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.



Stephanie is an Extension Associate for NC EFNEP.

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


Food-Themed Calendar For Summer

Getting ready for summer can mean plenty of things such as buying sunscreen, bathing suits, and shorts. But getting ready for summer can also mean looking at a monthly food calendar as well. There are national food days along with national food weeks and months.

Egg day is June 3 and there are many ways to celebrate and create your own recipes. There are deviled eggs recipes, egg salad sandwich recipes that enhance flavor, ham and egg frittatas, microwave omelets and scrambled eggs, and even tips on preparing eggs. These recipes and tips are useful in helping people avoid making a green ring around a hard-boiled egg, how to make homemade ice cream without raw eggs in it, and how to crack the date code on egg cartons. These tips and techniques are very helpful, especially on Egg Day, June 3.

Cheese Day is June 4th and is celebrated by making easy black beans and cheese quesadillas, vegetable cheese quesadillas, and spaghetti pie. There are multiple ways to use cheese in various recipes and there are also tips on how to freeze different types of cheeses, what the best types of cheeses are to freeze, how cheese is made, and even how it can be used for healthy eating.

A day kids and parents can enjoy together will be June 7 which is Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Kids will have fun helping parents make old-fashioned chocolate ice cream and can even learn how to make homemade ice cream without using raw eggs. This is very useful, especially if a family is vegan or does not eat eggs. This could also be useful if they wanted to cut down on egg consumption as well.

A fun way to spice things up on June 10 is by adding herbs and spices for flavor in foods without the added calories! There are many healthy cooking recipes that involve fresh herbs and since herbs are in season in the springtime, it is a great way to enjoy the flavor of foods. Not only do herbs and spices add flavor, but they can also be combined with different types of foods. There are herb and food combination charts and seasoning mixes to make for Herb & Spices Day as well.

For those who are new to cooking and who have been making attempts, there is even a day for you! Kitchen Klutzes of America day is June 13 and this day is dedicated to anyone who has made a mess in the kitchen. There are multiple lessons to make recipes successful and to make sure it is not a recipe for disaster. There are even newsletters including easy to-do recipes for kids as well.

Newsletters about physical activity are also available to these kitchen klutzes and how to get involved in some family fun on the run.

For veggie lovers, June 17 is national Eat Your Vegetables Day. There are tips and tricks on how to add more vegetables to your day and for help eating vegetables along with quick, easy recipes that make vegetables taste great. Making baked kale chips, black bean & corn salsa, foil-baked veggies, roasted baby carrots with garlic, vegetable pasta salad, and roasted broccoli and red peppers are all great ways to make the flavor of your vegetables pop! These are great recipes and easy ways to incorporate higher vegetable consumption, which will benefit health-wise. For those who love the outdoors, International Picnic Day is June 18. This is a great way to get outside and celebrate the beautiful weather. There are grilling tips on how to grill meats and vegetables properly and since Herbs & Spices Day has taught you ways on how to season, this would be a great opportunity to put that to use while grilling meats or veggies. There are also resources to use for practicing good food safety while having a delicious picnic as well. Keeping foods fresh and in the right temperature is highly important.

The First Day of Summer is June 20th and a great way to celebrate is by hosting a family and friends barbecue. Knowing barbecue safety practices will help things go smoothly. Cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling the meats properly will make the barbecue twice as delicious and fun. If you and the kids decide to go camping, there are even ways to eat healthy in the wilderness. Making foil packet potatoes on a camping trip could really bring the family together. There are also ways to handle food safely on the road and practice good food safety that way as well, such as planning ahead by bringing a cooler

Men’s Health Week is June 13th-June 19th Men’s Health Week is established for the purpose of raising the awareness of preventable health issues and the diagnoses and treatment of disease in boys and men. This week leads up to Father’s Day and educational newsletters are available online. There is also a Men’s Health Month as well.

There are many months and times to be celebrated such as Beef Steak Month, Dairy Month, Ice Tea Month, Vegetable and Fresh Fruit Month, Papaya Month, and Turkey Lover’s Month. There are recipes for each month available online and tips and tricks for these as well. For more information on how to celebrate the national food days, weeks, and months, visit the site listed in the references.

Taylor Davis

Taylor is a student intern working with EFNEP at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Pitt County Center.

Source: For more information on daily, weekly, or monthly food calendars and recipes, check out this site :http://food.unl.edu/june-food-calendar#summer


Hot Chocolate weather is upon us, drink up!


Warm drinks are a must have for me and my family in the cold winter months, but all those empty calories can add up quickly! According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans consume 20 teaspoons of added sugars daily. Keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and children and 9 teaspoons for men daily.

Hot chocolate can be a great, calcium-rich drink for all ages. This family favorite does not have to contain loads of sugar to taste great, try cutting back on the sugar and add more flavor! Flavor your next cup with vanilla, peppermint or my favorite, chai tea! You can do this by adding in spices or for an easy and flavorful trick, try steeping a tea bag in your hot chocolate. What sounds better than a vanilla chai tea hot chocolate? All the fancy flavors without the extra cost or sugars!

Visit the link below for more tips on how to cut back on added sugars for you and your family. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Sugars-Added-Sugars-and-Sweeteners_UCM_303296_Article.jsp#.WDXC92PIaLs

Healthy Hot Chocolate


  • 1 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons skim or 1% milk
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (or sweetener of choice)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cinnamon, optional


  1. Place milk in a small pot over medium low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place cocoa powder, sugar, and extra tablespoon of milk in a small bowl. Whisk until a paste/thick mixture forms and powder is absorbed.
  3. Whisk cocoa mixture into milk mixture. Heat till hot but not boiling. Stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Pour into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon, if using.

Recipe adapted from: http://thechiclife.com/2014/02/healthy-hot-chocolate-clean-eats.html

Cheers!  Megan

Megan is the EFNEP Program Assistant in NC State Extension-Orange County Center

Homemade gifts this season for lower costs


Gift giving for any occasion can often be expensive, especially when you purchase several gifts at one time. I actually began to make homemade food gifts that were not only made from the heart but were healthy for the heart too! I was able to remember those special special neighbors, church friends, and teachers with gifts that were lower in cost and higher in nutrition.

Some of my favorite homemade gifts that don’t require refrigeration include: vegetarian bean soup; peppermint hot cocoa; flavored teas, and mint body scrub. All of these items are placed in jars decorated with fabric and/or ribbon that coordinated with the occasion.

My children began getting involved with making gifts for their grandparents and teachers. Among their favorites were: homemade cookbooks, no-salt seasonings; spiced teas, and healthy snacks in a jar. They loved to decorate the container or package too and were so very proud of giving a gift from the heart.

So don’t let the holidays, birthdays, or other gift giving occasions stress you. Start gathering ideas for homemade gifts and get your children Involved too. All of you will enjoy giving a gift that you made and it will mean so much to those on the receiving end. For more ideas, check here: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/nutrition/nutrition/dietary_guide/hgic4091.html 


Get Active and Stay Active during the Holidays!

santa on a scaleDuring the holidays it can be difficult to maintain your usual workout schedule. In an effort to reach your physical activity needs try to switch it up!

If you are crunched for time try fitting in time at work during your lunch break! You could go for a brisk walk or even do chair exercises at your desk. You can also save time by incorporating your family into your workouts. Backpacking or skiing together can provide exercise while also allowing quality family time. Also try ice skating or even building a snow man to work your muscles!

If you are not able to make it to the gym try putting together some at home workouts. Body weight exercises that don’t require equipment are great for home workouts. Try crunches, pushups, lunges, or jumping jacks. You can do cardio by running up steps or jogging around your house.

Add some variety in your workouts to stay motivated. If you usually run, try biking or weight lifting. For more motivation try creating a vision board and setting realistic goals.

Although the holidays make it difficult, make exercising and reaching your physical fitness goals a top priority. Shoot for at least three thirty minute workout sessions per week.

The last and most important tip is not to overdo it. Find balance and manage your time wisely so that you can enjoy the holidays with family and friends while also getting physical activity.





Stay Active to Avoid Stress

Staying activeFeb 6 post is sometimes hard to do especially if you work and have children. Our friends at the American Diabetes Association share some ideas about how physical activity is a natural stress reliever. It also helps control blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, and provides many other health benefits. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays disrupt your exercise routine. Include time for physical activity on your calendar when you are planning ahead. We recommend doing at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days per week.

Finding it hard to get motivated this winter? Having a goal to work toward and exercising with others can help. Try creating an exercise challenge with your family or set an activity goal for yourself. If you’re at a loss for what to do during the colder months, check out our list of winter activity options below:

  • If you’ve got snow, make a snow fort or take the family sledding. Walking up and down a hill is a great work out, and it’s a good way to get the kids active too!
  • Go ice skating with a friend to catch up and get some fresh air.
  • Sign up for indoor fitness classes. There are a lot of class options out there now. Try zumba, kickboxing, jazzercise, yoga, and more.
  • See if any local restaurants host a salsa dancing night. Learn to salsa and get your muscles moving!
  • Buy an exercise video or look for a free workout video online that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
  • Hosting a holiday party? Giving the house a deep clean also counts as activity!
  • Bundle up and go for a brisk walk or jog around the neighborhood.
  • If you’ve got a gym membership, take advantage of the indoor equipment this winter!
  • Sign up and train for a race or walk with a family member or friend. Having a race to train for in early spring can help keep you motivated.


Source: http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2012-12/taking-some-of-the-stress-out.html