Summer is here and beach season is upon us! Cookouts and picnics are longtime summer traditions, generally a time for family and friends to socialize and have fun while enjoying food and sunshine. Since these gatherings most often occur outside, food safety is very important. Hot summer temperatures can easily cause food bacteria to multiply quickly and can quickly ruin summer afternoon plans. Remembering to prepare and store food safely this summer can keep your picnics safe and fun. Below are the four important food safety steps to follow this summer:
Clean: Bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including utensils, your hands and cutting boards. Make sure to always wash your hands for 20 seconds using warm and soapy water. Always use clean utensils to prevent the possibility of cross contamination and the spread of bacteria. Also, when you are preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, make sure to wash them even if you plan to peel them. It is important to wash them first because bacteria can spread from the outside of the produce to the inside once you peel or cut them open.
Separate: Always keep raw poultry, eggs and meat separate from your fresh read-to-eat foods. This prevents the possibility for cross-contamination at any potential time of contact. When storing these items in the fridge they should always be stored in containers or plastic bags and placed on the bottom shelf to prevent the possibility of their juices dripping onto fresh produce items.
Cook: Cooking food to the proper temperature is very important. Bacteria grows the quickest in the “Danger Zone” between 40˚ and 140˚ Fahrenheit. Always make sure to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. You can learn more about BBQ food safety here: Barbecue and Food Safety. Also, it is important to know what temperatures are considered safe when cooking, please refer to this list: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures.
Chill: Once your picnic is over it is important to cool foods properly to prevent food borne illness. It is important to refrigerate perishable foods within two hours; however, in the summer months, it is best to get food into the fridge within an hour. Also, never thaw or marinate foods on the counter. Since bacteria can multiply quickly at room temperature, this common practice is very risky. Instead of thawing foods on the counter you have a few food safe options:
1. Thaw in the Fridge: This is the safest way to thaw meat. Place the item on a plate or in a pan, and place it in the fridge to thaw.
2. Thaw in Cold Water: If you need to thaw something a bit quicker, place the frozen item in an airtight plastic bag and submerge it under COLD water. Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes so the water stays cold.
3. Thaw in the Microwave: Each microwave has individualized instructions for thawing so check your owner’s manual. If thawing by cold water or microwave make sure to cook the item immediately after thawing.
4. Cook without Thawing: If you don’t have enough time to thaw, you can cook your food from a frozen state but make sure to check the final temperature before eating since it does take longer to cook fully.
By following the four food safety steps listed above, you can ensure that you have a safe picnic and cookout this summer. Feel free to find additional information related to food safety as well as the ability to have a few food safety myths debunked by clicking here.
We all need protein, but how much is enough? Most people (ages 9 and older) should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein-rich foods each day. What does 5 to 7 ounces look like? Well to keep things simple here are some common portion size equivalents:
- 3 ounces of meat, fish or poultry is equivalent in size to a deck of cards or iPod
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or hummus is equal to 1 ping-pong ball (2 ounces)
- ½ cup cooked beans is equal to the size of 1 baseball (1 ounce)
- ¼ cup of nuts is equal to the size of 1 golf ball (1 ounce)
Protein comes in many forms whether it is from meat, poultry, and beans or dairy, so why is protein an important component of a healthy diet? Proteins are made up of amino acids and play many critical roles in the body. Protein is the building blocks of all of the body’s cells. They are important for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. So without enough protein in our daily diets, it could lead to detrimental effects on the entire body. Some examples of not obtaining enough protein include:
- Being tired or experiencing less energy
- When injured it can take much longer to recover
- You may get sick more often
We all need protein, and it is also recommended to vary our protein sources, which would include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds). Frozen proteins are also beneficial as well because they last longer and can generally be used for multiple meals (i.e. a whole frozen chicken can be eaten for a meal, leftovers stored and the bones can be used to create a soup stock). Looking for additional protein tips and ideas on how to switch up your protein routine? Check out 10 Tips for Choosing Protein.
Wednesday, April 22, marks the 45th annual Earth Day! With summer poking its head out and the weather warming up, it’s time to get back outside and move! According to a study published in Medicine Science Sports Exercise, being physically inactive is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke and is linked to cardiovascular mortality. Being active helps control weight, diabetes, and blood lipid abnormalities. It also strengthens bones and muscles which in turn prevents injuries. Physical activity is also known to improve your mood and mental health.
Being physically active is different for each person. Some people love to run; others may enjoy biking, kayaking, skating, walking, playing basketball, hiking, and so on. If you have kids don’t just watch them play, play with them! I encourage you to get moving! For those that already are active and for those that aren’t, challenge yourself daily to improve your overall health. Feel better, look better, and be healthier by incorporating moderate to vigorous activity daily. Live longer, move easier, and be happier! Looking for a few ideas to give back to Mother Earth, below you will find a few Earth friendly activity ideas.
- Start your own compost
- Plant a tree, new flower or vegetable plant
- Start Meatless Monday in your household
- Shop your local farmers market
In honor of Earth Day, check out the Earth Day Network where you can learn more about the history of the Earth Day environmental movement.
April is National Gardening Month! As the warmer temperatures are upon us, it marks the perfect time to start your very own garden. So what are the benefits of having your own garden?
Nutritious and Tasty Food: Research has shown that home grown foods are usually more nutrient dense and sometimes freshly gardened produce can be tastier than store-bought produce.
Exercise: Gardening is a great rouce of exercise for the body and the mind. It serves as a great stress reliever, and it is a great way to get outside and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. It also serves as a chance to use your creative side and design how you’d like your garden to look.
Save Money: Growing your own food can make stretching your food budget much easier when you can find your essential fruits and vegetables right in your own backyard!
Teaching Tool: Help educate the little ones in your life by teaching them how fruits and vegetables are grown and and what they look like before they arrive at the local supermarket. A garden serves as a great teaching tool for children to learn where their food comes from.
Balanced Diet: When you have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, it makes it that much easier to consume more fruits and vegetables each and every day. You gain more appreciation for the growing process when it occurs in your own backyard.
Never grown your own food before? No problem! Planning My Garden is a great interactive tool that has growing guides on 15 different vegetables. Each growing guide includes where to plant, spacing and depth, special care instructions and most importantly, when to harvest!
If you are interested in trying out your green thumb skills but don’t have the space, you can look into container gardening. Here is a great easy 4-step guide to get your small garden started. Celebrate National Gardening Month this month by starting your own small garden this spring! Happy digging!
While having a picky child may be stressful, it is (in most cases) a normal part of development. Disliking a new fruit or vegetable the first time they try it is a very normal reaction. As long as their refusal doesn’t involve all foods, it’s generally not a problem.
In this case, persistence counts. In order to feel comfortable eating something, the child often has to become familiar with it. So make sure the food is visible by having it on the table and available to them. If many attempts have been made to introduce a food to the child and they continually reject it, consider taking it off the table and reintroducing it in about a month’s time.
Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters. Getting your child to try new foods can often feel like a chore, but you can make this challenge easier by using the following strategies:
1. Don’t become a short order cook. If your child is refusing to eat certain foods, you may be tempted to provide a separate meal. However, giving your child too many options for meals might only complicate things. If they know you’ll make them something else they already like, they won’t take the opportunity to try new foods.
2. Make mealtime a sit-down event. When kids are constantly eating on the go, they get used to fast-food items and other foods that can be easily taken on the road. These typically do not include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Plus, getting kids used to eating meals at the table gives them the opportunity to try new foods.
3. Plan your snacks. Allowing kids to graze all day long might cause them to not be hungry when it comes time for dinner and not be willing to try new foods. Separate snacks from meals and make snack time a planned, sit-down event. And there should be at least an hour or two between a snack and a meal to allow time for the child to become hungry again.
4. Don’t make a big issue of it. Besides raising your own stress level, making a big fuss over a picky eater can be pointless. If a child realizes that refusing food gets them a lot of attention, they might keep doing it, especially at a younger age.
5. Make it fun. Consider making it ‘Yellow Day,’ when you and the kids have to wear something yellow and also pick out a yellow fruit or vegetable to eat. Involving the kids in choosing the foods, and maybe even helping to cook them, can also spark their interest and is another way to build familiarity with a new food.
6. Hide the ingredients. You can easily get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables by hiding them in foods they already enjoy. While it’s a great way to get kids to fulfill their daily servings, it’s important to recognize that this should not be your only approach to encouraging healthy eating. Kids need to acquire a taste for fruits and vegetables alone, so that they don’t grow up avoiding them.
With springtime and planting season right around the corner, it is time to start thinking about how we can create a healthy growing environment. Composting does just that! It provides much more nutrient-rich growing soil (ensuring bigger and better plants) while providing a sustainable recycling option for consumers and reducing overall waste.
There are quite a few things that we throw away that could be composted and used to benefit the environment. Just about anything that is not man-made can be composted such as egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit rinds/peels, unused pieces of fruit/vegetables, tea bags, lawn trimmings, nut shells, pits of fruits, stale cereal or grain items, most paper products and much more! These items decompose and break down into a nutrient-rich soil, which is used to help plants grow. Wondering where to start? Follow the steps below and you will have plenty of nutrient-rich soil in no time!
Here’s what you need!
- Carbon-rich “brown” materials such as leaves, straw, dead flowers from your garden and shredded newspaper.
- Nitrogen-rich “green” materials such as grass clippings, plant-based kitchen waste (vegetable peelings and fruit rinds, but no meat scraps), or barnyard animal manure (even though its color is usually brown, manure is full of nitrogen like the other “green” stuff). However, do not use manure from carnivores, such as cats or dogs.
- A shovelful or two of garden soil.
- A site that’s at least 3 feet long by 3 feet wide. Ideally, choose a spot that gets sunlight and shade at different times of the day near a reliable water source.
Here’s what to do!
1. Start by spreading a layer that is several inches thick of dry brown stuff like straw, cornstalks or leaves, where you want to build the pile.
2. Top that with several inches of green stuff.
3. Add a thin layer of soil.
4. Add a layer of brown stuff.
5. Moisten the three layers with water.
Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little soil mixed in until the pile is 3 feet high. Try to add stuff in a ration of three parts brown to one part green. (If it takes a while before you have enough material to build the pile that high, don’t worry. Just keep adding to the pile until it gets to at least3 feet high.) As time goes on, continue adding scraps from the yard/kitchen working to the top of the pile and mist it with water.
You don’t need a compost bin to make compost. You simply need a pile that is at least 3 x 3 x 3 feet. A pile this size will have enough mass to decompose without a bin. Many gardeners buy or build compost bins, because they want to keep the pile neat. Some bins are even designed to make turning the compost easier or protect it from soaking rains. If you choose to not use a bin and have your pile outdoors, consider using a tarp to loosely cover the pile, especially if you live in a very rainy area. This also helps seal in moisture, speeding up the decomposition process.
Starting your own compost pile can be a great activity to get the entire family involved in the growing process. Starting a compost pile is the perfect first step to take in order to create your own backyard garden. Happy growing!
Steps to creating your own compost pile adapted from: Organic Gardening
Other Gardening Resources:
National Nutrition Month has a long history beginning in 1980 when Congress decided to expand National Nutrition Week to encompass the entire month of March. The purpose of the month is to spread nutrition information and education to the community by promoting sound eating practices and physical activity habits.
National Nutrition Month is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), who works to bring awareness to this health and nutrition-focused campaign. AND is a great resource for healthy eating tips, ways to eat right on a budget and fun worksheets and games for kids to catch the healthy eating bug. You can learn more about National Nutrition Month as a whole by visiting www.nationalnutritionmonth.org. How can you celebrate National Nutrition Month? Check your local hospitals, food banks, community organizations and schools for special programs and educational classes taught by registered dietitians (RDs).
Can’t find any classes in your area? Try these simple ideas to jump start your healthy lifestyle:
- Explore new foods by cooking one new healthy dish for your family every week of March. Visit eatfresh.org for nutritious recipes.
- Visit a farmer’s market and select a fruit or vegetable that is new to you. Find your local farmers market by visiting the San Diego Farm Bureau’s website.
- Learn how to read a food label by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website, and practice your new skills on your next grocery shopping trip.
- Be active! Commit to taking a walk in your neighborhood after dinner each night.
- Reduce your chances of getting sick by practicing proper food safety guidelines. Learn about them here.
Need a little boost to start your new healthy habits? Consult with a local registered dietitian to learn easy-to-follow nutrition advice and reduce your risk of chronic disease. If you know a dietitian, make sure to give them a shout-out on March 11th, because it is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day! You can also learn more about dietitians at www.eatright.org/RD.
All parents understand that it is important to provide healthy snacks to children, but did you know most kids get over a quarter of their daily calories from snacking? A 2010 study reported that sixty percent of children skip a meal, typically breakfast. Often the caloric deficiency is made up through snacking. These recent studies and surveys have made it more clear how much of an impact snacking choices have on a child’s development. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to get kids to make smart snacking choices when typically the decision process does not include the parents.
Below are a few tips that will help encourage kids to make smarter decisions when they visit the fridge and/or pantry.
Give kids what they love. Try to incorporate their favorite foods into their snack, even if this means cookies. A single crushed up cookie will go a long way in a healthy trail mix of nuts and dried fruit.
You can wrap everything. Try a savory hummus and shredded carrot wrap or if they are craving something sweet, get out their favorite nut butter and fruit. Your wrapping options are only confined to your creativity!
Make your own dips. Most store-bought dips can be unhealthy. Making your own can be easier than it sounds, and it gives you and your family the ability to customize to your specific tastes. Make an easy tasty dip for veggies using taco seasoning and low-fat plain yogurt.
Use simple recipes. Using simple recipes allows for (older) kids to be more involved in the food preparation process. Try new recipes with them or try to create a healthy spin on a family favorite. They will be proud of their recipes and be excited to share with friends.
Looking for a few fun new snack ideas? Check out a few of these resources for ideas:
Granola is known as a breakfast favorite around the world. Some people view granola as a power-packed health food, while others think it is chalked full of unnecessary calories. Store-bought granola can be expensive, but the great news is you can make your own and it is usually less expensive!
Granola is a fun and super simple healthy option that can be prepared right at home! By making granola at home, the potential for mystery ingredients is removed, which makes it easier to forgo the possibly not-so healthy ingredient options. A basic granola recipe generally includes oats, sweetener, oil and some add-in options. Those options may include nuts, dried fruit, seeds or dried coconut shavings. Some recipes may even call for an extra protein punch from peanut butter or other nut butter such as almond butter. Since granola is packed with nutritionally dense ingredients, it is important to be conscious of portion sizes! The average serving size for granola is about 1/4 cup (about the size of one large egg) and ranges from 100-150 calories per serving depending on the ingredients chosen.
Granola recipe ideas are endless! Follow the steps below, and get creative in the kitchen with a recipe that suits your style and taste buds.
1. Grains: 3 cups
Most recipes include rolled oats but feel free to add in a couple tablespoons of quinoa for extra protein.
2. Nuts: 1-1 ½ cups
Choose a favorite nut or go for a mix some favorites include almonds, pistachios, walnuts or pecans.
3. Sweetener: 1/2 – 3/4 cup
A liquid sweetener helps bind the granola together by coating the mixture evenly. Try using maple syrup, honey, agave or brown rice syrup.
4. Oil: 1/4 – 1/2 cup
This is the crunch factor. The sweetener is in charge of binding whereas the oil keeps the granola from becoming one big sticky glob. Oils including olive oil, coconut oil, canola or grapeseed oil will do the trick.
5. Salt: Just a pinch
Salt always goes a long way so make sure to not over do it here!
Potential Add-In Ingredients
6. Seeds: 1-2 cups
These may include pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds
7. Dried coconut shavings or dried fruit: 1 cup
8. Spices: 1 teaspoon
Try adding sweet and savory spices to the recipe such as cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger.
Directions (How to mix and bake properly)
1. Turn oven on to 300˚F.
2. Place all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Do not add dried fruit or roasted nuts at this stage, if they are a part of the designed recipe.
3. Add oil and sweetener to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir all ingredients together.
4. Spray baking pan with non-stick spray and spread out granola mixture onto baking sheet.
5. Bake at 300 ˚F for 30-45 minutes; make sure to stir granola half way through after about 20 minutes in the oven.
6. Let granola cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Granola is a great addition to many staple snack and meal ideas. Check out a few of the links below for recipes and ideas on how to use it! Happy baking!
Vitamin D is a powerhouse of a vitamin, because it plays an important role in bone strength, our immunity, and cell growth. Adequate levels of vitamin D have also been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. On the other side, not getting enough vitamin D can cause a loss of bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis. Getting enough vitamin D through all stages of life is important so that our bones and cells can grow and stay strong.
If vitamin D is so important, where do we get it? The sun! Vitamin D is known as the “Sunshine Vitamin” because our skin absorbs sunlight and turns it into vitamin D. In these cloudy winter months it can be difficult to get the recommended amount, not to mention that too much exposure to sunlight is damaging to our skin. Luckily, there are quite a few food sources that are packed with vitamin D to help increase intake. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but it is added to many products. Try fish (such as salmon and tuna), mushrooms, eggs, vitamin D fortified milk, orange juice or yogurt, to get your recommended dose of vitamin D.
Click here to read more information on recommended intake and good sources of vitamin D.
Make sure to get outside, and catch some rays, too! Enjoying the outdoors doesn’t require a lot of money. Check out this list of 25 FREE things to do in San Diego for a few ideas!