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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What's All the Fuss About Listeria?

What’s All the Fuss About Listeria?
Recent food recalls have forced consumers to throw away foods such as ice cream and hummus because of contamination with the potentially deadly bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

What is Listeria and why is it considered an important foodborne pathogen? Listeria is a hardy bacteria found in soil and water. It can be carried by animals. It can contaminate a processing facility and remain for a long period of time, and it can grow in the cold temperature of a refrigerator.

Listeria is commonly found in unpasteurized milk, and is sometimes found in other foods as well--30 people died in a 2011 Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe. About 1,600 people in the United States get sick from Listeria each year.

What are the symptoms? When a person contracts the disease (listeriosis), it can cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and even death. Listeria is particularly deadly to pregnant women and their newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Listeria is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the United States.

What should a person to do if they have contaminated food in their home? The government’s motto is “when in doubt, throw it out.” If you throw something away that you think might be tainted, place it in a closed plastic bag in a sealed trash can to prevent animals or other people from eating it. Some grocery stores may offer a refund if you purchased a potentially contaminated product.

How does a person protect themselves from the illness listeriosis? In the case of the ice cream and hummus recalls, there is nothing you can do to prevent it--just throw away the food if you learn that is has been recalled.

If a fruit or vegetable is contaminated, scrubbing with a brush under clear running water is never a bad idea, but it may not rid produce of all contaminants. In the case of the cantaloupe, the listeria likely hid on the fruit’s thick, rough skin. Some foods such as meat or milk can be rendered safe if fully cooked; heating to an internal temperature of 165°F or higher.

Source: Barbara Ingham, University of Wisconsin-Extension food science specialist

Friday, July 24, 2015

Survival Tips for Eating Away from Home

Survival Tips for Eating Away from Home
Hungry for pizza.  Order a thin curst or flatbread pizza.  Select a whole wheat crust if this is an option. When choosing ingredients ask for extra vegetables and less meat.
Fried seafood – especially perch is very popular in Northeast Wisconsin.  Rather than ordering fried fish, ask for it to be baked, broiled, grilled or steamed.
Instead of a hamburger and French fries, order a grilled chicken sandwich or vegetable burger.  Add a side salad or fruit if this is an option.
Determine if you are really hungry before ordering food.  When at the mall or movie theatre, it is easy to order food like popcorn or other snacks because the food looks and/or smells good and you see others eating.    
Order from the light menu if possible.  A number of restaurants have “lighter” options available.
Rather than ordering a 16 ounce steak, look for an 8 ounce option.  This will reduce calories consumed along with fat and saturated fat grams. 
Share a meal or take leftovers home. Often portion sizes are larger than what we need to consume, so sharing is an option as well as taking leftovers home.         

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Are You On Track to Achieve Your 2015 Resolutions?

Are You On Track to Achieve Your 2015 Resolutions?
We are just over half way through 2015.  Do you remember what resolutions you selected to work on for 2015? If so, have you made progress?  If one of your resolutions was to focus on your health, here are some tips to help you achieve the resolution.  

1)      Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. This is a great time of year to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers markets or produce stands. Grocery stores sell a wide variety of produce in the summer.
2)      Get enough sleep.  It seems in the summer that there are so many things going on. Take time to get approximately eight hours of sleep per night.
3)      Join the “slow reading” movement. Take time to read a book while being disconnected from electronic devices.
4)      Spend less time on electronic devices and watching television. Instead choose activities that will help you be more active.
5)      If you have not scheduled an annual physical for 2015, take the time to accomplish this task.
6)      Sign up for a class at a local gym that you have been wanting to take, but have not taken the time to register.
7)      For every hour you sit, walk five minutes. This is good for blood flow, burning calories and reducing stress.
8)      Arrange time with another person to go for a walk or bicycle ride.                  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cooking Apps Worth Checking Out

Cooking Apps Worth Checking Out
Allthecooks app
Here are some cooking apps you may want to check out.
  • BigOven is a iPad and Android app for recipe selection.  Search the database for 250,000 recipes.  The database can be searched by keyword, course, or ingredient to plan meals and menus. This app is free. 
  • Allthecooks is a free cooking community app where at-home chefs posts recipes and pictures of their creations.  Users can post photos of their attempted recipes and others can comment, offering suggestions and substitutions. 
  • Digital Recipe Sidekick is an android app which talks you through recipes step-by-step with voice controls so your device can stay clean and food-free.  Users can import their favorite recipes from all over the web.

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Kids Food" is a Modern Myth

“Kids Food” is a Modern Myth
If you look at children’s menus in restaurants or kid-friendly food packages in the grocery store, it may seem that children only eat a limited number of foods, such as deep-fried chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, and chewy fruit snacks.  
“Not true,” says Gayle Coleman, nutrition education program specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. “Throughout history and across the globe, children have consumed the same foods that their family members eat.”  
Early in the 20th century, advertisers found success promoting products to children. Advertising expanded in the middle of the century with the explosive growth of television and the promotion of special meals for kids as part of the growing fast-food industry.  
Today, advertising is a part of the Internet, video games, and social media. Considering the messages people hear and see every day, it’s not surprising that many people believe that children eat different foods than adults. 
It is true that children may not like the taste of a food the first few times that they try it and that they naturally like sweet and salty foods. However, over time children can learn to like a variety of foods and flavors.  
It also is true that children like to explore and have fun. If given the opportunity, they may enjoy exploring the wide variety of foods offered on restaurant menus and have fun finding new foods to try at the grocery store or farmers’ market. 
Here are some tips to encourage children to eat a wide variety of foods.
·       Make the same meal for all family members. If children are routinely expected to eat the same healthy foods that the rest of the family eats, then they will learn to like these foods.  On the other hand, if children are allowed to demand pizza when everyone else is having spaghetti, the stage is set to encourage picky eating.
·       Be a role model. Children learn from their parents. If you are willing to taste foods that are new to you, there’s a good chance that your children will, too.
·       Make trying new foods interesting. Explore the standard adult menu at a restaurant with your child to see what they might like to try. In many restaurants there is enough food in a single adult order to feed you and your child so you might want to share an entree.
·       Encourage but don’t force children to try new foods. Studies have shown that children are more likely to eat foods if they are not forced to eat them.
·       Buy healthy foods and beverages you want your family to eat. If children are hungry and the only foods available for snacks are healthy foods such as fruit, raw veggies, low-fat milk and whole grain cereal, then they will choose a healthy snack. Similarly, children are more likely to drink low-fat milk, juice and water when there are no sugary beverages to choose.
·       Plan meals and prepare foods with children. Children are more likely to taste and eat foods that they helped to plan or prepare. Even young children can help in deciding which green vegetable to have with a meal or stirring a fruit salad. Plus, they learn how to plan and prepare meals.
·       Grow foods together. Children also are more likely to taste and eat foods that they help to grow. Even if it’s just a container garden with a tomato plant or leafy greens children will learn how vegetables grow and your family will have fresh veggies to eat.
It’s easy to see why certain foods are popular with children when you consider the influence of advertising and children’s natural preference for sweet and salty foods. However, kids’ food is a myth born in the 20th century.
Source: Gayle Coleman, nutrition education program specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Build a Healthier Burger

Build a Healthier Burger
Summer grilling is a wonderful way to enjoy the flavors of summer.  Here are some tips for creating a healthier burger.
* Bread.  Whole-wheat buns are a better option than white bread.  Or try a toasted whole-wheat English muffin for variety.
* Patty.  To make a healthy burger, you can use lean beef, poultry, even bison. Even if you don't eat meat, you can enjoy a burger. Aside from the standard veggie burgers, try a marinated and grilled portobello mushroom cap in a bun.  If serving meat, remember a serving is three ounces.
* Toppings.  Bacon does not add much nutritional value.  You can add moisture, flavor, and nutrition with the following ingredients, either inside or on top of the burger:
Lettuce or dark leafy greens
Fruit or vegetable relishes
Barbeque or steak sauce
* Condiments. Make your burger healthier with a thin coat of ketchup, mustard and/or low-fat mayonnaise. Use mashed avocado as a creamy spread to add heart-healthy fats to your burger.  Another option is salsa.
* Cheese.  Instead of a slice of cheese, sprinkle on grated sharp Cheddar.  You will need less to cover your patty.      


Monday, July 13, 2015

Healthy Breakfast Options When Eating Out

Healthy Breakfast Options When Eating Out
Eating breakfast on the run is very common.  Adults who report regularly eating a healthy breakfast are more likely to:
·       Eat more vitamins and minerals
·       Control their weight
·       Eat less fat and cholesterol

For a number of people, breakfast is eaten away from home.  Here are some tips for making healthy choices away from home.
  • One option is to order an omelet with vegetables.  Go light on the cheese and processed meat.  Poached  and hard boiled eggs are another great choice. Pair with fruit or whole wheat toast. 
  • If you chose a bagel, ask for a small amount of cream cheese to be spread on the bagel or better yet, ask for the cream cheese on the side, so you can spread on a thin layer. Ask for low fat cream cheese.  Peanut butter on a bagel or whole wheat toast is another good option.
  • Be selective when choosing a breakfast sandwich.  Ham and bacon contain significant amounts of sodium plus bacon is high in fat.  Canadian bacon is a healthier option.  Croissants while they are tasty have a lot of fat grams.  Instead ask for your sandwich to be made with an English muffin. 
  • A yogurt parfait is another good option for consuming fruit, calcium and whole grains from the granola.
  • Smoothies may sound like a healthy option but can contain a large amount of calories and added sugar from juice, fruit flavored syrups and sweetened yogurt.
  • Your morning meal doesn't have to mean loading up on sugar and fats



Friday, July 10, 2015

Cleaning the Kitchen

Cleaning the Kitchen
While we relate spring to the season of cleaning, it is always the season to clean the kitchen.  Anytime is a great opportunity to give the kitchen a good cleaning and to check foods to ensure they are safely stored.
*  To reduce the risk of illness-causing bacteria, always wash your hands, utensils and surfaces right away or otherwise there can be an unintentional opportunity to spread bacteria. 
*  Keep countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water before and after preparing food.  Clean surfaces with 1 tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water. 
Don’t forget the kitchen sponge. Put a sponge into a regular dishwasher load, using the "heated dry" setting. In the microwave, saturate the sponge (we used 1/4 cup of water for scrub sponges and 1/2 cup for cellulose); heat on High for one minute (scrub) or two minutes (cellulose). Keep an eye on it. No matter how diligent you are about cleaning, your kitchen sponges won't last forever. Clean sponges weekly, and toss shabby ones (about every two to eight weeks, depending on use).
Check the top of the stove top.  If there are spills or grease spots, wipe these surfaces with hot, soapy water and rinse. 
*  Another appliance to clean on a regular basis is the refrigerator.  Check that the refrigerator temperature is set at 40 degrees or below.  Keep the refrigerator clean at all times. Look for unnoticed spills and remove lingering odors.  Wipe up spills and clean surfaces with hot, soapy water and rinse well.  Avoid using cleaners that impart a chemical taste to food or ice cubes.
*  Check the dates of products stored in the refrigerator and freezer. Discard items that are past the date. Also check the refrigerator for containers that may contain food that has mold on it.  Discard these items.
*  Also check the cupboard and/or pantry shelves.  It is a good idea to occasionally check dates on food products.  Also rotate older food products to the front and move those that were more recently purchased to the back. Remove any crumbs that you find. 

Everyone in the household will hopefully appreciate a clean kitchen.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


This healthy fruit has increased in popularity in recent years. Avocados have great flavor and nutritional value.  Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins, and folic acid. Here are some tips for using avocados.
  • When shopping, look for dark-skinned avocados.  Choose heavy, undamaged fruit with no soft spots.  For mashing, pick avocados that give under gentle pressure; for chopping or slicing, select ones that are a little firmer.
  • Ripen avocados in a closed paper bag on the counter until the bottom gives slightly.  To speed up ripening, add an apple or banana to the bag for the release of ethylene gas.  Once they are ripe, store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Using a chef’s knife, cut the avocado in half lengthwise.  Twist the halves in different directions to separate them.  Gently tap the pit with the sharp edge of the knife with enough force so the knife edge wedges into the pit but not so hard that you cut all the way through it.  Using the edge of the knife, twist the pit out of the avocado and discard. Another option is to use a spoon and go around the pit and then pop it out.
  • To mash avocado, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and mash with a fork. To dice, place avocado halt, cut-side up, on a work surface.  Make three or four evenly spaced length cuts through the flesh down to the skin, without cutting through the skin.  Make four crosswise cuts in the same fashion.  Scoop out the diced avocado flesh with a spoon.     
  • They can be used in salads, in dips and topping sandwiches and burgers.   



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Lowdown on Dirty Dishes

The Lowdown on Dirty Dishes
Tips for getting the job done in record time
When the lazy, hazy days of summer are in full swing, it’s natural to want to give household chores short shift. Who wants to spend time doing dishes when the outdoors beckons?

“While it’s tempting to stock up on paper and plastic dinnerware, it’s not necessarily the best solution,” says Nancy Bock, Vice President of Education at The Soap and Detergent Association. “In addition to  environmental concerns and the extra expense involved in purchasing these disposable products, pots and pans still need to be cleaned!” So here are some tips for getting those dishes done at warp speed.

In the dishwasher:
· Load promptly. Make it a habit to put dirty dishes into the dishwasher as you use them. It gets clutter off the counter and keeps the process from becoming overwhelming.
· Follow the directions on the automatic dish detergent label so you use only as much detergent as is    necessary to clean your dishes. 

By hand:
· Preplan. Dishwashing is easier if food doesn’t have a chance to dry on the dishes. So, when cooking or baking, fill the sink with dish soap and hot water before you start. When you finish with a pot, pan, or utensil, put it directly in the water.
· Presoak so it’s easier to remove burned-on stains and cooked-on soils. This gives the detergent’s ingredients time to break down soils. As a result, it’ll minimize the amount of detergent required and the scrubbing time needed.
· Use hot water when washing dishes by hand. The hot water helps cut grease and lift dirt away, which  reduces scrubbing time. If you have sensitive hands, wear a pair of rubber gloves.
· Air-dry your dishes. It’s a time-saver.
· To learn more about products formulated to clean dishes by hand, check out The Soap and Detergent Association’s

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cook with Wisconsin Cheese

Cook With Wisconsin Cheese
The state of Wisconsin and the art of cheese making are synonymous.  In celebration of June Dairy Month, enjoy some Wisconsin cheese.  Here are some tips for handling and cooking with cheese to ensure they taste and perform at their best.
·       Most natural cheeses taste best when served at room temperature.  Let sit, covered, out of refrigeration, for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
·       Take out only what you think you will consume at one sitting and leave the remainder in the refrigerator. Repeated temperature changes hasten product deterioration.  
·       In cooking, use low heat and avoid long cooking.  High heat and long cooking times make many natural cheeses tough and stringy.
·       To promote even melting, slice, shred, grate, cube, or dice cheese before adding as an ingredient.
·       Broil foods topped for cheese four to six inches from heat source.
·       To microwave cheese, use 30 percent (medium-low) to 70 percent (medium-high) power.

Source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board     

Friday, June 26, 2015

Plan Now to Preserve Your Garden's Bounty this Summer

Plan Now to Preserve Your Garden’s Bounty this Summer
Home canned spaghetti sauce full of the flavor of garden-fresh tomatoes, or strawberry jam bursting with fruit at the peak of ripeness, with the proper equipment and up-do-date recipes, these and other family favorites can be safely canned  at home. “Preserving food from your garden or orchard can be a good way to combat the rising prices of food at the grocery,” says Barbara Ingham, University of Wisconsin Extension food scientist, “but be sure to follow research-tested recipes for safe, high quality food that your family will enjoy.”

Recipes that are not precise, mentioning a pinch of this ingredient or a pinch of that ingredient, recipes that are not tested in a laboratory or recipes that contain outdated or inaccurate canning information, can result in products that may be unsafe to consume. Dr. Ingham offers three general guidelines for safe food preservation:
·       Inspect and repair any food preservation equipment at the beginning of the season.  Now is a good time to inspect canners or food dehydrators to make sure all equipment is in working condition. And start now to collect approved canning jars and lids for use during the season. Canning jars that use two-piece self-sealing metal lids are recommended for home canning. Jars should be free of nicks or scratches. A ‘must’ every canning season are new flat lids; metal screw bands that are not bent or rusted can be reused.
·       Have dial-gauge pressure canners tested for accuracy. A pressure canner is essential for canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. Pressure canners come with either a dial-gauge or a weighted-gauge. Dial-gauge pressure canners should be tested each year for accuracy. Most county UW-Extension offices offer free dial-gauge testing; call ahead for availability of this service. 
·       Always follow an up-to-date tested recipe from a reliable source. This is perhaps the most important step in preparing for home food preservation, according to Dr. Ingham. Cookbooks and old family recipes are not reliable sources of research-tested recipes. Consult your local county extension office for recipes which will ensure that you are canning safe, high quality foods. The University of Wisconsin Extension has up-to-date recipes in bulletins on safe canning of fruit, jams and jellies, meat, pickles, salsa, tomatoes, and vegetables; and information on freezing fruits and vegetables.

“More tomatoes are home-canned than any other product. And home-canned tomatoes can be so delicious. But many people are still unaware that tomato-canning recommendations changed dramatically way back in 1994,” says Ingham. “I answer questions every year from consumers who are not aware that you must add acid to home-canned tomato products to ensure safety.  And this is just one example where even though it’s tempting to return time and again to a family-favorite recipe, it’s important to update your canning recipes as guidelines change. “  

County extension offices throughout the country have information on food preservation.  In addition copies of the up-to-date Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series bulletins can be obtained at county extension offices in Wisconsin. This information is also available online at www.foodsafety.wisc.edu. Begin the food preservation season by updating your resources so that you can be sure that you are preserving safe, high quality food for your family to enjoy.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Have Some Cheese Please

Have Some Cheese Please
One of the great things about living in Wisconsin is the access we have to a vast assortment of cheeses.  More than 600 varieties, types, and styles of cheese are made in our state.  When shopping, look for cheeses made in Wisconsin.

Here are some storage guidelines.  Follow the “three Cs” – keep cheeses. Once cheese is opened, shelf life depends on proper storage, which in turn depends on the type of cheese you’ve purchased.  For instance:
·       Fresh cheeses like Ricotta, fresh Mozzarella and Mascarpone are high in moisture and quite perishable.  They should be kept tightly sealed, cold and used within two weeks.
·       Semi-soft cheese including Monterey Jack, Muenster, Brick, and Harvarti and soft-ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert once opened, are best kept wrapped first in waxed or parchment paper and then in plastic wrap.  The waxed or parchment paper allows the cheese to breathe, while the plastic wrap protects against excessive moisture loss.
·       Firm and hard cheese such as Gruyere, Parmesan, Asiago and Aged Cheddar, should be wrapped snugly in plastic wrap to minimize further moisture loss.
·       Blue-veined cheeses like Blue and Gorgonzola which have no protective rind, should be wrapped securely in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Exposure to air causes excessive moisture loss and encourages additional mold development. 
·       Shredded cheeses have more surface area exposed to air, and thus lose moisture and develop mold more readily.  If chunk cheese develops surface mold, cut off about ¼-inch from each affected side. The remaining cheese is fine, but should be used within a few days.

 Source: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Grilling-Don't Forget Seafood

Summer Grilling – Don’t Forget Seafood
When grilling this summer, don’t forget seafood. Seafood has lots of nutritional value and tastes great.  Here are some tips to make the grilling experience a success.

Successful seafood grilling depends on the fish's texture. Look for fish that has a thick, firm, meaty texture so that it won't fall apart while it's cooking. Although some of the firm–textured fish is higher in fat than more delicate types of fish, the fat in fish is a kind of heart–healthy fat. Here are some examples of seafood that can be successfully grilled.
Grouper: This white–meat fish is sold in fillets and steaks. If you can't find grouper, you can use sea bass.
Halibut: The meat of this fish is white and mild–flavored and comes in steaks and fillets. It's a bit more delicate than other fish, so be careful when turning it on the grill.
Salmon: is a great fish to grill.
Scallops: There are two groups of scallops–bay and sea. The larger sea scallops are best for grilling because they have a meatier texture and can be easily skewered.
Shrimp: Large or jumbo shrimp are the best for grilling. They cook quickly and are easily skewered.
Swordfish: The mild fish has a firm, gray-white flesh and a meaty texture and is usually sold as steaks. Its natural oil content keeps it moist while grilling.
Tuna: It cooks more like beef and its deep red meat almost never sticks to the grill.

To avoid overcooking fish, it's generally best to go with a medium–hot fire.  Start checking the fish several minutes before you think it's done. There are two ways to test doneness: (1) pull a little of the flesh out with a fork and see if it flakes, or (2) make a small slit in the thickest part of the fish with a sharp knife. Cooked fish will be firm to the touch and opaque; undercooked fish will appear shiny and semi-translucent.
Tips for Grilling Fish
Make sure the grill rack is very clean. Any residue on the rack could interfere with the fish's delicate flavor, plus, a clean rack helps prevent sticking.
Lightly coat the grill rack with cooking spray or brush it with oil before placing it over the heat source. This keeps the food from sticking and makes the grill rack easier to clean.
Place the seafood on a hot grill rack and leave it there for several minutes before you try to move it. This way, a sear will develop between the fish and the grill rack, and this prevents further sticking.
Watch the time. Seafood cooks quickly and you don't want to overcook. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish as well as its texture, but most fish cooks in about 10 minutes or less.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Trans Fat Ban
The federal government earlier this week moved to ban the trans fats found in some of Americans' favorite foods.  The rule by the Food and Drug Administration notes that partially hydrogenated oils – the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods – are no longer generally recognized as safe for use in food. Under the rule, food companies have three years – until June 18, 2018 – to remove them from products in grocery stores.  

Trans fat intake has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease by contributing to the buildup of plaque inside the arteries that may cause a heart attack. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration requires that the trans fat content of food be declared on the Nutrition Facts label to help consumers determine how each food contributes to their overall dietary intake of trans fat. Many processed foods contain partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of industrially-produced trans fat in processed food. 
Now, the FDA is taking a step to remove artificial trans fat from the food supply. This step is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year. 
Some manufacturers still use partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods. Some examples of foods which may contain partially hydrogenated oils include: 
-crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
-snack foods (such as some microwave popcorn)
-stick margarines
-coffee creamers
-refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
-ready-to-use frostings
Now that partially hydrogenated oil is no longer generally recognized as safe, FDA is providing a three-year compliance period. This will allow industry to gradually phase out the remaining uses over a three-year period, or seek food additive approval for those uses.
Source: Food and Drug Administration