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!