Wednesday, June 30, 2010

McCormick Spices

I received a free sample of McCormick's "Recipe Inspirations" spices in the mail the other day.  As you can see, the package includes 5 individual spices (there are 6 little packets of spices but 2 contain paprika).  It also includes a plastic-coated recipe card (which can be saved for later use) on the back of the package to make an entree using the spices included in the package.  The one I received is for "Spanish Chicken Skillet" and includes paprika, minced garlic, thyme leaves, black pepper and red pepper. 

The thing I like about this idea is the fact that it is a seasoning mix that does not include salt!  Most packaged spice mixes that you can buy at the store are jam-packed with salt but this one just contains herbs and spices.  The recipe on the package does recommend that you add 1 teaspoon of salt when you make the recipe, but you could easily leave it out if you want to keep the sodium level low. The recipe that you make with this card also includes 1 can of diced tomatoes and you could use the low-sodium variety to further limit the sodium if you wanted to.

While someone who cooks all the time and has these spices on hand might not find this to be a useful product, this would be a good trade-off for someone who doesn't.  For example, using this product could produce a much more nutritious product than buying a frozen dinner.  The recipe lists prep time as 10 minutes and cook time as 25 minutes, and the recipe is a fairly simple one, making this a good product for a beginning cook. Also, the McCormick website touts these as "putting flavorful twists on traditional recipes".  I think they want people to get a chance to try spices that they may not be familiar with (rosemary, cilantro, sage, and dill) without having to buy a whole bottle of the spice.  For those of you with lots of cooking experience, who knows, it may be just what you are looking for too- new recipes and a little "inspiration"!

Monday, June 28, 2010

90% of Americans Get Too Much Sodium

New data from the CDC indicates that only 9.6% of U.S. adults limit their daily sodium intake to the recommended levels!  At first that was very shocking to me, but upon thinking about it, it really is not.  It seems as though many people are eating out more frequently and eating more processed foods.  These foods are usually very high in sodium and people are often unaware of that fact.   Quick quiz: do you know what the daily sodium recommendations are?

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day.  Of course, this recommendation is for only about one-third of Americans.  The guidelines for anyone who is over 40,  has high blood pressure, or is African-American are far stricter at 1,500 mg of sodium each day.  Note: it looks like the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines that will come out later this year will encourage all Americans to make 1,500 mg of sodium per day their goal!

Any guesses as to how much sodium the average American takes in every day?  A whopping 3,466 mg of sodium!   What are the risks for taking in so much sodium?  A high sodium diet has been shown to raise blood pressure in most people.  This is unfortunate because high blood pressure increases a person's risk for stroke, heart disease and also kidney disease.  In fact, the CDC estimates that if everyone followed the sodium recommendations, there could be 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease and 66,000 fewer strokes every year.

Where is all this sodium coming from?  As I mentioned before, many people mistakenly believe that most of their salt comes from the salt shaker.  In reality, salt that we add ourselves only accounts for about 10% of our daily sodium.  About 75% of sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods.  I found it interesting that the CDC report  listed the three food groups from which we get the most sodium.  These included 37% of our daily sodium from grains (this included pizza crust and breads).  28% of our daily sodium comes from meats, including poultry, cold cuts and fish.  12% of our daily sodium comes from vegetables (this included potato chips, french fries, canned vegetables, canned vegetable soups and vegetables with sauces).

So, what can the average American do to cut down their sodium intake?
You can take simple steps like: eating fewer processed foods and restaurant foods (if you make food at home you can control the amount of sodium you add), eating more fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables without added sauces, reading food labels to help you choose low-sodium foods, rinsing canned vegetables and beans to remove as much salt as possible or buying the "no added salt" varieties.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Don’t Forget Your Vitamin C!

We all know that we need to remember the sunscreen when we are headed outside for a day of fun in the sun.  But according to some new studies, you might want to consider taking along some strawberries to munch on as well! 

Previous studies have shown that topical vitamin C (the type found in cosmetics and lotions) can help protect our skin from sun damage.   (This is why you often see vitamin C added to sunscreens.)   Eating foods rich in vitamin C has also been associated with "better skin aging appearance" (fewer wrinkles) in other studies   But new research has shown that eating foods rich in vitamin C not only keeps those wrinkles away but actually may protect our skin from sun damage. This is a great discovery if it turns out to be true!  We already know that vitamin C is necessary for healthy skin, and sun protection would be another bonus for eating yummy vitamin C rich food!

It is thought that vitamin C's role as an antioxidant is the reason  for this protection (previously another antioxidant, lycopene, had also been shown to help prevent sunburn).  So now you have another great motivator to make sure your children are getting enough vitamin C every day- the knowledge that it just might help them avoid a painful sunburn!

Vitamin C rich foods include: oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, red bell peppers, papaya, broccoli, kiwi, guava, and cantaloupe. 

Lycopene can be found in "red" foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit

Monday, June 14, 2010

Where's the fruit?

You have probably heard the message that most people do not eat enough fruit.  Depending on how many calories you eat in a day, the MyPyramid recommendation for fruit can be anywhere from 2- 3 1/2 cups per day.  The majority of Americans do not eat this much fruit every day, but I believe that many people are trying to do better. 

One thing that makes it difficult for many people is the misleading packaging on many food products.  Consider "fruit snacks" for example. On more than one occasion, I have observed people at the store who are stopping by with their child to pick up snacks for their baseball team, soccer team, etc.  Often these parents will tell the child that they need to choose fruit snacks because they are "healthier". When I hear this it really makes me sad.  The food companies have done a great job of convincing people that fruit snacks actually contain fruit!  In reality, they are more like candy than fruit.  Most contain concentrates of nutrient-poor juices such as apple and pear and then they add more sugar and artificial colors.  Some throw in a few vitamins to make their nutrition label look a bit better, but fortified sugar is still just sugar!

What are some other products that people mistakenly think contain a lot of fruit, but really don't?  How about toaster pastries?  The packages of these pastries often claim "made with real fruit", but how much is really in there?  One toaster pastry averages about 200 calories, but really only about 2% of those calories are coming from fruit!  You are also getting 6 grams of fat (some brands even contain unhealthy trans fats), 16 grams of sugar, 160 mg of sodium and less than 1 gram of fiber.  That is a lot of extras that you don't need if you are really just trying to get the nutrients from fruit.  On the other hand, if you ate the equivalent 200 calories worth of dried apples, you would get 7 grams of fiber (and very little sodium, no fat and no added sugar). 

Bottom line:  fruit snacks and toaster pastries are a "sometimes"  (or "whoa") food.  Most of the time choose fresh fruit, canned fruit without added sugar, and unsweetened frozen fruits to meet your daily fruit quota.  Fruits such as grapes, apples, and bananas can be an easy and portable snack.  Dried fruit as part of a trail mix is even less perishable and is easy to carry around on a busy day.  Making smoothies can also be a great way to help children get more fruit, and you can control the ingredients yourself (thereby preventing added sugar)!       

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Information Available on the Wildwood Website

I have just added some new informational handouts to our website that I wanted to make you all aware of.  Our juice flyer, and a flyer outlining the benefits of breastfeeding are now available under the "forms and documents" section of the Wildwood website.  Both flyers can be shared with the parents of children you care for.  The breastfeeding flyer lists the benefits of breastfeeding for both the mom and infant.  This flyer also includes safe milk storage tips and tips for heating breastmilk.  The juice flyer offers information about why limiting juice consumption in children is recommended. 

Do you have any suggestions for information you would like to see posted, questions you would like answered, or topics you would like to see covered in this blog or on our website?  Feel free to leave us a comment below!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Food App

I'll admit it, I am not a big cell phone user.  I do have a cell phone, but as my children would tell you, it is "so primitive"!  I only use my cell phones for emergencies.  Much to my children's dismay, my cell phone doesn't have a camera, internet access, or even a voice mailbox!  That being said, I understand the fun factor of I-phones, Blackberries and all of the others.  So, for all of you I-phone users out there, I wanted to share a cool food-related "app" that you might be interested in. has an app that can help you choose the freshest produce, give you storage tips for the produce, and even give you information about which fruits and veggies have the highest pesticide residues.  The app has information for more than 125 different fruits and vegetables, all available instantly.  If you are intrigued, check it out!  I imagine this would be a great tool to have when you are visiting the grocery store or farmer's market!