Are you hosting a Halloween celebration?  How about having healthy food?  Just because it is healthy doesn’t mean it has to be boring or not taste delicious.

 Try these food ideas:

  • Pumpkin Dip – canned pumpkin, Greek vanilla Yogurt, one inch pieces of carrot sliced crosswise and then put cream cheese on one of the sliced ends and add half an olive to make it look like an eyeball.cinnamon, and a little orange Juice – Served with mini graham crackers
  • Monster Mash – use your favorite guacamole recipe. You can always mash avocado, add lime juice, & salsa for an easy treat.
  • Carrot Eyes –  carrot with cream cheese and half of an olive
  • Veggie Skeleton – Veggie Girl – Put your dip in a dish and then add leaf  lettuceVeggie Girl – Put your dip in a dish and then add leaf lettuce for hair, broccoli eyes, and red pepper for a mouth, for the body use cucumber slices, cauliflower for a skirt & red pepper ribs and legs, carrot sticks for arms.for hair, broccoli eyes, and red pepper for a mouth, for the body use cucumber slices, cauliflower for a skirt & red pepper ribs and legs, carrot sticks for arms.
  • Scarecrow Veggie Tray – On top of dip add cucumber slices with olives for eyes, carrot nose and red pepper slice for mouth. Around the dip place slices of carrot, celery and peppers for the straw hair and bottom of dish.  Top with rows of crackers in the shape of a hat.
  • Jicama Bean Salad- black beans, chopped orange bell pepper, and choppped jicama with vinaigrette dressing. You can put the salad into hollowed out red or yellow pepper to serve.
  • Trail mix served in Pumpkin Dish – nuts, seeds (pumpkin seeds), raisins or dried cranberries, dried apricots could be added.
  • Pumpkin Peppers – Cut the tops off bell peppers and carefully remove the center section of each pepper. Cut faces into the sides of the pepper. Fill with vegetables – Kale, Asparagus, Celery, Carrots, Cauliflower, and/or Broccoli.  You could also add some hummus if you want.
  • Spooky Pizza – Add pizza sauce to a whole-grain crust. Top with cut outs of ghosts from mozzarella cheese.  Bake and eat.
  • Halloween Quesadillas – Add black beans, mashed sweet potato, chopped cilantro and some jack cheese to a flour tortilla. Heat until hot and serve.
  • Cook a spaghetti squash. Put the spaghetti squash in a bowl and add some white cheese (Mozzarella, Parmesan or your choice).  Put some different sauces around it and let people choose what to add.

For Dessert

– peel a banana and cut in half crosswise. Push into the pointed top 2 mini chocolate chips to make eyes and add one regular size chocolate chip to make a mouth.

  • Banana Ghosts – peel a banana and cut in half crosswise. Push into the pointed top two mini chocolate chips to make eyes and add one regular size chocolate chip to make a mouth.
  • Fruit Pops – Use a melon baller or medium cookie dough dropper to cut circles out of the apples and/or peaches. Add a stick. You can also dip them into peanut butter or chocolate and then into some crushed nuts
  • Draw faces (with non-toxic ink) on clementine to make Jack-o-lanterns. These can be for decoration and eating.
  • Peel oranges or clementine and stick a piece of celery in the top to make a pumpkin stem.

Drinks – Serve water, unsweetened Ice Tea, or a  Halloween-themed punch – try mixing sparkling water with a little 100% orange juice and float orange slices and black grapes or blackberries in the punch bowl.

For activities:

  • Pumpkin Game – Pin the Face on the Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Painting Activity
  • Halloween Charades – Fill orange balloons with themed physical activities: Bat Flying (flap your arms), Frankenstein walk, spider crawl, zombie walk.  Pop balloons and act out.
  • Pumpkin Bob using feet
  • Pumpkin Hunt – hide items such as pennies, small toys inside a pumpkin which has not been cleaned out. Let children reach in & try to find an item.
  • Roll Apple
  • Apple Toss
  • Scarecrow Dress Up Relay

Be sure to decorate your home and your table.  Enjoy your healthy Halloween Celebration!

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



American Heart Association, (2016). How to Have a Healthy Halloween. retrieved from: http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-to-have-a-healthy-halloween

Ohio Action for Healthy Kids, (2012). Seasonal Fall Recipes.  retrieved from:  http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/game-on/find-challenges/1446

Ohio Action for Healthy Kids, (2017). Host a Healthy Halloween Celebration.  http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/storage/documents/game-on/Healthy_Celebrations_Halloween.pdf


October is celebrated as the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch month, an opportunity to promote both local foods and healthy snacks. The Apple Crunch encourages schools, clubs, or employers to choose a day in October and serve fresh local apples. In southern Ohio many of our schools have already, or will be, participating in the Apple Crunch by serving apples from our local orchards. children grabbing apples

Apples are a healthy snack which provides both soluble and insoluble fiber in one food. Soluble fiber helps to prevent cholesterol buildup, reducing the risk of heart disease; and insoluble fiber helps move food through your digestive system. The Vitamin C in apples is an antioxidant; important for skin, bones and healing. Vitamin A, also in apples, plays a role in vision, bone growth, and our immune system. A small to medium apple is a low-calorie snack with only 75 to 80 calories per apple. Apples are also fat, sodium, and gluten free.

Select firm apples that are free of decay, bruises, broken or shriveled skin with an intact stem. Store apples in the refrigerator in a perforated, plastic bag away from other fruits. Apples produce ethylene with may cause other fruits to prematurely ripen. Use within three weeks. Before serving wash under running water.

fresh applesWith over 7,500 varieties of apples it may be hard to decide which apple to select. Each variety has different qualities, think about how you plan to use the apples to help you in the selection process. Apples can be sweet, tart, soft and smooth or crisp and crunchy. Some varieties are perfect for baking, others work better in salads, and some are best for eating fresh – like those we will select for the “Great Apple Crunch”. For example, Jonathans are tart and great for baking. Galas (my personal favorite) are sweet and good for eating or salads. Granny Smith apples are tart and great for baking. The Ohio Apple website has a great guide to provide information about varieties, their taste, and what they are best used for. Go to http://ohioapples.com  to find out more. Apples fortunately have a great shelf life and can be used in numerous ways when cooking – think salads, cake, muffins or bread, in pancakes, sandwiches, oatmeal, or hot in chili, stuffing, or with sweet potatoes or squash. Apples are a very versatile fruit. The USDA What’s Cooking Mixing Bowl has over 140 recipes that are economical and most are healthy, find them at http://go.osu.edu/applerecipes .

If you have the chance, select locally grown apples to have optimum flavor, prevent loss of nutrients, support the local economy, promote a safe food supply, and know where your food was grown. If you would like to join the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch purchase local apples, possibly from an orchard or your local Farmers Market, and eat them as a snack or with a meal. Apples are inexpensive to serve as part a program with youth at a school or in a club, or as a treat at your next staff conference. Consider bringing along an apple an apple slicer/corer – as some people find it difficult to eat the skin of an apple (especially young children who may not have their front teeth.) Post your own photos on social media showing your students, co-workers, or family members crunching apples in October and use the hashtag #GreatAppleCrunch or #OhioAppleCrunch. Feel free to email me your apple crunch pictures to Lisa at barlage.7@osu.edu.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Reviewer:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Oho State University  Extension Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu

This past week it seems as though Fall has arrived in full force. The cooler temperatures, shorter days, changing leaves, and farmers working in the fields into the wee hours of the night signals Fall is here to stay. With the arrival of Fall, many think of football, pumpkins, bon fires, sweaters, as well as the upcoming holiday season. One of the most important, and often overlooked aspects of Fall, is the flu vaccine and remaining healthy throughout the holidays and into Spring.

Having worked in healthcare for over 22 years prior to joining ExteTeddy bear with tissues, thermometer, and cough medicinension, I would never think of NOT getting my flu shot. I witnessed first-hand some of the serious consequences of the flu, especially in those who are at high risk for contracting it. I consider my health to be better than average, but many of the people I interact or come into contact with may be at increased risk. The CDC considers the following groups to be at high risk for flu complications:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old;
  • People 65 and older;
  • People with asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions;
  • People with blood, kidney, liver, endocrine, and metabolic disorders, including diabetes mellitus;
  • People who have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication;
  • Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The CDC also suggests these reasons to get a flu shot:

  • Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu illnesses and reduce the risk of flu hospitalization, ICU admission and even death in children.
  • Flu vaccine also is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes).
  • In addition to helping to protect pregnant woman from flu illness and hospitalization, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy has been shown to help protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth, before he or she is old enough to be vaccinated.
  • A 2017 study showed that flu vaccine can be life-saving in children.
  • Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick. (For example a 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.)

Most of us probably know someone who is skeptical about getting a flu shot. The CDC has listed some of the misconceptions people may have about the flu and the flu vaccine. So, if the millions of people who are hospitalized each year with complications related to the flu are not enough to convince you or those you know and love, perhaps knowing the facts about the flu and the flu shot will.

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

Reviewed by: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist


Centers for Disease Control (9/24/18). Vaccination Remains Your Best Flu Protection. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/flu/index.html

Centers for Disease Control (9/25/18). Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.html

Centers for Disease Control (10/2/18). Seasonal Flu Shot. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm



We have many environmental challenges. The earth is warming rapidly due largely to man-made green house gases. The population might reach 9 billion people by 2050. Intensive agriculture practices, have threatened soil and water resources. Developing countries are adopting western diets, increasing demand for resource intensive protein resources. As a disclaimer, I write this article with little academic background in agriculture. Like you, I’m trying to sort all of this out as best I can, drawing from credible evidence based resources. That’s what we do in Extension!

I attended the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior Conference in July and heard several presentations on sustainable diets. Many of presentations challenged my assumptions about what a “sustainable” diet is. Most consumers, don’t really understand what a sustainable diet is either but generally link the term to “organic,” “non-GMO”, or “local,” or “natural.” Most think that these forms of products don’t damage or pollute the environment as much as conventional in regards to chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, or greenhouse gases. Before we consider these assumptions, we need to consider some established notions of sustainability. Most of these definitions provide that sustainable foods are produced, marketed, consumed, and disposed of in ways that conserve resources (soil and water) for future generations. The Sustainable Research and Education (SARE) group provides pillars of sustainable agriculture:

  • Profits over the long term for producers
  • Stewardship of our nation’s land, air and water
  • Quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities

Considering these definitions, what are sustainable diets, foods and practices? The following are some assumptions, and some science challenging the assumptions.

“Everyone should be on vegetarian diet.” Vegetarian diets have many health benefits and devoid of resource-intensive animal protein. The production of animal food contributes substantially more to global warming as well. However, if everyone was vegetarian, grass lands used for ranching, or perennial crops to support livestock, would essentially become unproductive. We might also have to increase production of some other crops as well.

“We should eliminate red meat.”  Although a rich source of Heme iron and protein, red meat is less healthy in general, and overconsumption is linked with heart disease and cancer. It is also true that ruminants excrete methane that’s disastrous for global warming, and also need large quantities or resources (water, land, and food) to produce, as compared to poultry, and fish. However, the cattle/ ranching industry is  a source of livelihood for countless people. As mentioned above, a large part of our country would become unproductive in terms of agriculture if red meat was  to be completely eliminated from our food supply. In addition, it’s important to consider that feeding, and grazing practices differ, and that new techniques such as rotational grazing are being explored.

“Organic is more sustainable.” There is growing scientific opinion that organic practices are more sustainable, however there are mixed findings depending on the crop, region, etc. Big picture though is that organic practices probably aren’t going to solve our planets growing demand for food. Plus, organic foods are expensive and for most products not much more nutritious than conventional foods.

“Everyone should eat local.” There are many benefits of local foods- including supporting local producers and economies. The issue of reducing food miles is controversial, because sometimes crops like wheat, are more efficiently grown in certain areas (Nebraska, South Dakota) than in other regions. Also, the environmental impact of some crops grown thousands of miles away maybe less when considering cost per unit. For example, a train carrying thousands of tomatoes might leave less of a footprint, than a beat-up gas guzzling pick-up hauling a few crates of tomatoes for 20 miles.

“Avoid GMOs.” Good luck! GMO corn and soybeans are ubiquitous in our food supply, either directly, or indirectly. GMOs are controversial, but more with public perception and less so with scientists. Consumers are concerned about food allergies or other health implications which haven’t been proven. GMO crops also often require less pesticide and herbicide.

“If everyone would eat the recommended 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, the planet would be healthier.” We should for health reasons. However, could we grow enough to meet up with demand? Plus, vegetables and fruits are water intensive, which could stretch scarce resources out west.

Confused? The point is that there is no “perfect” sustainable diet. In general, eating less protein would help conserve many resources, but eliminating certain protein sources or other products doesn’t really help your health or the planet. Taking all of the previous points into consideration, here are some easy things you could do to support sustainable agriculture. Think variety:

  • Balance energy intake with energy needs
  • Try to eat only 3 oz of protein per meal. This is the size of a deck of cards, or a quarter of your plate.
  • Vary your protein between fish, poultry, beef, and pork.
  • Consider a meatless meal once a week.
  • Consumer moderate amounts of dairy, fish, nuts and seeds

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, M.Ed, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences


Fischer, C.G., and Garnett, T. 2016. Plates, pyramids, planet. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and The Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford.

M.C. Heller & G.A. Keoleian(2014) Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimates of U.S. Dietary Choices and Food Loss. J.Ind.Ecol., 19:3, p. 391-401

P.L.Stanley, J.E.Rowntree, D.K.Beede, M.S.DeLonge, & M.W.Hamm (2018) Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems. Agricultural Systems 162 (2018) 249–258.

Tilman, D., & Clark, M. (2014). Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature, 515(7528), 518-522. doi:10.1038/nature13959

Going Vegan isn’t the Most Viable Option for Humanity. Public Broadcasting System. Accessed at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/going-vegan-isnt-actually-th/

Local Food Is Great, But can it Go to Far? Jonathan Foley. Accessed at https://ensia.com/voices/local-food-not-always-environmentally-sustainable/

Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-oppose-gmos-even-though-science-says-they-are-safe/

What is Sustainable Agriculture? Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). Accessed at https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/SARE-Program-Materials/National-Program-Materials/What-is-Sustainable-Agriculture


Snacks can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet when done right. Include multiple food groups in order to balance your snack. For instance, a handful of nuts pair well with a serving of mixed berries. This snack, representing the fruit and protein food groups, includes vitamins, protein, and healthy fats.chicken salad wraps with pre-portioned strawberries and pistachios

Meal prepping snacks is a great way to stay on track throughout the week. Having quick, easy, and balanced grab-and-go items when hunger strikes will help you make better snack choices. Check out this list of healthy snack recipes.

Here are some tips to make snack prepping quick and easy:

  • Pre-cut fruits and veggies.
  • Portion out snack items like nuts, crackers, and cheese into reusable containers.
  • Keep pre-portioned snacks like low-fat yogurt and no sugar added apple sauce on hand.
  • Keep pre-portioned bags of frozen fruit and spinach in the freezer; just add water or milk to make a quick and easy smoothie!
  • Check out MyPlate for some more snacking tips and tricks.

If you are new to snacking healthy, and options like veggies and yogurt are not quite super appealing, there are healthy swaps you can make to ease your way. Look for a baked or popped chip instead of fried for fewer calories and fat. If you like chips and dip, use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make dips for your chips and veggies. Check out some more healthy swap tips.

One of my favorite snacks is not what you might typically consider a “snack,” but I got creative with my meal prep one day, and now it is a staple for me. I eat half of a baked sweet potato with 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter (pumpkin spice peanut butter is my favorite this time of year). It’s a hearty and filling Fall snack. You too can get creative with your snacking. Feel free to share your favorite healthy snacks in the comments!

Written By: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist

Reviewed By: Misty Harmon, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator







picture of natural honey in jar

As we celebrate National Honey Month in September, consider the many uses of this natural product. There are cave paintings from Spain from 6,000 B.C. showing that we have long used honey as a source of food. Honey, especially in the raw form is also known as being a superfood. So really, what’s not to celebrate?

Honey is a natural substance that’s produced when bees collect flower nectar.  A bee must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey. That nectar is eventually broken down into simple sugar forms that are then stored within the bee’s honeycomb. Luckily for us, bees make more honey than needed within the hive, so we’re able to harvest some for use.

The four most popular forms of honey include liquid, comb, crystallized, and whipped. Liquid is the most commonly found form in households, but the others work great as well depending on what texture you want and how it will be used. There are more than 300 unique varieties of honey found within the U.S.  The most common varieties are wildflower, clover, orange blossom, and blueberry.

Honey is versatile, varied and delicious.

As a reminder, don’t give honey to children under 1 year of age. It may have trace amounts of botulism that will make them sick as their digestive systems are not developed enough.

Although we think of honey as a natural sweetener, you can add it to a variety of dishes, including savory ones. The National Honey Board has recipes for dishes at every meal on their website. For example, here is a recipe for a delicious  side dish of honey citrus glazed carrots.

Honey is a pretty spectacular food, and we have the busy bees to thank for it. If you keep honey sealed, and don’t let water get into it, honey has a very long shelf life. So “bee” sure to occasionally include it into your cooking and see what all the buzz is about!

Written by:  Hannah Roberto, University of Cincinnati intern, BS Dietetics.,

Revised by:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

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







There are times when I feel overwhelmed with my to-do list and the amount of time I have to do it. I have found that meal planning is extremely helpful. When I started living in the country I quickly learned that the grocery store was no longer ten minutes away and I would have to plan what I wanted to fix for meals. Delivery was no longer an option, nor was running into town last minute, to grab  buns or ketchup. I have found that if I put in the time of planning my meals I stay on budget and my evenings are less chaotic. Below are some tips that I have found helpful to stay time and money before going grocery shopping.

  1. Create a grocery game plan for your week. Plan your meals for the entire week including snacks. Planning for the whole week means one list and one shopping trip. You will spend less than if you were going to the store every day or several times a week. If planning for the whole week seems overwhelming, start with three or four days and then work up to a full week. Using MyPlate as a guide will help you achieve balance with your meals as you write a menu plan.  You can find a two week sample menu plan on the MyPlate website. On their menu, lunches are designed to be packed or use leftovers. Customize the menu to make it work for your family. Meals can be moved and switched to fit family schedules and preferences.
  2. Have your freezer and pantry stocked. Pantry staples are going to include condiments, spices, dry/canned goods and baking supplies. By doing so you can see what items you already have on hand that can be incorporated into your “game plan”. This will also help you know what ingredients you already have at home vs. what you need to buy at the store.
  3. Utilize grocery store sale ads/coupons. Pick items that are in season or have been marked down while making your “game plan”. Find grocery sale information at the store entrance, in the newspaper or website. Coupons can be found as inserts in the newspaper, downloaded from the internet or digital coupons to add to your store loyalty card. Signing-up for the store’s customer loyalty program will help you receive discounts and free rewards.
  4. Consider your schedule for the week. Plan easier meals on busier days when you know you won’t have a lot of time.
  5. Make a list and stick to it. You can use scrap paper, type it up on a computer, add to the notes on your smartphone, or use a grocery app. Don’t be tempted by convenience items that could be more processed and more expensive.
  6. Plan for leftovers in your menu. Leftovers can be eaten for lunch the next day, repurposed into something else later in the week or frozen for a quick meal at another time. Using a recipe with larger quantities can reduce the number of ingredients you need and can save time on prepping another meal. You could also double a recipe to freezer for later in the month to make dinner a breeze.

Jones, T. (2016, August 8). Grocery shopping game plans save you time and money. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2016/08/08/grocery-shopping-game-plans-save-you-time-and-money/

Meehan, A. (2017, June 5). Meal Prepping, How to Plan for your Week Ahead. Retrieved from http://livesmartohio.osu.edu/food/meehan-89osu-edu/meal-prepping-how-to-plan-for-your-week-ahead/

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu