Monthly Archives: May 2014

E. coli and other nasty things: how to have good food safety for your cookout or picnic

The holiday weekend approaches, with plans for picnics, cookouts, reunions, and fun!  At the same time we’re hearing about a recall of nearly 2 million pounds of ground beef that is possibly contaminated with E. coli bacteria.  How can you be sure about the safety of the food you’re serving your family?

You are right to be cautious.  Foodborne illnesses can be very serious, even deadly.  E. coli, in particular, can cause organ failure, and children may be especially vulnerable.

Here are some basic rules to keep in mind.

  • Cook ground meats ALL the way through.  Pink interiors mean raw meat, and when that meat is ground, microbes that used to be on the surface of the meat can now be deep inside it.  If the meat is fully cooked, any E. coli should be taken care of.
  • Cook poultry completely through.  Chicken, in particular, can be contaminated with Salmonella.
  • Don’t reuse the plate that held raw meat or poultry.  It must be washed before being used to hold cooked meat or other foods.  The same goes with knives and other utensils.
  • Keep food separate.  Fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be stored in the same container with uncooked meat and poultry, for example.
  • Chill leftovers soon.  This is important when you’re at a picnic and far from your refrigerator.  Take a cooler and ice packs.
  • Keep your hands clean.  Wash them often.  Take hand sanitizer on your picnic.  Don’t change a baby’s diaper while preparing food.
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables.  When you clean poultry in the sink, be sure to sanitize the sink afterwards so that you don’t contaminate food, dishes and utensils.

More information is available here from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A fun holiday is a safe holiday.  Enjoy the time together and have a great weekend!

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

I’m thirsty!

School is almost out and warmer weather is on its way.  Hydration is always important, but never more so than when you’re active in warm temperatures.  What are the best things to give your kids to drink, and are there drinks they should avoid?

First, drinks to avoid completely:

  • Energy drinks.  Make sure you know the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks.  Energy drinks contain stimulants like caffeine and are not appropriate for children and teens.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:  “Caffeine… has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.”  Caffeine is a drug, and is addictive.
  • Caffeinated soft drinks.  (See bullet point above about the ill effects of caffeine on children and teens.)

Drinks that are okay for occasional use:

  • Sports drinks.  These replace electrolytes and calories lost from prolonged exercise.
  • Non-caffeinated soft drinks.  They are okay on special occasions, but only for older children.  Sodas are acidic and therefore are harmful for teeth.  Add sugar to that equation and you could be creating some real dental health problems.
  • Sugary drinks, carbonated or not.  These have been linked to childhood obesity in children as young as 4.  As with soft drinks, all sugary drinks can cause tooth decay.
  • Fruit juices.  Better options than carbonated drinks, and often a good source of vitamins, they are still calorie rich and shouldn’t be overused.

Drinks that are best:

  • Water.  Always the best way to hydrate, water can be a great part of the healthy child’s diet throughout the day, even when they’re not thirsty.  Your kid doesn’t like water?  Check out the flavor packets and squirts that add flavors to water.
  • Low fat milk.  If your child or teen can tolerate milk, it is an indispensable source of calcium.  If she is unable to drink milk, talk to the pediatrician about alternate sources of calcium.

Finally, a note about very young children.

  • Nothing but breast milk or formula should go in a baby’s bottle.  Even fruit juice is too sugary and can lead to tooth decay.  Read here about beverages for the very young.
  • Children can start learning to use a cup at about 6 months.  Still, limit juice to 4-6 ounces per day until the age of 2.
  • Wean completely from bottles at about 12-15 months of age.

What we drink becomes habit, and starting good drinking habits in childhood is an excellent way to build healthy bodies and teeth for a lifetime.

© 2014, MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved

Launching your senior

Graduation quickly approaches.  Is your senior (or junior who will be at this point a year from now) prepared for a life in the world?  Are you prepared for such a big change?

“Launching,” as it’s called, can create feelings of excitement and dread, happiness and fear, joy and anxiety in both teens and their parents.  You’ve all been aiming for this day her whole life, and now it’s right around the corner.  What’s the best way to face this important time?

Actually, there may be no “best way.”  Every graduate, every parent, every family is different.  Pay attention to how your graduate is facing this important milestone, and pay attention to your own feelings.

  • Letting go.  You’ve been practicing letting go for nearly two decades:  the first day of school; the first sleepover at a friend’s house; the first solo car trip. Even if your graduate isn’t moving out, increasing independence should be his goal and yours.  He’s an adult, or soon will be.
  • Holding on.  You and your graduate both need to verbalize that she’s always going to be a part of the family; graduation doesn’t change that.  Even if she is moving out, she will benefit from the knowledge that she will always have your love and support.

How to find the balance?  Make time (if you haven’t already) to address a few important topics together, so your graduate will know your expectations, and you will know his.

  • Education.  Is higher education after high school an expectation?  A hope?  If so, what type and when?  Is taking time before further education an option?
  • Money.  What are expectations regarding continuing parental financial support, whether school is an option or not?  Who will pay for rent, food, cell phone, computer, books, etc.?
  • Living arrangements.  Is the graduate moving out or continuing to live at home?  If staying at home, is she expected to contribute to household expenses and chores?
  • Communication.  How will you stay in touch if he moves out?  How will you grant independence if he stays home?
  • Healthcare.  Investigate health insurance options.  Your young adult needs to be aware of what health care coverage she has – on or off campus.  She should carry a copy of the insurance card, know her allergies and medications, her medical and family medical history.  He needs to be up to date on Immunizations.  The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend more vaccines than most campuses require, so check out the above links whether or not he’ll be continuing in school. Have a discussion about what to do in case of a health emergency.  Here’s a good link from Rowan University about what college students need to bring for the best healthcare.
  • Help.  When there are bumps in the road of growing independence, how will you help negotiate the difficulties together?

Create an environment for listening to your grown-up-child’s hopes and fears.  It’s an important time for all of you, and you will navigate it together.


© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved