Make it a Happy and Healthy 4th of July!

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Here comes the 4th with its promise of fun. But we all need to take precautions to insure that it is a fun day.

Outdoor activities and fireworks are the biggest pastimes for 4th of July celebrations. Here are some tips on making it a safe, happy 4th.

  •  Never swim alone on the 4th or any other day, and make sure that any time kids are in the water someone is watching them closely.
  • Cover food and beverages outdoors to discourage uninvited guests such as bees and wasps. Wearing shoes, long sleeves, and long pants outdoors and avoiding perfumes and scented lotions, and sugary drinks can also help prevent bee stings.
  • Apply sunscreen both before and during your party on the 4th. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15.

  • Check prescription medications you are taking to assure you will not have a reaction from being out in the sun or heat for an extended period of time
  • If you’ll be hiking or camping over the 4th,wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots to protect yourself from diseases caused by ticks.
  • Keep children away from campfires and grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and overfilled propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and explosions.
  • Don’t leave the picnic foods out all day. Allowing food to sit in outdoor temperatures can invite illness. The U.S. FDA suggests never leaving food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 F and not more than two hours at other times.
  • If you live where fireworks are legal and they will be part of your 4th of July celebration be sure to store them where the kids can’t get into them. Keep the kids away from the fireworks at all times, and keep spectators at a safe distance. Professional fireworks displays are always a safer choice than putting on your own show.

A special note on using sparklers on the 4th;

  • Children under five are too young to safely hold a sparkler and don’t really understand why they might be dangerous. Avoid giving them one to hold.

  • Babies or children can wriggle in your arms and reach out unexpectedly. Avoid holding a baby or child when you have a sparkler in your hand.

  • Children over five will still need you to supervise them when they use sparklers. It’s safest if they wear gloves when they’re holding them. They might seem like ‘fireworks lite’ but sparklers can reach a temperature of 2000ºC. Have a bucket of water handy to put them in so that no-one can pick up a hot one off the ground. Teach them not to wave sparklers near anyone else or run with them.

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REFERENCES:

CPSC.gov. Fireworks Safety.

USDA

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What are Empty Calories?

MyPlate.gov., a division of the Dept. of Agriculture offers the following information about foods we eat, and really enjoy, that really don’t give us the nutrients we need but do give us what are referred to as “empty calories.”

caloriesMany of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories –- calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)

These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called “empty calorie foods.” However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are:

 

Food with some empty calories Food with few or no empty calories
Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars) Unsweetened applesauce
Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats) Extra lean ground beef (96% or more lean)
Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin) Baked chicken breast without skin
Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars) Unsweetened cereals
Whole milk (contains solid fats) Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy.

It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

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USDA Offers Summer Food Safety Tips In Advance of Memorial Day Weekend

foodWarmer temperatures call for extra attention to food safety when cooking and eating outdoors.

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and many Americans will celebrate with cookouts, camping, road trips and other activities that involve food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding families to take extra care not to let foodborne bacteria, which grows more quickly in hot weather, ruin the fun.

“This Memorial Day weekend and all summer long, I encourage families to get outside and enjoy our natural resources, national parks and forests, and the variety of food America’s farmers are able to provide,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “It’s important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures that people enjoy, so extra care needs to be taken to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home. USDA reminds everyone to use a food thermometer, and take advantage of resources like our FoodKeeper app to help with any food handling questions.”

The USDA recently launched its FoodKeeper mobile app, which contains specific guidance on more than 400 food and beverage items, including safe cooking recommendations for meat, poultry and seafood products.

The app provides information on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. This will help keep products fresh longer than if they were stored improperly, which can happen more often during hot summer days. The application is available for free on Android and Apple devices.

Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. To help Americans stay healthy and safe, USDA offers the following food safety recommendations.

Bringing food to a picnic or cookout:
• Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
• Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
• A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
• Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer.
Cooking on the grill:
• Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
• Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures
• Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
• Ground meats: 160 °F
• Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
• Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
Serving food outdoors:
• Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
• Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 140 °F or warmer.
• Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.

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Reducing Sodium in Restaurant Foods

 The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares the following press release reminding us to consider how much sodium we may be consuming when we eat out.

Americans eat out at fast food or dine-in restaurants four or five times a week. Just one of those meals might contain more than an entire day’s recommended amount of sodium.  CDC has strategies for health departments and restaurants to work together to offer healthier choices for consumers who want to lower their sodium intake. The report, “From Menu to Mouth: Opportunities for Sodium Reduction in Restaurants,” is published in the CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

sodiumOn average, foods from fast food restaurants contain 1,848 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories and foods from dine-in restaurants contain 2,090 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories.

The U. S. Dietary Guidelines recommend the general population limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke.

“The bottom line is that it’s both possible and life-saving to reduce sodium, and this can be done by reducing, replacing and reformulating,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “When restaurants rethink how they prepare food and the ingredients they choose to use, healthier options become routine for customers.”

The report outlines several ways health departments and restaurants have worked together to offer lower-sodium choices:

  • Health department dietitians help restaurants analyze the sodium content of their foods and recommend lower-sodium ingredients.
  • Restaurants clearly post nutrition information, including sodium content, at the order counter and on menus or offer lower-sodium items at lower cost.
  • Health departments and restaurants explain to food service staff why lower sodium foods are healthier and how to prepare them.

The report also features examples of sodium reduction successes.  In Philadelphia, the health department worked with 206 restaurants to create the “Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative.”  After evaluating menus for sodium content, participating restaurants began choosing lower sodium ingredients and creating lower sodium recipes. After nine months, analyses of two popular dishes offered by 20 of the restaurants showed sodium was reduced by 20 percent.

“The story in Philadelphia shows what can be done,” Dr. Frieden said. “It’s not about giving up the food you love, but providing lower sodium options that taste great.”

To learn more about sodium and how it affects health, visit www.cdc.gov/salt.  Reducing sodium is one way that Million Hearts, a national public-private initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, is working with communities to keep people healthier and less likely to need health care www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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Food Safety and Power Outages

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When severe storms or heat waves cause power outages the big food questions are…what to save and when to throw out?

No one wants to lose a freezer and a refrigerator full of food, but spoiled food can cause serious illness.

According to the USDA Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency you need to adhere to the following guidelines:

Frozen Food

  1. A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  2. If the power is going to be out for a long time, buy dry or block ice.
  3. Thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. Partial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.
  4. If you keep an appliance thermometer in your freezer, it’s easy to tell whether food is safe. When the power comes back on, check the thermometer. If it reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen.

 Refrigerated Food

  Keep the fridge closed. It will keep food cold for about 4 hours. Throw away any foods that have been above 40 degrees for longer than two hours.

Words of Caution:

  • Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

  • Always discard any items in the refrigerator and freezer that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
  • Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Another caution-be careful when grocery shopping after a power outage. Freezers and refrigerated foods may also have been affected.

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