Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tidbit: Top sources of sodium in common foods

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued a “top 10” list of the most common foods that contribute sodium to everyone’s diet. Well, not exactly everyone, because a number of people I know are very aware and conscious about the sodium in their diet due to ongoing heart or kidney issues.

Here’s the Top 10 List (in no special order)
  1. Bread and rolls
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats
  3. Pizza
  4. Poultry
  5. Soups
  6. Sandwiches
  7. Cheese
  8. Pasta dishes
  9. Meat dishes
  10. Snacks
There are ranges of sodium in each category of these foods, depending on the brand. It really helps to compare the sodium on labels. For example, Healthy Request soups have about half the sodium of the regular version (400 milligrams vs. 800 milligrams per cup, in some cases).

And let’s pick on cheese for a minute.  Cheese does not seem that salty, right? But I had a chance to try low-sodium cheese once while working at the Kroger deli (we had it available because of a customer's special request).  The cheese did not taste at all like cheese, which told me that a good part of cheese's flavor comes from the sodium. 

For more info about the sodium in foods and ways to trim back, check out the CDC’s sodium page.  Remember, with sodium, every little bit adds up, so be aware and keep checking those labels.

By the way, have you tried Mrs. Dash instead of salt? The Chicken Grilling blend is great to use on baked chicken.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's for Dinner: Multi-bean soup

I found a great bean, pea and lentil combination at Costco last week (top photo) and had to try the mix with my favorite bean soup recipe.  Beans are one of the most heart healthy foods around, because their soluble fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Beans and other legumes are also lower on the glycemic index, which means they have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels.

Not everyone is a bean lover, but if you are, try this recipe with any mixed bean and legume combination for an excellent cold weather warm-up!

Recipe: Multi-bean soup

20 ounces (2.5 cups) mixed dried beans
1/2 cup quick barley
8 ounces lean ham, cubed (or sliced smoked sausage)
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
28 ounces diced tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
Juice of 1 lemon (3-4 tablespoons)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Wash beans thoroughly. Place beans in large pan and cover with at least 3 inches of water and 1-2 tablespoons salt. Soak overnight (or at least 5 hours) in the refrigerator.  Drain beans and add 2.5 quarts water. Add meat and barley. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours.

Add onions, tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Simmer another 30-45 minutes.

Serve with crackers or whole grain bread and a green salad. Serves 7 people (2 cup servings) as a main dish, or serves 14-15 using one cup of soup with a sandwich on the side.  Great as leftovers.

Nutrition information per one cup: 149 calories, 9 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 388 milligrams sodium.

Recipe adapted from recipe on Hurst’s HamBeens 15 Bean Soup package.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tidbit: Supplement Tracking App

There is a new-to-me phone app that may interest you from the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. It is called My Dietary Supplements (MyDS). It is FREE, and can help you keep track of your vitamins, minerals, herbs and other products. Sure, you can keep a list on an index card and bring that along to your next doctor’s visit. But this app keeps your list handy, lets you keep track of all your family member’s info too, and allows you access to science-based, reliable information on dietary supplements.  And you never know when you might need the info while you’re out shopping.

The MyDS app is available at the iTunes Store. For more information about the app, visit the Office of Dietary Supplement’s website. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's for dinner? Big salad.

Tonight's dinner salad made to accompany leftover chicken breasts and potatoes. Salad ingredients: Romaine, English cucumber, tomatoes, green and red pepper, mushrooms, avocado and Newman's Olive oil and Vinegar dressing.  About  3 cups of salad per person (did I ever tell you I like salad?)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Q & A: Food Poisoning: What to do

Q.            I am trying to figure out what food caused me to have a problem with severe diarrhea. My wife and I ate almost the same foods on Sunday, except I ate some pre-cut cantaloupe cubes and she did not. The next day,  all day long I could not leave my house; I had to stay home to be near the bathroom.
            Is there any way to tell if a food is contaminated?  Or how do I know if there has been a recall on any food items (like the recalls you hear about in the news)? F.G. Hudsonville

A.            The trouble with food poisoning, or food borne illness, is that there is no sure way to tell if a food is tainted, by looks, smell or taste.  There doesn’t need to be much of the offending bacteria present to take hold of your system and wreak havoc.  And those of us with a compromised immune system (young children, pregnant women, older folks, and people with severe illnesses) who generally have difficulty fighting off the easy bugs, get into the most trouble.
There are several ways to report  a suspected food borne illness or food poisoning incidence. First, make an appointment with your physician; they can make a report to the correct agency (usually the local health department), and may ask for lab samples of your blood, stool, and urine.
Or, you could call your local health department yourself and let them know about your suspected incidence of food poisoning. They will ask questions about what food do you suspect, where did you buy it, when did you eat it, how long did it take for symptoms to appear, what are your symptoms, etc. Don’t be surprised if they ask you to remember what you ate 2-3 days prior to when you got sick, because some bacteria take two days or more to grow in your system and then make you sick. Rarely does a food immediately make you sick from food borne illness.

For ways to keep your home food safe, check out this brochure from the USDA. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Q & A: Counting Chili

Q.            I received two 12-ounce containers of chili from a friend. She told me the chili ingredients were ground beef, chili beans, onion, green pepper, tomato, chili powder, and banana pepper. I am on a food group type of meal plan; can you tell me how I should count this into my plan?  M.A. Grand Rapids

A.            Sounds like a good basic chili.  Combination foods such as chili and other casseroles can count as a few different food groups at once. One of the 12-ounce containers, about 1.5 cups, would be considered a smallish meal (but maybe just right for a quick lunch). I would count this portion of chili as equivalent to one vegetable serving (for the tomatoes, peppers and onions), three ounces of protein (from the beans and the meat), and one starch serving (from the beans).  To round out the meal, you could add a salad and a few corn tortilla chips or crackers. 

            For an easy beef and bean chili recipe from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln Extension Service, click here.