Sunday, March 29, 2020

Food Safety Tips – what to know during the coronavirus pandemic

Everyone seems to have some hints and advice as to how we can stay safe and keep ourselves healthy during this coronavirus pandemic.  More of us are staying home and cooking at home.  What are some food safety tips to keep you and your family safe?

What are the dietitians recommending?  
  •  Before cooking anything – be smart and wash those hands.  Always a good practice before the virus hit our country and now handwashing has become even more important.  Dry your hands with paper towels. 
  • Eat well but avoid any supplements that promise to treat or cure COVID-19.  There are many ways to boost your immune system by eating healthy foods.  Read more at:  Diet Tips to Boost Your Immune System. 
Eat This, Not That! Has some recommendations on food safety:
Wash produce before eating.
  • Wash that produce – if you aren’t going to cook it, be sure to wash carrots, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, other produce under running water.  Rinse away the virus. 
  • Keep surfaces clean – cleaning is one step but sanitizing surfaces is another step.  One doesn’t need Clorox wipes to sanitize the sink and counter tops.  Just 4 teaspoons of bleach in a quart of water – and you have a good sanitizing solution that will kill germs in your sink, on your countertops, on your cutting boards.
  • When shopping at the grocery store, keep your distance.  Many grocery stores have tape on the floor so customers know how close they can get when checking out. 
  • Some stores want you to bring your own reusable bags, but if you do, many also want you to pack those groceries yourself as the clerk doesn’t want to touch your bag.
  • Use those store disinfecting wipes on the cart handle, or basket handle.  When you get back to your car, disinfect your hands and wash your hands when you get home.
  • Ordering take out?  Wipe down the containers – say the plastic containers the food comes in, before you open them.  Then transfer the food to your own dishes. 

TIME has a list of suggestions for grocery story shopping:  
  •  If you can afford to order online and have your groceries delivered or do curb-side pick-up.  Why?  Less exposure to other people.  This may be an especially good option for those who are at high risk, such as those with an underlying health condition.
  • When shopping in the store, social distancing is important.  The primary risk is getting the virus from other people so maintain the 6-foot social distancing rule is a good one.  Not always easy to do as some people seem to have never heard of the rule.  You may have to stand back and wait to pick that cucumber, but better to keep a safe distance.
  • Choose your store – some stores have been great at promoting social distancing, providing disinfecting wipes for the carts right by the store entrance, wiping down carts and touch surfaces during the day.  At our local CVS – one clerk wipes down everything between each customer. At our local Walmart the sales clerk was wiping the touch key pad and counter after every customer.  TIME quoted Dr. Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University, who stated, “You want to pick a store that’s really paying attention and making it safer for customers to go in.”   Good advice.
  • And for your shopping list – skip the high-tech phone and use a simple piece of paper.  Less touching of your phone when you are in the store and you can through the paper list away when done shopping.  
Use paper for your grocery list, when done shopping, toss the list.
Stay safe and practice these tips when you are going grocery shopping.  Most are easy to follow.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Diet Tips to Boost Your Immune System

Everyone seems to be talking about how to boost their immune system.  On the radio today a doctor recommended getting enough sleep, boost your immune system with vitamin C by drinking a glass of Orange Juice [be sure it is real juice and not a juice drink like Sunny D] and adding foods rich in zinc.  Zinc has been an especially hot topic on social media this week.  My sister sent me an article on boosting your immune system through diet.  A colleague in the United Kingdom at Movement & Nutrition posted about diet myths during this coronavirus crises.  
Add some zinc rich foods to boost your immune system.
  1. Lisa Ballehr advises you to “eat the rainbow”.  I teach my students USDA’s recommendation to EAT 5 A DAY, at least 5 fruits and veggies every day.  When my students do their 24-hour diet recall it is surprising how few students get anywhere near 5 A DAY.  Their only vegetable is often French Fries and the “juice” isn’t juice but lemonade or a juice drink like Sunny D.  Real juice, real fruit and veggies offer loads of vitamins like Vitamin A, Beta-Carotene, C, and B-6.  “Eat the rainbow” means vary the colors.  Each color of a fruit and vegetable offers different “antioxidants”, important substances that actually help our cells stay healthy.   
  2.  Zinc – why all the focus on the mineral, zinc?  The National Institutes of Health notes, “Zinc is known to play a central role in the immune system, and zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”  Not specific to coronavirus but the virus is clearly a pathogen.  Getting zinc from foods is much better than going out and buying a supplement. 
  3. Other minerals – zinc isn’t the only mineral helpful to your immune system.  But one can understand why as The British Nutrition Foundation notes that zinc:  “helps produce new immune cells, helps develop ‘natural killer cells’ that help to fight off viruses”.  Who doesn’t want this extra boost to our immune systems right now?  Copper, iron, selenium are other minerals needed to fight off infections.  The British Nutrition Foundation also states:  Copper “helps to protect and fuel immune cells” – a most important function.  Iron: “helps maintain the health of immune cells”, and selenium “helps produce new immune cells and can help to strengthen response to infection”. 
  4. Protein – one of the many functions of protein is to build antibodies – the things that fight off infections.  So easy not only to get protein in our diets but to get high quality protein.  All animal proteins are high quality with the gold star going to eggs.  Real cow’s milk is next, as it offers a high quality protein.  Not true of Almond milk which is low in protein.  And, of course, meat - any meat.  Eating meat, fish, poultry will not only add high quality protein to your day but also the iron that is good for fighting infections.
  5.  Probiotics – are you still eating the real dairy yogurt every day?  Good idea as the probiotics in yogurt help restore the good bacteria in your gut.  And then “feed” these bacteria with fiber rich foods – the fruits and veggies, whole grains. 
  6. Not a food – but EXERCISE.  Insider notes:  “According to a 2019 study , exercise has a multitude of benefits including decreasing inflammation and improving immune regulation..”  
How to Add Some Immune Boosting Nutrients to Your Day (Adapted from:  British Nutrition Foundation)

Food or Function
Foods To Eat
Vitamin A/Beta Carotene
Look for dark green and dark orange fruit and veggies.
Cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, apricots, real milk, sweet potato, spinach, kale, papaya.
Vitamin B-6
Some fruits and veggies.  Removed when they make white bread so focus on whole grains.

Any General Mills cereal, poultry, fish and ground beef.  Eggs, bananas, avocado, green pepper.  Tomato juice, watermelon.
Vitamin C
Strengthens immune cells to attack virus, helps skin to keep a barrier to infections.
Citrus fruits, real citrus juice, strawberries, watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, broccoli, kiwi, Brussels sprouts.
A deficiency can lead to an increase in susceptibility to infection.
Whole grain breads, any General Mills cereal, brown rice, quinoa, seafood, beans, nuts, dried fruit, seeds.

Keeps immune cells healthy.
Meat, fish, poultry especially good sources.  Clams, dried fruit, whole grain bread, quinoa, parsley.
Helps your body produce new immune cells, develops those “natural killer” cells.
Meat and seafood – meat, poultry, crab, mussels.  Nuts and seeds.  Any General Mills breakfast cereal.  Whole grain bread. 

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends forgetting the supplements and relying on real foods to boost your immune system.  Maybe instead of TP flying off the shelves, we will see General Mills cereals in high demand or Dave’s Killer bread in short supply at Costco as Dave’s Killer Bread is not only is whole grain but has those healthy seeds.  

Sources:  immune, Movement & Nutrition, diet myths, Ballehr, cells, Health, Foundation, states, Insider,  2019 study , Nutrients, from, deficiency    Image Sources:  bread   , Zinc, Protein  

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Real Milk vs Fake Milk?

Odd that so many people are choosing plant-based beverages labeled as “milk” over real cow’s milk.  Most people do this thinking these plant-based “milks” are nutritionally superior to real cow’s milk.  Is it?  If one replaces real milk with plant-based milks, are they missing out on important nutrients?  Yes.  Yet the popularity of these plant-based milks continues.  A recent article in the paper, Stop Milking it, farmers tell plant-based competitors” describes how dairy farmers are concerned as to why  plant-based beverages can be labeled “milk” when they contain no milk at all.  

What has happened to real cow’s milk?  Dairy farmers across the country are pushing to have “milk” mean from a “cow” and not the plant-based milk – oat, almond, soy and other plant-based beverages labeled “milk”.  North Carolina has led the states in legislating what can be called “milk”. The farmers aren’t trying to restrict production of plant-based beverages but many dairy farmers want “milk” taken off the label of these plant-based products. Some people are opposed to removing the word “milk” from plant-based beverages as they say consumers know it isn’t really “milk” and know it doesn’t come from a cow but a plant.

But, do consumers know that plant-based milks do not provide the nutritional value of real cow’s milk?  USDA recommends adults and children consume 3 servings of “dairy” products a day.  When you look at MyPlate you see the glass of milk.  But USDA notes “dairy” means from a cow.  The 3 “dairy” servings can include real cow’s milk, real cow’s milk yogurt, real cheese.  The only alternative to real dairy recognized by USDA is soy milk.  USDA does not count Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Rice Milk as dairy.  I have students in my class write down everything they eat for 24 hours and then put each food item into its appropriate food group.  One student drank Almond Milk and put it under the dairy group.  I corrected it and noted USDA does not consider Almond Milk a serving of dairy.  The plant-based milks like Almond Milk really don’t seem to fit into any food group. USDA says they aren’t dairy, there isn’t enough protein in these plant-based beverages to count as a protein serving.  They certainly aren’t fruits and veggies or grains.  The plant-based beverages really don’t fit into any food group.  

Ipsos research has shown that “consumers mistakenly believed dairy milk and plant-based milk alternatives have the same nutritional content”.  

Plant-based Beverages Myths

      1.  77% of consumers believed plant-based beverages had the same protein as real cow’s milk.  And 62% of consumers thought the protein in plant-based milk was of the same quality or even better than the protein in real cow’s milk. 

                Not true – cow’s milk is an excellent source of a high-quality protein.    1 cup of cow’s milk provides 8 grams of protein.  And not just any protein but a protein composed of casein (82%) and whey (18%).  Both of these are complete proteins meaning the protein provides all 9 essential amino acids our bodies need.  In fact, cow’s milk protein is a higher quality protein than meat. 

                Plant-based beverages – such as Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Rice Milk are very low in protein. So low that Almond Milk only provides 1 gram or 4 calories of protein in a cup.  And the protein is a poorer quality than cow’s milk as these plant-based proteins are considered “incomplete” proteins as they do not provide needed amounts of the 9 essential amino acids.  In fact, an NIH study on almonds “suggested almond proteins to be of poor nutritional quality”.  
Low in protein, high in added sugar, no potassium, no vitamin B-2.
                In a previous blog, I noted that researchers found that children given plant-based “milks” were shorter than kids who drank cow’s milk.  “Compared with children who consumed cow’s milk, those who drank non-cow’s milk were shorter than average for their age…”  Why?  The study author noted: “two cups of cow’s milk contain around 16 grams of protein, which is 100 percent of the daily protein recommendation for a 3-year old child.  In comparison, two cups of almond milk contain just 4 grams of protein.”  Four grams of protein is only 25% of what a growing 3-year-old child needs. A Medical News Today headline reads “Children shorter if they drink non-cow’s milk, study suggests”.  Just as concerning the article states, “Furthermore, the study revealed that the greater children’s intake of non-cow’s milk, the shorter they are likely to be.”

2.  27% of consumers believe real dairy milk contains “added sugars”. 
Not true.  Real cow’s milk has NO ADDED SUGAR.  Milk contains lactose, a natural sugar found in milk but not “added” to milk.  In contrast, many plant-based milks not only contain added sugar but a LOT of added sugar.  Look at the nutrition labels on Silk Almond Milk and see that it contains 7 grams of “added sugars”.  This is 28 calories of sugar per 60 calories.  This means for each cup of Silk Almond Milk, almost 50% of the calories are from added sugar.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend we cut back on foods with added sugar.  Real cow’s milk has NO ADDED SUGAR, compared to Silk Almond Milk which has about 50% of the calories coming from added sugar.  

      3.  Plant-based milks have the same or better nutritional quality.

Not true.  As already shown, plant-based “milks’ are low in protein and many contain a lot of “added sugar”.  Real dairy milk also provides the important mineral, potassium.  Look at the label of Almond Milk and it reads:  Potassium 0 mg.
Real cow’s milk provides vitamin B-2 (riboflavin).  In fact, the nutrition textbook I use in teaching states:  “The greatest contributions of riboflavin come from milk and milk products”. But they mean REAL cow’s milk and real yogurt.  How much riboflavin is in Silk Almond Milk? According to the label, NONE.  

  4.  Plant-based milks, like Almond Milk, are good for the environment. 
According to the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association, “To grow one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and to grow a pound takes 1,900 gal/lb”.  

Plant-based “milks” may be popular but there is so much misunderstanding of their nutritional value, especially when compared to real cow’s milk.  If one needs lactose free milk, fa!rlife milk is a great choice.  Made from real cow’s milk, but no lactose.  Read more about fa!rlife in a previous blog I wrote on fa!rlife milk.    
Real milk and lactose free.
Read the labels of the “milk” you buy.  My daughter’s friend said her mom’s group suggested she give her 1-year old daughter many different plant-based milks – soy, almond, rice.  None of the mom’s recommended real cow’s milk.  My daughters’ friend asked me, the dietitian, for advice.  I recommended real milk, not fake milk.  Children need the nutrients in real cow’s milk for growth.  I want the nutrients in real milk for strong bones and for the high-quality protein real milk and real yogurt provide.  No plant-based “milks” in our house.  Real cow’s milk and only real cow’s milk.  And the yogurt we buy is real – not fake.  Take USDA’s advice – 3 servings of dairy a day. But real dairy – from a cow, not fake dairy from a plant.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

What is an anti-viral diet?

Who isn’t talking about the coronavirus?  We just got back from the store and carts were loaded up with bottles of water and cleaning supplies.  But are there foods you can eat that are anti-viral foods?  How about boosting your immune system?  What foods should you be putting in your shopping cart?

MSN has a good article, “Coronavirus:  Anti-viral foods to build immunity and keep diseases away”.  There is even a short video to watch called, “Boosting Immunity to Prevent ‘Coronavirus’ Infection”.  What foods should you be putting in your shopping cart to boost your immunity?  

 1. Garlic – considered a “powerful anti-viral” food.  Easy to add some chopped garlic to food dishes.  
       2.  Resveratrol – you may have heard of resveratrol as an anti-aging agent.  But is also helps fight fungal infections, “stress, and injury”.  What foods provide resveratrol?  Quite a few including:

  •  Peanuts – I love to eat a handful of peanuts a day.  Dr. Oz recommends a handful of nuts and day and peanuts are usually my choice.
  • Blueberries – open our fridge and you will usually find blueberries.  My husband is boosting his immune system as he eats some blueberries every day for breakfast. I have started to put some on my morning oatmeal or other cereal or add them to a fruit cup for lunch.
  • Strawberries – not in season yet, but frozen strawberries would have the resveratrol.  Add some strawberries to a smoothie.
  • Grapes – a good source of resveratrol – especially the red or purple grapes.
  • Dark chocolate as cocoa has resveratrol.     
         3Vitamin C always a good addition to one’s diet to fight off any infections by boosting your immune system.  Low C levels means your body may have “problems with the immune system and other illnesses”. One of my daughters has been eating a clementine every day for extra vitamin C.  She asked me if she ate 4 clementines a day would that be too much vitamin C?  Absolutely not.  You really can’t “overdose” on vitamin C from foods.  Your body takes what it needs and gets rid of the rest.  However, your body doesn’t store vitamin C – you really need a good source in your diet every day.  I drink a glass of 100% OJ every morning.  Or a glass of 100% grapefruit juice.  I want to start my day with a good dose of vitamin C.  Besides citrus like oranges and grapefruit what other foods are high in C?  As for fruit, kiwi fruit, mango, cantaloupe and pineapple chunks are easy ways to get some C.  Strawberries have the resveratrol but also have vitamin C – so a real immunity booster.  As for vegetables, think red and yellow peppers – add some pepper strips to your salad at dinner.  Tomatoes or tomato juice.  Some people really like V-8 juice.  Drink away.  Other vegetables that pack a vitamin C punch are: broccoli, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, cauliflower are all good sources of C.
  • Medical News Today has some ways to add some “C” to your day:
    •  A smoothie made with plain Greek yogurt, kiwi, and strawberries.
    •  An omelet with chopped red and green bell peppers
    •  A make-ahead pineapple and blueberry breakfast parfait  (recipe below) 
  • Lunch or dinner:
      • Enjoy a baked potato topped with tomato salsa
      • Serve cauliflower, broccoli or a sweet potato
Clementines are a good source of vitamin C.

        4.   Vitamin D helps boost your immune system.  Have a vitamin D deficiency and NIH says there appears to be an increased susceptibility to infection.  Few foods provide vitamin D.  Drink some real milk at meals, eat some yogurt at lunch.  Most cheese is not fortified with vitamin D so for dairy foods focus on real milk and yogurt as food sources.  Eggs can also be a source of vitamin D.  Go outside as our bodies can make vitamin D when we go outside in the sun.  NIH notes:  “approximately 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs or back without sunscreen..”  will provide enough vitamin D synthesis.
Eggs are a good source of vitamin D.
Above are some easy ways to add some anti-viral foods to your day and boost your immune system.  Start your day with a glass of 100% orange juice.  Enjoy a yogurt at lunch to add some vitamin D to your day.  Add some blueberries, a clementine or other vitamin C source to your lunch or as a snack.  Be sure to pack a clementine or vitamin C rich foods in your kid’s lunch box.  At dinner add some red or green pepper strips to your salad.  Enjoy some salsa and chips. 

Sources:  article, levels, Today, parfait , NIH, notes   Image sources:  make ahead parfaits, clementines, shell

Make-Ahead Pineapple Blueberry Breakfast Parfait 
·         2 cups vanilla yogurt - be sure it is real yogurt, not a non-dairy yogurt
·         1 and 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (uncooked)
·         1 teaspoon cinnamon
·         4 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
·         4 Tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
·         4 Tablespoons shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened)
·         1 to 1 and 1/3 cup frozen blueberries (don’t need to thaw or use fresh blueberries)
·         1 to 1 and 1/3 cup chopped pineapple (fresh chunks, or canned chunks – drained)
When serving add some real cow’s milk (no fake milk) 

When serving you can add some maple syrup about 1-2 teaspoons.

Directions:  (adapted from parfait )
  1.  In each of 4 (16-ounce jars with lids), layer ½ cup yogurt, 1/3 cup oats, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and 1 T. ground flaxseed, slivered almonds, shredded coconut.
  2. Top each jar with ¼ to 1/3 cups blueberries and 1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped pineapple
  3. Leave enough room at the top so you can stir the ingredients
  4. Place lids on each jar and refrigerate overnight (or up to 5 days) to allow the oats to absorb some of the moisture from the yogurt.
  5. Before eating, stir in some real cow’s milk to the desired consistency.
  6. Drizzle with some maple syrup if desired.