March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.” There is no one-size-fts-all when it comes to nutrition. Everyone is unique! Each of us has different tastes, traditions, and budgets.
Personalize your plate to make sure every bite counts by choosing “nutrient-dense” foods. Nutrient-dense foods are those that are high in nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, but not very high in calories. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests the following:
Start with personal preferences. When choosing nutrient-dense foods, be sure to think about the healthy foods you and your family truly enjoy. If you and your family enjoy the food you eat, you will be more likely to retain your healthy eating habits over time.
Celebrate your food traditions! For example, if your family traditionally enjoys eating spaghetti and meatballs, make the same dish using less sodium and saturated fat. Use low-sodium sauce. Use leaner beef or ground turkey for the meatballs. Choose whole grain pasta. With a few small changes, you can still enjoy any traditional dish.
Consider your budget. Healthy eating can be budget friendly and delicious. The ISU Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, is a great source for easy, low-cost recipes.
Lunch provides the midday boost that you and your child need for afternoon brainpower. Packing lunch with your child is also a great way to stay connected. What if your child is a choosy eater? This can be a sign your child is searching for more independence. Your child might benefit from packing their own lunch, while you have the opportunity to serve as a model for good nutrition behaviors. Use the five main food groups for you and your child to pack your lunch.
If you read Nutrition Facts labels, you may have noticed they now list the potassium content of foods. So why is potassium a mineral we need to pay attention to?
For starters, potassium controls your heartbeat, builds muscle, and helps your body make proteins. Potassium can protect you from heart disease, stroke, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. If you get enough of it, you can lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of dying from all causes by 20%!
Potassium is in many common foods, such as bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, milk, yogurt, beans, and leafy greens. However, fewer than 2% of adults meet their daily recommended potassium requirement. Adults should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day.
For example, this is one potassium-rich meal that would fulfill 40% of that requirement:
1/2 cup Swiss chard
1 baked potato
3 ounces turkey breast
1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup fruit cocktail
Please do not rush out to buy potassium pills. High-dose potassium supplements can disrupt heart rhythm. They are also dangerous for those who have undetected kidney disease. Enjoy your potassium by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables!
To find out more about potassium-rich foods, visit MedlinePlus (medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002413.htm)
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2018 Food and Health Survey reported consumer confusion about food and nutrition. Eighty percent of survey respondents stated they have come across conflicting information about food and nutrition, and 59% state the conflicting information makes them doubt their food choices.
It is no wonder consumers are confused. There is an explosion of nutrition and food safety information readily available, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction. One reliable source is the IFIC Foundation. The IFIC Foundation’s mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on health, nutrition, and food safety for the public good. The public nonprofit organization partners with credible professional organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions to advance the public understanding of key issues.
Topics recently explored on the IFIC Foundation’s website and blog include the following:
What’s the Carnivore Diet?
Google Can’t Diagnose Your Food Allergy
Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame
Snacking Series: Do Snacks Lead to Weight Gain?
Food Advocates Communicating Through Science (FACTS) is a global network of the IFIC Foundation that can help consumers understand the science behind the myths and truth related to food, nutrition, and food safety.
You may have heard or read of the movement in the food industry to create a clean food label. There is no legal definition to “clean” labeling, which increases confusion among consumers. Follow these tips when thinking about clean labeling.
Consider the source of the information. Be wary of advocacy groups using social media to push an agenda that may not be in the public’s best interest.
Food manufacturers quickly respond to changes in consumer preference. Before buying into the latest fad, think about whether it is market-driven or science-based.
Do not assume food label buzzwords such as “clean” or “all natural” are synonymous with nutritious or healthful.
Giving gifts of homemade cookies, cakes, and candies is a happy holiday tradition. But for many people, the gift of a plate of high-sugar, high-calorie goodies may not be as welcomed as it used to be. Two-thirds of adult Iowans are overweight, and many of them are struggling to keep a healthy weight. For them, the holidays can provide too many temptations to overeat.
So how can you give a delicious food gift from your kitchen that will also support the health of your loved ones? Think outside the cookie box. You can make these healthier treats packed with good flavor and loving care:
A healthy soup basket with a bow! In a basket or other gift container, place all the ingredients for a healthy winter soup. For example, for a winter black bean soup kit, assemble a jar or can of black beans, a small bottle of canola or olive oil, an onion, a packet of premeasured chili powder and cumin, a can of tomatoes, a lime, and a copy of the recipe. spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipes/winter-black-bean-soup
If you like, you can accompany these gifts with items from the ISU Extension Store:
June is Dairy Month — a good time to consider the benefits of drinking milk and eating other dairy foods for calcium and Vitamin D. Drinking milk increases bone health, reduces risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and blood pressure. Despite these benefits, some milk myths prevent some people from drinking milk. Our ISU Extension and Outreach myth busters have “busted” a few of these myths below.
Milk Myth 1: Milk causes mucus
Myth Buster: For some, drinking milk may make mucus thicker than it is normally. However drinking milk for most people does not make your body produce more phlegm and will not worsen a cold.
Milk Myth 2: Organic milk is much healthier than conventional milk
Myth Buster: Cup for cup, organic and conventionally-produced milk contain the same nine essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Both conventionally-produced and organic milk are routinely tested for antibiotics and pesticides and must comply with very stringent safety standards, ensuring that both organic milk and conventional milk are pure, safe, and nutritious.
Milk Myth 3: Fat-free milk has almost no nutritional value.
Myth Buster: Fat-free milk has the same amount of calcium, vitamin D, and protein as whole, 2%, and 1% milk. The only nutritional difference among the varieties of milk is the amount of fat and calories per serving. Another difference is that fat-free milk is often cheaper than the other varieties. A family of four changing from whole milk to fat-free milk could save $8 to $11 per week and shave off 5,040 calories and 518
grams of fat!
Every March the American Dietetic Association observes National Nutrition Month®. This year the theme is ‘Eat Right with Color.’ Research suggests people who eat generous amounts of different colored fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are likely to reduce their risks of chronic diseases including strokes, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that a person needing 2,000 calories a day eat 21⁄2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. To meet that goal, most people need to eat more fruits and vegetables. All forms of fruits and vegetables count: fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100% fruit juice. Whole fruit, however, contains more fiber then juice so it’s best to limit juice to 1 cup or less per day. To get the variety that different colored vegetables provide, the following amounts from the vegetable subgroups (based on 2,000 calories) is recommended:
Dark green vegetables (3 cups per week)
Orange vegetables (2 cups per week)
Dried beans and peas (3 cups per week)
Starchy vegetables (3 cups per week)
Other vegetables (6 1/2 cups per week)
To find out how many cups of fruits and vegetables you should be eating, visit www.mypyramid.gov.