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Think you’re eating well? Misconceptions lead to nutrient deficiencies for many

(BPT) – The good news? Americans think they are eating well; in fact, 60 percent say they eat a very healthy diet. The not-so-good news? Perception and reality may not be aligned.

Only 6 percent of Americans report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, reveals recent research from supplement maker MegaFood. The discrepancy leaves a huge nutritional gap to fill.

The survey results highlight another knowledge gap between Americans and healthy eating — you can eat plenty of healthy foods, and still not get the recommended daily allowances of key nutrients.

For example, 52 percent of survey respondents say they think they get enough vitamin B6 in their diets. B6 is found in foods like bananas and avocados, plays an important role in producing fuel and energy, and is critical for optimal function of the brain, nervous and immune systems. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 30 million Americans are deficient in vitamin B6.

Multiple studies have shown many Americans don’t get the recommended amounts of needed nutrients every day, yet two-thirds believe they can get all the required nutrients by eating a healthy diet, according to the MegaFood survey. As a result, the belief they don’t need a multivitamin is the top reason two in five people don’t take one.

“My experience consistently shows me that a large number of Americans live high-carb, high-sugar, caffeine-overloaded, stressed-out, no-exercise lives,” says Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, herbal medicine and dietary supplementation, and author of National Geographic’s “Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.” “We may have good intentions when it comes to eating well, but the truth is that many of us fall short of an ideal diet — and even when we do our best to eat well, it is extremely difficult to get all the nutrients we need on a regular basis with diet alone.”

What you can do

It is possible to take steps to improve nutrition. Dr. Low Dog offers these tips:

* Know the nutrients you should be getting and the recommended daily amount for each. The National Institutes of Health provide online tables for recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals, based on age and gender.

* Do your best to eat a balanced diet; it delivers health benefits beyond vitamin sufficiency. Be sure to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

* Supplement your good eating habits with a quality multivitamin. Eighty-one percent of consumers realize that not all multivitamins are the same. MegaFood makes a line of multivitamins formulated to support the health of men and women during various phases of life. They’re made from real food from real family farmers. The line is gluten-, soy-, GMO- and dairy-free, and tested to be free of pesticides and herbicides.

* In an effort to help bridge the nutritional gap, MegaFood has launched its MegaPledge campaign. Pledge to close your nutritional gap by taking a multivitamin and MegaFood will donate a bottle of multis to someone in need. Pledgers will receive a $5 coupon and be entered to win great prizes, including a year’s worth of multivitamins and an amazing wellness getaway. Additionally, MegaFood is teaming up with Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization that empowers underserved consumers to make healthier food choices by increasing affordable access to fresh, local food. With every pledge, MegaFood will donate two servings of fruits and veggies to someone in need. Take the pledge at megafood.com/pledge.

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Proper nutrition is key to senior health

(BPT) – Americans are now living longer than ever before. In fact, one of the fastest growing segments is people over the age of 85 who will represent 20 percent of the population by the year 2040. Because we are living longer, certain conditions specific to seniors are also on a steady rise. Dehydration, falls, fractures, cognition loss and attention deficits are now becoming more commonplace.

In a recent paper titled “Salt Appetite Across Generations” presented at a medical conference in Switzerland, Israeli researchers from the University of Haifa indicated that among seniors, a reduced sense of thirst could increase the increased risk of serious dehydration. They also noted that the appetite for salt does not diminish with age, and suggested that this could be used to help sustain hydration and prevent the dangerous symptoms that result from dehydration.

Another study published in the American Journal of Hypertension identified significant risks to cardiovascular health and longevity from consuming any less than 1, or more than 3 teaspoons of salt per day. Fortunately, most Americans, including seniors, when left to their own choice consume right in the middle of this range.

Seniors in assisted living centers can be especially susceptible to the dangers of low salt diets. In 2013 a task force of 12 professional medical, nursing, and nutritional organizations assembled by the Pioneer Network published the “New Dining Practice Standards.” Their report concluded that low salt diets were contributing to malnutrition and weight loss among a significant percentage of seniors in assisted living facilities.

Low salt diets can also cause seniors to suffer from mild hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance in the blood which may not sound bad but can lead directly to walking impairment, attention deficits and a much higher frequency of falls. Several recent medical papers found a direct relationship between hyponatremia and unsteadiness, falls, bone fractures and attention deficits.

Falls are one of the most serious problems for the elderly and about a third of people over 65 fall at least once every year. Fall-related injuries in the elderly are associated with numerous psychological and physical consequences and are a leading cause of bone breakage and hip fractures, which can lead to complications and permanent disability or death. Some seniors do need a low salt diets but many do not, and it should not be assumed that they all do or benefit from when in fact the opposite may be the case.

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Fresh ways to enjoy pizza night and make a balanced meal

(BPT) – You know a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is best for your health, but achieving that can be a challenge given everything you have to accomplish in a day. Daily meal planning doesn’t have to be such a chore if you turn to your freezer for a little help. In fact, starting with frozen prepared foods as the foundation of your dinner plate and adding side dishes with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and/or low-fat dairy can make it possible to serve a balanced meal that is quick and tasty. And that works for pizza night, too!

“Eating a balanced meal doesn’t mean you have to give up favorite foods like pizza,” says Bobby Parrish, Food Network personality and Today contributor. “It just means you need to be mindful of portion sizes and balance out your plate with a nutritious side dish of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains.”

Research shows that Americans struggle with meeting recommended dietary guidelines. In fact, nine out of 10 people don’t get the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say. A simple way to improve the mix of foods you’re eating is by supplementing something you already enjoy — like pizza — with side dishes made up of other food groups.

Nestlé USA’s Balance Your Plate educational program aims to help you put together delicious and nutritious meals that incorporate both frozen and fresh foods. The website www.nestleusa.com/balance provides information, tips and recipes to help consumers create easy, balanced meals that meet dietary guidelines.

By choosing your favorite frozen dishes, like pizza, as the foundation of your meal, you can build a more balanced plate with these tips:

* Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables. For example, if you have a slice of cheese pizza, pair it with a fresh salad or your favorite vegetable side dish.

* Figure out your portion by looking at the recommended Serving Size in the Nutrition Facts label. Here’s an easy idea for pizza portions: picture your hand as a pizza slice and plan to enjoy one or two hands’ worth.

* Don’t be afraid to mix vegetables right into or on top of your pizza. For example, top cheese pizza with fresh tomato and basil after it comes out of the oven.

* Bagged salad greens, spinach or salad kits are a great, speedy way to add greens to your plate.

Parrish, who partnered with DiGiorno to create original side dish recipes, offers these two nutritious and tasty salad recipes to pair with your favorite pizza to create a more balanced meal:

Quinoa and Grapefruit Herb Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked quinoa

1 grapefruit

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped and roasted (optional)

1-2 small carrots, grated

1 tablespoon each of fresh parsley and dill, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil and add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Add 3/4 cups of raw quinoa. Stir well, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Check the quinoa; the water should be absorbed and the grain should be fluffy. If the quinoa has not unraveled, add another 1/4 cup of water and cook until the water evaporates and the quinoa looks cooked. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for up to two hours, or you can make ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.

Place the cooked, cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Using a knife, cut away all the skin from the grapefruit and cut all segments directly into the bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Check for taste; you may need to add more lemon juice. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shaved Apple and Romaine Crunch Salad

Ingredients:

2 hearts of romaine lettuce

1 sweet apple, like gala or pink lady

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon fresh chives, sliced

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

For the salad dressing:

3 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Zest and juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2-4 tablespoons water

Directions:

Use a slicer or mandoline to thinly slice the apple. Place the slices in a large bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over the slices to prevent them from turning brown. Slice the romaine thinly and add it to the bowl along with the remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

For the dressing, add everything but the water to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add enough water to loosen the dressing so it’s able to be poured. Check for seasoning; you may need a little more salt or lemon juice.

Keep the dressing and salad in the fridge until ready to serve. Right before you dress the salad, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a couple cracks of pepper to the romaine mixture. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat everything, making sure not to over-dress the salad. Once the salad is dressed, it must be eaten and cannot be stored in the fridge.

For more recipes, information and meal ideas, visit www.nestleusa.com/balance.

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Cover your nutrition bases with this popular vegetable

(BPT) – Whether you’re on or off the field, it’s important to fuel up wisely. Leading sports nutritionists across the country recommend potatoes as the go-to choice for fueling your body before or after a workout.

“To perform at your best, put potatoes on your plate,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, the nutritionist for the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. That’s because the benefits of America’s most popular vegetable go far beyond its delicious taste and versatility in the kitchen.

Up to bat and gearing up for a grand slam? Here’s how potatoes can get you there.

First Base: Carbohydrate

Did you know that carbohydrate is the primary fuel for your brain and a key source of energy for muscles? Because your body’s own stores of carbohydrate are limited and may be depleted even in a single session of intense and/or prolonged exercise it’s important to replenish them for optimal mental and physical performance. With a medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato containing 26 grams of carbohydrate, potatoes are a nutrient-dense carb, containing as much, if not more, of several essential vitamins and minerals than spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread (compared on a per-serving basis).

Second Base: Potassium

A medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato also contains 620 milligrams of potassium. That’s more potassium than a banana! Potassium is an important electrolyte that aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines mention potassium as an under-consumed nutrient of concern and recommends consuming foods with high levels of potassium, such as white potatoes.

Third Base: Energy

As we know, adequate energy supports optimal body functions, and it’s critical to take in the appropriate number of calories to match the demands of your day. Potatoes are more energy-packed than any other popular vegetable, with a medium (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato containing 110 calories.

Home Run!

Whether you lead an active lifestyle or compete with elite athletes, there’s an all-star potato option to fuel your body and brain throughout the day. Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, chef and dietitian for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies, keeps her potato dishes interesting with recipes like Smoky Maple Potato Bites, combining a crunchy panko crust with a creamy and satisfying potato center to create an easy make-ahead, post-workout (or in between inning) snack.

Smoky Maple Potato Bites

Created Exclusively for Potatoes USA by Katie Cavuto, MS, RD

Yield: 16 servings (2 bites per serving)

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds russet potatoes, washed and cut into 2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra as needed

3/4 cup diced leeks, white part only (one medium leek)

1/2 cup low-fat plain strained yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons mild smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

3 tablespoons real maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 large eggs, divided

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus extra as needed

1 1/2 cups panko (regular or gluten-free)

Olive oil cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

1. Add potatoes to a large pot of water and bring them to a boil. Cook uncovered at medium-high heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, leeks and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, to soften. Place the cooked leeks in the bowl with the potatoes.

3. Add the yogurt, paprika, oregano, maple syrup, mustard, 1 egg, the pepper, and remaining salt to the bowl with the potatoes and leeks. Mash the potatoes, stirring periodically, until smooth.

4. Place the potato mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

6. Crack the remaining 2 eggs in a small bowl and whisk.

7. Add the panko to another small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Make 2-tablespoon portions of the potato mixture and roll them into balls.

9. Working one at a time, dip the balls into the eggs, then dredge in the panko, pressing it to coat.

10. Place the balls on a baking sheet coating with olive oil cooking spray. Spray the tops of the balls with cooking spray as well.

11. Bake for 15 minutes and then, if needed, broil them for 2 to 3 minutes to brown. Serve immediately.

Per serving (2 bites): Calories: 136, Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 35 mg, Sodium: 273 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 2 g, Potassium: 386 mg, Protein: 5 g, Vitamin C: 9%

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Fiber: What it is and why you need more of it in your diet

(BPT) – Eat more fiber.

If your doctor didn’t give you this advice at your last checkup, she probably should have: 97 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber they need to stay healthy. But what is fiber, and why is it good for you?

Dietary fiber, sometimes called “roughage,” is a plant-based carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains such as rice and wheat. Our bodies have a difficult time digesting fiber, which is actually a good thing — as fiber passes through the body undigested, it does a lot of good along the way!

Fiber has many proven health benefits. It has been shown to improve heart health, lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, decrease the risk of stroke, help you feel fuller longer, prevent constipation and boost digestive health and your immune system.

Experts like the Food and Drug Administration recommend we consume about 28 grams of fiber each day — which, it turns out, is a lot of food. You’d have to eat about 94 baby carrots, 47 stalks of celery, or 15 slices of whole-wheat bread to get your daily dose of fiber from food alone!

To help people get the fiber they need, the FDA has approved seven ingredients that can be taken as supplements or added to food to boost the amount of dietary fiber they contain. One of those ingredients you may find on your food label is cellulose gel, or microcrystalline cellulose.

Cellulose gel is derived from cellulose, an essential component of fruits, vegetables and trees. In fact, cellulose is so important to plants in nature, it is the most abundant organic compound on Earth!

Cellulose gel offers the same great health benefits as the dietary fiber we find in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and can be found in foods such as yogurt, cereal bars and protein shakes. So when cellulose gel or microcrystalline cellulose appears on your food label, it means you’re getting the same plant fiber found in broccoli and apples — without having to eat a lot of broccoli and apples (and without the hassle of cooking and meal planning!).

To learn more about cellulose gel and other food ingredients that make our favorite foods better for us, visit www.foodsciencematters.com.

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Why skip breakfast? 5 warm comfort foods that cook in 3 minutes

(BPT) – In spite of the well-documented drawbacks of not eating breakfast, approximately 30 percent of Americans are still failing to fuel themselves in the morning, according to WebMD. And many of those moving through their days with empty stomachs blame a lack of convenience.

Earlier this year, the Washington Post pointed to research showing millennials consider even breakfast cereal too inconvenient. And research cited in the Huffington Post indicates Americans 18 and older who miss their first daily meal most frequently blame lack of hunger or an overly busy schedule.

However, several studies point to adverse health and cognitive effects from missing breakfast. Consumer Reports indicates eating within two hours of waking promotes the metabolizing of your glucose or blood sugar all day, in turn boosting your energy. “Don’t skip breakfast,” advises researcher Dr. Leah E. Cahill of Harvard Medical School. “Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients.”

Experts recommend those in the habit of skipping breakfast instead optimize ultra-easy and ultra-convenient comfort food meals. Most recipes can be made ahead and stored in your fridge for mornings when you’re short of time and energy. They’re made even faster via the latest microwaves by Panasonic that optimize inverter technology for even cooking that works from the outside in.

Below are a few easy microwave recipes for busy mornings:

1. Toasty banana bread oatmeal: In a microwaveable mug, combine 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 smashed banana and a little flax seed, cinnamon and/or honey. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, stir and eat.

2. Savory French toast in a mug: Just cube a slice of white bread and soak it for 5 minutes (press it down) in a mug holding a whisked egg, 5 tablespoons milk, 3 tablespoons grated cheddar, 3 tablespoons cooked ham and salt and pepper. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, then eat warm.

3. Warm apple muffin: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a microwaveable mug. Mix in a beaten egg, 3 tablespoons flour (almond or coconut works well), 1/8 teaspoon baking powder and a little maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Top with finely chopped apple and walnuts and butter. Microwave for a minute. Grab and go.

4. Tasty breakfast sandwich: Add to a mug 1 teaspoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon milk, an egg and some chopped onion, green pepper ham and hot sauce to taste. Microwave about 30 seconds, then scoop out and add to a toasted English muffin topped with a slice of your favorite cheese. Grab, then enjoy the savory goodness.

5. Roll-ups to go: Slather the inside of a 6 inch tortilla with peanut butter, jam, half a smashed banana and dried unsweetened coconut. Roll it up like a burrito, wrap it in a loose paper towel and microwave it for half a minute before appreciating how the flavors melt in your mouth.

Panasonic’s two Microwaves with Inverter Technology (NN-SD372S and NN-SN686S) optimize a patented technique that cooks food quickly and evenly every time to ensure a yummy breakfast on-the-go.

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Protect your heart with these easy meal add-ins

(BPT) – What’s the biggest threat to our health? It isn’t cancer or even accidents, but heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, one in four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease, which includes heart attack and stroke. This statistic is scary, but the good news is, there is something powerful we can do to prevent us from becoming a victim to this disease.

Even if you are one of the 47 percent of Americans living with a major risk factor, there are preventive measures you can take for a healthier heart, says registered dietitian nutritionist, Dawn Jackson Blatner. All you have to do is embrace some simple lifestyle changes starting with your diet.

“Food is quite literally one of the best medicines out there when it comes to improving our health,” says Blatner. “Studies show us repeatedly that a balanced diet including heart-healthy unsaturated fats, along with multiple servings of fruit and vegetables can give you additional protection against heart attack and stroke.”

Here are five of Blatner’s go-to foods you can easily incorporate into your diet for a daily dose of heart-healthy compounds.

1. Fish: Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of irregular heartbeat and help decrease plaque buildup in the arteries. If fish isn’t already in your meal rotation, it’s time to start. Preparation and cooking time for fish entrees is much shorter than that of chicken, beef and pork, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

2. Greens: Leafy greens contain nitrates, healthy compounds that not only reduce the risk of heart attack, but can boost survival rates after a heart attack. Plus, spinach, kale and other dark green vegetables have carotenoids, which work to keep blood vessels healthy. So aim to have at least one cup of leafy greens each day, such as scrambled in your morning eggs, a green juice as a snack or a leafy salad with lunch or dinner.

3. Nuts: They contain protein, fiber and healthy fat, which work together to keep us feeling full and satisfied. Though high in fat, studies show people who consume nuts on a daily basis are leaner than those who don’t, and staying lean is, of course, heart-healthy. So go ahead and keep almonds, walnuts or pistachios on hand for snacking, and choose those that are minimally processed, avoiding candied or highly salted nuts.

4. Dark chocolate: Good news: Eating dark chocolate every day can reduce heart attack and stroke for high-risk patients. The magic compound here is flavonoids, which are beneficial for blood pressure and clotting while also reducing inflammation. If you’re on-board with making chocolate your after dinner indulgence, opt for brands with 60-70 percent cocoa and that don’t contain milk fat in the ingredient list.

5. Eggs: Contrary to earlier belief, eating one egg a day has no negative effect on coronary health and can actually reduce the risk of stroke by 12 percent, according to a recent review of 30 years’ worth of scientific study cited on nutraingredients.com. But all eggs are not created equal. Eggland’s Best eggs, for example, offer the benefit of 25 percent less saturated fat, five times more Vitamin D, more than twice the omega-3s and three times more Vitamin B12 than ordinary eggs. Eggland’s Best’s superior nutritional profile is due to its proprietary, all-vegetarian diet. So get cracking and experiment with recipes featuring poached, baked and even hard-boiled Eggland’s Best eggs to serve up heart-healthy meals.

Very Vegetable Frittata

Ingredients

4 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)

1/3 cup Eggland’s Best Liquid Egg Whites

1 cup non-fat milk

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 cup chopped broccoli

1 cup chopped cauliflower

1 cup chopped zucchini

1 cup halved cherry or pear tomatoes

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

arugula, for serving (optional)

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk and Dijon mustard; set aside.

In a 10 to 12-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, spray with cooking spray and heat to medium-high.

Saute onion until softened — about 2 minutes.

Add the mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini to the skillet. Saute until slightly softened — another 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk the egg mixture again, then pour over the vegetables.

Sprinkle tomatoes and feta cheese on top.

Place a lid on the skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook until the bottom and sides of the frittata are firm — 8 to 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven broiler.

Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the frittata is cooked through (no longer jiggly) and slightly browned on top — about 5 minutes (watch closely).

Cut into 4 wedges and serve immediately, over a handful of arugula, if desired.

— Recipe courtesy of Eggland’s Best.

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Safe food techniques every home cook should know

(BPT) – Good hosts want positive experiences around the dishes they prepare for the holidays — great conversation and good memories.

What’s a sure way to mar the feast? Not being consistent in following safe food handling techniques that every home cook should know. Each year, one in six people experiences food poisoning, affecting some 48 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Sometimes, the causes of food poisoning are beyond our control, in spite of regulations and best practices by farmers and food companies. While ready-to-eat foods and restaurants are often highlighted in the fight against food poisoning, we often overlook that home cooks are important partners in reducing the risk of foodborne illness,” said Mike Robach, vice president of food safety at Cargill.

“The most common foodborne pathogens, like salmonella and campylobacter, can cause serious illness, particularly in young children, the elderly, pregnant women and other immune-compromised people,” said Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education. “Consistently practicing good hand hygiene and safe food handling at home is important to protect your family from these microorganisms and the serious illness they can cause.”

Each year, foodborne illnesses lead to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the CDC, as they can lead to serious conditions such as sepsis and kidney failure.

Like any skilled chef, you are best prepared to create a memorable feast when you keep these safe food handling practices top-of-mind. They are just as necessary to a great meal as sharp knives, high-quality cookware, fresh ingredients and the right appliances.

Clean hands and surfaces often

Before you begin cooking, start by making sure your work area and tools are clean. Wash all preparation surfaces, including cutting boards, with hot, soapy water. If any tools or containers you will need are dirty, either run the dishwasher cycle or hand-wash the items in a sink of hot, soapy water. Finally, wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables

Depending on what you are using, some foods will require rinsing. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating or using. Firm-skinned produce like cucumbers and apples should be rubbed under running tap water by hand or with a clean brush. You should also rinse any produce that will be peeled, because microorganisms on the surface can be easily transferred to the flesh with a peeler or knife blade. Blot fresh fruits and vegetables dry with paper towels.

There is no need to rinse raw meat or poultry, at least, not in the name of food safety. All that will accomplish is potentially spreading bacteria in your sink and beyond. Raw meat and poultry must be cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Safely handle meat and poultry

The best home cooks know it’s important to safely handle raw meat and poultry. To start with, do not thaw frozen meat and poultry at room temperature — to do so gives harmful bacteria an ideal environment to multiply and spread.

There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, submerged in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods, and use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat and poultry.

And it is worth a reminder — never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw or undercooked meat or poultry.

Cook to safe temperatures

Here is a compelling reason to cook food to a safe temperature: Even a professional chef cannot say with precision if a food item is cooked to a safe internal temperature. Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness. Get a food thermometer and use it consistently. For a list of safe internal temperatures, visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education website at fightbac.org.

Safe leftovers

Proper storing of leftovers in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below helps reduce the risk of food poisoning. Keep leftovers in shallow containers so they cool off more quickly. When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach a safe temperature of 165 F degrees as measured with a food thermometer. Consume or freeze refrigerated leftovers within three to four days.

For more tips to build your skills and expertise in food safety, visit StoryofYourDinner.org. Check out an animated video, as well as fun items such as kid-friendly placemats to download, and a collection of delicious side dish recipes that incorporate home food safety tips.

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7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Kiwifruit

(BPT) – When it comes to fruit, kiwis are often overlooked. But that’s a shame, because these tiny orbs pack big nutritional, culinary and palate-pleasing surprises.

Here are seven little-known facts about kiwifruit:

1. There’s no need to peel kiwifruit.

Kiwifruit is the perfect portable snack because it is easy to eat. Just cut in half with a knife and scoop with a spoon. That’s it — just cut, scoop, and enjoy. But before you cut, make sure it’s ripe. Hold a kiwifruit in the palm of your hand and squeeze gently. A ripe kiwifruit will give to slight pressure. Once kiwifruit is ripe, you can pop it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (assuming you can resist eating it on the spot).

2. Not all kiwifruit is green and hairy.

Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit has a smooth, hairless skin and a juicy, yellow flesh — quite different than the fuzzy green kiwifruit to which most Americans are accustomed. Their taste is tropical-sweet, like a cross between a mango and a strawberry.  

3. Kiwifruit can help stabilize blood sugar.

The glycemic index, or GI, measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar. Fruits with a glycemic index (GI) less than 55 are considered low GI, meaning they produce a gradual rise in blood sugar levels that’s easy on the body. Kiwifruit’s low GI scores (green kiwifruit is 39 and SunGold is 38) and high fiber content allow for a slower rise in blood sugar levels than other fruits, providing energy and helping to fend off blood sugar spikes and crashes.

4. Kiwifruit can ease digestive discomfort.

Feeling a bit backed up? Kiwifruit can aid digestive concerns in several ways. For constipation, researchers believe the soluble and insoluble fibers in kiwifruit can promote laxation. For bloating, both green and SunGold have actinidin, an enzyme unique to kiwifruit that helps break down protein and streamline digestion.

5. Kiwifruit is good for your gut.

Kiwifruit provides prebiotic “food” for probiotics, the good bacteria that live in our digestive systems. So when you consume kiwifruit, you’re also feeding the 100 trillion little helpers in your gut, which support immunity, mood regulation and metabolism. Give yourself a perfect pairing of probiotics and prebiotics by enjoying yogurt topped with chopped kiwifruit.

6. Kiwifruit = delicious source of nutrients.

Kiwifruit is tasty, but that’s not all. A serving of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit has three times more vitamin C than an orange and as much potassium as a medium banana, and a serving of green is high in fiber and a good source of folate.

7. Kiwifruit makes a mean meat tenderizer.

The actinidin in kiwifruit that can help beat your bloat also makes the fruit a great meat tenderizer. Make your own marinade with two green kiwifruit, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper. Simply marinade for 10-15 minutes before tossing your beef, chicken or fish on the grill.

Not all kiwifruit is created equal. With Zespri, growers put a focus on quality, and you can really taste the difference. Interested in trying Zespri Kiwifruit? Hurry to your local retailer as both Zespri Green and SunGold kiwifruit are in stores now through October.

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5 superfoods that support kids’ eye health

(BPT) – The start of the school year means a laundry list of to-do’s for parents. From shopping for school supplies to scheduling an annual physical, it’s a hectic yet exciting time for the entire family.

As kids settle back into the groove of the school year, you can ensure they are prepared with the right pencils and notebooks, but if they are straining to see the teacher, learning will be a challenge.

“The first step is to have your child’s vision checked annually by a doctor,” says registered dietitian, Tammy Lakatos. “The next step is to maintain healthy vision which parents can easily do by providing a wholesome diet rich in vitamin-packed foods proven to support eye health.”

While carrots have a reputation as an eye-healthy food, there are many other options that keep kids seeing sharp. These five superfoods will help keep your kids’ eyes healthy so they can better focus at school.

Berries
Bulk up on berries to maintain that perfect vision. Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are packed with eye-healthy vitamin C. Bonus: because vitamin C is an antioxidant that boosts the immune system, it will help stave off the coughs and colds that often come along with the start of school.

Nuts and seeds
When kids crave crunch, seeds and nuts are the perfect choice. English walnuts, raw almonds, flax seed and sunflower seeds are satisfying on top of yogurt or in a homemade trail mix. Plus, these nuts and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows can help support vision.

Eggs
This breakfast staple can boost eye health, but keep in mind not all eggs are created equal. Eggland’s Best eggs come from hens fed a wholesome, all-vegetarian diet that results in a superior egg packed with eye-healthy nutrients such as 38 percent more lutein, three times more vitamin B 12 and five times more vitamin D than ordinary eggs.

Dark green vegetables
Antioxidants in kale, spinach and broccoli help keep eyes healthy and prevent disease. Each vegetable contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which studies have found lowers the risk of advanced macular degeneration and cataracts.

Citrus fruit
Oranges make awesome snacks or meal add-ons. Because citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, you’re not only giving your child a naturally sweet treat, you’re helping support eye health. Plus, the smell of citrus will awaken the senses to help fight the afternoon slump.

Want a tasty recipe kids will love that incorporates multiple eye-healthy superfoods? Get into the back-to-school spirit and try these Green Eggs and Ham Cups for breakfast or lunch. For more recipe ideas, Lakatos recommends visiting www.egglandsbest.com.

Green Eggs and Ham Cups

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes 12 cups

Ingredients:

7 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
3/4 cups extra lean ham, diced 
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Shredded cheese of your choice (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sauté onions and broccoli over medium heat until soft. Add spinach, ham and continue cooking until spinach is wilted.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and seasonings. Add vegetable and ham mixture to eggs.

Coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray and fill each muffin cup with egg/veggie mixture.

Top with shredded cheese.

Bake 15-17 minutes or until eggs spring back or toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and remove from pan. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

*Egg cups can be rewarmed in the microwave or toaster oven if desired.

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