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, October 21, 2016

Fall is Here! Celebrate with Pumpkin, 5 Different Ways

Fall is Here! Celebrate with Pumpkin, 5 Different Ways
Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween! These versatile vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin A and dietary fiber. To demonstrate different ways you can incorporate this seasonal superstar, MyPlate is showcasing five easy recipes with pumpkin as the main ingredient. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October is National Cranberry Month

October Is National Cranberry Month
This is a great time of year to enjoy cranberries. Wisconsin leads the country in cranberry production. 
  • Nutrition and health. Cranberries are fat-free, cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and a good source of Vitamin C and fiber. Cranberries are thought to provide health benefits because of their flavonoid and phytonutrient content. These naturally occurring compounds have antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits. They have also been shown to promote cardiovascular health by reducing low-density lipoprotein-oxidation (bad cholesterol), maintaining or improving high-density lipoprotein levels (good cholesterol), and improving vascular function.  
  • Forms and availability. The peak harvest season for fresh cranberries is October through December. Sometimes fresh cranberries can be found in the freezer section near the end of their season. Cranberry juice, sauce and dried.  
  • Selection and Storage tips. Choose fresh cranberries that are full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red. Avoid cranberries that are soft, shriveled, or have brown spots. Fresh cranberries should be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in a crisper for about three to four weeks. Cranberries freeze very well, either whole or sliced. When sealed in an airtight container, frozen cranberries will keep for up to nine months.   
  • Cooking with cranberries. Shortly before use, rinse fresh or frozen cranberries and throw out any that are shriveled or bruised. Cranberries are good for both cooking and eating raw. If raw cranberries are too tart, cook them before eating. One method is to cook them in a pot of water for 10 minutes on medium heat or until the cranberries pop. If cooked longer, they will taste bitter.  
  • Getting culinary with cranberries. Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many other flavors. Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape. Dried cranberries can be added to nuts, trail mix, granola, oatmeal, or even chicken salad. Fresh or dried cranberries work well in quick breads such as muffins, sweet breads, and yeast breads. These berries also work well in pies, cobblers, chutneys, salsas, and relishes.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Purchasing Pre-Packeaged Graini Mixes

Purchasing Pre-Packaged Grain Mixes
There never seems to be enough time. While the MyPlate recommends three servings of whole grains per day, it can be a challenge to cook grains that take several hours. Grain mixes are an alternative. Here are some tips when purchasing grain mixes.

Check the Nutrition Facts label to determine the amount of sodium in the product. Many of these products are high in sodium. Some of these products can provide nearly half of your daily sodium recommendation in a one-cup serving. (Recommended daily intake of sodium is 2,300 milligrams if under the age of 51 and 1,500 milligrams if 51 years of age or older.)

Add vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, and carrots to these mixes to increase nutritional value.

Check the ingredient list to be sure that a whole grain is listed first. Also look for the Whole

Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council. There are two different varieties of the Whole 
Grain Stamp, the 100% Stamp and the Basic Stamp.

    * If a product bears the 100% Stamp (shown on left), then all its grain ingredients are whole grains. There is a minimum requirement of 16g (16 grams) – a full serving – of whole grain per labeled serving, for products using the 100% Stamp.
    * If a product bears the Basic Stamp (shown on right), it contains at least 8g (8 grams) – a half serving – of whole grain, but may also contain some refined grain. Even if a product contains large amounts of whole grain (23g, 37g, 41g, etc.), it will use the Basic Stamp if it also contains extra bran, germ, or refined flour.    

Friday, October 14, 2016


What’s not to like about hummus. This product is made with protein-rich beans and heart-healthy olive oil. It tastes great and pairs well with many foods. If you choose not to make your own hummus, here are some tips when selecting hummus at the supermarket.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts label to determine the amount of sodium. While a number of brands are low in sodium, many have 200-milligrams in just one 2-tablespoon serving.
  • Watch the serving size. As previously mentioned, a serving is 2 tablespoons. It is easy to consume far more than 2 tablespoons when enjoying hummus with vegetables or chips.
  • There are a number of varieties of hummus that are using nontraditional ingredients – different beans and vegetables to add more flavor.
  • Hummus can be used in place of mayo in a sandwich. Or toss with hot spaghetti.
  • Look for a hummus that has at least 2 grams of protein per serving.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Can You Eat Your Jack-o’-Lantern Pumpkin?

Can You Eat Your Jack-o’-Lantern Pumpkin?

Looking for a pumpkin to use for making pumpkin pie or a favorite recipe? If you decide to use fresh pumpkin, make sure to get the right pumpkin for the job. Jack-o’-lanterns usually are larger, with stringier pulp. Sugar or pie pumpkins generally are smaller, less stringy and work well in recipes. To prepare a pumpkin for recipes, wash it, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and microwave, bake or boil the pumpkin until the pulp is soft. Remove the skin, then mash it by hand or puree it in a food processor or blender.

Here are some easy directions for baking a pumpkin using the oven method. “To bake, place cut side down on a shallow baking dish and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or longer. Test for doneness by piercing with a fork. When tender, remove from the oven and allow cooling.

Besides tasting great, pumpkin provides important Vitamin A and potassium for your body. Below is an easy recipe for enjoying pumpkin throughout the year.


(Makes 32 mini-muffins or 12 regular-sized muffins)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Spray mini-muffin tins with cooking spray or use mini muffin liners.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, quick oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice. In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin, milk, oil and egg.
3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fill muffin cups two-thirds full.
4. Mix topping ingredients. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffins. Bake mini-muffins at 400ºF for 8–12 minutes or until evenly browned. Bake regular-sized muffins for 15–18 minutes.

Got leftover canned pumpkin? If you use canned pumpkin to make the pumpkin spice muffins, you will have about ¾ cup of pumpkin leftover. Package in a sealable freezer bag or freezer container and freeze. After thawing, place pumpkin in a strainer to drain off excess moisture.

Adapted from an article written by Cami Wells, Extension Educator and Registered Dietitian in Hall County, University of Nebraska Extension

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tips for Tasting Olive Oils

Tips for Tasting Olive Oils
With the increased popularity of olive oil, there are many opportunities to taste this product.

Flavors in olive oil are determined by a wide range of factors including the type of olive (varietal), ripeness at harvest, growing conditions (climate, soil type), crop maintenance (irrigation, pest control), handling of fruit from tree to mill, and the milling process itself. For example, oil made from predominantly unripe (green) olives contain flavors described as grassy, artichoke, or tomato leaf, whereas riper olives tend to yield softer flavors often described as buttery, floral, or tropical.

Here are some tips for tasting olive oils.
  • Pour a small amount of olive oil in a cup, cover it with one hand, and warm it up in the palm of your other hand to help release the oil’s aromas and flavors. 
  • Sip and let the oil coat your mouth and tongue. Let it linger a few seconds on your palate.
  • Pay attention to the “finish” which is the lasting essence of oil in your mouth and throat. It may be buttery, fruity, peppery, or bitter.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Time Saving Tips in the Kitchen

Time Saving Tips in the Kitchen
-After washing greens, pat dry with paper towel.  Place a few dry paper towels in the container to absorb moistures. This will extend the life of your greens.

-Ensure oil when frying is at 365 to 375 degrees.  Use a deep-fat frying thermometer to help take the guesswork out of monitoring the frying temperature. The correct temperature will keep food from sticking and create a better crust.

-When cooking pasta, boil one or two minutes less than recommended.  Finish the pasta in the intended sauce.  ‘This will allow the pasta to absorb the flavor of the sauce.

-Use recipes as a guide to creating your own dishes.  Get creative with flavors and ingredients. 

-Use a hot metal spatula for smoothing frosting.  Dip the frosting spatula in a tall mug of almost boiling water for a couple of seconds and then frost. 

-Use an ice cream scoop to evenly fill cupcake liners.

-When boiling potatoes, always start potatoes in cold water to ensure even cooking.

-Store spices in a cool, dark place away from the stove.

-To remove stains from a wooden cutting board, use salt and a lemon.  Rub for 1-2 minutes and wash. This will make the wooden cutting board look better.

-Use high quality ingredients to obtain a high quality finished product.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Surfing the Web for Accurate Nutrition and Health Information

Surfing the Web for Accurate Nutrition and Health Information
The internet can be a great information resource that is quick and easy to use. You can find breaking nutrition news, healthy recipes, and sound nutrition advice. Like other media outlets, however, the web can also be crowded with misinformation and poor nutrition guidance. Here are tips to help make you a whiz on the web in searching for credible nutrition and health information.

Perform an “advanced search” to help limit the search to be more specific to your needs. For instance, you can search within a specific site or domain. The three-letter suffix on a website address such as “.com” or “.edu” is the domain. Some domains may be more credible than others.

Remember, dependable sources often state where information is coming from, who funds the studies or organization, and what credentials and education qualify the writers on the topic.
Article written as part of the Words on Wellness, Iowa State University Extension
Sources of Information for the Newsletter:
• Nourish Your Mind and Body With Accurate Health Information—How to Sort Fact From Fiction, North Dakota State University, Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, LRD Food and Nutrition Specialist
• www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/health-fitness/nourish-your-mind-and-body-with-accurate-health-informationhow-to-sort-fact-from-fiction
• Choosing Reliable Nutrition Information, University of Illinois Extension

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Science of Dealing with Picky Eaters

The Science of Dealing with Picky Eaters
I gave a presentation on feeding young children to a group of students training to become child care providers. We talked about how to deal with feeding issues. Below is an article from the Science of Parenting blog from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach about picky eaters.

Many parents worry about what their children eat — and don’t eat. However, when parents and children engage in mealtime battles, nobody wins. Instead, parents should focus on preventing power struggles over food.

Most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diet, even if they don’t want to eat particular foods. They may refuse to eat a certain food, or refuse to eat at all. You may think your child is a picky eater. Do not worry. This is a normal part of growing up.

But if you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, talk to your health care provider who can help you review your child’s growth. Start a ‘food log’ and keep track of the types and amounts of food your child eats and share that information with your healthcare provider as well.

If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. Likewise, don't bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration or become less sensitive to his or her own hunger and fullness cues.

Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him or her an opportunity to independently ask for more. For example, a serving size of vegetables for very young children is one tablespoon per year of age of child.

Young children often touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. The child may need to be exposed to a new food multiple times before trying it.

Allowing your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.

Create a relaxing mealtime environment and avoid creating a situation where a power struggle may occur. Remember to model healthy eating behaviors and strategies for removing distractions like television and electronic gadgets during mealtime.

Your child’s eating habits won’t change overnight, but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.

Source: Lori Hayungs, Human Science Specialist In Family Live, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Friday, September 30, 2016

Beans and Whole Grains Are Getting Press This Year
Beans and grains are getting a lot of press this year.  It is the International Year of the Pulses which recognizes lentils, peas and beans as a critical part of the general food basket.  The 2015 Dietary Guidelines again encourages people to consume three servings of whole grains daily.  Here are some tips for eating more beans and whole grains.

  • Buying dried beans and grains in bulk is often more cost effective than buying a package of either of these items.  Purchasing in bulk can be most helpful if you want to try a new recipe and not sure you will like the dried beans or whole grain called for in the recipe.  You can buy as little or as much as you want when purchasing in bulk.
  • Soaking beans before cooking helps with digestion and reduces gas.
  • Cooked beans and whole grains can be easily frozen in freezer bags or containers.  Slightly undercook beans and grains before freezing so they retain their shape and texture better when defrosted.
  • When short on time keep canned beans in your pantry for entrees that call for beans.
  • Whip up some of your favorite grain/bean recipes and freeze in portion appropriate freezer containers.  This makes a quick reheat meal.
The Whole Grain Council has a number of helpful resources on their website. Wholegrainscouncil.org.  Information on pulses can be found at the US Dry Pea& Lentil Council www.pea-lentil.com and at https://pulsespledge.com



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Celebrate Whole Grains Month with Brown Rice, 5 Different Ways!

Celebrate Whole Grains Month with Brown Rice, 5 Different Ways!

Did you know September is Whole Grains Month and National Rice Month? To help you fit whole grains into your menu this week, MyPlate is sharing five, easy-to-prepare recipes with brown rice as the star ingredient.  Click  here to read more.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dealing with Children Who Have Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Dealing with Children Who Have Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
It is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have good allergies. This affects one in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two in every classroom. (Food Allergy Research & Education) While some people have allergies, others have sensitivities and intolerances. Symptoms can range from severe anaphylaxis to gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, skin rashes and not feeling well.
Here are some tips to make events involving children with food allergies or sensitivities less stressful.
  • When sending out invitations, ask if any of the attendees have food allergies or food sensitivities. Guests can RSVP this information.
  • Do not leave dishes of candy or other food accessible to children. Always ask the parent/caregivers before feeding a child. 
  • Ask for certain brands that are safe for the child and save any labels or packaging from items that you are serving. You can send the parent/caregiver a picture of the ingredient list also confirming if the product is safe or not.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the parent to supply a safe treat if you are concerned about what will be served. 
  • Don’t be offended if someone asks to look over the food, wants to bring food or does not eat. 
  • Consider bringing a nonfood item in for your child’s birthday celebration at school. Save the treat for at home.
  • Communication is key. Communicate with teachers, other parents/caregivers, and your child about food allergies. Make sure your child knows not to share their food with others unless allowed to by parents/caregiver or teacher.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September is National Family Meals Month™

September is National Family Meals Month™

With an aim to inspire families to eat at home together more often, we are proud to celebrate National Family Meals Month™ in September! During September, we encourage families to share one more meal together per week and we will highlight simple, healthy meal solutions to help make that happen.

Did you know that numerous studies underscore the long-term health, academic and societal benefits of consistently eating together as a family? Home-cooked meals nourish the spirit, brain and health of all family members. Not to mention, people who frequently cook at home eat fewer, healthier calories.’ Additionally, regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that we all want for our children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behavior.

However, according to a 2013 Harris poll, only 30 percent of American families share dinner every night. Why is this? Yes, juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home. But, this doesn’t need to be the case. Let us be your ally—the solution to your mealtime dilemma. We are committed to helping your family eat well together to be well together and have these resources to bring to the table: [INSERT RESOURCES/PROGRAMS THAT YOUR COMPANY PROVIDES].

So, as the new school year starts, we challenge you to renew your commitment to creating and serving meals at home that nourish your kids and help them flourish for life. Pledge to Raise Your Mitt to Commit™ to sharing one more family meal at home per week. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for family meals focused content, including shopping tips and recipes. [insert company social media handles]. Share your own family meal experiences, misadventures and solutions within your social channels. And, remember, use the hashtag #familymealsmonth to be part of the conversation!

# # #

Source Note: Cornell University College of Human Ecology Department of Policy Analysis and Management: Do Family Meals Really Make a Difference?, Eliza Cook, Rachel Dunifon. 2012; Accessed [date], http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/upload/Family-Mealtimes-2.pdf


Monday, September 19, 2016

What is Lurking in Your Refrigerator?

What is Lurking in Your Refrigerator?
I have started my fall housecleaning. It was prompted by a look in my refrigerator and the need to really give this appliance a good cleaning. So have you taken a serious look at what is inside your refrigerator lately? 
Here are some tips for keeping your refrigerator in tip top shape.
  •  Don’t judge produce by its appearance. Just because something does not look pretty does not mean that you can’t eat it. Transform bruised or wilted foods by cooking them. Overripe tomatoes can be used to make pasta sauce. Remove bruised spots from apples and cook them for applesauce. The pasta sauce and apple sauce can then be used at a later time.
  • Buy more herbs than needed. Place the herbs in a single layer on a dinner plate lined with a paper towel. Cover herbs with another paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. This is a easy way to dry herbs. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid or zipper sealed plastic bag.
  • Remember the phrase “first in, first out” or FICO. Stash newer foods in the back of the shelves and move to the front items nearing expiration or that have been there longer.
  • Make friends with your freezer. Do you have foods like cheese, pasta sauce, or broth that you will not use prior to the date on the container? If so, freeze these foods.
  • Reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Americans waste 21 percent of all edible food, according to the USDA. Check the refrigerator every week to determine what foods need to be used, which are fine as is, and those that need to be frozen. Plan menus around these items.
 Another tip is to buy a refrigerator thermometer. People assume their refrigerator is cold enough when in some cases it is not. An incorrect temperature can increase the risk of spoilage and food-borne illness. Bacteria that can make you sick thrive at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, so buy or utilize the refrigerator thermometer you may already have. Stick with a setting no higher than 40 degrees. 
After a refrigerator cleaning, and there is food to be tossed, check to see if your community has an organic food dumpster where out-of-date food can be taken. We have an organic food dumpster at our office and I am pleased with the amount of food that is placed in the dumpster. Food is picked up and put in a bio digester and through a process is used to generate energy.    

Friday, September 16, 2016

Do You Know Your Squash?

Do You Know Your Squash?

Squash is a nutritional power house. With fall quickly approaching, consumers will see more varieties of squash in the super market.

Delicata is an oblong squash that boasts a thin, edible rind in yellow with green mottled striping. The flesh cooks quickly. Slice and sauté, bake or broil.

Butternut is named for its peanut-like shape and smooth beige coloring. This squash as a vivid orange flesh that is sweet and slightly nutty. Its smooth texture falls apart when cooking, making it a great choice for soups, purees and pies.

Acorn is a deeply ribbed squash that resembles a large, dark green acorn. It has a yellow-orange flesh and tender-firm texture that holds up when cooked. The mild, versatile flavor makes it great for stuffing and baking.

Kabocha is a fairly round squash that can be deep red-orange or dark green with mottled blue-gray striping. The smooth, dense flesh has a sweetness and texture similar to that of a sweet potato. It can be used in curries, stir-fry, salads and soups.

Pumpkin – Look for the smaller pie pumpkins if you plan to cook or bake it. These pumpkins are sweeter than those raised for carving. Their rich flavor is great for pies and baked goods.