Monthly Archives: December 2013

Enjoy Your Food But Eat Less: Stay on Track During the Holidays

Between holiday parties, gift boxes brimming with cookies and chocolates and meals on the go during shopping trips, it’s easy to pack on extra pounds during the holidays. Here are 10 tips for avoiding unwanted pounds while you celebrate the season.

Make a Plan and Stick With It. Think about when you’ve overeaten during past holiday seasons. Come up with a plan to keep calories in check. Don’t eat something just to please someone else; think of ways to politely refuse food that’s offered to you.

Enjoy Your Favorite Dishes. It’s no fun to deprive yourself of foods you enjoy. If your favorites are high in calories, just sample smaller portions and eat mindfully, savoring every bite.

Stay Active. Don’t circle the parking lot waiting for a space close to the store. Take a walk around the block after your holiday party.  Make activity part of your holiday tradition — play a game of touch football, go sledding or ice skating, put on some music and dance.

Pace Yourself. When you arrive at a party, get a sparkling water with a twist and wait at least 30 minutes before eating. This gives you time to survey the spread and decide what you really want to spend your calories on. Wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds; this is about how long it takes for you to feel full.

Volunteer to Bring a Dish. Make a fresh salad or roast some vegetables to bring to your holiday event. You’ll have something healthy to enjoy and your host will be pleased that you brought a dish to share.

Slim Down Favorite Recipes. If you’re the cook, reduce the calories and fat in holiday favorites. Go easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravy, butter and whipped cream. Serve salads with dressings on the side and fruit as dessert. Offer water and other low calorie beverages.

Eat Your Regular Meals. Don’t skip meals to save up calories for a holiday dinner. People who arrive at an event hungry tend to eat everything in sight. Have a nourishing breakfast, a light lunch and some fruit or salad shortly before the event.

Limit Alcohol. Having one cocktail or multiple drinks can easily add up to a meal. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which makes it nearly twice as fattening as carbohydrates or protein. Try drinking a glass of seltzer or water between alcoholic beverages.

Engage in Conversation. Enjoy the company of family and friends. You can’t eat and talk at the same time, so the more conversations you have, the less you’ll eat!

Don’t Beat Yourself Up. If you do splurge, get right back to normal eating and exercising the next day, and try to do better at the next party.

By Sue Gonzalez, Master Food Volunteer

Kids Marketplace teaches students to make wise spending choices

On November 26 eighty third graders from Carlin Springs Elementary School participated in Kids Marketplace, a simulation in which students receive a job and monthly income in the form of play money and have to make spending decisions at stations like Housing, Transportation, and Groceries. The students said that the exercise helped them understand how different jobs pay different amounts of money and that they need to focus on taking care of their needs first in terms of spending and then think about their wants. They also said that it helped them to understand why their parents have to say no sometimes when they ask them to buy things.

On December 5, 25 eighth graders at Williamsburg Middle School got to participate in Reality Store, the cousin of Kids Marketplace designed for middle and high school audiences. These events mark the start of a busy season for these activities. We conducted Reality Store for the Arlington Mill high school continuation program on Dec. 12 and will be at Ashlawn Elementary School for Kids Marketplace on Jan. 14, Kenmore Middle School with Reality Store on Jan. 24 and 31, and several other spots in February, March, and April. We rely on our dedicated Master Financial Education Volunteers to help staff the eight stations at Reality Store and ten at Kids Marketplace but can always use more hands, so if you would like to help run these events please contact Jennifer at

Nyambo Anuluoha helps students at the credit union station to save money

Nyambo Anuluoha helps students at the credit union station to save money


David Edwards helps students choose health insurance at the Personal Care and Medical station

David Edwards helps students choose health insurance at the Personal Care and Medical station


Virginia Cooperative Extension is looking for qualified applicants to become Master Food Volunteers!

The next training starts in March 2014 and applications are being accepted now. Participants receive 24 hours of training over four days:

  • Basic nutrition
  • Meal planning
  • Cooking techniques
  • Food safety
  • Working with diverse audiences

At the end of the training, participants are equipped with the knowledge and skills to confidently help others improve their lives through balanced eating and healthy living. In return, participants commit to 30 hours of volunteer service within one year of the training.

Opportunities for service include health fair displays, food demonstrations at farmers’ markets, teaching food safety classes, submitting articles to the media on nutrition and wellness, assisting in running Extension nutrition programs for youth and adults, and much more!

The first 2014 training will take place over four Fridays in March: March 7, 14, 21, and 28 from 9:00-3:00 at the Fairlington Community Center. Application deadline: January 15. To learn more and to access an application, please go to:


Participants in the 2013 training prepare a healthy lunch

Participants in the 2013 training prepare a healthy lunch


Program Showcase Draws a Crowd

On December 6 the staff and volunteers of the Arlington and Alexandria Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) offices hosted a program showcase for local, state, and federal elected officials and other guests to highlight the contributions that VCE makes to the community. Six stations were set up to highlight each program area and volunteers staffed the stations and shared their experiences with elected officials and other visitors.

At the nutrition station staff and volunteers prepared and distributed samples of healthy smoothies. At the financial education station, volunteers talked about their experiences helping with Reality Store and Kids Marketplace simulations, teaching budgeting classes, and one-on-one financial counseling. At the Energy Masters station a large group of volunteers shared their experiences improving the energy efficiency in low-income apartments and showed the energy savings from using LED compared to regular holiday lights. At the 4-H station Alexandria 4-H agent Reggie Morris and one of his volunteers talked about the many new programs he has started since coming on board in May. At the Agriculture and Natural Resources station Master Gardener volunteers shared information about their many ongoing projects. And at the Master Naturalist station volunteers talked about their work.

Four of Arlington County’s five board members attended the event: Chair Walter Tejada, Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes, and Libby Garvey. Two Arlington school board members attended: Emma Violand Sanchez and Abby Raphael. At the state level Delegate Bob Brink, Senator George Barker, and legislative aide to Alfonso Lopez, Jason Stanford, attended. We were also very pleased to have retired senator Mary Margaret Whipple and retired delegate Judy Connally in attendance. Judy also served as mistress of ceremonies, acknowledging the diverse array of work that Extension does in our communities. At the federal level we were pleased to have the participation of Barry Londeree, aide to Congressman James Moran.

The showcase also highlighted the partnership of Virginia Cooperative Extension with Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.  And we were delighted to host representatives from Virginia Tech National Capital Region including Deputy Director Nick Stone.

With more than 70 attendees this year’s event was the biggest ever. We look forward to hosting another program showcase at the end of 2014 and hope for even larger community participation.

Staff Megan Mauer and Haregowoin Tecklu prepare healthy smoothies to share with visitors

Staff Megan Mauer and Haregowoin Tecklu prepare healthy smoothies to share with visitors


Mary Van Dyke (right) shares information about Master Naturalist programs

Mary Van Dyke (right) shares information with Emma Violand Sanchez (APS School Board Member) about Master Naturalist programs

Program Showcase highlights are also on the Virginia Tech National Capital Region website – click here