Reading Labels for Common Allergens

If you have a child in school, chances are you hear a lot of concern about food allergies and protecting children from exposure to their allergen. People can develop allergies to many types of food. However, eight foods are the most common allergens. They include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts and pecans)
  • Soy
  • Wheat and other grains with gluten (barley, rye, oats)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Allergies can be scary, particularly for children who are less likely to know what is in their food. Learning how to read a food label for allergens can help you feel more in control. Here are some steps to follow to check a food label for a common allergen.

  1. Check the ingredients list on the package. Scan the list for the allergen. Sometimes the manufacturer will even highlight it with larger bold text.
  2. Sometimes an ingredient will be listed with an uncommon name. For example, a label may say ‘albumin’. This is part of an egg and will often include the word ‘egg’ in parentheses since egg is a common allergen.
  3. At the bottom of the ingredients list, there may be a statement that calls out the common allergens in that product. For example – ‘Contains: Milk, Eggs and Soy’
  4. Lastly, a product may not include an allergen in its ingredients list, but is processed on equipment that also processes a common allergen. In this case, the manufacturer may include a statement like this. ‘Processed in a facility that also processes peanuts and tree nuts.’ This allows the consumer to know that there is a risk of tiny residual particles of that allergen being in the product unintentionally.

If you have tips for managing a food allergy, please share them with us on our social media this week!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Gluten-Free Label Reading: The Basics

Written by Lynette Wuebker

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

As a college student, I am always looking for quick, easy, and healthy meals that won’t break the bank. One of my go-tos this month has been Sweet Pork Stir Fry. Here’s the catch, 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which means that I have to eat gluten-free. So how do I take a recipe that seems to be full of gluten and enjoy it? Gluten-free label reading has become my best friend as I walk through the grocery store aisles each week, and I promise it’s not as daunting as it seems!

The first thing that I look for on any package is the little black “Certified GF” stamp. If I see this, I know that the product was carefully produced so that it won’t contain any gluten. If I can’t find this, the next step is to pick up the box and start reading. Since some products have ingredient lists longer than my arm, I look for a few keywords: wheat, rye, barley, malt, brewer’s yeast, and oats. If I find any form of these words on the ingredient list, I won’t be buying it. For example, most soy sauces contain wheat as a thickener, so I have to be extra careful when looking to find gluten-free soy sauce. If I’m unable to determine if a product is gluten-free, then I don’t buy it. However, I am able to find a wide variety of foods that are gluten-free.

Click here for more information on gluten-free label reading.

Sweet Pork Stir Fry

Our October recipe of the month is Sweet Pork Stir Fry. To be honest with you, my children are pretty picky when it comes to stir fry. There is only one stir fry recipe I make that they really like. This is one that they tend to pick around and eat only their favorite pieces.

When this recipe was in the testing phase, I had to make it often to get it just right. Since it was not my children’s favorite, I made it for my mother-in-law and father-in-law. It was such a hit with them that my mother-in-law called me a few days later asking for the recipe because she wanted to make it for her own in-laws! That was almost two years ago, and they are still making this recipe regularly.

What I really like about my in-laws using this recipe regularly is that they have made this recipe their own. They try different vegetables depending on what sounds good to them – carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus. They will change out the meat depending on what is on sale at the grocery store or even skip on the meat to make a vegetarian meal. They will also switch the noodles out for brown rice sometimes.

This past winter they invited me over to share a meal and they made this recipe for me. This recipe has been one that we have enjoyed together and I hope you can enjoy it with friends and family too!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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On-line Grocery Shopping Part 3 – Cons

Welcome to the third part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. If you did not see the first two parts of this series, here are the links to the overview and the pros of on-line grocery shopping. Today we are going to look at, what I think, are the cons to on-line grocery shopping.

 

The first challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is the PRODUCE.

  • I like to look around the produce section to see what looks best and is the best value. I cannot do this when looking at the pictures of the produce on-line.
  • Someone else chooses your produce for you, so you may not get what you would usually choose for yourself. However, I have received good quality produce in my experiences so far.

 

The second challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is LEAVING AN ITEM OFF.

  • It usually happens that I forget to buy something or that an item is unavailable. This leaves me in a bind when I am trying to make a meal later in the week. I either have to make a special trip to the store or use what I have on hand to make a substitution.
  • When this happens, I cannot do on-line shopping for the single item because they have a minimum order cost ($30 at one store and $100 at the other). However, at one of the stores you can pay a fee if your order is under the minimum cost.

 

The third challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is PERSONAL.

  • I am a food person, so I like to look around at all the different foods in the store. I do not get this chance with on-line shopping.
  • I like to take my children to the store so they can learn about shopping and choosing foods.
  • I cannot use re-usable bags with on-line grocery shopping.

 

I feel like I have balanced these challenges well with alternating on-line and in-store grocery shopping. I think the pros of on-line grocery shopping outweigh the cons and I plan to continue with on-line grocery shopping.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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On-line Grocery Shopping Part 2 – Pros

Welcome to the second part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. I hope you enjoyed our overview last week. This week I would like to tell you about all of the things I think are great about on-line grocery shopping.

 

The first thing that I like about on-line grocery shopping is the TIME SAVINGS.

  • It only takes me about 30 minutes to select the foods I want and set up my pickup/delivery time.
  • I do not need to fight the crowd in the store or in the parking lot.
  • I do not have to take my children into the store.
  • The grocery store staff load up my car or help me carry my groceries into my house.

 

The second thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the MONEY SAVINGS.

  • It is easy to stick to my budget because I can see the total price increasing as I add foods to my cart.
  • I can easily add or take away food items as needed to fit my budget and my needs.
  • There is no temptation to buy the extra things displayed around the store, so I avoid impulse buys.
  • I have all of the information on the website to determine unit prices and compare products easily.

 

The third thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the KINDNESS of the staff.

  • I have had great experiences with the grocery store staff being very kind and helpful.
  • The staff do a great job of explaining any substitutions that were made.
  • The staff make a point of keeping fragile foods (bread, eggs) safe.

 

Overall, I think that on-line grocery shopping is a great experience and it is very helpful, especially when I do not have a lot of time. I would recommend on-line grocery shopping to anyone who wants to try it.

 

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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On-line Grocery Shopping Part 1 – Overview

Have you tried on-line grocery shopping yet? If not, tune into our blog for the next three weeks as we look at what on-line grocery shopping is and the pros and cons of on-line grocery shopping. If you have, send us a comment over the next three weeks and let us know about your experiences. Today I am going to give you an overview of on-line grocery shopping as I have experienced it.

Who: Justine Hoover. I plan meals and buy food for a family of five including my husband, an eight year old son, a six year old daughter, a two year old son, and myself.

What: On-line grocery shopping. I plan my meals and make my grocery list as usual. Then I log in to my account on the store website, choose my groceries, pay, and set up a time to get my groceries.

When: Every other week. I actually go grocery shopping once per week, but I have been alternating on-line grocery shopping with going to the store to shop. I do this because I like to shop at different grocery stores and two of my favorite stores do not have on-line shopping. I also like to take my children shopping with me sometimes so they can learn how to grocery shop.

Where: Two stores. There are two grocery stores in the community where I live that offer on-line grocery shopping. Both stores have grocery pickup – I drive my van up to a designated parking space, notify the store that I have arrived (either by calling or through an app), and then they load my groceries into my van. One of the stores has grocery delivery – they bring the groceries directly to my home.

Why: Three reasons. I decided to start on-line grocery shopping for many reasons, but here are the top three.

  1.  Convenience – it is so easy to order groceries from my home and either have them delivered to my door or loaded into my van.
  2.  Cost control – I can stick to my grocery budget much more easily because the website tracks my costs as I add items to my cart, and shopping on-line cuts down on impulse buys.
  3.  Children – I had three children home with me all day, every day this past summer. I usually enjoy taking them shopping with me, but we decided there were other things we wanted to do with our time this past summer.

So far, these have been my experiences with on-line grocery shopping. Overall, they have been very good and I am excited to share the details with you. Join me for the next two weeks as I look more deeply into the pros and cons of on-line grocery shopping for my family.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Blueberry Pancakes

Our September recipe of the month is Blueberry Pancakes. Pancakes are a favorite meal in our family. We eat them for supper just as often as we eat them for breakfast. I even made pancakes for supper for my husband the evening I was in labor with our oldest!

Since we like pancakes so well, I try to change up the types of pancakes we eat. That is where these blueberry pancakes come in. The batter for these pancakes is a traditional whole wheat pancake batter. Before cooking, gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

If you find cooking pancakes challenging, I have a few tips for you.

  • Pre-heat the Pan: It is important to make sure that the pan is heated up before starting to cook the pancakes. You can use a water test to make sure your pan is hot enough. Use your fingers to sprinkle some water on the pan. If the water sizzles, your pan is pre-heated.
  • Patience: Be patient with your pancakes and do not flip them over until the tops are bubbly. This will ensure that your pancakes flip easily and get cooked all the way through.
  • Practice: Cooking times and temperatures for pancakes depend on your stove and your pan. With practice, you will find the right cooking times and temperatures for you.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Stay Hydrated – Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

Written by Kathryn Standing

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

 

Summer in Iowa always makes me think of trucks selling produce by the side of the road. They showcase fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, strawberries, and more. The grocery store produce department seems to be much more colorful, as a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are in season. I never have a hard time finding vegetables and fruits that look appetizing in the summertime. An added benefit to loading up on vegetables and fruit in the summer: their water content.

It is recommended to consume the equivalent of 9-16 (8 ounce) glasses of water a day (depending on age, gender, and activity level) to stay hydrated. This can come from both beverages and foods. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet providing fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also high in water content. This means eating a lot of fruits and vegetables reduces the amount you need to drink from water and other beverages. Food on average contributes 20% of your hydration needs. Most foods have some water content and therefore contribute slightly to your daily hydration needs. Other foods, such as oatmeal and soup, contain a lot of water and are good sources of hydration. Below is a list of some fruits and vegetables with high water content. While other produce provides hydration, these are some of the most common.

Food  Serving Size Amount of water as percentage of food weight  
 Lettuce, green leaf, shredded   1 cup  95%
 Celery, raw  1 medium stalk    95%
 Tomato, raw  1/2 cup  94%
 Grapefruit, white  ½ medium  91%
 Watermelon chunks  1 cup  91%
 Broccoli, raw, chopped  ½ cup  89%
 Carrot, raw, strips  ½ cup  88%
 Apple, with skin  1 medium  86%

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th Edition

It’s a good idea to eat water-rich foods and drink fluids at every meal to help you to stay hydrated.

How much water should you drink?

Written by Kathryn Standing

Student Assistant, ISU Dietetics

 

Welcome to Iowa in August! It’s hot! This time of year, we always go to the Iowa State Fair.

It is easy to over-do it on treats, but I can never resist sharing some funnel cake and lemonade with my family. It can get really hot walking around in the sun. I always make sure we have plenty of sunscreen and water. The recommendation is to drink close to 12 cups of water per day for women and 16 for men. When eating a balanced diet, 20% of you water comes from your food. This means women should drink 9 cups per day and men should drink 12. You need to drink more water when you’re doing activities outside in hot temperatures- such as walking around the Iowa State Fair. You should also try to drink extra in the winter (when there is less moisture in the air), during illness and during exercise.

Try to drink water every 15-20 min when exercising, don’t wait until you are thirsty! When you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. If working really hard or doing exercise lasting more than a couple hours, sports drinks could be helpful to replace water and electrolytes. If you are just doing moderate exercise, sports drinks are not necessary.

Other beverages count toward your daily requirement as well. If not drinking water, drink unsweetened drinks such as 100% fruit juice and milk. Coffee and unsweetened tea count too, though caffeine is mildly dehydrating and should be enjoyed in moderation. Best bet is to stick to water as much as possible. It is a good habit to carry a water bottle when you’re on the go and drink a glass with every meal.

Good Snacks for Youth Sports

In just over a week, my kids will be back in school and my son will start fall soccer. I love that when playing soccer my eight year-old son gets to run around being active. On the other hand, I feel that the snacks that are given to the players after their games could be improved. Often times my son gets a small bottle of sports drink along with donuts or some kind of packaged snack cakes. Even though my son runs when playing soccer, the game is only one hour and he rotates out with other players. Therefore, he isn’t playing for the full hour. Sports drinks are meant to replace sodium and potassium that is lost in sweat when being continuously active for an hour or more or when it is especially hot outside. Otherwise, water works well to keep kids hydrated. We enjoy donuts and other treats occasionally but to teach kids how to better fuel their bodies for activity, here are some other ideas for snacks after a game:

If you sign-up to take snacks for after a game this fall, I’d encourage you to consider taking one of these. You might be surprised at how much the kids enjoy them!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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