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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Container Gardening for Growing Food

Container Gardening for Growing Food
Growing fresh food is not just for farmers and people living in rural areas with ample space for gardening. Gardening and growing your own food is for anyone interested in having the freshest food available, and it can be done through container gardens.

The container to brighten up your small space is not just a pot or two of geraniums, a tall spike or a trailing vine anymore. At one time, these containers were just a splash of living color and something to nurture. These pots were great for people who lived in smaller spaces; they added color, texture and really brightened up small, outdoor living spaces. Patios, front porches and back decks were homes for these traditional containers. These pots are still great, but they are not the container of 2017. The container of 2017 is growing food. It might be growing food with colorful annuals, or the color and texture could come from the leaves, fruits and flowers of the fruits and vegetables grown for eating.

People are experimenting with growing more fruits and vegetables in containers, on trellises and in limited space. Some examples include baskets or buckets of tomatoes hanging upside down, sweet corn on your deck and herbs in window boxes. With the growing interest in fresh, local food, eating locally cannot get more local than your own porch or patio. Growing produce and herbs are at an all-time high. Garden centers are stocking up on plants and seeds for the traditional gardener as well as those with limited space for gardening, and container gardens.

Anything goes when container gardening. I have used beet leaves as a colorful, tall center piece in my flowering annual pots; it is pretty all summer long and I harvest the beets at the end of the season. I always grow my herbs in a variety of pots just outside my kitchen door. It is a nice, sunny location and I can step out and snip what I need for cooking or grilling. Since my pots are in a location convenient to where I am cooking, I use more fresh herbs than I would have if I had to go out to the garden.

When looking through the latest seed catalogs and gardening magazines, there is a vast amount of information on growing vegetables in a container on a patio or deck that used to take quite a bit of space in the home garden. This is even catching on as a trend with people who have space to garden, but like the ease of growing vertically and reducing the amount of work a traditional garden takes.

Container gardening for food is a not just a fad; growing food in creative ways is here to stay. More and more people who live in apartments, condominiums and other places with limited space are experimenting with growing fresh food on their patios, decks and balconies. Seed companies have kept up with this trend as they keep developing varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs that will grow in containers.
Dixie Sandborn, Michigan State University Extension

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Would Your Kitchen Pass a Food Safety Inspection?

Would Your Kitchen Pass a Food Safety Inspection? 
Restaurants must pass regular food safety inspections to stay open. Would YOUR kitchen pass a food safety inspection?
In the United States, the “Food Code” — developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — serves as a model to help health jurisdictions nationwide develop food service food safety standards.
For consumers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) and FDA work together to provide food safety guidelines for use in the home. NOTE: Consumer guidelines sometimes differ slightly from restaurant guidelines due to such factors as differences in home and professional equipment.
DIRECTIONS: With these guidelines in mind, let’s see if your kitchen would measure up! Choose the answers that most closely apply to YOUR everyday practices in your kitchen. Then compare your answers with the desired practices according to government guidelines for consumers.
1. How long do you leave perishable foods at room temperature? (Examples include meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and cooked leftovers.)
a) 2 or less hours
b) No more than 6 hours
c) I haven’t paid attention to how much time they are at room temperature
2. What is the temperature of your home refrigerator?
a) 50ºF
b) 40ºF or below
c) I don’t know
3. How many days do you usually store perishable leftovers in the refrigerator?
a) 3 to 4 days
b) A week or more
c) My leftovers usually spoil before I get around to eating them
4. How do you determine whether you have cooked meat, poultry and seafood to a safe temperature?
a) Cut into it to see if the juices run clear
b) Check if it is no longer pink in the middle
c) Use a food thermometer

Answers to Food Safety Inspection Questions  
1. a) Two or less hours: Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless refrigerated — and within one hour if the temperature is 90ºF or higher. Divide leftovers into clean, shallow containers so they chill faster and refrigerate within two hours. Refrigerate within one hour when the temperature is 90ºF or above.
2. b) 40ºF or below: Your refrigerator should be between 40ºF and 32ºF. Your freezer should be at 0ºF. Use an appliance thermometer to assure your refrigerator and freezer are cold enough. NOTE: Freezing doesn’t destroy bacteria but keeps them from growing in food products until you cook the food. Quality should remain high for most frozen foods for 3–6 months. For specific food items and to learn if they might stay fresh longer, see the FoodKeeper app developed by USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute: www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp. Access the app through your web browser; it is also available as a mobile application for Android and Apple devices.
3. a) 3 to 4 days: Use refrigerated, perishable leftovers within 3 to 4 days or freeze them in airtight freezer-quality packaging or storage containers. Frozen leftovers are at best quality for about 3 to 4 months; however, they will be safe indefinitely at 0ºF.
4. c) Use a food thermometer: You can’t tell whether meat, poultry or seafood is safely cooked by looking at it. They can be pink even when they have reached a safe internal temperature. You can’t count on a food being at a desirable end temperature when the juices run clear; for example, a turkey may be overcooked by the time the juices run clear. USDA recommends these temperatures:
Product Minimum Internal Temperature
  • Beef, pork, veal & lamb (steaks, chops, roasts) 145°F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
  • Ground meats 160°F (71.1 °C)
  • All poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, and stuffing) 165°F
  • Fish & shellfish 145°F
Source: Alice Henneman, MS, RDN Extension Educator, Lancaster County, University of Nebraska Extension

Friday, May 19, 2017

Healthy Habits Make a Difference in Parenting

Healthy Habits Make a Difference in Parenting
Parenting is one of the most rewarding and difficult jobs we experience. Each child has different temperaments throwing another spin in the parenting job. Most parents strive to have their children grow up to be healthy, happy and productive citizens.
To reach these parenting goals, it is beneficial for children to have healthy role models as parents or caregivers. Children witnessing healthy behaviors and attitude, living in an environment conducive to offer lower stress, proper nutrition and having the opportunity to be physically active will help health become the norm. Parents and caregivers choosing a healthy lifestyle increase the likelihood of their children adopting these skills as well.
Children living in households offering a nutritionally sound diet, physically active, as well as having positive outlets for dealing with stress are more likely to:
  • Have a healthy weight for height
  • Mental well-being
  • Ability to learn and concentrate
  • Strong bones and muscles
  • Good energy level
  • Ability to fight off sickness and disease
  • Faster wound healing
  • Easier recovery from illness or injury
  • Reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers, and bone disease in the future
Here are some ideas to be a positive role model for the children in your life:
  • Do not label food as “good” or “bad”
  • Eat a variety of nutritionally packed foods
  • Eat breakfast
  • Make physical activity fun and family inclusive
  • Please don’t make food or exercise punishment
  • Find positive ways of dealing with stress
  • Keep communication lines open
  • Try not to take things personally when children lash out
 Parents and caregivers do not have to be perfect to be positive role models. Small steps in positive directions go a long way to achieve healthy environments.
Michigan State University Extension offers programs to help parents and caregivers to move toward a healthy lifestyle.Erin Carter, Michigan State University Extension

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
If you suffer from cancer, you are not alone. Millions of people today suffer from this disease. Living with cancer is very challenging. However, there are some easy tips that can help you learn to manage your health in order to do and eat the things you have always enjoyed.
There is vast research that provides support for the idea that adopting healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce the risk of developing serious illnesses such as cancer. But what guidelines should a person follow if they have already been diagnosed with cancer and will need to undergo treatment?
The American Cancer Society has resources for making healthy lifestyle choices that not only help people prevent cancer but also learn to cope with it after diagnosis. Following these healthy lifestyle guidelines from the ACS can help you reduce the risk of cancer and stay healthy during treatments:
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle .
  • Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources. Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains. To learn more about healthy lifestyles in general, visit USDA’s My Plate website for additional information.
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit your consumption.
To learn more about these guidelines, visit the American Cancer Society website.
Just as healthy choices related to physical activity and diet can help reduce the risk of cancer, they can be of equal or greater importance for a person dealing with the effects of cancer and its treatment.
A healthy diet and physical activity during the treatment and recovery from cancer can benefit a patient in many ways, including:
  • Decreasing the side effects of cancer treatments
  • Supporting the immune system as it fights infections
  • Helping tissues recover and heal
  • Maintaining the patient’s strength and energy
  • Preventing muscle and bone loss
These simple tips are meant to provide some generalized health action steps for patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. You should always check with your health care provider before following any health recommendation.
Source: Michigan State University Extension

Monday, May 15, 2017

National Women's Health Week

National Women's Health Week
May 14th- 20th
To view please click National Women's Health Week.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Edamane-Time to Think About Planting & Adding to Menus

Edamame – Time to Think About Planting & Adding To Menus
Edamame is the soybean that is picked young and green, steamed or boiled for five minutes, then popped out of the pod right into your mouth. Edamame combine the best of garden peas and lima beans in both flavor and texture.

With a high-quality protein, phytoestrogens, and a good amount of calcium and vitamin A, soybeans have been considered a nutritional powerhouse.

Edamame is easy to grow. A number of varieties are available, differing slightly in flavor and how long it takes before the beans are ready for harvest. They tolerate summer heat better than garden peas and they withstand cool summer nights better than lima beans. They need warm soil to get started, so do not plant until about the date of the last killing frost, which is about the time to plant corn and green beans. When it is time to plant, sow the seeds an inch deep in rows 15 to 30 inches apart.

The best-quality edamame demand timely harvest. Picked prematurely, the beans will taste bland. Picked too late and pods are becoming dry. Harvest edamame pods when the beans within are fully plump and before the bright green pods begin to yellow. The five minute steaming or boiling readies pods for fresh eating or once cooled, for the freezer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Focus on Fruit: Berries, 5 Different Ways

Focus on Fruit: Berries, 5 Different Ways
It’s that glorious time of year when spring is in full effect – everything is green, the weather is warm, flowers are in bloom, and the birds are chirping. It’s hard not to have an extra spring in your step this time of year, no pun intended. Your local farmers market is likely brimming with a wide variety of delicious foods from all of the MyPlate food groups. But the warmer months are extra special for the fruit group when berries start making their appearance. These juicy nutrition powerhouses help you meet your daily fruit target and brighten up all kinds of dishes with their sweetness and color.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National Physical Education & Sport Week

National Physical Education & Sport Week (May 1-7) 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tofu: A Versatile Source of Protein

Tofu: a Versatile Source of Protein
Tofu, or bean curd, is to soymilk as cheese is to dairy milk. Since the accidental discovery of making tofu 2,000 years ago, the Chinese have spread the art of tofu cuisine to all over the world. Researchers have since then studying the nutritional profile
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tofu is a great source of protein, containing all eight essential amino acids. In addition, tofu provides a lot of essential minerals, including iron, calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper and zinc. It is the health benefits of tofu that make it a worthwhile addition to any meal and its versatility that makes it an easy ingredient to cook with.
Tofu does not have a strong flavor that will compete with other ingredients in your cooking. Rather, it takes on taste from the other foods and ingredients to further enhance a dish. 
Layne’s Creamy Green Tofu Pesto Sauce
Serves 4
Thawed frozen peas: ½ cup
Packed baby spinach: 1½ cups
Fresh basil leaves: 10
Chopped walnuts: ¼ cup
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese: 3 tablespoons
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Fresh lemon juice: 2 tablespoons
1 cup silken tofu, firm
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender. Process until the texture is.
When cooking, be mindful of the amount of salt and sugar that you add to your meal.

Source: Xi Chen, Michigan State University Extension

Friday, April 21, 2017

What It Means to be Organic

What It Means To Be Organic
From fruits and vegetables to soap and clothes, it is becoming increasingly popular to see families moving toward an “organic lifestyle.” Let’s discuss the truth behind the organic trend and how it can fit into everyone’s home.
What is organic?
In order for a product to be labeled organic, it must be produced through approved methods by the
USDA. These approved methods set forth by the USDA are in place to “promote healthy soil conditions, water quality, and to help conserve wetlands, woodlands and wildlife.” Organic does not mean complete omission of pesticides; rather, organic practice creates a framework for farmers to use only products and methods that are healthy for the environment.
What about the nutrients?
In many cases, consumers think that purchasing organic means they are receiving a higher nutrient-containing product. However, there is not significant research to support this. When it comes down to it, the nutrient composition of organic vs. conventional food is relatively the same. The trouble with studies surrounding plant nutrients lies within the many variables that can alter nutrient content such as: plant species, weather, and soil makeup. While there is some emerging
evidence that may support a higher nutrient level in organic foods, overall, there is not significant research to support that eating organic over conventional is more nutritionally beneficial.
Is organic food healthier for my environment?
In a word: yes. The USDA has taken steps to ensure that producers and distributers have guidelines to follow to ensure organic integrity and operation sustainability. The guidelines include soil fertility and managing pests, as well as livestock living conditions and processing practices. These organic methods promote a healthy environment. Often people choose to purchase organic produce to decrease their exposure to pesticides and other residues. Regardless of whether or not the food is organic, residues do not exceed government safety thresholds.
Are the terms “all-natural,” “locally grown,” and “organic” interchangeable?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Organic foods are closely regulated and meet certain criteria throughout the growth and production stages to be labeled as “organic.” There is not strict regulation on the terms “natural” or “all-natural.” If the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or any synthetic substances, companies are allowed to label their foods as natural. However, these terms do not equate to safety regulations.
The term “locally grown” speaks for itself. Purchasing locally at a farmer’s market or neighbor’s roadside stand is a great way to support your community. Even though local produce may not have the “organic” seal, they most likely are using earth-friendly practices to grow their produce. You are also helping the environment in this way by reducing fuel and other shipping impacts that come from transporting produce from other areas of the country (or other countries) to your community.
What should I buy organic?
In a recent article published in
Today’s Dietitian, Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN, LDN states, “The food grown in the United States is among the safest food in the world. There’s much more harm in saying there are pesticides or other dangerous chemicals on our fruits and vegetables than there is in encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
Being aware of the function of organic purchasing and being able to stay within your family budget is the battle many consumers face. There are some things to think about when it comes to buying organic:
Know your produce
If you choose to purchase organic produce, look for organic products that you will consume as a “whole produce” item. For example, it would be more beneficial to purchase organic romaine lettuce, apples, and strawberries than it is to purchase an organic watermelon or orange. Why? This is because you will eat the entire romaine stalk, apple, or strawberry. Whereas with a watermelon or an orange, you are discarding the outer skin. The outer skin of the product is where the pesticide residue exposure could exist.
Processed is processed
Is it healthier to buy organic cookies or cereal rather than conventional cookies or cereal? No! Promotion of a healthy diet is formed around the theory that decreasing processed food ultimately sets us up for the healthiest scenario. This is due to high sugar, sodium, and preservative content in most processed foods. None of these facts change when it comes to buying organic. Remember that label reading
skills are always important for anything prepackaged. Just because the product is labeled organic does not mean it is more nutritious.  

Organic food, while great for our environment, does not necessarily mean more nutrients. Eating nutritious food from a variety of
food groups is a great way to improve overall health and wellbeing, and choosing local and non-processed foods will give you the best bang for your buck. 

Source: Chloe Updegraff, Michigan State University Extension and Taylor Alfano, Dietetic Intern

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Plate for Preschoolers

My Plate for Preschoolers
One important part of helping your child develop healthy eating habits is serving them appropriate portion sizes. Why does size matter? Obesity among preschoolers aged 2-5 years has more than doubled since the mid 1970s. Large food portions are thought to contribute to these trends by causing children to overeat at meals.
MyPlate was developed by the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) to help children “eat well, be active, and be healthy.” MyPlate (
) shows the types of foods and proportions that preschoolers should eat each day to get the energy, vitamins, and minerals that they need. For example, fruits and vegetables should cover about half of the child’s plate.
The average preschooler will need somewhere between 1200-1600 calories each day. A fairly active preschooler will get a healthy balance of nutrients from eating the following:

Food Group
        Serving per day*
1.5 cups
1.5 cups
5 oz
Meat or Meat alternative
4 oz
2.5 cups
*Based on 1400 kcal needs of a moderately active 3 to 5-year-old child; actual needs will vary from child to child

What does this mean for preschooler portion sizes at snacks and meals?
There are many different ways to help preschoolers meet these recommendations each day. For instance, on one day a child might meet their recommended 1 ½ cup of fruit by eating a banana strawberry smoothie at breakfast and some grapes at lunch. On another day, it might be a ½ cup of orange juice at breakfast, a ½ cup of applesauce at lunch, and a ½ cup of pears at snack.