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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.

Spring is Here - Let's Exercise Outdoors
Posted: 4/4/2014 by Stevens, Karen M.

Are you tired of the same exercise regimen? Try exercising outdoors. Did you know exercising outdoors can provide many benefits? Of course, the health benefits of exercise are significant. Yet, a lack of exercise can increase the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and strokes.

Being physically active can be enjoyable and fun. So, why not try exercise outdoors. Research has proven exercising outdoors can decrease tension, confusion, anger, depression and even enhance your mood and self-esteem. Overall, exercising outdoors can boost your mental health and provide you with a pleasurable workout in the fresh spring air.

If you’re still unsure of the benefits of outdoor exercise, maybe these additional facts can prompt a change:

  • Studies have supported that exercising in a natural setting can help to increase one's quality of sleep.
  • Outdoor exercise exposes one to natural sunlight, which provides a good source of vitamin D.
  • No membership cost or special equipment is needed, just take off walking.

By now I’m sure you’ve begun to plan your next outdoor exercise adventure. While outdoors drink plenty of water, wear a sunscreen protectant, and avoid extreme temperatures.

As always, remember to check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.


Berman, Stacy (2012, April 18) The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise. HuffPost Healthy Living
IIiades, Chris, MD (2009, December 9) The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise. Everyday Health

Spaghetti Squash
Posted: 3/21/2014 by Farbe, Katherine

Glancing at the two words above, one may think that I’m attempting to debut an innovative new health dish; however, what I’m about to share may positively change the way you eat your most favorite dishes forever! Spaghetti squash, or Curcubita pepo, is a variation of winter squash that has a spaghetti noodle-like consistency. In order to grow your own spaghetti squash, you will need full sunlight and loose, fertile soil. Now is actually the perfect time in the Louisiana climate to begin planting your seeds as our last winter freeze is said to have passed. If you are starting from a squash transplant, you want to aim for approximately 2 weeks after the last frost to ground your plant. Spaghetti squash can be found pretty regularly in the supermarkets but if you’re looking for locally grown, you should check out the farmer’s market between the months of June and September.

Now let’s get to the nutritional component of consuming spaghetti squash! Spaghetti squash is an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium and manganese. So what does this mean in terms of health benefits?

-Reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers
-Promotes healthy cell functioning
-Prevents cell damage
-Helps to lower blood pressure
-Promotes proper brain functioning
-Has anti-inflammatory properties
-Promotes a healthy weight

Something that is special about this particular vegetable is that it can serve as a nutrient packed alternative to regular pasta. It has a similar consistency and taste to regular pasta while providing your body with copious amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. To prepare, start by cutting the squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and pulp.

Cooking Methods:
-Bake with the rind side up for 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
-Microwave for 6 to 8 minutes.
-Boil for about 20 minutes.

After the cooking portion is complete, you can separate the strands by raking a fork from stem to stem.

You can enjoy your spaghetti squash in the same fashion you would any pasta. Spaghetti and meatballs and Fettuccini Alfredo are two I would recommend testing out!

Bon appetite!


Self Nutrition Data

New Health Guide

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Backyard Gardening Blog

Brain Talk - Part 2
Posted: 3/21/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.


Have your ever heard someone comment on a youth he or she knew and utter these words:
His family gave him love and nurturing, but it appears that was not enough.  

He robbed and killed someone for no apparent reason.

She came from a loving and beautiful family and her parents gave her the best of everything, so why did she choose a life of substance abuse at such an early age?

While infant and toddler brains develop very quickly, the adolescent brain experiences rapid change somewhat the same however the pruning is done swiftly while stronger experiences endure. Many changes are occurring and more “outside” or away from home (family) experiences are more influential. Like the research being done with infant brains, the MRI is also used to better understand the adolescent’s brain.

Researchers, scientists and physicians all agree that the part of the brain called the frontal or prefrontal cortex is where complex and complicated decisions are made. Critical judgments and decisions are not yet matured. Research states that the brain of the adolescent develops somewhat differently from the child. The adolescent brain develops myelin, which insulates the nerve fibers and speeds neural processing occurring in the frontal lobes. Neurotransmitters send electrical messages of “feelings” throughout the body. Dopamine sends messages of “good feelings” and eventually these feelings reach what is called “tolerance." Another area in the brain that is responsible for the emotional status of teens is called the limbic. Many changes are taking place, but the parts of the brain which develop first involve physical coordination, emotions, and motivational regions. Researchers believe this may be the reason or possible cause for some teens having difficulty or possessing the inability to control their emotions and reactions. And yet other researchers state this may explain the dramatic or overactive behavior in many boys and even some girls. It is believed that this part of the brain does not mature until around the age of 25.

Changes with Adolescents

  • Teens sleep longer
  • Rapid growth spurt in height and weight
  • Boys tend to be more narcissistic and physically active
  • Girls are more sensitive about appearance and weight
  • Beginning of puberty, hormones (boys' voices change)
  • Increase in production of oily skin (acne)

Supporting your Adolescents

  • Don’t criticize
  • Encourage healthier eating
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Be honest with responses
  • Give them freedom (time and space)
  • The development of hygiene and grooming habits requires patience


Virginia Cooperative Extension
National Institute of Mental Health

5 Apps to Help in Planning Meals and Counting Calories
Posted: 3/20/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

How would you like to not have to worry about what to cook for dinner tonight or how many calories you are taking in or have used up? It can be a daunting task to keep up with meal planning and calorie counting. However, these tasks can become easier if you have the right app.

So, let’s check out these 5 apps for planning meals and counting calories:

Five Plates

Do you hate trying to figure out what to eat or make for dinner? Well, Five Plates provides you with a grocery list of whole foods that is delivered directly to your home weekly with ingredients for five different meals. This app is free.

Menu Planner

Is your recipe board too full on Pinterest? Do you know what’s in your pantry? You can create meal plans, import your favorite recipes from the Internet, inventory your pantry and integrate all of that to create a weekly grocery list. No more stress. This app is $2.99.


This app is used for losing or maintaining weight. With one of the largest food databases, it allows you to enter your own recipes and the app figures out the nutritional content. It includes other features such as an exercise database, goal tracker and friend tracker to help you stay motivated. This app is free.

Lose It

This app keeps track of the calories that you have eaten and how much exercise is needed to eliminate those extra calories. This app is equipped with a bar code scanner which is much easier than putting in your food information. It helps you in that it subtracts calories when you have exercised. This app is free for the basic version, but costs $39.99 per year if you enroll in the premium weight-loss program.

Restaurant Nutrition

Eating out and traveling frequently can make it hard to count calories and plan meals, but there is an app that can help you navigate the food choices in restaurant menus. It includes over 250 restaurants and 60,000 food items with all the nutritional information needed. This app is free - can you believe it!

Well folks, now that you have apps that can help you in your quest for a healthy lifestyle, let’s get this done the right way. Happy eating.


A Color-Coded Guide to Nutrients in Your Fruits and Vegetables
Posted: 3/17/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Let’s face it: As winter trudges on and we find ourselves feeling more and more sluggish, we need an extra boost. I propose that the boost be the addition of color in our fruits and vegetables. These foods are colorful because they contain different nutrients and research shows variety is equally important as quantity when it comes to healthy eating. In short, an all-greens diet won’t give you all of the nutrients your body needs to function well. Today’s Dietician states that we need a diet full of a variety of natural phytochemicals. Let’s take a look at the nutrients found in our most colorful fruits and vegetables.


Nutrients: Our Granny Smiths get that beautiful red color from natural pigments, such as lycopene and anthrocyanins. They are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that also have been linked to cancer prevention.

Fruits and veggies to try: Red apples, red peppers, beets, pomegranates, red cabbage, red potatoes, cherries, radishes, cranberries, raspberries, pink grapefruit, rhubarb, red grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon.


Nutrients: Those beautiful oranges and golds in our carrots and squashes are caused by carotenoids like alpha carotene, beta carotene and beta cryptoxanthin. They convert our nutrients into vitamin A and serve as antioxidants for our eyes.

Fruits and veggies to try: Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squashes and surprisingly dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and peas. The dark green pigments mask the orange/yellow ones.


Nutrients: When we think of vegetables, we of course think of green first. That’s because the green pigment is packed with vitamins, nutrients and fiber.

Fruits and veggies to try: Cabbage, spinach, kale, collards, broccoli, romaine and iceberg lettuce.


Nutrients: These are the rarest colors in fruits and vegetables. They also contain anthrocyanins and other vitamins and minerals that boost eye health, antioxidants and heart health.

Fruits and veggies to try: Blueberries, blackberries and purple potatoes.

A color-coded guide to nutrients in your fruits & vegetables by Lauren Van Wert, February 17, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Being Active at Any Size
Posted: 3/1/2014 by Mason, Passion

Assistant Extension Agent Passion Mason
Assistant Extension Agent Passion Mason gives a presentation on physical fitness.

Physical fitness and health are vital at any age and body size. Larger people face several challenges when it comes to fitness and physical activity. There could be marked difficulty in accessing their full range of motion (bending or stretching). There may be difficulty finding exercise clothing and exercise equipment. You may even have some self-consciousness in relation to beginning an exercise routine or being physically active around other individuals (the “will they judge me?” moments); however, these are not good reasons to forgo being active. Facing challenges can be hard, but don’t lose heart because you can beat these challenges!

Before beginning any new workout regimens be sure to consult your physician. Activities such as swimming or exercising while sitting put less stress on your joints due to the fact that your legs are not supporting the weight of your body. Remember physical activity doesn’t have to be hard or boring to be good for you. Anything that gets you moving (walking, dancing, gardening, mowing the lawn, mopping your house), even if it’s only for a few short minutes a day, is a great start to getting more fit. If you commit to being physically active on a regular basis, your body will thank you. You will be making a difference towards your own health and well-being. Even if the activity level doesn’t prompt weight loss you will still have a lowered risk of getting many diseases, and if the physical activity does prompt weight loss you’ll get even more health benefits.

Did You Know February is Dental Health Month?
Posted: 2/21/2014 by Davis, Eva A.

Just as diet and exercise are linked to a variety of health conditions, so is oral health.

Oral health is linked to heart disease. Studies indicate that people with moderate or advanced periodontal disease are almost twice more likely to have other health conditions than those with healthy gums. Because the mouth is a pathway to the body, it is suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease. Bacteria from infected gums can be dislodged and enter the bloodstream where it can attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. As a result, the blood flow to the heart is decreased which causes an elevation in blood pressure and increases the risk of a heart attack.

Oral health is linked to obesity. It has not been noted until recently that an increased body mass index (BMI) is further related to dental health. When evaluated, people with an increased BMI had slightly worse dental health including gum disease, premature tooth loss and bad breath.

Oral health is linked to cancer. Poor oral health was found to be associated with oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes HPV-related cancer. HPV needs wounds in the mouth to enter and infect the oral cavity. Poor oral health which may include ulcers, mucosal disruption, or chronic inflammation, may create an entry portal for HPV.

Oral health is linked to diabetes. Bacteria that builds on teeth makes the gums prone to infection. The infection causes the gums to become inflamed. The inflammation can weaken the body’s ability to control blood sugar.

Tips for Keeping a Healthy Body and a Healthy Smile

  • Control portions and consume fewer calories
  • Reduce your sugar intake
  • Drink water rather than soft drinks
  • Avoid candies, cookies, cakes, pastries and French fries
  • Avoid junk food and fast foods
  • Do not use food as a reward
  • Increase your physical activity
  • Brush twice a day and floss each night after brushing
  • Visit your dentist regularly


Caring for Your Heart - Exercise and Eat Right
Posted: 2/20/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Make a list of the things that you LOVE to do and enjoy them. Your list may include:

  • Riding a bike
  • Jumping rope
  • Running a 5 mile dash
  • Playing hopscotch
  • Playing tag
  • Bouncing a ball off the wall
  • Drawing on the sidewalk with chalk
  • Walking the dog
  • Dancing
  • Playing basketball/football

If these are fun things that you love to do, then try them at least once a week or more if you feel like it. It’s good for your heart and your life.

Want to play Heartbreak?

Draw an outline of a large heart and draw several small hearts inside. Post your large heart on the wall or a door and draw a start line to stand behind to throw your darts. Take turns with a couple of friends throwing your darts, hoping that someone is making contact and the darts are sticking to the hearts. When your dart lands on a heart, mark it with your name and after all the hearts are taken, count up the amount that you have collected. If you have the most hearts, you win, but make sure that your darts don’t land on another person’s heart, because then you lose your turn. This is a fun game for children and adults to play to see how many hearts they can break.


Your heart beats over 100,000 times a day. It beats more when you exercise, get excited or are scared.

Let’s eat right so that our hearts keep beating to the max! Eat a healthy breakfast every day and get a smart start for your heart.

Smart Choices – Lesson 5: Youth Fact Sheet

What Exactly Does "Clean Eating" Mean Anyway?
Posted: 2/17/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Clean eating seems like a relatively new phrase. But clean eating as a concept started in the 1960s as a backlash to overly processed foods, and has since made its way to the barbells and biceps of our friends at the gym and foodies alike.

What exactly does that mean though? There’s a different definition for clean eating, depending on who you ask. Here are few quick tips for eating clean.

Lifestyle vs. awareness

For some people, clean eating is a strict lifestyle, while for others it’s a way to purge the cupboards of bad foods and bad habits.

Avoiding processed foods

Choose natural, whole grain and unrefined foods, and stay away from those that are processed. This really is about eating more natural foods, free of additives and preservatives. Also, watch out for fats, sodium, sugar and processed foods by reading labels and choosing products that have natural ingredients. This is important because there are some misconceptions that eating clean means doing away with foods like pasta or crackers, which isn’t necessarily true. Eating clean means getting rid of foods with large amounts of sugar and sodium. If you can identify the ingredients in a product, then you’re still eating clean.

Choosing protein wisely

Every meal should contain some protein, but make sure that the meat comes from grass-fed stock. Otherwise, your meat most likely comes from factory-raised animals that are fed corn and soy and pumped with hormones to fatten them up quickly. Not only is grass-fed meat free of those impurities, but it also tends to taste better.

Eating frequently but with smaller portions

Meals should be small and consumed 5 to 6 times per day. This helps to keep blood-sugar levels balanced and to fight off hunger through portion control.

Avoiding empty-calorie drinks

Stay away from high-calorie drinks. Stick mostly to water and unsweetened teas instead of sugar-dense, empty-calorie specialty coffee drinks or sodas. Again, clean eating is about making the most of your calories by eating natural, unprocessed and low-sugar items.

What exactly does 'clean eating' mean anyway? by Lauren Van Wert, January 31, 2014
Reposted with permission from

Make Fiber a Part of Your Day
Posted: 1/20/2014 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Fiber is important for many reasons. It fills us up with fewer calories so we feel full faster and eat less food. Fiber is also important for our digestive system. This is what grandma called “being regular.” Whether you have a problem with constipation or diarrhea, adding more fiber along with drinking plenty of water can help regulate your digestive system.

The most important reasons for eating fiber have to do with our health, and these reasons are especially important if you have diabetes. Here are some health advantages you might benefit from by increasing your fiber intake:

· Lowers your risk of developing food related cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.

· Lowers your risk of heart disease by slowing down the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

· Lowers your risk of obesity. Since fiber fills us, we tend to eat less food and therefore consume fewer calories when eating high fiber meals.

· Lowers your risk of diabetes. Eating a high fiber meal slows down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream, helping to prevent an increase in blood sugar after eating.

How much fiber do you need each day? Women need about 25 grams of fiber a day and men need about 35 grams of fiber a day. Reading the nutrition fact label on foods can help you determine how much fiber you’re consuming.

What should you eat to increase your fiber intake? Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good place to start, especially fruits with seeds like berries and edible skin, such as apples and pears. Peas, corn and potatoes, with the skin on, are all high in fiber. Remember that these vegetables are also higher in carbohydrates than most vegetables, so watch your portion sizes. Whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber. Eating a high fiber cereal, such as oatmeal for breakfast and snacking on fresh fruit, raw veggies or popcorn are simple ways to add more fiber. Whichever high fiber foods you choose, remember that portion size counts. As with anything you eat, watch how many carbohydrates you’re consuming and balance your meals and snacks.

How to get started? Start by keeping track of everything you eat and drink. Read labels to find out how much fiber is in the foods you’re eating. Once you know how much fiber you need to add, make a plan to add one fiber rich food every day until you’re at your goal. Begin to benefit from the healthy advantages of eating a high fiber diet.

Reposted with permission from Diana Fair: Make fiber a part of your day by Diana Fair, Michigan State University Extension

Eating to Overcome Stress and Depression
Posted: 1/16/2014 by Clifton, Cynthia

Baked Macaroni and cheese, oatmeal cookies, fried chicken, fried fish, butter pecan ice cream – these are some of the foods that we turn to when we are depressed or stressed over different things in our lives.

These types of food only soothe our feelings for a moment and then we are back where we started. If we eat too much of a certain type of food or avoid eating another type of food, it can have an effect on our mood in the long and short term.

Instead of reaching for that cookie or fried chicken, reach for an apple or pear and spread some peanut butter on it. Eating this type of food will have a lasting effect because it is healthy and good for the body. Normally, after we eat something that is not healthy or good for us, we become depressed and regret eating the food or so much of the food. We have just added another stress factor to our lives.

When we select foods that are healthy and nutritious, we add strength to our brains and enhance our emotional health.

Skipping meals or going on fad diets can increase your chance of depression leading to stress or other issues in life. Diets don’t work; they only help for a moment and then the weight comes back.

The foods you eat impact how you feel, so try to make nutritious choices every day.


Brain Talk - Part 1
Posted: 1/15/2014 by Lewis, Erroll C.

brain illustration

Once I was enrolled in college, one very interesting subject was early childhood development. I seem to be immediately drawn to the teachings of the mind (brain) and its developmental process. Learning about the cognitive development and the study of the brain intrigued me and sparked my interest greatly. Now, I am afforded the opportunity to teach about the infant’s brain development, and like me, many others (parents) find the subject fascinating and are curious to learn as much as possible about their child’s brain.

Over the last decade, research has increased tremendously on early brain development. With the surge in technology, this new frontier of technological research uses terms such as neuroimaging or magnetic resonance, which captures the experiences of the brain. Due to work I have experienced during most of my career, studying and learning about the effects of abuse and neglect has also been interesting. What I have learned from research based data and share with others is that the experiences during the early years of the child is not just mental - the effects can similarly impact the child emotionally and behaviorally throughout his or her life. Although there is much research which differs on whether genetics or the environment determine significant development of our outlook on life, it's clear those positive or negative experiences that shape our future started early on.

Understanding the development of the infant brain is vital and important to the mother and to the entire family. Parents who attend parenting education classes learn about the child’s early development and are encouraged to stimulate the child’s interest with as many experiences as possible.

Some brain enhancement experiences include:

  • Reading at appropriate times such as before bedtime.
  • Parent/child quality time with any activity.
  • Touching various parts of the body, especially the face.
  • Making eye contact with demonstrations of facial expressions.
  • Verbal communication as often as possible.

Starting this process early on will enhance all the child’s developmental domains. This mother child stimulation assists nurturing the child and causes the brain (neurons and synapse) to respond positively and productively to the experiences of the infant or child.

Such practices as reading, singing and playing with the child are noteworthy experiences that help with the growth and development of the child. All these occurrences help brain systems and brain development.

This is the first of three blogs emphasizing the importance, basics and essentials of the brain. It is the hope that this information will teach and benefit the reader with not just the understanding and fundamentals of the brain but will also motivate parents to begin a relationship with their child that will be one of emotional development and guide the child’s temperament and socialization skills from his/her earliest experiences.

Brain Basics

  • Much of the brain develops before the child is born.
  • The brain continues to develop after the birth.
  • Brain cells are called neurons.
  • Neurons – brain cells communicate through synapse.
  • Synapse and dendrites are important messengers of the brain.
  • Brain cells that fail to connect are pruned.
  • Pruning occurs to rid unused cells to create new brain cells.
  • The brain has a need to form relationships for healthy development.
  • Brain content is divided into four parts.

Brain Needs

  • Blood – carries the brain's source of energy.
  • Oxygen – causes a higher level of functioning.
  • Sleep – helps the brain process, learn and develop physical renewal.
  • Nutrition – provides essential nutrients (breast milk is best source).
  • Hydration – needs 8 to 12 glasses of water a day.
  • Stimulation – active expressions, sounds, colors, repetitions, music, reading, movement.

Healthy Beginnings Parenting Program, LSU AgCenter & SU Ag Center
Effects of Maltreatment on Brain  

Canned Fruits and Vegetables Matter Too
Posted: 1/11/2014 by Clement, Emelia

Canned fruits and vegetables serve as a nonperishable and safe substitute for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Consumption of canned fruits and vegetables can contribute significantly to meeting dietary needs. They are great for soups, casseroles, stews and other mixed dishes and in smoothies.


Canned fruits and vegetables are important sources of nutrients because they are canned soon after harvest when loss of nutrients is minimal and quality is high. Some nutrients are lost during the canning process, but once canned, they maintain most of their vitamin and mineral content throughout shelf life. Some disease fighting nutrients (phytochemicals) become even more available to the body as a result of the canning process. Examples are lycopene in tomato paste and lutein in corn; also the beta carotene (Vitamin A) content in canned pumpkin is three times higher than in cooked fresh pumpkin.

Canned fruits and vegetables are flavorful and convenient because they are already peeled, cut, sliced and cooked and require just reheating before use.

They are also useful in stretching food dollars because they are often cheaper than their fresh counterparts and available all year. Since they last for years, it is cheaper to buy in bulk during sales and you can save even more by using coupons.

Usage and Handling

Wipe the top of can with a wet cloth before opening. Discard the can if it spurts out when opening or has a strange smell or appearance. If your canned vegetables are not reduced salt or salt-free, reduce the sodium content by rinsing with water and draining just before use. Once opened, the food becomes perishable and should be heated and used or stored in the refrigerator right away. Refrigerator storage should not exceed 3 days for canned vegetables and 7 days for canned fruits. To avoid overcooking and prevent loss of nutrients, steam or microwave canned fruits and vegetables instead of boiling for long periods. Always pour out fruits and vegetables from the can before use.


Follow these tips when shopping to choose the best canned foods:

  • Choose cans in good shape with no bulges, dents, cracks or rust.
  • Watch out for dusty cans or torn labels; they may indicate old stock.
  • Check the expiration or best by date to ensure the product has not expired.
  • Choose cans with less sodium and added sugars by comparing the nutrition information on the Nutrition Fact Label.
  • Choose canned fruit “packed in its own juices," “unsweetened” or in “100% fruit juice” because they have less added sugars and therefore fewer calories than those packed in either “light” or “heavy” syrup.
  • For a healthier option, choose canned vegetables with less sodium. Choose cans with the description “no salt added” or “reduced sodium."


To maintain the nutritive value and quality of canned fruits and vegetables in storage:

  • Store cans in a clean, dry and moderately cool (50-70oF), but not freezing, space.
  • Rotate the foods so the oldest is used first. Try to use canned food within a year of storage and no later than two years.
  • Check cans for rust or leakage, especially around the seam. Throw away rusted or leaking cans and expired cans.

Canned fruits and vegetable consumption is safe for most people but should be limited for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women due to the potential health risks of BPA, a chemical used in the lining of food cans which has been linked to health problems in some laboratory animals.

American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Revised and Updated 4th Edition by Betsy Hornick, Roberta Larson Duyff, and Alma Flor Ada
Safe Handling of Canned Goods, Clemson Cooperative Extension
Canned Goods, Utah State University Extension
Spotlight on Cupboard Storage, Purdue Extension
Storing canned food, University of Minnesota Extension
Food Pantry Staples: Canned Vegetables,
Canned Food Myths - Busted!,

Relaxation Vs. Physical Activity
Posted: 1/10/2014 by Farbe, Katherine

Brrrr…with the recent cold front sweeping in, there’s been a serious increase in my book reading, snuggling by the fire, lounging with my family, and drinking hot tea with honey - what a glorious time of year! However, in order to significantly increase these fun activities, something in my rigorous schedule had to decrease. Oops, sorry physical activity! So the focal point of this season needs to be balance because both relaxation and physical activity are necessities for your mental and physical well-being. I think we’ve got the relaxation part down pat but how about some ways to work back into the world of physical fitness!

Increasing physical activity close to home:

  • Jog in place during commercials when watching TV (limit screen time to 1 hour per day)
  • Exercise using a workout DVD or online video
  • Do stretches, stationary biking, or walking on a treadmill
  • Walk to local stores, coffee shops, or playgrounds
  • Go for a family walk around the neighborhood
  • Do some home gardening
  • Do some weight lifting (can use two equal weight cans if you don’t have weights)
  • Clean the house
  • Do squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and lunges
  • Walk the dog
  • Walk or jog laps around the sports fields when your children are at practice

Increasing physical activity at work:

  • Walk or jog during coffee break or lunch time
  • Do desk exercises
  • Join a gym nearby your office and exercise during breaks or before or after work
  • If possible, walk to your job or public transportation
  • Start or join an office exercise group (softball, volleyball, walking, etc.)

Increasing physical activity in your free time:

  • Walk, jog, skate, or cycle
  • Go for a family hike
  • Go for a family bike ride
  • Canoe, kayak, or row
  • Swim or do water aerobics
  • Play racquetball or tennis
  • Play soccer, basketball, softball, or baseball
  • Take dance classes
  • Take yoga or Pilates lessons
  • Take karate lessons
  • Play a pick-up game of volleyball
  • Join a team of any sort

Here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t let cold weather be a deterrent; layer up and get out there! Wear hats, gloves, sweatshirts, and pants/leggings. You’ll find once you get moving, you’re not cold at all.
  • You want to try to move at least 10 minutes per exercise spurt. Try to make your spurts of exercise equal at least 30 minutes, but aim for 60 minutes daily.
  • Have fun! Physical activity should be fun so choose whatever it is that you enjoy doing that gets your body moving.


Live a Healthier Life
Posted: 1/1/2014 by Stevens, Karen M.

Developing a Plan

I will lose weight, exercise more, and cut back on the number of sodas I drink and eat less food high in fat. There you have it - I’ve made my New Year’s resolutions. They sound great if I can just stick to them. How many of you are just trying to stick to it? Living a healthier life requires a change in one’s thinking. It will not happen overnight, but with the right tools your goals can be met.

Consider developing a plan that is right for your lifestyle. As you ponder developing a plan, try to remain positive. Negative thinking can lend one to negative outcomes. Living a healthier life can be attainable. Here are a few tips to help you to get started:

Consume more fruits and vegetables. The benefits are plentiful and they are great snacks for eating on the go and low in calories.

Keep water on hand as a go-to beverage.  The benefit is zero calories.

Plan your meals and snacks using MyPlate.

Keep a journal to help you identify eating patterns.

Move more using activities that fit your lifestyle.

Be realistic when setting goals.

If you decide to try at least one tip you’re on your way to living a healthier life.


10 Sneaky Ways to Get More Fruits and Vegetables in Your Daily Diet
Posted: 12/19/2013 by Clifton, Cynthia

Wait! Did you forget to eat your fruits and vegetables today? More and more Americans are forgetting to eat the proper amount of fruits and vegetables per day. Eating your daily fruits and vegetables can help you fight various diseases and give you a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Well, here are some sneaky ways that we can incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our daily diet.

Smart snacking: Instead of snacking on Lay’s potato chips or your favorite cookie, snack on a celery stick with peanut butter, baby carrots or a banana, pear or mango. A ½ cup equals one serving of fruits or vegetables.

Fruits in plain view: Display fruits on the kitchen counter or table so that when you are walking through the kitchen you can pick up an orange or apple or when leaving the house to run some errands, you can take a handful of grapes or a banana.

Soup: Homemade soup is great this time of year. Homemade soup allows you to get all of your vegetables in one serving. Your homemade soup can contain vegetables such as: carrots, green beans, corn, tomatoes, peas, cabbage and even mushrooms. Sounds healthy?

Planning: When you have free time during the day or night when at home, cut up vegetables for a couple of days and put in zip lock bags for a later date. This helps when you start to cook - everything is ready to prepare the meal.

Fruit and vegetable at every meal: Every meal should include a fruit and vegetable for a balanced meal.

Double up on servings: If you feel that you are not going to get the full amount of your fruits and vegetables, it is good to double up so that you do get the proper amount of fruits and vegetable per day. Doubling up can be an asset in this circumstance.

Salad before or after dinner: Having a salad before or after dinner could be a salad with sautéed mushrooms and corn or a salad mixed with nuts and cut up fruits.

Frozen fruits: Dinner is over and I need something sweet - what about some frozen grapes, strawberries or peach slices? This is a simple and great dessert even for children to eat as snacks.

Smoothie anyone: Blending your favorite fruits or vegetables can lead to a healthy breakfast, lunch or even snack during the day. Remember, you need to get in your fruits and vegetables every day.

Sneak it: Have you ever thought about sneaking something in food that is good for you but others may not like? If so, sneaking is a great idea. Others will not even notice it and will compliment you on the taste.

Okay, I hope these tips help you get all your fruits and vegetables in your diet every day.

Good luck eating all your fruits and vegetables.


Nuts for Nutrition
Posted: 12/16/2013 by Navarro, Alexis O.

Can a handful of nuts a day help keep you healthy? And how much, exactly, is a handful?

Nuts and Your Health

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends: “Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.”

The Dietary Guidelines also recommend fat intake should emphasize heart healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in seafood, nuts, seeds, and oils.

Choose MyPlate (a recommended food pattern to help people implement the dietary guidelines) states, “In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry, fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as ‘1-ounce equivalent’ from the Protein Foods Group”

Nuts, with their healthy fats, are higher in calories than some other sources of protein and MyPlate recommends: “Choose unsalted nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Use nuts to replace meat or poultry, not in addition to these items. At the 2,000 calorie level, MyPlate recommends approximately 5- ½ “1-ounce equivalents” from the Protein Group."

A Handful of Nuts

How many nuts are in a handful of nuts? A handful equals about 1-ounce. This serving size corresponds to the serving size listed on the “Nutrition Facts” panel on food labels. The International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation gives these examples of the average number of nuts per 1-ounce portion:

  • Almonds (20-24)
  • Brazil Nuts (6-8)
  • Cashews (16-18)
  • Hazelnuts (18-20)
  • Macadamia (10-12)
  • Pecans (18-20)
  • Pine Nuts (150-157)
  • Pistachios (47-49)
  • Walnuts (8-14)

Feel Like a Nut?

It’s easy to nibble on nuts. Here are two quick ideas. Store shelled or unshelled nuts in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 6 months or for a year in your freezer for best quality.

It’s in the Bag

You don’t have to fire up the stove or get out your cookbook to enjoy nuts. Your handful of nuts may be enjoyed simply out of hand.

Divide a container of nuts into small snack bags for easy snacking at home, the office, or on the road. Simply count, weigh 1 ounce of nuts on a kitchen scale, or grab a handful and store in each snack bag. Keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy! A handful of nuts may help you resist the gooey sweet roll in the break room at work.

Just a Sprinkle

Sprinkle nuts into these foods:

  • Salads
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Muffins and pancakes (toss a handful or two into your batter)

Recipe: Trail Mix

(16 servings, Serving size: ¼ cup)

1 cup almonds
½ cup chocolate chips or M&M’s
1 cup dried fruit
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup oatmeal squares

Measure ingredients and put in a large zip-close bag. Shake to mix. Portion into single-serving zip-close bags.

Per serving: 140 calories, 20 grams (g) carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 3 g protein

Trail Mix recipe from the North Dakota State University Extension Service 

Nuts for Nutrition by Alice Henneman, MS, RD, Extension Educator
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension - Lancaster County

'Tis the Season to Be Safe
Posted: 12/1/2013 by Mason, Passion

Holiday Safety Image

'Tis the season to be jolly, but in all of our merriment we must not neglect safety. It’s not only essential to ensure that our food is safe; we should also ensure the safety of our homes and families during this time. Here are some tips that can help keep the season merry and bright and accident free. The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. You can’t avoid stress completely, but you can give yourself some relief. Allow enough time to shop for gifts and meal items rather than hurrying through stores and parking lots. Only plan to do a reasonable number of errands per trip.

Decorating Safety

1. Never use lit candles around trees, curtains/drapes, or any potentially flammable item.

2. Small children and pets may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat, but many plants can be poisonous or can cause severe stomach problems. Plants to watch out for include: mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherries and amaryllis.

3. When displaying a tree, place it in a sturdy, water holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water so the tree does not dry out quickly. Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources, and be sure that it does not block foot traffic or doorways.

4. If you’re using an artificial tree choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built in electrical systems (pre-lit) should have the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.

5. Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors. Look for the UL label. Check for broken, cracked, or exposed sockets.

6. Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord.

7. Turn off all lights and decorations when you leave the house or go to bed. Unplug extension cords when not in use.

8. If using a natural tree, keep it watered to avoid dry branches catching fire from the heat of light bulbs.

9. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to avoid tripping hazards, but refrain from running them under rugs, around furniture legs, or across doorways.

10. When displaying outdoor lights, fasten them firmly to secure support with insulated staples or hooks to avoid wind damage. Never nail, tack, or stress wiring when hanging lights and keep plugs off of the ground and away from puddles and snow.

Food Safety

1. When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family be sure to wash hands, utensils, sink, and anything else that has come in contact with raw poultry. Keep in mind that a stuffed bird takes longer to cook.

2. Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.

3. While doing holiday cooking, keep your knives sharp. Most knife injuries occur due to dull blades.

4. Use a clean food thermometer to cook foods to a safe internal temperature before serving.

5. Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. They easily harbor bacteria and promote bacteria growth. Use clean paper towels instead.

6. When reheating leftovers, bring the temperature up to at least 165°F to eliminate any bacterial growth.

7. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers (less than two inches deep) within two hours after cooking. Date the leftovers for future use.

8. Being a smart party host or guest should include being sensible about alcoholic drinks. More than half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. Use designated drivers, people who do not drink, to drive other guests home after a holiday party.

Holiday Season Safety - Permission to reprint granted by the National Safety Council, a membership organization dedicated to protecting life and promoting health.

Giving Thanks for What We Have
Posted: 11/25/2013 by Clement, Emelia

Thanksgiving Cornucopia Image
Thankful for MyPlate

Whole grains to reduce the risk of heart disease and energize our day,
Low fat and fat-free milk and milk products, to strengthen our bones and teeth;
Fruits and vegetables, healthy heart and digestion, protection against disease;
Protein foods: lean meats and fish, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, for body growth and repair.

Thankful for Limbs to Move Every Day

At least thirty minutes of physical activity a day,
Walking, biking, dancing, playing sports, tag and many more,
To be stronger doing what we love to do,
For a healthy heart and a healthy weight,
For improved sleep habits and reduced stress.

Thankful for Healthy Living

For the young and the mature, and everyone in between,
Making healthy food choices and engaging in physical activity every day,
Improves lives and makes a better day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Foods Are in the Grains Group? from 

Posted: 11/22/2013 by Farbe, Katherine

Thanksgiving 2013 has arrived! Not sure about anyone else but I have been anxiously awaiting Thanksgiving 2013 since….Thanksgiving 2012! This is my most favorite holiday for a variety of reasons including getting to spend time with family and friends and eat the most delicious foods on the planet. While it is a joyous occasion that features much thankfulness and celebration, it is ideal to keep the celebrating contained so as not to celebrate on into an elevated pants size! Here are some helpful tips that can guide you in the right direction to food bliss instead of food overload:

1. Survey the food items first before you scoop. Take a look at all of the food items available first before you begin to scoop so you can better plan your plate. If you don’t look before you scoop, you could end up with a plate of food much larger than you anticipated - worse than that, you will probably eat it all.

2. Use a smaller plate. It is almost inevitable that if you have a larger plate, you will subconsciously want to put more food on it.

3. Start out with a salad. If you start your meal with a salad, you will be a lot less hungry while filling your Thanksgiving day plate.

4. Drink water with your meal. You will save calories (most other beverages have more calories) as well as be able to better manage your body’s fullness.

5. Try to make ½-¾ of your plate fruits and vegetables. In general, fruits and vegetables are less calorie dense than other foods. By filling up your plate with mostly fruits and vegetables, you will have less room for the calorie dense items.

6. Aim for the smaller portions first. Let’s say there are many dishes that you are dying to try. Go for a 1-2 Tablespoon serving size of each. If you wait 20 minutes after eating and realize you are still hungry, you can go back for seconds of your favorites.

7. Last but not least - enjoy! This is a glorious occasion - so you should enjoy your food! By following these simple portion control tips, you will better be able to hone in on your body cues and stop eating when you’re full.

Smart Portions: LSU AgCenter Nutrition Curriculum

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