Friday, February 25, 2011

Myth: I do not have to drink as much water during winter as I do during the warmer months.

Answer: BUSTED!

No matter what season it is, we all need daily fluids which most of us get enough of from the foods we eat and the beverages we drink each day. Water needs increase with increased physical activity and perspiration, so you’ll need more if you are exercising or sweating a lot.

Did you know that if you are thirsty, you may already need to replenish your fluids? So try to sip water throughout the day to prevent dehydration!

Water is an essential nutrient with several important functions in the body. Water regulates body temperature so we don’t overheat. Water also helps maintain skeletal muscle function, preventing cramping while enhancing muscle performance (skeletal muscles are 75% water!).

Water also helps with weight management. Some research has shown that our thirst and hunger cues can get “mixed up”, so we actually may find ourselves reaching for food when what we really need is a big glass of H20!

bottle & glass of water
Contributors: Anne Pazder, ARAMARK Dietetic Intern & Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Myth: Store-bought frozen stir-fry mixes are healthy choices.

Answer: BUSTED! Kind of...

The importance of eating more vegetables is constantly being stressed, for good reasons. Eating vegetables and fruits may help reduce your risk of developing many chronic diseases. Getting at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits per day is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Some vegetables and fruits may even ward off certain cancers. So you may think frozen stir-fry mixes are good choices to boost your veggie intake.

In this corner – the benefit of frozen stir-fry mixes:
If these stir-fry mixes help you get more vegetables in your diet, then that’s definitely a good thing. Vegetables (and fruits) are relatively low in calories and they have fiber which fills you up, keeping you feeling satisfied. This is especially important for those having a hard time maintaining a healthy weight or trying to lose weight.

In this corner – the concern about frozen stir-fry mixes:
Sodium. Most Americans consume too much salt or sodium, most of which comes from processed or convenience foods. Looking at the label of a frozen stir-fry mix the other day, I noted that 1¼ cups has 290 mg of sodium. If you eat a lot of processed or pre-made convenience foods, your sodium intake can easily add up to more than the 2300 mg of sodium each day recommended in the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines report.

homemade stir fry
What’s a consumer to do?
Why not make your own stir fry? Veggie stir-fry dishes are very easy and quick to make. When you make your own you have control over what ingredients go in the dish, which is the BEST way to make sure you are cutting down on the sodium in your diet.

Here’s a sweet but spicy liquid to stir-fry your veggies in: ½ t minced dried garlic, ¼ t chipotle pepper powder, ½ t cinnamon, ½ t ground cloves, ½ t ground nutmeg, ¼ t black pepper, 2 T brown sugar, ½ t orange zest, ½ cup water, ½ cup orange juice.

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

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Myth: There’s no way I can eat less, as the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends, and feel satisfied.

Answer: Busted!

Yes, there are simple ways you can change how you eat and still feel satisfied!

How do you do that?
  • Use a smaller plate when serving yourself and others. A portion of food on an 8” plate seems like an ample amount of food versus the same amount on a 12” plate.
  • Serve food on individual plates and leave the serving dishes in the kitchen. You’ll be less tempted to get up and get more food.
  • Eat s-l-o-w-l-y. After each bite, put down your spoon or fork. It will take you more time to eat and you’ll eat less.
  • Avoid watching TV. Distracted eating may cause you to eat more because you’re not paying attention to your food.

Visit the MissouriFamilies website to learn other simple strategies for healthier eating habits.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Myth: The oatmeal offered at restaurants is all the same and helps to meet my goal of eating more whole grains.

bowl of oatmeal with fresh berries and applesAnswer: Busted!

One of the four major recommendations from the newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to eat more whole grains. However, the oatmeal offered at restaurants is not all the same and some options are healthier than others. Here are some ways you can make the oatmeal better for you.

Consider the oatmeal available at McDonald’s. The fruit and maple oatmeal with brown sugar has 32 grams, about 8 teaspoons, of sugar. Instead, choose the fruit and maple oatmeal without brown sugar and you get only 18 grams of sugar, which is about 3½ less teaspoons of sugar than the brown sugar option. Both versions have 5 grams of fiber so it is considered a high fiber food.

The oatmeal available at Starbucks comes with 3 toppings – nuts, brown sugar and dried fruit. To cut the amount of sugar and calories that come with all of the toppings, omit the brown sugar and dried fruit. Sprinkle some cinnamon on the oatmeal (which is usually available for the coffee drinks) for some sweetness and flavor. And yes, the Starbucks oatmeal has fiber, too - 4 grams.

See The Whole Grain Story on the MissouriFamilies website for more information about whole grains.

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Myth: I should eat more food to get all the nutrients I need.

Answer: Busted!

It’s all about the choices you make. And unfortunately too many of us could make better food choices for our health.
  • Foods like cookies, cakes, pastries, pizza, full-fat cheese, sausage, franks and bacon are foods we eat too often. They add calories to our diet, but few essential nutrients and dietary fiber when compared to healthier alternatives like fruits and vegetables, low-fat cheese and lean turkey or chicken.
  • Drinks like soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and sugar-sweetened drinks take up too much of our diets. They also add calories but few nutrients when compared to low-fat milk and fruit juice.

Together, the solid fats and added sugars mentioned above contribute nearly 800 calories a day, on average, to the American diet. When we eat these types of foods, it becomes harder to include foods with enough dietary fiber and important vitamins and minerals while staying within calorie limits.

healthy meal
The solution is to enjoy your food, eat less of the foods mentioned above and eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and milk products, beans and peas, and lean meats and poultry.

To get started eating more fruits and vegetables, use the MU Extension resource Seasonal and Simple, which you can order from the MU Extension publications website or by contacting your local MU Extension office.

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

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist,, 573-882-1933

Monday, February 7, 2011

Myth: I don't need to pay attention to the newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Answer: Busted!

Want to learn the latest about healthy eating? The newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans aim to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. This report, from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also provides information about keeping your food safe. It is used to form policies and guidelines for federal nutrition programs and to provide nutrition education for the public.

Don’t have the time to read the 112-page report? In the next few months, consumer information based on these guidelines will be made available. In the meantime, take action on the Dietary Guidelines by making changes in these three areas:

Balancing Calories
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.

Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Foods to Reduce
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

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

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Friday, February 4, 2011

Myth: Dairy is the only source for calcium.

Answer: BUSTED!

dairy productsWhile dairy is a great source for calcium, it is not necessarily the only source. Since calcium has been found to be so important for bone health and adolescent growth, many foods are now being fortified, meaning that calcium is being added to the product during the manufacturing process. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are always good sources of calcium. However, not everyone enjoys those foods. Luckily, there are other options.

It may come as a surprise, but vegetables contain calcium, especially dark, green leafy vegetables. This includes everything from broccoli to collard/turnip greens, kale and spinach. Raw vegetables provide the most calcium because when vegetables are cooked they lose some of their valuable nutrients. But if you only like cooked green vegetables then getting your calcium that way is better than nothing!

If vegetables are not your thing then try beans. Not only do they provide a decent amount of calcium, but you can add beans to soups, chili or tacos. Any bean will do, so whether you prefer kidney beans, baked beans or black beans, they can add valuable calcium to your diet.

Don’t forget about calcium-fortified foods. Many companies add calcium to their products, which is usually advertised on the front of the package. Always remember to look at the nutrition facts to see how much calcium is in one serving. It is wise to compare products and brands so you can choose the product with the highest calcium level. Foods that are typically fortified include orange juices, breads and dry cereals.

You can also get calcium from fish. Canned fish such as sardines and salmon with bones are the best fish sources of calcium. Be sure to check the packages of salmon because some contain bones and others do not. Tuna is a very popular canned fish, but it is not packaged with the bones; therefore, fresh tuna would provide a better source of calcium.

Periodic Table of the Elements symbol for calcium
How can you increase your calcium intake?
  • Add cheese to eggs for breakfast
  • Add broccoli to dishes such as macaroni and cheese
  • Drink a glass of milk with evening cookies or graham crackers
  • Add beans to favorite soups
  • Choose spinach instead of iceberg lettuce
  • Add cheese on deli sandwiches
  • Check the orange juice you normally purchase and try a calcium-fortified version instead
  • Try a yogurt, granola and fresh fruit parfait as an afternoon snack or for breakfast

Go ahead and try to increase your daily calcium intake, and have stronger bones and healthier teeth as a result!

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