Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Myth: There are no new ways to help my family eat healthier.

Family DinnerAnswer: BUSTED!

When encouraging your family to eat healthier, try the “nudge” approach instead of the “nag” approach. “Nudges” are small ways to transform an environment and help people make healthier eating choices. These small changes may not be noticed, but they can lead people to adjust their food habits to choosing healthier items. How does this work?

Think like an advertiser! Have you ever looked at a restaurant menu? The titles and descriptions make it hard to pass up anything. Why not try the same method at home? Instead of serving butternut squash, tell your family that they will be having “sweet and spicy slow-roasted butternut squash” (chunks of butternut squash covered lightly with brown sugar and black pepper and oven-roasted until the squash is lightly brown). Research with schoolchildren in New York compared two schools: one that used unexciting menu terms like “carrots” and the other that used the term “x-ray carrots.” Which do you think the children chose more often? The “x-ray carrots,” of course.

Location, location, location! Place healthy snacks like fruit on the kitchen counter so they are in full view and easy to reach. What you see is what you eat. Place cut-up veggies in clear containers upfront in the refrigerator so that is what your family reachs for when snacking.

Rethink your dishes and glasses. When food is portioned on a plate, small dishes make it appear as if you have more food on the dish. Use tall glasses. Studies show that people pour and drink more from a short, wide glass than a tall and narrow one.

For more information go to

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Myth: School meals aren’t a good choice for my child.

Students in cafeteria lineAnswer: BUSTED!

Good nutrition is important to health, especially for children as they grow and develop lifetime habits. Healthy school meals contribute to your child’s academic success, growth and development. A 2012 USDA study found that school lunches were healthier than those in the average child’s diet. School meals supply one-third of the calories, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and E that children need. School meals now have more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These healthy food choices help contribute to the prevention of childhood obesity. If children come to school hungry, it is hard for them to concentrate and be successful in the classroom. Participation in the School Breakfast Program makes healthy foods available to children so that they are ready to learn.

There are other benefits of school meals that you may not know about. School meals expose your child to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains. This gives them opportunities to try new fruits or vegetables and other foods they might not have tried. The influence of other children can contribute to the likelihood that children will try new foods. Research suggests that what other children eat at the table influences acceptance of foods. Schools provide health and nutrition classes. Teachers link what is offered in the cafeteria to good health. In a sense, the cafeteria is a “laboratory” for children. They apply what they learned in the classroom as they make healthy food choices when offered school foods.

So, you see, school meals do more than feed children: They contribute to academic success and good health!

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Myth: I need to wash all bagged leafy greens that I buy.

Answer: BUSTED!

Purchasing pre-bagged leafy green salads is a convenient way for many people to eat more healthy vegetables. When buying unpackaged leafy greens or any other fruits or vegetables, it is very important for consumers to wash them (under clear running water) once at home to clean off any bad microorganisms that may be present. However, if you are buying pre-bagged leafy green salads, it is important to read the label to see if it has already been washed. If it is labeled “washed” or “ready-to-eat,” then you do NOT need to wash it at home.

Washing pre-washed leafy greens has not been shown to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, and actually may increase the risk of cross-contamination in your kitchen. The commercial washing process removes 90-99 percent of all microorganisms that may be present, so it will be difficult for any washing at home to remove much more. Also, when washing the greens, any microorganisms that may already be present in your sink, your countertops or on your hands could easily contaminate the greens even more.

The most important things consumers can do to prevent foodborne illness from eating pre-washed bagged salads is to keep them refrigerated at 35 to 40° F, observe the “use by” dates marked on the package, and don’t buy any salad that has excess water in the bag or has not been kept refrigerated. As with any fresh fruits and vegetables, always handle pre-washed greens with clean hands, and make sure cutting boards, utensils and countertops are clean.

An article with more information on this topic, including food safety recommendations for consumers, is available here:


Contributor: Londa Nwadike, PhD, Extension Food Safety Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-655-6258

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Myth: It’s impossible to find gluten-free foods in the grocery store.

Gluten Free breadsAnswer: BUSTED!

Until now there’s been no standard for how much gluten is allowed in a product labeled “gluten-free.” Manufacturers wanting to sell gluten-free foods will have to follow new standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gluten is a protein found in breads, cakes, cereals, pastas and other foods. It is estimated that 1 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease. They are unable to absorb nutrients and may develop anemia, osteoporosis and other conditions. Others may be sensitive to foods containing gluten.

Foods labeled “gluten-free,” “without gluten,” “no gluten” or “free of gluten” must follow these standards. The amount of gluten allowed in foods is no more than 20 parts per million. Why not use 0 parts per million? Currently, scientists can’t detect less than 20 parts per million in foods. And researchers have found that most people with celiac disease who are affected by gluten are able to tolerate this amount in foods. Other countries use this amount as well when labeling their foods. What does 20 parts per million look like? Picture 2 grains of salt in a piece of bread.

This new rule applies to all foods and drinks regulated by the FDA including dietary supplements. According to the FDA, most products on the market meet this standard. The new rule goes into effect one year from now. For more information go to

And remember, gluten-free products aren’t necessarily low calorie or healthier for you. You still need to read food labels to find out the amounts of other ingredients in foods such as fat and sugar. Read more at

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