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,