Are you part of the over 90 million people who are hitting the roads in their cars to travel over the upcoming holiday? A little planning can help you to make this trip safe and even enjoyable for your family.

Before you go:

  • Have your car maintained – check or change oil, tires, wipers, and fluids.
  • Carry a disaster supply kit – flash light, extra medications, bottled water or juices, cereal bars, blankets, first aid kit, and a fully charged portable cell charger are must haves!
  • Check the weather on your route and let other people know the travel route you plan to travel.
  • Pack healthier for you snacks to avoid drive-thru stops. Try cheese sticks, pretzels, nuts, fresh or dried fruit, veggie sticks, whole grain crackers, squeezable applesauce pouches, yogurt tubes that are pre-frozen, and bottled water or ice tea (not the southern-style variety).

As you roll out:

  • Make sure everyone is properly buckled in car seats or seat belts.
  • Don’t drive distracted, put cell phones away. If you are using it as a navigator – have a helper or pull over if you need to make changes or check routes.
  • Keep fuel tanks at least 25 to 30% full – you never know when weather will turn bad or you will get stuck in a traffic jam. (I admit to having a day when I thought I would fill up on my way back from Columbus instead of before I left, and then I got stuck in traffic. I watched the “Miles left sensor” tick down to less than 10 miles and then I quickly exited as soon as I could! Never again will I do that, it caused me great stress.)
  • Take breaks to change drivers and to keep everyone alert.
  • When you make stops, park in well-lit areas and try to keep valuables out of sight if possible.

Now that you are safely on your travel way – think about how you spend that time in the car. (The average long distance traveler goes 275 miles at Christmas.) I know there are many electronics available to keep everyone entertained – but why not use part of that travel time maintaining your family relationships by talking, singing, or playing travel games. Here are a few ideas that are free:

  • Play the license plate game, “I Spy with My Little Eye”, or the popular “I’m going on a trip and taking (then list items adding them in alphabetical order – apples, boots, change, doll – each person adds a new item and everyone must remember the whole list).
  • As your family ages – change the games to see who can name the most states and capitals, songs by a certain artist, books by an author, soccer/baseball/Olympic athletes on a team or in the Hall of Fame. My family of three includes a college-aged daughter, we often challenge each other to come up with the most songs by an artist, movies with a certain performer in them, or knowing what sports teams our favorite players used to be with.

While admitting that I love to use part of my travel time to read my latest book, spending a portion of trip talking with my family keeps the lines of communication open and strengthens our ties. I realize that electronic devices can keep families from fighting about what they are going to listen to, but those families also miss out on all those fun times we have enjoyed and that captive audience time to just talk about what is going on in your community/school/or with friends. I can’t wait to hear what your favorite travel game is – be creative and comment below!

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.



American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/highway-safety#Prepare-for-Driving

University of Delaware Extension: http://extension.udel.edu/factsheets/building-strong-family-relationships/


As we approach the height of the holiday season, you are likely to find many people seeking the perfect gifts for their friends, family members and loved ones. We all have that one person in our life who is tricky to gift. Maybe it’s a child who has too many toys to count, or maybe it’s a parent or grandparent who seems to have everything he or she could possibly need. While finding an appropriate gift for each of these individuals can be challenging and even stressful, it is still rewarding to give. After all, we have all heard the saying “It’s better to give than receive”, and research actually backs up that popular quip! Studies show that giving can boost the physical and mental health of the giver in a multitude of ways.

This year, as you consider how to gift the loved ones in your life, consider these three “out of the box” ideas:

  1. Donations – For my nephew’s first birthday, a coworker suggested I make a donation to our local zoo in his name. The zoo sent an “adoption” certificate for an animal of my choosing, along with a color photo and fun fact sheet on the animal. For a few extra dollars, a stuffed animal is also an option. In addition to local zoos, you could also donate to animal shelters, food pantries, international organizations or community non-profits, depending on what the recipient values.


    A flamingo fact sheet provided by the Columbus Zoo as part of the “adopt-an-animal” donation I made in my nephew’s name.

  2. Homemade Gifts – Use your personal skills and talents to make crafts or DIY gifts that carry meaning to your recipients. If you don’t feel very creative or crafty, begin by searching the internet for inspiration. This year, my sister and I attended a wreath making class together. I paid her registration fee as a gift and then gave the wreath I made myself to my grandparents. Other handmade gift ideas may include flower arrangements, greeting cards, quilts or blankets, wall art or homemade food. However, if you choose to make food for others, keep in mind the personal health goals or concerns that recipients may have.


    The wreath I made for my grandparents in a wreath-making class I attended with my sister.

  3. Experiential Gifts – Think about things that the gift recipient may enjoy doing. Perhaps you could purchase tickets to an upcoming concert or play, or buy a family membership to your local zoo or a museum. Some recipients may enjoy monthly wine or flower subscriptions, or a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership.


Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1.#@osu.edu



Bea, S. (2016). Wanna Give? This is Your Brain on a “Helper’s High”. The Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/11/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/

Marsh, J. and Suttie, J. (2013). 5 Ways Giving is Good For You. The Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you 

winter walking

As we inch closer to the first day of winter, one of the obvious changes in the weather we can expect to see will be colder temps, along with the possibility of dangerous outdoor conditions (snow and ice). My experience as an outdoor, daily walker is that the number of fellow walkers diminishes drastically when the temperature drops.

But using cold weather as an excuse to stop exercising is a cop-out.  Realistically, 90% of the weather this winter will be manageable for outdoor activities as long as you wear appropriate clothing.

If you’ve been working out regularly and then quit for a few months, you may console yourself that you are just taking a short, cold weather break from your exercise routine. No big deal, right?  Well, it is a big deal to your body, because once the stimulus of regular exercise training is removed, you will eventually lose all of your previous training adaptations.

Your body works very hard to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the process your body goes through while at rest to maintain a stable, internal environment. It includes regulating variables such as pH balance, oxygen and blood glucose levels, body temperature, and more.  Any disruption to homeostasis will bring about multiple responses by your body to bring the disrupted variables back to normal.

Engaging in physical exercise is a powerful disruptor of normal, resting homeostasis. The more intensely you exercise, the bigger the disruption.  For example, your heart will pump more forcefully and the blood vessels going to your muscles will dilate to increase blood flow. Those adjustments that your cardiovascular system has to make to ensure your muscles are receiving adequate blood flow is called the overload principle.

I can’t stress enough how important exercise is when it comes to this principle.  If you habitually overload your system by exercising 3-5 times a week for several months, your body will make positive, long-term adaptations to the repeated stress of regular exercise.  Examples include an increase in mitochondria and the oxidative capacity in skeletal muscle.

Stopping the overload process will result in reversibility, a backwards trajectory. Whereas overloading results in homeostasis adaptations, inactivity (stopping your exercise program) results in a return to baseline, or pre-training levels.  You’ve more commonly heard it referred to as “use it or lose it.”

Need more incentive? You reap additional benefits exercising in the cold. Want to lose weight?  You can burn more calories in the winter because your body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature.  You also produce more endorphins when your body works harder to stay warm; this may help alleviate the depression that comes for a lot of people when the days get shorter, cloudier, and colder.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu









Pre-Exercise Snacking

Ready to hit the gym for a workout?  Do you need a snack to provide some energy?  What fitness-1499785__340kind of snack is best?  When should you eat it?

You may need a snack if it has been at least two to three hours since you last ate.  If you had lunch at Noon and head to the gym at 5 pm, it would be best to eat a snack.  If you head to the gym first thing in the morning eat some breakfast or a snack before you go, as you need fuel before exercise.

When to eat?  Eating on the way to the gym will not provide your body with the benefits you are seeking.  It is best to eat your snack one to two hours before you head to the gym.  Eating right before does not allow your body to digest and absorb the food, so it reaches your muscles during exercise.  Eat within 1 to 4 hours before exercise and eat a carbohydrate-rich snack according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

What to eat?    Carbohydrate-rich foods are the recommended foods before working out but you may need to balance them with protein and fat.  To prevent a spike in blood sugar, consume some protein and/or fiber with the carbohydrate rich snack.  This can also help with satiety.  Including protein may promote muscle recovery when doing resistance exercises (strength training).   Some examples of healthy pre-exercise snacks include:

  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Cheese sticks
  • Nuts
  • Seedsfruit
  • Canned seafood in single-serve packs
  • Whole grains
  • Whole fruits
  • Fruit smoothie

How much should you eat?  The closer to your workout the less you should eat.  You will also want to limit fat, protein, and fiber, so the snack can be more quickly digested and absorbed especially if you are doing cardiovascular exercise.

When choosing to eat 2 hours or more before exercise, choose a snack with 200 to 300 calories, depending on your individual needs, such as tuna with cheese and whole-grain crackers or ¼ cup of hummus with whole grain pretzels and 8 ounces low-sodium veggie juice.  If eating 1 hour before, lower the calories to 100 to 200 such as a small whole fruit and 6 ounces of yogurt and if eating just 30 minutes before a workout choose a small whole fruit or other whole grain item.

Be sure to stay well-hydrated.  Water is best unless you are exercising vigorously for more than 60 minutes, then use a sports drink.  Recommendations include:water-19659__340

  • Drinking about 2 to 3 cups of water during the 2-3 hours before exercising.
  • Drinking ½ to 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout.
  • Drinking about 2-3 cups of water after your workout.

Pay attention to how you feel as everyone is different and you may need to adjust your eating habits. Other factors that may affect your workouts and eating are altitude and hot or cold environments.   Keeping a journal can help you tweak your meals and snacks to optimize exercise. Enjoy your workout!

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer:  Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County


American College of Sports Medicine, (2016). Nutrition and Athletic Performance Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2016, 48(3)543–568  Available at http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2016/03000 /Nutrition_and_Athletic_Performance.25.aspx

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Fitness, Knowing when and what to eat can make a difference in your workouts.  Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045506?pg=2&p=1

Tufts University. (2017). Smart Pre-Exercise Snacks, Health & Nutrition Letter, Tufts University.  March 2017 issue.  Available at https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/13_3/current-articles/Smart-Pre-Exercise-Snacks_2109-1.html

liquor-264470_640Wine and Beer drinkers often like to tout the health benefits of their favorite pastimes. However, if you read the peer-reviewed studies on alcohol consumption and health, most aren’t very supportive of drinking. I’ve heard friends proclaim that in the “blue zone” Mediterranean region where people live long lives, wine is a central part of the diet. However, wine and alcohol are not common factors in all of the blue zones around the world such as Loma Linda California. Yes, there are some phytochemicals in wine, but there’s also phytochemicals in fruity snacks too- catch my drift? The point is that alcoholic beverages, like juices, and sweetened beverages, are low in nutrition and high in calories. Excessive and regular alcohol consumption has been associated with obesity, heart disease, cancers (especially throat and stomach), high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease.

OK so I know that this information is probably not going to stop you from having a few this holiday season (it’s not going to stop me!) To be fair as well, most of the studies linking alcohol to disease are population-based and not randomly controlled which is the research gold standard. Ethically, it’s really hard to randomly assign people to a drinking group if they haven’t touched alcohol and follow them to see if they get sick. Instead, epidemiologist often look at self-report surveys of drinking behavior (which are flawed) and compare with disease occurrence. Although many of these studies report that drinking is linked with health problems, most also conclude that there isn’t an association between MODERATE drinking and problems.

Moderate drinking is defined as 2 servings per day for men, and 1 serving per day for women. A serving is defined as 12 ounce beer (4 ABV), 5 oz of wine, and 1.5 oz of 80 (1/2 shot glass) proof distilled liquor. Each serving stands at about 150 calories each. Be sure to read labels- products with higher alcohol and added sugar will have far more calories. For example, a 12 oz fruit malt-liquor beer (8 ABV) may have as many as 350 calories compared to a 12 oz lite beer with only a 100 calories! However, since alcohol is not regulated by the FDA, there aren’t label requirements. You may have to visit websites such as Calorieking or ChooseMyPlate Supertracker to find out calorie or other nutrition information.

People with diabetes and other chronic diseases need to be especially cautious. Beer and wine can gradually raise blood sugar, and stimulate overeating. Again, label reading is key. Most 12 oz beers have about 12-15 grams of carbohydrate but flavored beers might have as much as 50g per 12 oz which is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar! Flavored drinks like Margaritas can be even worse. Distilled liquor is high in calories but low in carbohydrate, that doesn’t mean a person with diabetes should finish off a flask! Excess alcohol consumption can also lower blood sugar because it inhibits the liver’s ability to release glucose.

Here are some holiday drinking tips for you.

  • Just like with deserts, drink slowly and use all your senses to appreciate the product. Drink during or after meals to avoid overeating.
  • Read labels, and stick with sugar-free products, lite beers or white wine as much as possible.
  • If you have diabetes, check blood sugars before and after you drink to understand how alcohol impacts your blood sugars.
  • Most importantly, STAY OFF THE ROAD and be careful!! Accidents, falls and injury aren’t much fun for anyone during the holidays!!

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Wood County


Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Alcohol Fact Sheet. Retrieved from cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

American Diabetes Association. (2015). Alcohol. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/alcohol.html

U.S.D.A. (2015-2020) Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines-2015


Just Dance!


I love to watch people dance, and obviously others do as well because competitive dance shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance are dominating the world of reality television.

But what’s even better than watching someone dance is actually getting up and dancing.  You don’t need to be a dance pro to move to music, you just need to let go of your inhibitions and enjoy the process of moving to music.

If you’ve ever watched young children at a wedding reception, they love to get on the dance floor and move around.  They’re not self-conscious or embarrassed. However, as we age, our fear of looking foolish or of not doing something perfectly keeps us from enjoying the moment.

That’s a shame, because the physical and mental benefits of dancing are numerous.  Regardless of the type of dance—be it ballroom, ballet, Zumba, salsa, hip-hop or line dancing—each style can play a role in helping us stay fit.

Why Dance?

The fitness and health benefits of dancing are numerous.  A recent study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that older adults who participated in dance once a week for 18 months actually had an increase in their brain’s hippocampus size.

This is great news, as the hippocampus plays a key role in learning and memory.  Dance is an art form, merging creativity, self-expression and physical activity—all of which boost mental health.

Other Fitness & Health Benefits of Dance include:

  • Weight loss
  • Safe and easy on the joints
  • Improves strength, flexibility, agility and balance
  • Requires good posture and better control of the body’s movements
  • Conditions the heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improves lung capacity
  • Increases energy
  • Reduces stress
  • Builds confidence and self esteem
  • Lifts spirits and fights depression
  • Boosts memory and keeps the brain active
  • A great social activity, hobby and a positive way to meet people

So what are you waiting for? Play some music, get up, and dance!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu







Lovin’ Leftovers

dinnerTomorrow is Thanksgiving and many of us will be preparing traditional celebrations which usually include generous amounts of food.  I think that besides the time spent with family and friends, my favorite part of the Thanksgiving feast are the leftovers that can be enjoyed for the next day or two.

This is a good time to think about the potential leftovers you will have and how to handle them safely to prevent food borne illness.

The first step to ensuring safe leftovers is to make sure that you are handling the food safely from the time you purchase it until you have prepared it.  Keep the four basic food safety guidelines in mind:

  1. Clean. Begin by washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food. Be sure that counter-tops are clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food, and keep cutting boards and utensils bacteria free by washing with hot soapy water or running through the dishwasher. Rinse fruits and vegetables that are not being cooked under cool running water.
  2. Separate. Help prevent cross contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry and seafood away from ready to eat foods in your shopping cart and your refrigerator. Use one cutting board for these raw foods and another for salads and ready to eat food.
  3. Cook. Use a food thermometer to tell if food is cooked to a safe temperature – just going by color is not sufficient. Always bring sauces, soups, etc. to a rolling boil when re-heating. If using a microwave oven, cover, stir and rotate the food to ensure even cooking.
  4. Chill. Remember the “danger zone” where bacteria can grow rapidly, 40° – 140°F. Keep the refrigerator below 40°, use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature. Chill leftover foods within 2 hours and put food into shallow containers to allow for quick cooling. Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

When you have prepared your dinner and are ready to serve, keep the time and temperature in mind for keeping the food safe for everyone. If an item that should be refrigerated inadvertently gets left out over two hours, throw it out!  No one likes to waste food but it is better than getting ill or even worse, making someone else ill.

Another thing to consider is how long you can safely keep leftovers.  Our colleagues at Illinois State University Extension have put together a list of safe times for keeping many holiday leftovers safely.

You might also be interested in trying some new recipes using your leftovers. The Illinois site lists several including this one for Turkey Posole (stew) that sounds great!

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with your family and use good food safety practices to keep everyone healthy and happy!turkey-966496__480

Writer: Marilyn Rabe, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, Treber.1@osu.edu


University of Illinois Extension. Turkey for the Holidays. Turkey Leftovers. http://extension.illinois.edu/turkey/leftovers.cfm

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service . Leftovers and food safety. (Rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/leftovers-and-food-safety/ct_index

Michigan State University Extension. There are Limits to Leftovers http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/there_are_limits_to_leftovers

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Check Your Steps: Food Safe Families   https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/teach-others/fsis-educational-campaigns/check-your-steps/check-your-steps