Archive for December, 2017

As we round the corner and move towards 2018, do you still have any items on your “to do” list that you wanted to accomplish in 2017? I know I still have a few things on my list which will be pushed into the new year. At the start of the New Year, I enjoy boxing up old files and starting new files for the upcoming year. It is also fun to get a new calendar – another opportunity to start fresh and organize your work and personal life.

For many of us, a New Year is a fresh slate and we vow to . . . . . (you fill in the blank).

What is important to you? Let’s look at a few items and see if any resonate with you. Perhaps these ideas will help you get started on your goals for 2018.

Do you want be healthier? Let’s say that in 2018, you decide to focus on eating healthier or being more active. If you want to eat healthier, start by visiting http://choosemyplate.gov where you will find Super Tracker – an online food, activity and weight management tool that you can customize. Also explore USDA’s What’s Cooking? Mixing Bowl – a site full of tasty recipes and meal planning tools.

Still looking for additional ways to cut calories? Check out the tips shared on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) website. An easy jump-start to eating healthier is to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits.

Perhaps your beverage choices contribute to excess calories. It might be time to Rethink Your Drink. What can you do to reduce calories?

Do you want to re-energize and move more? Most of us can make improvements in this area. Set your activity goals and find an activity that moves you. Not sure where to start? Check out the CDC’s physical activity basics for adults. If you have 10 minutes to move then start with those 10. Make it a goal to add another 10 minutes during lunchtime and finish your day with another 10 minutes of activity. You will have added 30 minutes of physical activity to your day in 3 easy chunks!  This infographic from the American Heart Association may help you get started on your circuit training activity plan.


Create Your Own Circuit Workout. Source: American Heart Association. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/move-more/infographics/create-a-circuit-home-workout.

Clutter getting you down? Perhaps your goal for 2018 is to de-clutter and simplify your life. University of Illinois Extension has a great website to help you get started. Not sure where to start? Use the Clutter Emergency Card to help you sort what you should toss, keep or give away. Start small in one area, and once it is de-cluttered, move to another area.


In the New Year, what challenge will you take on? Share your ideas in the comments!


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

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



American Heart Association (2016). Create Your Own Circuit Workout at Home. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/GettingActive/Create-Your-Own-Circuit-Workout-at-home_UCM_484683_Article.jsp#.WjvNxk2WwaE

American Heart Association (2016). Why is physical activity so important for health and wellbeing? https://healthyforgood.heart.org/Move-more/Articles/Why-is-physical-activity-so-important-for-health-and-wellbeing

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Cutting Calories. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/cutting_calories.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). How Much Activity Do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Rethink Your Drink. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). http://choosemyplate.gov

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl. https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/

University of Illinois Extension. Dealing with Clutter.  http://extension.illinois.edu/clutter/dealing.html




Read Full Post »

christmas-2411764_1280Recently my extended family went through a time of crisis. My own immediate family was one of many who stepped in to help. The aftermath of this crisis left many of my immediate family members exhausted and/or sick. After about 5 weeks of one type of sickness or another at my house, I remember thinking… “It doesn’t matter to me what our Christmas looks like this year, I just want my kids to be healthy.” I know that feeling of wanting things to get back to “normal.”

Yesterday at every store I encountered there was someone dealing with some sort of crisis: family illness, loved one in the hospital, recent passing of a parent, and even a pet emergency. This time of year when many people are already experiencing more stress than they can handle, an added crisis is sometimes enough to push us to the edge. Having just dealt with crisis, and knowing how much it means to be the recipient of kindness and caring, I tried my best to offer encouragement and positive thoughts with these folks who are dealing with so much.

We may never know what others around us are dealing with. Maybe that impatient person behind you in line is in crisis right now. Maybe that fast driver is trying to see his baby in NICU after a long day at work. What if that weary person next to you is undergoing cancer treatment? What if… a kind word from you can bring a smile? What can you do today to be an encourager and spread some holiday cheer?

Here are some ideas for random acts of holiday kindness:

  1. Give up your spot in line.
  2. Donate money to an organization or charity.
  3. Pay for someone else’s coffee.
  4. Send cards to those in military service
  5. Take a meal to someone who needs it.
  6. Donate food to your food bank.
  7. Donate pet supplies to a shelter.
  8. Help someone with a chore.
  9. Do yard work or shovel for a neighbor.
  10. Donate books you no longer need.
  11. Pick up litter.
  12. Leave a popcorn surprise for strangers to find.
  13. Donate toys to a children’s hospital.
  14. Donate new pajamas for children in foster care.
  15. Feed the birds.

What other ideas can your family come up with? This could be tonight’s dinner topic! When your children see you sharing kindness with others, they will likely adopt this compassionate behavior. In fact, one study showed teens who helped others felt more positive about their own lives. Families can enjoy sharing some holiday kindness together.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by:  Jami Dellifield, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County.


American Psychological Association. 2017. “What makes kids care? Teaching gentleness in a violent world.” Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/kids-care.aspx




Read Full Post »

smilies-1607163_1920The best things in life really are free.  It doesn’t cost a dime to be kind, to be patient, or to be positive. As we go through our days in a rush, it is easy to see the negative in situations. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, research shows that having a positive outlook can benefit your physical and emotional wellness.

Be patient with yourself and with others. According to a study by Gardner, Lally, and Wardle, it can take up to ten weeks to build a new habit. Their research shows that you can build a habit, by teaching yourself to do an action after a stimulus, just like washing your hands after using the restroom. They suggest the following template for changing behavior.

A tool for patients to make a new healthy habit

  1. Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
  2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.
  3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
  4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
  5. It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.
  6. Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!

For example:

  • My goal is to stay positive while I am shopping.
  • My plan is to remain calm while shopping during this hectic season.
  • In the aisles and lines, I will smile and speak nicely to those I encounter.

How can you become more patient, show more forgiveness, and become more kind?  You can build a habit of a more positive outlook by practicing often. By practicing, you will begin to build a more positive mindset.  Here are some ideas for you to try:peru-641632_640

  • Take time each day for small, simple pleasures.
  • Hold the door, give up your seat or let someone go in front of you.
  • Send someone a note of ‘thanks.’
  • Compliment someone (a stranger, a co-worker, your child, your spouse, a family member).
  • Wait your turn. Don’t shove.  Just take a deep breath and wait.
  • Smile at those you see in the store aisles or in that very long line at the register.
  • Help someone with a small task.
  • Pick up litter when you see it.
  • Shovel someone’s drive or scrape the ice from someone’s windows.
  • Stand up for injustice. Speak out.
  • Visit the elderly (a neighbor or a nursing home).  Ask them to share some memories with you.
  • Hug someone.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel better about yourself.
  • Build a “positive” display in your home or office.  Items should include memories and accomplishments that help you remember happy times.

Remember, it doesn’t cost anything to take a deep breath and stay kind.  Like Ghandi, you must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Written by: Jami Dellifield, Extension Educator, Ohio State University, Family and Consumer Sciences, Hardin County

Reviewed by: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Ohio State University, Family and Consumer Sciences, Washington County


Ohio Department of Education https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Other-Resources/News/Know!-To-Practice-Kindness

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Workforce Management Office http://www.wfm.noaa.gov/workplace/EffectivePresentation_Handout_2.pdf 

National Institutes of health, US Dept. of health and Human Services https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/08/positive-emotions-your-health

Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of “habit-formation” and general practice. The British Journal of General Practice62(605), 664–666. http://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp12X659466; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505409/


Photo Credits:





Read Full Post »

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:Photo of car on snowy road.

  • 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/

Read Full Post »

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 

Read Full Post »

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









Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »