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


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.


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



Tips for Managing Stress as a Family


Webster’s Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some stress can be positive (in that it helps one develop the skills needed to cope with different situations in life) and some stress can be negative. Negative stress causes anxiety that can affect the way we think and behave. Negative stress can even affect our health. And, although we think adults more affected than adolescents or children, anyone can experience stress. As parents, we should be aware of the situations that can cause our children stress and carefully watch for how stress presents itself in our children.

Stress can be caused by a natural disaster (like an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or wildfire). It can also be the result of bullying, poor grades, or what our children hear on the news (school shootings or other community/world violence such a terror attacks). Symptoms of stress can commonly include:

  • Feeling sad or frustrated
  • Feeling fearful, irritable, angry or guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Crying
  • Reduced interest in usual activities
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Nightmares or bad memories
  • Reoccurring thoughts about an event
  • Headaches or stomach problems
  • Increased heart rate, difficulty breathing

As a parent, it’s our responsibility to help our children cope with stress. Talking with our children about a stressful situation can help alleviate their negative feelings. Monitoring their exposure to an event (what they watch and hear on television reports or in adult conversations) can help bring a rational balance to the situation. Other suggestions for helping your child cope with stress can be:

  • Maintain a normal routine – Ensure they wake up, go to bed, eat, etc. at the regular time. This brings a sense of stability.
  • Encourage expression – Take the time to talk with and listen to your child. This will let your child know his that his fears and worries are understandable, and his thoughts and feelings are important to you.
  • Watch and listen – Any change in behavior can be a sign that your child is having trouble coping or coming to terms with an event or situation.
  • Reassure – Let your child know how your family, the school, the community is taking steps to ensure his safety.
  • Connect with others – Make an effort to talk with other parents, teachers, school counselors, health professionals, and anyone else who can help give support in the effort to ensure your child’s well-being.

Recognizing the symptoms and being able to help your child cope with the stress in his life can turn a negative situation into a positive developmental experience. Read more about stress and how to help your child cope with it on one of these sites:


Turkey dinner, turkey leftovers: now what?

turkey-532962_1280My family loves turkey leftovers as much as they love the freshly baked turkey. I look forward to preparing different dishes with the leftovers. My husband’s job is to pull the meat off the bone, put it in plastic bags, and refrigerate it.

Once this is done, we sit down and ask our family what dishes they would like us to prepare with the turkey. One of the favorites that is always asked for is a turkey and noodle casserole. I even add the leftover vegetables for more flavor, as I don’t want them to go to waste either.

Another favorite is making turkey soup. Again you can add noodles and/or vegetables, and gravy. My favorite is turkey salad, made just like you would make chicken salad. We make sandwiches using the leftover cranberries and rolls.  Just be mindful of food safety, when handling, deboning, storing and reheating your leftover turkey.

For more information, check here:


Microwave Safety

Remember, plastic storage containers like yogurt tubs and take out containers that do not say “microwave safe” should not be used in microwave ovens. They can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.

If a container from a take out restaurant says microwave safe, then it will be fine to use in the microwave (which makes it a fantastic container to save and continue to reuse!). Containers like yogurt or margarine tubs that aren’t microwave safe are also great to reuse, but just be sure to pour the contents into a microwave-save plate or bowl before microwaving.