I remember as a little girl, Halloween was a chance to wear a funny costume and eat lots of candy. While much excitement and advertisement related to Halloween is focused on candy, it doesn’t mean you have to let your healthy eating guard down with your family. Try some of these simple tips to keep a rein on overindulging and keep the fun in Halloween.
Parents know that Halloween extends beyond October 31st; children bring home enough candy to last them weeks, maybe even months. Teaching them moderation is important so they are not filling up on candy and missing out on important nutrients. Instead of making candy and sweets off limits, teach your kids the importance of eating more healthy items and limiting the sweets and candy. Having open discussions about portions, balance, and how our bodies feel after eating certain foods will be more effective and rewarding than setting strict limits. Eating a balanced diet is also better for your teeth. Good dental hygiene in concert with limiting high amounts of sugar can prevent cavities. A great idea to make it easy for your kids to choose healthy foods would be to have options readily available. Some ideas include:
“Eat the pleasers, skip the teasers”
Sometimes we eat foods because they are there, not because we are hungry for them or even enjoy eating them. However, we can teach children to be thoughtful about the foods they choose to eat, including candy. Teach your kids to separate the “pleasers” (the candies they really love) from the “teasers” (the ones they eat just because they’re there). Then give away or throw away the teasers. This idea will teach them mindful eating and to enjoy each bite.
It’s no surprise that a high intake of sugar is a common cause of cavities. Dentist Dr. Ferraz-Dougherty says “it’s OK to eat that candy on halloween but it’s important to have a plan”. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends halloween candy shortly after mealtimes. Saliva production increases during meals which cancels out acids produced by bacteria in your mouth and rinses away food particles. Another great ADA tip goes along with the idea of “eat the pleasers, skip the teasers” described in the paragraph above. Have your family choose only their favorites and donate the rest. Your teeth (and budget) will thank you if you limit your stash. Check to see if your dentist has a “candy take-back program”. Remember it is important to schedule regular appointments with a licensed dentist for you and your family. Check out the American Dental Association’s website “Mouth Healthy” for more tips on dental hygiene during halloween and all year long. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en?source=ADAWebsiteTab
Walking from house to house can provide a reasonable amount of physical activity for trick-or-treaters and the parents who escort them. However, safety is important too. Be sure to find a safe area to trick or treat. A good rule of thumb would be to look for areas with a lot of other trick-or-treaters. Watch out for cars as you walk through the neighborhoods. Don’t forget to check the parks in your area for Halloween events. Many parks in St. Louis host activities on or before Halloween.
With these simple tips, Halloween can be healthy and safe without ruining the fun. Check out these websites for safe places for trick or treating:
Written by: Vanessa Winegar RD, LD
Are you ready for an emergency? Would you be able to provide for yourself and your family if disaster struck? As the flooding happening in Texas right now has shown us, it is important to be prepared because emergencies do happen, often when you least expect them.
September is National Preparedness Month. During that time, we are reminded to “Be Ready in 3” by 1) Creating a plan, 2) Preparing an emergency kit and 3) Listening for more information related to emergency response. In an emergency, two possible scenarios include sheltering in place (staying where you are) or evacuating to a safer location. Regardless of the scenario, having an emergency food supply is a must.
Right now, you may be wondering a few things: What should I put in my kit to feed my family and what specific types of foods should I stock? How much emergency food should I have in my kit for each family member? How much water should I have? Here are the answers to those questions:
What should I put in my kit to feed my family?
The best foods for your emergency kit are non-perishable, canned or dried foods. These are typically packaged foods that have a longer shelf life. While this may not reflect your normal daily diet, keep in mind that an emergency is not a normal situation. Planning ahead can allow you to make rational choices about your emergency foods and reduce the possibility of not having something appropriate to eat.
Many companies are marketing survival foods, foods processed and packaged specifically for use in emergencies. While these foods may be convenient as well as easy to stock and transport, they are not necessary and are often more expensive too. It is better to select from items commonly found in your local grocery store.
What specific types of foods should I stock?
Select items that are ready-to-eat and don’t require cooking. Some suggestions include canned tuna, raisins or other dried fruits, crackers, peanut butter, trail mix, nuts, granola bars, and cereal. (If you have any canned foods, remember to pack a can opener too.) If you have an infant, be sure to include formula and appropriate baby foods. Make sure all food items are stored in airtight, water-proof containers to preserve quality and keep them safe from pests.
How much emergency food should I have in my kit for each family member?
Pack enough to last for at least 3 days. A 3-day supply is generally sufficient to last until you can get to help or help can get to you.
How long should I keep the food items in my kit?
If you select non-perishable, packaged foods for your kit, check the dates on the packages. Use those dates to determine when to replace food items. Plan to replace your food items so that the items coming out of the kit are still safe for consumption. By rotating your emergency food items periodically, you will ensure that you have emergency food that is edible, and nothing goes to waste.
How much water should I have?
The general recommendation is one gallon of water per person per day, with enough to last at least three days. Water does not spoil, but may need to be replaced if not used in a timely manner.
What about my pets?
On a final note, pets are family members too. You need to provide for them as well in the event of an emergency. If your pet(s) will be with you as you shelter in place or evacuate, please have enough pet food and water to last at least 3 days. However, because your pets may not be able to access the same amenities your human family members can (i.e. come inside a shelter), the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommend having up to 7 days worth of food and water for each pet.
Of course there are other items that should go in your emergency kit besides food and water. If you need more information on how to make a plan, what else to put in your kit or how to be more informed about emergencies, please visit: http://health.mo.gov/emergencies/readyin3/. Additionally, if you need more information about planning for emergencies when you have pets, check out: https://www.ready.gov/animals, the Humane Society or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Written by Lori Jones, MS, MPH, RD, LD
When you have a tight budget, eating healthy and staying within your means can seem nearly impossible. However, healthy eating on a strict budget can be a realistic feat. See our tips below to maintain a set budget without skimping on nutrition.
Please comment with any experiences you have with saving money at the grocery store.
Written by: Vanessa Winegar RD, LD
Summer is the perfect time to fire up your grill! Whether you are grilling meat, vegetables, pizza, or fruit, the smoky flavor you get by grilling is like nothing else. Here are tips for a safe, healthy and tasty barbeque.
Food Safety Tips:
Follow these simple tips to significantly decrease your risk of food poisoning.
Start building your healthy barbecue around fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with nutrients. Look no further than your local grocery store or farmer's' market for fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here are a few ideas for a creating a healthy barbecue without sacrificing flavor.
When the weather is hot and humid, exercising is probably the last thing that you feel like doing. Exercising in the heat can be hot, sticky, and downright uncomfortable when done during the heat of the day. What does this mean for those of us without a membership to an air conditioned gym? It is still important for all of us to find ways to exercise, even in the heat of summer. Getting our heart rate up has many benefits that you do not want to miss out on. Some benefits include: lower risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, improved digestion, improved mental health and mood, and lower risk for developing cancer. So, how can we beat the heat during the hot and humid summer months? Here are some tips:
Written by: Vanessa Winegar, RD, LD
Parents have a major influence on encouraging healthy eating in their kids by creating a supportive environment and modeling healthy eating. It’s true that ‘kids will be kids’ and eat ice cream after a soccer game or eat cake at birthday parties, but what matters more is what they are eating most of the time. This is where parents play an important role. Generally, encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, plant based proteins (like beans), and whole grains is what is recommended. Getting kids involved in the cooking process is a good start to creating this supportive environment. Involve them in the whole process: planning for family meals, grocery shopping, and cooking.
Research has shown that involving children in the cooking process will make them more likely to eat and try different fruits and vegetables. This is not the only benefit to cooking with your children. Other benefits include: kids feel like they are accomplishing something and contributing to the family; kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepare it; parents get to spend quality time with their kids; kids aren't spending time in front of the TV or computer while they're cooking; and they will be learning skills to use throughout their lives. You can start cooking with your child as young as 2 years old.
Here are some ideas for cooking with younger children:
2 year olds:
When cooking with older kids, make sure to teach them proper knife handling skills. When cooking with any age of children, talk to them about healthy foods and where food comes from. Cooking should be a creative process, so encourage kids to use their creative juices! This will make it a fun experience for them.
Comment below with experiences that you have had cooking with your children.
Easter is a time filled with chocolate bunnies, Peeps, and candy eggs. Depending on how many Easter egg hunts your child attends, they can collect enough candy to last them months. Candy is a big temptation for young ones, and when they are loading up on candy they are missing out on other nutrients they could be getting from fruits and vegetables. We’re not saying omit candy from Easter completely, but replacing ⅓ to ½ of the candy with toys is a healthy and smart move. You kids will even be more excited to receive both toys and candy. Additionally, you can use this opportunity to teach your child how to eat the candy in moderation. Here are some alternatives to candy alternative ideas to put in your Easter baskets this year:
Gym memberships can be expensive, which means a long term membership is unrealistic to many of us. Yet, aerobic exercise is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Aerobic exercise helps reduce risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. So, instead of draining our pocketbooks, let's embrace the springtime weather through St. Louis’s many running trails. St. Louis is overflowing with great running trails. From paved to dirt trails throughout the city and county, you are sure to find a trail near you. Here is a list of popular running trails in St. Louis.
CBS Local-St. Louis. Online. http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/top-lists/top-jogging-trails-in-st-louis/ Big River Running Company. Online. http://www.bigriverrunning.com/trails/
We live in a fast paced world, where eating on the go coincides with minimal time to prepare meals. This often leads to eating out, spending more money, and choosing foods that may not be as nutritionally beneficial for our bodies. Even as a dietetic intern working my way to become a registered dietitian, I have found myself scarfing down a bag of Cheerios from point A to point B because there was no time for an actual lunch break. One would assume my nutritional practices would be held to a higher standard considering my vocation, when in reality, there is much more I can do to mindfully eat on the go as well. So let’s pull some realistic tips that we may implement into our daily routine together.
There is no better time than now to take a look at our pantries- and see if they need a makeover! To start this off, we are going to use the term pantry loosely; meaning that this is going to include your fridge, freezer, those weird cupboards in the kitchen, and your actual pantry. Now this list is most definitely not limited to these items, but in my own belief, these are great items to always have on hand. The age old question is “What should we have for dinner tonight?” Well, with a pantry stocked with these few items, I think anyone can manage to whip something up in no time. If you aren’t very comfortable in the kitchen or don’t think you can cook well, here is great place to start. Gather these ingredients, find some recipes that intrigue you, and get to cooking. A major belief of mine is that healthy and delicious cooking comes only with kitchen confidence. With some time exploring with new ingredients and a little success with delicious dishes, I am positive that healthy, home-cooked meals will continue to follow. So without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 pantry essentials.
Grains are a great base for any meal; whether it is breakfast or dinner. Yes, I know that Grains is a very broad term for this list, which is why I chose to put it first. Now we all know that eating whole grains is more beneficial to our health, but why? Well whole grain means exactly that. The grain can be divided into three different parts, which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm. Products that are refined, not whole grain, are processed without the bran and germ. This means that there is decreased fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Most refined grains are enriched then to include many of those nutrients that are lost in processing. According to MyPlate, at least half of our grains should be whole grains. Whole grains which are processed with the entire grain, are great sources for magnesium, selenium, dietary fiber, folate, B vitamins, and iron. It might be difficult for many people who are used to refined grains to incorporate whole grains, but there are plenty of products in the market that don’t necessarily taste like cardboard. We’ve actually come a pretty long way since that. If completely switching over isn’t in your cards, then you can start out by changing to whole grain bread, then maybe to doing half and half pasta, and trying out different grains other than white rice or pearled barley.
There are many different types of grains which include breads, pasta, rice, barley, quinoa, etc. I know it seems daunting to start cooking with some grain that you’ve never used, much less can pronounce, but you might find something that you really love. I encourage you to use Google and find out the exact ratios and cooking times for specific grains, even I forget most of the time. Try making some quinoa salads to bring to work with you, or substitute some barley for dinner instead of white rice. For breakfast, you can start making things on toast, which I absolutely love. I use a sprouted whole grain bread, add some ripe avocado, an egg over easy, some spices, herbs, and red onion. It is the perfect start to my day that keeps me going and keeps me full. Just like I stated earlier, there are many different types of grains, but as long as you have an open mind and keep some in stock in your pantry, you’ll be able to create some nutritious meals.
Having stock on hand at all times is extremely valuable; honestly, it’s uses are numerous. You can utilize it as a base for soup, to create a multitude of sauces, when cooking grains to provide more flavor, or just in the crockpot for stews or braised meats. When purchasing stock from the store, one thing to always be wary of is sodium content. Many of the products we see on the shelf have almost 1,000 mcg of sodium, which is approximately 40% of our daily recommended allowance! With that said, look for options that are low sodium and have no salt added. If you are feeling adventurous and want to have more control over the sodium content of your stock, then you can even make it at home. Trust me, it’s simple, easy, and cheap. All you need are some basic vegetables and scraps, fresh herbs, and meat bones (if you want a vegetable stock then just forget about the bones). Scraps or undesired pieces can be used from vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, and garlic are typically used. Just be wary of the types of vegetable scraps you are using; sometimes certain colors will change how your stock looks and starchy vegetable scraps will make it cloudy and do not impart much flavor. All you need now are leftover herbs and roasted bones from chicken or beef. Just add cold water, in a proportion to your other products, and let simmer. Let it simmer for hours to develop good flavor and depth, and then add salt if necessary! That’s it!
Everyone knows that eggs are an excellent source of protein. But besides containing 6 g of protein in a single egg, they also contain 13 essential vitamins and minerals. These include choline, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and riboflavin. They are also rich in the essential amino acid leucine, which helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In the past, we have had some notions that eggs were not very “healthy” for us and that the cholesterol from the yolks were silent killers. However, the current research shows that dietary cholesterol does not have as much as an impact on our body’s total cholesterol, as previously thought. Now don’t think that eggs have to be limited to just breakfast, even though it is my favorite time of day to eat them. They can be hard-boiled and brought as a high protein snack to fuel you through the day, or added to a salad or sandwich. They can even be soft-boiled and added to soups like ramen or curry. Since they are only about 20 cents per egg, then just start adding them wherever you see fit. You never know if you’ll like them in something, unless you try it!
“Beans, beans, the magical fruit.” Well, unfortunately, beans are not classified as a fruit, but rather a legume; however, I do think they are pretty magical. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, while also being very low in fat. Since beans come from a plant, they are a great protein alternative to meat for those who are vegetarian, vegan, or just want to lower their meat consumption. They also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is beneficial for gastrointestinal health and overall cholesterol levels. They are jam packed with phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese, which are some nutrients that most Americans do not consume enough of. In general, beans are quite magical and the inclusion of at least 3 cups per week in our diet will ensure that we meet the U.S Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you have the time to commit, then purchasing dry beans is a quite a money-saver. A 2 lb. bag can cost less than two dollars, while a 15 oz. can could range from 1-2 dollars. All you need to do before preparing dry beans is soak them in water overnight, which will soften them and decrease their cooking time. If you just aren’t quite at that stage, then canned beans are still great. In my pantry, I keep several cans of black beans, garbanzo beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. A great go to meal with beans, is always going to be chili. Just take a few cans of beans, like black beans and kidney beans, make sure you rinse them off after opening, and then throw them in the crockpot with some chicken stock, diced tomatoes, and spices. The reason why I said to rinse them off is due to the high sodium content of canned beans. They are packed with the sodium to help preserve them and add some flavor, but if you just rinse them off before using them, you can actually lose about 40% of that excess sodium. You can also make some great side dishes and dips with beans. Garbanzo beans, otherwise known as chick peas, can be blended with some oil, lemon juice, tahini, and spices to for some home-made hummus. Pinto beans can also be cooked down, mashed, and re cooked with some spices and oil to make “refried beans.” You can also throw some black beans with eggs, peppers, onions, avocado, and either a tortilla shell, for a delicious and well-rounded breakfast burrito. There are so many fun different ways you can incorporate more beans into your diet, just make sure you have them on hand in your pantry, and you are good to go.
Nuts are always great to have in the pantry. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein. They also contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which help increase our HDL “good cholesterol,” and lower our LDL “bad cholesterol.” Not only are they rich in energy and nutrients, but they also impart wonderful flavor. They have a crunchy yet buttery texture, with a toastiness that only comes from nuts. You can make a delicious pesto for dinner with a handful of pine nuts or walnuts or make some banana pancakes with some pecans. I love to just throw them on top of my morning oatmeal! They add depth of flavor and a richness to each bite you take. They are also great because they are travel size and not easily perishable. Just pack a little baggie of mixed nuts and you are good to go. You can even use them at home to make your own granola for a delicious breakfast or snack to take while at the gym or in class.
While I have an arsenal of vinegars in my pantry, one or two of them on hand, can give your dish a big flavor upgrade. My typical go to vinegars are apple cider, rice, balsamic, and white wine. The choice of vinegar I use just really boils down to its application, no pun intended. The main uses I have for vinegar includes vinaigrettes, marinades, pickling, and sautéing vegetables. Making vinaigrettes are a super easy, cheap, and a healthy option, especially compared to store bought dressings. The ratio for making is 1-part vinegar or acid to 3-4 parts oil. All you have to do is whisk in the oil in a steady stream, and add any other flavors you would like. This could include honey, herbs, and spices. Besides making vinaigrettes, I love to sauté leafy greens and other vegetables in apple cider vinegar. Just a little bit of it goes a long way, imparting a tangy and acidic flavor. You can also make a homemade pasta sauce with some tomatoes, garlic, onions, and balsamic vinegar. Balsamic has a very robust and sweet flavor, and when cooked down in sauce with those other ingredients, it’s a perfect addition to some whole wheat pasta and fresh basil. While these are just a few ways to use vinegars, there are thousands of recipes online for quick pickling or delicious marinades. With just a couple of different vinegars in your pantry, you are bound to wow with whatever you make.
HAND FRUIT of CHOICE
The title of this pantry item is a little strange, but it really just means, have some type of fruit on hand at all times. You do not need to have every type of fresh fruit in your pantry, but it is beneficial to have at least one. We are always on the go, running around and doing errands, and getting important vitamins and nutrients can sometimes go forgotten. In case you didn’t know, eating a variety of colors is beneficial to our health, as different colors correlate to different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Orange and dark leafy green foods are high in beta-carotene which benefit our immune system, vision, and skin and bone health. Red foods, like tomatoes, red peppers, and watermelon, contain lycopene which is beneficial for prostate cancer and heart health. Many leafy greens also contain lutein which supports eye and heart health. Blue or purple foods contain anthocyanin, which helps with memory and aging. As you can tell, eating a rainbow of colors is beneficial for our overall health. Having that fresh fruits available is just one way you can actively think about eating the rainbow and getting the nutrients you need.
I would like to think that I have an upper hand when working with different spices when cooking. Going to culinary school allowed for me to explore a multitude of cuisines and experience spices from throughout the world. That ability to work with these spices, that I had otherwise never known about, has given me the knowledge to create delicious dishes full of flavor. In our kitchens today, those spices we are usually pretty limited, and that is mostly from a lack of knowing flavor profiles and application, but also from our dependence on salt. So many of us have a taste preference that is attuned to saltiness. However, our food doesn’t need to be laden with salt to be delicious. I urge you to try out new spices and research on how to use them; just really see the things you like. There is also a book that I recommend called the Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. This book is a little intimidating and confusing, however, it can teach you a lot about flavor profiles and how to pair spices, all of which without the addition of salt.
Not only do spices expand our palette, but they also provide a variety of health benefits. They contain essential oils, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. While they all have some different properties, they mostly have the same benefits. These include anti-inflammatory properties, blood flow stimulation and blood pressure regulation, ease of gastrointestinal distress and digestion, and many more. All these spices can be purchased whole and you can grind them yourself, however, this form is usually more expensive. If I know that I like to use to whole, then that is the form I purchase it in, but if not, then buying them already ground is perfectly fine. Just make sure you store them in airtight containers and keep them out of direct sunlight so that they don’t oxidize and become rancid. Otherwise, just have fun with it!
FROZEN FRUITS and VEGETABLES
I absolutely love having a bunch of frozen fruit and vegetables stocked up in my freezer. It is a great way to save money and always have something to cook with. You can also freeze your own produce as well. If you notice something that might be going bad, or you know that you won’t be able to utilize something, then just package it in freezer bags yourself, label and date them, and store them for later. You can also do this with items that are seasonal. What I do during the summer is load up on delicious strawberries and then pack them away for the year. Whenever I want to make a smoothie or jam, or just have some delicious strawberries on the side of my pancakes, then I can just take them out of the freezer and they are just as fresh as the day I picked them. There may be some negative connotations with purchasing frozen, but it just isn’t true. Fruits and vegetables that are frozen have been picked at their peak ripeness. With little processing, they go from the farm to the package. This means great flavor and high nutritional value. If you are always busy and don’t necessarily have a lot of time to prepare a bunch of vegetables for dinner, then you can open up a bag of frozen vegetables and stir fry them up in a second. Frozen produce is an excellent source to make sure you are consuming the recommended intake of 2 servings of fruit and 2-3 servings of vegetables per day.
Last, but not least: oil! To me, oil is a very necessary staple in my kitchen. But before I get into some uses, here is just a little bit of some important information on oil. They are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Some of the most common ones are vegetable, canola, olive, sunflower, safflower, and soybean. Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fat. However, some plant oils are very high in saturated fats, meaning they are solid are room temperature. Also, knowing the ratio of monounsaturated fat (MUFA) to polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) is key when deciding which oil to use in a particular dish. That ratio is relevant to understanding the smoking point of that oil when cooking, which is important to retaining the overall health and flavor of it. When oils are cooked to or past their smoking point, they begin to produce free radicals and other harmful fumes. Therefore, different oil types should be used in for different applications. For instance, extra virgin olive oil, which has great flavor and richness to it, has a very low smoking point with a high ratio of MUFAs to PUFAs; this means that it is much better used as a dressing or finish for a dish, rather than being used to cook with. On the other hand, flaxseed oil holds up excellent to heat due to its ratio of 73% PUFAs to 18% MUFAs. Now, everything I make is cooked with some type of oil, whether it is canola or sesame. I use it for making dressings and marinades, but I mostly use it for actual cooking. A serving size is 1 teaspoon, so when cooking, I use about 3 servings which is 1 tablespoon. This is normally enough to coat the pan I am using or enough to coat the vegetables I roast in the over. The amount to use is subjective to the dish, however, there is a such a thing as too much. Unless you are shallow frying something, your vegetables shouldn’t be drowning in oil. With more experience and time in the kitchen, you will get a feel for how much a dish requires.
Below are some resources to learn some more nutrition information on some of these products and also some links to help you continue to build your perfect pantry!