Monday, December 28, 2009

MYTH: Physical activity is icing on the cake—it doesn’t do anything for me, really.

Answer: Busted.

Let’s explore physical activity as a part of losing weight.

Again, using the analogy of the appliance, one of the questions to consider is ‘What way will give me the “best product for my money” (or, best weight loss for my effort)?’ If weight loss is the only thing we want from our New Year’s Resolution, then physical activity may not be an aspect of the “appliance” we want to buy with our time and effort. Why is that? Most weight loss occurs with reducing calories. Physical activity uses some calories, but not nearly enough to result in a meaningful amount of weight loss in a reasonable length of time. If our resolution is really to improve our health by losing weight, then that is a whole different matter—physical activity is crucial!

Physical activity has been shown to reduce blood pressure, without any other behavior changes! Also, being physically active helps us to keep our muscles strong, even when we are losing weight. Why is this important? Well, the lean part of our bodies (muscle and major organs—like the heart and liver, to name a few) is the part of the body that uses the calories we eat or drink. If our body has more muscle, then we are going to burn more calories every day—more than another “body” our same age and size that is less lean. Physical activity also reduces the chance of developing heart disease and diabetes more than just weight loss by itself.

Our proposed resolution just made a change to: “lose weight to be healthier.”

While the holiday season is a great time to practice changing eating behaviors, it can also be a time to practice being more physically active. A lot of people shop more during this time, which gives us practice time! Some ideas to experiment with include the following:

Plan your after-Christmas/New Year's shopping trips to include walking the longest distances between stores or items being purchased—forget about saving time and being efficient! Going from one end of the mall or store to the other end to buy items on your list will automatically increase the steps you are taking.

After completing your shopping trip, take a final “lap” around the mall or store—adds steps with little extra time.

Consider buying yourself a pedometer. Using a pedometer is one way to track the number of steps taken per day.

Did you know that cleaning house is considered a moderate activity? Maybe spend some time everyday cleaning house? A more organized, company ready home would be a bonus!

How about walking the dog? People who walk their dogs log in more steps that than who don’t. Plus, the regularly walked dog will help keep you walking often—who can resist those eyes begging for a walk?

While you are practicing including physical activity in your life this week, think about what keeps you from being physically active during your “regular” life. Knowing what keeps us from doing what we want to do is excellent information to help us choose our final New Year’s Resolution.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

MYTH: It is impossible to eat healthy during the holidays!

Answer: Busted.

Hard, maybe, but not impossible! So, how do we eat healthily during the holidays? As promised, here are some more hints that you might use to practice changing your eating habits during December:

· Consider keeping snacks handy that are low in calories, but pack a punch of nutrients. Having cut-up fresh vegetables and fruit on hand will help you to choose healthy snacks, which helps you to avoid getting too hungry and overeating. Buy fresh vegetables and fruits that are in season to get the best value for your money.
· Do you know it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know it is full? Eating too quickly can lead to that “stuffed” feeling—just because we didn’t give our stomach enough time to signal—full, full, full!! Enjoy your food! Take a bite and savor the flavor, aroma, texture of the food. Be aware of what and how much you are eating.
· Plan what you will do if you are tested with a food that is too high in calories, salt, fat—whatever eating habit you are practicing to change. Planning ahead is another way to practice changing eating habits—just thinking through what you will do helps to make that action a reality when the situation does occur.
· After you have eaten to your satisfaction, remove your plate, especially if there is still food on it. We tend to pick at the food that is in front of us—no matter how full we are. If you cannot get rid of the plate, make the food look unappetizing—mix all the “leftovers” together, put ketchup or lots of pepper on it, visualize worms in it—anything to make it unappealing to you!

See Missouri Families and Mypyramid for additional tips.

Practice, practice, practice! Physical activity hints coming up next!

Friday, December 11, 2009

MYTH – Changing habits is “as easy as pie”.

Answer: Busted.

For those of us who have made the same New Year’s Resolution for several years in a row, we KNOW how hard it is to change our habits—regardless of what they are. Changing a habit takes determination and practice.

Of course, the first step in changing a habit is deciding which one to change and then go from there. December is the perfect month to really think about what habit we want to change in 2010. As an added bonus, this month gives us time to practice a bit before settling on a specific resolution.

Let’s consider making a resolution to lose some weight next year. In thinking through what needs to change to lose weight, three ways come to mind—changing what we eat or changing our physical activity or both. If we think about losing weight as something we are going to buy (like a major appliance), maybe we should think about what “appliance” will work best for us, how much it “costs” and will it give us the “service” we want? Some example questions to help us decide which way to use to lose weight are: What will I have to do to make each of these ways work for me? What way “fits” best into my life right now? What way will give me the “best product for my money” (or, best weight loss for my effort)?

The holiday season is a great time to practice changing eating behaviors. Some ideas to experiment with include the following:
· When taking food to a party or office-gathering, consider taking low-calorie snacks like vegetable trays. Put cottage cheese in a food processor or blender, add a bit of water and a package of flavoring for a lower calorie, more nutritious vegetable dip. Salsa is also a great low-calorie sauce to use with pita crisps.
· How about using a smaller plate? Research has shown that using larger plates results in more food being eaten. Take a few snacks and move away from the table. People who stand and talk by the food table tend to eat more than those that don’t. Mingle with everyone at the party—focus on the fun and the people, instead of the food.
· Watch those beverages! Drink diet soda, diet tonic water or a glass of water instead of multiple glasses containing calorie-loaded fluid!

Look for more hints next week!

Monday, December 7, 2009

MYTH - Do Successful New Year's Resolutions Just Happen?

Answer: Busted.

It is hard to believe that 2009 is nearly over. How does 2010 sound to you? Futurist, as one of my friends said just yesterday? While we don’t have control over all aspects of our future, steps can be made NOW that will help us in the future.

If you haven’t started thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions yet, it might be time to start. Thinking about your future and what you want it to look like is the first step in changing how it might be. For example, think about your parents’ health and how it might affect yours. Has one of your parents had high blood cholesterol or a heart attack? If so, is your blood cholesterol too high? Or, how about Type II diabetes? For just about any life situation, your parents’ situation and health can help you to predict yours later in life—and knowing that, you can change things NOW to change how your future plays out. So, consider thinking about what resolution you want to make in the New Year.

If you have already decided to think about New Year’s and what you want to change, what do you need to go forward? Ideas for next steps? Support from family and friends? Ideas about what you can do? How to motivate yourself to follow through with your resolution?

Stay tuned to this blog for more ideas to make your resolution a reality!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

MYTH - Thanksgiving dinner gets more expensive every year.

Answer: Busted.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has monitored the cost of Thanksgiving dinner for the past 23 years, and compared to 2008, this year the national average decreased $1.70 for a dinner feeding 10 people. In Missouri, the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 totaled $42.57, which comes out to $4.26 per person. Want to lower the cost even more? Take advantage of special offers and sales during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Also, include more vegetables in your Turkey Day meal, as prices of all vegetables in this survey dropped in 2009. Saving money while eating more nutritiously! That’s something we can all be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

See Cost of Thanksgiving Meal Decreases in 2009 for more information.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Myth- Eating turkey at your Thanksgiving meal makes you sleepy.

Answer: Not exactly.

It is true that turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan that is converted to serotonin and melatonin in your body, which can have an effect on mood and sleep. However, the amount of serotonin and melatonin that is produced from the tryptophan in the average Thanksgiving meal is not enough to cause a significant increase in sleepiness. In fact, many of your favorite protein foods such as chicken, eggs, and cheese also contain tryptophan.

So why do you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal? It is most likely due to the high amount of carbohydrate foods that you eat at a Thanksgiving meal. Foods like mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and pies all contain carbohydrates. Your body has to work harder to digest all of these carbohydrate foods which can make you feel tired. If you drink wine or other alcoholic beverages on Thanksgiving, this may also contribute to your sleepiness, since alcohol can have a sedative effect.

To prevent your annual afternoon nap this Thanksgiving, try having smaller portions of those high carbohydrate foods or go for a walk. Keeping active will help you feel better and more awake.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Myth: Disaster kits should include only water and whatever canned foods you like


November 18th is Winter Awareness Day, so this is a good time to start thinking about your personal or family disaster plan. Assembling a disaster kit is an important step in the planning process, and it should include a lot more than simply food and water. Your kit should include supplies for everyone in your house, including your pets. See the document, Recommended Contents for Family Disaster Supplies Kit for more suggestions about first aid supplies, clothing, water, tools, and documents to include in the kit.

Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation, or cooking, and little or no water. Stay away from commercially dehydrated foods, as they can require a significant amount of water to prepare. Meal-sized canned foods are also usually bulky and heavy. Remember, you might need to carry this kit with you if you have to leave the house. Finally, avoid whole grains and pasta because preparation could be complicated under the circumstances of a disaster.

Recommended foods include:
· Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables (but don’t forget the can opener!)
· Canned juices, milk, and soup (if using dried milk, be sure to pack extra water)
· High-energy foods, such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, and trail mix.
· Foods for infants, the elderly, or people on special diets if necessary.
· Prepackaged beverages in foil packets and foil-lined boxes are good because they are tightly sealed and will keep for a long time.
· Familiar foods can lift morale and give a feeling of security in times of stress.

Finally, check for an “expiration” or “best if used by” date on the products. If there is no date listed on the product, the general recommendation is to store food for 6 months and then replace.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MYTH - The best way to thaw your Thanksgiving Day turkey is to leave it out on the counter.

Answer: BUSTED!!!!

NEVER leave your turkey (or any meat, for that matter) out on the counter to thaw! Not only will you be giving thanks next Thursday, but you’ll also be giving your closest friends and family members a nasty food borne illness. As the bird continues to thaw on the inside, the outside of the turkey will be at room temperature – prime temperature for bacteria to thrive.

The easiest way to thaw a turkey, or any other type of meat, is in the refrigerator. For every five pounds of turkey, allow 1 day of thawing in the refrigerator. Another option is the cold water bath. Using this method, keep the turkey wrapped and completely submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and for every pound of turkey, allow 30 minutes in the cold bath. Therefore, using the cold water bath method will take about 4 hours to thaw an 8 lb turkey.

If you want to avoid thawing a turkey all together, purchase a fresh turkey, but no more than 3 days before you plan to cook it. Make sure it is stored at 40°F or below.

For more helpful tips on selecting and cooking your holiday bird, check out: USDA’s Let’s Talk Turkey is another great resource for keeping your turkey safe this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MYTH - French women don't get fat

Answer: BUSTED!

A study published in 2008 finally puts this myth to rest. Weight, height, and waist circumference measurements were recorded for all adults in 20,000 French households. From 1997 to 2006, obesity increased from 8.6% to 13.1%. Furthermore, a follow-up study released this week showed that 15.1% of French women and 13.9% of French men are clinically obese. While these rates are still significantly lower than those of the United States (33.2% of women and 31.1% of men are obese), the trend is the same: waistlines are expanding.

How do we stop this trend that’s sweeping the globe? Simple - either decrease the number of calories you eat in a day or increase the amount of exercise, or do both. Easier said than done, right? Think baby steps. Try wearing a pedometer and simply increase the number of steps taken daily. Then, cut down the portion sizes of your favorite foods and make lower-calorie choices that you can stick with.

Check out The Latest On What Works for Weight Loss for more helpful tips. Also find your local MU Extension Office and see what nutrition and health programs are being offered in your area.

Monday, November 9, 2009

MYTH: The Acai Berry is a miracle food that can promote weight loss, reduce wrinkles, and even cure cancer!

Answer: BUSTED!

The Acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) berry is a fruit, grown in Central and South America, which has been credited for everything from preventing aging to curing cancer. Like its cousins, the blueberry and cranberry, the acai berry is also high in antioxidants. However, very few studies have been conducted to investigate the berry’s antioxidant content or health benefits, and none of these studies support the outlandish health claims touted by many of the companies selling the acai berry and its extracts. Not only are most of the health claims exaggerated, but you’ll pay a hefty price for the product. For example, approximately 25 ounces of acai juice sells for $40. Additionally, in March 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a scam alert about fake blogs, fake endorsements, credit card scams, and exaggerated health claims related to some acai products.

The acai berry is not a miracle food, but it can be part of a well-balanced diet. However, most berries are naturally rich in antioxidants and they don’t cost $40 for 25 ounces. Eat the recommended number of fruits and vegetables daily and you’ll get plenty of antioxidants, as well as thoroughly researched health benefits such as a decreased risk for heart disease and cancer.

For more information about the acai berry and other hot topics in nutrition visit

Thursday, November 5, 2009

MYTH: Eating certain cereals will boost your immune system

Answer: Not Likely!

In the last few weeks you may have noticed some flashy new boxes while walking down the cereal aisle. Several of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal boxes are now sporting a bright yellow banner stating “Now Helps Support Your Child’s Immunity.” How can a cereal boost immunity, you ask? Kellogg’s claims that because they increased the amount of vitamins A, C, and E from 10% Daily Value per serving to 25% Daily Value, and since studies have shown that these antioxidant vitamins play an important role in the immune system, the statement is warranted . . . but not for long. Just announced on 11/5/09, Kellogg’s will discontinue the statement on the Rice Krispies boxes due to criticism that the new immunity claim was created to capitalize on the current H1N1 flu outbreak. The new packaging will be phased out over the next few months.

Sure, breakfast is the most important meal of the day but don’t be fooled into thinking it can prevent you or your children from catching the seasonal flu or H1N1 virus. If you really want to boost your immune system, eat a balance diet and choose foods that are naturally high in vitamins A, C, and E. You’ll get the antioxidants you are looking for, plus so much more! Studies consistently show that eating whole foods is a better way of protecting against disease than taking the same vitamins and minerals in supplement form. Choose brightly colored fruits and vegetables for the highest amounts of vitamins A and C. If you’re seeking vitamin E, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils provide good sources. Finally, regular exercise will also keep your immune system strong.

Check out “Four Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter” and don't be fooled by flashy advertising techniques.

Friday, October 30, 2009

MYTH: We need to drink 8 cups of water each day

Answer: Busted!

Water is an essential nutrient, needed to control body temperature, lubricate and cushion joints, transport nutrients, and remove waste. Consuming approximately 64 ounces of total water daily was the recommendation from the Nutrition Council in 1945. In 2005 the Food Nutrition Board set the Adequate Intake (AI) for total water at 101 ounces (about 12 cups) for men age 19-30 and 74 ounces (about 9 cups) for women age 19-30. However, that does not mean the requirement must be met by drinking plain glasses of water. Water also comes from the food we eat and the beverages we drink. For example, watermelon is 91% water, carrots are 88% water, and even roasted chicken is 65% water. Even your morning coffee or tea counts towards the fluid goal.

How much should we drink? Drinking to satisfy thirst is a good rule of thumb, but older adults beware. As we age, the sensation of thirst does not kick in as quickly, especially on hot summer days or cold dry days. Older adults should be more careful about staying hydrated during these times. Check out for more thirst-quenching info.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cereal is a good choice for my child's breakfast, right?

Answer: Well...maybe.

A new report shows that kids cereals have 85% more sugar and 65% less fiber than adult cereals. So, maybe these are not the best choices for your child as they begin their day. Although there are healthy cereal choices - ones with less sugar and more whole grains and fiber - many cereals are high in sugar and low in fiber. Unfortunately, many of these cereals are marketed to kids. How do companies target kids? They use celebrity tie-ins, toys and prizes. You might reach for a cereal with whole grains BUT find that it also is high in sugar. Or you may see a label or logo on a cereal that makes it look like the cereal has been rated a good choice. Look closer! Here's how...

1. Pressed for time? Look high, look low at the grocery store. Healthier (and lower cost) cereals are usually on the top or bottom shelves, not at eye level where they are easiest to get.

2. Find cereals high in whole grains and fiber: First, look on the Nutrition Facts label under "Total Carbohydrate" - cereal high in fiber have 5 grams of Dietary Fiber listed. Also, look at the ingredient list. Look for "whole" or "100% whole" before the word "wheat" or other grain as the first ingredient.

Here's an example of an ingredient list for bran flakes:
INGREDIENTS: Whole grain wheat, wheat bran...

3. Find cereals low in sugar: First, look on the Nutrition Facts label under "Total Carbohydrate" are listed "Sugars." If you see 4 grams listed the cereal has 1 teaspoon of sugar, 8 grams and it has 2 teaspoons of sugar. Choose a cereal with 4 grams or less. You can also look at the ingredient list. If sugar is listed as one of the first 2 or 3 ingredients, then it is high in sugar.

Here are names for sugar you may see on ingredient lists:
High-fructose corn syrup
Corn sweetener
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Fruit juice concentrate
Brown sugar
Corn syrup
Raw sugar

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surely there is something that I can eat or drink to prevent me from getting the flu?

Answer: There's no magic food or drink to ward off the flu.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration is identifying potential fraudulent products that claim to help prevent the flu. If you want to report a product you can do that online. Dubious products that appear on FDA's website include herbal extracts, supplements and teas. There are also non-food items on this list.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also suggests that you check with your doctor or pharmacist about any
products that say they prevent, cure, treat, or diagnose H1N1 flu.

Another resource is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. You can search their website for more information about products. The center's website reminds us that "natural" doesn't mean that something is safe. Also, herbal supplements may contain ingredients whose activity are unknown at this time.

**This just in, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) identifies a supplement called "Immune Support Formula" as unapproved for warding off swine flu.

What you CAN do: Make healthy food choices to keep your body and immune system in good shape, include physical activity as part of your lifestyle and wash your hands!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween is all about eating candy. There's no way to avoid it!

Answer: Halloween CAN be about more than eating candy.
Make Halloween about choosing healthy foods and being active. Consider these ideas:

1) Halloween can teach moderation in the foods we eat. Talk to your kids about balancing healthy food choices like fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk, whole grains, lean meat, fish and poultry and beans with small portions of foods with sugar and candy. When your child comes back from trick or treating, look to see what chocolate candies they have in their treat bag. Here are some calorie count comparisons:

1 fun size candy bar or package = about 80 - 90 calories, 1 bite size candy bar = about 50 calories. 1 regular size candy bar can be about 200 - 300 calories. A king size bar may be 400 - 500 calories.

Talk with your child about how to balance eating healthy low fat, low sugar foods with these treats.

2) Halloween can be about being active as a family. Trick or treating can be a family event. Make this family time ACTIVE time. If you have a pedometer, have your child put it on before trick or treating. Look at the number of steps the pedometer records after trick or treating. Use the University of Missouri Extension's MyActivity Pyramid Log for Kids to help your child log time spent walking while trick or treating. Help your child to keep logging the amount of time spent in other physical activities during the week.

3) Halloween can be learning about what is in our food. How much sugar is in the treats that your child brought home? Search the web to find the nutrition information for candy in your child's Halloween stash. Look at the sugar information on the Nutrition Facts label - find it under Total Carbohydrate on the label. Here is an interactive Nutrition Facts label to help you locate it. 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. Together with your child, look at different candies and compare the number of teaspoons of sugar in the candies.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween comes only once a year so candy is OK, right?

Answer: Well...let's think about this...

Halloween may come only once a year but the treats hang around for a l-o-n-g time. Do you want your children to think only about candy when they think of Halloween? Remember, your children watch you for cues about these and other holidays. Here are some ideas about how to balance the treats of Halloween with fun and reminders about good health, too.

1) Give healthy but kid-approved Halloween treats. You are likely to find yourself with leftover treats so make them healthy. Ask your kids to write down a list of healthy treats. To get you started here are some ideas: pretzels, dried fruit, animal crackers, low-fat popcorn. Here are more ideas. For a snack mix you can make yourself:
Mix and Go Snack Mix - 6 servings
1 cup raisins
1 cup "O's" whole grain cereal
1 cup unsalted, dry roasted peanuts*
*Use pretzels or soy nuts if you are concerned about using peanuts.
Directions: Wash hands and surfaces. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Serve.

2) Give non-food Halloween treats. Dollar stores are great places to find fun items. How about stickers, balls or sidewalk chalk? Here are more ideas for you.

3) If you have your heart set on giving candy, give small bite-size pieces.

Next time we'll explore more Halloween ideas!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Enhanced waters" are a good choice when I'm thirsty, right?


The bottled water aisle used to take up much less room a few short years ago. Now it it has become an aisle of its own. "Enhanced waters" have everything from vitamins, minerals, protein, herbs, caffeine and fiber added to it, thus the term "enhanced." Here are 3 questions you should ask yourself when you reach for a bottle:

1. Do I need the extra calories or protein or whatever is in it? Many of these bottled waters have added sugar adding extra calories (70 to 125 calories) that we don't need. Drinking bottled water with extra calories/sugar is like drinking a soft drink. As for protein, most of us get more than enough protein from the foods we eat.

2. Is the claim on the bottle "for real?" Many ingredients added to enhanced waters have murky claims - just what does "relaxed," or "more energy" mean when it's on a label? Most of us are stressed out and need more energy. When we see a label that tells us that this product will help us feel less stressed and have more energy, we want to believe it. There are few, if any, studies available to back the claims. Find more about these drinks. As for the vitamins, minerals and fiber in the water - better to get what you need from foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meat and low-fat dairy foods.

3. Can I afford it? The cost for these drinks adds up quickly. When they are on sale, they can be as low as $1 per bottle. If you only drink one bottle a day that adds up to an extra $7 a week! Consider the cost to the environment, too. If you are concerned about less packaging, as many are these days, you are adding more plastic to the environment when buying these bottled waters even if the bottle is recyclable.

Looking for some alternatives? Here are some refreshing drink ideas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Myth: I just read that leafy greens and tomatoes are 2 of the riskiest foods to eat. Should I stop eating them because they can make me sick?

Answer: No!

Have you read the report about the ten riskiest foods to eat? Thinking about not eating your fruits & veggies? Well, think again. There are BIG benefits to eating fruits & vegetables. As part of an overall healthy diet they may reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases as well as your risk for type 2 diabetes. Fruits & veggies also may protect you against some cancers, such as mouth, stomach, and colon cancer. Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. Eating them can help you control your calorie intake.

The report does not suggest to stop eating fruits and vegetables. Instead it highlights the concern over foodborne illness. One in four Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses and 5,000 die each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (These numbers are likely lower than actual since many people who get sick from food don’t report it.) An increasingly globalized food supply and eating out (50 cents of every food dollar is now spent on food prepared outside the home) are two of the many reasons that we may fall victim to foodborne illness. We have less control of the food that we eat and we rely on others to make sure our food is safe. Certainly more coordination is needed to make sure that our foods are safe.

What can you do to protect you and your family?

1. Be informed. Find food safety information.

3. Consider buying local. Ask your local farmer/grower how they grow their fruits and vegetables. What are they doing to make sure the fruits and vegetables they sell are safe to eat?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Myth: My child gets enough physical activity.

Answer: You may be wrong!

9 out of 10 parents believe their children are physically fit, but in reality only 1 in 3 children are.

What can you do? Here are three things you can do right now:

  1. Physical activity is important for your child – it helps to control weight, build lean muscle and reduce fat and it reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. Learn more at Hint: some of these benefits can help you too!
  2. Model being active with your child. Put a reminder to be active on your refrigerator – download the University of Missouri Extension’s MyActivity Pyramid for Kids. Consider getting involved in walking your child to school. Oct. 3 – 7, 2009 is Walk a Child to School Week. Here is information about Missouri Walk Your Child to School events
  3. Be aware of the physical activity recommendations for you as an adult – 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensive aerobic activity each week (moderate intensity is when you can talk while you are active but you can’t sing) OR at least 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic activity each week (vigorous intensity is you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath). Do strength activities at least two times each week and flexibility activities at least two days each week for at least 10 minutes each day. Download the University of Missouri Extension’s MyActivity Pyramid for Adults to remind you to be active!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do I need to use a hand sanitizer in my home?

Answer: No, hand sanitizers are not needed if you are properly washing your hands.

Hand sanitizers, especially alcohol-based gel sanitizers have become increasingly popular the last few years. In some cases, people are using hand sanitizers as a replacement for handwashing. For consumers, the use of hand sanitizers is not needed and they are expensive. Proper hand washing is sufficient.

Research has shown that hand sanitizers can be as effective as hand washing only in certain situations. Because dirt, food, or anything else on your hands can make alcohol in sanitizers less effective, it is important to first wash your hands with soap and water.

Some confusion occurred when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2002 guidelines "recommending alcohol-based gel as a suitable alternative for healthcare personnel in health care settings." However, the guidelines only apply to hospital and clinics. These guidelines are not appropriate for and do not apply to the general public. The reason being that the level of soil on the hands are quite different between the two settings.

For consumers, hand sanitizers should only be used in situations where traditional hand washing with soap and water are not available. In those situations, use of an alcohol gel is certainly better than nothing at all.

For more information about hand washing, visit the web site or

Friday, September 4, 2009

Myth: I can tell when a food is done cooking by its color.

Answer: Color is not an accurate indicator of doneness.

Research has shown that hamburger will turn brown before an adequate final temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. This is dangerous! E. coli bacteria can serve the cooking process if hamburger is not adequately cooked. Judging endpoint temperature of hamburger by color is unreliable and unsafe.

The problem with cooking a food until “done” is that we do not have a standard definition for what it means. The primary reasons we cook food are to make it safe to eat and more palatable. We know from research that foods need to reach certain internal temperatures to kill off any harmful bacteria or other germs that might be present. We know from experience how long to cook a food to make it fit to eat. For example, cook a turkey too much it can get dry and tough, but if you undercook the bird it can make you sick.

What we really need is more precise way of measuring “done.” Fortunately, we have a tool that can help us. The tool is the food thermometer. With a food thermometer, you can accurately measure how cooked a food product is. Everyone that prepares and cooks food should be using a food thermometer.

There are several types of food thermometers available to consumers in stores. They range from bi-metallic-coil thermometers to more expensive thermocouple thermometers. A popular thermometer that is inexpensive is the thermistor-style thermometer. This type of thermometer uses a resistor to measure temperature and the sensitive part of the thermometer is located at the tip of the probe. The display of the temperature is digital like a clock radio making it easy to read.

If you are not using a food thermometer when you cook, you should. It will help you be sure the food is safe to eat and it can help keep you from overcooking the food. For more information about food thermometers go to the following web site: For more information about food safety in general, visit

Monday, June 22, 2009

MYTH: I have to take supplements to be healthy.

Answer: MAYBE.

All of the nutrients you need can be obtained from eating food. The various compounds in foods work together to help your body absorb nutrients. Because of the interaction of different food components, it is best to view foods as your source of nutrients.

However, some groups of people may benefit from taking supplements for specific health needs. If any of the below apply to you, ask your physician or registered dietitian if you need to take a supplement:

  • your busy lifestyle keeps you from eating the recommended amount of foods from MyPyramid;
  • you are on a very low-calorie weight loss diet (1200 calories daily);
  • you are elderly and not eating as much as you should;
  • you are a strict vegetarian;
  • you can't drink milk or eat cheese and yogurt;
  • you are a woman of childbearing age who doesn't eat enough fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains;
  • you are pregnant or lactating.

If you decide to take a supplement, be sure to follow the recommended dosage on the label. While supplements can be beneficial, they can also be dangerous when taken in large doses.

For more information about dietary supplements, refer to Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

MYTH: It's hard for me to be healthy when I travel.

Answer: BUSTED!

With just a little planning, you can keep up your healthy eating and activity habits even when you travel. No matter where you're going or how you get there, you will find helpful tips in this article on Healthful Travel Advice.

MYTH: I can use any recipe when canning.

Answer: BUSTED!

Canning is a great way to preserve food when it is at the peak of freshness. Keep in mind, though, that canning is like chemistry class in your kitchen. If not done properly, canning can be dangerous.

If you follow a scientifically-tested canning recipe, you will be able to safely enjoy your preserved food for up to one year. However, using an untested recipe can lead to a potentially dangerous chemistry experiment in your kitchen.

Canning is a continuously evolving science, and recommendations are updated as new information is released. Even though Grandma's recipe may be delicious, that does not mean it's safe. You can't always see, smell or taste the things that can make you sick, or even kill you.

If you are looking for a safe canning recipe, try visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Here you can learn all about safe food preservation techniques.

For more information about why it is important to can safely, see Summer Garden Produce Brings Bounty of Food Preservation Questions, Concerns.