Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Myth: Once I get all the food to the picnic and prepare it, it is safe to eat all day.

family picnic
Answer: Busted!

  • Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly in the danger zone between 40° F and 140° F (out of the refrigerator or before food begins to cook). Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of food borne illness.
  • It's essential to keep hot food hot and cold food cold throughout the duration of your picnic. Already-hot summertime temperatures can spike higher in direct sunlight. Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill more than 2 hours, or 1 hour when the outside temperature is above 90° F.
  • Hot foods should be held warm at temperatures above 140º F and cold foods should be held below 40º F.
  • Many foods at picnics require a lot of preparation, like chopping vegetables for a salad, the handling of food in preparation also increases the risk of bacteria growth if not kept at the appropriate temperature.

What foods to pay attention to:
  • Raw or frozen hamburger patties, hotdogs and chicken should be kept cold and on ice, or hot if cooked and prepared. Potato salad, macaroni salad, broccoli salad, and chicken or tuna salads made with mayonnaise-based dressings should be kept cold. Other popular picnic foods that need to be cold include dressings and dips, deli meats and sandwiches, soft cheeses and even melons like watermelon and cantaloupe.
  • Items which don't require refrigeration include most fruits, vegetables, canned meat or fish, chips, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard and pickles. You don't need to pack them in a cooler. Keep sliced fruit below 40º F. Hard cheeses above about 70º F start to decrease in quality.

How to be food safe at a picnic:
  • The Cooler: Don't stock the cooler until immediately before leaving home. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car when traveling (not the trunk, it can be an oven in the hot summertime!). Store coolers in the shade whenever possible, under the picnic table or cover with a blanket. Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings. Replenish the ice if it melts.
  • The Grill: If you plan to use a grill on your picnic, remember to pack a food thermometer. Check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When reheating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165° F. Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten to avoid the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature.
  • Take Out: If bringing hot take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecue, eat it within two hours of purchase and then put in cooler with ice that hasn’t melted. Or plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing it into an insulated cooler.

What about leftovers?
  • Because most picnic leftovers have been sitting out for more than 1 hour and have had many people handling them, throw them out. The more time that food has been sitting at an unsafe temperature, the more likely that harmful bacteria has grown. Discard any leftovers that have not remained cold.
  • Cold foods kept in a cooler that still has ice may be safe. If the ice is melted, throw out the food. Cold water cannot keep foods cold enough to be safe.

Go to www.foodsafety.gov for more information.

Contributors: Carrie Dent, MU Nutrition Intern & Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, schusterer@missouri.edu, 573-882-1933

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Myth: Artificial food colors cause hyperactivity.

Answer: The scientific debate continues.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food colors added to food. There are nine artificial food colors that are allowed by FDA. Artificial colors are listed on the ingredient label.

The controversy surrounding artificial food colors and hyperactivity is not a new one. It began in the 1970s when Dr. Benjamin Feingold popularized his theory that artificial food colors increased child hyperactivity. Dr. Feingold’s work was largely refuted in the scientific community due to flaws in the study methodology and the study’s inability to establish a causal link.

According to a review of the research conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established.” In addition, the report states that observed behavior changes do not appear to be due to any “inherent neurotoxic properties” of the food colors.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) however has petitioned FDA for the ban of artificial colors in food. Many parents have reported improvement in their children’s behavior when they have removed foods with artificial colors from their child’s diet. While this evidence is compelling it has not been scientifically validated in controlled studies.

So what should a concerned parent do? If you have concern about your child’s behavior, then choose whole foods that have been minimally processed. The artificial food colors are mostly found in highly processed foods. Prepare your food at home where you can control what is added.

For more information about food colors, refer to the Food ingredients and colors brochure.

Contributor: James Meyer, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, meyerje@missouri.edu

Friday, May 13, 2011

Myth: Pasta makes you gain weight

Answer: Busted!

No matter what people believe, pasta will not make you gain weight nor will it make you fat. What will make you gain weight is the portion size of your pasta dish, and sometimes what you put in your pasta can be the real culprit. The normal serving size of pasta is one-half cup cooked, but when you dine at a restaurant, that portion size is almost quadrupled. In other words, if you finish your meal, that is almost an entire day’s grain intake at one meal. So, first step is limiting your pasta intake to one serving size, one-half cup. It can be difficult to tell without your measuring cups by your side, but if you are estimating, one-half cup is about the size of your hand cupped or a billiard ball.

What are you putting on your pasta? If you are a fan of fettuccini alfredo, for instance, you should know that the cream sauce is filled with fat and sodium! Believe it or not some sauces have up to one stick of butter per dish. If you just cannot break your cream sauce habit, try dishes that mix both red sauce and cream sauce, such as pasta con broccoli. If you prefer red sauces, these do tend to have less fat than the white sauces, but the trade off is that they are sometimes heavy on the salt and sugar. Try this recipe and see if you enjoy the lighter side of pasta.

Also, pastas are often accompanied by heavy cheeses. Cheese is a good source of calcium, but it is also high in fat. The good news is some cheeses that are often featured with Italian dishes tend to have lower fat content, such as mozzarella.

ingredients for fresh, healthy spaghetti dish
If you are cooking at home try these handy tips:
  • Try whole wheat pasta. You will be amazed how close it tastes to white pasta.
  • Avoid salting your water when boiling the noodles. No one needs extra sodium.
  • Look for recipes that use a light olive oil or low-sugar red sauce.
  • Include vegetables in your pasta. Extra tomatoes and green peppers are always great options.
  • Serve your pasta as a side dish, not an entrée. Try adding a salad and fruit to the meal.
  • Cut back on the cheese in your pasta.
  • Consider serving the meal on a small plate to make the portion size appear larger.

When you eat out and order pasta:
  • Ask the server for a no-salt-added version.
  • When you get your meal, ask the server for a to-go box and, before you start eating, portion out a serving and take the rest home. This may get you four or five additional meals!
  • Order a red sauce or olive oil-based pasta dish.
  • Some restaurants have whole wheat pasta, ask for it!
  • Ask for added vegetables.
  • Order a salad before your meal so you will not feel quite as hungry, but remember to ask for your salad dressing on the side. Instead of pouring the dressing on your salad, dip your fork in the dressing and then into the lettuce.
  • Ask for no cheese or light cheese.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy your meal!

Contributors: Mallory Bratton, KU Med Dietetic Intern & Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 816-482-5854, schmitzda@missouri.edu

Monday, May 2, 2011

Myth: All salts are created equal.

Answer: BUSTED!

Three different types of salt
Recipes can be complicated and adding simple ingredients such as salt is not as straight forward as it seems. When shopping for salt in the grocery stores there are several types that are available. Should you buy ordinary table salt or other types such as sea salt or kosher salt?

Salt, also called table salt or rock salt, has been around for thousands of years and has been an important ingredient used for seasoning and preserving meat. It contains two minerals, sodium and chloride, and is essential for humans and animals in small amounts. Too much sodium in the diet, however, is associated with high blood pressure. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, sodium intake should be less than 2300 milligram (mg) per day. Individuals who are middle aged or older, or at risk for high blood pressure or having other health problems should limit intake to only 1500 mg per day.

The size of a grain of salt differs from one type to another, but sodium levels are approximately equal. Choosing a particular type of salt becomes a personal choice since there isn’t one that is considered better than another. Table salt contains approximately 590 mg of sodium per ¼ teaspoon. Sea salt will vary in sodium content because it is obtained from the evaporation of sea water. One-quarter teaspoon of sea salt contains 400-590 mg of sodium. The mineral content in sea salt is also slightly different than table salt. Kosher salt contains similar amounts of sodium (500-590mg) but may vary, so it is best to read the label. Kosher salt also has larger grains so it takes up more space and more would be needed when adding it to a recipe. Unlike the other types of salt, kosher salt lacks iodine, which can contribute to health problems if it is lacking in the diet. Reading labels is the best way to know exactly what you are consuming.

Next time you are cooking, try substituting herbs and spices to flavor the meal instead of reaching for any kind of salt. Also, look for low sodium or no salt products in order to keep your sodium levels low.

Visit the MissouriFamilies website for more information about nutrition and health.

Contributors: Wendy Madarasz, Sodexo Dietetic Intern & Denise Schmitz M.A., R.D., Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension