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, August 27, 2014

Don't Take a Summer Vacation from Recycling Food and Beverage Containers

Don’t Take a Summer Vacation from Recycling Food and Beverage Containers
Recycling keeps almost 2 million tons of material out of Wisconsin landfills and incinerators every year.  But during the summer months, it’s easy to forget about those good recycling habits. Here are a few reminders as you head out to enjoy all that summer offers:

·         Be prepared for the road.  If you are heading out on a road trip, bring along reusable items like water bottles and snack bags.  If you can’t avoid buying plastic bottles or cans, be sure to bring along an extra bag to collect your recycling in so it can be easily disposed of the next time you make a stop.

·         Many festivals and fairs have made an effort to make recycling easier. Be on the lookout for recycling bins and food vendors that use biodegradable utensils.  Some events even set up water stations where visitors can fill up their reusable water bottles.

·         Paper containers contaminated with any food cannot be recycled. That means items like paper towels; napkins and paper plates cannot be recycled.  Food does not mix well with paper fibers during the recycling process.  So it is important to be sure to separate your trash from recycling..

·         Taking a few extra steps to remind yourself about what can and can’t be recycled can have a big impact on our landfills.  Recycling is one of the easiest things you can do that will have an effect on your family and community for years to come.

Source: Mark Walter, Business Development Manager for Brown County Resource Recovery


Monday, August 25, 2014

Tips for Shopping at Farmers' Markets

Tips for Shopping At Farmers’ Markets
It was recently announced that Wisconsin ranks 8th in the country for the number of farmers’ markets. Whether you live in Wisconsin or elsewhere, here are some tips for shopping at farmers markets.  

  • Since many customers know what they are likely to find at the farmers’ market, do a bit of meal planning and shop accordingly. For example, if baby red potatoes have just come into season, plan to serve them boiled with a little butter and use the leftovers in a potato salad.
  •  Go with an open mind.  If there is produce that is new or looks appealing, give it a try.  Ask the producer how to prepare it. For the best tips specifically ask how they like to eat it. Trying new things is part of the fun of going to farmers’ markets.
  • Visit farmers’ markets when you travel.  It is a way to get an insider’s look at a food community and the local favorites.
  • You’re buying ultra-fresh produce when shopping at the farmers’ market, so let its natural flavor show when cooking it. Keep preparations simple. You’ll make cooking easier and you’ll be likely to try (and eat) even more local foods from the farmers market next week.
  • Spend a few minutes chatting with producers at the farmers' market, and you will be, too. It takes tremendous dedication to both science and art to turn out beautiful produce on a small farm, and the time you spend inquiring about the results of that dedication can yield both useful information and infectious enthusiasm.
  • A huge benefit of farmers' markets is your ability to ask questions about how the food was grown. That's a rare opportunity in our supermarket culture. Ask what produce is coming in or heading out of season. Find out what the farmer expects to bring to market next week so you can start to plan ahead. Learn all you can about the farmer's growing practices.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

100 Calories Snacks

100 Calories Snacks
Satisfy your hunger by consuming healthy snacks. The ready-to-go snacks listed below have 100 calories or less per serving. These snacks sneak good nutrition into small packages without skimping on taste. 
Blueberries, 1 cup
Dried apricots, 6 
Grapes, 1 cup
Watermelon balls, 2 cups
Baby carrots, 10
Broccoli florets, 1 cup
Blue corn tortilla chips, 10
Pistachios, dry-roasted and unsalted, 25
Popcorn, unbuttered, 2 cups
Whole almonds, 13
Egg, hard boiled, 1
Milk, fat-free or 1%, 1 cup
Mozzarella cheese stick, 1
Yogurt, fat-free, ½ cup
Oatmeal cookie, small, 1

Monday, August 18, 2014

All About Oils

All about Oils
With all the talk of the different kinds of fats and which oil is the healthiest, it can be hard to distinguish between them all. There are many types of oils and each one has various health benefits and can be used in a variety of ways.

Canola Oil is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant. It is considered healthy oil that is low in saturated fat and a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3s. Canola oil has a light flavor, making it versatile in cooking. It can be used to replace butter or margarine when cooking or baking.
Olive Oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol and raise the good (HDL) cholesterol in your body. This may help reduce your risk of heart disease. What is the difference between virgin and extra-virgin olive oil? Extra-virgin has less acid and a fruitier flavor and stronger aroma, so a little goes a long way. “Light” olive oil is lighter in color or flavor, but is not lighter in calories. Olive oil can be used in place of butter to reduce saturated fat in the diet. Due to the low smoke point of olive oil, it should not be used in frying. It is best used for dipping bread in and sautéing vegetables and meat.
Coconut Oil is extracted from the fruit of mature coconuts. It is a saturated fat and “virgin” coconut oil high in a medium-chain fatty acid that raises both good and bad cholesterol levels. Due to these factors, coconut oil should be used in moderation. Coconut oil is often used as substitute for butter or shortening in a vegan diet.
Peanut Oil is a good source of
monounsaturated fats and contains the antioxidant vitamin E. Peanut oil is often used in deep frying because of its high smoke point (meaning it can reach high temperatures and not burn).
Walnut Oil is made from nuts that have been dried and cold pressed. It contains a high amount of alpha-linoleic acid that converts partially to omega-3s which are good for heart health. The rich, nutty flavor of walnut oil makes it great for salad dressing or drizzling into a pasta dish. Since it cannot stand up to high heat, it is best used as flavor enhancer rather than cooking oil.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pickle Pointers
Making great tasting pickles can be a challenge. Here are some pickle pointers.
·         Begin by using high quality ingredients.  Select fresh, firm, high quality fruits and vegetables for pickling.  Discard bruised, moldy or insect-damaged produce. Grow or purchase varieties of cucumbers that are designed for pickling.  Contact your county extension office for varieties suitable for the region of the country you live in.  Wax-coated cucumbers bought in the supermarket are not suitable for pickling because the pickling solution cannot penetrate the wax coating. For best quality, pickle fruits and vegetables within 24 hours of harvest.
·         Softened water is recommended for making pickles and relishes. 
·         Use commercial vinegar that is standardized at 5 percent acetic acid content.  Many grocery stores now also stock 4 percent vinegar. This vinegar is not approved for home canning. Check the label on the front of the container to determine acidity.
·         Firming agents such as calcium hydroxide (lime) and aluminum (alum) are not necessary for pickling and are no longer recommended.  The use of lime in pickles may result in an unsafe product.  Calcium chloride is used to firm commercial pickles.  Tested recipes have not been developed for using calcium chloride in home canned products.
·         Canning and pickling salt – pure granulated salt is recommended for use in all kinds of pickles. This salt does not contain anti-caking agents or iodine.
·         Most pickle recipes call for whole spices for fresher and more concentrated flavor than ground spices.

For more information on preserving pickles, contact your county extension office.

Source: University of Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series: Homemade Pickles & Relishes

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vital Signs: Fruit and Vegetable Intake among Children — United States, 2003–2010
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, recommends that Americans aged ≥2 years eat more fruits and vegetables to add important nutrients that are under consumed, reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, and help manage weight (1). Most U.S. residents, including children, consume too few fruits and vegetables. In 2007–2010, 60% of children aged 1–18 years did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Patterns fruit intake recommendations, and 93% did not meet vegetable recommendations (2). Because of the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and because childhood dietary patterns are associated with food patterns later in life (3), encouraging children to eat more fruits and vegetables is a public health priority.

Total fruit intake among children increased from 0.55 CEPC in 2003–2004 to 0.62 in 2009–2010 because of significant increases in whole fruit intake (0.24 to 0.40 CEPC). Over this period, fruit juice intake significantly decreased (0.31 to 0.22 CEPC). Total vegetable intake did not change (0.54 to 0.53 CEPC). No socio-demographic group met the Healthy People 2020 target of 1.1 CEPC vegetables, and only children aged 2–5 years met the target of 0.9 CEPC fruits. Vegetable intake is not changed, and a significant portion of intake continues to be white potatoes-primarily fried and chips. Fruit and vegetable intakes remain below recommended levels.

Source; Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Monday, August 11, 2014

Eating Healthy At Fairs and Festivals
There are many fairs and festivals during the summer months.  This follows a trend that started well over 100 years ago. Food was no doubt served at festivals even before the nation's first state fair, held in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1841. But it was in 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, that fairgoers were introduced to the first real ''fast food'' -- hot dogs and ice cream cones that could be eaten as they walked, according to the statefairrecipes.com web site.

Since then, fair food has progressed way beyond caramel apples, corn on the cob, and nachos. There appears to be no end to what can be battered and deep fried -- cookies, candy bars, cheese curds, macaroni and cheese, pralines, chocolate-covered strawberries.

Most nutrition databases don't include fat and calorie values for such foods. But you can count on these foods to have a shockingly high level of fat and calories.

Here are a few tips that can help you make healthy choices at fairs and festivals:
·         Make sure you eat breakfast before leaving home.
·         Wear comfortable walking shoes to encourage burning off any extra calories you take in. Wearing uncomfortable shoes is not going to lead to additional walking.
·         Pack a small insulated cooler with water bottles, fresh fruit, cereal bars, pretzels, nuts, and fresh veggies in it. If you have a healthy snack, you won’t be so tempted to over-do at meal time.
·         Scout out all of the food choices before you decide what to eat — by making a walk around the area you will burn more calories, and find out all of your choices, you may be surprised what they are serving.  At the Brown County Fair in Wisconsin, one of the food vendors sells fresh fruit cups.
·         Try your best to skip the fried foods. Do you really need to try the fried, batter covered candy bars and other assorted foods?
·         If you have decided that you really need to try the new fried food, or maybe you haven’t had fried food since the last event, be sure to share or split the portion. Most funnel cakes will probably serve 4 to 6 people.
·         Look for a main dish or sandwich that is grilled or broiled. While you aren’t going to get a whole serving veggies by doing it, make sure you have the lettuce and tomato on your sandwich, it all adds up.
·         Skip the sundae or large milk shake this year and look for a fruit smoothie made with real fruit. But be sure to get the small size without any whipped cream.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Freezing Peppers

Freezing Peppers
With a plentiful crop of peppers in many gardens, freezing peppers is an easy way to preserve them for use in recipes during the fall and winter.  Follow these steps for successful freezing.
Green Peppers
1.       Wash thoroughly and drain.
2.       Cut out stem ends and remove seeds of green or red peppers.  Cut in half, slice or dice.
3.       Freeze in freezer containers or freezer food storage bags.
4.       Write on container the amount of peppers in the container.
Hot Peppers
1.       Wash and drain peppers.
2.       Freeze on trays for one to two hours, then pack into freezer containers and return to the freezer.
Caution: The volatile oils in hot peppers can cause burns.  Wear rubber gloves when you cut or chop these peppers.  Do not touch your face, particularly near your eyes. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water if you handle hot peppers.    

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Changing Trends When Purchasing Food at the Super Market

Changing Trends When Purchasing Food at the Super Market
As you have probably noted in recent years, trends toward purchasing food have changed. The biggest change in consumer behavior during the past two decades has been a push toward greater convenience. Today’s consumers demand the food they want, when they want it. New demands have been created by a more diverse, older and health-conscious audience. In the past, people planned out their shopping for a week. Now, they’re deciding what they want 10 or 15 minutes before mealtime.
Here are some trends that are impacting supermarkets.  
¯  Growing Latino and Asian populations, coupled with increasing consumer demand for variety, are bringing more “global flavors' to the supermarket. International food products are gaining distribution in mainstream grocery stores.
¯  Stores will make it easier for shoppers to use their mobile phones to shop. More shoppers are using the Web to plan meals, make grocery lists and then find the items in aisles.
¯  People are eating fewer prepared meals and more snacks. With the consumption of more snacks is a demand for healthy snack options. As a result, 60 percent of new snack food products are positioned as “better for you.
¯  Food packaging has been evolving beyond the can and box to include using containers like pouches and cartons for soup and wine.
¯  On average, consumers shop at five different types of stores to fulfill their grocery needs, according to Deloitte’s 2014 American Pantry report.  Examples of shopping channels include supermarkets, super centers (like Wal-Mart), and discount, convenience, and club stores.
¯  Sales of private-label groceries are projected to grow 62 percent in 2016 up from $83 billion in 2008 according to a Packaged Facts survey. 
¯  More supermarkets and manufacturers are expanding their community service work. In addition to increasing visibility, community service work is a great way to give back.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Healthy Low Sugar Summer Drinks

Healthy Low Sugar Summer Drinks
Nothing is better than a cool, refreshing drink on a hot summer day. Nothing is worse than a beverage loaded with sugar and isn’t great for your health. The good news is that you can have all of your favorite summer drinks by making them lower in sugar while keeping them flavorful. Here are some healthy, low-sugar options to enjoy this summer:
· Infused water. You can buy these beverages at the store, but save money by making them at home. Simply add your favorite cut up fruits or vegetables to a pitcher of water and let it sit in the refrigerator for three hours. Herbs like mint or rosemary can be added for an additional punch of flavor.
· Iced tea. Brew a strong tea and leave in the refrigerator to cool. If you like some sweetness to your tea, add a hint of honey or crush a stevia plant leaf.
· Seltzer and juice. To mimic your favorite soda, add a splash of juice to some seltzer. You get the same fruity flavor and carbonation of soda with much less sugar. Or, buy some flavored seltzer which is low calorie and caffeine free.
· Iced coffee. Make a cup of coffee. Add a small amount of sugar, milk and other flavorings along with ice.
· Lemonade. Powdered mixes often have options that are low in sugar. But, you can also make your own lemonade at home with some lemons, water and a little bit of sugar, agave syrup or honey. Add fresh herbs like mint or basil and some fresh or mashed fruit to add even more flavor.
Written by: Lauren Von Drashek- Dietetic Intern


Friday, August 1, 2014

Is It Safe to Can My Own Salsa Recipe?

Is It Safe to Can My Own Salsa Recipe?
I have a couple of food preservation classes coming up that focus on canning salsa.  One of the common things I hear at these classes are the number of people who take their family favorite salsa recipe and can it for future consumption.

Here’s what the National Center for Home Food Preservation advises: Salsas typically are mixtures of acid and low-acid ingredients; they are an example of an acidified food and appropriate for boiling water canning if the final pH of all components is less than 4.6. If the mixture has less acidity, it would need to be treated as a low-acid canned food and require sufficient research to eliminate a botulism risk as a canned food. If it is acid enough for boiling water canning, the actual proportions of ingredients and preparation method will help determine what the canning process time should be. So there is no way to can a homemade salsa without having detailed knowledge of the recipe, procedures used in preparation, and acidity and consistency of the final product. The amount of tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other vegetables will greatly influence what the safe canning process should be.

At this time, only recommend tested recipes   can be safely processed in a boiling water canner.  There are not safely tested recipes for using a pressure-canning process for a low-acid salsa. Salsa recipes could be frozen for long-term storage, but a person will need to determine if you like the texture and flavor after freezing and thawing; there likely will be changes in both texture and seasoning. It would be best to try a small batch the first time for freezing. Many times herbs and spices are better tasting when added fresh after freezing and thawing, at serving time. Please do not experiment with canning your own recipe which could lead to food borne illness.

Recommended recipes for canning salsa safely are available from your County Extension Office, Ball Blue Book, Complete Book of Home Preserving by Ball and the National Center for Home Food Preservation. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Making Eating a Sustainable Part of Your Life

Making Eating a Sustainable Part of Your Life
There is an increased interest in sustainable food practices. Here are some tips for becoming more sustainable.
  •  A plant based diet which focuses more on plants than animal foods can have a significant impact on the environment.  Plant foods have a lower environmental impact than producing animal products.  Animal products uses a lot more fuel, feed and water to produce.
  • Foods raised organically need fewer chemical pesticides and fertilizers and thus have less impact on the environment.  If you can’t to buy all organic foods, make a decision to purchase a few foods which are most important to you to eat organically.
  • Choose foods raised close to home.  Utilize foods sold at farmers markets, CSA’s (community supported agriculture) or raise a garden. 
  • Learn to eat within the season. Food that is not raised in the area, is often shipped a significant distance which results in more fuel used for transportation.
  • Reduce food waste.  A significant amount of food is thrown away in this country.  Only buy what you can reasonably use in a week. Rotting food is a major source of methane, one of the greenhouse gases associated with global warming. Also look for foods that use minimal packaging.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Selecting a Healthy Frozen Yogurt

Selecting a Healthy Frozen Yogurt
I have been eating more frozen yogurt this summer. But while comparing brands, I have found some frozen yogurts to have a lot of sugar and fat in them.  Thankfully, there are a number of healthy frozen yogurts in the freezer section.

A number of frozen yogurts are made with skim milk for a lower calorie and fat profile and with Greek yogurt for a small increase in protein.  Also, many frozen yogurts contain live and active bacteria cultures, one of the factors that make yogurt a healthy option.  To determine if the yogurt you are looking to purchase contains these cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association’s “Live and Active Cultures” seal on the package.

Here are some tips for selecting a healthy yogurt. 

·         When choosing frozen yogurt at a yogurt shop, the soft yogurt has more air whipped into it and will be lower in calories than the harder, scoop kind.
·         Pay attention to the type and amount of toppings added to yogurt. Remember that some of these toppings like crumbled candy or cookies can add a lot of calories.
·         Whether you are purchasing frozen yogurt at a yogurt shop, or buying a carton at the grocery store, pay attention to portion sizes.  Eating more than the recommended portion size, will result in consuming more calories.
·         Check the Nutrition Facts labels on the carton or nutrition information at the yogurt shop to determine teaspoons of sugar.  A large serving of yogurt can have well over 10 teaspoons of sugar and this is before any toppings are added.             

Friday, July 25, 2014

Keep Summer Healthy and Food-Safe!

Keep Summer Healthy and Food-Safe!
Whether you’re enjoying a picnic, a cookout or simply a meal on the back deck, eating outdoors is a highlight of the summer season for most of us.
But warmer weather can also set the stage for foodborne illness when foods are cooked or handled improperly. Here are some suggestions to help ensure that your summer stays healthy and food-safe.
Sidestep Salmonella
Illnesses caused by the pathogen Salmonella spike in the summertime. Every year In the U.S., Salmonellacauses about 1.2 million illnesses—more than any other pathogen.
Here are four quick tips to reduce your chances of contracting Salmonella.
1. Don’t rinse raw chicken or other meat. “It spreads germs around the kitchen and does not contribute to food safety,” she says.
2. Wash your hands before eating and before and after handling food.
3. Always use soap. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water and scrub well.
4. Cook chicken to 165° Fahrenheit, ground meats to 160° F, and beef or pork steaks, roasts, and chops to 145° F with a three-minute hold. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat reaches a safe end-point temperature.
A meat thermometer is an important food safety tool year round, but especially in the summer. The color of meat is not a reliable test of whether meat is fully cooked. Even a burger that looks completely done can hold bacteria that cause illness.
Take the time to test whether burgers, for example, are fully cooked by picking up the meat with tongs and inserting a thermometer through the top or side.
Coolers and cantaloupes
A cooler is an indispensable summer food safety tool, in particular for picnic foods such as potato salad and cantaloupe or other melons. Foods left out at room temperature for too long can become ready hosts for harmful bacteria.
Slice your own cantaloupe or watermelon, rather than buying those sliced at the store. In recent years, melons have been one of the biggest sources of foodborne illness.
It’s important to keep sliced portions refrigerated because cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria. Be wary of sliced melons wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature in the produce aisle of the grocery store.
Avoid or use caution
Some foods should be avoided completely or eaten with care due to their histories of causing illness.
--Even when grown correctly, sprouts can serve as hosts for bacteria such as Salmonella,listeria and E. coli. Raw or lightly cooked sprouts have caused at least 30 outbreaks of foodborne illness according to http://www.foodsafety.gov. Home-grown sprouts are no safer since bacteria can actually grow inside the seeds themselves.
--Raw shellfish and shellfish, even when served in restaurants, pose a risk especially in the summer when aquatic species may be harvested from warmer ocean waters. Instead, choose safety by putting fish and shellfish on the grill.
--The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and many food safety experts advise avoiding raw milk that can contain dangerous bacteria with the potential to cause kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders and even death. Young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
Mayo makes the grade, Mayonnaise, an egg-based spread, has traditionally been mentioned as a potential source of foodborne illness, but today’s commercial product is actually quite safe. Pasteurized eggs and high levels of vinegar provide acid that helps control the growth of harmful bacteria. But keep in mind that homemade mayonnaise still requires extra caution.
Source: Barb Ingham, University of Wisconsin-Extension Food Safety Specialist


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Food Recall

Food Recall
A nationwide recall of peaches and other fruit is on-going; some of this fruit may have made its way into Wisconsin through SuperValu and other supermarket chains. The question that led me to search out this recall was linked to Elberta peaches in SuperValu stores in northwestern Wisconsin. Click here for more information. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm405943.htm
Wawona Packing Company of Cutler, Calif is voluntarily recalling certain lots of whole peaches Listeria monocytogenes. Wawona Packing has notified retailers of the specific lots being recalled. No other products are impacted by this recall. No illnesses have been linked to this recall to date.
(white and yellow), nectarines (white and yellow), plums and pluots packed between June 1, 2014 through July 12,2014 due to the potential of the products being contaminated with

Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Consumers who think that they purchased fruit affected by this recall should return the fruit to their local retailer for a refund or dispose of the fruit. National spokespersons are indicating that canning and freezing the fruit may not ensure safety; the fruit should be discarded, not eaten. A large supermarket chain in the northeast, Wegmans, has recalled baked pies and other items prepared with this fruit as a precaution against the pathogen surviving baking.