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Welcome to the LSU AgCenter’s Food, Family & Fitness Blog. Experts from the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Region invite you to read and discuss all things relating to food, family, and fitness. This blog has been designed as a forum for individuals to exchange information, answer questions, and share ideas and other useful resources.

Make Your Plate Look Like a Pro
Posted: 8/28/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

If you were a professional chef you would work hard to create a meal that not only looked great, but also tasted great. There are certain health benefits for plating your meal instead of having families serve buffet style. When plating your meal, portion control and balance of a variety of foods come into play.

Because we put a lot of detail into preparing our food, there are easier ways to create a healthier plate. We can create a healthier plate with texture and colors.

Planning and plating using MyPlate:

Make sure your plate includes the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, proteins, whole grains and dairy.

Vegetable/Fruits: A colorful option of vegetables and fruits should be in mind when creating your plate. Make sure to steam or lightly sauté the vegetables so that they can keep their color, appearance and texture.

Proteins: The meat or fish should be the size of your palm (3 oz.). Suggestions would be to place meat on skewers or cut into cubes for visual purposes. Garnish with fruit salsa, lemon slices or even cheese crumbles. This makes a beautiful presentation.

Grains: The final portion of your plate should include brown rice or a whole wheat tortilla. The presentation should include fresh chopped herbs, basil, parsley or cilantro. Beautiful dish.

Dairy: This group can be used in many different ways such as sauces, crumbles, sprinkles and even pureed to create a different texture on the plate.

Remember, spending hours to create a beautiful plate is not necessary, but presenting a plate of various colors, textures and even some creativity makes the food more enjoyable. You really don’t have to be a professional chef to make your guest feel special.


Stay Hydrated With These Refreshing Summer Foods
Posted: 8/18/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

When the temperature rises our bodies crave refreshment. We guzzle down water, iced tea and sports drinks to avoid dehydration, which drains energy and prevents the body from being able to maintain its usual functions.

Experts recommend drinking at least two liters of water per day, depending on a variety of factors, such exercise. And while most of the water we consume comes in a glass, people receive about 20% of their water intake through food.

Here are five of the most hydrating foods you should keep in your fridge this summer - plus three things you should consume in moderation:

1. Cucumbers

At over 95% water, veggies don’t get any more hydrating than this. In addition to replenishing water and eliminating toxins from the body, cucumbers have been shown to help control blood pressure, assist with weight loss and reduce cholesterol, among other health benefits.

2. Watermelon

This pretty pink fruit is packed with about 90% water, living up to its name. Your body will still appreciate the summertime snack long after the seed-spitting contest is over, as watermelon has been associated with everything from improved heart health to reduced muscle soreness in athletes.

3. Peppers

Whether you like 'em red, orange, yellow or green, peppers are a healthy, hydrating, low-calorie snack. Depending on the color, they clock in around 92% water and offer an array of vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamins A and C.

4. Berries

Fresh berries are another great option during summertime. They range from about 85% to 91% water depending on the type - strawberries have the highest water content - and can be eaten in about a zillion different ways. Berries have been shown to help regulate weight, boost mental sharpness and lower blood pressure. 

5. Tomatoes

These fast-growing summer fruits are almost 95% water and can be used on everything from salads to bruschetta. Tomatoes are also loaded with lycopene, which has been linked to reduced risk of several cancers.

Consume in moderation:

1. Alcohol

Alcohol drains your body of water - hence all those trips to the bathroom. Your body loses out even more when you’re outside drinking and sweating on a hot summer day.

2. Sodium

Too much salt has become common in American diets, thanks to the prominence of processed and packaged foods. Use the salt shaker lightly at home and sub in herbs and spices when you can.

3. Protein

High-protein diets cause more frequent urination, so counteract this by increasing your water consumption simultaneously.


Stay hydrated with these refreshing summer foods by Katie Walsh, July 1, 2014
Reposted with permission from

A Cool Summer Treat
Posted: 8/14/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Have you experienced the taste of your favorite frozen fruit melting in your mouth on a steamy summer day? It is refreshing, satisfying and highly nutritious. Fruits are nature’s very own candy: sweet, colorful, sweet-smelling and packaged for convenient transport. Most importantly, they are excellent sources of many nutrients that keep us healthy, notably: vitamin A to fight infections and promote vision, vitamin C to help heal cuts and wounds, potassium for healthy blood pressure, fiber for healthy digestion - and the list goes on.

For more information on health benefits of fruits and vegetables check out this article. They can be eaten fresh, frozen, canned or dried, but on a hot summer day frozen fruit can help you stay hydrated and meet nutrient needs without excess calories. They are healthy substitutes for sugary beverages. Frozen fruits can be eaten as they are, mixed with juice to make popsicles or incorporated into smoothies.

Enjoy the rest of summer with cool fruit treats. Try the recipes below or modify them to suit your taste.

Creamy Strawberry Pops


  • 1/4 cup low fat yogurt
  • 10-12 ripe strawberries, rinsed and hulled

Directions: Blend until smooth. Pour into popsicle container and freeze.

Adapted from Michigan State University Extension

Watermelon Freezies

Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1 4-oz popsicle

Total Time: 10 min | Prep: 5 min | Cook: 5 min


  • 1 cup seedless watermelon chunks
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 small 6-ounce paper cups
  • 6 popsicle sticks or plastic spoons


Mix watermelon, orange juice, and water together in a blender until smooth. Pour into paper cups and place in the freezer. Insert sticks or small plastic spoons into the cups when pops are partially frozen. These will be your handles. Continue freezing until the popsicles are hard. When it is time to serve, dip each cup into warm water and pull the popsicle from its wrapper.

Chef’s Tips:

Warm water makes it easier to remove the cups from the frozen mixture, leaving you with a delicious summer treat on a stick!

Each 4-oz popsicle contains 37 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 0 g protein.


Watermelon Freezies recipe from Refreshing Summer Treats, Copyright, reprinted with permission,
Focus on Fruits, Clemson Cooperative Extension
Chillin’ with frozen treats, Michigan State University Extension
Watermelon Whole Fruit Popsicles,
Nutritional Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

What About Watermelon?
Posted: 8/14/2014 by Walker, Karen

When we think of hot weather, watermelon is a natural pick of summer fruit. It is refreshing because it is 92% water. But as the National Watermelon Promotion Board reports, this melon is not just water and sugar. Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. A 2-cup serving provides 25% of your needed daily vitamin C and 30% of the needed vitamin A. It's also a good source of vitamin B6 and contains 1 gram of fiber and 20 grams of natural sugar. Red watermelon is also a good source of lycopene. There may be up to 20 mg of lycopene in a two-cup serving of watermelon. Studies have shown that people with diets high in lycopene have a reduced risk of prostate, breast, and oral cancer. The redder the melon is, the more lycopene it contains. Although watermelon is a good source of potassium, it is low in sodium, with zero fat and zero cholesterol.

Watermelon is a member of the botanical family Curcurbitaceae. Its cousins include cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins and squash. Watermelon is believed to have originated in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.

Like most fruits, it is necessary to refrigerate watermelon after cutting. If you are curious about watermelon nutrition, selection and storage, Fruits & Veggies - More Matters can answer your questions. Click HERE for more information.

It’s no wonder this age-old fruit is a summertime favorite. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. Watermelon is so famous it has its own day and month.  Watermelon Day is August 3. Click HERE for information on Watermelon Day. And, the month of July is National Watermelon Month according to The National Watermelon Association. Click HERE for information about this declaration.

With only two weeks left in August, it is not too late to purchase and enjoy a sweet, juicy watermelon. They are available in most local grocery stores. Treat yourself to one of nature’s spectacular summertime fruits. A wedge of this luscious fruit is just a start. There are many unique ways to incorporate watermelon into a healthy diet. What about these ideas: watermelon popsicles, grilled watermelon or even watermelon salsa. For a complete list of recipes, compliments of the National Watermelon Promotion Board, click HERE.


Fruits & Veggies - More Matters
National Watermelon Promotion Board
National Watermelon Association
Edwards AJ, Vinyard BT, Wiley ER et al. Consumption of watermelon juice increases plasma concentrations of lycopene and beta-carotene in humans. J Nutr 2003 Apr;133(4):1043-50. 2003.

Back to School May Also Mean Back to Bag Lunches
Posted: 8/5/2014 by Langley, Layne

lunch picture

Whether it's off to school or work we go, millions of Americans carry "bag" lunches. It’s time to do your homework so that food brought from home can be kept safe. Whether traveling by bus, bicycle, on foot, or in a car - perishable food must be kept cold. After arriving at school or work, perishable food must be kept cold until lunchtime.

Why keep food cold?

Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the "danger zone" — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F. Perishable food transported without an ice source won't stay safe long. Foodborne illness occurs as the result of eating food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins. Foodborne illness causes symptoms such as upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea and headache. Most cases of foodborne illness last only a couple of days but can be serious for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and the immune-compromised. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States an estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness occur. An estimated 128,000 of these cases lead to hospitalization, and, for 3,000 people, the illness leads to death.

Here are safe handling recommendations to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause foodborne illness from "bag" lunches.

Begin with Safe Food

Food should not be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F). The appearance and smell of food is not always changed by the presence of bacteria. Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats along with crackers, cheese, and condiments must also be kept refrigerated. This includes luncheon meats and smoked ham which are cured or contain preservatives.

"Lunches you pack for children or adults to take along with them can be both healthful and delicious," says retired LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. Lunch should include about one-third of the day’s protein, calories, vitamins and minerals. A nutritious lunch includes two or more servings of fruits and vegetables, one or two servings of grains, some protein and a beverage – preferably milk or a milk product for children.

Keep Everything Clean

Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.

Don't Cross-Contaminate

Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Always use a clean cutting board. Be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry. After lunch, throw away all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness. Make sure to clean the lunch boxes and food containers with hot soapy water after each use.

Packing Lunches

Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunch. That way, there won't be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers. Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food. An ice source should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Cold foods need to be kept below 40 degrees to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. If the temperature is allowed to rise to 40 degrees or above, enough bacteria can grow within the first 2 hours to cause sickness. To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack, frozen water bottle, or frozen juice box. Ice packs in various sizes and shapes are available. You can also make your own ice packs by filling an airtight bag with water within 1 inch of the seal and freeze. Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don't require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

Think Outside the Lunchbox

■ Include foods from the five food groups - fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy.

■ Keep calories in mind. Fats and sugars can quickly add more calories than you need. Lunchtime beverages and desserts are two possible sources of extra sugars and fats.

■ Pack foods with dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads.

■ Choose low-sodium foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and poultry.

■ Offer foods of different shapes and textures.

■ Include one of your child’s favorite foods even if it contains a little more sugar, sodium, or fat than you think he needs. Balance foods that contain more sugar, fat, and/or sodium with foods that contain less of these components at other meals.

■ Keep sandwiches simple.


United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service
LSU AgCenter

It’s a SNAP
Posted: 8/5/2014 by Walker, Karen

SNAP artwork image
Snap, Crackle and Pop launched a puffed rice cereal, making it a household name back in the 1940s. When milk was poured over the breakfast cereal, one could hear the sound erupt. Around that same time, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace and the program's first administrator Milo Perkins proposed a program for food assistance in the United States by issuing food stamps. Today, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the food stamp program) is referred to as SNAP. There are nutrition agents with the LSU AgCenter Extension Service in two urban parishes: Jefferson and Orleans that have a commitment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), providing nutrition education to SNAP eligible audiences. The nutrition education goal is to provide educational programs that increase, within a limited budget, the likelihood of all SNAP recipients making healthy food choices consistent with the most recent dietary advice reflected in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and USDA MyPlate. To learn more about SNAP and how to apply for benefits, click here.

To obtain more information on the dietary guidelines, visit this website. To expand your knowledge of MyPlate, check out Snap, Crackle and Pop have changed over the years, and so have the supplement food programs offered in the United States. SNAP nutrition education in Jefferson and Orleans Parish is committed to serving the residents of these parishes with research-based nutrition information to improve knowledge to enable residents to make healthy food choices in the future. To learn more about the programs the LSU AgCenter offers, click here.


LSU AgCenter
USDA Food and Nutrition Services
USDA Choose MyPlate
USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Celebrating Our Parents
Posted: 7/30/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.

fathers and sons image

Last month in June we celebrated a holiday entitled “Father’s Day," and before that, in the month of May, we celebrated “Mother’s Day." Should we continue these traditions? Are they over-commercialized for profit and greed? One might think by now we should honor and celebrate our parents daily and give them the respect and reverence they’re worthy of, like in so many other countries. Are all parents worthy of this tradition? And if you were a child adopted or raised in foster care, why not have “Adoptive Parent’s Day" or "Foster Parent’s Day"? Like most things in this changing and complicated world, we need to explore and engage in more dialog and conversation on these issues.

Father’s Day Facts

  • Washington state’s governor is credited, through Sonora Dodd, for founding Father’s Day in 1910.
  • President Nixon signed a proclamation in 1972 making Father's Day a federal holiday.
  • Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June.
  • The rose is the official flower - red roses for living fathers and white for deceased fathers.
  • Economists estimate one billion dollars is spent on Father’s Day each year.

I want to focus on fathers. This topic is being discussed much more in various systems in society, here in America and other areas of the world. There are many questions that still plague children and especially the spouse or companion who had children and for no logical reason, the father abandoned the family. Obviously, this is not the case with a large number of responsible, caring and loving fathers, however, some have not been fathers to their children and many say this may be the reason or cause of problems for numerous youth and primary school age children. This is an international and global concern as well. The faces of fathers are not just one type, or economic status, race or religion - fatherlessness is shattering the lives of children worldwide.

Statistics indicate that in America there are more homeless single fathers than ever before. Single fathers are going to shelters more - with one, two or more children than in recent years. These fathers are teens and young adults and even middle aged men, forty and up, with some having college degrees. There are a number of elements that have contributed to fathers becoming homeless. Economic downturns and the 2008 mortgage crisis which resulted in lost jobs and a great deal of foreclosures are factors. Lack of education, mental illness and substance abuse are all contributing factors as well. Fathers should be able to nurture, care and provide a safe, structured and healthy environment for their children in order for them to thrive and develop.

Father Facts

  • There are approximately 70.1 million fathers in the United States of America.
  • There are 1.1 million incarcerated fathers who are parents of children (ages 0-17) in the USA.
  • In 2013, 24.7 million fathers were married with children (ages 0-18) in the USA.
  • In 2013, there were 2.0 million single fathers in America.

US Census
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Fathers Incorporated

What's In Season for the Summer
Posted: 7/24/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Some of the freshest dark green and orange fruits and vegetables this summer include:

Apricots – make sure to choose plump and firm apricots with a golden orange skin. This fruit ripens at room temperature and can be stored in the refrigerator.

Carrots – when choosing this vegetable, look for firm, smooth orange skin that is bright. Choose smaller carrots for a much sweeter taste. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Collard Greens – texture should be firm and crisp and have deep, dark leaves. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in a plastic container.

Lima Beans – buy fresh from your farmers market. Choose the lima bean that is dark green and in a shiny pod. Lima beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week in a Ziploc bag in the crisper drawer.

Mangoes – choose red, yellow and orange colors that are firm and when pressed, give in a little. Can be stored at room temperature for at least 5 days and can ripen in a paper bag.

Okra – when choosing, make sure the okra is deep green and firm. Can be stored in the refrigerator for at least 1 week.

Here’s a great summer recipe to try:

Baked Apple and Carrot Casserole

  • 6 apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cooked carrot slices
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • ¾ cup orange juice


Place half the apples in greased 2-quart baking dish and cover with half the carrots. Mix brown sugar, flour, and salt to taste, and sprinkle half the mixture over carrots. Repeat layers and pour orange juice over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Nutritional Facts per serving:

Calories 148.7
Fat 0.6 g
Saturated Fat 0.1 g
Sodium 82.3 mg
Carbohydrates 37.1 g
Total Sugars 26.7 g
Dietary Fiber 3.4 g
Protein 1.2 g


Pair These Superfoods for Some Major Health Benefits
Posted: 7/21/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Good health and nutrition are just as much about being strategic with the foods that you consume as much as it is about choosing the right ones.

By combining certain superfoods – those foods with numerous nutritional benefits – your body profits even more than healthy eating alone. Those healthy benefits range from an extra boost to the immune system or lowering your risk of cancer to giving you better skin.

For more energy

Combine iron and Vitamin C: Iron helps oxygen circulate throughout your body, while Vitamin C, which is known as a fighter of diseases, makes it easier for your cells to absorb iron, according to Woman’s Day. A recommended suggestion is paring a glass of orange juice with fortified cereal or an omelet with salsa for breakfast, a spinach salad with orange or strawberry slices for lunch and pasta with fresh tomatoes for dinner.

For better heart protection

Combine fish and garlic: Oily fish, such as salmon or sardines, contain good fats that lower your risk of heart disease. Partner a filet with some garlic, which lowers total cholesterol and prevents an increase in bad cholesterol.

For boosting one’s mood

Combine magnesium and B6: Magnesium is a mineral that is linked to lowered anxiety and happiness, while B6 helps the body better absorb magnesium, says Rodale News. We suggest combining beet greens and chickpeas, which contain magnesium and B6, respectively, to turn your frown upside down.

For fewer tummy problems

Combine prebiotics and probiotics: Consuming good bacteria in a probiotic, such as yogurt, helps boost the immune defenses in your digestive system, according to Family Circle. Likewise, peribiotics, found in the inulin in bananas, pair well with probiotics to knock out stomachaches.

For better vision

Combine lutein and Vitamin A with good fats: Lutein and Vitamin A are linked to better vision, while good fats help the body better absorb those nutrients. We suggest pairing avocado and spinach to sharpen those eyes.

For lower risk of cancer

Pair your grilled steak with a cruciferous vegetable: For years, grilled steak has been linked to carcinogens. Including broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts with your Delmonico flush those carcinogens out of the body.

Pair these superfoods for some major health benefits by Laura Van Wert, June 19, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Start Walking Now
Posted: 7/9/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Walking with others has the added advantage of social support.

The heat and humidity of summer is here but should not prevent us from achieving our health goals. Being physically active daily is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Physically active people have a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, some cancers, and live longer.

The Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in 2008 recommends at least 30 minutes a day (2 ½ hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity - like brisk walking - a week) for adults (18-64 years) and at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day for youth (6-17 years). These recommendations can be met all at once or done in bouts of 10 or more minutes a day.

Brisk walking is one way to get active; it has numerous health benefits. Brisk walking is walking at an energetic pace that increases your heart rate and still allows conversation but you cannot sing. It does not require any special equipment or facilities and most people can walk. A pair of comfortable shoes is all you need to begin. In 2012 the CDC reported walking as the most popular kind of physical activity: 6 in 10 people in a study walked for ten minutes or more in the previous week. The percentage of walking people increased from 56% in 2005 to 62% in 2010. In addition to the above mentioned benefits of being active, brisk walking:

  • Builds muscles and stronger bones
  • Helps achieve a healthy weight
  • Helps achieve a healthy blood pressure
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces stress and improves mood and confidence
  • Promotes outdoor enjoyment
  • Can be done on your own schedule and at your own pace
  • Helps you spend quality time with friends and family
  • Is free

So start brisk walking if you haven’t begun already. You can listen to music from your phone if you are walking by yourself. Walking with others has the added advantage of social support, especially when sharing challenges and solutions and catching up with family, friends or coworkers. Walk your dog too.

Set a target to walk 10,000 steps a day because studies show it helps reduce the risk of chronic disease and improves overall health in adults. Wear a pedometer to count steps or distances covered and log your steps. As a beginner you can start with 2000-3000 steps a day and gradually walk your way to 10,000 steps or more a day in upcoming weeks.

Walk a number of blocks in your neighborhood or the walking trail in your neighborhood park daily. Add steps during your lunch break. You can cover thousands of steps without realizing it as you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, but look out for low hanging limbs, uneven turf and cracked sidewalks as they present a safety hazard.

So walk every day, as often and as far as you can. REMEMBER: Doing something every day is better than doing nothing.


Measuring Physical Activity Intensity
More People Walk to Better Health
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
10,000 Step Program

Quench Your Thirst
Posted: 7/7/2014 by Stevens, Karen M.

EBRP Quench Your Thirst-S. Diaz

It is summertime and the temperature is rising. Are you looking to quench your thirst? Maybe you’ve already purchased your favorite beverage. If the beverage is high in calories and lacks nutritional value have you considered trying a new beverage? Try quenching your thirst with a beverage that has zero calories and can be refreshed just by adding a variety of fruit and even a vegetable. The flavor is keen and easily recognized. This beverage makes up 60% of your body weight and is vital to the functioning of your body. Every system in your body needs this beverage to regulate your body temperature, carry nutrients and remove toxins and waste. Yet, it’s the oldest beverage since the beginning of time. Have you guessed what the new beverage is? If not, it is WATER!!

Did you know calories consumed from beverages can quickly add up? Depending on your beverage of choice, 200 calories or more could easily be consumed - but if water is your favorite beverage of choice you have consumed zero calories. Think about the healthful impact - just by changing your beverage choice you’ve reduced calories. Reading the nutrition facts label on beverages is another great way to reduce calories. Remember the nutrition facts label is the key to opening the door of knowledge for individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Meanwhile, not only is water calorie free, but it is easy on the family budget. Getting more water in your diet can be stress-free - just carry a water bottle with you wherever you go or drink water at each meal and between meals. If you are willing to follow these simple stress-free steps, you will consume the 8 cups or more of water your body needs each day.


Posted: 6/26/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

One of the first vegetables to pop out of the ground during the spring is asparagus. This vegetable can be eaten with a fork or fingers. It is yummy.

Asparagus is the second best whole food source of folic acid, a B vitamin that lowers risk of heart and liver disease. It also contains large amounts of Glutathione, riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin A, iron, phosphorus and zinc.

This vegetable comes in three different colors: green, white and purple. The color that is seen the most is green. White is more tender, but less favorable and purple has a fruity taste. When shopping, select brightly colored asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips. Make sure that the stalks are not yellowing or limp. Remember to refrigerate asparagus in a covered container or plastic storage bag for up to three days.

Before cooking asparagus, snap off the bottom part of the stalk and wash well in cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Asparagus can be cooked in several different ways:

  • Steamed and served hot with butter and seasoning or a sauce
  • Blanched and served cold with a vinaigrette or mustard sauce
  • Pureed as a soup
  • Grilled for a smoky flavor
  • Chopped in pieces for stir fries, pasta dishes, omelets/quiches and salads

Recipe: Creamy Asparagus Soup


  • 1 pound of asparagus, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • ½ tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • 1 cup milk or Half-n-Half
  • 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Over medium heat, add oil, celery and onions to a large soup pot. Sauté until soft. Add asparagus, potato, Herbs de Provence and soup stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Puree soup until smooth with a stick blender, food processor or blender. Stir in milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.


Eat Cool to Stay Cool This Summer: Foods to Keep Your Body Temp Down
Posted: 6/16/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

We all have those summer rituals - both productive and sometimes bizarre – to keep cool. Some take three showers per day or incorporate frozen drinks into our happy afternoons, while others invest in bulk talcum powder. Still, we find ourselves lying in bed at night wondering how to cool our bodies down.

Surprise, surprise! Eating certain foods during hot weather will help cool you down while filling you up. Summer eating is a strategy, so let’s explore it.

Light vegetables are easy to digest and therefore make your body work less, so salads are perfect for keeping cool.

Those craving spicy foods needn’t worry – hot peppers and other sweat-inducing goodies are staples in countries that sit along the equator. Spicy foods will make you sweat more, but that perspiration will cool the body down.

Fruits like grapefruit and watermelon will hydrate you to cool you down. Milk and yogurt also provide protein while hydrating the body.

Cold food, too, will help keep body temperature down. Frozen concoctions like shaved ice and ice cream - as well as soups traditionally served cold, like gazpacho – work well and can be homemade and therefore healthier.

Choosing a diet to stay cool in the summertime is more than the foods that you do eat – it’s also about the foods that you don’t eat. Eating smaller portions more frequently, keeping those dishes light and drinking non-caffeinated beverages will cool you down.

Eat cool to stay cool this summer: Foods to keep your body temp down by Laura Van Wert, May 25, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Brain Talk - Part 3
Posted: 6/9/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.

Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain
Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

In the United States, women are expected to live to 73-86 years and men are expected to live to 66-81 years. One might wonder - will their brains function adequately until death? As people grow older, do they all forget things and wait for their bodies to slowly deteriorate? Does their mental functioning begin to decline during middle age and beyond? The belief that the adult brain is not as capable as the young brain has been the general consensus, however research is now proving these ideas are not always true.

Baby boomers, people born between the years 1946 and 1964, are being researched extensively. Cognitive brain function and physical activities are what neuroscientists are studying through magnetic resonance imaging. Through this technology scientists can measure the progress and improved findings on the aging brain.

In a study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers tested how memory and learning could be improved. The research that was performed consisted of blood transfusions from young mice into older mice. The results of the experiment show the older mice becoming more physically active and their learning abilities were improved. In another study performed at Harvard University, researchers have used mice as well as people, exposing subjects to high levels of protein in their blood - and there is some indication that brain function improved. The University of Illinois’s Dr. Neal Cohen, the director of The Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory, is a pioneer and lead researcher on aging, cognition, neuroscience, learning, memory and plasticity. He continues to receive fellowships for funding including backing from the White House’s BRAIN Initiative. Under President Obama, the White House created the "BRAIN Initiative - a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury."

Those born between 1980 and now will reap the benefits of research being conducted on baby boomers.  It’s hoped that the research and studies will encourage mankind to live more healthy and productive lives into the future.

Five Ways to Help the Brain Stay Young

  1. Exercise - keep moving and doing aerobic exercise, stay physical, lift weights, walk if possible.
  2. Good mental health – the brain stores information and draws from it when needed to answer or solve problems, give advice and wisdom.
  3. Eat healthy – to avoid lifetime illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, eat antioxidants - cancer fighting foods such as beans, grains, nuts and spices.
  4. Enjoy life – humor and laughter stimulate parts of the brain that produce dopamine which sends “feel good” messengers to the brain. Attend concerts and plays, or visit museums.
  5. Stimulate the brain – learn something new, such as a foreign language, to play an instrument or learn a new game.


The New Vacation is a "Staycation"
Posted: 6/2/2014 by Mason, Passion

It's summertime and the weather is fine, and many of us have vacationing on our minds. With gas prices soaring to astronomical heights the road trip is becoming harder and harder to budget for, therefore it’s becoming more necessary to explore other options for financially friendly family fun. From this need the idea of the “staycation” was born. A staycation combines the idea of seeing new and exciting (or old, yet exciting) venues all while staying in or near your home. Here are ten staycation ideas for you and your family to try this summer:

Ten Staycation Ideas

1. Find an inexpensive hotel (use internet search engines) and spend the night (enjoy the pool or hot tub)

2. Play a round of mini golf

3. Go to the zoo

4. Visit the farmer’s market and prepare a family meal with the items that you purchase

5. Take a historical tour of your city/tour your city’s capitol building

6. Set up a tent in your backyard and have a slumber party

7. Visit an aquarium

8. Go to a water park

9. Go for a family bike ride

10. Go to a science or space museum

No matter what you choose, a well-planned staycation could be just what your family needs to enjoy these hot sunny summer days, and keep restless summer children happily entertained.

May - The Month For Mothers
Posted: 5/21/2014 by Davis, Eva A.

Mother's Day family image

What comes to mind when we think of May? Mother’s Day! A day set aside to enjoy and appreciate mothers. It is a day for us to honor our mothers, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It should be one of the most important holidays on earth. So, what do we do for our mothers during this special month?

Let's help our mothers to be proactive about their health by encouraging them to stay on top of what’s important: eating healthy, exercising, and getting timely preventive health care screenings. 

1. Eat Healthy

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, make half of our grains whole, choose low-fat milk and milk products, select lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts and select foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt , and added sugars.

2. Exercise

Be active 5 or more hours each week. Do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level or 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level.

3. Routine Health Screenings - Suggested Timeline

General Health

Physical examination - get screened every 2-3 years; discuss with your health care provider.

Bone Health

Bone mineral density test - get screened at least once beginning at age 65; earlier depending on your risk factors for osteoporosis.

Breast Health

Mammogram - get screened every 1-2 years starting at age 40.

Colorectal Health

Colonoscopy - get screened every 10 years starting at age 50.

Heart Health

Blood pressure screening - get screened at least every 2 years in your health care professional’s office.

Cholesterol screening - get screened every 5 years starting at age 35. Begin screening at age 20 if you smoke, are obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure or have a family history of heart disease.

Moms are a special part of our world; let’s keep them healthy!

Preventive Health Screenings for Women from

Top 5 Egg-cellent Ways to Reinvent Breakfast
Posted: 5/19/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

There shouldn't be anything boring about breakfast or brunch. Give yourself a creative, healthy and delicious start to your day with these five unique substitutions for your tired eggs and toast routine. Eggs are a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorous, and a very good source of protein and selenium.

Baked egg in an avocado

Remember eggs in a frame? When we were little, we used to use a cup to cut out a round circle in the middle of a slice of bread and fry it up with an egg in the cutout area. This is a new and healthier version of eggs in a frame. Instead of all the butter and/or oil, you bake it. And instead of the toast - which you can have on the side anyway - the egg is cooked inside of an avocado where the pit has been removed.

Crustless quiche with kale

If you thought quiches couldn't be crispy without crust, think again. This quiche piles on the kale which is packed with dietary fiber; vitamins A, C, K and B6; calcium; potassium; copper; and manganese. Because the leafy green pokes out and around the top of the quiche, the top of the quiche essentially becomes a layer of kale chips, giving it a crunchy and tasty exterior.

Egg and hash brown nests

Breakfast couldn't be cuter - or yummier - with egg and cheese hash brown nests. They bake for just enough time to leave the egg runny, so when you cut it, the yolk spills over the layers of hash browns and cheddar cheese seasoned with shallot, garlic, salt, pepper and paprika.

Spinach and baked egg galette

Spinach and baked egg galettes have everything you could possibly want in a breakfast or brunch: egg, protein, carbs and veggies. Spinach, sautéed onions, feta, black forest ham and a baked egg sit on top of a flaky pie crust that's baked 18-25 minutes, leaving the crust golden brown and the egg deliciously runny.

Flower power eggs

Make your morning groovy with flower power eggs. Instead of chopping up bell peppers and throwing them into an omelet, crack the eggs into colorful rings of bell peppers and cook them over a skillet. So simple and fun to eat!

Top 5 egg-cellent ways to reinvent breakfast by Melissa Valliant, May 9, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Posted: 5/15/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Tracing back to the 16th century are the pecans. Pecans are the only major tree nut that naturally grow in North America. The word "pecan" is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe “nuts requiring a stone to crack." Pre-colonial people in North America widely used pecans as a major food source during the autumn month. They used them to make corn cakes and pecan milk. Pecan trees were first cultivated and grown in gardens of presidents Washington and Jefferson by the Native Americans.

These tasty nuts are healthy to eat year round, but are very popular during the holidays. They contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals and are cholesterol-free. They are also an excellent source of protein and can be substituted for meat, poultry or fish by vegetarians. Ranked number 13 among the top foods that contain the highest antioxidant capacity, pecans can help fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, cancer and heart disease. Pecans also contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple.

Adding more pecans to your family’s diet is the healthy thing to do. Pecans are a nut and they are considered a high allergen for children.

Kid-Friendly Treat: Best Ever Granola


  • 4 cups of old-fashioned oats
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl mix the oats, pecans, salt and cinnamon. In a saucepan whip the oil and honey and stir in the vanilla. Carefully pour the liquid over the oat mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon.

Spread the granola onto a large cookie sheet (15x10x1 inch). Bake 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Stir in dried cranberries.

Makes 9-10 servings.


Collard Greens - Natural Protection For You
Posted: 5/14/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Collards, or collard greens, are very popular in the Southern region of the U.S. They belong to the cabbage family and are an excellent source of vitamin A which is needed for a healthy immune system. Two cups of chopped collard greens provide 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement.

Collards Are:

1.  Rich in vitamins C and K and folate
2.  A good source of calcium and fiber
3.  Fat-free and low in calories
4.  Low in sodium
5.  Rich in antioxidants and can reduce the risk of cancer and have the ability to reduce cholesterol

Selection and Storage

Select a bunch with dark green leaves that have no yellowing. For storage, bag unwashed collards with moist paper towels and store up to about 5 days in the refrigerator for freshness.

Preparation and Cooking

Wash thoroughly before use. Rinsing at least twice in cold water is recommended to ensure all the dirt and grit is removed. Collards are traditionally cooked with bacon fat or ham hocks, which add too much salt and fat. For a healthier and flavorful version, substitute the pork with smoked turkey. Chili vinegar or the vinegar from pickled peppers enhances the bitter flavor of cooked collards. Onions, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and crushed red pepper are also used to season collards.

More Ways to Enjoy Collards

1.  Add them to any kind of pasta about 5 minutes before pasta is done and season to taste.
2.  Mix collard greens with chicken broth, garlic and seasoning, and simmer until ready to serve. This makes a quick side dish.
3.  Use collard greens in place of lettuce in salads, tacos, wraps and sandwiches.
4.  Add them to any stir fry and season with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and crushed red peppers.
5.  Cook collard greens with okra by adding olive oil, peppers, onion and lemon.
6.  Add cut collard greens and sliced low-fat turkey to almost cooked potatoes until cooked.


Organizing Your Recipe Collection
Posted: 4/21/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Perhaps you have a drawer full of recipes you’ve clipped from magazines, newspapers, etc. But it takes forever to sort through them when you want to try something new, and you usually go back to your tried and true recipes. Here are some suggestions for getting them organized.

Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Delores Cotter Lamping, authors of Organizing for the Creative Person, suggest the following for all the recipes we’ve clipped and never used: Put them in an attractive box, secure it with a pretty ribbon, label carefully and “use them as a boat anchor….”

Kidding aside, most organizational authors do suggest as the first step in getting organized to discard recipes we’ve never used and aren’t likely to use. If you just can’t bear to throw them away—yet—put them in a separate folder or envelope and date it. If you haven’t used them in a year, toss!

Decide on a Storage System

Organizational experts suggest several methods for saving recipes:

  • Attach them to paper sheets in a notebook.
  • Place in plastic sleeves in a notebook.
  • Place in a photo album that has “self-adhesive” pages.
  • Paste or copy them on recipe cards and keep them in a recipe box.
  • Use page pockets in a notebook with a different pocket for each category.
  • Store in accordion files.

For example, you may wish to place your recipes one per page in a notebook. This should leave you plenty of space for writing “cook’s notes” by recipes. Plus, you’re less likely to lose a recipe when it’s “tied down” to something like a notebook. A different system may work better for you. For example, it may be simpler to toss recipes into page pockets or an accordion file.

Label Recipe Categories

To make retrieval easier, separate your recipes into categories, such as Vegetables, Desserts, etc. Insert some type of dividers that label the sections. Make the categories meaningful for you. One way to start is to sort your recipes into piles and see what types you have. Then, label accordingly. It may help to check the table of contents in some of your favorite cookbooks to determine category labels.

Barbara Hemphill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger at Home, recommends if you don’t have many recipes in a category, that you start broad categories like “Bread." As you collect more recipes, you can always expand to “Muffins," “Yeast Breads," etc.

The important thing is just to start—you can always modify in the future. Hemphill suggests it may be easier to use your system for the recipes you’re collecting now. Then, incorporate your backlog as time allows.

Separate “Keepers” from “Never Tried”

Separate the recipes you’ve tried and consider “keepers” from those you’re still thinking about trying, advises Hemphill. A simple initial sorting system is file folders with labels similar to those on your more permanent collection. You might include a “Try Soon” file for those recipes that particularly catch your eye! Somewhere you might also designate a temporary storage spot for recipes that have passed from “never tried” to “keeper” until you can paste, tape, etc. them into your permanent system.

No matter how many new recipes we collect, many of us have 15 to 20 meals we prepare over and over again according to Georgene Lockwood, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organizing Your Life. Lockwood calls these “rotation recipes." She advises putting these frequently used recipes together in a separate file from those used less often.

Whatever system you decide to use, it’s important to designate a place where you do your sorting, pasting, cutting, etc. Keep all your supplies nearby. This might include hole-punched paper for your notebook, a glue stick, scissors and so on.

Someone was once spotted wearing a T-shirt that said, “The one who dies with the most recipes wins!” Just don’t get buried under your recipes while you’re still alive! Toss even “the tried-and true” if they no longer fit your lifestyle. Continually cut the clutter and keep your recipe collection easy to use!


Reposted with permission from Alice Henneman: Organizing Your Recipe Collection by Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

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