Friday, April 26, 2013

Myth: Baby carrots in my refrigerator have turned white on the outside and I’ve read this is unsafe to eat.

Answer: BUSTED!

This coating is called ‘white blush’ and it just indicates that the carrots are drying out. It occurs when carrots are cut. The ‘baby-cut carrots’ are really larger carrots cut into smaller pieces. As part of their processing they are then put in water that has chlorine to prevent contamination. The carrots are rinsed before packaging.

Carrots with this white coating are safe to eat. If you are eating them raw, you can put them in water for a few minutes. If you are using them in cooking, just add them along with other ingredients. To avoid drying out, keep carrots sealed in the bag they came in. Use by the date on the package.

baby carrots
For more information about the myths that have circulated about the safety of baby-cut carrots, check out Dispelling food-related myths: baby carrots.

Why eat carrots? They are high in carotene and are good sources of potassium, fiber and vitamin C. The fiber makes them a filling snack. Baby carrots are a low-sodium, low-calorie nibble with only about 4 calories in each baby carrot. Try adding them to a stir-fry dish. You can also dice them and add them, along with other veggies, to whole wheat couscous for a quick and filling dish. Find more carrot recipes by searching the Healthy Habits recipes index on

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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Myth: There is no harm in having TVs in our bedrooms.

Answer: BUSTED!

It’s easier to fall asleep while watching TV when it is in your bedroom, which may sound like a good thing, but this can actually disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue. It’s a bad habit and contributes to the high amount of screen time we already subject ourselves to on a daily basis.

Did you know that the average person in the U.S. watches more than 36 hours of TV a week? Very young children (2 to 5 year olds) watch 25 hours of TV a week while older youth (8 to 18 years) watch about 4½ hours of TV a day! Almost 3 in 4 (71%) of 8 to 18 year olds have a TV in their bedroom.
young boy zoned out in front of the TV

Can all this screen time be good for us? Too much screen time, which includes watching TV, playing video games or using the computer, means we are spending less time being active. When we watch TV we see many ads for foods high in fat and sugar which may influence our food choices, especially for young children. And, as stated above, watching TV at night to fall asleep actually causes sleep disruptions.

So what’s a family to do? Here are some tips to help you ‘play more, watch less:’

►Use the upcoming National Screen-Free Week, April 29 – May 5, 2013, as a way to start changing your family’s screen habits. Get together as a family to write a list of things to do other than watching TV or spending time in front of a screen. Post these ideas on the refrigerator and start making them part of your regular routine.

►Turn the TV off during family meals and talk about everyone’s day. Keep the TV off when no one is watching. Need some background noise? Turn on the radio.

►Create an activity box and put it by the door. It’s a way to remind everyone to be more active instead of watching TV. Items you can put in the box include jump ropes, balls, athletic shoes, scarves (for throwing in the air indoors).

For more ideas for adults, families and youth, check out the MU Extension publication ‘Play more, Watch Less.’ You can download the PDF by clicking on the link.

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

Friday, April 12, 2013

Myth: I'll have to stop eating sandwiches with red meat because of the latest study about heart disease.

Answer: BUSTED!

What if we uncovered new information about what causes some of us to be at greater risk of getting heart disease? That question is timely due to recent study results coming out of the Cleveland Clinic. It appears that bacteria in your digestive tract may form a substance associated with a greater risk of heart disease. This seems to occur more in those that eat meat as compared to those that don’t. However there is no definitive cause and effect relationship between this substance and heart disease at this time. Why? These new studies are important yet not conclusive. They provide alternative ways that researchers can look at the links between what we eat and chronic diseases like heart disease. Perhaps saturated fat and cholesterol may not be the only factors involved in heart disease. As with all new studies we wait for further confirmation from other studies. Often, complex conditions like heart disease have more than one cause.

Grilled tomato, roasted pepper & cheese sandwich
Grilled tomato, roasted pepper & cheese sandwich - yum!
So what should you do? MyPlate guidelines recommend 5 to 6½ ounces of protein each day from a variety of foods including meat, chicken, fish, beans and seafood. Most Americans get enough protein but we don’t get enough veggies in our diet. Consider preparing or choosing a vegetarian sandwich every now and then. You can use whole wheat bread or wraps. Here are some delicious vegetable ingredients for your sandwiches that you should try:

  • Portobello mushrooms, the large mushrooms you see in the grocery store, can serve as the base for a sandwich because of its meaty flavor. The mushrooms can be grilled or roasted before adding to a sandwich.
  • Another veggie choice for your sandwich? Avocado! It can add a creamy texture and subtle taste to sandwiches. Avocados are a source of healthy fats and potassium.
  • Roasted red peppers add a new twist to sandwiches. Pair peppers (and other veggies like tomatoes) with hummus for a filling and tasty sandwich.

And when you are eating out, look on the menu for vegetarian sandwich options like those offered at Subway.

Try this Grilled Zucchini Panini recipe or find other tips for making healthy food choices at

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

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Myth: Getting prepared for a disaster like a flood is too complicated.

Answer: BUSTED!

With spring flowers come increased chances of tornadoes, floods and storms which can cause power outages. A little time spent now will keep you prepared. Here are a few tips to get you started on putting together an emergency supply of food:

Various items for emergency supply kit, including food & water
  • Prepare a 3-day emergency supply of food that includes canned items. Keep the items in a cool place. Store in a container that has a snug lid to keep pests out.
  • Date foods in your emergency supply. Change every 6 months. Throw out any cans that are corroded, dented or swollen.
  • Update your emergency supply every year depending on family members.

What kind of foods go in your emergency food supply?

  • Canned foods like ready-to-eat meat and fish, fruits in light juice, low-sodium vegetables or bean salads
  • Canned juices (not drinks)
  • Other non-perishable items like peanut butter, crackers, jelly, trail mix, granola bars

Be sure to include a can opener and scissors for opening cans and pouches. You might also include some basic spices.

Check out this Recipes for Disaster cookbook that not only provides tips and ideas on stocking your emergency food supply, but also offers recipes for preparing food without electricity or gas.

For more information and tips, refer to Be prepared for emergencies: Creating a 3-day food/water supply.

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