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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking

Turkey Basics:  Safe Cooking
For information on roasting a turkey or hotline phone number, please click link:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Food Safety

Holiday Food Safety
Please click for information on Holiday Food Safety

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving: Stuff the Bird, Not Your Guest

Thanksgiving: Stuff the Bird, Not Your Guest
It can be easy to overeat on Thanksgiving day.  There are so many tasty foods, that we often only eat once or twice a year.  Here are some tips for “lightening” up Thanksgiving dinner.
1.       Consume white meat rather than dark meat.  Eat little or no skin since the skins can double the fat and calories in a piece of turkey.
2.       Instead of using butter in stuffing, consider using low sodium chicken broth and concentrated apple juice with usual herbs and spices.
3.       Cranberry sauce can be made with fresh cranberries, diced apples and oranges, nuts and raisins with a taste of honey.
4.       Before making gravy, skim all the fat from the pan drippings or use canned low-sodium chicken broth.
5.       Vegetables can be seasoned with fresh-squeezed lemon juice or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
6.       Choose whole wheat dinner rolls rather than rolls made with wheat flour.
7.       Beverages can add a lot of calories to a meal.  Sparkling fruit juice or non-alcoholic champagne can be lower calorie alternatives to alcoholic beverages.
8.       Consider a low-fat pumpkin pie recipe topped with low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt.
9.       If guests are bringing food items, ask them to only bring one item or a beverage. Another option is to bring a fun activity that can be done after the meal is eaten and clean-up is completed.  This is a great way to get guests to get moving.           

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making Thanksgiving Dinner Healthy

Making Thanksgiving Dinner Healthy
Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, so why not go ahead and splurge?  Because gaining weight during the holiday season is a national pastime. Year after year, most of us pack on at least a pound (some gain more) during the holiday season.
While you might think it makes sense to save up calories for the big meal, make plans to eat breakfast. Eating breakfast can help you more control over your appetite. Start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast -- such as an egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk -- so you won't be starving when you arrive at the gathering.
Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories.

·         Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
      ·         Use low sodium soups.
·         Use less sugar or a sugar substitute in place of sugar.
·         Use apple sauce or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods. I typically replace half of the    oil in baked goods with apple sauce or fruit puree.
·         Reduce oil and butter wherever you can.
·         Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles. 

Pay attention to portion sizes. Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and often foods are served that we only eat once or twice a year.  Before filling your plate, survey the buffet table and decide what you're going to choose. Then select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without. Don't waste your calories on foods that you can have throughout the year. Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional foods. Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings. Leftovers are often better the next day. 

Some foods are quite healthy that are served at Thanksgiving. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories.
Pay attention to the amount of appetizers you eat.  Some Thanksgiving dinners start as early as 1 p.m., and the first thing you see is endless appetizers. Watch out: Appetizers can result in lots of calories and lead to mindless eating.

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 15th - Clean Out the Refrigerator Day

November 15th – Clean Out the Refrigerator Day
Cleaning out the refrigerator is not one of those fun jobs and is easy to find other things to do.  Often, I find small amounts of leftovers.  Here are some suggestions for combining them together into some type of casserole. Here are some directions for making your own casserole.
General Directions: Select food(s) from each category or use your own favorites. Combine in a buttered 2- to 2 1/2- quart casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or microwave using 50% power for about 15 to 30 minutes, rotating or stirring as necessary. Heat until steaming hot (165 F) throughout. The measurements below yield six servings.
Starch - select ONE:
·         2 cups uncooked pasta (macaroni, penne, spiral, bow tie), COOKED
·         1 cup uncooked long-grain white or brown rice, COOKED
·         4 cups uncooked noodles, COOKED
Protein - select ONE:
·         2 cups cooked ground beef
·         2 cups cooked and diced chicken, turkey, ham, beef, or pork
·         2 cups chopped hard-cooked egg
·         2 (6 to 8-oz.) cans fish or seafood, flaked
·         2 cups cooked or canned dry beans (kidney, etc.)
Vegetable - select ONE:
·         1 (10-oz.) pkg. thawed and drained frozen spinach, broccoli, green beans, green peas
·         1 (16-oz.) can green beans, peas, carrots, corn, drained
·         2 cups sliced fresh zucchini 

Source: Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cooking for One or Two

Cooking for One or Two
It can be tricky when cooking for one (or even two) to make the most of your ingredients and to minimize dishes — particularly when many recipes focus on making a meal for a family and serve four to six people. But just because you have a smaller household doesn't mean you should abandon the kitchen for fast food or takeout.  

The first step to dinner-for-one success is to make cooking healthy meals a priority. Planning ahead and arming yourself with a few tips and tricks will put you on the path to triumph in the kitchen. 

The best strategy when cooking for one is to become friends with your freezer. Instead of scaling down, cook up full recipes: cook once, eat twice. Save time, money and clean up by freezing soups, chili, pasta dishes and extra vegetables. Pull these 'frozen meals' out when you don't feel like cooking or just need a quick meal. Here are some more tips. 
·         Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or barley and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a freezer bag.
·         Have a six-pack of whole-grain English muffins or a whole loaf of bread? Tuck those extras into the freezer for another day; wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
·         Visit the bulk bins at your local health food and grocery stores. You can buy exactly what you need with no waste and it's often less expensive per pound. In addition to grains, you can score a deal on dried herbs and spices as well as nuts, seeds and dried beans.      
Veggies and Fruits
·         Since many of us only shop once a week, buying fresh produce can be an issue.  Canned and frozen produce can be just as nutritious as fresh and it's there when you need it.
·         Bulk bags of fruits and veggies are only a better deal if you eat them before they spoil. Only buy what you can reasonably eat before the produce perishes: take extra grapes or cherries out of the bag and pare down that bunch of bananas to what you'll eat.
·         Be strategic. Enjoy your most perishable fresh produce like berries and spinach early in the week. Save heartier produce like cabbage, carrots and potatoes for meals later in the week. 
Protein: Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Beans

·         Eggs can make a meal happen in a flash, anytime! They are an excellent source of protein and contain a bounty of nutrients such as vitamin D and choline. You can hard-boil a few on the weekend to have as an easy breakfast, snack or quick salad addition.
·         Buy a whole package of meat or poultry and wrap individual portions in freezer-safe paper; label each with the date and contents.
·         Peanut butter, tofu, dried beans and peas, eggs and nuts are protein sources in addition to meat, poultry and fish. 

Find a friend and do a meal trade.  Do you know anyone else who is dining solo? Suggest that each of you find a recipe that serves two and whip it up. Keep one portion for yourself and trade the second portion so you’ll have two different single-serving meals. And the more the merrier when it comes to the food exchange. More people = more variety.

Cook once and eat all week. Consider buying in a whole chicken, ham or even pot roast. Yes, that’s a lot of food for one person, and it takes some time to make these recipes, but the beauty of cooking up a large amount of meat is that you can use it over the course of a few days and it can be something different every time (and you can freeze some for later use too!). A whole chicken becomes chicken salad on Monday, then a chicken taco on Tuesday. A pot roast can get sliced thinly and used in a wrap one day, then chopped up and added to soup the next.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes
While sweet potatoes have been a commonly consumed food in the south, they have been increasing in popularity in recent years in other parts of the country.
Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called ‘yams’, are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family.

Sweet potatoes have a significant amount of nutritional value. Sweet potatoes are:  
·         more nourishing than white potatoes although they contain the same amount of calories,
·         fat-free and cholesterol-free,
·         excellent source of vitamins A (beta carotene) and C,
·         source of copper, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin B-6, and
·         good source of fiber when eaten with skin on.  

When purchasing sweet potatoes, choose firm potatoes that are small to medium in size, with smooth, unblemished skins.  Store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes as they will dry out and have an unpleasant taste. 

There are many ways to prepare sweet potatoes.  Below is a sweet potato chip recipe. 
Sweet Potato Chips
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon extra- virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 lime cut into wedges for serving  

1.            Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in center and lower positions.
2.            Divide sweet potatoes between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with oil, toss, and spread them    in a single layer on sheets.
3.            Bake, flipping once, until centers are soft and edges are crisp, 22 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Importance of Eating Together

Importance of Eating Together
It can be a challenge to get the family members together for a meal.  How times have changed! Today’s fast-paced lifestyle affects one of the most important family values we hold in America, and eating together as a family goes to the wayside. Why is it so important to eat together as a family? According to The Family Dinner Project®, researchers have been looking into the benefits of eating together as a family for over 15 years and have confirmed that sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. In fact, regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and better self-esteem - not to mention lower rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.
With all the reasons why families should eat together, still many American families are challenged with meeting this goal. Time is an issue as well as budget. Keep these simple strategies in mind to help make family meals together a success.
1.       Put your family first – Look at schedules and try to plan meals together as a family for the week. Remember that meals don’t necessarily have to be the dinner meal. If breakfast is the best time to eat together as a family that is perfectly fine.
2.       Make it simple – Meals do not need to be difficult to prepare. Planning ahead is key! Take inventory of your pantry and fridge and see what you already have on hand. Check your local grocery store ads to see if there are additional food items you can purchase on sale to complement the items you already have on hand to complete your family meals. This will help save you time and money. Write your meal plan in your calendar or on a chalkboard to display for the family so everyone knows what is being served throughout the week.
3.       Make it fun – Mealtime together as a family can be stressful - but if you keep in mind eating together as a family can be fun and a way for the family to reconnect, the stress will melt away and your family will learn to enjoy mealtime together. Here are a few tips for making mealtime a little more enjoyable for the entire family:
·     Come up with a menu theme for the week such as “Mexican Week” or “Grilling Week.”
·     Explore a mystery food of the week and incorporate that food into several dinner dishes.
Adapted from the Hy-Vee e-newsletter

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Healthy Tailgating

Healthy Tailgating
Well the Green Bay Packers are on a winning streak.  A favorite activity on game day whether you are in Green Bay or routing for your favorite high school, college or professional team is tailgating. One of the best parts of watching the big game is enjoying delicious food. But many traditional game-day favorites are loaded with calories—the average fan can take in an estimated 1,200 calories in one sitting. Score points with your fellow fans by putting a healthy twist on foods being served.
Here are some tips for not over indulging on game day.

·         Rather grilling large pieces of meat consider kabobs. Kabobs are a great way to include vegetables and to reduce the amount of meat consumed.
·         Before the festivities begin, have a small snack that contains protein and fiber (like cereal and yogurt) so you'll be less tempted to overeat.
·         Survey all the offerings before you load your plate, then select plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean dairy and protein.
·         Eat from a plate instead of continually grazing from the buffet. This will help you keep track of how much you're eating.
·         Remember that alcohol has plenty of calories.
·         Offer low-fat snacks such as popcorn, pretzels, and baked chips.
·         Serve lean meats and seafood and low-fat cheeses.
·         If serving sandwiches, provide whole-grain breads.
·         Salads can be served with light dressings
·         Salsas, wraps, salads, or stews can be made with fiber-filled and high-protein beans

Best wishes to your favorite team!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cooking at Home is One Way to Manage Weight Gain

Cooking At Home Is One Way to Manage Weight Gain
Over the last few decades, Americans have been eating out more and cooking at home less often. When you cook at home, you can often make better choices about what and how much you eat and drink than you do when eating out. Cooking can also be a fun activity and a way for you to spend time with family and friends.
Here are some tips to make cooking at home easier.
  • If you don't usually cook, start gradually. Make it a goal to cook once a week and work up to cooking more often.
  • A healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein and grains. Think about how you can adjust the portions on your plate to get more of what you need without too many calories. And don't forget dairy – make it the beverage with your meal or add fat-free or low-fat dairy products to your plate. You don't have to eat from every food group at each meal, but thinking about the food groups can help you build a healthy meal.
  • Planning ahead can help you make better food choices. Keep healthy staples on hand, such as dried fruit, whole wheat pasta, "no-salt-added" canned vegetables, and frozen seafood. . Try prepping dishes the night before, or the morning of; prepping the salad or the side dish can help save time after work. Also try cooking a big meal on Sunday and then eating it as leftovers and freezing extras. Buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can also save prep time.
  • Experiment with healthy recipes and look for ways to make your favorite recipes healthier. For example, use the low-fat or reduced-fat version of dairy products like cheese and milk or replace sour-cream with low-fat or fat-free yogurt. Also use spices and herbs to add more flavor instead of adding salt or fat.
  • To help manage how much you eat, start by putting a small portion of food on your plate, and only eat seconds if still hungry.
  • Make cooking a family event. Get your children involved with the prep work. This will help to teach them about healthy eating, and it also serves as a way for you to spend time with your children. Have an occasional potluck. Invite friends over and have everyone bring their favorite healthy dish.
Changing a family pattern is difficult at first. Start by eating one more meals at home each week than you normally do. You may save calories and money! To mix things up, try a new recipe. It'll help keep your family excited about dinner at home.

Source: MyPlate.gov

Friday, October 31, 2014

Using A Slow Cookery (Crock Pot) Safely

Using A Slow Cookery (Crock Pot) Safely
A slow cooker (crock pot) cooks food slowly at a low temperature, 170 degrees F to 280 degrees F, allowing meat and dry beans to soften and flavors to develop.

Safety is maintained by:
Direct heat source
Lengthy cooking time
STEAM! (moist heat) 

Other key steps to safety include:
Keep perishable food cold until placed in the cooker (don’t allow bacteria to get a ‘head start’ during the first few hours of cooking.)
Thaw ingredients before putting into the slow cooker.
Don’t overfill the cooker. Overfilling may not allow the lid to fit tightly, sealing in heat. 

Is it necessary to add liquid? Liquid is necessary to effectively (and safely) cook meat. Whole chicken needs very little added moisture, cuts of meat like beef benefit from enough added liquid to cover the bottom of the cooker. Combination dishes like soups and casserole don’t need extra added liquid. 

 What temperature is best? It’s best to cook meat dishes on high for 1 hour. However, if you are going out, then you can safely cook on low for the entire day. The most important practice: Don’t open the cooker, especially early in the process. If you will be gone all day, consider investing in a pot that keeps food warm. 

 What about leftovers? Leftovers should never be reheated in a slow cooker. Food may be fully cooked and then put into a preheated cooker or roaster to keep hot.  

More slow cooker information: www.foodsafety.wisc.edu A-Z S=Slow Cooker

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29 is Oatmeal Day

October 29 is Oatmeal Day

I gave a presentation recently on the importance of whole grain foods.  One of the items I demonstrated was how to make instant oatmeal packets. Oatmeal makes a great hot breakfast or a quick snack. Children love their own flavored packets of oatmeal.  
I like the concept as there is minimal amount of sugar in each packet and this is an easy way to prepare and enjoy oatmeal. So in honor of Oatmeal Day, make some instant oatmeal packets at home and enjoy.     
For each packet you will need:
• A plastic snack or sandwich bag • Dash of salt, optional
• ½ cup quick oats • Other optional ingredients, as desired
Put dry oatmeal into bag. Add dash of salt and other optional ingredients, as desired.
Close bag and store for future use.
To Use: Empty packet into a microwave safe bowl. Stir in 1-cup water or milk.
Microwave on HIGH 2½ to 3 minutes; stir before serving.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal — To each packet, add 1 teaspoon or more of sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 – 2 Tablespoons chopped, dried apples
Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal — To each packet, add a packed Tablespoon brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 – 2 Tablespoons raisins
Cinnamon-Spice Oatmeal — To each packet, add 1 teaspoon or more sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and a scant 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.
Cocoa Oatmeal — Add 1 teaspoon baking cocoa and 1 teaspoon sugar to each packet or 2 teaspoons ‘quick-type’ chocolate drink powder
Sweetened Oatmeal — Add 1 teaspoon sugar or 1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar to each packet
Other optional ingredients: dried banana chips, small pieces of walnuts or almonds, dried cranberries, other dried fruits.
Adapted from January 2001 Food, Fun and Fitness Newsletter, by Jan Temple, ISU Extension

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Vegetables

Fall Vegetables
Fall vegetables taste great and offer significant nutritional value.  These vegetables are often good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C and folate.  Below is a great recipe that tastes good and is easy to make.  Enjoy those fall vegetables.
Rustic Fall Soup
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium winter squash, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup orzo
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.       In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the butter or oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until fragrant and translucent. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown.  
2.       Add the winter squash, zucchini, sweet potato, orzo, canned tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, and broth. Simmer until the vegetables are soft and cooked through, about 30 minutes.
3.       Season the soup with salt, and black pepper, to taste. Serve with sliced crusty bread.