Keep Your Family Healthy in the New Year

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Everywhere you look this time of year, someone is suggesting a resolution (or two or three) that you should keep. I’m going to chime in on this, too, with four really simple things that you can do to help keep your family healthy.

  1. Invest in a good tip-sensitive digital-read food thermometer and use it! Cooking food to the recommended minimum internal temperature is the only sure way to destroy bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli.
  2. Buy a couple of refrigerator and freezer thermometers and put them to use. Monitor these temperatures frequently. Your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F and the freezer should be close to zero degrees F. These are also great tools to have in place when determining the safety of foods after a power outage. Proper refrigerator and freezer temps can extend the time food can be kept. Recommended leftover storage is 4 days at 40 degrees or below.
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  3. Get yourself several dishwasher-safe plastic cutting boards. Designating specific colors for different foods (such as yellow for raw chicken and green for fresh veggies) can help prevent cross-contamination. Change mats frequently during food prep and wash them thoroughly in the dishwasher.
  4. Wash your hands frequently and encourage your family to do it, too! You probably don’t need to be reminded to wash after using the restroom, but also think about washing before cooking, before eating (even in a restaurant), after blowing your nose or sneezing and especially after changing diapers. Be extra diligent with handwashing when you are living with someone who is ill or in a confined area with a large group of people, such as a cruise ship or college dorm. Handwashing is the best way to prevent the transfer of norovirus.

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Best wishes for a happy and food safe new year!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a free printable handout that features these resolutions. How will you use your copy?

4resolutionsforhealth

And here are some other useful tools from the Nutrition Education Store!

Looking for Healthy Meals

Healthy MealOkay, I’ve got a story for you today. My husband and I were recently eating lunch — I had made us each a quick salad with lettuce, apples, some thawed frozen berries, avocado, leftover grilled chicken and homemade balsamic vinaigrette. As we ate, my husband commented, “It’s amazing that you look in the refrigerator and see salad; when I look in the refrigerator I just see soda.”

That seems to capture a common sentiment in a nutshell. How do people plan menus and think about turning what’s available into a healthful meal? Is this something that’s intuitive or can it be learned?

For me it’s easy, because I love to cook and experiment with food. But what about people who really don’t like to prepare meals or don’t have these skills?

All home management experts say that planning meals ahead of time is the number one way to save time, have balanced meals, control the food budget, avoid food waste, and reduce trips to the grocery store. However, I’m realistic enough to know that most families don’t do this.

So, how can we, as health educators, make this easier for our clients?

Here are a few of my latest ideas…

  • Try planning just a few meals a week instead of setting up a program for all seven days. If this works, then perhaps you could develop a menu rotation.
  • Have everyone in the family contribute their menu ideas and meal likes and dislikes.
  • If other members of your family are just learning to cook, or don’t yet have a wide recipe repertoire, having menus posted can help them learn and develop their cooking and menu-planning skills.
  • Keep MyPlate in mind as you go. We all know the concept of trying to fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, so now it’s time to put it into action. Remember to fill the other half with a lean protein and a whole grain, then add low-fat dairy on the side to round out the meal.
  • Post your planned menus. That way, everyone in the family knows what’s for dinner. This could help the first one home to get dinner started too!
  • Make sure that the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are stocked with the foods that you need for these menus. It’s especially important to have a variety of fruits and vegetables available for meals and snacks. After all, how can you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables if there aren’t any fruits and vegetables in the house?

Try these tips and who knows? Maybe the next time your family looks into the fridge, they’ll see dinner!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a free PDF handout with a few of the top tips from today’s post…

Healthy Meals

Here are some more healthy meal resources, brought to you by the Nutrition Education Store!

Healthy Kitchen Poster Set

Learn to Cook Workbook

Heart Smart Cooking PowerPoint Presentation

Celebrate Family Fit Lifestyle Month with a Free Handout

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month and we’re celebrating with a free handout. Join the celebration and download this free exercise guide today. It’s full of strategies to get active and stay active. What better resource for Family Fit Lifestyle Month?

Exercise for Weight Control

This handout is featured in the 12 Lessons of Wellness and Weight Control program, which has been a huge hit among school faculty and company departments. Check out this amazing resource, or pick up some nutrition posters to go with your brand-new handout. All that (and more!) is available in the Nutrition Education Store, and some of our favorite brand-new products are below…

Perfect for Heart Month in February!

Heart Health Brochure Set

Dance with your veggies -- they're great at the salsa!

Salsa Wellness Fair Kit

Get a boost from fruits and vegetables

Rise Up to Health Poster