Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Myth: It’s hard to stick to the health goals I set for myself for the new year.

Answer: That's probably true for many of us.

Ever wonder why? Let’s look at some tips to set goals that ‘stick.’

Good intentions aren’t enough when setting goals. How you define your goal can help translate into success. Think S.M.A.R.T. when setting goals.

  • S is for specific. Make your goal specific. How often do you hear someone say, “I’m going to eat healthier this year.” Great idea! Not very specific. Change this to: Three days a week I am going to eat fruit as an after-dinner dessert.
  • M is for measurable. The more specific your goal, the more measurable it is. This makes it easier to track your progress. It can be hard to track the progress of a broad goal like “I’m going to eat healthier this year.” But when you state that you are going to eat fruit three days a week after dinner, now that’s measurable.
  • A is for attainable. Most of us make unattainable goals for the new year in our attempt to erase an entire year of poor health habits. If you aren’t active and then set a goal that you will walk for an hour every day, you are probably setting an unattainable goal. A more attainable activity goal might be to walk 20 minutes three times a week in the morning.
  • R is for realistic. This goes hand-in-hand with a goal that is attainable. It may be attainable for you to walk 20 minutes three times a week but not realistic to do so in the morning if you aren’t a morning person.
  • T is for time-specific. What is the time period for the goal? It probably makes sense for you to choose short periods of time, maybe one to three months. That way you can track your progress and set new goals in the next few months. Most people are only able to think in short periods of time.

Using the S.M.A.R.T. approach to setting goals can help you move forward in good health for the new year or any time of the year.

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

Myth: There’s no way my family will enjoy healthier holiday dishes.

Answer: BUSTED!

healthier version of traditional stuffing
The folks at the United States Department of Agriculture who brought you MyPlate are sharing holiday recipe makeovers that are fun, healthy and family-tested.

Melissa’s Slow-Cooker Stuffing uses 100% whole wheat bread and light butter along with cranberries and green apples for appealing color. The saturated fat and sodium is less than half when compared to her grandma’s original recipe. Melissa’s family rating? A hit!

How about cranberry chutney instead of cranberry sauce? Julie’s recipe for cranberry chutney is healthier than traditional cranberry sauce with more fruits and vegetables and half the sugar. The chutney has a sweet-tangy flavor. The garam masala and red pepper flakes give it an extra kick. You can use allspice or curry powder if you don’t have garam masala.

These recipes show that small ingredient changes make recipes healthier yet still a family favorite, even during the holidays!

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Myth: Raw cookie dough is always safe to eat if you use pasteurized eggs.

bowl of raw cookie dough
Answer: BUSTED!

Many Americans (including myself) love to bake and eat cookies during the holiday season, as well as throughout the year. I know I am not alone in that I also would love to pop some of the raw dough into my mouth when I am baking. In the past, the general thinking was that if one would just use pasteurized eggs in making the cookies or just buy refrigerated cookie dough, any harmful organisms that might be present in the eggs would be eliminated and thus the dough would be safe to eat raw.

However, an outbreak of E.coli in 2009 that was linked to purchased ready-to-BAKE (not ready-to-EAT!) cookie dough changed this thinking. This dough used pasteurized eggs which appeared to be handled correctly. So what ingredient was making people sick? Although investigators were not able to definitively identify the problem ingredient, it appears that the flour may have been contaminated with E.coli. Many manufacturers of commercial cookie dough now use heat-treated flour, which will reduce the risk of foodborne illness; however, it is still safest to bake the cookies before eating them, as the package clearly states.

Most home bakers do not use heat-treated flour (which is not currently readily available for consumers to purchase), so if you are making cookies at home this holiday season (or anytime), it is safest to bake them before eating. I have found that you also end up with more cookies if you don’t eat the dough! :) If you have a hankering for cookie dough (as I do!), you can safely consume cookie dough ice cream or similar products where the cookie dough has been heat-treated for safe consumption. There are also recipes online for cookie dough made with cooked garbanzo beans and no flour that would be safer to consume.

Enjoy the holiday season safely! No one wants to have foodborne illness over the holidays, so following some simple food safety practices can help ensure that. For more information, see Tips for safe as well as delicious holiday meals.

Contributor: Londa Nwadike, PhD, Extension Food Safety Specialist, nwadikel@missouri.edu, 816-655-6258

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Myth: Energy drinks are a good way to get the energy I need during the holidays.

energy drink
Answer: BUSTED!

Tempted to reach for an energy drink to get that energy rush you need when you are running around during the holidays? There ARE other ways to feel more energetic — see the list below. These options are healthier than energy drinks and some are cheaper, too.

  • Eat as soon as you can after rising in the morning. Your body needs fuel when you wake up. We call this ‘breaking the fast.’ 
  • During the day, consume small portions of healthy snacks that contain protein for staying power and the energy you need. Some examples? Nuts, yogurt with fruit, or carrots with hummus. 
  • Get moving! Being active brings your energy level up. Exercise is a natural stimulant and it makes you feel energized. 
  • Take a break if sitting for long periods. A 10 minute ‘get up and move’ break every hour gives you the energy your body – and mind – need. 
  • Get enough sleep! You’ll wake feeling refreshed and full of energy.

Why avoid energy drinks? They contain caffeine and other ingredients that have caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that may cause side effects like headaches, anxiety and a raised heart rate. Caffeine may negatively interact with some medications such as decongestants and antidepressants. And the sugar in many energy drinks makes them as full of calories as soda. Healthier and cheaper drink choices are 100% fruit juices, low-fat milk and water.

For more information, see Be wary of energy drinks.

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