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Healthy Holidays



Stay healthy during the holiday season with more attention to food safety.   This is the season of sharing food with family and friends.  Whether you plan to take your favorite dish to a party or host an event at your home, it is important to follow some basic rules to keep everyone safe from bacteria and food borne illness.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety offers entertainment serving tips on the website, www.fda.gov  or with a toll free telephone line (1-888-SAFEFOOD).  The FDA recommends multiple steps to safe handling of food.  The first step in the process is cleaning.  Washing hands, sanitizing surfaces and utensils, are important in avoiding contamination and in limiting the spread of germs.  What is the best way to clean?  The answer is simple, hot soapy water.   The second food safety tip is to avoid cross-contamination.  Keep knives, trays and cutting boards separate, if you use them in preparing raw meat.  Clean thoroughly before transitioning from cutting raw meat, to cutting vegetables or other food products.    The third step in food safety is proper cooking temperature.  Use a food thermometer to be sure that foods reach a safe temperature.   Visit the website: www.aces.edu and search the publication tab for a printable article, “There’s No Place Like Home for Food Safety.”   This download provides recommended cooking temperatures for various products as well as a guide to warming leftovers.   The final step to consider in keeping food safe is refrigeration.   Avoid leaving food at room temperature for more than two hours.  Chilling is important for such foods as dips, cheese, and other dairy products.

Serve your holiday meals and maintain buffets at the appropriate and safe temperature of 140F for hot foods.  Cold foods should be kept at 40F or colder.  Holding cold foods in the refrigerator until the last possible moment before serving, helps assure safer food.   When it is time to add more food to your buffet or party area, bring a fresh portion in a clean dish.  Remove the previous serving dish and clean it.   Generally, it is up to the host or hostess to monitor the temperature of the foods in your home and the length of time your food selections are left at room temperature.  Build a habit of watchfulness so that your family, friends, and guests enjoy the freshest and safest holiday offerings.

What’s Cooking? Check the USDA Mixing Bowl

Wrap sandwiches with chicken meat and fresh vegetables, close up view

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) online recipe resource provides healthy new ideas for summer fare. The user-friendly recipe site, What’s Cooking? permits users to search hundreds of recipes for just the perfect dish or item for a summer picnic or event.

Among the recipe ideas on the site is this delicious Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap.

This quick recipe can be prepared in 20 minutes.   The recipe makes six wraps.   This wrap combines seasoned chicken, sweet pineapple, crunchy shredded vegetables, and is topped with poppy seed dressing.   These ingredients are placed on warm, whole-wheat tortillas and wrapped for “handy” consumption!


1/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/8 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

2 cups Fresh broccoli, shredded

1 1/2 cups Fresh carrots, peeled, shredded

1/4 cup Canned crushed pineapple, in 100% juice, drained

1 cup Fresh baby spinach, chopped

3 cups Cooked diced chicken, 1/2″ pieces (12 oz)

6 Whole-wheat tortillas, 10″


The filling may be made up to one day in advance. Assemble wraps when ready to serve.

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, poppy seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder for the dressing. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Combine broccoli, carrots, pineapple, and spinach in a large bowl. Stir in dressing and chicken. Mix well. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
  3. For each wrap, place 2/3 cup filling on the bottom half of the tortilla and roll in the form of a burrito. Place seam side down. Cut diagonally. Serve immediately.

The handy aspect of this recipe is that the filling can be made in advance.   The USDA Mixing Bowl web site has many more interesting recipes for your summer enjoyment.   Visit the site and find the perfect dish for your family.

Health & Wellness Across the Life Span

Many of Extension’s efforts to improve health and wellness are focusing on obesity, the state’s number one health problem, which is directly related to a number of chronic conditions. Special emphasis is on reversing the trend of childhood obesity. We in Extension are working to help you, our consumers. The following are programs that we are eager to offer. We can present these programs to groups of 5 or more people at one time. It can be a church group, after-school group, community group, a sorority, fraternity or individuals looking for help to improve their lives. If you are interested in scheduling a program, please call the Escambia County Extension Office at (251) 867-7760. The programs are:

  • The “DEEP” (Diabetes Education Empowerment Program) – In cooperation with Atom Alliance and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS), the Alabama Cooperative Extension System will be offering free diabetes education classes in Alabama. You can receive eight hours of diabetes self-management training in your community. These classes are designed to: * Educate on how to best control blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; * Empower you to establish relationships with your primary care provider; *Encourage better nutrition and regular exercise; *Encourage lifestyle changes that lead to the reduction in the number of diabetes complications (heart disease, blindness, nerve damage, etc.) and limb amputations; and * Express the importance of developing support networks of family, friends, and existing community-based social services. These six (6) classes present information in simple medical terms and concepts using props and pictures in a way that is conducive to better understanding and make learning fun. The classes are 60- 90 minutes long. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, we invite you to contact us for more information; or if you are an organization that wishes to become a community partner and provide a location for diabetes education. Cost – Free
  • Eat Healthy Be Active Community Workshop – This program was developed by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. This research-based workshop was designed for individuals and families to come together in a fun and interactive setting to learn about eating healthier and ways to put more activity into their everyday. The six-week sessions will discuss making healthy choices, reading the Nutrition Facts label, how to make quick healthy meals, how to lose weight and keep it off and other essential topics. An exercise component has been added. Cost – Free.
  • The Right Bite Diabetes Cooking School – The Right Bite Healthy Diabetes Cooking School was designed to show people how to enjoy consuming healthy food. Through hands-on experiences the group will prepare delicious meals and snacks to control and prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases. Through four 2-hour sessions this series covers information on portion control; reading labels; uses of sweeteners; selecting healthier food at the store and preparing recipes lower in fat, cholesterol, sugar, sodium, etc. Cost – $10.00
  • Color Me Healthy – This program works with Day Care Providers and Head Start Teachers. Color Me Healthy is a program designed to reach children ages four and five. It provides fun, innovative, interactive learning opportunities on physical activity and healthy eating. The program is designed to stimulate all of the senses of young children: touch, smell, sight, sound, and, of course, taste. Color Me Healthy uses color, music, and exploration of the senses to teach children that healthy food and physical activity are fun! Color Me Healthy (CMH) is a research-tested intervention designed to improve fruit and vegetable intake and increase physical activity among the preschoolers. Cost – Free
  • Rethink Your Drink Exhibit – An effort to help decrease obesity by recognizing the consumption of sugar in beverages.
  • Dangerous Look-A-Likes – The Dangerous Look A-Likes Program is a Poison Prevention and Awareness Program. Many times product packages and sometimes actual products can look so much alike that a small child or an adult with poor or failing eyesight may be unable to tell the difference. This program gives tips for people of all ages to stay safe and to poison proof their home!

Proper Disposal of Unused Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products


As April begins to fade into May, it’s time to do a little spring cleaning around the house. This includes the removal and proper disposal of any old or unused medications that may be stored in medicine cabinets or in other areas of your home.  Overtime, we all seem to accumulate outdated pharmaceuticals, personal care products, or over-the-counter medications that are well beyond their expiration dates or no longer prescribed for use.  Ensuring the safe disposal of these pharmaceuticals and personal care products is a growing environmental concern in the United States for a variety of reasons.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines pharmaceuticals and personal care products, often referred to as PPCPs, as any of the following:

  • Prescription, over-the-counter drugs, and illegal drugs: These drugs include antidepressants, tranquilizers, psychiatric drugs, cancer drugs, pain killers, anti-inflammatories, blood pressure medications, antiseptics, lipid regulators, oral contraceptives, synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and many other classes and types of drugs.
  • Veterinary drugs
  • Perfume or cologne
  • Cosmetic beauty aids, including sun-screen products
  • Detergents
  • Vitamins or other dietary supplements (also called nutraceuticals)

While PPCP’s are available from a variety of sources and are marketed for use by humans, pets, or livestock, it is their improper disposal that threatens our health and community.  Many unused drugs and personal care products are often poured down drains, flushed down toilets, or simply thrown away by consumers who are unaware of the dangers these chemicals pose to our environment.  The harm comes when these chemicals end up in our water supplies, including surface and ground water resources, wastewater treatment systems, or in our public landfills.  In some municipalities where consumers are directly connected to wastewater treatment plants, PPCPs that are poured down sinks or flushed down toilets may pass through some type of pre-treatment before they are discharged into the surrounding rivers or lakes. However, according to the EPA, not all wastewater treatment plants are equipped to remove trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and other household chemicals on a routine basis.  The presence of PPCP’s in our water resources can also have adverse effects on wildlife as well, especially in aquatic ecosystems.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends avoiding the flushing of expired or unwanted drugs down toilets or sink drains. Instead the EPA encourages consumers to take advantage of drug take back opportunities that may be offered in their local communities.  Over the last 4 years, National Pharmaceutical Drug Take Back Days have been held across the United States. These nationwide events sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in partnership with local law enforcement agencies, have collected and disposed of a total of 2,411 tons of discarded prescription drugs in accordance with environmentally approved methods.  According to the DEA, “Unused prescription medications in homes create a public health and safety concern, because they can be accidentally ingested, stolen, misused, and abused.”  In fact, the majority of prescription drugs abused today, especially among teenagers, are found no further than the medicine cabinets of family or friends.

In Baldwin County, the Sheriff’s Department’s main office located in Bay Minette and its satellite office in Fairhope, maintain a 24 hour/7 days a week drop box in the lobby for the disposal of outdated or unused pharmaceuticals.  Citizens are encouraged to take advantage of this quick and convenient means of disposing old and outdated medications safely.  For security purposes, it is recommended that you remove the labels or scratch out any personal information on the containers before disposing of them.  You may also wish to check with a national pharmacy chain located in your area to see if they offer any type of drug disposal program.

The Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs unit of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers educational resources and workshops that enable citizens to safeguard their home and environment from the dangers associated with the management and disposal of expired or unwanted pharmaceutical drugs. One such program, Synergistic Efforts to Reduce Pharmaceutical Impacts on the Environmental Program (SerPIE) outlines these dangers and offers the consumer information regarding alternatives to disposing of PPCP’s directly into sink drains or toilets. For more information regarding the safe disposal of outdated or unused pharmaceuticals or the SerPIE Program’s outreach activities, please contact Denise Heubach, an Urban Regional Extension Agent II with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at 251-574-8445 or dhh0006@auburn.edu .