Thursday, March 29, 2012

Myth: I can't eat "local" produce because I live in the city and I'm not close to any farms.

Answer: BUSTED!

Locally grown produce is accessible and has many benefits.

Eating local can mean eating produce from your backyard, from farmers’ markets in your community, and from retail grocery stores who are offering more and more locally grown produce. Consumer demand for fresh and safe produce, which supports local farmers and helps the environment because it is not trucked so far, has pushed grocers to make local produce available. Retailers have different definitions for what “local” is, and while local produce is fresher, measures are taken to ensure food safety for all produce. Some stores may purchase produce from a neighboring state or from a farmer in their community. Both are good because it means the produce does not have to travel across the country or from another county altogether. It is also important to note that local does not mean organic. If you’re looking for organic be sure to check that it is certified organic. Growers must meet specific terms described by the USDA National Organic Program to be referred to as “certified.”

fresh produce at farmers' market
Farmers’ markets are becoming more commonplace in urban areas. Eating local means that you are eating produce that is in season. Produce that is in season is more affordable and tastes better. Buying produce at farmers’ markets gives you the chance to develop relationships with the farmers who grow the produce. You can ask the farmers questions and find out how the produce is grown, if it is organic, and the day it was picked.

Another way to eat local and in season is to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. Farms charge a fee for membership that entitles the subscriber to a weekly share of fresh grown food from the farm. The only downfall is the risk that if there is a drought or floods, you may not receive produce.

Some tips for buying and eating local in Missouri:
  • Find local farmers’ markets and shop in season
  • Dine at restaurants that serve local produce
  • Join a CSA
  • Contact your local University of Missouri Extension office to help find farmers’ markets near you
  • Ask your local grocery store what local produce they sell and where they get it
  • Check out Seasonal and Simple, a guide for enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables
  • In Missouri, if you receive Food Stamps, you can use your Missouri Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) to buy seeds and plants for use in gardens to produce food for the personal consumption of the household.

For more information and tips, visit these websites:

Contributor: Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Myth: My child is a picky eater no matter what I try, so I can only serve foods she likes.

Answer: BUSTED!

young child eating pasta with pesto sauce
Fixing different dishes to please your child is not only time consuming, but also costly. Meal time will be less stressful if you haven’t just acted as a short-order cook for the family. Children can be picky eaters, but with a little effort you can make eating meals a stress-free time.

You are the biggest influence on your child. Encouraging your child to try a variety of foods rich in nutrients is just one way to help your child develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Let your child see that you are open to trying a new food – make trying new foods fun for the whole family. Describe the taste, texture and smell. Offer one new food at a time, and make it with something that you know your child likes. Also, try to serve it at the beginning of the meal when your child is most hungry.

Sometimes it takes several tries before a child decides they like the new food, so don’t give up after just one try. You can also fix it another way. For example, if you boil a vegetable the first time, try roasting it or eating it raw the next time.

Remember that it is your job to serve nutritious foods and your child’s job to decide what and how much to eat. Avoid lecturing or negotiating to make your child eat something.

Here are some additional tips:
  • Take your child shopping with you and let her pick out some healthy food choices.
  • Let your child help prepare the meal. Be sure to give age-appropriate and safe tasks, such as stirring.
  • Keep conversations light and fun, with no TV or phones interrupting meal time.
  • Make meals kid friendly. Your child will be more likely to try a food that is made in a fun way!
  • Serve smaller portions. It is unreasonable to serve large, adult-size portions to children.
  • Make fruit the everyday dessert, serving “treats” only occasionally.

Be a role model for your children and help them to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Cook together, shop together and eat together. Focus on each other at the table and make meals less stressful.

For more information and tips, check out Eating well on or visit

Contributor: Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Myth: Healthy food is too expensive, especially fruits and vegetables!

Answer: BUSTED!

Healthy food is not just the food in the specialty aisle. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend putting an emphasis on food choices that are nutrient dense and from the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products. Key nutrients, such as potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D are of public health concerns for adults and children. Reducing foods with excessive amounts of sodium, saturated fat, trans fatty acids, added sugars and refined grains is also recommended, as it may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Eating healthy does not have to be expensive. There are many things you can do to save money at the grocery store and eat healthy on a budget.
    shopping list and coupons
  • The first step to saving is to plan ahead. Plan your meals for the week, check for what you already have on hand, and make a list for what you need.
  • Stick to your grocery list. Try not to impulse buy – you will end up with things you don’t really want.
  • Check local ads and look online for specials and sale prices. If you have freezer space, buy meat in larger family packs when they are on sale and separate into the servings you need for a meal.
  • Stay away from convenience foods like frozen dinners and pre-cut fruits and vegetables. These will cost more than if you prepare them yourself.
  • Always compare prices, even if you have coupons, paying close attention to the unit price. This tells you the cost per unit, such as ounces or pounds. Just because a sale price is lower does not mean it is the best value.
  • Look for store brands. They are usually cheaper and have the same quality as name brands.
  • When buying produce look for what is in season. It will not only be less expensive, but it will also taste better. Try canned or frozen produce when what you want is not in season.
  • Only buy fresh produce in the amounts you can eat so you won’t end up throwing it away.

Eating healthy does not have to cost more. Start using some of these tips and track your spending. You may find that not only is it not more expensive, but that it actually can cost less.

For more information and tips, check out these sites and publications:

Contributor: Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Myth: I can't go on a diet – they're too difficult & they never work

Answer: BUSTED!

Start by changing the way you think of it – focus on achieving overall good health, not just short-term weight loss. Diets do not have to be difficult. Setting realistic goals is the first step.

March 8, 2012 is “What’s on MyPlate Day?” The USDA wants to bring attention to MyPlate and recognize healthy eating behaviors. One message is to “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” This is excellent advice for those starting a “diet plan” to improve their overall health. To start eating less, try using a smaller plate. So many of us were brought up to finish everything on our plates, but this is not necessarily a good thing. Using a smaller plate allows you to finish everything without overeating. Be sure to eat slowly too. Eating slowly not only allows you to enjoy your food, but it also allows you to notice when you are full.

screenshot of SuperTracker websiteYou can use the SuperTracker to help you look at what you eat and get tips for making healthier choices. SuperTracker was released on the ChooseMyPlate website in December of 2011. It helps you plan, analyze and track your diet and physical activity, and gives recommendations for improvement, including what and how much you should eat. Some of the topics are: Daily Food Plans; How Many Calories are Used (in physical activity); Calories Count Chart for Mixed Dishes; Empty Calories Chart; Solid Fats Chart; BMI Calculator; Portion Distortion; and Food Labeling. Using this tool will help you personalize the recommendations, set goals and measure your progress.

Getting to know what you eat and learning easy ways to eat healthier is a great way to start your journey to better overall health.

For more information and tips, visit these sites:

Contributor: Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850

Friday, March 2, 2012

Myth: I didn't make a New Year's resolution….now I will have to wait until next year!

Answer: BUSTED!

It is never too late to start making healthier choices for yourself! March is National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) is encouraging everyone to “Get Your Plate in Shape.” The USDA introduced MyPlate to replace MyPyramid in June 2011. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products, and foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.

Start your resolution now by thinking about your plate. Eat a variety of foods to get the most nutrition out of your calories, while staying within your daily needs. Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables – they should be half of your plate. It's also important to understand portion sizes – reading labels can help.

Couple running together
Be sure to include physical activity in your resolution as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week, and, muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all of the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). If you think you don’t have time, your activity can be spread out as long as you do at least 10 minutes at a time. If you take a brisk 10-minute walk 3 times a day, 5 days a week, you will have 150 minutes!

Some tips to help ensure success:
  • Partner with a friend so you can encourage each other
  • Make a grocery list, and stick to it
  • Try fruits and vegetables that are in season – they are less expensive and taste better
  • Schedule your activity time – it is easier to fit it in when it is planned
  • Start with small goals – even small changes matter
  • Stay away from fad diets and workouts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Use reliable sources, such as The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the University of Missouri Extension.

For more information about making healthy food choices, visit

Contributor: Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850