Articles

2010 DGA Consumer Tool and Icon

My Plate
I’ve had the opportunity to think about the new USDA MyPlate icon. I saw it a couple of weeks ago and again when it was released to the public. At first I didn’t appreciate how it would succeed in committing people who eat on the run to consider the message of balance and portion control. However, I now appreciate that a change was needed and using a plate may actually help people to reflect on their eating habits.

Like the Food Guide Pyramid which morphed into the MyPyramid, the shape did not instruct one on how to construct a meal. The pyramid focused on the concept of a daily intake which resonated only within the dietetics world. A public communication tool should relate to nutrition on a meal basis which is why a plate is more appropriate. My concern is that we have stopped eating on plates.  Perhaps seeing our meals laid out, so we get a visual of portion adequacy, will help us to tame the out of control eating patterns we’ve developed. Too many times our meals are consumed in a cup or from a bag while in a car or at a desk.

When I asked Dr. Robert Post who directed the MyPlate.gov launch, how the public would be able to use this plate concept when they eat on the run, his response was that it is meant to be a reminder. An icon which reminds people that foods need to fit into a meal pattern and when accompanied by a relevant message which doesn’t grow stale, it can educate. He also pointed out that the icon is just a tool which directs one to the website where there is a wealth of information waiting to be accessed. In my humble opinion, this is a great improvement and a major step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how well the tool communicates the desired messages.

To learn more about the new MyPlate icon:

Celebrate Memorial Day With Eggs!

Hi Readers!  Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Karen Buch, blogging.  Enjoy!

~Marcia

I’m a registered dietitian, director at a supermarket chain and mom to a high-energy 16-month old. So, I understand the challenges some moms face while trying eat well despite their hectic lifestyle. Most of us have good intentions. We want to make healthy, delicious meals for our families–but, some days, our busy lives get in the way.

One thing I remind myself to do is allow ample time to re-charge and enjoy life along the way. Memorial Day is just around the corner and I’m looking forward to the long holiday weekend. I plan to take full advantage of the extra time and the chance to kick back and relax. At some point over the weekend, I’m going to cook, but I want to keep it simple. I plan to make this quick and easy appetizer. It’s one of my favorite recipes to take to a party or serve when I’m hosting. You can literally mix everything in a single bowl and dump it into the pan to bake!

I feel great about serving this for three reasons. One: it’s DELICIOUS and I always get requests for the recipe. Two: it contains spinach—a superfood packed with lutein and beta carotene for eye health, antioxidant vitamins C and E, iron and B vitamins like folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin and B6. Three: it contains eggs as a source of perfect protein and 13 essential nutrients. You may also be surprised to learn eggs are 14 percent lower in cholesterol than once thought.

Give these Cheesy Spinach Squares a try and enjoy your holiday!

4113850256_75ff4db0a3

Cheesy Spinach Squares
Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook Time:  45 minutes    Makes: 20 squares
Ingredients:
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
3 large eggs
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup skim milk
1 (16-ounce) package 2% sharp cheddar cheese shreds
½  tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp baking soda
nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a  9” x  13” glass baking dish by spraying all sides lightly with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, add spinach, eggs, onion, mushrooms, milk and cheese. Stir.  Sprinkle in salt, flour, onion powder, baking soda and stir until combined thoroughly.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Slice into squares and serve warm or at room temperature. Within 2 hours, store any leftover squares in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Squares re-heat easily in the microwave.

Karen Buch RD, LDN

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Eye Health

Recent news on the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin caught my eye (pun intended). Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that can impact, among other things, visual health by decreasing the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye condition. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli – as well as eggs. However, research suggests that the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are more bioavailable than when from plant sources. This is probably due to the lipid matrix of the egg yolk, which facilitates absorption of the fat soluble carotenoids. And nutrient bioavailability is an important consideration for human health. It doesn’t much matter if a food is high in a given nutrient if that nutrient is inaccessible to the body upon consumption.

The amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs is variable, and is largely dependent on the feed that the hen consumes. Some egg producers fortify the hens’ diet with marigold extract or purified lutein in an effort to raise the content of these vitamins in eggs. As a consumer you can get a rough idea of the lutein content of an egg by observing the color of the egg yolk. Lutein imparts an orange-yellow color to the yolk. Yolks from hens not supplemented with additional carotenoids tend to have a more yellow color.

For more information on lutein and zeaxanthin and their impact on eye health, the articles below are recommended. With an aging population comes a rise in age-related health conditions such as macular degeneration.  So you’re likely to hear more and more about these carotenoids in the future.

 

Vishwanathan R, Goodrow-Kotyla EF, Wooten BR, Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ. Consumption of 2 and 4 egg yolks/d for 5 wk increases macular pigment concentrations in older adults with low macular pigment taking cholesterol-lowering statins. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90:1272-9.

Moeller SM, Jacques PF, Blumberg JB. The potential role of dietary xanthophylls in cataract and age-related macular degeneration. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:522S-527S.

Eight Ideas for Making Family Mealtime a Success

Hi Readers!  Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Eileen Behan, blogging.  Enjoy!

~Marcia

It’s after 6 pm; you just walked in and have a hungry family to feed. Many American families solve the nightly dinner dilemma by grabbing drive-through, eating pizza or fending for themselves before splitting up to spend the evening doing homework, answering e-mails, or watching television. Most families recognize the family meal to be important they just need some help making it work. I have found preplanning and keeping the refrigerator or freezer stocked with ready- to cook food is one important strategy.

The importance of the family meal is not a new idea.  A 2000 White House Report by the Council of Economic Advisors, found that children who eat with an adult five times in a week are less likely to be involved in high risk behaviors such as smoking, taking drugs and using alcohol.

Food historian Margaret Visser considers eating together to be so important she writes in her book The Rituals of Dinner: the Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners that one definition of family is “those who eat together.”

Keep in mind perfection is not the goal -the real goal is spending time together and reconnecting. It won’t be a surprise to any of us to hear time constraints, and “picky eaters” are common obstacles to the family meal. To make family meals happen turn off the television, cell phones and computers. Reducing screen time and eating family meals has a secondary benefit of reducing the risk of obesity

Here are some meal planning ideas I suggest for busy families:

  • Preplan meals and cook on the weekend so you have a ready-to-heat meal during the week.
  • Buy something pre-made a rotisserie chicken for example then balance the meal with a side dish, and a salad.
  • You can do the same with fast food too,  buy a sandwich or burger on the way  home and serve it with a fruit plate and cooked frozen or fresh vegetables.
  • Keep ingredients for “emergency meals” on hand, have eggs for a quick omelet, frozen meat, poultry, or fish and an assortment of vegetables canned, fresh or frozen.
  • To keep the meal balanced always serve a fruit or vegetable or both with every menu.
  • Involve the whole family in meal planning, ask children to grade vegetables, A-F, to determine those they like.
  • For the picky eaters always serve something you know they will eat that might be bread and butter or pasta and cheese. If you know the vegetable won’t be popular put out a bunch of grapes or a bowl of sliced fruit.
  • For ideas on incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your menu visit the For the Love of Food Project at www.fortheloveoffood.org
  • If dinner doesn’t work try breakfast as the family meal. To make breakfast successful preplan the night before, have the ingredients for scrambled eggs and toast ready to go and serve with a fruit salad, a sliced grapefruit or frozen fruit defrosted in the refrigerator overnight or try the recipe for my family’s favorite called Blueberry Puff below

Once dinner is on the table sit down, and ignore the dishes or laundry until after the meal. Mealtime presents a good way to catch up, but sometimes that’s easier said then done. To find out how the day went ask everyone to list their high and low points as a conversation starter. To keep meals pleasant don’t focus on who is eating what, focus on basic manners and good behavior. Then enjoy your meal and your family.

Blueberry Puff

I prepare this when I want a hot breakfast but don’t have time to flip pancakes or tend eggs. If extra servings are needed, don’t double the recipe, make two separate batches instead.

Makes 2 servings

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter or oil  in a 1-quart baking dish and put it in the hot oven  for 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter melts and the dish is hot. Remove the hot dish from the oven and swirl the butter or oil so that it evenly coats the bottom of the sides of the dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and flour and beat well, using a wire whisk or a fork, Pour the batter into the warm dish and scatter the fruit over the top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown around the edges. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Nutrients per serving using butter: 287 calories, 12.4 g fat, 6.0 g saturated fat, cholesterol 206 mg,137 mg sodium, 32.3 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber.

Refueling After Exercise

In a recent blog post, I mentioned the growing acknowledgement of the importance of protein for physical performance. Much research published in recent years suggests that protein, long downplayed as a key nutrient for better performance, may play a larger role than previously thought.

But what about post-exercise? What should an active person consume after a hard workout to re-load and replenish, to minimize tissue damage, and to restore energy stores for the next workout? Once again, newer research is pointing to protein (as a part of a carbohydrate/protein blend of nutrients) as a key to recovery.  Much of the research performed in the 1970s through the 1990s pointed to carbohydrate as the principle nutrient for exercise recovery, and I don’t mean to minimize the benefits of carbs for active folks. However, many studies now indicate that a mixture of carbs and proteins (some say a 3:1 mixture of carb:protein is best, though the exact ratio is still open to debate) can more quickly convert an individual from the catabolic (or tissue breakdown) state that occurs during exercise to an anabolic (or tissue build-up and repair) state that is preferred during exercise recovery.  High protein shakes and products of that nature are preferred by many athletes after a hard workout. They are convenient and they will provide carbs and protein. But one shouldn’t forget “real” food either. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate milk and hard-cooked eggs are starting to gain favor with athletes as well. Products like these taste great, they’re familiar to most folks, and they deliver additional micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that can aid in tissue recovery.

Some food for thought whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a new exerciser seeking to make fitness gains while minimizing risk of injury and overuse.