Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

4 02 2013

Have you ever thought about your spending purchases from an ethical standpoint? I’m sure you’ve noticed the “Buy American” bumper sticker on the back of some people’s cars, but for the most part not too many people give daily consideration to where and how the products they buy are made. With us being a cog in what is essentially a global economy, it makes sense to know where your hard earned dollars are going. When you purchase something that was made in a foreign country, are your dollars potentially supporting that country’s dictatorship? Are the workers treated well? Do they make a living wage? The November fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh that killed over 100 workers has re-opened people’s eyes to an awareness of how workers around the world are treated.

Bangladesh has become a favorite of American retailers such as Walmart, JC Penney, Kohl’s, and H & M. Those companies come to Bangladesh because it has some of the cheapest labor in the world, as low as 21 cents an hour. Workers produce clothing in crowded conditions that would be illegal in the U.S. In the past five years, more than 700 Bangladeshi employees have died in factory fires.

This is not said to make you feel guilty about buying things that were made in Bangladesh. However, it is important for you to know that as a consumer, you can be a voice for change. We all want to get good value for our purchases; economics play a large role in our spending decisions. Some other ethical considerations you might want to ponder when you make a purchase include:

Where was the item made? Retailers will take notice if a large number of people start questioning them about where their products were made, what conditions are like for the workers who made them, and whether they were treated fairly and paid a living wage.

Where will the product go when you are done with it? None of us keeps everything forever, but some items are especially transitory. Bottled beverages such as juice, water, or pop are meant to be one-time usage products. However, plastic bottles don’t break down after they are discarded; they are made from petroleum products. If they’re not recycled, they will be thrown into the landfill, where they will remain a plastic bottle for 1000+ years. Can you use glass bottles or a stainless steel cup instead? Those items can be washed and used over and over again, reducing the amount of waste that is buried in the ground.

Are you willing to purchase used items? Buying something that someone else used is recycling at its finest. You not only get a great deal, money-wise, but you also keep useful items out of the landfill and lower the environmental costs of producing a brand new item.

Do you buy or use local products? Eating local foods reduces transportation costs and the environmental impact of hauling food cross-country. And by supporting locally owned businesses, you keep your money within your community.

Can you buy less stuff? Everything we bring into our home has to be maintained in some way, shape, or form. Think about how much of your time is going to be given over to maintenance of that item. Will you also have to invest more money into the product just so you can keep using it (for example, batteries)?

Where will your dollars go after you make your purchase? Will those dollars be used against you, or a person like you? Will your money help build a better world for the person who made the item, or will it line the pockets of the corporation (or multi-million dollar sports star) whose name is on the product??

Bottom line? We only get a couple of opportunities a year to vote in an election (primary, general). Those elections eventually shape our government and communities. But we get opportunities every day to influence the world when we lay our hard-earned dollars down at the cash register. By using that consumer power, which is huge, we are making impacts that benefit all people in more equal ways.

Written by:

Donna Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator
OSU Extension

Creating Healthy Meals for Your Family

24 01 2013

ImageSometimes finding healthy foods to feed a family for dinner can be difficult.  Long work days, soccer practices, and other activities make us want to rush to find the most convenient (and not always healthy) food options.  Even when we have time to cook dinner it is sometimes hard to make sure that all of the food groups are represented.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Here are some tips that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) gives to help you healthy up those meals.

  • Follow MyPlate – MyPlate is a wonderful tool used to ensure that your family is meeting their nutritional needs for the day.  Start by making half your plate fruits and vegetables and the other half protein and grains.  Your fruits and vegetables should come in a variety of colors to make certain the different vitamins and minerals are represented.  As far as grains, the USDA recommends making half your grains whole grains.  Protein should also be lean and nutritious like lean beef and pork, or chicken, turkey, beans, or tofu.  Try to make sure that fish are on your plate at least twice a week.  Have a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk to include your dairy.
  • Avoid Extra Fat – Look for ways to cut out the extra fat.  Baking instead of frying chicken will reduce the fat content.  Skip the gravy or sauces.  For example, a rich cheese sauce is delicious with broccoli, but it adds unwanted fat.  Try different herbs and spices instead for a different, but tasty alternative.  Instead of having a slice of cake for dessert, reach for a bowl of fruit. It’s delicious and nutritious!
  • Monitor Eating Methods – Many of us eat too fast.  The problem with this is that it doesn’t give our stomachs enough time to tell our brain that we’re full before we’ve stuffed ourselves.  Savor your meal.  If you eat at a slow or modified pace your body will be better able to tell yourself that you are full.  Another tip is to use a smaller plate.  The bigger the plate, the more likely we are to fill it up.  Try using a nine-inch plate and follow MyPlate as a guide.
  • Know What You Eat – By cooking at home, you know exactly what is going into your food.  You can adjust recipes to be healthier by adding less salt or using olive oil instead of solid fats.  Cooking at home also gives you the opportunity to try new foods.  Make a plan to try one new food each month.  Your family may find their new favorite meal!  If you do decide to eat out, try to obtain the nutritional information ahead of time so you know what you’re eating.

Make your meals opportunities for better health.  Incorporate the tips above to make sure that you are meeting the nutritional guidelines for both yourself and your family.  For more tips, please visit www.choosemyplate.gov for information about all the food groups as well as information about your nutritional health.


Build a Healthy Meal – http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet7BuildAHealthyMeal.pdf

Written by:  Dana Brown, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Morrow County, Ohio State University Extension, Heart of Ohio EERA

Reviewed by: Cindy Shuster, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Perry County, Ohio State University Extension, Buckeye Hills EERA

Reviewed by:  Barb Hildebrand, Office Associate, Ohio State University Extension, Morrow County, Heart of Ohio EERA

Reviewed by: Jenny Lindimore, Office Associate, Ohio State University Extension, Morgan County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Sorting Out Meat Labels

29 10 2012

Meats can be the most expensive item on a grocery list.  But what do all of those terms mean that you find on a label of packaged meat, such as “natural”, “organic”, or “no antibiotic residues”?  If you are confused by some of the terms that you find on meat labels, you’re not alone.  Many of the descriptions can be misleading.  To ensure you understand what you’re buying, it’s important to know what the terms on a meat label mean.

To make the best choice when purchasing meat, buy lean cuts that don’t contain antibiotics.  It can be difficult to determine which meats are from animals raised without antibiotics since terms can be misleading.  For example, “natural” does not mean antibiotic-free.  Animals are given antibiotics  to help keep them from spreading disease in crowded environments.  They also speed up the growth of animals in a shorter period of time.  This can create dangerous bacteria which are immune to antibiotics.  Consumers can become ill if the superbugs get into the meat and difficult to treat since antibiotics won’t be able to kill the bacteria.  Although they may cost a little more, it pays to purchase no-antibiotic meats.

Legitimate Label Terms Approved by the United States Department of Agriculture

  • No antibiotics used
  • Organic
  • American Grassfed – doesn’t guarantee that antibiotics were not used.
  • Food Alliance Certified Grassfed – doesn’t guarantee that antibiotics were not used.
  • Raised without antibiotics

An optional “USDA process verified” seal in addition to the claim “no antibiotics used” indicates that the company went the extra mile to have the USDA double-check their claim.

Misleading Labels

  • Natural – defined by the USDA as a product that doe not contain artificial ingredients, added color and has minimal processing.  This claim can be misleading since antibiotics can be found in “natural” products.
  •  No antibiotic residues  and antibiotic free – not approved by the USDA.

Don’t be fooled when you purchase meat by terms that are misleading or haven’t been approved by the USDA.  Meat makes up a big percentage of our food dollar.  Be sure that you spend it wisely.

Submitted by:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

Slow Cooking Up a Storm

11 09 2012

With the school year starting back up and a hint of fall in the air, it’s no wonder that we feel like life has suddenly slipped into overdrive.  It is easy to put off cooking dinner by making excuses:  I don’t have enough time, I’m too tired, and going through the drive thru is so much easier.  While picking up dinner is quick and easy, it is often times more expensive, less nutritious, and takes away from spending quality time with family.

One easy fix for this is to use a slow cooker.  A slow cooker is a countertop device that slowly cooks food at a lower temperature over a longer period of time.  It contains three parts.  The first is the outer casing.  The casing is what heats up the crock so that the food cooks.  Often times it has three settings: low, high, and warm.  The second piece is the crock.  The crock is usually made of ceramic or porcelain and it keeps the food at the correct temperature.  The third part is the glass lid.  As the food heats up, the steam rises and hits the lid which forms water droplets.  This condensation runs down the sides of the lid and forms a tight seal with the crock, ensuring proper cooking temperature.

There are many benefits of using a slow cooker:

-Save Money:  Generally, slow cookers use less electricity than it takes to use an oven.  This will help save money on electricity bills.  Also, they do not throw off heat like an oven will, which is great during warm months because it won’t heat up the house.  Something else to keep in mind is that because of the slow cooking process it allows for more moisture to enter into the meat.  A person can purchase a tougher cut of meat and the slow cooker will make it tender and juicy.

-Convenience:  Just throw your ingredients into the slow cooker, turn it on low, and cook for the appropriate amount of time.  It’s great to put it on in the morning and return from a long day of work to a home cooked meal waiting for the whole family.  Something else that is nice is that the slow cooker is portable, which makes it easy to take on the go to a party or picnic as long as there is an electrical outlet.  The slow cooker isn’t just for roasts anymore.  There are thousands of recipes out there to make all your favorite dishes.

-Healthy:  Using a slow cooker has health benefits as well.  Instead of making soup from a can that contains high levels of sodium, a person can make their own from scratch and control what is going into the recipe.  The low cooking temperature also helps maintain vitamins during the cooking process.

Overall, slow cooking is a great way to spend time with the family.  Since there is less time spent preparing the meal, more time can be spent talking about everyone’s day.  There are thousands of recipes out there to try new and exciting ideas.  Or, if time is an issue in the morning, throw in a few easy ingredients and let the slow cooker do the rest.  With fall in full swing, nothing tastes better than a hot, home cooked meal made from the heart.

Want to join our Live Healthy Live Well Email Challenge?

19 08 2012

For six weeks starting August 27th, we will focus on increasing your physical activity levels as well as focusing your awareness and behavior on one health habit per week. Examples of behaviors we will be encouraging include consuming low-fat dairy products, managing stress, moving more, monitoring sleep habits, drinking more water, watching portion size, and eating more vegetables and fruits. Ohio State University Extension Educators will share tips, recipes and researched based information through emails and blog posts. If you are on facebook, you can “like” our facebook page which provides another social media avenue to encourage participants on their wellness journey.

The on-line email challenge will run from August 27th to October 9th.

There is no charge to participate and any adult with an email account can register to participate.

Participants will sign up for the email challenge and complete a consent form to participate in the challenge. During the challenge, participants will track their daily progress on a 6 week log. We will also have an anonymous pre and post on-line survey for you to complete.

If you join our challenge, you will receive twice weekly educational messages from a team of Ohio State University Extension Educators. You will download and print your tracking log to record your progress. If you are a Facebook user, you can “like” our page for additional tips and group interaction. Participants will be eligible to be in drawings for wellness and fitness prizes.

Participants will self report on their log the changes they make during the challenge. You will also provide valuable research as to the effectiveness of social media as a means of disseminating educational information.

How do I sign up? – Contact Michelle Treber at Ohio State University Extension by email at treber.1@osu.edu or phone 740-474-7534 by August 24, 2012.

Sponsored by: Ohio State University Extension and County Commissioners Cooperating

OSU Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, age, gender identity or expression, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or veteran status. Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agriculture Administration and Director, OSU Extension. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio Only) or 614-292-1868.

Reducing Fat in the Diet

22 06 2012

Fat-free does not mean calorie-free.  And, it does not necessarily mean low calorie.  Many fat-free cookies have almost the same calorie content as the original version.  Fat is usually replaced with extra sugar and a variety of other ingredients ranging from dietary fiber to special starches to chemical emulsifiers that perform the same function as fat.  This does not make low-fat or fat-free snacks a health food.  Read the label to see how much fat and total calories are in the product.

What are some ways you can cut back on your fat intake? 

Summer is a good time to choose to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet.  They are naturally fat-free.

  • When packing your lunch or making lunch for your children who are home during the summer, try adding raw carrots, celery or broccoli instead of potato chips or French fries as a side with a sandwich.  You will save about 10 grams of fat every time you make this switch.
  • Choose fresh fruits in season as a snack, along with a piece of mozzarella cheese which is lower in fat than a processed cheese.
  • Reduce the fat in milk by choosing 2% instead of whole milk.  Or, try reducing even more to 1% or skim (fat-free).

Take a closer look at your diet and examine ways you can make changes for a healthier you!

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Ohio State University Extension.

Caution: Germs and Fair

19 06 2012

Do I need to take special caution when visiting petting zoos, zoos, or county fairs?  Visits to petting zoos and county fairs provide a fun experience for children and adults. Eating, drinking or simply bringing food into an animal-holding area can increase your risk of foodborne illness.  In fact, people who eat or drink in areas where animals are being held are almost five times more likely to get ill than people who don’t eat or dink there.  Studies have also shown that kids who sucked their thumbs or a pacifier or drank from a sippy cup in those places were 26 times more likely to become sick.

The increase in animal exhibit-related cases of intestinal disease may be tied to the growing population shift from rural to urban environments, of which Ohio is a prime example.  As a result, interactions between humans and farm animals have changed from frequent daily activities associated with farm life to less frequent events that are clustered in space and time, such as visits to petting zoos and state and county fair exhibits.

The problem is that even healthy farm animals can be excreting microorganisms that cause serious human diseases.  Since these microorganisms are microscopic it’s not possible to know if they are contaminating a surface, food or water by just looking at it.  Also many of these organisms can survive for extended periods of time in the environment attached to dust and debris, which can then contaminate food, beverages, food wrappers and drinking straws.  You don’t need to get manure in your hand to become exposed to these pathogens.

What can you do to minimize the risk of infection?

Follow these two main precautions – properly wash their hands and refrain from eating or drinking in areas with animals.

  1. Hand-washing is the single most important factor in preventing disease.  The best way to wash your hands is to use large amounts of water, preferably warm, and soap.  Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds and dried with a single-use paper towel.
  1. Food and drinks should be stored and consumed in areas completely separated from where the animals are held and only consumed after thoroughly washing hands.”

Waterless hand sanitizers should only be used if there are no other means of washing hands, as these have not done been documented as effective in animal environments.
Written by:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.Caution

Source:  Espinoza, M. (2005).  “Disease-causing Germs are Common at Fairs,” Ohio State University


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