Grill Food Safely

grilling vegetables meals summerThaw safely. Completely thaw meat, poultry, and seafood before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.

Marinate food in the refrigerator. If you use a marinade to enhance flavor, marinate the food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not reuse marinade on cooked meat that was used on raw meat. If you want to add more marinade after the meat is cooked, make up a fresh batch.

Cook to the correct temperature. Grilling browns the outside of meat, poultry, and seafood quickly, so you can’t rely on color as an indication of doneness. Always use a food thermometer to ensure that the food is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.

Keep hot food hot. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a slow cooker (135°F or higher), or on a warming tray.

Use a different plate for serving cooked meat. When taking food off the grill, don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Any harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.


Biggest chunk of calories comes from processed foods, study finds

Highly processed foods, such as prepared meals, white bread, cookies, chips, soda and candy, account for more than 60 percent of the calories in products Americans routinely buy in grocery stores, according to a new study.

This study found that many Americans have strongly held opinions and beliefs about processed foods. Some consider processed foods to be tasty, convenient, and affordable choices, while others contend that the combination of sugar, fat, sodium (salt), and flavoring in these foods promotes overeating and contributes to obesity.

Not only are highly processed foods a stable part of U.S. purchasing patterns, but the highly processed foods households are buying are higher in fat, sugar, and sodium on average than the less-processed foods (e.g., fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, fresh meat, milk, eggs, and dried beans) they buy.

The biggest contributors to unhealthy diets and chronic disease are added sugars, excessive fat, and sodium. Too much sugar and fat may result in weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, and aggravation of other health issues. Excess sodium can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure, putting extra stress on the circulatory system and increasing the risk for heart disease, heart or kidney failure, stroke, and other health problems.

Add a little spice to your life!

Eating less sodium, sugar, and fat may seem challenging but using herbs and spices can help! Herbs and spices help flavor foods when you cut back on dietary fat, sugar, and sodium.

You can reduce or eliminate sugar with these sweet-tasting spices: allspice, cloves, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When reducing sodium, improve the taste of recipes by adding savory flavors such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, basil, and onion. Instead of using salt for your pasta, try basil, oregano, parsley, and pepper or use an Italian seasoning blend.

Sources: American Society for Nutrition, news release, March 28, 2015;

Fruit Smoothies

Serving Size: 1 cup  | Serves: 3Fruit Smoothie

2–3 cups of fresh or frozen fruit
1 (6–8 ounce) carton vanilla, plain, or fruit-flavored yogurt
1/4 cup milk
3 ice cubes

1. Wash hands.
2. Put all ingredients in a blender.
3. Blend on high speed until smooth.
4. Pour into glasses.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 1.7g total fat, 0.9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5.5mg cholesterol, 61.3mg sodium, 31.5g total carbohydrate, 2.8g fiber, 22.6g sugar, 4.9g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website (

A Look at Energy Drinks: Paying the Price for Caffeine?

energy drinkEnergy drinks (e.g., Red Bull®, Monster®, Rockstar®, and Full Throttle®) are among the fastest growing beverages in the United States, with half of these highly caffeinated drinks being sold to youth. The caffeine content of an 8-ounce serving can range between 72 and 150 mg. However, most energy drinks come in cans or bottles with 2–3 servings, amounting to 450 mg of caffeine (general recommended intake is no more than 200–300 mg caffeine daily for adults)! There are no guidelines established in the United States for youth regarding caffeine consumption. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks because they are categorized as “food,” caffeine in energy drinks is not “monitored” because they can be categorized as “dietary supplements.”

Energy drinks are promoted as a means to increase energy levels; however, there is little evidence to support this. With the large quantity of caffeine comes serious nutritional consequences. Large quantities of caffeine can hinder how well the body is able to absorb and use calcium, which can impact bone health. Additionally, high caffeine intake is associated with increased irritability, anxiety, tremors, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has expressed concerns for youth because of caffeine’s effect on their developing neurological and cardiovascular systems, as well as the risk of physical dependence and addiction. Many of the “specialty” ingredients (e.g., guarana, taurana) found in energy drinks are also ingredients in over-the-counter diet drugs. This raises significant health concerns because it is unclear what combined health impact these ingredients may have.

Because of the potentially high caffeine content, it is recommended youth avoid energy drinks and healthy adults should limit their use. Teach youth to ask for and enjoy water as the thirst quencher of choice.

For more ideas on better or healthier beverage choices, please look at the MyPlate Better Beverage Choices Handout available at in English and Spanish

Sources:,,, and

Reconsidering the Egg

dv1897034Experts have warned against diets high in cholesterol for years and have suggested, for example, limiting egg yolk intake. The previous Dietary Guidelines for Americans* stated that Americans eat too much cholesterol and that high-cholesterol foods like eggs should be limited. Preliminary reports, however, indicate that the 2015 guidelines may no longer consider cholesterol as a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.

New research suggests that dietary cholesterol intake may not significantly increase blood cholesterol levels or increase the risk of heart disease in healthy adults. Saturated fat and trans fat in the diet are of greater concern for keeping blood cholesterol levels down than the actual cholesterol content of food. However, it is still recommended that we consume limited amounts of foods high in saturated fat or trans fat (e.g., butter, margarine, fats in meat, and high-fat dairy).

Eggs are an inexpensive protein food that is relatively low in total fat and saturated fat and rich in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, eggs can be part of a healthy diet. It is still recommended to eat them in moderation and prepare them with low-fat cooking methods like boiling or poaching.

*The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. They provide dietary and physical activity recommendations for Americans ages two years and over to reduce risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.


Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups | Serves 6chicken alfredo pasta


  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the frozen broccoli the last three minutes of cooking. Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli. Return food to the pot.
  2. Remove fat from chicken on a cutting board and cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Wash hands.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add chicken cubes to skillet and stir to coat with oil. Cook the chicken until it is done (165oF, about 7–9 minutes).
  4. Remove chicken from skillet when it is done cooking and cover to keep warm.
  5. Add the milk and cream cheese to the skillet. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat. The mixture will thicken and be smooth.
  6. Add the garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture. Then add cooked chicken and heat mixture.
  7. Combine meat mixture with the pasta and broccoli mixture. Serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories, 12 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 390 mg sodium, 29 g total carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 30 g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more recipes, information, and videos, visit

The Paleo Diet—A look at a popular eating plan

A popular trend making headlines is the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet, also called the “Caveman” or “Stone Age” diet. This diet is based on the belief that if we eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago, we’ll be healthier, lose weight, and have less disease. The table below compares the Paleo diet recommended intakes to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the typical Western diet.

Paleo Diet Chart

The Paleo diet promotes a higher intake of protein and fat. The carbohydrates included with the Paleo diet are not from grains, but rather from fruits and vegetables (not including white potatoes or dry beans). The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends eating carbohydrates from grains, fruits, dairy, and starchy vegetables. Excluding key food groups like dairy and grains makes it likely that key vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D, will be missing. Decreasing the intakes of added sugar and process foods have health benefits; however, there is no scientific evidences showing the Paleo diet prevents disease.steak and vegetables

Since the Paleo diet omits foods from different food groups (e.g., dairy, peanuts, legumes, cereal grains), its long-term sustainability is questionable. We live in a society where it is not possible to eat exactly as our ancestors ate. You might consider a modified Paleo eating plan like lowering your intake of added sugars and processed foods while eating more fruits and vegetables. Balance is best whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or stay just as you are. For more information, visit Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Jan 2015, and

New Labeling Requirements for Menus and Vending Machines

women looking at menu boardThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized two rules that will require chain restaurants, vending machines, and similar retail food establishments to inform consumers of calorie information on menus and menu boards.

Rule 1: Menu Labeling

This rule requires:

  • The calories of the menu items be placed on the menu or menu board, and it applies to larger restaurants and similar retail food establishments (e.g., part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering the same menu items).
  • Calorie labeling for certain alcoholic beverages and certain foods sold at entertainment venues such as movie theaters and amusement parks.
  •  Menus and menu boards include the following statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
  • Covered establishments provide, upon customer request, written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein.

Restaurants and similar retail establishments that are covered will have one year from the date of publication of the menu labeling final rule to comply with the requirements. Foods purchased in grocery stores or other retail stores intended for more than one person and requiring additional preparation before consuming are not covered by this rule.

Rule 2: Vending Machines

This rule requires that vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. Vending machine operators that are covered will have two years from the date of publication of the vending machine labeling final rule to comply with the requirements.

For more information about these new rules please visit

Quick Turkey Rice Soup

QuickTurkeyRiceSoupServing Size: 1½ cups | Serves 6

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced fresh white mushrooms (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 14-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 10.75-ounce can reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup
1 cup uncooked instant
brown rice
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups chopped cooked
skinless turkey
1/2 teaspoon freshly
ground pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add onions, mushrooms, and minced garlic (if using); cook, stirring often, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, broth, soup, and rice. Cover and cook until rice is nearly tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the broccoli and turkey; return to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until broccoli is tender and turkey is heated through, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat; stir in pepper.

Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories, 7g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 40mg cholesterol, 510mg sodium, 40g total carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 5g sugar, 23g protein


Prebiotics–Probiotics—What Is the Difference?

strawberry yogurt dairyPrebiotics and probiotics are considered “nutrition boosters”that are naturally present in everyday foods. Although there are prebiotic and probiotic supplements available, those found naturally in food are more readily digested and absorbed.

Prebiotics are natural, nondigestible food components linked to promoting the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics help good bacteria grow in your gut and might also help your body better absorb calcium.

Probiotics are actual live cultures of “good” bacteria that are naturally found in your gut. These help balance or grow the bacteria you need in your gut. Probiotics may help enhance immunity and overall health, especially intestinal health. Probiotics have been used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, to lower lactose intolerance symptoms, and to prevent some allergy symptoms; however, the benefits vary person-to-person.

food sourcesTry to include both prebiotics and probiotics in meals and snacks since they work together to restore and improve gut health. For example, enjoy a cup of yogurt with a banana at breakfast or top sautéed asparagus with melted aged cheese for dinner.

For a more extensive review of prebiotics and probiotics, register to view the 2010 Current Issues in Nutrition webinar, “The Good Gut Bugs: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”