Archive for February, 2015

Does your family go through boxes and boxes of store-bought snacks faster than you can replenish them? Do you feel like you’re spending a majority of your grocery budget on sugar-filled, processed snacks that don’t seem to last more than a few days at your house? There is an answer to this madness. Make your own snacks!

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time for that!” and while that may be true, you’d be surprised how much time you’d actually be saving. Yes, making your own snacks involves some planning and prepping. However, this planning and prepping stage might not involve the lengthy process of taking a trip to the grocery store. You can make various snacks for you, your kids, and whoever else may be at your house from foods you likely already have on hand. For example, you could try the Homemade Peanut Butter Granola Bars shown below. In addition, recipes like these make large enough batches to provide snacks lasting up to two weeks if stored properly. Many store bought boxes of granola bars provide only 5 servings, so why not whip up homemade bars that yield about 24 servings per batch.

Find a recipe for snacks that fits your own personal schedule. On a time crunch this week? Throw together a big batch of trail mix using those nuts you bought in bulk that have been taking up space in your cupboard. Add in cereal, raisins, seeds, or chocolate chips and seal in an air-tight container. Scoop into sandwich-sized bags for an easy, balanced, and healthful snack for any time or place.

Buying ingredients in bulk at your favorite grocery store can help make an abundance of different snacks that add variety to your daily routine. Stock up on versatile foods like oats and nuts and you’d be surprised at your options for snacks and meals as well as how much more full your wallet feels. The recipe below, found on the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl website provides a snack that costs $0.30 per serving. No, that’s not a typo; $0.30 per serving. These homemade granola bars yield 24 servings making the total cost of the recipe about $7.15 according to USDA. You could get about 2 boxes, or 10 servings, of your average granola bars for that price.

Health bonus: Snacks like these provide more than just dollars in your pocket and variety to your pantry. The nutrition in homemade snacks like these is worth more than all of the previous reasons combined. The carbohydrate and protein provided in healthful, homemade snacks will offer the energy you need along with satisfaction until your next meal. On the plus side, you know exactly what ingredients are going into your snacks without paying for processed sugars and ingredients you can’t pronounce.


Homemade Peanut Butter Granola Bars

From “What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

Makes: 24 servings

Total Cost: $7.15

Serving Cost: $0.30


  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup carrot (grated)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel and grate the carrots.
  3. Put the honey and peanut butter in a large saucepan. Cook on low heat until melted. Remove pan from the heat.
  4. Add oatmeal, raisins, carrots, and coconut to the saucepan. Stir well, and let it cool until you can safely touch it with your hands.
  5. Press the mix firmly into the bottom of the pan.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Cool and cut into 24 bars.

Authors: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Wood County, and Allision Doriot , Dietetic Intern with Wood County Extension.

Reviewer: Cheryl Barber Spires, RD, LD, SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, West Region, Ohio State University Extension, spires.53@osu.edu


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yogurt container

You’ve probably noticed the recent increase in fermented foods found in the Natural Food section of your favorite grocery store.  Specialty shops are brimming with expensive gourmet food items such as organic yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi touting the benefit of fermented foods.  Categorized as “probiotics”, these foods contain live active cultures that are beneficial for health.  But did you know that all foods containing non-digestible carbohydrates are actually fermented in the body and produce similar health benefits?  These foods contain fibers that are fermentable in the colon and are categorized as “prebiotics”, offering  health benefits similar to those provided by probiotics.  These foods are commonly found in most households and include beans, bananas, wheat bran, asparagus, unrefined oats, and barley.

Although fermented foods have been around for centuries, scientists have renewed interest in the impact on health of a diet which includes a combination of prebiotics and probiotics.  While some individuals may have difficulty digesting certain foods containing non-digestible carbohydrates, studies have shown that people who maintain a healthy gut through diet may have a stronger immune system, reduction in colorectal cancer, and improved bowel function.

So what can you do to ensure you eat the right foods to maintain a healthy gut without spending a fortune?

  • Try cooking with dried beans.  Soak beans before cooking, changing the water once or twice while they soak.  Use fresh water for cooking the beans and rinse after cooking.
  • Try soups and side dishes filled with a good amount of prebiotics including asparagus, onion, jicama, Jerusalem artichoke, sliced berries and bananas.
  • Enjoy products made with 100% whole wheat flour. Sprinkle raw wheat bran on cereals and in soups or stews.

Preserving intestinal well-being starts with a balance of intestinal flora.  By eating a diet rich in pre- and probiotics, you’ll feed the intestinal microbiota that help maintain a healthy gut.    

Livestrong.com, What Do Probiotics Do For Your Body? http://www.livestrong.com/article/418612-what-do-probiotics-do-for-your-body/

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Prebiotics and Probiotics:  The Dynamic Duo, http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-the-dynamic-duoSources

Dry Bean Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4

Written by:  Jennifer Even, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Educator, OSU Extension, Hamilton County.

Reviewed by:  Cheryl Spires, RD, LD, SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region.

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Have you ever had difficulty getting in and out of your shower, turning on a faucet, reading the print on appliance controls, opening a door when you are carrying a bag of groceries, or reaching something on the top shelf of your pantry? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, perhaps you need to incorporate universal design features into your home. Universal design is a worldwide movement that is based on the idea that all environments and products should be usable by all people, regardless of their ages, sizes, or abilities. Universal design has also been referred to as “design for all,” “inclusive design,” and “life-span design.”

Universal design features can be incorporated into home modification if you are building a new home or repairing or renovating an existing home. Modifications can vary from larger projects such as installing a walk-in shower to smaller projects such as installing lever door knobs. In any case, the goal of universal design is not to entirely redesign your home but to make a range of changes or repairs that result in your home being a comfortable, user-friendly, and safer place to live.

The Ohio State University Factsheet entitled “Elements of Universal Design/ Home Modification” provides a list of challenges that individuals encounter and possible universal design solutions. Some examples include:

Limited Lifting or Flexibility

  • Install easy to turn lever or automatic (touch) faucets
  • Choose u-shaped drawer handles for cabinets and drawers that are easier to grasp
  • Consider decorative grab bars in the shower or by the toilet and tub to increase safety.
  • Replace standard light switches with rocker switches that are easier to use.

Limited Mobility

  • Install a bath/shower seat or tub with a transfer bench to ease getting in and out of the bath.
  • Use transition wedges at door thresholds to avoid tripping.
  • Give sidewalks and driveways a textured surface to increase traction and stability.
  • Use handrails on both sides of stairways.

Limited Vision

  • Purchase appliances with large print controls.
  • Install lighting near outside of walkways, stairs, and entrances.
  • Use nightlights where appropriate.
  • Install under the cabinet lights or task lighting, over kitchen counter work areas.

As you and your family change, so should your home. Keep in mind that a home with universal design feature accommodates everyone’s needs, whether they are young or old, short or tall, with physical limitations or without.

Adapted from OSU Extension Publication SS-190-02 found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/ss-fact/0190.html

Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, O.S.U. Extension

Reviewed by: Susan Zies, MS, Assistant Professor, Extension Educator, O.S.U. Extension Wood County

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The Home Baking Association pronounced February as ‘Bake for Family Fun Month.’ That sounds like a good way to observe the month because when I am snowed in with my family, my children love to bake something yummy. Baking together offers an opportunity to (1) spend quality time together, (2) teach children baking skills, and (3) pass along a favorite family recipe. So how can we enjoy that time with our kids and bake something that is good for us? There are changes you can make to traditional recipes to make them healthier. One of my favorite family recipes, bran muffins, calls for all-purpose flour, but I substitute whole wheat flour for half of the flour requirement to “up” the nutritional value and fiber content.

mother and daughter cooking

The American Heart Association recommends these substitutions to reduce fat and cholesterol content in recipes:

  • In place of whole milk, use fat-free or low-fat milk, plush 1 T. of liquid vegetable oil per cup of milk.
  • In place of heavy cream, use evaporated skim milk or ½ low-fat yogurt and ½ plain low-fat unsalted cottage cheese.
  • Instead of sour cream, try low-fat unsalted cottage cheese and low-fat or fat-free yogurt; or use fat-free sour cream.
  • In place of cream cheese, use 4 T. soft margarine blended with 1 cup dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese (add small amount of fat-free milk if needed).
  • Instead of butter, try soft margarine or liquid vegetable oil.
  • In place of 1 egg, substitute 2 egg whites or ¼ cup commercially prepared cholesterol-free egg substitute.
  • Instead of unsweetened baking chocolate, use unsweetened cocoa powder with vegetable oil or soft margarine.

For a list of other ideas for recipe substitutions, see OSU Extension’s fact sheet, “How to Modify a Recipe to Be Healthier.”

Maybe instead of modifying an old recipe, you’d like to try something new. The following websites have healthy recipes available:

American Heart Association

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Iowa State University Extension

If you would like to know more about baking with children, the Home Baking Association offers these tips for success:

  • Allow time.
  • Always wash hands and countertops before starting and clean up “as you go.”
  • Stay safe! Have an adult show how to do age-appropriate baking/cooking tasks.
  • Before you start: All bakers read the recipe top to bottom.
  • Gather all the ingredients and equipment.
  • Use the right tools.

Whatever you decide to bake in your kitchen as a family, you can have some fun and be healthy at the same time.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County

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Hearts Dancing

I like to dance.  I am not even talking about any particular style of dance – just moving around to the music.  I know I am not very good at it, and almost always I think I look out of sorts when I see myself in the living room mirror dancing.  But I don’t care because dancing feels wonderful to me!

One of the huge benefits of dancing is improved condition of your heart and lungs.  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to maintain good health we should aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week or 150 minutes a week.  Breaking up the 30 minutes into three 10 minute segments helps to get in the 30 minutes each day.  Dancing at home, alone or with others, for one of the three segments will help you easily obtain this daily goal.

We know exercise should be a part of our daily routine so why not choose an activity that we enjoy.  The great thing about dancing on your own, no specific style – no one around, is that no matter your age, size, or physically active level, you move at your own pace and in your own way.  There is no right or wrong way to dance – just move to your favorite music.

February is American Heart Month.  Heart disease, a broad term used to describe a range of diseases that affect your heart, is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Reduce your risk of heart disease and dance – dance to your heart’s content!

Writer: Candace J. Heer, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County, Heart of Ohio EERA, heer.7@osu.edu

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






Photo Credits:


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Did you know that people who are happier live 7 to 10 years longer? And happy employees miss up to 15 less days of work each year and recover from their illnesses earlier? The power of being positive is growing in both research findings and popular press. Numerous research studies have concluded that positive thinking can improve your health by:

  • Lowering rates of depression and levels of distressMP900386362
  • Reducing risks of heart disease
  • Providing resistance to the common cold

Thinking positive thoughts doesn’t mean you ignore unpleasant things that happen in your life; instead you look at those things as an opportunity to improve and presume that the best outcome is going to happen. So are you a glass half-full or half-empty (positive or negative) person? I admit this is an area I have been trying to watch in my own life. I know people who are negative much of the time and they aren’t fun to be around. What can we all do to be more positive?

  • Stop using negative thoughts and words. When you catch yourself being negative – take a break.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Seek out friends and co-workers who are positive and reduce the time you spend with those who are negative. Now, if your mother is the negative one, that doesn’t mean you never have to see her again, but try to change or direct conversations with her to reflect a more positive slant.
  • Read inspiring books or blogs, and follow people who use positive thinking on Twitter or Facebook. Buy a thought-of-the-day book with a positive theme or get out your old Chicken Soup books and read them again.
  • Watch TV shows, movies, or even YouTube video’s that make you happy and laugh.
  • Be physically active – it is amazing what a few 10 minute fitness breaks can do to improve your attitude (and your health).
  • Institute a “no complaining rule” at your office or with your family. When someone doesn’t like a new policy, encourage them to think of it as a way to learn something new. Or rather than complaining about something, think of possible alternatives. You may need to try some “no complaining” days first, rather than going cold-turkey.
  • Model positive actions and words with others. Set an example for your co-workers, family, and friends. Remember, children and teens will follow the example you set.

As one of my favorite positive speakers/authors Jon Gordon says “Be positively contagious”, rather than letting your negative energy infect others. If you are having a really negative day, everyone might be better served if you take a sick day for an “attitude adjustment.” In the same way that you would not want to infect co-workers with a cold or flu, you don’t want your pessimism contaminating others, either.


U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mayo Clinic

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

Reviewer:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County.

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Join me in Going Red this Friday. I wear red to increase awareness about the dangers of heart disease and to honor my parents. Heart disease is very personal to me as I lost both my parents in their 50’s to this disease. Heart disease continues to be the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States.

Did you know that heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women, yet it’s 80% preventable?

At your next meeting, family gathering or social event, look around you and count the number of women in the room. If there are 21 women in the room, 7 women will die from heart disease and stroke. When I think about an office where 6 women work, realizing that 2 women will die from heart disease and stroke is sobering. What about at our family holiday party where there are 15 women in our immediate family? 5 of us will die from heart disease. These numbers bring it home to many of us. 

What can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke? These suggestions are not just for women, they are for men, too. The American Heart Association website shares tips to encourage all of us to be heart healthy:
Be Active – aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This can help you lose weight as well as lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and other health problems. Talk with your health care professional about your activity level before beginning a program. Get their advice and get moving!
Manage your Weight – if you need to lose weight, set goals and begin this journey by adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet. Eating a diet high in fresh vegetables and fruits may help you achieve a healthy weight. Drink water, move more and eat those veggies.
Stop Smoking – if you are a smoker, make this your year! It is never too late to quit. Gather your support and make the change.
Know Your Numbers but Manage Your Risk – According to the American Heart Association, these are the ideal numbers for the general adult population:

Total Cholesterol – less than or equal to 180 mg/dL
Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than or equal to 25 kg/m2
Blood Pressure of less than 120/80 mm/Hg
Fasting Blood Sugar of less than or equal to 100 mg/dL

Show your commitment to living a healthier lifestyle by wearing Red this Friday. Visit  https://www.goredforwomen.org for more information on how you can begin to make positive lifestyle changes.

Do you like to cook? Want some new heart healthy recipes? Check out these heart healthy snacks: https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/heart-healhty-snacks-and-eating-on-thego/heart-healthy-snacks-for-kids/
For fast family dinners, visit: https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/cooking-heart-healthy-for-the-family/fast-family-weeknight-meals/

This is why I will Go Red on Friday.


Family Photo: Debbie Klinger, sister of author, Brandy Harris, niece of author, and Michelle Treber, author.  Monument photo: my parents monument.

Author: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, Crossroads EERA, stefura.2@osu.edu


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