Archive for December, 2017

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/


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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 

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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









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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

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