Monday, February 16, 2015

Food Storage Guide "Must Have"

Everyone needs a food storage guide like this one. You know, so you can look up how long it's OK to keep that can of food that has been tucked into the dark reaches of the cupboard. Or that packaged rice mix; how long is that going to be OK?

The Food Storage Guide by Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, is a collaboration between Purdue and North Dakota Extension Services. It is 15 pages and downloadable. I plan to put mine in clear page protectors (2 pages per protector) so it will be easy to access and won't get soiled.

Here are some of the foods covered in the Guide:

  • foods in the cupboard
  • baked goods
  • refrigerated foods
  • fruit and vegetables
  • meats
  • baby food (including breast milk)
  • condiments

Click here to find the Food Storage Guide (pdf format).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What's for New Year's Eve? Greek Guacamole!

If you’ve ever had this appetizer before, you know it is yummy!
It’s easy to put together, and best if done ahead (anywhere from 2 hours to overnight) to let the flavors meld.  Serve with corn tortilla chips (the scooping kind are the most fun because you can get more “stuff” with every bite).

Greek Guacamole
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 large tomatoes or 4-6 smaller ones (chopped, to cover the bottom of your serving container)
3 to 4 ripe avocados (not squishy ripe, ideally still a little firm), peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1/2  cup Greek dressing (I used Ken’s); Italian works, too
1/2 cup (or more) crumbled feta cheese

I used a glass baking pan, about 8 inches by 12 inches (20 x 30 cm).   Layer the chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, and cubed avocado pieces in the pan. Sprinkle lemon juice over, then the Greek dressing. Stir a little to coat the avocado cubes with dressing (to keep them from turning brown). Sprinkle with the feta cheese crumbles, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Serve with corn tortilla chips or crackers.  Easily serves 10 – 12 as a party appetizer. Nutrition information for one-tenth of the dish: (to follow)

Friday, October 31, 2014

SAFE and UNSAFE Gluten-Free Candies for Halloween 2014 and other sweet times

I found a great list last week of both SAFE and UNSAFE candy for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.  (Remember, people with celiac disease must eliminate all foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, and products made from these grains. If they do not strictly avoid gluten-containing foods, long-term malnutrition could result due to damaged villi in the intestines).

But first, there is one rule of thumb to use if you are new to this gluten-free thing: You can’t tell if a food has gluten just by looking. And that means looking at the ingredient list, too. My illustration above of Brach’s candy corn, one of my once-a-year treats for fall, is to show that even though the ingredient list does not list a gluten-containing food, the statement below the ingredient list tells the real story (“This product was manufactured in a facility where milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy are used in the production of other products”).

Here are a few candies that caught my eye (there were way more listed):

SAFE Candy for Celiac and Gluten-Free: 
  • 3 Musketeers fun size
  • Almond Joy fun size
  • Baby Ruth
  • Bit-O-Honey
  • Butterfinger original
  • Haribo Gold-Bears
  • Jelly Belly beans
  • Jolly Rancher hard candy
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Lemonheads
  • M&Ms original
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Snickers
  • Swedish Fish
  • York Peppermint Patties 

UNSAFE Candy for Celiac and Gluten-Free

  • Anything from Brach’s (candies are manufactured in a facility where wheat-containing candies are made, which means the candy could be cross-contaminated with wheat).
  • Red Vines
  • Trolli Gummi Bears
  • Ferrero Rocher Chocolates
  • Kit Kat
  • Whoppers
  • Twizzlers
  • Milky Way (contains barley malt)
  • Butterfinger Crisp or Stixx (contains wheat flour)

Click Here for the complete list of Yes and No candies for people following a gluten-free diet, compiled by Jefferson Adams at  While you’re at it, you can sign up for their newsletter to find out the latest on gluten-free foods and research.

And spoiler alert (sorry, I have to say this): Even if a candy is gluten-free, it’s still candy! Don’t go wild with it or the calories will come back to haunt you!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Omega 3 Fats are Essential

One good way to get essential Omega-3 fats.

I don't know about you, but the topic of fats can be downright confusing and difficult to keep straight. Between trying to keep the good and bad fats separated, then adding in omega 3 fats, omega 6 fats, etc., it can be easy to get off track.

One thing I like about my job is that I get to continually research answers to questions that come up regarding various patients.  For example, an endocrinologist I work with sent me a patient with "essential fatty acid deficiency". This is not a common diagnosis, so I was not sure exactly what I needed to for this person. To complicate matters, he had undergone gastrointestinal surgery 5 years ago, which can cause malabsorption of many different nutrients. The doctor checked for nutrient deficiency, along with fatty acids, because this person was complaining of being foggy-brained (at less than 40 years old), among other issues.

After taking a diet history, and a bit of research, we determined that even though he was getting fat in his diet, he was never choosing the essential fatty acids, which are the omega 3 fats. His task for the next two months (when more blood will be drawn) is to eat 10-15 walnut halves daily, salmon at least 1-2 times a week, and add ground flax seed to his yogurt 2 or 3 times a week.  We will see in late November whether adding these good fats will make a difference.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that are proving to be especially beneficial to your brain (such as memory and depression).  They also are beneficial for heart health, can ease inflammatory conditions (certain types of arthritis, joint pain and skin flare-ups), and are helpful in pregnancy.

Omega 3 fatty acids come in a few types:
EPA and DHA (found in cold water fatty fish such as salmon, herring mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and are the omega 3 fats that have been studied the most.)
ALA (found in plants, and is considered a less potent from of omega-3 than EPA and DHA; good sources include walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil.)

How much does the average person need? The American Heart Association guidelines recommends 1000 to 3000 milligrams a day of EPA and DHA.  (If you ate one of the salmon patties pictured above, you'd be covered.)

A good guide to help you learn more about various fats is from (Choosing Healthy Fats).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tidbits: Salad Days and Pantry Pests

A simple late summer salad

So where have I been? Mostly outside playing in my garden, taking a brain break. Plus working, of course. Thanks for asking, Steve, Sid and Elaine!

The topic I would like to touch on today is something common, but you usually don't hear people talking about it. What is it? Bugs in the pantry!

Have you ever had weevils, moths, or other insects invade your food (or your pet's dry food)? I have. And it's not pretty. (Warning: Gross picture ahead!)

Grain weevils in my flour (that was stored in a glass jar--they just appeared!)
Click the picture if you dare. These weevils are less than one-quarter inch long, and had just hatched out in my glass jar of flour.  Talk about losing your appetite for making cookies! Fortunately I had an unopened bag of flour that was pest-free, so I could continue.

The reason I keep my sugar and flour in 2-gallon glass jars is to keep the buggers out! But did you know that there is a certain amount of "bug debris" that is allowed in our food products? Granted, the amount is small, but that's why they seem to come out of nowhere.

If you'd like to know more about what to do once you have an insect breakout, and how to prevent it, click on  Controlling Pantry Pests, good info from Penn State.

As you can see, sometimes even if you do the right things, the bugs show up. And just make sure you wear your glasses when you are cooking and baking!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What Was It?

Did you know that over 30 percent of people admit to eating last night's leftover pizza, even if it was not refrigerated?  That's just one of the things you'll learn when you check out the neat food safety quiz I found today.

The quiz shows you 10 pictures of way-past-their-prime foods, and you pick your best guess of what the food used to be, from a multiple choice list. After you submit your answer for each one, you learn the correct answer, as well as a tidbit about that food and how to keep it safe.

Ready? The site is Home Food Safety (sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and ConAgra). To start the quiz, click HERE.  

I missed one of the foods, but sheesh, I usually don't let my food get that gross before I toss it. (And I can't tell you which one I missed, or it would give away the answer).

After you are done, come back here and leave me a comment about how you did!  And let your friends and family try the quiz to see how smart they are about food safety!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Part 2: Too Low Carb, Not So Smart?

How did you do on the carbohydrate quiz? (Scroll down to yesterday’s post to see what I’m talking about.)   Here are my answers, and as you may have guessed, there are very few absolute true or absolute false answers in science as in life. There is always wiggle room.

1. Low carbohydrate eating will help you lose weight. T or F
                  Answer: False.  Why is it false? Because it depends on how much carbohydrate foods you ate to start with. If you always have dessert with meals, and serve bread with all your meals, and drink lots of juice and regular pop, yes, you will lose weight if you cut down on some of these foods. But, if you substitute fatty foods for carbohydrate (snacking on nuts, seeds, spoons of peanut butter instead of carbohydrate), you probably won’t do well with weight loss.

2. Low carbohydrate eating will help your blood sugar. T or F
                  Answer: False.  Again, it depends on what you used to eat or drink.  Sure, if you cut down on heavy carbohydrate foods, your blood sugar could improve, but blood sugar isn’t all about food.  Part of the problem with diabetes is that your liver may think you are starving, and will create sugar for you.  Some people get very upset when they “cut out all the carbohydrate” and their blood sugar is still well over 150 (normal fasting blood sugar is 70-100 milligrams per deciliter in the US). 

3. Everyone needs carbohydrate. T or F
                  Answer: True.  Carbohydrate is the fuel that your brain and muscles use for energy. If you cut your carbohydrate too low, what happens? Your body shifts into using fat for energy, plus breaks down protein (muscle) for sugar. That is an expensive way to eat, and your brain and muscles do not do as well with these “alternate” fuels. Headache, fuzzy thinking and weakness are possible results. And don’t forget, your heart is a very important muscle that you don’t want to weaken.

4. How much carbohydrate (in grams) is a minimum needed for adults?
                  According to the National Academy of Sciences, and adult needs 130 grams of carbohydrate per day to run your brain and muscles.  Some people with high energy needs may need a higher minimum. 

5. Athletes do better on a high-carbohydrate diet. T or F
                  Answer: True.  In fact, if athletes do not get enough carbohydrate, they will not be their best competitive self.  If you are figuring numbers, someone who is a serious athlete should be getting at least 50 percent of their calories from carbohydrate, and 60 percent is even better.
                  A few years back, one of my patients was training for the River Bank Run, and could not run more than 5 miles in training without running out of energy. It turned out he was eating just 90 grams of carbohydrate a day in an effort to lose 10 pounds.  I advised him that he should be eating at least 225 grams of carbohydrate (and more would have been better) while training, in order to keep his muscles fueled.  He was still stuck on the idea that he needed low carbohydrate, so I’m not sure how his training or his run went. (And hello? If you are training for a big run, your 10 pounds will likely “fall” off without performing any dietary tricks).

6. You need extra carbohydrate after exercise. T or F
                  Answer: True. There is a one hour window of opportunity after a big work out, where your muscles replace their glycogen (stored carbohydrate) to provide muscle fuel for tomorrow.  Take advantage of those bananas, bagels, yogurt and other goodies after a sponsored run or walk, or if you are on your own, eat some carbohydrate! Regular milk and chocolate milk are also good carbohydrate choices.

7. Carbohydrate helps you think. T or F
                  Answer: True.  See number 3 above.  Have you ever had a delayed meal and you started to get fuzzy-headed? Or a headache?  Eating carbohydrate helps both conditions, especially if the cause was a skipped meal.

8. The carbohydrate in white rice and white bread is worse for you than the carbohydrate in brown rice and grainy bread. T or F
                  Answer: False.  While it’s true that grainy foods have the added bonus of fiber and some B vitamins, carbohydrate is carbohydrate.  When someone has diabetes, it is the amount of carbohydrate foods eaten, not the type of carbohydrate foods that makes the difference.  I have talked to many people who have substituted whole grain pasta and brown rice in their meals because it is “healthier”, but they have not cut portions, and wonder why their blood sugar has not improved.

9. It is better to divide your carbohydrate intake throughout the day (rather than eat it all at one time). T or F
                  Answer: True.  Your brain and muscles appreciate a constant source of fuel, not one big smorgasbord once per day. Having trouble with energy levels? Keep the carbohydrate divided through the day. Even athletes do better with multiple meals through the day.

10. Natural carbs (such as honey, pure maple syrup, fruit, and 100 percent fruit juice) don’t count toward your carbohydrate for the day. T or F
                  Answer: False.  All the examples above are “natural” sugars and carbs, but they are still carbohydrate, and are not “freebies”.  And some of them add up very fast in calories as well.

So how did you do? 

If  you’d like to argue any of these points with me, come see me at diabetes class and we’ll talk.