Archive for April, 2017


I know many people do not feel like they have the time or space to garden, but they love the taste of fresh vegetables and herbs in the meals that they prepare at home.

Container gardening is a great way to make this possible with minimal expense, space, and time.  This type of gardening is ideal for apartment balconies, window sills, small courtyards, patios, decks, and areas with poor soil.  They provide an ideal solution for people with limited mobility, in rental housing, or those with limited time to care for a larger landscape.  Container gardening is a way to introduce children to the joy of gardening while allowing them to experience the feeling of contributing to family meals with what they harvest.

As you begin to plan and prepare to set up your container garden, there are several things to consider:

  • Containers – clay, wood, plastic, metal5850315405_5156f7292e_n
  • Containers for vegetable plants must:
    • Be big enough to support plants when they are fully grown
    • Hold soil without spilling
    • Have adequate drainage
    • Never have held products that would be toxic to plants or people
  • Sunlight – the amount of sun that your container will get may determine which crops you grow
  • Drainage – no matter what container you choose it is important to consider drainage because plants will not grow successfully in soil that is continually waterlogged
  • Soil – it should be free of disease organisms, insects and weeds
  • Watering – container gardens require more frequent watering than plants that are planted directly in the ground. Evaporation is more likely to occur due the exposed sides of the container
  • Fertilizing – it is recommended that you mix controlled-release fertilizer granules into your soil mix when planting

2826571981_b4c46fb904_nWith appropriate containers and proper handling, anything that can be grown in the ground can be grown in a container.  Texas A & M provides a great resource for those who are considering vegetable gardening.  This information will provide you with support as you begin to set up your container garden.

Did you know that gardeners eat twice as many servings of vegetables as people who do not garden?  This is an added bonus to the joys and benefits of container gardening.

Happy gardening!!!

Writer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu


Colorado University State Extension, http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/container-gardens-7-238/

Texas A & M Agrilife Extension,  http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/EHT-062-vegetable-gardening-in-containers.pdf

University of Illinois Extension, https://extension.illinois.edu/containergardening/choosing_material.cfm

University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6L3FFbKYjlI



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Vitamin D is well known for contributing to strong, healthy bones. Did you know that it also contributes to the health of many other parts of the body? Vitamin D is important to your immune system, muscles, heart, brain and respiratory system. It can help fight infection, keep your cells communicating properly and even fight cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with aches and pains, tiredness and frequent infections, and it has been linked to a number of health problems including:

  • Bone Conditions (e.g. rickets and osteomalacia)
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease

While most vitamins are obtained through the diet, the best way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight.  Your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D each day with 15 minutes-2 hours of exposure to sunlight. The daily amount of sunlight needed for your body to produce Vitamin D varies by:

  • Skin tone – pale skin makes Vitamin D more quickly than dark skin
  • Age – our bodies have a harder time producing Vitamin D as we age
  • Location – the closer you live to the equator, the easier it is for your body to produce Vitamin D
  • Altitude –Vitamin D is produced more quickly at high altitudes when you’re closer to the sun
  • Weather – our bodies produce less Vitamin D on cloudy days than on sunny days
  • Air pollution – your body will make less Vitamin D if you live in a highly polluted area
  • Time of day – your body makes more Vitamin D if when your skin is exposed in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point
  • Skin Exposure – the more skin you expose, the more Vitamin D you produce

Keep in mind that high sun exposure can increase risks for skin cancer.  Sun screen and protective clothing/hats are recommended for protection from the sun, even though reduced sun exposure may inhibit the body from producing Vitamin D as quickly.

In the fast-paced world we live in today, the average American does not consistently get exposure to the amount of sunlight needed to produce optimal levels of Vitamin D.  If you suspect you’re not getting enough sun exposure for your body to produce Vitamin D, you can get vitamin D through diet and supplementation.  The recommended dietary allowance (i.e. the average daily intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy people) is 600 IU. Foods high in Vitamin D include milk (120 IU per 8 ounce serving), salmon (450 IU per 3 ounce serving), canned tuna (150 IU per 3 ounce serving) and fortified orange juice (140 IU per 8 ounce serving).

Additionally, the Vitamin D Council recommends Vitamin D supplementation as described in the chart below:

Vitamin D recommendations Vitamin D Council
Infants 1,000 IU/day
Children 1,000 IU/day per 25 lbs of body weight
Adults 5,000 IU/day

According to the Vitamin D Council, Vitamin D toxicity can occur, but it is rare and unlikely: for example, a person would need to take a daily dose of 40,000 IU for a couple of months or longer to experience toxicity, or take a very large one-time dose such as 70,000 + IU. If you’re concerned about Vitamin D deficiency or toxicity, ask your doctor to test the level in your body.

Author: Brooke Distel, DTR, Dietetic Intern and graduate student

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, MPH, RD, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu


Brinkman, P. (2016). Keeping Sun Safe. Ohioline. http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hsc-7. 

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (2016). Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.

Vitamin D Council (2017). About Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.

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Is exercise contagious? In a sense, yes it is, and so are other health behaviors!

Many health behavior theories incorporate the concept of “social norms”. Social norms refer to the way people typically act and believe they should act. In reference to health, social norms include people’s beliefs about how often healthy behaviors are practiced in society or among their families and friends. Health behavior theories suggest that people tend to make healthy choices when they believe that family, friends and others in their community are doing the same thing.

In a recent study of social norms among women living in Australia, those who perceived others in their community as active where more likely to engage in physical activity themselves. Similarly, those who stated that many people in their community were frequent consumers of fast food and soda were most likely to eat fast food and drink soda regularly, and those who stated that many people in their community were healthy eaters had the highest intakes of fruits and vegetables.

In a study out of Cornell University, individuals ate more unhealthy food and less healthy food when eating with or near an overweight diner. The study findings suggest that people may be less likely to make healthy choices if they don’t believe the people they are surrounded by are making similar choices.

Recently, I have been experiencing the positive pressure of social norms firsthand because I am Facebook friends with a few of the fitness class instructors at the studio where I go to work out. These instructors post encouraging messages before their classes, often tagging members of the studio to remind them to attend. After their classes, the instructors post photos of class attendees in action. As a result, every time I log into my Facebook account, I see pictures of people I know working out! These photos reinforce exercise as normal and expected, causing me to want to join in more often!


Do your friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers encourage you to make healthy choices by modeling healthy behavior? How about your social media contacts? If you need more positive behavior reinforcement in your social media feed, consider following the Live Healthy, Live Well team and the Live Smart Ohio blog on Facebook or Twitter! You may also want to check with your local Extension office to see whether they have a social media presence.

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


Ball, K., Jeffery, R.W., Gavin, A., McNaughton, S.A., and Crawford, D. (2010). Is healthy behavior contagious? Associations of social norms with physical activity and healthy eating. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity; 7(86). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018448/.

Rural Health Information Hub (2016). Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Theories and Models. https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/community-health/health-promotion/2/theories-and-models.

Shimizu, M., Johnson, K. and Wansink, B. (2014). In good company: The effect of an eating companion’s appearanfe on food intake. Appetite; 83, 263-268. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666314004450.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011). Social Norms. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/social-norms/.

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I grew up eating black raspberries as a child. They are very hard to find these days; most of the darker colored berries in the grocery store are blackberries.  Now, you’re probably sitting there scratching your head and asking “Whatchu talking about, Willis?” Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that there are two distinct “black berry” choices.

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know there was a difference; even some food companies and nutritionists don’t realize that these are two different food items. Yes, they are both berries, and yes, they are both black. But there are distinct taste and nutritional differences between the two.



What they look like: Blackberries are bigger; with larger single cells that bulge out more than the cells in a black raspberry.  The berry top appears closed.  Blackberries are more shiny or glossy than a black raspberry.

How they taste: Less tart than a red raspberry and sweeter.

Health benefits: Blackberries definitely provide health benefits, but do not contain the same levels of antioxidants and anthocyanins as black raspberries.  They have higher levels of natural sugars, which can be an issue for people with diabetes. They haven’t been studied as much as black raspberries.

black raspberries


What they look like: Looks like a red raspberry only black.  Farmers call them “blackcaps” because when the berry comes off the bush, they are hollow inside (top appears open or hollow).  The individual cells of the black raspberry are much smaller than a blackberry’s and do not protrude or stick out.

How they taste: More fruity and less tart than a blackberry. They contain less sugar, so are not as sweet. A black raspberry has a unique taste that is not like other berries.

Health benefits: Black raspberries are one of the healthiest berries you can eat.  They are lower in sugar than other berries and provide a lot of fiber (about 8 grams per cup).  They contain large amounts of anthocyanins, with approximately three times the number of antioxidants found in blackberries.  They are also one of the most highly-researched berries, especially in the area of cancer prevention.

Berry Comparison

Nutritionally, plant foods can be measured to see how many antioxidants a specific serving of food will provide. Used by the USDA, it’s called an ORAC score, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (how many free radical cells can those antioxidants sweep up or absorb). Below is a chart comparing the antioxidant content of a variety of berries. Note which version is in first place.

ORAC berry score

Bottom Line

All berries are good choices to eat for optimum health benefits. But try to acquire some black raspberries this summer when you’re out at the farm market; your body will thank you.


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





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“I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company.  Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen.” – Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

Are you looking to spend more time with your family?  Want to become more physically active?  How about needing to go to a place for peace, tranquility and relaxation?  Do you need to adopt better health habits?  Well, if you take the time to stop and “listen,” gardening just might be the activity you are looking for!

The health benefits of gardening include:garden pic

  • Increasing the chances of eating the amount of produce recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Consuming more plant-based foods which are associated with less risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  • Becoming more physically active to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
  • Strengthening bones and muscles.
  • Improving physical functioning in older adults: helps keep hands strong and agile.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Being around nature which has the potential to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.

Research and studies show the following:

  • Gardening 3-5 times a week has been found to be a good strategy to combat obesity and lower stress.
  • Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain taking part in horticultural therapy programs experience an improved ability to cope with chronic pain.
  • Children with attention deficit disorder who play in grassy, outdoor spaces have less severe symptoms than those who play in windowless, indoor settings.
  • Patients with clinical depression who participated in routine therapeutic gardening activities experienced a reduction of severity of depression and increased attentional capacity —benefits that lasted up to three months after the program ended.
  • Dementia patients who have access to gardens are less likely to display aggression or suffer injuries, and they display improved sleep patterns, balanced hormones and decreased agitation.

What are some additional benefits of Gardening?

  • Nutrition Awareness – Impacting positive food choices.
  • Environmental Awareness – Teaching children about their environment. “Gardens are often the most accessible places for children to learn about nature’s beaugard picty, interconnections, power, fragility, and solace.” (Heffernan, M. (1994).
  • Life Skills – Increasing appreciation for nature, responsibility and development of family involvement.
  • Health and Wellness – Improving the quality of life.
  • Community Building and Social Connections through Community Gardens – Developing positive and friendly interactions with neighbors.

Some final thoughts about Gardening

“Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized.” – Dr. Allan Armitage

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin

Yes, Eeyore, we need to “listen” because plants have a lot to say!

Written by:  Janet Wasko Myers, Program Assistant, Horticulture, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Pamela Bennett, Extension Educator, Horticulture, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, bennett.27@osu.edu


The Ohio State University.  College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. News:  Chow Line:  Working in garden yields multiple benefits. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-working-in-garden-yields-multiple-benefits

The Ohio State University.  College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
News:  New OARDC Garden Will Help Study Links Between Plants and Health.


Michigan State University Extension.  What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening?  http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/what_are_the_physical_and_mental_benefits_of_gardening

Cornell University.  College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.  Learn, Garden & Reflect with Cornell Garden-Based Learning.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.    https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/


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Many people are experimenting with coloring or dyeing eggs with natural dyes – have you been thinking about trying it? My family has a tradition to dye eggs with onion skins that we always called “Bunny Eggs”. These beautiful brown/golden eggs have a marbled look that adults especially love. If you are interested in trying to dye eggs naturally here are a few tips:

  • Start by making hard boiled eggs – use un-cracked eggs that have been boiled in a covered pot for 4 minutes, then left in the covered pot (removed from the stove) for 15 to 17 minutes. At that point place pot in sink and cover with cold water, let eggs sit in cool water until completely cool. Dry eggs. If you can’t color eggs right away, refrigerate them.
  • To make your natural dye – place a small amount of your natural material in a pot of 2 cups of cold water and bring to a boil, and simmer for up to 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove materials and cool in the refrigerator.
  • Once dye is cool – add hard cooked egg and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Soak to desired color.
  • If you want to be able to eat the eggs, they must be kept refrigerated and only at room-temperature for 2 hours or less. These would not be eggs you would hide in the grass for example or someplace that animals could get to them.

Ideas for natural dyes:

Blue or purple – grape juice, red grapes, blue or blackberries, or red cabbage.

Brown – coffee grounds, black tea, or walnut shells.

Orange – ground cumin.

Yellow – orange or lemon peels, curry powder, or dandelions.

Pink – red beets.

Green – fresh cranberries.

Yellowish green – spinach.

Dark yellow/brown/rust – onion skins.

If you want a marbled effect to the dye, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the water before adding your egg in the dyeing process.

My family makes our eggs with onion skins wrapped around the raw eggs, with a piece of cheese cloth tied around it. Then the eggs are boiled. It takes a fair amount of skins, so you may need to buy a bag of onions. (Cheese cloth is usually found with canning materials or at the hardware to be used with staining of furniture.)

Hard boiled eggs that have been properly stored by refrigeration can be eaten for up to one week. Eggs are best not stored in the refrigerator door.

What natural egg dyes do you plan to try this year? I froze some cranberries and can’t wait to see what happens when using them to make a natural egg dye.


Penn State Extension, http://extension.psu.edu/plants/master-gardener/counties/adams/news/2015/dare-to-dye-differently-natural-dying-of-easter-eggs.

University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/04/03/dyeing-eggs-the-natural-way/.

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, http://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/youth/printer-friendly/coloringeggs.pdf.

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

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County.

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If you want to learn about healthy eating, you can find mountains of information on the web, smart phone apps, at the book store, etc. The same goes for any health behavior such as physical activity, smoking cessation, or stress management. There’s a lot of good research-based information and advice and lots of bad as well. Organizations such as CDC, Land-grant universities, non-profits, have unbiased research-based information and resources.

Most of us probably know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, less junk food, exercising more and sleeping longer so why is it hard  to change our habits? What behavioral scientists tell us is that knowledge isn’t predictive of what we do or don’t do. Knowledge is important but there are many other factors that influence our behaviors. Personal factors such as our self-confidence or self-efficacy to undertake a behavior is critical as are the expectations or beliefs about behavior.  For example, I’m trying to eat less processed meats because they are associated with certain cancers. In addition to having this knowledge, I’m also pretty confident that I can identify processed meats and can make healthy substitutes. So why am I still eating gobs of lunchmeat, peperoni on pizza, beef jerky, hot dogs, and brats, and not to mention fast food?

In addition to personal factors, our behaviors are also influenced by our social networks, situations, environments including workplaces and communities, and ultimately policies. Regarding processed meat, it’s everywhere including stores, restaurants, and at parties. Furthermore, it’s really easy to prepare since I don’t have to cook it, or at least for very long and in many cases it’s just served to me at restaurants. So in other words, even though I have the knowledge, beliefs, and self-confidence, the cards are still stacked against me because of the situations or environments where my behavior takes place.  I should have the will power to overcome these challenges or perhaps not. Perhaps the “horse” driving my “cart” is not a very strong one. The “horse” refers to the reward expectation of the behavior. Rational humans do things and do things repeatedly because they expect to be rewarded in some way. Unfortunately, biology rewards behaviors that are detrimental over time to our well-being. Sugary fatty foods taste good, as do salty processed meats. In addition to taste, convenient behaviors are rewarding because we spend less energy and experience less discomfort.  It’s easy (rewarding) to succumb to the forces of gravity and be a couch potato, or to eat out. In order to overcome these forces, we really need to think about what we value. The reward of “doing” must be much more compelling than the reward of “not doing,” especially in context of situations and environments in which we find ourselves. Long range reward expectations regarding health behaviors are important, because they often catalyze behavior change in the first place and keep us going over time. Most people take about 6 months to form a habit and move back and forth through through “stages of change.” However, immediate reward expectations get us through tempting day to day situations. I saw my mom fight colon cancer and how terrible the surgery and treatment were. As compelling as the long range reward to avoid that, is it enough for me to buy something besides beef jerky at the convenience store when I have a salt craving? Probably not, but it will cross my mind. However, the expectation of a short-term reward that nuts will taste just as good might be what tips the scale and gets me out of the convenience store without the beef jerky in hand!

When we set out to change a behavior, we really need to take time and think about these rewards. Short and long-term reward expectations can be things that aren’t even health related but important to us in some way. Short-term reward expectations for healthy eating might include having energy, feeling satisfied with a healthier substitute, not feeling bloated, feeling strong, and alert. Long term rewards could include seeing a grandchild graduate from college, being able to go on vacations, go on long hikes, being a role model, etc. Furthermore, you might want to think even deeper or what is the “reward” behind the reward. Why would long hikes be important for example? Hikes could be spiritually rewarding  to be connected with nature.

When changing a behavior we should set S.M.A.R.T. goals– realistic, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. These should be written down. We should also write down short and long-term rewards and why they are important. They can be anything that is valued- either material (ex. a movie at the end the week if the reward is achieved) or understood (I will feel more energetic). Reflect often about rewards, and ask “what’s really driving my behaviors.” We may need to change rewards as we achieve goals or as our values change depending on our stage of life. We must really take time and think about “the horse”, because the horse is going to pull the cart through the difficult situations!



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/

Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American psychologist, 44(9), 1175

Ohioline Factsheet HYG5587. Processed Meats, Red Meats and Colorectal Cancer Risk. Accessed at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5587

A Healthier Michigan. (2017). How to set SMART Goals for Health. Accessed at https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2011/01/12/how-to-get-smart-about-goal-setting/

Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1982). Transtheoretical therapy: Toward a more integrative model of change. Psychotherapy: theory, research & practice, 19(3), 276.


Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, O.S.U. Extension

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, O.S.U. Extension, Fairfield County

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