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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Are Protein Bars a Healthy Choice for On-the-Go Kids?

Are Protein Bars a Healthy choice for On-the-Go Kids?
Many families are busy. Between running errands, taking kids to practices, and attending games, events, and other activities, it can be hard to plan healthy meals and snacks for your family. Although you may already know that fast food is not always a nutritious choice, alternative on-the-go options, such as protein bars, might not be the healthiest either. Although these bars can be fast and convenient, it is important to understand how to help make heathier choices for kids.

Although protein bars won’t beat out a well-balanced meal or snack, they can be a healthier choice than fast food, concession stand food, and food in vending machines. We also know that a protein bar would be a better option than skipping a meal entirely. Although protein bars can be a simple and relatively mess-free option, there are some drawbacks to offering protein bars to children.

Not all protein bars are created equal. While some protein bars may provide a rich supply of nutrients, other bars’ nutritional content may be closer to that of a candy bar. Most children don’t need extra protein and young athletes would actually benefit more from protein-rich foods like lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Along with unnecessary protein, some bars may contain extra calories from added sugars, unhealthy fats, and extra carbohydrates that are intended for endurance adult athletes. Protein bars usually come with a high price tag too. Some bars cost up to $3.00 each, so buyers beware!

Instead of packing expensive, unnecessary protein bars, plan ahead to pack nutritious meals and snacks for your children. Try quick and easy foods that contain whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein foods, and low-fat dairy. Easy ideas for snacks on the run include fresh fruit, such as apples and bananas with peanut butter; whole grain crackers with cheese; or a homemade trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, and whole grain cereal. When packing meals and snacks, just remember the food safety rules. Visit USDA's ChooseMyPlate Food Safety website to review how to clean, separate, cook, and chill foods properly

Destiny Mostek, MS, RD, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska Extension

Monday, February 20, 2017

February is American Heart Month
Are you treating your heart with tender loving care? February is American Heart Month, so I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the health of your heart. The health of your heart determines your overall health.
Try these tips this month for a healthier heart:
  • Check your diet. Are you eating foods from each section of My Plate? Make sure that each meal includes fruit, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy.
  • Portion size is important. Most portions of fruit, vegetables and grains is about ½ cup. Protein ia about 3 ounces and dairy products are 1 cup. Check out My Plate for specific portion sizes. Remember that the serving size listed on packages may not be the correct portion size recommended.
  • When choosing fruits and vegetables, choose a variety of colors each day. Each color represents a different plant chemical that keeps your heart-healthy by providing important vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and C and minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium. Red fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin A which will help keep your heart-healthy and your immune system strong. Dark green vegetables are the “vitamin pill” of the vegetable world. These greens and broccoli provide vitamins A, C, D, E and calcium, iron and magnesium.
  • Keep protein and dairy sources lean. A diet high in fat is not heart-friendly. Choosing leaner cuts of meat, including poultry and fish, will help keep your fat and cholesterol lower. Adding beans, nuts and legumes to meals can provide protein with no cholesterol and very low fat; just be careful how you prepare them. Adding extra fat to your recipes will not keep your heart-healthy.
  • When evaluating grains, choose whole grains most of the time. The added fiber from eating whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole-grain pasta is very heart-healthy.
  • Check your daily physical activity. Are you getting 30 minutes of activity at least five days of the week? If not, that should ultimately become your new goal. If you’re struggling to reach your goal, start slowly with perhaps five minutes and gradually work up to 30 minutes as your endurance develops. Walking is one of the best activities you can do for your heart. If walking isn’t an option, there are exercises you can do while seated. Ask your personal care provider what physical activities are best for you.
Source: Diana Fair, Michigan State University Extension

Friday, February 17, 2017

Food Choices: Small Shifts, Large Gains

Food Choices:  Small Shifts, Large Gains
By the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

To view article please click: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByxReHb7wpdDT1g3aTdhVmxvZzQ/view?usp=sharing


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Potatoes-Which Variety Should be Used for Which Recipe

Potatoes – Which Variety Should Be Used for Which Recipe
Preparing a great potato dish does not have to be difficult. The hardest part is making sure you buy the right type of potato. Potatoes fall into two important categories that impact the outcome of the recipe: starchy and waxy. 

Starchy potatoes like the classic Idaho or Russet potato are high in starch and low in moisture. They are fluffy, making them great for boiling, baking, and frying. On the other hand they don’t hold their shape well, so should be avoided in dishes like casseroles, gratins, and potato salads.

Waxy potatoes like Red Bliss or New Potatoes, have a low starch content and often are characterized by a cream, firm and moist flesh that holds its shape well after cooking. They are great for roasting, boiling, casseroles, and potato salads.

All-purpose potatoes have a medium starch content that fall between starchy and waxy potatoes. They can be used for any recipe. A classic example if Yukon gold.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Moving to a More Plant-Based Diet

Moving To a More Plant-Based Diet
One way to eat healthy is by incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet. Start slowly and learn as you go.
Start slowing by replacing one or two meals a week with vegetarian options.
Incorporate legumes which are high in fiber, carbohydrates, and protein. Legumes help with satiety, balancing blood sugar, and maintaining weight and energy.
Look for opportunities to make snacking more plant based. Hummus is a great spread on toast or crackers that can be layered with cucumbers, sprouts, and tomatoes. Add your favorite herb for a flavor burst.
Smoothies are a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks. Blend a banana with kale or spinach, some almond butter and apple juice for a green smoothie. 
When eating out, look for plant- based options.
Eat a wide range of colorful, whole plant foods. Keep it simple with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legume, nuts, and seeds.
Experiment with vegetarian versions of your favorite recipes.
Know your nutrients, so that you continue to eat a wide variety of nutrients during the week.
Whole grains are great plant-based foods. There is an excellent variety of whole grains so give them a try.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Time Saving Kitchen Tips to Use in Order to Prepare Great Tasting Food

Time Saving Kitchen Tips to Use In Order to Prepare Great Tasting Food 
Below are a number of tips to save time and produce great tasting food.
  • Set eggs out 30 minutes before using them for better volume in baked goods. If you forget to get eggs out of the refrigerator, warm them quickly by placing them in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
  • Substitute for buttermilk. Combine one tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar with enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid. Stir. Let stand five minutes before using.
  • Toasting nuts. Spread nuts in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until pieces are golden brown . Stir nuts once or twice during the baking process.
  • Invest in quality bakeware. Flimsy, thin pans and trays will not conduct heat efficiently causing baked goods to bake inefficiently.
  • Butter and flour pans generously. Cover every nook and cranny of the pan generously.
  • Weigh ingredients with a digital scale. Successful baking is related to making sure measurements are exact.  
  • Make sure ingredients are fresh. Have you recently checked the date on a can of baking powder or box of baking soda. Many ingredients in baking have a relatively short shelf life, so it is important to make sure they are fresh.  
  • Adding eggs one at a time. If the recipe calls for adding eggs one at a time, take the time to follow these instructions. This step will lead to a better batter that is not lumpy.    

Monday, February 6, 2017

Almonds-A Healthy Food

Almonds – A Healthy Food
Almonds are good for you. They have fiber, protein, and vitamins, as well as minerals and antioxidants. While almonds are high in fat, about 14 grams per ounce – most of it is the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Along with the protein, it provides a feeling of fullness. Because they are low in carbohydrates, almonds won’t make your blood sugars spike.

Although almonds originated in the Middle East, California is now the world’s largest producer.
Almonds are a very versatile. Here are some ideas for using almonds in food preparation.
  • Snacking – Mix together almonds, pieces of dark chocolate, coconut and dried cranberries.
  • Vegetables – Add almonds to salads and top cooked vegetables with slivered or sliced almonds.  
  • Crust – Crush or chop almonds into fine pieces and mix with melted butter and herbs to be used as a coating for fish or poultry.
  • Baking – Sprinkle almonds on top of baked goods for added crunch. Add slivered or chopped almonds to cookies, pastries and cakes. They can also be used in place of a streusel topping for pies. When making a filling for coffee cakes or cookies that call for nuts, use almonds.
Store almonds in a cool dry place. For longer storage, place in the freezer for up to two years.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Barley - February Grain of the Month

Barley – February Grain of the Month
February’s Grain of the Month is Barley. Each month a different whole grain is featured on the Whole Grains Council website We celebrate Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month in February, which makes it a perfect match for barley. Barley’s effects on your love life are as yet unproven, but studies show strong support for barley’s role in protecting heart health. In fact, since 2005, the U.S. FDA has allowed barley foods to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

How important is barley to civilization? Aside from its use as food, barley is the root of the English measurement system. In 1324 Edward II of England standardized the inch as equal to “three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end lengthwise.” The foot, the yard, the mile, and all other English measurements followed on.

While inches and feet have given way to centimeters and meters in most of the world, barley (Hordeum Vulgare L.) is still central to the world’s food supply. In fact, it’s the world’s fourth most important cereal crop after wheat, rice, and corn.

Barley is highest in fiber of all the whole grains, with common varieties clocking in at about 17% fiber, and some, such as the variety called Prowashonupana barley (marketed by Ardent Mills as Sustagrain), having up to 30% fiber! (For comparison, brown rice contains 3.5% fiber, corn about 7%, oats 10% and wheat about 12%.) While the fiber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley’s fiber is found throughout the whole grain, which may account for its extraordinarily high levels. But the goodness of whole grains comes from more than fiber. Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health, too. However, much of the barley eaten in the U.S. is pearled or pearl barley, which is missing some or all of its bran layer.
As it grows in the field, most barley has an inedible hull adhering tightly to the grain kernel. The easiest, quickest way to remove this inedible hull is to scrape (pearl) it off without worrying too much about how much bran comes off at the same time. To make sure you’re enjoying true whole grain barley, look for hulled barley (barley where the inedible hull was removed carefully, keeping any bran loss to insignificant levels) or hulless barley (a different variety that grows without a tightly-attached hull).  Click here for pictures and descriptions of the different forms of barley.

Most of us were introduced to barley as those little white things floating in our canned soup. If that’s your only experience with barley, you may be surprised to find that it’s endlessly versatile. You can cook it as a side dish, such as a barley pilaf; you can bake barley bread; you can enjoy barley porridge for breakfast; and you can even use barley flour to bake your favorite cookies.

While true whole grain barley can take 50-60 minutes to cook, it’s easy to cook a big batch then refrigerate it or freeze it until needed. Or cook it in soups, and enjoy comforting aromas simmering on the stove while you do something else

Source: Whole Grains Council

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make Your Own Spice Mixes

Make Your Own Spice Mixes
Making your own spice mixes helps you limit sodium and other preservatives added to pre-made mixes. You can also use the spices right in your pantry instead of buying a new mix you may not use up!
Here are some common spices, taste and suggested dishes to flavor your meal:

Taste: Strong blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, hint peppery
Great for German & Caribbean cuisines, cakes, cookies, stew, lamb, fruit pies and pickles.
Taste: Warm, spicy and sweet
Great for Scandinavian and Indian Cuisine, Chai Tea
Taste: Hot, Smoky
Great for Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, chili, eggs, fish and vegetables.
Taste: sweet, hot
Great for Mexican and Greek cuisines, grilled fruit, curries, cakes and oatmeal
Taste: aromatic, sweet
Great for Caribbean and Indian cuisines, pineapple, meats, soups, pork, mulled wine and chutneys
Taste: earthy, warm, nutty
Great for: Mexican and Asian cuisines, beans, stews, soups, tacos, and sauces
Taste: spicy, sweet, slight citrus flavor
Great for Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern cuisines, marinades, squash, desserts, oats, hot tea, gingerbread, pickled ginger
Taste: warm, sweet, nutty, spicy
Great for cakes, sauces, spinach, cookies, milk or cream-based dishes like custards or puddings, eggnog
: earthy, slightly bitter
Great for Indian and Moroccan cuisines, poultry, lamb, curries, stews, rice dishes

Tasty Tips
If you are just starting to use spices, add a little at a time; you can always add spice, but it’s difficult to remove it. When adding spices to your meal, add them near the start of cooking so they have time to soften and release their delicious favors. Flavor intensity is reduced in cold dishes, therefore more spices may need to be used when preparing them.

Written by Nicole Busboom, EFNEP Extension Assistant, University of Nebraska Extension

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wisocnsin Cheese: Sliced to Perfection for Super Bowl Gatherings

Wisconsin Cheese: Sliced to Perfection for Super Bowl Gatherings
No Super Bowl gathering is complete without cheese. There is no better place to get cheese than from America’s Dairyland. There is a good reason Wisconsin is known as America’s
  • Wisconsin ranks number nationally in cheese production, producing more than 3 billion pounds per year on average.
  • In addition to the large cheese side, Wisconsin produces 45 percent of what people think of as gourmet cheeses.
  • The state takes top spot for American and Muenster cheese, and ranks second for Italian and mozzarella cheese.
  • Ninety percent of Wisconsin’s milk is made into cheese.
  • Wisconsin is home to 138 cheese plants, more than twice as many as any other state.
When purchasing cheese for your Super Bowl gathering, look for cheese made in Wisconsin. Also try a cheese you have not had before. There are many great gourmet cheeses available for purchase.
For more information on recipes and pairing with cheese, check out the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board website at http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/

Friday, January 27, 2017

Nourish Your Brain with a Healthful Diet

Nourish Your Brain with a Healthful Diet
In preparation for a presentation, I came across a brochure from North Dakota State University Extension titled “Nourish Your Brain With A Healthful Diet.”  
You can take steps to decrease oxidative damage and protect your cells. Antioxidants protect your cells. They are found naturally in some foods. They help protect your cells from free radicals that cause oxidative damage. Several vitamins and minerals have antioxidant properties.
Some vitamins and minerals naturally found in foods are important for nourishing your brain.  
  • Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and cantaloupe.
  • Vitamin E – Found in vegetable oils (corn, canola, sunflower, soybean and olive oils), nuts, leafy greens and some fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin B12 – found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with this vitamin.
  • Folate – found in leafy green vegetables, dry edible beans, and fortified cereals.
  • Beta-carotene – found in dark-colored vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, and winter squash.  
  • Selenium – found is seafood, mushrooms, egg yolks, poultry, liver, red meat, whole grains, seeds, soybeans, nuts, and vegetables.  
  • Oega-3 Fatty Acids – DHA – found in all fish, but especially high in pink salmon, trout, albacore tuna, and shrimp, and ALA found in flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and walnuts.
Many of the risk factors for age-related memory impairment are the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Following a heart-healthy diet can help decrease the risk of these factors and thus improve brain health. 
Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, Sherri Nordstrom Stastny, Assistant Professor, and Jessica Ryant, Student Dietitian, Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, North Dakota State University Extension

Monday, January 23, 2017

Economical, Healthy, Easy and Homemade: Plan Meals and Shop Smart

Economical, Healthy, Easy and Homemade: Plan Meals and Shop Smart
January is a time for new beginning. The beginning of the new brings assessment of the past and resolution to change habits for the future. When these resolutions involve changing habits around food and eating or other lifestyle changes, making a strategy is a good way to make progress toward your goals. First and foremost, understand that change is a process with different stages. When you are ready to start changing, here are a few strategies you can employ to prepare for changing your eating habits whether you want to save money, eat more healthfully, prepare more food at home, or manage your time to be successful at these goals. First, think about planning your weekly meals and shopping based on that plan. In the second article in this series, you can learn about making shortcuts for yourself and cooking in larger batches.
Meal planning
Make a plan for your week that accounts for real life. If you have a go-to easy meal, give yourself permission to fall back on that easy meal once a week. Whether that involves going to a restaurant or a bowl of cereal, you can plan that for a night when you have evening activities or as a back-up for when your plan falls through. Your plan should include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. Make sure to factor in leftovers as an option so you aren’t wasting food. Think about ways to balance your meals with servings of fruit, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates. Most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables so thinking about ways to add them from fresh, canned and frozen sources is important.
Meal planning takes time but it can also save time and money and reduce stress that you may feel around making a change in your life. There are great articles about meal planning here (planning meals for a busy family), here (involving kids in meal planning), and here (plan ahead for healthy and affordable meals). Think about the recipes you’ll be using to cut down on trips to get additional ingredients during the week. Select recipes that will help you maximize success – economical, healthy or efficiently prepared – plan for all three!
Shop smart
Now that you have your plan created, you can make a shopping list with help from store circulars and recipes. Why is a shopping list important? Because it allows you to control the amount you’ll spend at the grocery store and allows you to avoid expensive and tempting items that are available on impulse. Remember to think through breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks when planning for the week. You may need more carrots if they are going to be in a recipe and a snack! Make sure you buy a variety of fruit and vegetables and that you plan to eat them so that you get the most benefit for your money. Your shopping list may be informed by store advertisements which may come by mail or be available from specific stores via their websites. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to comparison shop with other stores and farmers markets!
Here are some hints for shopping with a meal plan and using a list to save money and save time. Remember to shop sales for staples that are shelf stable like dry beans, pasta, canned, and jarred items. Also think through spices, cooking oil, vinegars and pantry items like flour and sugar. Also look for frozen items that you can use in your recipes.
With these strategies, you can be successful making changes. In the second part of this series, you’ll learn about saving money by buying items when they are most abundant-like fresh corn during the summer- and preparing them as meal shortcuts or by cooking in quantity so that you’ll have a head start on meals through the week. Even putting one of these efforts into effect will help you save time, money and effort.
Source: Michigan State University Extension

Friday, January 20, 2017

Not All Calories are Equal

Not All Calories Are Equal
It’s easy to get caught up in only caring what the scale says to gauging your health. So many other things come in to play when it comes to our health and how efficiently our body works. Proper nutrition is at the forefront for our health and many people have the opinion diet is more important than even exercise. Now remember, exercise is very important and has health benefits that cannot be compared to anything else. So don’t give up your exercise routine either.
Hearing many people judging others health by their size seems common place. If it were possible to look inside each person’s physiology to see their system’s function it would tell a better picture, but we do not have x-ray vision.
When looking at calories alone, it gets confusing to know what foods to choose, how many calories should be consumed each day, and what is a calorie in the first place and what does it mean to me. The English dictionary defines a calorie as a unit used in measuring the amount of energy food provides when eaten and digested. Does that help? Not really.
It is more important to look at food’s nutritional make up instead of eating “empty calories”. Empty calories are foods that are usually processed, high in fats and salt and offer little nutrition for your body to benefit. To help understand further some ideas of added sugars and
saturated fats (bad fats) according to the MyPlate.gov are:
  • The sugars or sweeteners in soft drinks, fruit punch, candies, cakes, cookies, pies and ice cream.
  • The saturated fats in cookies, cakes, pizza, cheese, sausages, fatty meats, butter and stick margarine.
  • Some foods – such as milk, yogurt, and cereals – provide important nutrients, but they can also contain some added sugars or saturated fats. For example, sweetened yogurt and sweetened breakfast cereals contain added sugars. Whole milk and cheese contain saturated fat. Look for food choices that are low in saturated fats, unsweetened or with no-added sugars.
It’s important to continue to choose foods high in nutritional content instead of focusing too much on the number of calories consumed. Choosing a sweet clementine instead of cookie will give you plenty of fiber and is sweet tasting to ward off the sweet tooth. In addition to the change in nutrition from a clementine to a cookie, you also will not receive any of the saturated fats or refined sugars you will from a cookie. It’s not easy to make changes your diet but it possible to retrain your mind to choose healthy, nutritionally packed foods instead of empty calorie foods.
Erin Carter, Michigan State University Extension

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flavored Waters-So Many Choices

Flavored Waters – So Many Choices
Most people understand the importance of drinking water and its health benefits. But with so many options of sweet tasting, caffeine laden, fizzy options, it’s hard to reach for plain water. Water products have been evolving in the food industry as quickly as any of the new items in the grocery store. When the mouth becomes dry or there are bodily signals pointing to needing something refreshing, it can be confusing what the recommendations of choosing healthy water or drinks.

Many people reach for carbonated water thinking this is a healthy option to drinking pop and are bored with plain water.

There are so many different flavors of carbonated waters and the enticing bubbles give the feeling of drinking a pop. So many of the flavored waters boast a healthy option to water without adding flavors or preservatives. Does this all seem too good to be true? It’s time to find some information about these bubbly options.

It seems as though there are products with added sweeteners and sugar substitutes in some of the carbonated waters on the store’s shelves. The added sweeteners seem to be to culprits to all the health problems associated with consuming high volumes of these types of drinks. These sweeteners cause a depletion of calcium absorption in the body.

In addition to causing problems with calcium uptake in the body, large consumption of pop and having it coat the teeth also increases the amount of tooth enamel decay. Tooth enamel cannot be replaced once it is gone so this artificial flavoring is extremely damaging to teeth.

There are some carbonated waters that do not have added artificial sweeteners and these are the better choice to grab when needing to rehydrate or get the recommended amount of water in for the day. These carbonated drinks do not have added fillers, sugars or sweeteners, so they’re safer to consume at a larger amount. The carbonation can also help in feeling full for longer and also can help some people make the transition from drinking pop (soda) to drinking water.

Erin Carter, Michigan State University Extension

Monday, January 16, 2017

Selecting a Healthy Soup When Dining Out

Selecting a Healthy Soup When Dining Out
On a cold and blustery day, there is nothing like a bowl of steaming soup. Here are some tips for making a wise choice when selecting a bowl of soup when dining out.
  • Creamy and cheese soups can have a significant amount of saturated fat. Instead select a clear broth soup such as chicken noodle or vegetable beef soup.
  • Soup can be a great source of fiber and nutrients. Choose soups filled with beans, vegetables, and lean protein sources.  
  • If you are ordering soup and an entrée, you may want to select a cup of soup rather than a bowl of soup.
  • Remember that some soups served at restaurants can contain a significant amount of sodium.
  • When ordering soup, consider pairing soup with a salad or sandwich made with whole grain bread and lean protein.   
  • Skip soup toppings such as a sprinkle of cheese, crumbled bacon or croutons as these items can increase saturated fat and sodium content of the soup.