by Terri Keith | Feb 21, 2021
Homemade canned preserves 1942.
Photo Credits: UF/IFAS File Photo
In 1795, Napoleon needed a better way to preserve large quantities of food for his troops during the Napoleonic Wars, so his government offered a reward of 12,000 francs for the invention of a new food preservation method. In 1809, Nicolas Appert won that award with his canning technique that used glass containers that were sealed then heated to a set temperature. Peter Durand created the tin canister a year later. These inventions led to the canning materials and processes that are used today to preserve food for people all over the world.
Canned food provides a convenient and often less expensive way to include fruits and vegetables in the diet of many individuals and families. Canned foods are also considered a staple in many pantries because of their shelf life. Commercially canned products may keep the food packed inside at its best quality for 1 to 5 years depending on the type of food. Most home canned foods are able to be stored for up to a year, though there are some exceptions.
Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
To make the most of canned foods, keep these tips in mind.
Best by or use by dates on commercial products do not indicate safety. They are estimated dates provided by the manufacturer on how long they believe their product would be at its best quality. The exception to this is for infant formula products that are required to have a “Use-By” date and should not be used after that date.
Avoid cans or jars that are not in good condition. Look for dents, swelling or bulging, leaking, rust, cracks in jars or loose lids. If the food has a foul odor or spurts liquid when it’s opened, do not use it. Any of these could indicate the food may have been contaminated or could contain Clostridium botulinum toxins.
A woman canning in the kitchen.
Photo Credits: UF/IFAS File Photo
Store canned foods in a cool, dark and dry space. This will help them to last longer and keep the food inside at its best quality. Keep canned foods in an area that is between 50-70°F.
Use canned foods to fill nutrition gaps. Add a can of vegetables to your dinner menu—a side of green beans or carrots can help balance your plate. Try using a can of fruit as a basis for a dessert. Pineapple and cottage cheese, anyone? If you’re concerned about sodium or sugar in canned foods, look for products marked as low sodium or lite for less sugar. Compare ingredient and nutrition labels of different brands or varieties of a product to find what works best for you.
If you can foods at home, make sure you’re following recipes that have been tested for safety. Follow the guidelines in the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2015 Revision or find more information at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also contact your local extension office; in Florida, you can find your local office here.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library, How Did We Can?: https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/ipd/canning/timeline-table
U.S. Department of Agriculture, AskUSDA, How long can you keep canned goods?: https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-can-you-keep-canned-goods
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Food Product Dating: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating
by Terri Keith | Jan 14, 2021
Setting a New Year’s resolution is a tradition for many people. Unfortunately, breaking those resolutions also seems to be a tradition. If your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier, here are some tips to help you to be successful.
Photo Credit: Terri Keith, UF/IFAS Extension
First, you will be more likely to follow through on your resolution by setting a SMART goal. A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. You can find more information on setting a SMART goal here.
Second, know that eating healthier doesn’t necessarily mean going on a diet or avoiding all the foods you enjoy. Eating healthier can start with making simple substitutions to your favorite recipes, like using whole wheat pasta instead of refined grain pasta, or swapping out sodas and energy drinks for water or other unsweetened beverages. It could mean that you make a conscious effort to enjoy the foods that aren’t as healthy for you in moderation or work on lowering the amount of sodium/salt that you eat. There are many ways to eat healthier and if you need more suggestions, you can check out this article on 5 things to avoid eating.
Whether you are starting with simple steps or looking for more in-depth information, ChooseMyPlate from the USDA can be a useful resource. There, you can find information on daily recommended values for the different food groups, what counts as a serving, along with other resources, like recipes or healthy eating on a budget. You might be surprised to find out what counts as a serving!
Third, try involving your kids or other members of your household in working together to eat healthier. There’s even a section at ChooseMyPlate that focuses on healthier eating for families. It can be harder to stick with your resolution if you are the only one working on it because your shopping list can end up including more sweetened snacks than fruits and vegetables. If you need some inspiration to get started, you can find a few videos of recipes that were adapted from ChooseMyPlate here.
Eating healthier is a terrific goal any time of the year. If this is your New Year’s resolution, follow these tips and stick with it!
by Terri Keith | Nov 23, 2020
Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list hearing loss as the third most common chronic health condition in the U.S.? Many people do not recognize they have hearing loss, either because they do not realize it themselves or they won’t admit they have a problem. Statistics have shown that approximately 1 in 4 adults in the US between the ages of 20 and 69 who report having excellent hearing actually have measurable hearing damage.
Lower the volume on personal listening devices to protect your hearing. Photo source: Terri Keith
Most of us have heard that loud noises can damage our hearing, but do you know what is considered loud? Noises are measured in decibels (dB). Here are the measurements of some common sounds:
- 40 dB – Refrigerator hum
- 60 dB – Normal conversation
- 70 dB – Washing machine
- 80 dB – Traffic noise inside a car
- 80-85 dB – Gas-powered lawnmower
- 95 dB – Motorcycle
- 100 dB – Sporting event
- 105-110 dB – Maximum volume for personal listening devices
- 120 dB – Siren
- 140-150 dB – Firecrackers
Noises can start causing hearing damage at about 85 dB when experienced over an extended period of time. The higher the decibels, the less time it can take for hearing damage to occur. It may take about 2 hours for damage to occur at 90 dB but at 100 dB, it may only take 14 minutes. At 110 dB, hearing loss is possible in less than 2 minutes.
What can you do to protect your hearing? First, avoid noisy places when you can and keep the volume down when you’re watching TV or listening to music. If you can’t control the noise, try using ear plugs, protective earmuffs or noise canceling headphones. This is especially important if you’re going to be exposed to the noise over a period of time. If you’re not sure whether you should be worried about the noise level where you are, grab this smartphone app and check the decibels for yourself!
Remember that hearing loss from loud noises can be prevented. Once the damage occurs though, it’s permanent so take care of your hearing!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/hearingloss/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Loud Noise Can Cause Hearing Loss: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, It’s a Noisy Planet: https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/hearing-loss-science
by Terri Keith | Oct 11, 2020
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls by older adults aged 65 and up can often result in serious injuries, decreased mobility and a loss of independence. They are common and can happen at a high cost, both financially and in terms of health and lifestyle for the person who falls. Statistics from the CDC show “each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries” and the death rate from falls in the U.S. has been on the rise—30% from 2007 to 2016.
While many falls don’t cause injuries, some do and can leave the person with bruises, sprains, broken bones or head injuries. Even if a person falls without suffering an injury, that fall may lead to a fear of falling. Both the injuries and the fear of falling can lead a person to limit their daily activities. By being less active, the person increases their risk of falling again.
It’s not all bad news though. Many falls are preventable and several of the steps you can take for yourself or a loved one are low or no cost. Start by looking for risk factors. These are conditions that increase the chances of a fall happening. Here are some to be aware of:
- Taking more than 2 medications daily.
- Having a hearing and/or vision impairment.
- Experiencing dizziness when getting up, changing positions, or walking.
- Having trouble getting in and out of a chair, walking, picking up objects from the floor or reaching overhead without holding on to something.
- Having throw rugs, cluttered walkways, uneven surfaces or slippery floors.
- Navigating stairs without rails.
- Having poor lighting conditions.
- Wearing shoes with high heels or slippery soles.
- Having fallen in the past year or being afraid of falling.
Many of these can be corrected or managed. One of the key steps to preventing falls is talking with your doctor and pharmacist. They can help with evaluating your risk and advise you on specific things you can do, especially in terms of problems with hearing, vision or medications. Staying active or following exercise routines can help with balance and strength. Here is a link to some beginner level exercises to start with if you’re not already exercising.
An elderly persons bathroom can be made safer by adding items that will help them maneuver easier. Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Marisol Amador
Do a check of your home to see if you have any of the risk factors above and correct them. Here are some other steps you can take at home:
Keeping a lamp beside the bed means you don’t have to walk through the dark at night to get to the light switch. Photo credit: Terri Keith, UF/IFAS Extension
- Lower shelves 3 inches for easier access; adjust closet rods to keep clothes within reach.
- Use a reacher or grabber for items that are too high. NEVER use a chair as a step stool.
- Install or add more lighting in your home especially near walkways, stairs and entrances.
- Keep a lamp and flashlight by your bed and night lights where needed.
- Install or secure handrails on both sides of the stairs and use them every time.
- Make sure walkways are clear and uncluttered. Remove or secure throw rugs, cords and hoses out of the way.
- Use textured surfaces for patios, driveways and stairs. Mark any changes in floor level with reflective tape.
- Be aware of your pet’s location when you stand or walk so they don’t trip you.
- Install and use grab bars to help with getting in and out of the bath safely.
- Use a rubber mat in your bathtub or shower.
- Install a handheld showerhead and use it with a bath bench or chair when showering.
If a fall does happen, even if there were no injuries, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know about it the next time you see them. It can help alert them to new medical problems or a need to review your prescriptions. Taking these steps can help reduce the risk of a fall and stop the cycle of falling from being repeated.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety: https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html and https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
University of Florida, IFAS: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy734 and https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy733
National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/prevent-falls-and-fractures and https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/fall-proofing-your-home
by Terri Keith | Aug 4, 2020
Credit: Photo by JÉSHOOTS from Canva Free Images
Watermelon is a tasty treat so celebrating watermelons in August sounds like a great reason to break out all the delicious and healthy watermelon recipes I’ve been saving—like this one for Watermelon Limeade.
Did you know that eating watermelon provides your body with Vitamins A, B6, C and potassium? Red watermelons are also a good source of lycopene. A two-cup serving of watermelon only has 80 calories but can provide 6% of your daily value of potassium, 8% of Vitamin A, 25% of Vitamin C and more!
Watermelons are also completely edible, from the fleshy center part all the way out to the green rind. The rind is typically cooked or pickled before being eaten and Watermelon Rind Pickles are popular here in the Southeast. Ninety percent of watermelons sold in stores are seedless, but if you do get a seeded watermelon, the seeds can be cooked and eaten too! They are usually sprouted and roasted or dried first.
Photo Credit: UF/IFAS File Photo
Buying a whole watermelon versus one that’s pre-cut can be a better value, but you’ll want to make sure you select a ripe melon. There’s an old wives’ tale about thumping the watermelon but the best way to choose is by picking it up and looking at it. Here’s what you’re checking for:
- Look for a watermelon that doesn’t have any bruises, cuts, or dents. Some scratches are normal.
- Check for a buttery or creamy yellow spot. This is an indicator of where the watermelon rested on the ground while it ripened.
- The watermelon should be heavy considering the size. It is 92% water!
When you are preparing your watermelon, make sure to wash it before cutting into it. Use cool running water, scrub it with a produce brush, then dry it with a clean paper towel or cloth towel. Many people skip this step since it’s heavy and can be bulky but it’s an important part of maintaining your food’s safety. If you don’t wash your watermelon before cutting into it, you could be transferring bacteria from the outside of the melon to the inner flesh. Be sure your hands and any knives, utensils and cutting boards you will be using are clean as well.
An uncut watermelon can be stored outside of the refrigerator for a week if it wasn’t previously chilled. Once it has been cut open, it will need to be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated—you’ll want to enjoy it within a week.
When you think about eating watermelon, I bet the first image that comes to mind is eating a plain slice right from the fruit. And that’s great! Just keep in mind that watermelon can be made into drinks, added to salads, frozen into popsicles, incorporated in a stir-fry or slaw or even grilled!
Now, back to those recipes… here’s one for Watermelon Rind Pickles if you want to enjoy them right away (these will only keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator) and this is one for canning Watermelon Rind Pickles so you have them year-round! And if you want more, try the recipe section at the Produce for Better Health Foundation or the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Celebrate watermelons this August by trying a new recipe or two with this amazing fruit!
National Watermelon Promotion Board. Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.watermelon.org/watermelon-101/facts-faqs/
National Watermelon Promotion Board, Nutrition: https://www.watermelon.org/nutrition/nutrient-profile/
Produce for Better Health Foundation, Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Watermelon: https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/top-10-ways-enjoy-watermelon/