Purple Potatoes

Have you ever had purple potatoes? Maybe I am one of the few, but I had never had them before last week. I was attending our annual Extension conference in Stillwater and during a luncheon they brought out our plates with purple potatoes. I have to admit that at first I thought they were just burned white potatoes, and then I cut into them. How pretty do these look?

Purple potatoesI’m an Oklahoma girl and just like the rest of us I grew up on the “Oklahoma Diet”  which consists of corn, green beans, white potatoes, and beef (doesn’t exactly fit MyPlate). These new colorful potatoes really intrigued me so when I got back I decided to look into them a little more.

According to the USDA these purple potatoes have been around South America for many years but have just made their debut in the United States within the last decade. (A co-worker told me they have been popular on the West Coast for a while, but have just recently started appearing in Oklahoma.) While these colored potatoes are high in potassium and carbohydrates, just like white ones, they are also higher in antioxidants. As you probably already know research is showing that antioxidants can play a big role in preventing some cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Any dietitian will tell you the more color you have on your plate the better, because the more color you have the more variety of vitamins and minerals you are consuming. I think the purple potatoes would be a great addition to our often colorless “Oklahoma Diet”. We can still have our tasty potatoes but with a little more nutritional value.

I have never seen purple potatoes in the store before but I am definitely going to start looking. I have heard there are a couple of markets in OKC that carry them but they often sell out fast. Have you tried purple potatoes or seen them at your store? Let us know if you have! If you haven’t I encourage you to try them and see what you think.

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Grocery Shopping – It’s Tricky

Whenever I grocery shop I usually take the time to stop and compare food labels. I think it is important to compare food labels because often times the front package of a product can be misleading. The food label on the back is always where you find the real facts.

A few weeks ago I was looking for coffee creamer and came across an interesting situation.

Label-3On the left is regular coffee creamer and on the right is the fat free version. Which one would you guess is healthier?

Here is the label for the regular creamer. Notice the regular creamer only contains 0.5 grams of saturated. That isn’t very much. Also notice that it contains 1 gram of carbohydrate and 10 calories.

Label 1-1

Now we look at the fat free version. Yes they did remove that 0.5 grams of fat and we are now left with zero. Do you notice what else changed?

Label 2-2

The total carbohydrates increased from 1 gram to 2 grams. Calories however stayed the same at 10. Basically, when the fat was removed so was the flavor. In order to make it tasty they had to add some carb to the fat free version.

So back to our question, which is healthier? Well in this case I would say it’s a toss up. Yes you are cutting out your saturated fat but the original amount was so small to begin with, and you are not decreasing your calories any.

I point this out not because I think coffee creamer is bad for you (I drink it every morning) or because I think food companies are evil (they are not). But it is important when grocery shopping to know what you are getting.Take time to read food labels and compare. Hm..I think that might make a good blog post, “How to Read a Food Label”. Stay tuned.

New Year’s Goals 2014

It is hard to believe that it has already been one year since I sat here and wrote about New Years Resolutions for 2013. I know we say this every year, but man that year went by fast! If you read through my post from last year you will see that one of my goals for 2013 was to read at least one book a month. Well for the first time ever in my life I kept my New Year’s resolution, I read 19 books in 2013!

Were you able to keep your goals for 2013? What are some of your goals for 2014? Let me guess, one of them is to get healthy or loose weight. This seems to be on the top of everyone’s list in January. I love it! As a dietitian I am so happy when people decide they want to get healthy, but how long does this usually last? Maybe until the first of February? Then all those fruits and veggies you bought for your juice cleanse are over ripe in the fridge and your gym bag is collecting dust in the back of your car. (I’ve been there, I’m not judging.)

Well let me offer you some quick tips to help you get healthy in 2014. First of all, it won’t be easy. It just will not. Prepare yourself for that battle right now, mentally and physically. If being healthy was easy and came naturally we would not be battling an obesity epidemic in America.

The best way to start is small and simple. Overwhelming yourself with goals that aren’t attainable is the quickest path to resolution ruin. Start small and grow bigger as you gain confidence. For example, if you never go to the gym don’t go out and buy a membership now. Instead start by taking walks around your neighborhood or playing basketball with your kids. These things probably fit much more naturally into your schedule and won’t be as intimidating. You don’t have to be at a gym to be “working out”, as long as your heart is pumping faster than normal you are making progress.

When it comes to your plate small steps are the key. Again, making drastic changes only causes you to get worn out faster. Instead of vowing to cut out sweets, decide to eat more fruits and vegetables. Instead of giving up soda completely, limit yourself to 3 sodas a week, etc. Supplements, juice cleanses, detox diets and other trends may help you loose temporary weight but they won’t help you get healthy. MyPlate is the perfect eating pattern to start getting healthy. You may look at it and think “that doesn’t work” but it does. It really does!

MyPlate Full

Getting healthy and loosing weight takes time and lots of commitment, but it is attainable. Don’t get frustrated and don’t overwhelm yourself. This year my goal is to run a 10k. I know that might not sound like much to some of you avid runners, but for this girl who hates running it really is a commitment. But just like you all I want to be healthy in 2014 too. Good luck, this can be your year!

P.S. I would love to hear some of your New Years Resolutions. Let me know in the comment section.

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Last night I had a great time making cinnamon applesauce ornaments with a great group of children at Northwest Library. Here are few of the finished products we ended up with.

Christmas Ornaments 2

Christmas Ornaments 4

If you would like to make these with your kids the recipe is really easy. You simply need to mix 1 cup of cinnamon with 3/4 cup of applesauce. Stir the mixture until it starts to become a moist ball of dough. Next roll the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch thick with a rolling pin. Last use cookie cutters to cut out cute Holiday shapes.

Christmas Ornaments 1

Use a toothpick or straw to poke a hole in the top and carefully thread some ribbon through.You will need to let your ornaments air dry for 2-3 days. Once they are completely dry you can even decorate them with paint or glitter. They also make your house smell great!

If you are looking for more fun Holiday crafts to do with your kids stop by one of the metropolitan libraries and find some great kids craft books!

Chocolate Milk….Friend or Foe?

A glass of milk Français : Un verre de lait

I don’t like white milk. I really never have. I will put enough in my cereal to get it damp, but that is about the extent of my milk consumption. I have never been one to sit down and enjoy a glass of cold milk with my cookies. I just do not like it. Chocolate milk however, now we’re on to something. I have bit of a sweet tooth, and a love for all things chocolate so it’s a no-brainer that I would love chocolate milk.

Recently, in efforts to combat childhood obesity, many schools (some even right here in Oklahoma) have started removing chocolate milk from their lunch lines. I have also met many mothers since I started my job here with Extension that tell me they refuse to give their children chocolate milk because they are concerned about the high sugar content.

So is chocolate milk our foe? Should we be avoiding it?

One of the most common arguments I hear from opponents of flavored milk is that it is too high in sugar. Yes, flavored milk does have a higher sugar content than white milk, this is not a lie. However something you may be surprised to know is that an 8 oz serving of chocolate milk contains only 12 more grams of sugar than the same amount of white milk. These 12 extra grams are still less sugar than other common kids drinks such as fruit punch and cola’s.

Another common misconception is that chocolate milk is not as nutritious as white milk, but this is simply not the case. Chocolate milk is packed with the same 9 essential nutrients as white milk. These including among others calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D. All which are crucial for healthy growing kid.

It is no lie that we American’s are consuming way more sugar than we need, but before we start cutting out everything sweet lets weigh the pro’s & con’s. Did you know that many schools are finding when they remove chocolate milk from the lunchroom instead of kids picking white milk they are picking no milk at all!? Missing out on those essential nutrients I mentioned that are so important for growth and development.

So don’t buy into the lie, chocolate milk is not your foe, and for people like me who don’t like white milk it can be a great friend! Believe me if you stopped and examined your family’s diet you would find plenty of other (less nutritious) areas where you can start cutting sugar out of your diet.

Food Safety During Tailgating

Football

Football (Photo credit: The Malones)

It’s college football season and we all know what this means! It’s time for tailgating and with a great tailgate comes great responsibility not only for preparing the best food in the lot but for keeping your food safe enough to eat. Ensuring your food stays at a safe temperature during your tailgate party is absolutely essential for protection against what could be your greatest opponent: foodborne illness.  Guarantee your tailgate party goes off without a hitch by following these simple tips for keeping your food safe:

  • For cold, perishable food items, pack your coolers with plenty of ice or ice packs and use a food thermometer to ensure your food stays below 40*F (4*C). If the temperature of the food rises above 40*F and remains above 40*F for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour on days 90*F (32*C) or above), foods are much more likely to grow and harvest bacteria quickly which can potentially make us very sick. With that being said, it’s best to hold your food in the air-conditioned car rather than the trunk when traveling to your tailgating spot and begin preparing and eating shortly after you arrive.
  • The same goes for hot foods. Ensure your hot foods are maintained at 140*F or above at all times. If you find that you can’t keep your hot foods hot during transport, prepare them in advance, cool them in the refrigerator before packing, and reheat to 165*F upon arrival to your tailgate location.
  • Hand washing is key as cross-contamination is one of the main culprits of foodborne illness. Scrubbing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after food preparation and before you eat is recommended. In the case that running water is not available, water-less sanitizers or moist towelettes may be used. Suggest your guests use them too before digging in!
  • When transporting raw meat, be sure it is wrapped tightly, is free of leakage, and stored separately from ready-to-eat foods. If stored in the same cooler as ready-to-eat foods, separate with a liner and place in the bottom of the cooler so juices don’t contaminate the other foods.
  • Pack plenty of clean preparation and serving utensils as these may be a cause for cross-contamination and therefore, foodborne illness as well. Pack used and clean utensils separately and in designated Ziploc bags.
  • Avoid defrosting frozen foods in the heat of the car or parking lot. This will drop the temperature of the food into the “danger zone” (40*F – 140*F) too quickly which will increase the risk for bacterial growth. Defrost all foods before leaving the home in the refrigerator or microwave.
  • Grilled tailgating favorites like bratwurst, hamburgers and chicken breasts must be cooked to at least 165*F. Using a food thermometers is the most effective way to assess whether the food has reached the appropriate consumption temperature.

It’s tailgating season. Grab your friends, temp your food, and enjoy the game!

You can find more information about food safety at the following websites:

http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/tailgate.html

http://homefoodsafety.org/safety-tips/cook/tailgating

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/98a4e643-8c31-4776-83e7-6409b5863ff8/Tailgating_Food_Safety.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Summer Hydration

English: Drinking water fountain

Proper hydration cannot be stressed enough in the hot summer months in Oklahoma. It is something that is detrimental to your health, yet can be very easily fixed.  Water makes up over half of your body weight, and therefore your body depends on water for survival. Every organ, tissue, and cell in your body needs water to be able to function properly. For example, it is necessary for your body to maintain a normal temperature, lubricate joints, remove waste, and maintain overall good health.

You can lose water by going to the restroom, sweating, and even breathing. You especially lose a lot of water when the temperature is hot because you sweat a lot to help maintain a good core temperature.  You can also lose water faster if you have a fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea or if you are an athlete and are constantly sweating from being so active. If you do not replace the water you lose, you will enter a state of dehydration.

Symptoms of being dehydrated can consist of dark yellow urine, little or no urine, dry mouth, fatigue, extreme thirst, headache, confusion, or being light-headed or dizzy. You should never wait until you notice symptoms to begin rehydrating. It should be an ongoing process to ensure good health.

You can stay hydrated by drinking approximately 8 ounces of water per day. Some people may need more or less than that, but if you are outside in the hot Oklahoma weather; chances are you may need more than this amount. Water is certainly the best way to rehydrate. However, you can also get some water from milk, juices, soda, coffee, tea, and sports drinks. These should not always be used to replace water though. The caffeine in the coffee, tea, and soda can make you use the restroom more often or make you jumpier than usual, which will lead to you needing to rehydrate even more. You should also choose sports drinks, juices, milk and sodas wisely; as most will add on a lot of sugar and calories to your diet. Several fresh fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, can also add in some extra water to aid in rehydrating.

There are several things you can do this summer to help make sure you are staying hydrated. Carrying around a water bottle is very beneficial. Having it in front of you helps you remember to drink it, and it is easy and cost effective to refill it at water fountains or with tap water. Starting and ending your day with a glass of water is also a good habit to adopt.  If you can’t always remember to drink enough, start drinking water on a schedule until it becomes a habit. An example of this could be in the morning, with every snack or meal, and at night before bed. If you know you will be spending a lot of time in the heat or are doing physical activity, make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after being in the heat.

Written by: Kaitlin Scepanski, Oklahoma State Dietetic Intern Student