Thursday, May 30, 2013

Myth: Smoothies are always a healthy choice.

Answer: BUSTED! Well, sort of...

Smoothies can help you get fruits in your diet if you don’t enjoy eating fresh, frozen or canned fruit. Smoothies can be a good source of calcium, protein and fiber (if it has milk or yogurt) and Vitamins A and C (from the fruits or veggies). But they can also be a source of unwanted extra calories and sugar. Keep these tips in mind for the healthiest smoothie choice:

fruit and vegetable smoothies
  • If calories are your concern, choose a smoothie made with low-fat milk or yogurt.

  • When comparing store-bought or prepared smoothies from fast food restaurants or other venues, seek out nutrition information online or in the store. Compare calories and sugar. Remember, 1 teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams of sugar. If your smoothie has 30 grams of sugar, you are getting more than 7 teaspoons of sugar!

  • Consider cost and calories when buying store-bought smoothies. The calories can really add up, especially if you choose a larger size. Choose the smallest size smoothie to keep calories in check.

  • Making smoothies at home? Choose fruits that are in season to keep it low cost. If you have fruit that is overripe, smoothies are a good way to use it up.

  • Smoothies are a great way to add veggies to your diet. Add a handful or more of spinach along with other ingredients. It won’t affect the taste but will add a nutritious ‘kick’ to your smoothie. Try this Mango Kiwi Smoothie – it contains fruit, yogurt and spinach.

  • Pump up the flavor of your smoothie by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract or cocoa powder instead of adding extra sugar or sweetener.

For more recipes, do a search for "smoothie" on

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Myth: It’s impossible to eat healthy at a BBQ.

Answer: BUSTED!

As you start planning your Memorial Day barbecue menu, you can make some small changes for good health for you and your friends and family. In addition to the tips below, remember to keep portions small. Drink water to keep you cool and refreshed. And include some physical activity as part of your barbecue plans.

Grilling shishkabobs with chicken and vegetables
  • Is corn on the cob the only vegetable you tend to grill? Consider these other veggies, which also taste great grilled: sweet onions (really any kind of onion will do), whole mushrooms or portobello mushrooms, eggplant, bell peppers and zucchini. Cut these veggies into pieces that are the same size. Brush them with a little olive oil or canola oil or spray them with vegetable cooking spray and season them with herbs and spices that you enjoy before putting them on the grill.

  • Use healthier versions of recipe ingredients. Does your recipe call for cheese? Buy lower fat cheeses. Are you using soy sauce in your BBQ sauce? Pick up the low sodium version. Looking for buns? Get the whole wheat option.

  • Choose low fat and low calorie condiments with high flavor. Instead of ketchup or mayo, use mustard or salsa for a big flavor boost with less calories, sugar and fat.

Try this recipe for Vegetarian Barbecue Quesadillas – something different and unexpected yet delicious!

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

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Myth: Shopping while I’m hungry doesn’t really affect what I buy.

grocery store aisle
Answer: BUSTED!

Cornell researchers recently looked at this. They had 68 adults shop in a simulated online grocery store. Half hadn’t eaten and the other half were given a snack before shopping. Those who hadn’t eaten chose more high-calorie foods than the other group. The researchers then observed 82 people shopping at a grocery store after lunch and in the hours right before dinner. The shoppers bought more higher-calorie food when it was closer to dinner time, suggesting that they were hungrier at this time of the day.

Not shopping when you’re hungry is a tip often suggested to help cut down on impulse buying. It appears that impulse buys could include purchases of high-calorie foods.

You may not be aware of the different ways that grocery stores are set up to drive your purchases. Keep these in mind during your next trip to the grocery store:

  • Foods in displays at the entrance of the store and at the end of aisles tend to catch your attention. They may or may not be healthy foods or good buys or even what you need.
  • Foods found in the first four feet of an aisle sell more than foods in other places. Are these foods your healthiest choices, the best buy or what you need at the moment?
  • Foods at eye level sell more, too. Check to see if a healthier or cheaper product is available on a lower shelf.

For more food shopping tips, check out Squeezed by rising food prices? on

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Myth: The best gift for Mother’s Day is a box of chocolates.

Answer: BUSTED! Well, sort of...

Strawberry dipped in dark chocolate
Strawberry with dark chocolate, a healthier treat!
Looking to give your mom a chocolate treat on Mother’s Day? Consider giving her strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. Why dark chocolate? Dark chocolate has substances in it – antioxidants – that appear to be beneficial when it comes to our risk for heart disease. If you decide to make strawberries dipped in dark chocolate, use the dark chocolate with the higher percent cocoa – this kind of chocolate has the highest amount of antioxidants linked to heart health and the lowest amount of sugar. Strawberries, like other fruits and vegetables, also contain antioxidants. So when you dip strawberries in dark chocolate, you are giving a gift of good health.

What are some other ways to give the gift of good health on Mother’s Day? Give her a nutrition book! Check out the nutrition and lifestyle reading list from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for recommendations. You might also consider giving her a subscription to a nutrition/health newsletter such as Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Environmental Nutrition or the Berkeley Wellness newsletter.

Woman taking walk
Be your mom's walking buddy!
One free gift you might not have considered for Mother’s Day is your commitment to be a walking buddy with your mom. Walking is one way to increase daily physical activity. Being a walking buddy gives the gift of good health for both you and your mom!

Perhaps the most enjoyable gift your mom might like is the gift of time – make a meal for your mom on her special day so that she can relax. You can find a wide variety of healthy recipes for your meal at

Here’s hoping you and your mom’s day is a special and healthy one!

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Myth: It’s impossible to avoid overeating at buffets.

Answer: BUSTED!

buffet spread and plate of food
You might think that the answer to not overeating at all-you-can-eat buffets is just willpower, but there are some strategies that could work for anyone. In fact, watching what and how some people eat at buffets has given us some helpful tips. Dr. Brian Wansink at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab had 30 trained observers watch the eating behaviors of over 300 people at buffets in six states. What did they find?

  • Thin people were more likely to look over all the choices at the buffet before serving themselves. So instead of heaping everything from the buffet on your plate, look at all your choices before serving yourself. Ask yourself what you really want to eat.

  • Thin people also used smaller plates. This is a strategy that has been widely recommended and used for everyday meals too. So when you’re at a buffet or when you’re serving yourself at home, use a smaller plate – it will make it look like you have more food on your plate.

  • Lastly, thin people sat farther away from the buffet and chewed their food more than their heavier counterparts. Speaking from personal experience, I have found that I am more satisfied during meals when using mindful eating techniques like taking time to savor the food slowly and putting my utensils down between bites while chewing. This has definitely slowed down my eating, giving my body time to get those ‘I’m full’ signals, which results in eating less.

People of any size who engage in these behaviors are more likely to eat less at the buffet.

For more tips about mindful eating, check out the article How much are we eating? on

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