There is a lot of buzz out there about GMO foods and some of it sounds really scary. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, so right there you are probably saying ‘no way do I want to eat that!’ The fact is that GMO is a process of changing the way a plant or animal expresses genes. Farmers have been putting in and taking out genes from living things for ages using hybridization and selective breeding. Red Delicious apples, seedless watermelons and broccoli do not grow in the wild. They are cultivated crops, as are the wide variety of fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores. In fact, almost all of our food is created through genetic manipulation. Modern technology allows these changes to be done more precisely.
So how do GMOs end up in food? You may have heard that ‘70% of all foods contain GMO’. This is due to the fact that many foods use corn, soybean or canola oil, corn-derived sweeteners or starch, soy proteins, or other compounds produced from these plants – and almost all of the corn and soybeans grown in the US, and the canola grown in Canada are GMO. But should that be a concern? No and here is why. This may come as a surprise, but we eat DNA whenever we consume a plant or animal food! Strawberries, carrots and eggs contain DNA and when we eat those foods our digestive system breaks the DNA down into basic components. We do not absorb the DNA into our bodies. This is the same for GMO DNA. It is broken down along with all the other DNA in the food when we eat it. Claims that eating GMOs will alter DNA or reproductive health or cause cancer are unscientific and false. The other fear that sometimes is linked to GMO foods is that the DNA produces a protein in the plant or animal which could cause an allergic reaction. Rest assured that no allergenic response to a GMO food has ever been documented and the FDA and USDA make sure that no potential allergenic proteins are used in GMOs that could end up in the food system. One last reason to not worry about GMO in foods, especially oils and sweeteners, is that these ingredients are highly purified and contain no DNA or proteins at all.
Major health organizations around the world have reviewed the safety of GMO foods and have concluded that there is no reason to worry. GMO foods have been part of the food supply for over 20 years now with no link to any illness or disease. You can be confident that eating foods that have GMO ingredients or have been developed using GMO technology are healthy and safe for you and your family. Some food producers are taking advantage of consumers’ misunderstanding of GMOs and using the non-GMO label as a marketing tool. You do not need to buy higher priced, non-GMO foods or avoid foods that have GMO ingredients. If you want to learn more go to www.GMOanswers.com
Dr. Ruth MacDonald
Professor and Chair
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University
Football season is back! With football comes tailgating and lots of yummy foods. Between the sour cream dip with chips and brats on the grill, I find it quite difficult to plan healthy menu options when rooting on my team. It always seems more convenient to run to the store shortly before you leave for the game to grab some treats for the tailgating party. With a little planning and prep work, you can make some quick, easy, and healthy recipes the night before to bring with you.
Here are two nutrition labels comparing our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Mango Salsa recipe and a store bought Peach Mango Salsa.
When comparing the two recipes you notice that the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe offers roughly 50% less sodium per serving than the store bought brand. Although 160 mg per serving is low, that is only for 2 tablespoons of salsa. I know when I am attending a football tailgate I’m not always conscious about the amount of food or even sauces I am consuming so would likely consume more than 2 tablespoons. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Most people consume 3,000 or more milligrams per day. Preparing food at home is one way to keep your sodium intake down. Making the homemade salsa with fresh mangos will also give you 25% of your needed vitamin C intake. The store bought salsa only provides you 4% of your daily Vitamin C needs.
So, this fall when you are planning for your weekend football tailgate party, create a game plan to make some dishes from scratch. This will provide a more healthy option for the rest of your party and a cheaper option for you as you cheer your team on to victory!
Written by Cassie Pappas, ISU Dietetic Intern
Happy Labor Day from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team! Our September recipe of the month is perfect for a Labor Day picnic – Confetti Rice and Bean Salad.
A delicious homemade lime salad dressing tops fresh tomatoes, carrots, and onions along with frozen corn and (as the name says) brown rice and beans. This recipe makes a great side dish on its own or as a dip served with tortilla chips. It can also be served as a main dish – wrapped in a tortilla or lettuce leaf. No matter how you serve it, have fun with this recipe by using different types of beans and vegetables.
Have you ever bought a melon thinking how wonderful it will taste, only to find that when you cut it up, it doesn’t have any flavor? How frustrating that is! Here are 5 steps to picking a ripe melon.
1. Look for damage.
Choose a melon that’s not damaged on the outside. It should not have any bruises, soft spots, or cracks.
2. Check the color.
When buying watermelon and honeydew, choose a melon with a dull looking appearance. A shiny outside is an indicator of an underripe melon. Honeydew melons should be pale yellow in color, not overly green. For cantaloupe, the skin underneath the net-like texture should be golden or orange in color. Avoid cantaloupes with green or white color skin.
3. Check the size.
Pick up a few melons and see how they feel. Choose a melon that is heavy for its size.
4. Check the stem.
The stem end should give to gentle pressure but not be soft.
5. Smell it.
This works best with cantaloupes and honeydew. Ripe melons should smell sweet but not be overwhelming. If it smells really sweet, it might be overripe.
Good luck choosing your next melon!
Our recipe this month is Not Your Average Steak Sandwich. I am a huge fan of steak, but the steak is not the star of this recipe. To make this sandwich above average it is topped with sautéed onions and fresh spinach. The onions add delicious flavor and aroma to the sandwiches while the spinach adds refreshing crunch and nutrition.
Keep in mind that beef prices fluctuate, so, if steak is not in your price range right now, hold on to this recipe until you find a good deal. If you find a good price on steak while the weather is nice, grill the steak for these sandwiches. However, if you do not have a grill or if it is too cold outside, the steak can be sliced and fried in the same pan used to sauté the onions.
Not Your Average Steak Sandwich
Serving Size: 1 sandwich
Cost Per Serving: $1.87
- 1 medium onion, cut into slices or rings
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 pound lean steak, sliced into strips
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/4 cups spinach
- 5 whole wheat hamburger buns
- Heat a small pan to medium. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add onions and sprinkle with sugar. Cook for 5–7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove onions from pan. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Put the steak in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook the steak on both sides until heated through to 145°F.
- Assemble the sandwich:
- Place 1/4 cup spinach on one side of the hamburger bun.
- Place 1/5 of the steak on top of the spinach.
- Place 1/4 cup caramelized onions on top of the steak.
- Top with other half of bun.
- When it is nice outside, grill the steaks instead of frying.
- Toast the buns right before putting the sandwiches together.
- Use the leftover spinach to make a Whole Meal Salad for lunch the next day.
- Add cheese to make it like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
By Food Science and Human Nutrition student guest blogger
This summer try the whole grain challenge. The challenge: Make half (or more!) of your grains whole grains for a week.
The best way to include whole grains in your diet is to substitute whole grain products for refined grains in things you already make and love.
Here are some fun, tasty ideas for how to incorporate whole grains into your busy summer:
Snack Ideas for the poolside or road tripping
- Enjoy popcorn, with light salt and oil
- Fix pizza with a whole wheat crust, add veggies for a more nutritious punch
BBQ in the backyard
Adding whole grains to your diet doesn’t have to be hard. Just sub whole grains for refined, and you’ve already won the challenge!
I did not grow up eating a lot of whole grains. Actually, I did not truly know what a whole grain was until I was an adult. Last week, our intern guest blogger wrote about how to find out if a food is whole grain or not. This week, I would like to share with you how I have replaced refined grains with whole grains in my menu.
- The first, and easiest, change I made was to start buying whole wheat bread for our toast and sandwiches. With some trial and error, I have found a whole wheat bread that everyone in my family likes. Thankfully, it is also the least expensive whole grain bread at my local grocery store. Try whole grain bread in our Tuna Melt Sandwich.
- The second change I made was to use brown rice and whole wheat pasta. This change was a little more difficult because my husband and I were used to the softer texture of white rice and pasta, but now we prefer both the texture and flavor of the whole grain versions. Try brown rice in our Tasty Taco Rice Salad and whole grain pasta in our Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta.
- The third, and most challenging, change I made was replacing all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour in our baked goods. One of my husband’s favorite foods is muffins of all kinds. I knew that we could make our muffins healthier by replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. It took some experimenting, but now our favorite muffin recipes include both whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour (the amounts depend on the recipe). Try whole wheat flour in our Pineapple Snack Cakes.
My husband and I started adding whole grains to our menu little by little and now the majority of the grains we eat are whole grains. It has taken time and compromise, but we are happy with the choices we have made.
By Katie Busacca, ISU Dietetic Intern
Multi-grain, whole wheat, 100% wheat, bran, 7-grain- the options are endless when trying to pick a grain product, but what does it all mean? As many people know, the current recommendation is to make at least half the grain products in your diet whole grains. Whole grains promote heart health, aid in good digestion and may help you maintain a healthy weight. But with all of this labeling deception, how do you know if you are choosing a whole grain product?
When choosing a grain product the best way to determine if it is whole grain is to read the ingredient list. The first ingredient will likely be one of these:
- Whole wheat
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole grain
- Stone ground whole grain
- Brown rice
- Graham flour
Another good rule of thumb is to look for the 100% whole grain or whole grain stamp on the package, as seen on the right. The 100% whole grain stamp means that all of the grains used in the product are 100% whole grain and the product provides at least 16g of whole grains per serving. While the whole grain stamp (without the 100%) indicates that some of the grains used to make this product are whole grain and some are refined grains. These products will include at least 8g of whole grains per serving. Both are great choices!
As whole grain products become more popular, they are also becoming easier to find and less expensive. There are some simple substitutions you can make in your own diet to add the health benefits of whole grains.
||Instead of this….
|Whole grain pasta
|100% whole wheat bread
|Whole wheat tortillas
|Whole wheat flour
The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website is full of recipes using whole grain products! One quick and easy recipe I love is the Quick Pad Thai. Not only does it use whole grain pasta, but also it is simple to modify to include your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables. You can also use these simple tips to experiment with recipes and make delicious, healthy creations of your own!
Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Zesty Whole Grain Salad. A student shared the inspiration for this recipe with me, and, once I tasted it, I was hooked. I ate it for lunch nearly every day for weeks.
This salad makes a perfect lunch, and this is why:
- It tastes great with the sweet and tangy homemade salad dressing.
- The fiber, protein, and fat will fill you up and keep you full.
- It is easy to pack into smaller containers for lunches on the go.
- You get fruit, vegetables, protein, and whole grains in one bowl.
- It simplifies lunch planning for the week because it makes a lot and it stores well in the refrigerator. So you and your family can eat it for three or four days.
Zesty Whole Grain Salad
Serving Size: 6 | Serves: 1 1/2 cups | Cost Per Serving: $1.43
- 2 cups cooked whole grain (brown rice, kamut™, quinoa)
- 2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 apples, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
- 1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins)
- 1 bunch kale or 10-ounce package spinach (about 6 cups), torn into bite-sized pieces
- Cook whole grain according to package directions. Cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.
- Stir apples, nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain into dressing.
- Toss greens with other ingredients.
- Substitute 2 cups of chopped fruit (strawberries, grapes, oranges) for the apples.
- Do not give honey and nuts to infants under one year of age.
As I wrote in my last blog on beans, they fit many of my requirements as a mom and dietitian. They are very nutritious, they’re inexpensive, and they work well in dishes my family enjoys. Most of the time I use canned beans. They are very convenient and besides draining and rinsing, require no additional cooking. You can find ‘no salt added’ canned beans, which is great since many of us get more than enough sodium in our diets. And they usually don’t cost any more than the regular kind. If you’d rather not use the ‘no salt added’ kind, rinse the beans to reduce the sodium.
On occasion, I also like to cook dry beans. And some of my family and friends prefer to cook their own beans instead of using the canned versions. Canned beans are an inexpensive source of protein and when buying them dry, they are even less expensive. You might think that cooking dry beans is too much hassle if you haven’t tried it before. It does take time but most of that time you don’t have to stand over them while they cook. When I cook dry beans, I like to use the Slow Cooker Method.
Here are the steps to success:
- Spread 1 pound dried beans on a baking sheet and remove any small stones, dirt or withered beans.
- Put the beans in a strainer and rinse them under running water.
- Add beans and 8 cups of water to a slow cooker, then cook them on low for 6-8 hours until soft.
- Serve right away or freeze the beans in 1 ½ cup portions to use later. One and a half cups is about the amount in 1-15 ounce can of beans. How easy is that?!