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Food Safety During Stormy Sandy

Posted by Joan Salge Blake October 28, 2012 08:04 PM

Sandy is coming and let's hope she doesn't take the power with her when she blows through your town.

Consider this advice by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND): 

Before the Power Goes Out:

  • Make sure that your refrigerator is set at 40 degrees F or below. Above this temperature, pathogens, which cause foodborne illness, grow more rapidly.
  • Make sure that your milk and eggs are stored in the back of your refrigerator, rather than on the door, to keep them colder longer. The temperature of the refrigerator door is typically higher due to its constant opening and closing.

Should the Power Goes Out:
  • Avoiding opening the refrigerator and freezer unnecessarily. The longer the doors are closed, the longer the food will remain at a cold temperature.
  • If your power is restored within four hours, the items in the refrigerator should be safe to eat if you don't constantly open it.
  • A freezer that is stuffed full will stay at freezing temperatures for two days if the door remains closed. A half-full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for one day if the door remains closed.

Once the Power is Restored:
  • When your power is restored, check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. If it is reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the  food is safe and can be refrozen. f
  • Wait until the temperature of the refrigerator drops to 40 degrees F or below before you restock it.

Lastly, when in doubt, throw it out.

                                              Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake 

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Healthy Food Choices that Backfire

Posted by Joan Salge Blake October 24, 2012 09:33 AM
Photo Source: CDC
Nothing could be worse then when you think that you are making a healthy food choice only to uncover that it really isn’t healthy.  In other words, your healthy food choice backfires.   The latest “good news” from a study conducted by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) about the decreased levels of trans fats in food products can feed into this potential backfiring.

Trans fat has been shown to not only increase the bad “LDL” cholesterol in the blood, but it also can decrease the good “HDL” cholesterol, which is a very heart-unhealthy combination.  Since 2006, the federal government has required that trans fat be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to help consumers make an informed choice when shopping.   Not too surprisingly, many food manufacturers reformulated their products to remove the trans fat because of this food labeling policy.  

In fact, according to the ERS, over 700 new bakery products in the supermarket -- the top food category containing trans fat -- had 73 percent less trans fat per serving, on average, in 2010 than they did in 2005.   The average trans fat per serving in desserts, another category historically high in trans fat, was reduced by 50 percent per serving, on average. 

Here’s where the backfiring comes into play.  Bakery products and desserts that claim to have "0 grams of trans fats" often times give consumers the false sense that these sweets and treats have become a healthier food choice.   Unfortunately, when you remove the trans fat from a donut sold in bakery, you end up with, well, a donut.   The donut didn’t miraculously get converted into an apple or another naturally healthy produce item once the trans fat has been removed.  It will still contain about 300 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 12 grams of sugar or the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar.

Reformulated donuts are not the only "healthier" food that can backfire.   Please click here to view this video for foods such as Greek yogurt and granola, which can also backfire.

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

5 Foods That Fight Heart Disease

Posted by Joan Salge Blake October 16, 2012 08:03 PM
Photo Source: NIH
Finally, some good news about cholesterol and heart disease.  According to a study in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the total blood cholesterol levels among adult Americans, on average, have declined to an all-time low of 196 mg/dL.  This is a major accomplishment since the average level was 222 mg/dL in adults in the 1960’s.   An elevated blood cholesterol level, especially the bad LDL cholesterol carrier form, increases the risk for heart disease.   Since experts recommend that your total cholesterol be less than 200 mg/dL, it appears that it may be time to celebrate.

But before you break out the celebratory steaks and apple pie a la mode, the researchers involved in this JAMA study point out that during the last 15 years there has also been an increase in the number of folks taking cholesterol-lowering medications.   Since obesity is still rampart, our heart-unhealthy saturated fat intake is still too high, and our daily physical activity is way too low, we have ways to go before we can boast that Americans have nailed a heart-healthy lifestyle.   The somewhat good news from this study is that cholesterol levels, on average, also declined among folks who aren’t taking medication, so some lifestyle changes maybe working for some folks.

While losing excess weight, reducing saturated fat in the diet, and partaking in daily physical activity are all key to lowering  your risk of heart disease,  adding heart-healthy foods to your diet can also help.

Here are 5 foods that are deliciously good for your heart:

1)    Beans
Soluble fiber-rich beans can help curb your appetite by helping you feel fuller sooner so you’ll eat less at the meal.  Trimming calories will help trim your waistline.  Beans can also replace higher calorie, higher saturated fat-containing meats and cheeses in entrees.

  • Replacing a ½ cup of cheddar cheese for the same amount of beans can shave off about 100 calories from your lunchtime salad.   
  • Replacing ½ pound of ground beef with 1 cup of kidney beans will cut 190 calories from a chili recipe.

2)    Oats
Research suggests that consuming 3 grams or more per day of ß-glucan, soluble fiber, which is found in oats (or barley, for that matter) can help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Source: Cooking Light

  • Start your morning off with a bowl of oatmeal.
  • Or, try this healthy Juicy Apple Crisp with dollop of yogurt for sweet and hot morning meal.

3.  Nuts
A small handful of nuts daily may be a nutty way to manage your blood cholesterol levels.  Research suggests that nuts can help lower blood cholesterol levels and that eating 1.5 ounces per day of almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, or walnuts along with a heart-healthy diet, may reduce you risk of heart disease.  (An ounce of nuts = 25 almonds, 9 whole walnuts, or 48 pistachio nuts.)

  • Sprinkle chopped nuts over your morning cereal or yogurt.
  • When hunger occurs between meals, reach for a few nuts.

4. Fish
While fish is low in heart-unhealthy saturated fat, it provides another healthy quality that makes it a ringer for your heart.   The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help slow the plaque buildup in your arteries that contribute to heart disease as well as reduce your risk of dying from heart disease.   It is currently recommended that you eat two fish meals, especially omega 3-rich fatty fish, weekly.   Salmon, sardines, and tuna are all good sources of omega 3.

  • When you eat out, order an 8-ounce grilled salmon.  Eat only half and take the remainder home for dinner the next day.  Pesto:  You just met you weekly quota of two fish meals.
  • Add canned tuna or salmon to your salad bar lunch.

5.  Whole Grains
While research shows that whole grains can reduce your risk of heart disease, most Americans are falling short of the recommended minimum three servings of whole grains daily.  Make sure that at least half your grain choices are whole grains, such as oats, 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, and popcorn to gain that heart-healthy benefit.

  • Oats in the morning not only provide cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber (see No. 2) but provide the added benefit of being a whole grain.  You get two for the price of one when you eat oats.
  • When looking for something crunchy for a snack, pop up a 100-calorie pack of microwave popcorn.

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

USDA's FREE Online Tool to Track Your Diet, Weight, and Exercise

Posted by Joan Salge Blake October 9, 2012 12:52 PM
Source:  USDA

Facebook isn’t the only online phenomenon to reach more than one million users in less than a year of launching.  The USDA’s SuperTracker, which launched only eleven months ago, is an interactive, online tool that currently helps 1.5 million consumers eat more healthfully, manage their weight, and reach their physical activity goals.   According to Robert Post, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, SuperTracker is growing by 10,000 users daily.

SuperTracker is part of the website and allows the consumer to create a personal profile, diet, and physical activity plan.  A newer feature, which is being highlighted this week at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, PA,  allows users to set their own personal calorie level to meet their weight loss goal.

SuperTracker allows you to:

  • Create a customized appropriate, calorie allowance with a corresponding food groups plan that is based on your gender, age, activity level, and weight goals.  
  • Self-monitor or journal your food intake with the My Journal feature.  Research has shown that journaling can help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • Track what and how much you eat with the Food Tracker feature in order to see how your current diet stacks up against your customized plan.
  • Monitor the intensity and duration of your daily physical activity with the Physical Activity Tracker feature.
  • Interact with a virtual coach.  By using the My Coach Center, you will receive “how-to” tips and feedback related to your goals.
Best of all, SuperTracker is FREE.  With over 65 percent of Americans overweight, SuperTracker is an excellent example of your tax dollars at work.  “We are constantly receiving testimonials from our users claiming that they have lost as much as 80 pounds by using this tool,” claims Dr. Post.   “Based on consumer feedback, a mobile app is in the works and should be released in 2013.” 

In the meantime, you can use this free tool to help you achieve your diet, weight, and physical activity goals from the comforts of your personal computer.

Have you used SuperTracker?  Please share below.

                                                 Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

What Does the Food Date on the Package Really Mean?

Posted by Joan Salge Blake October 2, 2012 12:59 PM
Source:  Nutrition and You
We all have played the Food Dating Game. It's when you find that a package of raw chicken breasts in the back of the refrigerator and the date has expired.  Thus, the game begins.  Should I cook it and eat it? Should I toss it? Will I get sick if I eat it?

Keep in mind that the date on the food package does not refer to food safety, but to the quality of the food. In other words, this is the date by which you should consume the product in order to enjoy it at its best quality. According to the FDA, whenever you see a date on the label, there must be a phrase next to the date that tells you how to interpret it.

Of course, any food that has spoiled and gives off an off odor or appearance, regardless of the date, should be discarded as the quality as deteriorated.

Now, the big question:  Suppose you find a package of raw chicken buried in your refrigerator and the “Best Used By” expired yesterday, is it still safeto eat?  This is a tricky question because if the food has been mishandled, such as left at room temperature for over two hours before refrigerating, it could increase your risk of foodborne illness whether or not the date has expired. 

However, if the food has been handled properly and kept in the refrigerator at 40 °F or below, it should be safe, wholesome and of good quality, according to the FDA.   In this situation, follow these guidelines from the FDA for uncooked and cooked perishable items:  

Note:  If product has a "use-by" date, follow that date. If product has a "sell-by" date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times on the above charts.  Source:  FDA

Always remember:  When in doubt, toss it out!

Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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