Welcome to my blog on healthy eating and food safety. I look forward to your comments and feedback regarding use of this tool to disseminate educational information. This blog will be updated on a regular basis.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MyPlate MyWins Tips- Prep for Potlucks and Parties

MyPlate MyWins Tips- Prep for Potlucks and Parties
Parties and potlucks are a fun way to spend time with friends, family, and colleagues. Set yourself up to make healthy choices with these tips.
Plan for colorful plates Create a sign-up sheet for your party with categories for dishes from each food group so you have a variety of healthy options.
Sip up some flavor Boost flavor in water or unsweetened iced tea with mint leaves, lemons, or frozen fruit. Skip sugary drinks like soda, punch, and lemonade.
Keep foods safe Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until serving time. Don’t leave food out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Prioritize your plate Take a quick lap around the food table to see what foods are available before filling your plate. Save calories with smaller helpings.
Include fruits and veggies Fill half your plate with vegetables such as beans, broccoli, or mixed greens and fruit like berries or grapes.
Source:  USDA Choose MyPlate.Gov 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Winning NCAA Snack Ideas

Winning NCAA Snack Ideas
Hopefully you have completed your brackets for this first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. As you watch games this weekend cheering on your favorite team(s), here are some ideas for healthy snack options.  
  • Offer popcorn which is a whole-grain food. If you choose microwave popcorn select a healthy low fat option. Or spritz air-popped kernels with flavored olive oil.
  • If making a dip, use low-fat plain Greek yogurt rather than sour cream.
  • Serve kabobs rather than wings. Kabobs can be purchased or made at home. If making at home, cut chicken breast into small chunks and marinate. Put chicken on short wooden skewers along with an assortment of vegetables. Make sure wooden skewers have been presoaked. Wrap ends with foil to prevent burning. Broil or place on grill and cook until vegetables are tender and meat juices run clear.  
  • Make a fruit dip by putting fresh or frozen fruit in a blender along with low-fat plain yogurt. Serve with pieces of pineapple, apple slices and/or kiwi.
  • Provide a choice of beverages such as unsweetened carbonated or sparking water infused with fruit flavors. Another option is to add sliced fruit such as oranges or lemons to a pitcher of water.     

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Living with a Purpose

Living With A Purpose
Being physically fit, eating nutritious foods and getting enough rest are important, but not enough to make people truly satisfied with life. Purpose is the number one factor in living a fulfilled life. Living a purposeful life means being intentional about living out our unique purpose through our social, financial and community connections.
According to Gallup research by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, the five essential elements of wellbeing are a sense of purpose, a positive social network, financial stability and security, physical health and a reservoir of community resources and connections. Richard Leider with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, states that purpose is a combination of a person’s gifts, passions and values.
You can express your sense of purpose through a job or career, or through volunteer roles within a community. When we use our natural talents and skills – the things we are good at and love to do – then we bring the gift of joy and happiness to others as well as ourselves. Our passions guide our goals and reveal where we direct our energy. Our values are the underlying driving force about what really matters to us.
People who live with a sense of purpose live longer, have a higher quality of life and are better able to adapt to challenges they face in life.
Ask your friends and family to name something you are good at. How would they describe you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Is there an activity or role in which you lose all sense of time? That makes you feel rejuvenated or ‘in the flow’ when you do it? These are clues to finding your gifts, passions and values.
Our purpose is unique to each of us. When you discover those threads, notice how they influence your attitude and sense of accomplishment in your daily life.
Here are some tips for living with purpose.
  • Be intentional about doing things that allow you to express your gifts, passions and values.
  • Build energizing activities into your daily routine. That could include spending time with others who share similar passions or offering your gifts to others for whom that task is difficult.
  • Invest time, money and other resources on those things that fulfill your purpose and also fill a need in the larger community.
Source Kristi Cooper, human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Increase Intake of Fresh Herbs for Everyday Health

Increase Intake of Fresh Herbs for Everyday Health
When most of us plan to cook with herbs, we often refer to a recipe and the small amounts of dried herbs it calls for (think chili or spaghetti). That is because herbs are typically separated from other plant-based foods (e.g., vegetables) as “food seasonings” rather than just another type of edible plant. Since so many herbs have concentrated flavor in their dried state, categorizing them as seasonings makes sense. However, many herbs are quite mild in their fresh forms and can be eaten in large amounts similar to leafy green vegetables. Since herbs are plants just like vegetables, they are physically, biochemically and nutritionally quite similar to leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale. Yet we typically do not eat fresh herbs in the same ways and quantities as vegetables.
Most “soft-stemmed” herbs (parsley, basil, dill), however, can be used in large amounts in salads and on sandwiches. Other fresh herbs (mint, lavender, rosemary) can easily be added in smaller amounts, but more frequently, to drinks and as toppings on snacks and desserts. And, herbs can pack in just as much nutrition as vegetables!

Just like green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs contain large amounts of vitamins A, C and K. Many herb plants also contain polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Polyphenols are only found in plants and plant-based products, which is why diets rich in plant-based foods can offer “protection against the development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases,” according to a 2009 study conducted by Pandey and Rizvi. The polyphenols in herbs and other plant-based foods can also reduce chronic inflammation and its associated risk for chronic disease. In addition, science-based research on herbal application in medicine is growing, and future findings may substantiate some of the more specific benefits herbs have on particular ailments. Regardless of those medicinal unknowns, however, increased consumption of food-based herbs can still have over-reaching health benefits similar to other plant-based foods. So add more fresh herbs to your diet!

Unlike American cuisine, many other cultures have utilized large quantities of fresh herbs in their traditional foods, and some of these foods are becoming more popular in the USA. Tabbouleh is a parsley salad that is historically popular in Middle Eastern culture but is now quite common in the USA. Italians and Asians have been eating significant amounts of fresh basil on caprese salads, in pesto, and as a regular condiment to accompany many Asian main dishes. Many US citizens have adopted similar eating patterns. Other fresh herb habits are less familiar to us, such as the Scandinavian tendency to dump handfuls of fresh dill on top of fish stews such as Finnish Lohikeitto (LOW-hee-gay-doe).
Ideas for eating more herbs on a regular basis:
  • Make salads with herbs as the main ingredient (e.g., Tabbouleh).
  • Substitute 1/2 of the greens in lettuce salads with herbs such as parsley, dill, and basil.
  • Mix handfuls of fresh herbs into cold potato and pasta salads.
  • Top soups with handfuls of fresh herbs.
  • Garnish an entire dinner plate with fresh herbs.
  • Make a sandwich with herbs rather than lettuce (e.g., grilled cheese with basil).
  • Add fresh herbs to drinks (mint lemonades and rosemary ice teas, fresh chamomile in hot tea).
  • Use fresh herb sauces in pasta or on top of cooked meats (pesto in pasta; fresh mint sauce on cooked lamb).
  • Sprinkle lavender, rosemary, and mint leaves on cakes, ice creams, and fruit cocktails
    Source: Sarah Rautio, Michigan State University Extension

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sorting Food Facts and Myths: Do Foods Labeled as "Natural" Deliver on Your Expectations?

Sorting Food Facts and Myths: Do Foods Labeled as “Natural” Deliver on Your Expectations?
Have you ever bought one brand of food instead of another because it was described as “natural?” Are you paying more for a food labeled as “natural?” What does “natural” mean to you? The manufacturer may have a different meaning.

What Consumers Think “Natural” Means
A 2015 “Consumer Reports” survey of a nationally representative group of 1,005 adults found more than half of consumers usually look for products with a “natural” food label. Many consumers thought a “natural” label on packaged/processed foods currently meant:
• No toxic pesticides were used (63%)
• No artificial materials or chemicals were used during processing (62%)
• No artificial ingredients or colors were used (61%)
• No GMOs [Genetically Modified Organisms] were used (60%).

An even greater percentage (about 80%) felt these characteristics were what the label SHOULD mean. Consumers were asked if they believed a “natural” label needed to be verified or meet some type of standard, and they answered:
• Yes, (45%)
• No (51%)
• Unsure (4%)

A 2016 International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation Food & Health Survey (1,003 adults) found “healthfulness” was a top driver in food purchasing decisions. When asked to describe what “natural” means, there were a range of responses in relation to food. These included: “no additives or preservatives,” made from “natural ingredients” and “straight from nature.”

FDA’s Definition of “Natural”
In response to the uncertainty of the meaning of “natural,” in 2016 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked for public comments on such questions as:
• “Whether it is appropriate to define the term ‘natural,’
• If so, how the agency should define ‘natural,’ and
• How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.”

They are currently reviewing those comments. At present: “The FDA has considered the term ‘natural’ to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”

USDA’s Definition of “Natural” for Meat
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, the term “natural” on a meat or poultry label means: “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as ‘no artificial ingredients; minimally processed’).”

The Bottom Line
Unless a standardized definition is developed for “natural,” this term means little more than no artificial ingredient or added color is present in the food. In addition, in the case of meat and poultry, it also should be minimally processed. If you are seeking a specific attribute in a “natural” product, don’t pay extra unless the label provides enough information ensuring you are getting what you are looking for.

• Bock, Andrea. Peeling Back the ‘Natural’Food Label, Consumer Reports at
www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/ peeling-back-the-natural-food-label
• Consumer Reports National Research Center, Natural Food Labels Survey
www.consumerreports.org/content/ dam/cro/magazine- rticles/2016/March/Consumer_Reports_Natural_Food_Labels_Survey_2015.pdf
• International Food Information Council Foundation, 2016 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes towardFood Safety, Nutrition & Health at
• United States Department of Agriculture / Food Safety & Inspection Service.Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms at www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/e2853601-3edb-45d3-90dc-1bef17b7f277/Meat_and_Poultry_Labeling_Terms.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Source: Alice Henneman, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska Extension, Lancaster County

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Know Your Carbohydrates

Know Your Carbohydrates
What are carbohydrates? Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for our body and help supply our brain and muscles with the energy they need to function and perform. The carbohydrates we eat are broken down into glucose, which then provides the necessary energy to fuel the day and/or a tough workout. Carbohydrates also aid in ensuring that proteins and fats are utilized correctly within the body.
Where are carbohydrates found?
Carbohydrates are found in a variety of different foods, and there are three types: starches, sugars and fiber. Examples of foods high in starch are bread, cereal, pasta and potatoes. Examples of foods high in sugars include fruits, milk, candy, cake and soda. Fiber is also found in fruits and vegetables, as well as grains (i.e. oatmeal, brown rice, multigrain cereal).
Simple vs. complex carbohydrates
The type of carbohydrate you consume determines how your body will utilize the energy. The two basic types of carbohydrates are
simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly. These types of carbohydrates give us a “quick burst” of energy, but not long-term or sustainable energy. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are digested much slower and deliver important vitamins, minerals and fiber along with more sustainable energy.
What does this mean for the average person? Let’s look at a morning breakfast example. If you have a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries for breakfast, you will be supplying your body with mostly complex and some simple carbohydrates to ensure you will have the energy to start your day and sustain your energy levels until lunch. Conversely, if you only have a bowl of high-sugar cereal, your body will digest and use the energy from breakfast immediately, which could leave you feeling hungry and tired later in the morning. You feel this way because your body has used up the energy from the simple carbohydrates and is now resorting to using other methods to fuel your muscles and brain. So, try and consume more complex carbohydrates. If you play sports or exercise recreationally, you also need the ample energy from complex carbohydrates to help propel you through a game or workout.
What happens if you don’t get enough carbohydrates?
If you do not consume enough carbohydrates throughout the day, your body starts relying on other methods to meet energy demands, which could include breaking down muscle for energy. This break-down of muscle is especially detrimental if you are an athlete or a recreationally active individual, as you want to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. When the body runs out of carbohydrates for fuel (which we want as our main fuel source) and turns to the breakdown of proteins and fats, we can experience negative
side effects such as lightheadedness, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and constipation. To prevent the breakdown of muscle protein, try and consume a meal with complex carbohydrates every three to five hours during the day. Be sure to consume protein at these meals to further reduce muscle protein breakdown.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Ideally, choosing complex carbohydrates and a combination of healthier simple carbohydrates will provide the best blend of nutrients, fiber and energy. Get creative and keep that energy going!

Chloe Noelle Updegraff, Michigan State University Extension and Taylor Alfano, Central Michigan University Dietetic Intern

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sorting Through Nutrition Information

Sorting Through Nutrition Information
There is a lot of information on nutrition that can be found in books, social media, print media as well as on the radio and television. How do you make sense of this information? Here are some tips.
  • Realize that just because it is found on social media, in print or other media sources does not mean it is accurate information. One option is to look for scientific consensus.
  • Watch out for dramatic claims based on a single study.
  • Personal success stories can be inspiring, but one person’s experience is not science.
  • Focus on a single food rather than eating a broad array of foods and overall eating patterns.
  • Debates about which diet is better, low-fat or high-fat, low- carbohydrate or high-carbohydrate.
  • It sounds too good to be true. For example lose 20 pounds in one month. Or this is the best diet available.
No one study will change everything. Researchers look at what has been learned in a new study in light of all the other research that came before it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Protein Intake for Athetes

Protein Intake for Athletes
Whether you are a bodybuilder, athlete, or recreationally active individual, few nutrients have been as controversial as protein. A popular dogma is to practice a high protein intake with the notion that “more is better”.  Protein is needed for numerous bodily processes including repairing muscle tissue, so it is not surprising that it is often consumed in high quantities among those who are physically active.  However, the dietary recommendations state that most only need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.4 grams per pound of body weight). This is approximately 55 grams of protein per day for someone who weighs 150 pounds. This may seem quite low to most physically active individuals and is not difficult to meet as most sedentary individuals consume more than the recommendation. So, what is the correct protein intake to optimize performance and body composition? 

A recent position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dieticians of America, and the American College of Sports Medicine summarizes the evidence for numerous sports nutrition recommendations including dietary protein intake. The current data suggests that physically active individuals should consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.5 to 0.9 grams per pound of bodyweight) regardless if the individual is a strength or endurance athlete. The upper end of that protein intake is recommended for individuals during periods of higher training frequency and greater intensity and during periods of calorie restriction to maintain muscle mass. 

In regards to the timing of protein intake, the position statement recommends that individuals consume 0.25 to 0.3 grams of high-quality protein per kilogram of body weight (15-25 grams on average; some individual’s intake may be higher) within 0 to 2 hours after exercise to increase the protein synthesis (muscle building) process. Furthermore, that same amount is recommended every 3 to 5 hours over multiple meals throughout the day to maximize muscular adaptation.

There are numerous misconceptions about how much protein an athlete needs. Although the current evidence states that athletes need more than the current recommendations, it is not quite as high as what is observed in some gym circles

Source: Tyler Becker, Michigan State University Extension Educator

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Quinoa - Grain of the Month

Quinoa – Grain of the Month
March’s Grain of the Month is Quinoa. Quinoa is in fact not technically a cereal grain at all, but is instead what we call a “pseudo-cereal” – our name for foods that are cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile. 
Quinoa grows on magenta stalks three to nine feet tall, with large seed heads that can be almost any color, from red, purple and orange to green, black or yellow. The seed heads are prolific: a half pound of seed can plant a full acre, yielding 1200-2000 pounds of new seeds per acre. Since nutrient-rich quinoa is also drought resistant, and grows well on poor soils without irrigation or fertilizer, it’s been designated a “super crop” by the United Nations, for its potential to feed the hungry poor of the world.
Over 120 dierent varieties of quinoa are known, but the most commonly cultivated and commercialized are white (sometimes known as yellow or ivory) quinoa, red quinoa, and black quinoa. Quinoa flakes and quinoa flour are increasingly available, usually at health food stores. Quinoa is known as an “ancient grain.
It’s not surprising that quinoa supports good health, as it’s one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, oering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance. Not only is the protein complete, but quinoa grains have a usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. (For comparison, wheat germ comprises less than 3% of a wheat kernel.) Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
What’s more, quinoa is gluten free, which makes it extremely useful to the celiac community and to others who may be sensitive to more common grains such as wheat.
Quinoa has quickly become a favorite of whole grain cooks, because its tiny grains are ready to eat in just 15 minutes!  You can tell when it’s done, because you’ll see that little white tail– the germ of the kernel – sticking out. Like couscous, quinoa benefits from a quick flu with a fork just before serving.
Quinoa has a subtle nutty taste that marries well with all kinds of ingredients. But make sure you rinse it well before cooking: quinoa grows with a bitter coating, called saponin that fends o pests and makes quinoa easy to grow without chemical pesticides. While most quinoa sold today has had this bitter coating removed, an extra rinse is a good idea to remove any residue.
Here are some basic cooking facts.
  • How much cooked quinoa does 1 cup dry quinoa yield? 1 cup dry quinoa yields about 3 cups cooked quinoa.
  • How much liquid do I need to cook quinoa? To cook 1 cup quinoa, you need about 2 cups liquid.
  • How long does it take to cook quinoa? 1 cup quinoa will cook in about 20 minutes.
  • How do I make quinoa less bitter? Nearly, if not all, of the natural bitterness of quinoa's outer coating can be removed by a vigorous rinsing in a mesh strainer.
  • How do I make better-tasting quinoa? Quinoa is really excellent when cooked in vegetable or chicken broth. Also, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup dried quinoa when cooking. Try adding other spices and aromatics during cooking as well, like a clove of smashed garlic, a sprig of fresh rosemary, or a dash of black pepper. 
Source: Whole Grains Council

Monday, February 27, 2017

All About Protein

All About Protein
All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Beans and peas are also part of the Vegetable Group.

Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, depending on their age and calorie needs. The advice to consume seafood does not apply to vegetarians. Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat.

The amount of food from the Protein Foods Group you need to eat depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough food from this group, but need to make leaner and more varied selections of these foods. Recommended daily amounts are shown in the table below.
In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.
  • Choose lean or low-fat meat and poultry. If higher fat choices are made, such as regular ground beef (75-80% lean) or chicken with skin, the fat counts against your limit for calories from saturated fats.
  • If solid fat is added in cooking, such as frying chicken in shortening or frying eggs in butter or stick margarine, this also counts against your limit for calories from saturated fats.
  • Select some seafood that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, Pacific oysters, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel.
  • Processed meats such as ham, sausage, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake. Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __”, which mean that a sodium-containing solution has been added to the product.
  • Choose unsalted nuts and seeds to keep sodium intake low.
 Source: MyPlate.gov