Thursday, March 28, 2013

Myth: You can tell if a food is healthy or not by the look of the package.

Answer: BUSTED!

A recent study found that green labels make foods appear healthier or lower in calories.

This ‘halo effect’ may also be in play when you see certain buzzwords on food packages. Does the word “organic” on a food package make it seem like a healthy food? A study found that foods labeled organic were perceived to be lower in calories and rated highly with regard to taste. In spite of the fact that the organic and non-organic labeled foods in the study were identical! Although a limited variety of foods was involved in this study, it’s not hard to imagine that this halo effect may extend to a wider variety of foods.

So what does this mean for you, the consumer? It’s always been a ‘buyer beware’ world, perhaps now even more so. More and more products are introduced each year. Although some food claims or labels are regulated, many labels, such as “natural” or “artisan,” aren’t regulated. These buzzwords come and go. What can you do to avoid the lure of buzzwords?
woman reading food label while grocery shopping

  1. Read the label! The Nutrition Facts panel will tell you about the nutrient content of the food. A food may be organic, but it could still be high in fat. The panel tells all!

  2. Read the ingredient list. If more than one source of sugar is listed, the product may not be a good choice, even if it looks healthy.

  3. Be wary of pictures on food packages. You may see a picture of fruit on the cover but the product may contain little or no fruit.

For more tips about healthy eating, visit

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Myth: I have to give candy to my child for Easter - it's the only option.

Answer: BUSTED!

According to the National Confectioners Association, Easter is second only to Halloween for buying candy. And the calories in that candy sure adds up – 1 chocolate egg is 170 calories, 20 regular-sized jelly beans are 160 calories and 20 smaller-sized jelly beans are 80 calories. If you go to the Easter Calorie Calculator at you will see how many calories your Easter treats total up to and how many steps or miles you need to walk to burn it off. For example, you will need to walk 10½ miles to burn off one large chocolate bunny.

girl on Easter egg hunt
What about giving your child some treats that are fun and enjoyable but also healthy? Fruits and vegetables can become fun and festive Easter treats. Clementines are small oranges that are seedless, easy to peel and sweet to eat – what child wouldn’t love that treat? Giving out Easter eggs? Fill them with veggies like baby carrots and grape tomatoes or with healthy treats like dried fruit, nuts, pretzels or animal crackers.

Looking for fun non-candy treats this Easter? Dollar stores are a great source for little toys and trinkets to fill up a basket or to put in eggs. Consider stickers, bracelets, crayons, pencil sharpeners and hair bows to take the place of candy. Find some fun, colorful shoelaces. And don’t forget bubbles (they come in colors!) or colorful sidewalk chalk.

For more tips about healthy eating and healthy holiday traditions, go to

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Myth: Canning your homemade stew, spaghetti and even mashed potatoes is safe.

Filling canning jars using tested recipe
Answer: BUSTED!

Some people put leftovers from the table in a canning jar and process it long enough to seal the jar. This is not safe. It IS safe to can spaghetti sauce and stew but only from tested recipes. Some foods cannot be canned because it is impossible for the center of the food to reach high enough temperatures to destroy bacteria. Thickened stews and mashed potatoes are examples of foods too thick to can.

Guide sheets for home food preservation can be found at The National Center for Home Food Preservation’s site is

Contributors: Tammy Roberts (660-679-4167) and Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition and Health Education Specialists, University of Missouri Extension

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Myth: The recipes that I find online for meals in a jar should be safe.

Answer: BUSTED!

Meals in a jar can be convenient and they can make nice gifts, but there is no guarantee that they are safe recipes. There are sites on the internet that suggest you pressure can a chicken soup recipe and then store each jar with a bag of noodles for a quick meal later. That can be done, but the soup is not safe unless it is from a tested recipe. Before spending an entire day preparing meals in a jar, make sure you are using tested recipes for home canning. Don't risk the health and safety of those who will be eating the final product. 

home-canned foods

Tested recipes are available through your local Extension office, the National Center for Home Food Preservation and Ball.

Contributors: Tammy Roberts (660-679-4167) and Susan Mills-Gray (816-380-8460), Nutrition and Health Education Specialists, University of Missouri Extension