Thursday, December 27, 2012

Myth: It’s hard to know what health problems run in my family.

Answer: TRUE, but...

Families are increasingly mobile and diverse. This can make it hard to track the health problems that run in your family. If family members have certain conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, this may mean you have a higher chance of developing them. The earlier in life you can make changes in your habits like diet and physical activity, the better off you are. And your healthcare provider will want to know about the health problems in your immediate family members.

My Family Health Portrait at is a free, web-based tool from the federal government that helps you capture this information. After you enter the information about family members’ health conditions, the tool organizes it for you so that you can share the printed information at your next doctor’s visit. The government doesn’t keep a record of the information you add to the website — it is for your personal use only. You can save the information to your personal computer or thumb drive. You can also update the information at any time. It is available in Spanish, English and other selected languages.

Adult woman with parents
Discuss family health history with your parents
So, the next time you get together with family members, consider gathering information from them to help you identify the health problems that run in your family. Getting this information from family members is a very valuable gift.

Visit for more information about diabetes, high blood pressure and diabetes, and how you can delay or possibly prevent the onset of such conditions.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Myth: We have more food available than ever in the U.S.

Answer: TRUE, but...

We DO have more food available than ever before in the U.S., but is it the kind of food that promotes good health? A 2010 multi-city study found that snack foods are sold in 96% of pharmacies, 94% of gas stations, 22% of furniture stores and 16% of apparel stores. Furniture stores?! I recall walking into a chain shoe store a few years ago. As I walked from aisle-to-aisle, I ran right into a vending machine selling mostly soda. The vending machine wasn’t in the employee section of the store, but in the retail space.

Studies have shown that those living in low-income areas have 25% fewer chain supermarkets compared with middle-income areas. Areas with a predominantly black population have about half the number of these chains compared to areas that are predominantly white. Areas with mostly Latino residents have a third of that number. The type of store available may influence our health. Those that live within a mile of a supermarket may have a healthier diet than those who don’t. Twenty percent of rural counties are considered rural food deserts — meaning all people live more than 10 miles from a supermarket or supercenter.

Most recent data show that there was a 9.6% increase in farmers markets in the U.S. A total of 7,864 current farmers markets now exist, based on a self-reported directory available at Studies find that those who live near supermarkets or in areas where fresh produce is sold (supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers markets, etc.) and have more of these stores as compared to stores that don’t sell such healthy foods (such as corner stores) have lower rates of diet-related diseases than those living in neighborhoods with less access to food.

More information about where to buy and how to select seasonal fruits and vegetables is available in the University of Missouri Extension publication Seasonal and simple. For more information about how to access this publication, including how to download the Seasonal and simple app, go to

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Myth: If I buy a supplement with herbs or botanicals, they are safe for me or my family.

Answer: BUSTED!

Are you taking a dietary supplement? You’re not alone. Most adults in the U.S. take one or more dietary supplements either every day or once in awhile.

Many people believe that products labeled "natural" are safe and good for them. This is not necessarily true because the safety of a supplement depends on many things — how it works in the body, how it’s prepared and how much is taken.

Supplements in powder (in beverage) & pill forms
Supplements in powder (beverage) & pill forms
Dietary supplements can come in many forms — as a food such as energy bars, drinks or powders, or over-the-counter as pills.

Unlike drugs, there is no law that requires the Food and Drug Administration to "approve" dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are sold. Dietary supplements are not required to be standardized in the U.S.

Be sure to tell your doctor what supplements you are taking so you can be alerted to any reasons you shouldn’t be taking a supplement. This would include a health condition you have, any upcoming surgery you are scheduled for or interactions with regular medicines. For example, St. John's wort may reduce the effectiveness of drugs for heart disease, depression or certain cancers. You can use these fact sheets at to find a specific dietary supplement and see if there are any concerns about use.

The information above is adapted from information at

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Myth: It’s hard to keep track of all fast food options to make healthier choices when I eat out.

Answer: BUSTED...Well, sort of!

fast food dining area
A recent Temple University study looked at fast food options from 1997 to 2010 at eight major U.S. fast food restaurants. Calories didn’t change much, but the total number of menu options increased from 679 to 1036 items. Where was the fastest growth? Main meal salads, which increased from 11 to 51, and sweet teas, which went from none to 35.

Researchers found that in 2009 and 2010, lunch and dinner entrees had an average of 453 calories per item while side items had 263 calories on average. Soon, calories for all food items will be posted at restaurants with more than 20 locations, as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. McDonald's recently began posting calories on its menus.

Until calories are posted on menus at restaurants, you can search the web to find online nutrition information for each fast food restaurant, get nutrition information brochures when you are at a restaurant or find free mobile apps such as Lunch Facts that gather this information for you.

For more tips on eating out healthfully at fast food restaurants go to

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Myth: With all of the eating out over the holidays, there’s no way to watch my calories.

Answer: BUSTED!

The holidays often include too many opportunities to eat out and celebrate. Think it’s impossible to watch what you eat when eating out? Not so! Here are some questions to ask your server when eating out to make your dining a bit more healthy:
    Group having a holiday dinner party at restaurant
  1. Which soups are made with broth and not cream? Usually soups made with broth are minestrone, chicken noodle and vegetable.

  2. Do you offer lower fat salad dressings? If this is not an option, ask for the regular dressing on the side and dip your vegetables into it instead of pouring the dressing over your salad.

  3. Is there a smaller portion available? You might be able to get an appetizer portion of a dish which is smaller than an entrée portion. If not, share the entrée with someone else at dinner or take half home.

  4. Can I have veggies as a side dish instead of the side that comes with my meal? Choose veggies not prepared in oil, sauce or butter or ask for steamed veggies.

  5. Is this dish available without a high-fat topping like gravy or cheese? Some dishes come with sour cream, cheese, gravy or sauce on top. Ask if the dish can be prepared without it. If not, ask if there is a similar dish that is available.

Adapted from “Ten Questions You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask” from The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D.

Get more tips for eating out healthfully at

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Myth: There’s no time to be active during the holidays.

Answer: BUSTED!

And so it begins, the holidays and too many opportunities to eat…and sit, sit, sit. Think it’s hopeless to try to be active during the holidays? Not so. Here are some tips to help you be more active:
  1. Start a new holiday tradition that focuses on fun and being active, rather than food. Walk before the holiday meal or after or both! For some people, activity reduces their hunger. Instead of driving around the neighborhood to view holiday decorations – walk around the neighborhood! Is shopping part of your holiday tradition? Include a mall walk as part of your activity for the day.

  2. Engineer your environment. What does this mean? Change your home environment so that physical activity cues abound. Have sneakers and toys that promote physical activity such as balls and jump ropes in a place where you see them every day as a reminder to be active regularly. I keep my sneakers in plain sight – a reminder for me to think about how I can be active each and every day.

  3. Think of new ways to add activity during the holidays. Watching a lot of TV? Get up and move or dance during the commercials. Bad weather keeping you indoors? Get some light scarves or balloons – throw them up in the air or play indoor volleyball with them. Walk the dog. Try a new workout video. Find more holiday physical activity information and healthy eating tips at
family enjoying a brisk walk/run on trail together

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Myth: I like butternut squash but there are only a few different ways to serve it.

Answer: BUSTED!

There are a variety of ways you can use butternut squash. Consider making butternut squash pear compote. Yes, that’s right – butternut squash pear compote:
  1. Cut up 2 cups of butternut squash into cubes. Put in a large saucepan along with 1½ cups water, 1/8 cup sugar, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon cloves. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender.
  2. Peel, core and cut up 4 cups pears. Add to saucepan with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cook uncovered, stirring often until pears are tender.
  3. Transfer squash and fruit to a baking dish with a slotted spoon. Simmer syrup until reduced to 1/2 cup. Pour syrup over squash/fruit mixture in baking dish and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
How can you use this compote? As a dessert – heat up and crush graham crackers over the top for some crunch. Add to plain yogurt. Top whole wheat pancakes with compote. Add to a slice of whole wheat toast spread with non-fat cream cheese. Add to cooked oatmeal.

Winter squashes like butternut squash or acorn squash are low in calories (about 60 calories in 1 cup). One cup has 3 grams of fiber and 493 mg of potassium. Potassium can lower your blood pressure by acting against the negative effects of sodium on blood pressure. Eating vegetables and fruits is associated with reduced risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

butternut squash
Want other ideas about how to use squash? Visit for this hearty chili recipe: Chili with Butternut Squash and Olives

To get started eating more fruits and vegetables, check out the MU Extension publication Seasonal and Simple: A Guide for Enjoying Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. To purchase a copy of Seasonal and Simple, contact your local MU Extension office or go online to

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Myth: It is okay to put an overweight child on a diet.

Answer: BUSTED!

If your child is overweight, the solution is not to restrict calories. Putting children on restrictive diets or forcing them into intense exercise programs can, in many cases, do more harm than good. Children are rapidly growing and developing their skeletal structure. By choosing to limit calories, some children may not develop their full bone and muscle mass. It is advisable not to put your child on a diet, especially without consulting your doctor. Educating your child to make wise food choices and to increase their physical activity level will help achieve lifelong health and fitness.

Mother preparing healthy foods with son and daughter
Involve kids in food prep & make it fun!
You can help your child to maintain a healthy weight by following these few tips:
  • Be active by playing together.
  • Make family mealtimes a special time together.
  • Save fast food for a treat.
  • Serve fruits and vegetables creatively.
  • Drink milk with meals and water with snacks.
  • Set healthy limits on screen entertainment like television and video games.
  • Get kids in the kitchen.

For more information, visit

Contributor: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Friday, October 26, 2012

Myth: Candy is the best and cheapest treat for Halloween.

Answer: BUSTED!

It’s not just the one day of trick or treating that makes parents worry about Halloween treats. It’s that the candy haul sticks around for such a long time. The calories in candy add up fast. Fifteen pieces of candy corn is about 150 calories. A fun size candy bar can have about 2½ teaspoons of sugar. So if you are allowing your child to eat about 2 small pieces of candy a day, they are getting an extra 5 teaspoons of sugar. That’s like giving your child an extra half can of soda each day.

Choose fun (and cheap) non-candy treats* this Halloween. Dollar stores are a great source for these treats. Here are some ideas:
variety of small Halloween toys
  • Stickers
  • Bracelets
  • Small school supplies like erasers
  • Party favors
  • Crayons
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Hair bows
  • Balloons
  • Marbles and pens or pencils come in quantities that make for a cheaper treat
  • Glow or rubber bracelets can also be purchased in larger amounts so they are not too expensive
  • Shoelaces are useful but also colorful and fun – this could be a new idea for a Halloween
  • Spider rings are a perennial favorite
  • And maybe after you price out all of these items, you might decide that giving out coins is the cheapest and best Halloween treat of all!

*See this link for information about product safety and choking hazards for young children when buying or going through treats at Halloween:

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Myth: My child needs a daily multivitamin to be covered nutritionally.

Answer: BUSTED!

Children who are growing normally do not need multivitamins. Eating a healthy balanced diet can provide all the nutrients most children need. While many young children are picky eaters, that doesn't necessarily mean that they have nutritional deficiencies. Many common foods are fortified with important nutrients, so your child may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think.

If your child is a finicky eater, encourage (but don’t force) him or her to try a few bites of new, different, nutritious foods at every meal. It’s normal for kids to be introduced to a food 10 or more times before they feel comfortable trying it. Don’t give up after the first or second try! Additional tips can be found at

children's multivitamins
Talk with your child's doctor if you are concerned about whether your child is getting the recommended level of vitamins and minerals. If your child's doctor recommends a multivitamin, choose one that is designed for your child's age group and doesn't provide more than 100 percent of the Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. In addition, keep multivitamins out of your child's reach and make it clear that they aren't candy.

For more information on feeding young children, visit

Contributor: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Myth: Claims on dietary supplements are always accurate.

Answer: BUSTED!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Office of the Inspector General analyzed structure/function claims for a sample of 127 dietary supplements marketed for weight loss or immune system support. Claims may describe the role of a nutrient or ingredient and how it affects body structure, for example, “calcium builds strong bones” or how the ingredients maintain structure such as, “fiber maintains bowel regularity.”

Claims were reviewed to see how well they complied with Food and Drug Administration regulations. The report found that 7 percent of the supplements lacked the required disclaimer, and 20 percent included disease claims not allowed on their labels. These results raise questions about the truthfulness of these claims.

Dietary supplement, capsules
Read more of the report at

Visit for more information on choosing supplements.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Myth: It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt.

Answer: BUSTED!

The bottom line is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. Some tenderness during the first few days of breastfeeding is fairly common; however, this should be temporary and last only a few days. This discomfort should never be bad enough to cause a mother to dread nursing. Any pain that is more than mild is abnormal and is almost always due to the baby latching on poorly. Any nipple pain that is not getting better by day 3 or 4 or lasts beyond 5 or 6 days should not be ignored. Consulting with a board-certified lactation consultant can help with these situations.

mother with newborn baby
Visit for additional information on the benefits of breastfeeding and feeding young children.

You can also contact a breastfeeding expert for more information.

Guest contributor: Danielle Pelham, Dietetic Intern MDHSS
Reviewed by: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Myth: Many women do not produce enough milk to breastfeed.

nursing infant
Answer: BUSTED!

It is a common concern for many mothers that they aren't producing enough milk, especially during the first two weeks at home. However, most women produce more than enough milk. One reason that the baby does not get the milk that is available is that he or she may be poorly latched onto the breast. It is important to make sure that the baby is latched on properly in order to get the milk.

It is also important to know the signs to look for to make certain that your baby is getting enough. Some signs include:
  • Your baby has frequent wet and dirty diapers. The first few days after giving birth, your colostrum is low in volume but high in nutrients, so your baby will only have 1-2 wet/dirty diapers per day. After your milk supply increases, your baby will have 6-8 wet and 4+ dirty diapers per day until he is older than one month.
  • Your baby appears satisfied after feeding.
  • Your baby is gaining weight.

You may find it helpful to use a checklist about feeding and diaper changes. You should also have phone numbers of lactation consultants in your area that you can consult with to address your specific needs or concerns. You can also contact a breastfeeding expert for more information.

Visit for additional information on the benefits of breastfeeding and feeding young children.

Guest contributor: Danielle Pelham, Dietetic Intern MDHSS
Reviewed & submitted by: Damaris Karanja, MA, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Myth: The changes in the school lunch program were a result of politics.

students being served lunch in cafeteria line
Answer: BUSTED!

If you have a child attending public school, you have probably heard that school lunches have changed. Starting this year, new rules for school lunches went into effect as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The last update to the lunch standards was more than fifteen years ago.

Why the changes? About 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2-19 years (which is 12.5 million children) are obese. This is almost triple the numbers since 1980 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest statistics show that 29 percent of Missouri high school students are overweight or obese compared with 28 percent nationwide. Since 2005, Missouri has moved from ninth to eighth in the country in obesity rates among high school students, as found in a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In recent years, school meals have been blamed for helping contribute to childhood obesity. How much of this is true is still debatable, but almost everyone agrees something needs to be done to address the problem of childhood obesity. Since the National School Lunch Program is funded by taxpayer dollars it was felt that we should be spending our money on healthy foods.

Where did the new rules come from? The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the requirements for the new school food program based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and recommendations from scientific experts at the Institute of Medicine. Some of the notable changes are:
  1. Student meals will have 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables to count as a complete meal.
  2. Meals will have a caloric maximum based on age group.
  3. There are limits for how much meat and meat alternatives and grains may be offered.
For more information you can go to the website:

What are some concerns about the new rules? Complaints about the school lunch rules have been numerous and have included a humorous parody posted on YouTube. These complaints have ranged from not getting enough food to eat, not liking the food offered and being too expensive for school foodservice to manage. On the positive side, the new school lunch rules have encouraged school districts to team up with local chefs to upgrade their menus. The new rules have encouraged the food industry to offer more healthful, tasteful foods. Additionally, the new rules have introduced new healthful food choices to students that have not had that opportunity in the past. In fact, some school districts have reported an increase in meals consumed since the new changes.

What can I do if my child refuses to eat the new school meals? First, ask your child if the problem is with the choice of foods being offered or how the food is prepared. If the problem is with how the food is prepared, contact your school and see if changes can be made. Some school districts have cut back so much on their foodservice that they made need to hire extra help or current workers may need to have more training. If this is the case, there are resources that can help schools. If your child dislikes the food choices of more fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, then you may need to discuss with your child the health benefits of eating these foods.

Any time changes are made to something as personal as our food choices, it causes controversy. The new school meal requirements are no exception. While we may not be happy with some of the food choices, let’s not forget what the new requirements want to achieve. That is healthier children.

For more information about nutrition and health, please contact your local University of Missouri Extension office.

Contributor: Jim Meyer, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Ralls County, University of Missouri Extension,

Friday, October 5, 2012

Myth: My doctor told me I have high blood pressure, so all I have to do is cut back on salt.

Answer: BUSTED!

Blood pressure is the force against the arteries when the heart pumps blood through the body. Systolic pressure occurs when the heart beats and diastolic pressure occurs when the heart is resting between beats. Blood pressure is expressed as systolic/diastolic in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

High blood pressure or hypertension, left uncontrolled can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. That’s why hypertension is known as the “silent killer.” High blood pressure is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke.

Most healthy Americans should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium, about 1 teaspoon of salt, per day. If you have hypertension or diabetes, if you are over the age of 51 or if you’re African American, you should only consume 1500 milligrams of sodium or less per day, which is about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt.

salt shaker
If your blood pressure is high, cutting back on salt is one thing that may help lower your blood pressure. But there are other lifestyle modifications that are just as important. Some other things you can do to prevent or control high blood pressure are:

  • Follow a healthy eating plan — cut back on fats, eat more potassium-rich foods and eat less sodium-rich foods
  • Try the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan
  • Lose weight
  • Be physically active
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress
  • Take medication, if necessary

The bottom line: Have your blood pressure checked regularly and prevent hypertension with a healthy lifestyle.

Visit to find more information on health and nutrition.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Myth: All fats are created equal.

Answer: BUSTED!

Making decisions about what kinds of fat to eat can be confusing. Our bodies actually need some fat to carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also provides energy for our body and plays a role in hormone production. However, some fats should be limited because they can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease.

We want to limit the amount of saturated fats and trans fats. These can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and put us more at risk for heart disease. Saturated fats and trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease.

Saturated fats
  • Usually solid at room temperature
  • Found in meat, butter, whole milk, palm and coconut oil

Trans fats
  • Foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats.
  • Trans fats are found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, icings, margarines and microwave popcorns.

We want to eat more of the healthy fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels and may be beneficial when consumed in moderation.

Monounsaturated fats
  • Typically liquid at room temperature
  • Found in olive, canola and peanut oil
salmon, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olive oil and fish oil capsules

Polyunsaturated fats
  • Tend to be liquid at room temperature
  • Found in soybean, safflower and corn oil

Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed

Regardless of the type, you still don’t want to eat large amounts of fat. All fats have 9 calories per gram, so the calories can really add up. Check the food label for information on total fat, trans fat and saturated fat.

Make sure to choose the healthy fats most of the time and limit the amounts you eat to balance your caloric intake.

Visit to find more information on fats and health.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Friday, September 28, 2012

Myth: I don’t have to worry about food safety at tailgates - the food won’t be around long enough to spoil.

Answer: BUSTED!

food on a hot barbecue grillFall and football season are here. What game is complete without a tailgate party? But while you’re watching the end zone, your food could end up in the “danger zone” of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Perishable foods should be eaten within 2 hours, or 1 hour if the outside temperature is above 90 degrees F, which will cause bacteria to grow faster. Here are some tips to keep your tailgate food safe.

  • Interrupted cooking is very risky. It’s not a good idea to partially pre-cook and finish on the grill later.
  • If you do cook the meat before heading to the game, be sure to cook it thoroughly and allow plenty of time for it to cool before packing it in the cooler. Store perishable foods at or below 40 degrees F.
  • Make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly and reaches a safe internal temperature when reheated.

  • To grill safely, make sure the grill is ready and that the coals are very hot before cooking food. This can take 30 minutes or longer.
  • Coals should have a light coating of grey ash for optimal heat.
  • Thoroughly cook all meat and poultry. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature has reached a safe internal temperature.
  • To assure meat is safe, cook hamburgers and brats to 160 F and chicken breast to 165 F.
  • Always make sure to wash your hands after handling raw meat.

Keep food at safe temperatures
  • Avoid the “danger zone.” Keep cold foods cold (below 40 degrees F) and hot foods hot (over 140 degrees F).
  • Serve hot, grilled foods immediately.
  • Put cooked foods on clean plates, not on plates that were used to hold raw meat or poultry.

Clean up and leftovers
  • Clean the grill after each use.
  • Chill any leftovers promptly. Divide larger quantities into small, shallow containers for faster cooling.
  • Keep all perishable foods on ice or refrigerated at all times.
  • Keep foods iced as you travel home and refrigerate as soon as you get home.

Visit to find more information on food safety.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Myth: Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad.

Answer: BUSTED!

You can’t determine if a food is safe by its smell. Some spoiled food may be obvious. If your leftovers smell bad or look moldy or slimy, just throw them out. Never taste old leftovers to see if they are safe. Other spoilage may not be so obvious because some bacteria that can cause foodborne illness doesn’t affect the smell, taste or appearance of food.

Three food containers with leftoversHere are some tips for handling leftovers:
  • It is important to freeze or toss refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
  • Label your leftovers with a date so you know how long you’ve had them.
  • Reheat foods only once and toss if there are any remaining leftovers.
  • If you don't anticipate using the leftovers in the recommended time span, freeze them to extend the shelf life. Freeze in portion sizes that are easily eaten in one setting.
  • Always thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator, not out on the counter.

Not sure how long that item has been sitting in the back of the refrigerator? Don’t take the risk — when in doubt, throw it out!

Visit to find more information on food safety.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Monday, September 24, 2012

Myth: Food is safe to eat if I heat it in a microwave oven because the microwaves will kill the bacteria.

microwave oven
Answer: BUSTED!

It’s the heat that kills bacteria, not the microwaves. Microwave ovens are great time-savers, but make sure you take the time to adequately heat food to a safe internal temperature. That is what will kill the bacteria in foods.

Remember that foods can cook unevenly in microwave ovens. Microwaves cook food from the outside in toward the middle. Even if your microwave oven has a turntable, food can cook unevenly and leave cold spots where bacteria can survive.

Make sure to follow package instructions. If the instructions tell you to rotate and stir food during the cooking process or to let food stand for a period of time (to equalize the temperature), be sure to do it. Skipping these key cooking instructions may allow harmful bacteria to survive.

Check the temperature with a food thermometer in several spots to make sure food is heat thoroughly throughout. The same rules apply to leftovers — make sure to reheat them thoroughly to a safe internal temperature.

Visit to find more information on food safety and microwave ovens.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Myth: I can cook any food in a microwave oven.

Answer: BUSTED!

Sometimes proper cooking requires the use of a conventional oven, not a microwave. Cooking instructions on packages are intended for a specific type of appliance and may not be applicable to all ovens.

pre-packaged chicken in microwave oven
Follow cooking instructions on the label
Some prepared convenience foods are oddly-shaped or have varying thicknesses, which can cause uneven cooking in a microwave oven. Cold spots can be left and bacteria can survive and grow.

Always use the appliance(s) recommended on the label, follow cooking instructions and use a food thermometer to make sure a safe internal temperature is reached to destroy bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

Visit to find more information on food safety.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Myth: “95% fat free” means only 5% of the calories come from fat.

Answer: BUSTED!

If a product is advertised as 5% fat, that means 5% of the total weight of the product is from fat. The actual number of calories from fat can be much higher.

For example, you have a luncheon meat package that says “95% fat free.” The Nutrition Facts Label tells you that each slice of meat has 45 calories and 2 grams of fat. Since each gram of fat has 9 calories per gram, multiply (2 x 9 = 18), so 18 of the 45 calories are from fat. That’s 40%!

Nutrition Facts label
Nutrition Facts label gives you all the info you need!
This nutrition information is on packaged foods and is now found on major cuts of raw meat and poultry products. Bottom line: skip the advertisement on the package and read the Nutrition Facts Label to really determine the fat content of a product.

Visit to find more information on fats and health.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Monday, September 10, 2012

Myth: Flavored waters are a good alternative to tap water if you don’t like to drink water.

glass of sparkling water with lemon slice
sparkling water with lemon slice
Answer: It depends…

Some flavored waters are just that — plain water with only flavoring and no added sugars. Others have sugar or use other sweeteners, which can add calories. So you could end up drinking a lot of calories if you choose the wrong type of flavored water. In addition, flavored waters typically cost more. Buying bottled water (flavored or not) on a regular basis is also wasteful due to the extra packaging with cans or bottles, so always choose those with the least amount of packaging and recycle if possible.

To make your own flavored water:

Visit to find more information on water and health.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Myth: I don’t waste food.

Answer: BUSTED… maybe!

Food waste costs the average family of four about $600 a year, and we may be wasting more food than we realize. To know for sure, track your habits by keeping a food waste diary. The food waste diary, an idea from Great Britain, is a daily way to track what food you don’t use or throw out and perhaps, most importantly, why the food was wasted.

To keep a food waste diary, take a piece of paper. Divide it into three columns and head each column as follows: meal or snack, food, and why the food wasn’t used. Every time you eat something throughout the day, enter the meal or snack, the food that wasn’t used and why it was thrown out or wasted. If you have children at home, get them to help you keep this food waste diary. Be sure to list spoiled food in your refrigerator (or cupboard) that you saved to use later but never did.

three food containers with leftover food
Are you using leftovers or throwing them out?
At the end of the week, review the diary. Are the same foods listed more than once? Maybe your family doesn’t like them or you are buying too much of that food. Do leftovers from the same meals get trashed? You may be preparing too much food at these meals. Do you throw out leftover food in containers too often? Maybe containers need to be clearly marked, dated or kept to the front of the refrigerator to remind family members that the food needs to be used. Or maybe you need to have a plan for how you will use – or freeze – leftovers. Save money from going down the drain – track your family’s food waste and change your habits accordingly!

Visit to find additional information on saving money at the grocery store. And get familiar with proper food storage in the refrigerator, cupboard and freezer.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Myth: Using coupons is the only way to save money on food.

Answer: BUSTED!

The average household throws out 470 pounds of food every year. According to a recent survey, 39% of Americans feel guilty about wasting food (read more at This food waste costs a family of four about $600 each year. Think you and your family can use $600 this year? Here are some tips to help you cut down on your food waste:
  1. Use as much of your vegetables as you can! Do you only put cauliflower florets in your stew or stir-fry? Stews or soups don’t rely on the perfect appearance of your ingredients so try to use as much of the vegetable as you can. The liquid in stews and soups help to soften the tougher part of veggies.
  2. Use leftovers! Do you have leftover veggies or chicken strips? They go great on salads. Have some leftover chickpeas from that recipe you prepared the other day? Add them to canned soup for some extra fiber. Get creative!
  3. Get familiar with proper storage. Knowing where to store foods (refrigerator, cupboard or freezer) and how long they will keep will help you make the best use of the food you have on hand.
Visit to find more information on conserving food & saving money.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Myth: Libraries are the only place to find low-cost recipes.

Answer: BUSTED!

shopping list with money sitting on it
Food prices have been creeping up and the current drought means that food prices will rise in coming months. If you have access to the web, you can start now to find good low-cost recipes at these sites.

Spend Smart Eat Smart at Cost per serving is provided for most recipes. A Nutrition Facts label is displayed for these recipes and there is also a Spanish language version of recipes available. You can view comments left by others who’ve tried the recipes. This can also save you money so you don’t try a recipe that you or your family may not like.

Recipe Finder at can help you find low-cost recipes. You can search by ingredient or recipe name. There is also a Spanish language version available on the site. A per serving and per recipe cost are provided. Many recipes have ratings from 1 to 5. When you search for an ingredient or recipe name the results are listed in order – recipes rated as 5 first. Recipe comments for some entries can help you pick a recipe that you and your family will enjoy. A Nutrition Facts label is displayed for recipes so you can see information such as calories per serving, sodium content and other nutrition information.

Visit the MissouriFamilies website to find information on saving money at the grocery store.

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Myth: It takes too much time (and gas) to go from store to store to find the best food buys.


Many of us are changing how we shop for groceries and how we find bargains. Last year, Americans bought only 51% of groceries at traditional supermarkets, down from 66% just 11 years earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal. Big box stores like Target and Walmart (the nation's largest grocer) have become sources of groceries and fresh foods. Club stores like Sam's Club and Costco are also in the mix to find food bargains. Farmers markets are booming, too. How can we find the best bargains?

Consider using the Internet to find the lowest cost for the foods you need after you have planned your week’s menu of meals.

►Big box stores and club stores have online information that provide pricing and availability information. Search online to find food bargains.

Using mobile phone to track prices and budget
►Try free mobile coupon apps and see which ones work best for you. Not all apps provide coupons for stores in your area. Use mobile coupon apps to find the best deal at the nearest store to save gas.

►Try free mobile apps that allow you to track your shopping, make shopping lists, etc.

►Try free mobile apps that are bar code scanners so that you can find local best buys. (some scanners come with the mobile apps described above).

Don't forget that there is a downside to hunting for coupons and bargains, which includes buying things that you don't really need or want just because they are on sale. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Avoid impulse buying. Not all coupons or sales are a plus if you wind up buying additional foods you don’t need.

Visit to find additional information on saving money at the grocery store.

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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Myth: Kumquats should be peeled before eating.

Answer: BUSTED!

A kumquat is a fruit that resembles a small orange. It has a tiny oval shape and is about the size of a large cherry. They do not need to be peeled, so you can eat the whole thing, skin and all. First, roll the fruit back and forth between your fingers with enough force to squeeze the fruit. This releases the oil in the skin making it look shiny. The oil has a sweet citrus smell and taste. If the kumquat is not rolled the peel tastes bitter.

You can typically purchase kumquat fruits from December through June at many larger supermarket chains and at some ethnic grocery stores and markets. When purchasing kumquat fruits, make sure the fruit is firm to your touch and does not have any bruises on it. Once purchased, you can store kumquats in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Kumquats are also available canned.

A serving size is 10 small kumquats or about 2/3 of a cup and it is loaded with vitamin C.

Kumquats are often found in preserves or in fruit salad. They make a nice addition to chutneys or marinades for beef, pork or chicken.

For additional information on fruits and other fresh produce, see this list of nutrition articles on

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Myth: Kohlrabi has to be cooked before eating.

Answer: BUSTED!

Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family. The part we eat is the enlarged stem from which the leaves develop. This edible portion can be white, purple or green with a creamy white interior. It can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like a turnip.

Kohlrabi is a good source of thiamin, magnesium, folate, phosphorous, potassium, copper, manganese, fiber and vitamin C. In fact, one cup of raw kohlrabi contains 140 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C and is only a mere 40 calories. So take advantage of all these health benefits by making kohlrabi a part of your diet.

Try out this recipe for Kohlrabi and Cabbage Slaw:

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Friday, July 27, 2012

Myth: Watermelon continues to ripen once it has been picked.

Answer: BUSTED!

watermelon cut up & ready to eat
Watermelons do not continue to ripen once they have been picked. Therefore, do not buy a watermelon that you know is not yet ripe thinking it will be ripe by the time you eat it.

A ripe watermelon will keep for up to two weeks if uncut and stored in an area where the temperature is between 45 and 50 degrees. A cut watermelon can be stored by covering the melon with cellophane or plastic to prevent drying out, and keeping it in the refrigerator for no more than three days.

Melons are a great value during the summer – low in cost, high in nutritional benefits and quantity. Additional nutrition information about melons can be found at:

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Myth: You can tell a watermelon is ripe by thumping on it.

Answer: BUSTED!

Thumping a watermelon is not a reliable indicator of fruit maturity. This is done by thumping the top of the melon. If the melon has a dull thud when thumped, it is very possible the melon is ripe. However, not all melons will give off a dull thud when ripe. For some watermelons, a dull thud may indicate an over-ripe melon.

The best indicator for ripeness for a watermelon is the change in color of the underside of the melon where it comes into contact with the ground. If this ground spot is yellow or a cream-yellow color, the melon is ripe.

watermelons in field
Watermelons with brown, withered tendrils
A second indicator for ripeness is the tendrils on the watermelon stem should look brown and withered. The presence of a dead tendril helps to indicate ripeness.

Another indicator for ripeness is the skin color of the watermelon changes from shiny to dull. The skin will also be resistant to penetration by the thumbnail and will be rough to the touch.

Lastly, look for a melon that is nice looking, meaning free of dents, bruises and cuts. Select a heavy melon. Watermelons are made up of mostly water, so an ideal melon should be heavy for its size.

To learn about the nutritious benefits of eating watermelon, check out

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Friday, July 20, 2012

Myth: Jumping rope is not considered exercising.

Answer: BUSTED!

woman jumping rope
Jumping rope is possibly the single most comprehensive and beneficial form of exercise a person can do. People of all fitness levels and athletic abilities can learn to jump rope in a relatively short amount of time. It is an exercise that is fun, entertaining and highly enjoyable.

Jumping rope can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour, depending on the pace a person jumps and their weight at the time, making it one of the most efficient workouts possible. It tones muscles in the entire body. Jumping rope optimizes cardiovascular conditioning and maximizes athletic skills by combining agility, coordination, timing and endurance.

Jumping rope is extremely enjoyable and can easily become a fitness addiction. Once you become even modestly proficient, the natural jumping rhythm takes over and hides the fact that you are actually vigorously exercising. This might explain why many athletes, especially professional boxers and other highly-conditioned athletes are literally able to jump rope for hours on end without tiring physically or mentally.

Additional information and tips on being active can be found at:

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Myth: The fiber recommendation is the same for adults as it is for children.

Answer: BUSTED!

Dietary fiber is important for proper bowel function. It can reduce symptoms of chronic constipation, diverticular disease and hemorrhoids, and may lower the risk for heart disease and some cancers. The recommended dietary fiber intake for adults generally ranges between 20 to 35 grams per day. Although children benefit from a balance of fiber in their diet, they require less than adults. For children, ages 3 to 18, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that a child's age plus five equals the grams of dietary fiber he or she should eat daily. For example, a 3-year-old needs eight grams of fiber each day.

For infants and children under the age of 2 years, no recommended daily dietary fiber intakes have been established. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests introducing a variety of fruits, vegetables and easily digested cereals, along with adequate fluid levels, as solid foods are introduced into the child's diet.

Keep in mind that sometimes fiber can cause discomfort, so avoid adding too much too quickly. Add fiber gradually and slowly over time. It is important to drink extra liquids, such as water or milk, when increasing dietary fiber.

fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good sources of fiber

Additional nutrition information can be found at:

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Myth: White bread is the same as whole wheat white bread and whole wheat bread.

Answer: BUSTED!

wheat spears laying across slice of whole wheat bread
Whole wheat bread and wheat spears
The difference between whole wheat white bread, whole wheat bread and white bread is in the type of wheat used.

Whole wheat bread is made with red wheat, which is darker in color. It has a slightly bitter taste and a coarser texture.

Whole wheat white bread is made with white wheat, which lacks the brown color. It has a milder flavor and softer texture. It differs from white bread because the wheat used in whole wheat bread still contains the bran, germ and endosperm of the wheat grain.

White bread is made with refined flour, which goes through a process that strips out the fiber-dense bran and the nutrient-rich germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm. This means that refined grain is not as rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Some flour and bread manufacturers enrich their bread by adding back in extra vitamins, but it is always a better choice to eat whole grains. The fiber and protein from the bran and germ provide a more constant source of energy, which will keep you going long after the energy from refined grain is gone.

When selecting bread, choose breads that list "whole" grain as the first ingredient, such as "whole wheat," "white whole wheat" or "whole oats." If the label does not say "whole" first, it is not a whole-grain product.

Additional nutrition information can be found at:

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Myth: On a vegetarian diet, you are sure to lose weight and become healthier.

Answer: Busted!

Some vegetarians, just like non-vegetarians, can make food choices that contribute to weight gain. For example, they may eat large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value, such as vegetarian prepared/frozen foods that are high in fat or sugar.

Vegetarian diets should be as carefully planned as non-vegetarian diets to make sure they are balanced. A vegetarian diet can be a healthy way to eat. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet daily energy and nutrient needs.

Additional nutrition information can be found at:

Contributor: Maude Harris, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573.545.3516

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Myth: Vegetarians are deficient in protein because you can only get protein from meat.

Answer: BUSTED!

There are many sources of protein. Animal products like meat, milk, eggs and yogurt are great sources of protein. However, these animal products also contain unnecessary fat and cholesterol; whereas plant products do not. There are many plants that also contain protein, and the added benefit is that plants do not have cholesterol.

Let’s examine a few plants that contain protein. Soy is probably the most popular. Soybeans are a major crop grown in the Midwest. They can be roasted or boiled and eaten right out of the pod. They are sometimes called Edamame, a Japanese version of salted soybean. Soy is also used to make many other products. Tofu is a product made from fermented soybeans. Tofu comes in a variety of textures and flavors. It can be used as a meat alternative in cooking. Soy is also made into soy milk, soybean oil, tempeh, soy flour, soy yogurt, and soy “nuts.” Soy nuts are just the beans, removed from the pods, and roasted and salted. They make a great crunchy snack!

various beans & lentils
Nuts are another common source of plant protein. While nuts contain fat, the fat has a high level of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Peanuts are a great source of protein, but they are actually a legume, not a nut. Peanut butter is classified as a protein as well! Other legumes would include beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas and more.

One of the best things about getting your protein from plant sources is that you also get fiber. Fiber aids in digestion and can help lower your cholesterol. So, by consuming plant proteins instead of animal proteins, you are getting beneficial fats, no cholesterol and added fiber. It’s a win-win-win!

Protein content of plants (1/2 cup serving):
  • Soybeans – 14 grams
  • Tofu – 10 grams
  • Soy nuts (1/4 cup) – 15 grams
  • Soy milk (1 cup) – 6.6 grams
  • Walnuts – 24 grams
  • Peanuts – 24 grams
  • Almonds – 21 grams
  • Pistachios – 21 grams
  • White Beans – 9 grams
  • Black Beans – 8 grams
  • Red Kidney Beans – 8 grams
  • Lentils – 9 grams
  • Chickpeas – 7 grams

For more tips on maintaining a healthy vegetarian diet, download a free pdf of MyPlate: Ten healthy eating tips for vegetarians from MU Extension publications.

Contributors: Erin Plumberg, Dietetic Intern, KU Medical Center; and Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Myth: I’m too busy to prepare nutritious meals, so I have to buy frozen dinners and already-prepared foods.

Answer: BUSTED!

You just got home from a long day. The kids are starving, your feet hurt, you’re tired, but you still have to prepare dinner. You look through the refrigerator and cupboards for something to cook, but it seems like there just isn’t anything you feel like making! So, what happens? You probably end up grabbing a quick, already-prepared food that doesn’t have the greatest nutrition for your family.

This is a common occurrence in the American household. Often times, we choose the easier option over the more nutritious option just because it’s quicker. We must realize, however, what those food choices are doing to our bodies and our children’s bodies over time; and we need to make a concerted effort to feed our families with nutritious wholesome foods.

Woman selecting apples at the grocery store
One solution to making the right choices for family dinners at home is to make the right choices when SHOPPING. Grocery shopping is the first step in choosing what you will feed your family. Here are some tips to help you avoid the not-so-nutritious, yet tempting, foods at your supermarket.

  1. Before you head to the store, think about what meals you want to cook over the next week and make a list of everything you will need. Think about MyPlate as you are planning to ensure you have all of the food groups covered for each meal.
  2. When you first enter the store, go directly to the fresh produce department. Pick out the seasonal items which might be on sale. This will be the most nutritious bang for your buck. Keep snacks in mind. Fresh fruit and nuts are a great way to keep you going during a busy day. Kids love fruit too! Pick out fruits to always keep on hand, ready for kids to grab when they need a snack.
  3. Head to the meat department next to check out the sales. Fish is a great source of protein, and two servings a week is recommended. Choose lean cuts of beef or pork and choose skinless chicken. You don’t have to grab a lot of meat. Meat can be very pricey, and having a few meatless meals throughout the week is never a bad idea. Steer clear of the bagged/boxed meat products, which includes foods like breaded popcorn chicken, buffalo chicken wings and microwavable taquitos and burritos. These are high in fat and salt. It is better to buy fresh whole meats and prepare them yourself with little salt and fat.
  4. When shopping for pastas, tortillas or bread in the dried goods aisle, look for the whole grain options. When looking for a sauce (like spaghetti), steer clear of this aisle because they are loaded with salt! Instead, look down the canned goods aisle for a basic tomato paste and experiment to come up with your own sauce ideas. It’s easier and quicker than you might think (and will have less salt)!
  5. The canned goods aisle is also loaded with salt, but there are many options today that are healthier for you. For example, if you choose to buy canned vegetables instead of fresh, look for the “no salt added” varieties. When looking for beans, try the dried beans instead of canned; they are cheaper and the only salt will be what you add at home. (Quick tip: Rinse canned vegetables and beans before using to remove some of the salt.) Many other foods you will find in this aisle are also loaded with salt, including baked/BBQ beans, olives, pickles, relish and condiments like soy sauce, BBQ sauce and ketchup. Eat these foods sparingly.
  6. The frozen food aisle is one that should be avoided altogether (for the most part)! Choose frozen vegetables and fruit from the frozen food aisle if they aren’t available fresh. Of course, the occasional tub of ice cream may find its way into your basket, but overall, the frozen food aisle, consisting of entrees and other prepared foods, contain preservatives, salt and sugar. Steer clear of already-prepared frozen foods – if you make these foods yourself, you control how much salt, sugar and fat go into them.
  7. The dairy aisle is pretty basic. The main concern here is fat/cholesterol content. Choose low-fat milks, low-fat cheeses including cottage cheese, reduced-sugar yogurts, low-fat cream cheese, etc.
  8. As always, avoid the checkout line candies and soda pops! Avoid the drink aisles too. Soda pops and juices have so much sugar and so many empty calories that they shouldn’t be in your food budget. It’s money you could spend on fresh, filling, nutritious foods.

Making the right choices at the grocery store will help you be better prepared in your home. You won’t be tempted to grab that frozen dinner because you didn’t buy it. Filling your kitchen with only nutritious foods will leave you no choice but to eat healthy. When you feel too tired, think about the fact that if your food choices are more nutritious, you will feel better and more energized!

Contributors: Erin Plumberg, KU Medical Center; Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Myth: Reducing salt in the diet without sacrificing taste is impossible.

measuring spoon of salt
Answer: BUSTED!

Experts tell us to reduce salt (sodium) so that our heart and blood vessels are healthier. Since many of us are used to eating food with lots of added salt this advice often goes unheeded. Here are some simple and practical tips to get you started:

  1. Go slow! Don’t start out with an “all or nothing” approach. Reduce your salt intake gradually. My personal experience with eating low-sodium foods was when my father was diagnosed with high blood pressure. This meant the whole family had to change our eating habits. After a period of time, we got used to it. Now when I eat something very salty, it isn’t enjoyable.

  2. Look for lower salt alternatives when buying processed food like tomato sauce. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to enhance the flavor of your food. You can also lower the salt in some processed food like canned beans by draining and rinsing before using.

  3. Choose and prepare fresh foods for yourself. Often, the more a food is processed, the more sodium it will contain (unless it is made with less or no salt). Instead of buying pre-cooked chicken breast with seasonings added, cook your own. If you prepare it yourself, you will have control over what goes in it.

Visit the MissouriFamilies website to learn more about how decreasing your salt intake can decrease your blood pressure.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Myth: Acai berries are an antioxidant superfood, so I don’t need any other type of berry in my diet.

Answer: BUSTED!

Antioxidants are good for the body because they inhibit oxidation, which can cause damage to your cells. Some of the symptoms of oxidation include aging, wrinkles, other skin disorders, mental impairments, cancer, coronary artery disease and arthritis, among others.

Fruits and vegetables contain many beneficial antioxidants. Berries are among the best sources for these cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Acai berries get a lot of hype for being a superfood; and they are wonderful! There are many other berries, however, that are also great sources of antioxidants.
berries in a row

One way scientists measure the benefits of an antioxidant-rich food is to measure its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). This is a measure of how well the food absorbs free radicals. Here is a breakdown of common berries and their ORAC load (measured in µmol/g):

  • Strawberries: 260
  • Boysenberries: 350
  • Blackberries: 510
  • Cranberries: 520
  • Pomegranates: 690
  • Red Raspberries: 270-530
  • Black Raspberries: 500-1,640
  • Blueberries: 320-870
  • Acai: 1,840-3,100

As you can see, all of these berries have a high ORAC value and they are all beneficial. However, scientists also say that the ORAC value of foods can be misleading. This is because some antioxidants, like anthocyanins in blueberries, may not be well absorbed by the body. Even though the ORAC value may be very high, your body might not be able to absorb it well, and therefore not receive the expected benefits. Contrarily, some foods are not tested on the ORAC scale, like broccoli, but it contains a powerful antioxidant booster. So, be leery of fad diets and fad foods because often times you can get the same nutrition from other foods without paying the high prices of a fad item. Acai berries are great, but so are many other berries that you can find locally and fresh at a lower cost. Besides, we all know that variety is an important part of our daily diets, so try different kinds of berries, and make your plate colorful!

Check your local Farmer’s Markets for fresh, ripe, in-season berries near you. They are great places to find inexpensive, locally-grown berries.

Visit for nutrition facts on a variety of berries.

Contributors: Erin Plumberg, KU Medical Center & Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933