Friday, July 31, 2009

Kids and TV

We all know that children should not be allowed to watch too much television. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television for children under the age of 2, and recommends that older children be limited to 1-2 hours of "screen time" per day (that includes computer games, video watching and internet usage). But, it is also important to limit eating while watching tv. There have been many studies done showing that eating while watching tv leads to overeating! When people eat "mindlessly" while gazing at the tv, instead of being "mindful" while they are eating, they often don't realize how much they are eating. This can lead to eating much more food than they had planned to eat-suddenly the whole chip bag is empty! Also, most food eaten while watching tv tends to be nutrient-poor food such as that bag of chips, or cookies.

A recent study: shows that watching food advertisments while eating in front of the tve can spur children to eat even more.

Bottom line: Don't allow children or yourself to eat while watching tv. Teach children about "mindful" eating. For example, take time to savor and enjoy your food. While eating with your children, talk about the juiciness of the oranges, the nice cold milk, or whatever else you are enjoying about your meal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Benefits of Barley

If you have been anywhere near the cereal aisle of your local store lately, you are probably aware that eating oats can help lower your cholesterol. The Quaker Oats company and Cheerios have made this a big part of their marketing campaigns ("Cheerios can reduce your cholesterol" shouts out at you from the Cheerios box. "Unleash the power of the oat" says the Quaker Oats box.) But, something you might not know, is that barley contains the same cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber that oats do (beta-glucan). Recent studies have shown that people who regularly eat barley have the same reductions in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol that oat eaters do.

Barley is a little different than most whole grains because barley contains fiber throughout its entire kernel. (The fiber in most other whole grains is concentrated in the outer bran layer of the grain). So even the processed varieties of barley retain some of the healthy fiber found in whole barley.

Many different forms of barley can be found on your supermarket's shelves. These include whole, pearled, flakes,"quick", grits, and flour. Pearled barley is the most common type of barley. It goes through a "pearling" process in which the hull and bran parts of the grain are removed. Some of the nutrients are lost in the process, but it cooks faster. Whole barley (sometimes called "hulled" or "hull-less" barley) has had the inedible hull removed but retains many more nutrients than pearled barley. The downside is, of course, that it takes much longer to cook.

How to use it?
Barley is a great addition to soups and stews, or it can be used instead of rice in a side dish.
My favorite time saving tip is to cook a big batch of barley and freeze it. It can then be added to soups or casseroles as needed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Save the Date-Fall Wildwood Conference

Wildwood will be presenting our fall conference on September 26, 2009. We are excited to announce that we will be partnering with Children's Hospital, and the conference will be at their new hospital location (Colfax and I-225). The conference will be from 7:30-4:30 and the registration cost is $30. For your registration fee, you can enjoy a light breakfast and lunch, plus 7 hours of continuing education credits. I will be presenting a nutrition workshop, plus we have many other great speakers and activities. I will be posting more information soon about how to register.
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Food Safety

On Monday night we had quite a storm in the Denver area! Lots of hail and damaging winds and widespread power outages in some areas. I have been receiving some calls today from people whose power is just now back on and they are wondering if the food in their refrigerator is safe to eat. Here is a great resource about keeping food safe during a power outage:

Remember though, "When in doubt, throw it out". It can be financially painful to have to throw out all of the food in your refrigerator, but getting food poisoning and the ensuing medical bills is worse.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Unnatural" Truth

True or false: The word "natural" on a food label means that the food contains only healthy ingredients.

You may be surprised to learn that the answer is false! Food companies can use the word "natural" on any food label, regardless of the ingredients contained in the food. Unlike the term "organic", "natural" is not regulated by the USDA. (The one exception to this is meat and poultry. "Natural" meat and poultry must be free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and other such ingredients. However, the term does not refer to how the meat was raised.)

I was disappointed to read that the nation's largest organic dairy company, Dean's (Horizon Dairy), has chosen to exploit the fact that most people do not know that there is a difference between "natural" and "organic". Dean's is launching a new "natural" line of products that will be less expensive than their organic products because they won't be organic.,0,6783490.story

What does the organic seal on a food label mean? Foods bearing the organic label must meet or exceed standards set in 2002's National Organic Program. They are grown without synthetic pesticides, bio engineered genes, and fertilizers made with petroleum or sewage sludge. Organic foods must also be grown using tactics that promote biodiversity and renewable resources. Livestock labeled "organic" must have access to the outdoors and cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones.

The bottom line is: "organic" is regulated and means something. "Natural" can be slapped on any label and is usually just marketing mumbo-jumbo. I personally think that it is too bad that food companies are taking advantage of the reputation built by organic farmers over the years by confusing the public with their "natural" claims.

What's a consumer to do? I like to recommend that people ignore all of the "healthy", "natural" and other words on the front of food labels and go straight to the ingredient list. Look for foods with ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce. The fewer ingredients a product has, the better. Products with an extra long list of ingredients usually have a bunch of preservatives and additives that you don't really want. Finally, get rid of the belief that anything labeled "organic" or "natural" is automatically a great choice. Potato chips and other snack foods should not make up the bulk of your diet, even if they are organic. Remember, most of the healthiest foods do not even require a food label (apples, carrots, strawberries, etc.) because they are not packaged.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quick Pizza Dough

I recently came across an article online listing 20 "worthless" items most people have laying around their house. These items were considered worthless because they were things that people buy and then never use. I was not surprised to see bread machines right up there with waffle irons on the list. I know that a lot of people buy a bread machine and then never use it for whatever reason. This is unfortunate because a bread machine can actually produce some great results and can save you a lot of time. I use mine all of the time to make bread for our "bread and soup" night during the winter, and to make pizza dough, and dough for rolls. I even make my own hamburger buns because I prefer whole wheat buns (which used to be impossible to find). Even though it is now much easier to purchase whole wheat buns, I still make my own because of the cost savings (whole wheat buns are expensive!)

I would like to share with you a recipe for pizza dough that I use frequently. It is made the day before you need it and stored in the refrigerator. I have found this really improves the texture, makes it easier to roll out, and it tastes more like delivery pizza dough. It also makes meal preparation easier since you make it ahead of time. My family loves this pizza dough!

Bread Machine Pizza Dough
3/4 cup warm (not hot) water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes or until it starts to foam. Place the flour, salt and olive oil in the bread machine pan. Pour the yeast mixture into the bread pan on top of the flour mixture. Set the bread machine for "dough" setting. When the dough cycle is complete, put the dough into a greased bowl and cover. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Take dough out about 1 hour before you are ready to make pizza.

You can substitute whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour. I have had good success using the "white" whole wheat flour.

Picture by Pizza Review

Monday, July 6, 2009

Green Giants!

Rain! We have had more than our share this spring and summer, and it has brought an abundance of leafy greens to Colorado stores and farmers markets. Lettuces, kale, beet greens, spinach, and other greens are plentiful and inexpensive right now.

Greens are worth seeking out because they are a nutrition "bargain"! By "bargain" I mean that they are packed with nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals but have very few calories. Hidden in their beautiful green leaves are vitamins A,C, and K; potassium; folic acid; iron; calcium and magnesium. Their vibrant green color also alerts us to the fact that they are full of antioxidants with cancer-fighting abilities. Two of these antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, are thought to help protect our eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness in older adults).

Most children do not get enough vegetables in their diets, and they are woefully lacking in the leafy green variety. We know that the most commonly eaten vegetable in the U.S. is the potato, not spinach. I read an article in the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter a few years ago stating that the reason most Americans don't eat very many greens is that they don't know how to cook and serve them, often steaming them up and then adding a pat of butter as an afterthought. They had a quote from a researcher at Greece's Medical School in Athens saying that the reason Greeks and other peoples of the Mediterranean eat more leafy greens, is that they make them taste good by sauteing them in olive oil or stir-frying them. Their point was, spend a few extra calories to make vegetables taste good so that you will actually eat them and get all the benefits of their nutrients. I think this is especially important when preparing vegetables for young children. There is really no point in making them if the children won't eat them.

Steaming greens and then adding some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon is often all you need to make them taste better. You can also use red and green leaf lettuce or romaine in your tossed salads if your children like those. Spinach is very mild and children will often accept chopped spinach if it is added to dishes such as omelets or casseroles.

Here are a few of the recipes included in that Tufts newsletter that I have served successfully to my own children:

Toasted Walnut Topping
Toast 3 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts* and 1 Tablespoon of minced onion in 1 teaspoon of butter in a small skillet, stirring over medium heat until fragrant and light golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Toss with 2 cups cooked green beans, broccoli, spinach or Swiss chard.
*Note: nuts can be a choking hazard for children under 4.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
Combine 1/4 cup natural peanut butter and 2 Tablespoons boiling water and stir until smooth. Stir in 1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional). Spoon over 2 cups cooked green beans, broccoli, bok choy, or cabbage.

What are your favorite ways to serve leafy greens to your children? If you have a recipe tip please feel free to share in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!

photo by tiffanywashko