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, November 30, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Washing anything makes it cleaner and safer, right? Not necessarily.

Wash your hands, but not the turkey! Many consumers think that washing their turkey will remove bacteria and make it safer. However, it’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird. Instead, juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods and utensils. This is called cross-contamination, which can make you and your guests very sick. Washing your hands before and after handling your turkey and its packaging is crucial to avoid spreading harmful bacteria.

Be sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. This simple, but important step can help keep you and your guests safe from foodborne illness. If your raw turkey or its juices come in contact with kitchen surfaces, wash the counter tops and sinks with hot, soapy water. For extra protection, surfaces may be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Be sure to let those areas dry thoroughly.
The only way to destroy bacteria on your turkey is to cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Some chefs prefer to cook to a higher temperature for flavor and texture. Therefore, you don’t need to wash your turkey, but you will need a food thermometer on Thanksgiving Day. Remember to check the turkey’s temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast to be sure it is free of illness-causing bacteria.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Reduce Your Thanksgiving Food Waste

How to Reduce Your Thanksgiving Food Waste
Thanksgiving is a time to dust off the favorite family recipes.  For every leftover that goes uneaten, the idea of food waste and steps you can take to reduce it should begin prior to shopping.  The USDA estimates more than 30 percent of groceries in the U.S. get thrown out each year. Think about how much food you waste during the holiday season. 
Here are a few, easy ways to reduce food waste and have a great Thanksgiving.
·       Check your cupboards or pantry prior to making a grocery list.  This will help you to use items you already have on hand and reduce extra trips to the grocery store.
·       Get creative with leftovers. Instead of tossing leftovers in the trash or doing the same turkey and cranberry sandwich each year, try to come up with some new ideas. Websites, Pinterest, printed materials along with cooking shows can provide great ideas for using leftovers. 
·       Have guests bring reusable containers to make sharing of leftovers easier.  You will throw away less food and your guests will have food to enjoy.
·       Give nonperishable food items for gifts. Chocolate fudge and cookies are great gifts, but often some of it ends up in the trash.  Skip the perishable food items this year and give  soup, a cookie or cake mix or jam or other food items that can be enjoyed after the holiday season is over.
Source: Mark Walter, Business Development Manager, Brown County Resource Recovery              

Monday, November 23, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

Show Kids How to be Healthy

Show Kids How to be Healthy
Encourage kids to stay healthy throughout the school year by
teaching them how to make smart food choices in and out of the classroom.
Use this Kids.gov video to teach them the value of each food group.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November is National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month
Are you at risk? 
Could you have type 2 diabetes and not know it?  Or, are you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes?  Prevention is possible through lifestyle change.  And, the key to limiting complications if you already have type 2 diabetes is early diagnosis and control.  Learn how a diabetes educator can help you successfully control your diabetes. 

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.  Be kind to yourself and take this quick, simple risk test.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Holiday Challenge

Maintain, Don't Gain This Holiday Season
 Last year's Holiday Challenge was the biggest and best over. We had over 12,500 participants from all 50 States and Canada. Now it's time for the 2015 Eat Smart, Move More, Maintain, don't gain! Holiday Challenge!

You are invited to join the 10th annual Holiday Challenge. Rather than focusing on trying to lose weight, this FREE seven-week challenge provides participants with tips, tricks, and ideas to help maintain their weight throughout the holiday season.  

The Holiday Challenge will begin November 16th and run through December 31st. Did we mention it's FREE?! 
If the link is not working, please go to esmmweighless.com and click the Holiday Challenge tab.
 Weekly Newsletters, Daily Tips, and Weekly Challenges with strategies to: 
  • Survive a holiday party
  • Manage holiday stress
  • Be a healthy host
  • Fit physical activity into your day
  • Cook quick and healthy meals
Plus healthy holiday recipes! 
Last year's Holiday Challenge:
 In 2014, more than 12,500 people from all 50 states and Canada took part in the Holiday Challenge. All 100 counties in North Carolina were represented. At the end of the program, 93% reported maintaining or losing weight. 99% of participants said they were very likely to somewhat likely to participate in the Holiday Challenge again next year. For more results click here: Holiday Challenge Results. 

The Holiday Challenge is provided by Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, a 15-week online weight management program.

To learn more about Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less or the 2014 Holiday Challenge please visit www.esmmweighless.com.

For questions about the Holiday Challenge please email holidaychallenge@esmmweighless.com or call 919-707-5398.

Friday, November 13, 2015

November is National Peanut Butter Month

November is National Peanut Butter Month
Americans have long had a love affair with peanuts. And why shouldn’t we? Not only do peanuts have a powerful seven grams of protein per serving, they are also packed with flavor and shine in snacks and meals from savory to sweet. Plus, peanuts deliver a comparable nutritional bang for a reasonable cost. Here are some fun facts about peanuts from the National Peanut Board.
·       The average American eats 6.6 pounds of peanuts per year (in the form of snack peanuts, peanut butter, peanut flour, peanut oil and other products).
·       It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
·       There are enough peanuts in one acre to make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches.
·       By law, any product labeled “peanut butter” in the United States must be at least 90 percent peanuts.
·       The world’s largest peanut butter factory churns out 250,000 jars of the tasty treat every day.
·       Peanuts account for two-thirds of all snack nuts consumed in the USA.
·       Peanuts contribute more than $4 billion to the USA economy each year.
·       Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter.
·       The average peanut farm is 100 acres.
·       Peanut butter/peanut paste is the leading use of peanuts produced in the U.S. (1/2); followed by snack nuts and in-shells (1/4); and, candy and confections (1/4). 
So plan to enjoy some peanuts this month as well as throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 14th is Spicy Guacamole Day

November 14th is Spicy Guacamole Day
Avocados are so full of flavor; you don't need much to turn them into delicious guacamole. Here's a really quick recipe.
·       1 ripe avocado
·       1/8 teaspoon powdered cumin
·       Dash of cayenne pepper, optional (about 1/16 teaspoon)
·       1/2 to 1 ripe Roma tomato, diced; or use about 1/4 cup of grape or cherry tomatoes cut into smaller pieces.
·       Salt (if desired)
1.       Mash avocado with potato masher, pastry blender or fork.
2.       Mix in cumin and cayenne pepper.
3.       Stir in tomatoes.
4.       Taste; add more cumin and cayenne as needed. Add salt to taste, if desired.
5.       Enjoy!
NOTE: Guacamole prepared without lime or lemon juice may turn brown sooner, so it is best to eat this version right after preparation. 
Tastes great served with low-fat corn tortilla chips! 
Though avocados are high in fat, most of the fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, avocados are loaded with nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and folate. They're also cholesterol and sodium free. Avocados contain 60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas. Two tablespoons of mashed avocado or 1/5 (about 1 oz.) of a medium avocado provides about 55 calories. 
Source: Alice Henneman, Extension Educator, Lancaster County Extension, University of Nebraska Extension


Monday, November 9, 2015

Sitting is the New Smoking

Sitting Is the New Smoking
Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been called the "new smoking" due to increased health risks. According to a study in the 2015 Annals of Internal Medicine, "Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity." Outcomes associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time included an increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  

The Canadian researchers' conclusions were based on pooled data from 41 international studies. "More than one half of an average person's day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television or working at a computer," said Dr. David Alter, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and senior author of the study. 

Exercising for a half hour daily helps, however, it isn't enough if we're inactive for the remaining 23 plus hours. The effect was most pronounced in people at lower levels of physical activity than at higher levels. Here are some tips to get you started sitting less and moving more. Check those you could do — you may be surprised how easy it is to add more activity to your day.  

1.     Take a 1—3 minute break every half hour or so during the day to stand and move around. You could fit this in with some of the activities cited below. For example, taking the stairs, walking during a break or noon time, etc.
2.       Walk over to your colleagues' desk to talk versus emailing, instant messaging or calling them. Stand once you get there.
3.       Schedule a regular 5—10 minute physical activity break into your day, such as 10 minutes of activity at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.
4.       Use some type of fitness tracker that counts your steps or miles. Work up to 10,000 or more steps (about 5 miles), a guideline recommended by several health organizations.
5.       Set a timer to remind you to get up and move. There are several apps (both free and at a slight cost) that signal when a time you designate has passed. Also, some wearable fitness trackers remind you when to move. Use your favorite search engine to locate some possibilities, using such phrases as: "apps that encourage moving more" or "fitness trackers that encourage moving more."
6.       Use a wearable fitness tracker or smartphone app that lets you form a group with friends on your device (tablet, computer, smartphone). The motivation of others moving may motivate you also.
7.       Participate in physical activities with your children, such as bike rides, Frisbee throws and walking the dog together.
8.       Walk up and down the soccer or football field while your child is playing.
9.       Park your car farther from your destination.
10.   Use the stairs.
11.  Cook more of your meals — you'll move more than getting your meal at a drive-through restaurant or sitting in a restaurant.
12.   Pack a sack lunch and save some time during your lunch break for a walk.
13.   Buy a jogging stroller and jog or walk with your child.
14.   Form a work group for walking — maybe strolls to the library over lunch break.

Source: Alice Henneman, Extension Educator, Lancaster County Extension, University of Nebraska Extension



Friday, November 6, 2015

Small Changes Can Lead to Weight Loss

Small Changes Can Lead to Weight Loss
What do 10 pounds of fat look like? For a rough estimate, imagine 40 sticks of butter or margarine or 10 1-pound cans of vegetable shortening. Looks like a lot — yet how many of us add this much weight in a year without realizing it until our pants fit a little tighter or our belt runs out of notches?

Sometimes, we’re too hard on ourselves when we’re trying to lose weight. We eat some pretty awful-tasting foods, forgo getting together with friends if food is involved or take the joy out of eating through a monotonous and limited diet.

While people have lost hundreds of pounds through some of these methods, it’s often the same 10 pounds over and over again! It takes an excess of about 3,500 calories to gain a pound. Break that into smaller bites and 100 extra calories a day can put on about 10 pounds a year. The good news is LOSING 10 pounds can be as easy as eating 100 calories LESS each day for a year.

ONE dietary change may be all it takes. Here are some simple changes, involving just ONE food; each will decrease your daily intake by about 100 calories. The amounts of calories saved are approximate; check nutrition facts labels on specific foods for exact amounts.

As a general rule, experts recommend a slow and steady weight loss of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. It’s difficult to obtain adequate nutrients if you consume less than 1,200 calories per day. It’s beneficial for most people to increase their activity level AND eat less.

1. Modify Your Milk. Instead of drinking two cups of whole milk, switch to two cups of 1% lowfat milk or skim milk. The nutrients are comparable.

2. Downsize Your Drink. If you’ve been drinking a 20-ounce container of a regular soft drink, switch to a 12-ounce container size. Or, better yet, drink a cold glass of water, perhaps with a slice of lemon!

3. “Dress, Don’t ‘Drown’ Your Salad.” Cook’s illustrated magazine advises 1/4 cup of vinaigrette should be enough to dress 2 quarts (8 cups) of loosely packed salad, an amount they suggest for 4 servings. That means each 2-cup serving of salad greens should have about 1 tablespoon of dressing on it.

TIP: Dressing slides off damp salad greens and collects in the bottom of the salad bowl. You’ll get more flavors with less dressing if salad greens are washed and thoroughly dried. Bagged lettuce that is pre-washed and labeled “ready to eat” should be dry enough as is.

If you need to wash salad greens, the easiest way to dry them is in a salad spinner. Pack lightly to avoid overcrowding and bruising the greens. After spinning, pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels. If you don’t have a spinner, pat greens dry, thoroughly, with clean paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

4. Size up Your Cereal Bowl. Check the portion size you’re pouring in relation to the size cited on the box; decide if you’re pouring more calories than desired. Try eating from a smaller bowl to aid in portion control.

5. Count Your Cookies. A single medium-sized cookie easily can have about 100 calories. Often we pop two or more into our mouths before we realize it. If you feel you’re not getting enough “crunch” by limiting yourself to one cookie, try eating an apple instead — the calories are similar.

Author: Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, Extension Educator, Lancaster County Extension Office, University of Nebraska Extension


Monday, November 2, 2015

Can You Eat the Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Sitting on Your Porch?

Can You Eat the Jack–O-Lantern Pumpkin Sitting on Your Porch?
Its fall and thoughts turn to pumpkin pie and to Halloween jack-o-lanterns. But, can you use a pumpkin for BOTH a jack-o-lantern AND for eating?

Pumpkin pie tastes great this time of year and is also an excellent source of nutrients. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene.

There is a difference between pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins.

Pie pumpkins, also called sugar pumpkins, are smaller in shape than the monstrous pumpkins you'd find at your typical pumpkin patch. Pie pumpkins are commonly found in the grocery store in the produce section or at farm stands. This small round pumpkin is packed full of flesh that makes it a good choice for cooking. The pulp also has a better texture (less grainy) and is sweeter.

Carving pumpkins
In contrast to the flesh-packed pie pumpkin, carving pumpkins, commonly referred to as jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, were designed to make it easier to, well, carve. Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins have a thinner shell and typically have less flesh (or pumpkin guts) on the inside. The flesh is grainer and stringy. The inside of a carving pumpkin tends to contain more water than pie pumpkins

Here are some tips from the University of Illinois on preparing a pumpkin for food preparation. Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with tap water before cutting into the pumpkin. Spread newspaper over your work surface. Start by removing the stem with a sharp knife. If you are planning to roast the pumpkin seeds, smash the pumpkin against a hard surface to break it open. If not, cut in half with a sharp knife. In any case, remove the stem and scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass.

Below are some ways to cook the pumpkin.
Boiling/Steaming Method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam for 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander. Reserve the liquid to use as a base for soup.
Oven Method: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin; cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for one hour or until fork tender.
Microwave Method: Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, ricer, strainer or potato masher to form a puree.

Pumpkin puree freezes well. To freeze, measure cooled puree into one cup portions, place in ridged freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace or pack into zip closure bags. Label, date and freeze at 0°F for up to one year.

Use this puree in recipes or substitute in the same amount in any recipe calling for solid pack canned pumpkin.

Use 1 1/2 pounds of skin-on, raw pumpkin to yield 2 cups of mashed.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Make Trick-or-Treating Healthy

Make Trick-or-Treating Healthy
Halloween brings out the kid in all of us. It's fun to get dressed up in a costume and parade around the neighborhood or go to a party. Treats are a part of the fun. However, treats don't have to be sticky, gooey candy. 
When gathering the treats you will offer this year think about some possible low- calorie, low-fat options. Here are some ideas to get you started thinking:
· Cheese and cracker packages
· Sugar-free gum
· Cheese sticks
· Juice box packages
· Small packages of nuts or raisins
· Package of instant cocoa mix
· Peanuts in the shell 
You could also consider giving some non-food treats such as stickers, balloons, crayons, pencils, colored chalk, erasers, whistles, baseball cards, rubber spiders or worms. A friend of mine used to give nickels, in today's economy that may need to be dimes. 
Before kids leave for trick-or-treating make sure they eat a healthy snack or light meal. Make sure children eat a meal or snack before going trick-or-treating so they won't be tempted to dig into their bag of goodies before they get home. 
When children get home, check the treats and keep only treats which are unopened. Be sure to inspect fruits and homemade goods for anything suspicious. 
It's better to eat trick-or-treat candy over several days as a substitute for dessert or a few pieces along with a healthy snack. 
Having a party for your children and a few friends can reduce safety concerns. Some nutritious treats for your party could include popcorn, apples, grapes, bananas, unshelled peanuts, and not-too-sweet cookies.
Kids could help with making the treats like "Pizza Faces." Let kids arrange sliced olives, green peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, and other things on English muffins brushed with tomato sauce. Top with grated cheese for "hair" and heat in the microwave or oven until the cheese melts. 
Source: University of Illinois Extension Food for Thought Newsletter

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight

How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight
Fruits and vegetables are part of a well-balanced and healthy eating plan. There are many different ways to lose or maintain a healthy weight. Using more fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and lean meats, nuts, and beans is a safe and healthy one. Helping control your weight is not the only benefit of eating more fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health. 
To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than your body uses. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to eat less food. You can create lower-calorie versions of some of your favorite dishes by substituting low-calorie fruits and vegetables in place of higher-calorie ingredients. The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling.
Here are some simple ways to cut calories and eat fruits and vegetables throughout your day:
Breakfast: Start the Day Right
·       Substitute some spinach, onions, or mushrooms for one of the eggs or half of the cheese in your morning omelet. The vegetables will add volume and flavor to the dish with fewer calories than the egg or cheese.
·       Cut back on the amount of cereal in your bowl to make room for some cut-up bananas, peaches, or strawberries. You can still eat a full bowl, but with fewer calories.
Lighten Up Your Lunch
·       Substitute vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, or onions for 2 ounces of the cheese and 2 ounces of the meat in your sandwich, wrap, or burrito. The new version will fill you up with fewer calories than the original.
·       Add a cup of chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, beans, or red peppers, in place of 2 ounces of the meat or 1 cup of noodles in your favorite broth-based soup. The vegetables will help fill you up, so you won't miss those extra calories.
·       Add in 1 cup of chopped vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, squash, onions, or peppers, while removing 1 cup of the rice or pasta in your favorite dish. The dish with the vegetables will be just as satisfying but have fewer calories than the same amount of the original version.
·       Take a good look at your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If they do not, replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta, or rice with legumes, steamed broccoli, asparagus, greens, or another favorite vegetable. This will reduce the total calories in your meal without reducing the amount of food you eat. BUT remember to use a normal- or small-size plate — not a platter. The total number of calories that you eat counts, even if a good proportion of them come from fruits and vegetables.
Eat fruits and vegetables the way nature provided—or with fat-free or low-fat cooking techniques.
Try steaming your vegetables, using low-calorie or low-fat dressings, and using herbs and spices to add flavor. Some cooking techniques, such as breading, and frying, or using high-fat dressings or sauces will greatly increase the calories and fat in the dish. And eat your fruit raw to enjoy its natural sweetness.
Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are good options when fresh produce is not available.
However, be careful to choose those without added sugar, syrup, cream sauces, or other ingredients that will add calories.
Choose whole fruit over fruit drinks and juices. Fruit juices have lost fiber from the fruit.
It is better to eat the whole fruit because it contains the added fiber that helps you feel full. One 6-ounce serving of orange juice has 85 calories, compared to just 65 calories in a medium orange.
Whole fruit gives you a bigger size snack than the same fruit dried—for the same number of calories.
A small box of raisins (1/4 cup) is about 100 calories. For the same number of calories, you can eat 1 cup of grapes.
For more information, please check out the following brochure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).