpowering for me. You can choose to edit this recipe to match your liking, and I am sure it will taste great.

Here is the recipe in detail for your reference.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 medium cucumber
  • 4 medium tomatoes , cut into 1/2- inch wedges
  • 1 Vidalia onion, or other sweet onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley, chives and/or tarragon

DIRECTIONS:

  • Whisk vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper in a larger shallow bowl.
  • Slice the cucumbers into thin rounds. Add the cucumber slices, tomatoes, and onion to the dressing; gently toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Enjoy!
Neha 

Neha is a Special Programs Assistant for NC EFNEP

Nutrition information:

  • Per serving: 66 calories; 3 g fat(0 g sat); 2 g fiber; 10 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 36  mcg folate; 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g sugars; 1 g added sugars; 838 IU vitamin A; 18 mg vitamin C; 31 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 204 mg sodium; 361 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (30% daily value) 

Source: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/250275/summer-tomato-onion-cucumber-salad/

Are canned fruits and vegetables healthy?

 

My husband, who grew up in rural North Carolina spent many of his summers with his grandfather. He saw acres of farmland with fresh vegetables including cabbages, collards, green beans, okra, field peas, squash, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, Muscadine grapes, peaches, etc. He and his grandfather would get up early in the mornings to gather the crops. Some would be used for daily meals while others were canned and frozen by his grandmother, sold at the farmer’s market, and given to needy families. They would do this every day until it was time to replant for the next season.

While many of us don’t have access to a large family garden for fresh fruits and vegetables, there are still many available healthy canned options.

Researchers at Michigan State University found that canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as frozen or fresh. For canned tomatoes in particular, canning improves the content of B vitamins, vitamin E and carotenoids compared to fresh. Fiber in beans becomes more soluble through the canning process,  and thus more useful to the human body. Additionally, a nationally represented survey of American adults found that adults and children who frequently eat canned foods (6 or more items over 2 weeks) have healthier eating habits compared to those who eat 1-2 canned food items in the same time period.  

Eat the fruits and vegetables you prefer whether canned, fresh, frozen or dried. Canned foods simply make healthy eating easy. Canned fruits and veggies are convenient to have in your pantry for times you can’t get to the store; they can even be kept at work (with a can opener) for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack. Since they don’t expire quickly, you won’t waste money when buying canned veggies – which sometimes happens with fresh produce that goes bad. Here are a few tips when buying canned fruit and vegetables:

Watch for sodium:
Sodium is usually added to canned foods to preserve them. Look for low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added labeled foods. Compare the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label and choose the product with the lowest amount. Drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce sodium even more.

Watch for added sugar: Look for fruit that’s canned in water, its own juice, or light syrup (drain and rinse).

Delicious uses:

  • Add drained cans of corn, tomatoes and pinto beans or any other vegetable to low-sodium chicken broth for a super-fast and filling vegetable soup.
  • Use a blender, food processor or a fork to smash drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, northern beans, or any beans into a bean dip for baby carrots; add a little lemon juice and garlic powder for some zip.
  • Serve canned fruit as a dessert topped with low-fat, no sugar-added yogurt; or top whole grain cereal with canned fruit.

You can feel confident that canned fruits and vegetables are nutritious, safe and full of flavor. Fill up your pantry with your favorite canned produce to help you prepare nutritious, quick everyday meals for your family more often while saving time and money.

ENJOY!!
Stephanie

Sources: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyCooking/Fresh-Frozen-or-Canned-Fruits-and-Vegetables-All-Can-Be-Healthy-Choices_UCM_459350_Article.jsp#.Vp0xBVMrJmA
http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/canned-fruits-and-vegetables-are-good-for-you

 

 

Go Nuts!!

Nuts are my favorite snack to munch in between meal times. They are bite-size nutritional powerhouses, packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. When I choose this vitality-boosting snack, I stick to a handful mix of unsalted nuts to get the best valuable vitamins and minerals in my diet.

All nuts have different nutrition credentials and will offer various health benefits. Here are our top 5 nuts and with their benefits.

1) Almonds – Almonds are the best choice if you are avoiding dairy from your diet. They are calcium-rich and high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps to improve the condition and appearance of your skin. For some extra heart help, swap flaked almonds for the whole nut with the skin intact because the almond’s skin is full of heart-protecting compounds called flavonoids.

2) Cashews- They are your go-to if you’re in need of minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, biotin and copper. The nutrients in cashews are thought to improve recall delays and age-related memory loss. It is also a great meat substitution if you are following a vegetarian diet. Just add a handful to your stir-fry or use as a nut butter on crackers or bread.

3) Pecans- Pecans are heart-friendly and packed with plant sterols, that are effective at lowering cholesterol levels. They’re rich in oleic acid, the healthy fat found in olives and avocados. As a good source of vitamin B3, pecans are the perfect option if you’re fighting fatigue and stress.

4) Walnuts- Walnuts are a cancer-fighting agent due to the extremely high number of antioxidants. They are good for your brain and heart and helps in lowering bad cholesterol.

5) Pistachios- They are high in calcium, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins. A handful of these little seeds provides you with one fifth of your recommended daily fiber.

Enjoy!

Neha 

Source: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-nuts-linked-to-healthier-longer-life-201311206893

 

Stay Active Indoors

When the weather gets bad, it is hard to stay active inside the house. However, that does not mean that doing physical activity inside is impossible! There are multiple games and ways to get exercise indoors involving the whole family. One effective way of exercising is yoga. Family yoga involves everyone practicing yoga poses together and can be a really fun activity. Yoga can also bring peace to a family home while toning muscles, increasing flexibility, and reducing weight.

Another way of getting active indoors is playing games. Animal charades is a game where parents write down different types of animals on pieces of paper that can be drawn from a cup. Parents and children can take turns acting out which animal they pick by moving and making sounds. This game encourages creativity in children and adults and can make physical activity seem effortless.

A classic fun game to play is freeze frame. This can be with or even without music playing. If someone is caught still moving after the word “Freeze!” is said, they have to keep dancing until all the other players are out. This game is so easy because it doesn’t involve any equipment except a voice. It is simple and works, especially with children.

A cool game that is fun for children to play is called “Stretch and sprout”. This game involves children imagining themselves as a seed by being curled up in a tight ball and then stretching out as far as they can imagine. By creating a visualization of the child transforming from a seed to a flower, this encourages imagination while stretching all of the muscles in the body. Another way to get more out of this game is by encouraging the child to spring up and jump at the end when they are all stretched out.

Another creative game is called “ABC” where parents and children give each other words to spell and spell them with their arms and legs. This game also can help children learning how to spell. By spelling out words with arms and legs, both parents and children exercise their limbs while toning their cores.

Whether it’s a simple hands-free game or a yoga session, these methods are effective in getting the whole family active while being indoors. These exercise ideas may even make the children excited about the next rainy day when they can stay indoors to play these games!

Taylor 

References: http://www.parenting.com/gallery/18-fun-active-indoor-activities?page=6

 

Eating Together!

How many of you aim to have at least few meals of the week together as a family?

These days schedules of both parents and children leave almost no time for regular dinners together at the table.  Between soccer practices, dance rehearsals, playdates, and other scheduling conflicts, family mealtime can seem like a thing of the past.

Did you know that research shows that having a meal together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development? Family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school. Source: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/

If you are still looking for some inspiration, here are some more benefits of eating a meal together as a family.

  • Dinner table provides an opportunity for conversation and to reconnect as a family. By engaging your children in conversation, you teach them how to listen and give them with a chance to express their opinions.
  • Family mealtime is the perfect opportunity to display appropriate table manners, meal etiquette, and social skills. Be a good role model and lead by example.
  • Meals prepared and eaten at home are usually more nutritious and healthy. They contain more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products along with additional nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, and folate.
  • The sense of security and togetherness provided by family meals helps nurture children into healthy, well-rounded adults. Children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand, acknowledge, and follow the boundaries and expectations set by their parents.
  • The home cooked meal cost 2-4 times less than the meals purchased outside. You save your time and money by not make going out to eat at a restaurant and making short trips to the grocery store.
  • Family mealtime is a great place to introduce new food to the kids. It greatly helps the picky eater. Try to make the mealtime a cool, calm and positive experience for the children. Avoid- criticism and over correction.

ENJOY!!
Neha