Welcome to my blog on healthy eating and food safety. I look forward to your comments and feedback regarding use of this tool to disseminate educational information. This blog will be updated on a regular basis.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Beans and Whole Grains Are Getting Press This Year
Beans and grains are getting a lot of press this year.  It is the International Year of the Pulses which recognizes lentils, peas and beans as a critical part of the general food basket.  The 2015 Dietary Guidelines again encourages people to consume three servings of whole grains daily.  Here are some tips for eating more beans and whole grains.

  • Buying dried beans and grains in bulk is often more cost effective than buying a package of either of these items.  Purchasing in bulk can be most helpful if you want to try a new recipe and not sure you will like the dried beans or whole grain called for in the recipe.  You can buy as little or as much as you want when purchasing in bulk.
  • Soaking beans before cooking helps with digestion and reduces gas.
  • Cooked beans and whole grains can be easily frozen in freezer bags or containers.  Slightly undercook beans and grains before freezing so they retain their shape and texture better when defrosted.
  • When short on time keep canned beans in your pantry for entrees that call for beans.
  • Whip up some of your favorite grain/bean recipes and freeze in portion appropriate freezer containers.  This makes a quick reheat meal.
The Whole Grain Council has a number of helpful resources on their website. Wholegrainscouncil.org.  Information on pulses can be found at the US Dry Pea& Lentil Council www.pea-lentil.com and at https://pulsespledge.com



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Celebrate Whole Grains Month with Brown Rice, 5 Different Ways!

Celebrate Whole Grains Month with Brown Rice, 5 Different Ways!

Did you know September is Whole Grains Month and National Rice Month? To help you fit whole grains into your menu this week, MyPlate is sharing five, easy-to-prepare recipes with brown rice as the star ingredient.  Click  here to read more.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dealing with Children Who Have Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Dealing with Children Who Have Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
It is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have good allergies. This affects one in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two in every classroom. (Food Allergy Research & Education) While some people have allergies, others have sensitivities and intolerances. Symptoms can range from severe anaphylaxis to gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, skin rashes and not feeling well.
Here are some tips to make events involving children with food allergies or sensitivities less stressful.
  • When sending out invitations, ask if any of the attendees have food allergies or food sensitivities. Guests can RSVP this information.
  • Do not leave dishes of candy or other food accessible to children. Always ask the parent/caregivers before feeding a child. 
  • Ask for certain brands that are safe for the child and save any labels or packaging from items that you are serving. You can send the parent/caregiver a picture of the ingredient list also confirming if the product is safe or not.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the parent to supply a safe treat if you are concerned about what will be served. 
  • Don’t be offended if someone asks to look over the food, wants to bring food or does not eat. 
  • Consider bringing a nonfood item in for your child’s birthday celebration at school. Save the treat for at home.
  • Communication is key. Communicate with teachers, other parents/caregivers, and your child about food allergies. Make sure your child knows not to share their food with others unless allowed to by parents/caregiver or teacher.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September is National Family Meals Month™

September is National Family Meals Month™

With an aim to inspire families to eat at home together more often, we are proud to celebrate National Family Meals Month™ in September! During September, we encourage families to share one more meal together per week and we will highlight simple, healthy meal solutions to help make that happen.

Did you know that numerous studies underscore the long-term health, academic and societal benefits of consistently eating together as a family? Home-cooked meals nourish the spirit, brain and health of all family members. Not to mention, people who frequently cook at home eat fewer, healthier calories.’ Additionally, regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that we all want for our children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behavior.

However, according to a 2013 Harris poll, only 30 percent of American families share dinner every night. Why is this? Yes, juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home. But, this doesn’t need to be the case. Let us be your ally—the solution to your mealtime dilemma. We are committed to helping your family eat well together to be well together and have these resources to bring to the table: [INSERT RESOURCES/PROGRAMS THAT YOUR COMPANY PROVIDES].

So, as the new school year starts, we challenge you to renew your commitment to creating and serving meals at home that nourish your kids and help them flourish for life. Pledge to Raise Your Mitt to Commit™ to sharing one more family meal at home per week. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for family meals focused content, including shopping tips and recipes. [insert company social media handles]. Share your own family meal experiences, misadventures and solutions within your social channels. And, remember, use the hashtag #familymealsmonth to be part of the conversation!

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Source Note: Cornell University College of Human Ecology Department of Policy Analysis and Management: Do Family Meals Really Make a Difference?, Eliza Cook, Rachel Dunifon. 2012; Accessed [date], http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/upload/Family-Mealtimes-2.pdf


Monday, September 19, 2016

What is Lurking in Your Refrigerator?

What is Lurking in Your Refrigerator?
I have started my fall housecleaning. It was prompted by a look in my refrigerator and the need to really give this appliance a good cleaning. So have you taken a serious look at what is inside your refrigerator lately? 
Here are some tips for keeping your refrigerator in tip top shape.
  •  Don’t judge produce by its appearance. Just because something does not look pretty does not mean that you can’t eat it. Transform bruised or wilted foods by cooking them. Overripe tomatoes can be used to make pasta sauce. Remove bruised spots from apples and cook them for applesauce. The pasta sauce and apple sauce can then be used at a later time.
  • Buy more herbs than needed. Place the herbs in a single layer on a dinner plate lined with a paper towel. Cover herbs with another paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. This is a easy way to dry herbs. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid or zipper sealed plastic bag.
  • Remember the phrase “first in, first out” or FICO. Stash newer foods in the back of the shelves and move to the front items nearing expiration or that have been there longer.
  • Make friends with your freezer. Do you have foods like cheese, pasta sauce, or broth that you will not use prior to the date on the container? If so, freeze these foods.
  • Reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Americans waste 21 percent of all edible food, according to the USDA. Check the refrigerator every week to determine what foods need to be used, which are fine as is, and those that need to be frozen. Plan menus around these items.
 Another tip is to buy a refrigerator thermometer. People assume their refrigerator is cold enough when in some cases it is not. An incorrect temperature can increase the risk of spoilage and food-borne illness. Bacteria that can make you sick thrive at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, so buy or utilize the refrigerator thermometer you may already have. Stick with a setting no higher than 40 degrees. 
After a refrigerator cleaning, and there is food to be tossed, check to see if your community has an organic food dumpster where out-of-date food can be taken. We have an organic food dumpster at our office and I am pleased with the amount of food that is placed in the dumpster. Food is picked up and put in a bio digester and through a process is used to generate energy.    

Friday, September 16, 2016

Do You Know Your Squash?

Do You Know Your Squash?

Squash is a nutritional power house. With fall quickly approaching, consumers will see more varieties of squash in the super market.

Delicata is an oblong squash that boasts a thin, edible rind in yellow with green mottled striping. The flesh cooks quickly. Slice and sauté, bake or broil.

Butternut is named for its peanut-like shape and smooth beige coloring. This squash as a vivid orange flesh that is sweet and slightly nutty. Its smooth texture falls apart when cooking, making it a great choice for soups, purees and pies.

Acorn is a deeply ribbed squash that resembles a large, dark green acorn. It has a yellow-orange flesh and tender-firm texture that holds up when cooked. The mild, versatile flavor makes it great for stuffing and baking.

Kabocha is a fairly round squash that can be deep red-orange or dark green with mottled blue-gray striping. The smooth, dense flesh has a sweetness and texture similar to that of a sweet potato. It can be used in curries, stir-fry, salads and soups.

Pumpkin – Look for the smaller pie pumpkins if you plan to cook or bake it. These pumpkins are sweeter than those raised for carving. Their rich flavor is great for pies and baked goods.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Salad in a Jar

Salad in a Jar

Salad in a Jar” is a perfect way to use local, seasonal foods. These salads are so easy to make! You don’t have to use all the ingredients; however, it is very important to put the salad dressing on the bottom followed with a layer of hard, moisture-resistant vegetables to protect the remaining layers from getting soggy.
Basic ingredients and directions for Salad in a Jar:
  1. Place salad dressing in the bottom of the jar (about 2 to 3 tablespoons for a quart-sized salad; 1 to 2 tablespoons for pint-size jar). A vinaigrette-type dressing works well.
  2. Top with a layer of hard, moisture-resistant vegetables (e.g. carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, radishes, cauliflower, red and green pepper).
  3. Follow with 1 or more of these protein foods: lentils; garbanzo beans or other beans (e.g. black beans, kidney beans, Great Northern Beans, red beans). Meat, such as canned tuna, previously roasted chicken or ham, may taste best and keep better if added at the time of serving. (Note: Don’t keep previously cooked meat longer than 4 days if saving from a previous meal for adding at the time of serving your salad.)
  4. Softer vegetables and fruits come next, such as corn, olives, grape tomatoes and dried fruit (e.g. raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries).
  5. Nuts and seeds follow, for example almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. Chunks of cheese or shredded cheese also can be added at this time.
  6. Add salad greens last. For the most nutrition, use dark green salad greens (e.g. romaine, spinach, leaf lettuce).
  7. Top the jar with lid and store in the refrigerator. Place salad jar in an insulated bag with a gel pack if carrying it to work.
  8. Some people like to shake the jar to distribute the dressing and eat directly from the jar. Many prefer to shake the salad into a large bowl. If shaking the salad from the jar doesn’t mix the salad with the dressing sufficiently, gently toss with a fork until ingredients are coated.
Source: Alice Henneman, Lancaster County, University of Nebraska Extension

Monday, September 12, 2016

Back to School Food Safety Tips

Back to School Food Safety Tips
Students have headed back to school, and many of them will be carrying lunches packed at home. Here are some tips to help ensure that your child’s home-packed lunches are always safe to eat.

Wash your hands and areas used to prepare food.
  • Clean your hands with warm, soapy water before you prepare food.
  • Make sure countertops and utensils are clean before you start, and wash with hot, soapy water at the end of the process.
  • Use clean bags and packaging.
  • Talk to school administrators to be sure children have enough time at school to wash their hands before and after eating.
Keep items separate from each other.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and another for meat and poultry to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Do not reuse packaging because it might contaminate other food and cause illness. After eating lunch, discard all food packaging and paper bags.
Keep lunches cold.
  • Keeping food cold slows the growth of bacteria. Harmful bacterial can multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone”—temperatures between 40–140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken and vegetable or pasta salads in advance and chill them thoroughly (to 40 degrees or lower).
  • Keep perishable food refrigerated until you’re ready to leave home.
  • Use an insulated, soft-sided bag to keep foods cold and make sure you can clean the bag both inside and out.
  • Add two cold sources, such as a frozen gel pack or frozen juice box, with perishable food inside an insulated lunch bag or box. Pick up a few extra ice packs or cold sources at the store and keep extras in the freezer.
  • Store perishable items in a refrigerator (if available) immediately upon arrival at school.
  • Refrigerate prepackaged combos that contain perishable foods such as luncheon meats, cheese and cut fruit.
  • Consider including items that don’t require refrigeration such as whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard and pickles.
Keep hot foods hot.
  • An insulated container should keep food hot—at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
  • If the lunch box your child uses has a thermos, test it out at home to be sure it will keep food hot (above 140 degrees) till lunch time.
It’s OK to prepare food for a bag lunch the night before, but don’t pack the lunches until you’re ready to leave home, says Ingham. And only pack the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunchtime. Discard all leftovers, including packaging that could contaminate other food or cause illness.
Source: Barbara Ingham, Food Safety Specialist, UW-Extension and UW-Madison

Friday, September 9, 2016

Understanding Networks, Primary Care and Specialist

Understanding Networks, Primary Care and Specialists

If you have health insurance and want to use your care, the first step is understanding which doctors are covered by your plan. 

In the world of health insurance, a network is the group of doctors, nurses, specialists, hospitals and clinics that work with your insurance company. You need to use the medical professionals in this group.

Your insurance company can let you know which medical professionals are in this group. You will then choose a primary care provider or PCP. A primary care provider is the doctor, nurse or health care professional you see for most of your health care needs. Think of your PCP as your first point of contact who helps you with your health needs.
On the other hand, a specialist is a doctor who only treats specific problems, like those in your heart, your skin or other areas. Often, a referral from your primary care provider is required that shows you need to see specialist. Some insurance companies also require you to get approval before you get the care your specialist recommends. Many insurance companies will not pay for a specialist if you do not have both a referral from your doctor and approval from the insurance company for the care.

If you see a specialist, it’s important to tell your primary care provider about it. Additionally, let him or her know if you visit urgent care, or go to the emergency room. Your primary care provider helps you stay healthy and understands how all your medicines and treatments interact with each other. 

Covering Wisconsin has created a how-to sheet titled Understanding Networks, Primary Care, and Specialists available online at
coveringwi.org that defines these terms and explains how to find a specialist who is covered in your network.

Still unsure who to call when you need care? No worries, contact your insurance company for help. 

Source: Nancy Crevier, Marinette County UW-Extension Family Living Educator


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Resources on Dietary Supplements

Resources on Dietary Supplements
More than one-half of U.S adults take dietary supplements, according to the Center for Disease Control. The report, which appears in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics’ Data Brief, looked at dietary supplement use among adults from 2003 to 2006, and compared it to use in 1988 to 1994.

Before taking a dietary supplement it pays to do some research.  The USDA National Agricultural Library has a number of great resources on dietary supplements.  https://fnic.nal.usda.gov/dietary-supplements. In addition, contact your health care provider.

Friday, September 2, 2016

New CDC State Maps Show Many Americans Still Struggle with Obesity

New CDC State Maps Show Many Americans Still Struggle with Obesity
Today, CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity released its 2015 state- and territory-specific maps on adult obesity prevalence using self-reported information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
The 2015 state data maps show that the proportion of adults with obesity in the United States continues to remain high. Estimates across states vary and range from 20.2% in Colorado to 36.2% in Louisiana. The new state data maps are available online at:
State Highlights from the 2015 BRFSS:
  • No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.
  • Obesity prevalence in 21 states and Guam was 30% to less than 35%.
  • Four states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia) had an obesity prevalence of 35% or greater.
  • The South had the highest prevalence of obesity (31.2%), followed by the Midwest (30.7%), the Northeast (26.4%), and the West (25.2%).
Some groups of adults have more obesity burden than others.
Findings from the updated 2013-2015 BRFSS maps by race/ethnicity found:
  • Non-Hispanic blacks had the highest self-reported obesity (38.1%), followed by Hispanics (31.9%), and non-Hispanic whites (27.6%). 
  • The number of states/territories where adult obesity was 35% or more among specific populations was 2 for non-Hispanic whites, 11 for Hispanics, and 34 (plus the District of Columbia) for non-Hispanic blacks.
Obesity is a serious societal problem.
Millions of American adults have obesity, putting them at risk for many serious chronic diseases and health conditions. These include:
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Poorer mental health
  • Certain cancers
There is not one simple solution to address the high levels of obesity in the US. It will take a societal effort. Community leaders, employers, government agencies, and many others can create places that make it easier for adults and families to move more and eat better.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Getting Ready for Back to School? It's MyPlate Quiz Time!

Getting Ready for Back to School?
It’s MyPlate Quiz Time!

Think you know a lot about the five food groups? The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion – the group that created MyPlate – just released a set of quizzes on the five food groups. These quizzes, designed to challenge, teach, and even entertain, are intended for anyone who wants to learn about the food groups or wants a refresher – adults and kids alike. Click here to read more.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tips for Going Green in Your Kitchen, Garden and When Exercising

Tips for Going Green in Your Kitchen, Garden and When Exercising
Reduce your carbon footprint by limiting the number of trips you make to the grocery store.  Leaving your car at home can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1,600 pounds per year.  Save up errands and shopping trips so you need to drive fewer times.
Make it a full load.  Run your dishwasher only when it is full.  Don’t pre-rinse dishes as tests show pre-rinsing does not improve dishwasher cleaning, and you will save as much as 20 gallons of water per load.  When you buy a new dishwasher, look for one that saves money.  Water-efficient models use only about four gallons per wash.
Exercise outdoors?  Regular exercise makes us feel great and keeps us healthy. Before you head out for your workout or run, check the air quality forecast for your local area.  Look for EPA’s Air Quality Flags. The Flag Program uses brightly colored flags based on the U.S. EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) to notify people and their communities about outdoor  air quality conditions. Organizations raise a flag each day that corresponds to their local air quality forecast.
Compost it. Compost helps improve soil so that it holds more water and plants grow better. Allow grass clippings to stay on the lawn, instead of bagging them.  Food scraps and kitchen waste also makes good compost, and you can save money on fertilizer.
Tread lightly.  Use public transportation, carpool, walk, or bike whenever possible to reduce air pollution and save on fuel costs.  Leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.
Don’t be a drip – fix that leak!  Leaky faucets can waste thousands of gallons of water each year, like money down the drain.  Repair or replace old or damaged fixtures.  If you are not sure if you have a leak, check the water meter before and after a two hour period when water is not being used.  If the meter does not read exactly the same, you may have a leak.
Just bag it.  Help protect the environment when you shop. Keep reusable bags on your car seat or near your door so they are easy to grab when you go.  And you can even combine shopping bags.  Just tell the cashier that you don’t need a bag and put all your purchase in one bag and hang on to all of the receipts.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Melons-Many Varieties to Choose From

Melons – Many Varieties to Choose From

While shopping, I have noticed a increasing array of melons to choose from. While melons come in many varieties, they fall into two basic groups: watermelons and muskmelon.  
  • Red-fleshed watermelons are the most popular.
  • Orange- and yellow-flesh melons are very sweet.
  • Black imagination melons are sweet and juicy with rinds ranging from deep green to black. 
  • Lemon drops have a sweet-tart flavor and a hint of honeydew.  
  • Dewlicious melons have a yellow-gold skin and bring almost pure white flesh.
  • Honey Kiss melons have a light crisp texture and have a sweet flavor.
  • Sugar Kiss melons are the newest member of the Kiss family of melons and are very sweet and juicy with a pale orange flesh.
  • Summer Kiss is a dark gold honeydew-like melon that is mellow, creamy and sweet.  
Since most of us buy melons at the store or farmers market, it is easy to forget that most melons are grown on the ground. You may not think it is important to wash the outside of a melon, since you do not eat the tough outer part. When you slice the melon, bacteria on the outside of the melon are easily transferred to the inner edible area that you eat. Be sure to wash the outer surface of melons.

Wash the outer surface of the melon thoroughly with cool tap water to remove surface dirt. Scrub the melon with a clean produce brush. Dry the melon with a clean cloth or paper towel and refrigerate until ready to cut. Using soap or detergent to clean your produce is not recommended. Wash equipment and utensils that will come in contact with cut melons (e.g., cutting boards, knives, etc.) thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Rinse, sanitize, and air-dry.

Store melons in the refrigerator. Place cut melon in airtight containers to prevent absorption of other food odors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pick a Peck of Peppers

Pick a Peck of Peppers
There are so many varieties of peppers available at farmer’s markets, produce stands and the grocery store. If you are not certain of what type of pepper to choose, the following information may be helpful.
  • Bell peppers are a sweet pepper with no heat. They start as green and as they ripen, they change color to yellow, orange and red. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. They are often used in salads, grilled, sauté, stuffed, or chopped up and added to pizza, casseroles and sandwiches.
  • Anaheim peppers are from California. They are defined by their elongated curved lime green pod and their mild sweet flavor. They are slightly peppery in flavor. They can also be included in dishes that call for a mild, sweet pepper. To get the most flavor, fire roast it until the skill in charred and then peel off the skin. They can be used in sauces, stews, as a vegetable in side dishes. 
  • Poblano peppers are a mild chili pepper originating in the state of Puebla, Mexico. This pepper is aromatic and flavorful. They are commonly stuffed fresh and roasted it is popular in chile rellenos.
  • Jalapeño peppers are a medium-sized chili pepper. It typically is picked green and consumed while still green. It has a mild to medium pungency. It is milder than a Serrano pepper. Remove the seeds and mince for salsa or other recipes calling for a hotter pepper.
  • Serrano is thin pepper that is a hotter than jalapeño peppers. Serrano peppers are green when unripe, but color at maturity varies. They often are used in salsa and pico de gallo.  
  • Habanero is a very hot pepper which is also a bit sweet and fruity. Unripe habaneros are green and they color as they mature. They are very hot. It has a fruity, citrus-like flavor and its floral aroma have made it a popular ingredient in hot sauces and spicy foods.