How to help your child eat a healthy diet

chow_042916-125754388Our toddler has a sweet tooth. Should we let him indulge, or is it time to start restricting snacks?

Guidance from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says establishing healthy food habits early in life, along with a good dose of daily exercise, is key in helping children become healthy, active adults. So, yes. Just like the rest of us (adults), your toddler should be learning to eat small portions of sweets every once in a while, not all the time.

If you believe your child is already overweight, you should discuss your concerns with your son’s doctor. The academy suggests letting children “grow into” their weight without a special calorie-restricting diet. Children’s bodies are growing and developing, so you don’t want to put them on a weight-loss diet. Too much calorie restriction could deprive them of the energy and nutrients they need to properly develop bone and tissue as they grow taller. And, putting too much focus on weight could cause body image issues.

Still, a recent study indicates that it may be especially beneficial to pay attention to food choices in young children who crave sweets.

The study, “Eating in the Absence of Hunger and Weight Gain in Low-income Toddlers,” is being published in the May 2016 issue of Pediatrics. Researchers looked at young children, specifically 209 children at 21 months, 27 months and 33 months old. They focused on those from low-income families because they are at a higher risk of childhood obesity. The researchers found that the toddlers who ate more cookies after a filling meal and who became upset when the sweets were taken away had gradual increases in body fat over the course of the study. Interestingly, the children who chose a salty option (potato chips or cheese puffs) instead of cookies did not experience the same weight gain. Still, the overall finding was that the tendency to eat when not hungry increased during toddlerhood, particularly with sweets, and this was associated with an increase in body fat.

So, it’s good that you’re paying attention. Noticing your child’s sweet tooth and looking for ways to help shows that you are aware of the importance of establishing a healthy diet early in life. Here are some suggestions from the academy:

  • Being a good role model is important: Children easily pick up on their parents’ habits. Be sure you’re eating properly.
  • Put the focus on health, and refrain from negative comments about weight.
  • Become aware of the difference between eating when hungry and eating for other reasons — because of boredom, for example. Teach your child to pay attention to their inner cues and to choose food only when they’re truly hungry, and to stop eating when they’re satisfied.
  • Don’t use food to pacify or reward children. That can lead to a pattern of emotional eating.
  • Make snacks healthful: Whole-grain cereal, graham crackers, fresh fruit slices and string cheese are among good choices.

For more good ideas, go online to see the academy’s guidance for parents at eatright.org/resources/for-parents.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, specialist in Community Nutrition Education with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Dining out? Put focus on friends over food

chow_042216-86530086Now that spring is here, I seem to be going out for dinner with friends a lot more often. I have already gained five pounds. Besides choosing a salad as my main dish, what else can I do to be sure I don’t overeat when eating out?

First, don’t assume that all salads are necessarily lower in calories than other choices on the menu. A quick Internet search of nutrition information for one restaurant chain showed its entree-sized salads ranged from 440 calories for a salad featuring seared tuna to 1,510 calories for a Caesar salad with chicken.

Unfortunately, it’s often not easy to determine what would be the healthiest option or figure out what items have a reasonable number of calories. Rules requiring restaurant chains to include nutrition information on menus, in the works since 2010, have been delayed until next year at the earliest. And even then, they won’t cover independently owned restaurants and smaller chains.

There’s also a psychological hurdle: When you join with friends to enjoy a meal together, it’s easy to switch into “special occasion” mode and treat yourself to items you wouldn’t necessarily choose every day. But if you’re eating out more often, you need to be careful not to indulge every time.

Here are some tips from the Association of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org) and the National Institutes of Health (medlineplus.gov):

  • Prepare ahead. If you know you’ll be eating out later, have a small, healthy breakfast and lunch, and a light snack — such as an orange, a small apple or a handful of baby carrots, and a full glass of water — before you leave for the restaurant. And if you know where you’ll be dining, check the restaurant’s website to see if you can find nutrition information ahead of time.
  • Watch portion sizes. Dietitians have long advised clients who are trying to lose weight to eat only half of what is served to them and take the other half home for another meal. Now, some say that even half of the oversized portions served at many restaurants might be too much. When you get your food, visualize what a sensible serving size would be, and eat only that much.
  • Look on the menu for items for seniors, which are often smaller portions, or those designated as healthful choices. Don’t overlook those options thinking they’re not for you.
  • Include a simple side salad with an oil-based or light dressing. Avoid creamy dressings. Ask for dressing on the side, and don’t use all of it.
  • Choose foods that indicate they are broiled, grilled, steamed, poached, roasted or baked, which tend to have fewer calories. Words that indicate an item has more calories include breaded, fried, buttered, battered, crispy, creamy and au gratin.
  • Watch the alcohol, which adds calories and may increase your appetite and lower your resolve to eat healthfully.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself, knowing you are mindfully making the right choices while savoring the company of good friends.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, food security specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Saturate yourself with information about oils

edible oils

I’m confused about fatty acids. I know to avoid saturated and trans fats, and I’ve heard good things about omega-3s and unsaturated fats. But there are also oleic, linoleic and other types of fats. What does all this mean for the type of oil I should be using?

You’re right. If you start digging down into the nitty gritty, information about fatty acids can get very complex very quickly.

First, know that all oils (liquid at room temperature) and fats (solid at room temperature) are really composed of a broad range of fatty acids, including saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. That said, here’s some basic information.

Any fatty acid with the word “omega” in its name — omega-3 or omega-6, for example — is unsaturated. Monounsaturated fat includes oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid, and is the primary fatty acid in olive oil. Although many health authorities recommend olive oil as the top heart-healthy option, there’s growing conversation in nutrition circles about the strength of the evidence behind that advice. Still, it remains a good option and deserves a spot in your pantry.

Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Linoleic acid is the primary type of omega-6 fatty acid that we consume and is essential in our diet. Being “essential” means we need to consume linoleic acid because our bodies  cannot synthesize it from other sources. Not too long ago, researchers thought linoleic acid might cause inflammation and damage arteries. But more recently, scientists have found that higher blood levels of linoleic acid are associated with less trunk fat — the abdominal fat linked to heart disease — as well as less inflammation, higher metabolism and a leaner body mass. (See a report about this Ohio State University research at go.osu.edu/fattyacids.) So, the thinking on linoleic acid is evolving.

Vegetable oils have traditionally been a major source of linoleic fatty acids, but in the last five years or so, many processors have changed the composition of vegetable oils, decreasing linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats, in favor of omega-9s, or monounsaturated fats. Most corn oil still appears to be a good source of linoleic acid. Grapeseed oil is also a good source, as are some store-brand bottled oils. Check the Nutrition Facts label: Oils higher in polyunsaturated and lower in monounsaturated fat provide more linoleic acid.

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly long-chain ones that are most closely associated with heart health, are primarily found in cold-water, fatty fish. Most people don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet, and since they are heart-healthy, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings a week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna. Another type of omega-3, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in some plant-based foods such as chia seeds, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, and to a lesser extent, in canola oil.

The bottom line? Eat more fish and other omega-3s, and try for more omega-6 linoleic acid in your diet. Look for “polyunsaturated” on oil labels.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Martha Belury, registered dietitian, scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the Carol S. Kennedy Professor of Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

You can’t judge a whole grain by its color

chow040816-170176370I have seen “white whole wheat” bread and high-fiber white pasta products for years now, but I’ve always been a little suspect. Aren’t true whole-grain products darker in color because of the bran?

Yes and no. Not all darker-colored breads are whole grain. Not all white breads are refined grain. And not all white pastas are low in fiber. You just can’t judge a grain product by its color — you need to look at the label.

This is important because if you’re like most Americans, you’re not consuming nearly enough whole grains or fiber. According to a 2014 study in the journal Nutrition Research, only 8 percent of adults eat the recommended amount of three servings of whole grains each day. And a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study reported that average fiber intake is just 16 grams a day, far short of the 25 grams a day recommended for women and 38 grams a day for men.

Whole grains contain 100 percent of the original kernel — the bran, germ and endosperm — while refined grains contain just the endosperm. Several B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, and minerals, such as iron, magnesium and selenium, are stripped from whole grains when they’re refined. Although refined grains are normally enriched with vitamins and minerals and get back much of what was lost, whole grains still contain a richer nutritional profile of antioxidants, B vitamins, protein, minerals, fiber and healthful fats than those that are refined.

To figure out if your bread and pasta are whole grains, look at the food label. First, review the ingredients list. The first item should start with the word “whole”: whole wheat, for example, or whole rye, whole oats or whole-grain wheat flour. Be wary of terms such as “100 percent wheat,” “multi-grain” or “cracked wheat” on the package. If it doesn’t have the word “whole,” it’s not a whole grain, whether it’s brown, tan or white in color.

Most breads are made from hard red winter wheat, and you’re right in thinking that whole-wheat bread made from that type of wheat is darker in color. But about 10-15 percent of wheat grown today in the U.S. is white wheat, and some of that, called hard white wheat, is often used to make whole-wheat white bread. Hard white wheat began being developed in the U.S. at Kansas State University in the 1960s. It started being grown on a more widespread basis in the 1990s and 2000s.

Pasta, on the other hand, is made from durum wheat, which lends a darker color to whole-grain varieties. In the last few years, some brands of high-fiber white pasta have landed on grocery store shelves. They might not contain 51 percent whole grain — the minimum required by the Food and Drug Administration for a whole-grain health claim on the label — but they have additional ingredients added during processing to boost the fiber content, such as oat fiber or a special high-fiber cornstarch. Again, look at the ingredients listing to know what’s in the product.

For more about whole grains, see www.choosemyplate.gov/grains-nutrients-health.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Colleen Spees, registered dietitian and assistant professor with Ohio State University Extension and The Ohio State University’s College of Medicine’s Division of Medical Dietetics.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Food irradiation safe, but not widely accepted

International Radura symbol for irradiated foods

International Radura symbol for irradiated foods

I used to hear a lot about food irradiation, but I haven’t heard very much recently. Are foods being irradiated in the U.S.? Is it safe?

Many foods are approved for irradiation, but you likely won’t see them in the grocery store. Most of the reason, many experts say, is because of negative consumer perceptions about the process: Who wants to eat anything that sounds like it has something to do with radiation?

Of course, irradiation doesn’t make food radioactive. At lower doses, irradiation kills pests such as fruit flies. At higher levels, it breaks chemical bonds in bacterial and mold cells so they die or can no longer multiply, which could prevent foodborne illness and make food last longer before spoiling.

Food is irradiated by going through a chamber on a conveyor belt, where the food is exposed to a radiation beam. The process affects the food itself only slightly. Any losses in nutrients are minor, about the same as from cooking or freezing.

About a third of the spices and seasonings used in U.S. food manufacturing have been irradiated, as well as a small amount of fruit from Hawaii, Mexico and other places. A few retailers sell ground beef that’s been irradiated to reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7. But irradiation is approved for use on many other foods, including:

  • Wheat flour, to control mold.
  • White potatoes, to inhibit sprouting.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, for insect control and to increase shelf life.
  • Beef, pork and poultry, to reduce bacteria.
  • Crustaceans, such as lobster, shrimp and crab.
  • Shell eggs.
  • Molluscan shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.
  • Seeds for sprouting, such as alfalfa sprouts.

Irradiated foods must say on the label that they’ve been irradiated and must carry the international logo for irradiation, the Radura symbol. It’s a circle with what looks like a flower inside, along with words indicating the food has been irradiated. Bulk foods, such as fruits and vegetables, need to be individually labeled or have the symbol displayed nearby. An exception is foods that contain irradiated ingredients: Canned soups that use irradiated spices, for example, don’t have to indicate anything special on the label.

Critics of irradiation argue that it alters food in ways that are not yet clear, and using the process could encourage sloppy practices in the food industry and give people a false sense of security about food safety.

It’s true that not all foodborne illness would be eradicated even if every bite of food was irradiated, but public health authorities believe making more use of irradiation could have a significant effect in reducing foodborne illness. The Food and Drug Administration has evaluated the safety of irradiated food for more than 30 years and has found the process to be safe.

To learn more, see the FDA’s web page on food irradiation at go.osu.edu/FDAfoodirrad.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, Ohio State University Extension food safety specialist and assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Know your beef: Cuts best for smoker, grill

chow_032516-99194821When I grill a steak, how can I make sure it’s not tough? Also, I just got a meat smoker as a gift. What cuts of beef would be best for the smoker?

Nothing is worse than grilling a steak, enjoying the aroma as it cooks, and then barely being able to cut through it with your best steak knife. The issue probably isn’t your skill on the grill. It’s most likely a bad match of cooking method and cut of beef.

Lean cuts of beef — those with little marbling and external fat — are better suited to slow cooking methods, such as smoking. Slow cooking allows connective tissue and muscle fibers to break down. The process tenderizes what otherwise would be a tough chew. Those cuts are from the parts of the animal that work the hardest, the muscles used for walking and locomotion, which have little fat and the most connective tissue. Generally, those cuts are the round, which is at the hindquarters of the animal, and the chuck and brisket, which are at the front of the animal, from the shoulders to the chest.

Cuts of meat from these areas, which would be good for your smoker, include:

  • Brisket
  • Chuck roast
  • Arm roasts
  • Top and bottom round roasts
  • Tip roasts
  • Eye round roast
  • Boneless rump roast

In between the round and the chuck are the “middle meats,” which are best for grilling. They tend to have a lot of marbling, which is the little white flecks of fat throughout a piece of meat. Generally, the more marbling in the meat, the more palatable it will be — flavorful, tender and juicy. The rib and short loin tend to have the most marbling. The sirloin, which offers lean, tender cuts of meat without much fat, is situated behind the short loin and in front of the round.

Cuts from the rib, short loin and sirloin that would be great on the grill include:

  • Bone-in and boneless ribeye steaks
  • Back ribs
  • Strip steak, such as New York or Kansas City strip
  • T-bone steak
  • Porterhouse steak
  • Top sirloin
  • Tenderloin

Skirt steaks, which come from the middle part of the animal’s underside, found in the flank area, are good quick-skillet muscle cuts best used for fajitas, tacos and in salads.

Whatever cut you choose, when the meat is done, let it cool slightly to let the juices settle, and always slice against the grain. That will break up the muscle grain into small pieces, which will make the meat less chewy.

To see a short video to learn where various cuts of meat come from on a beef carcass, see Ohio State University Extension’s “Beef Cuts for Fast Grilling and Slow Smoking,” at go.osu.edu/beefcuts.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Lyda Garcia, Ohio State University Extension meat specialist and assistant professor in The Ohio State University’s Department of Animal Sciences.
For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Consider using fewer highly processed foods

chow_031816-465163023In recent years, we have increasingly relied on convenience foods for our everyday meals. I am interested in shifting back to more whole, natural foods, but would it really be worth the time and energy?

Processed foods aren’t all bad. Sometimes they offer nutritional benefits: the phytonutrient lycopene, for example, is more bioavailable from canned tomatoes than fresh. Nutrition information on processed food labels can also be very helpful.

Still, there is growing evidence that trimming back on foods that have been highly processed, at least, could be a very healthful move.

A 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed consumer food purchases from 2000-2012. More than 60 percent of calories came from highly processed foods and beverages. Plus, 60 percent of those highly processed foods were high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium, compared with just 5 percent of less-processed foods or foods that required cooking or preparation.

A more recent study, in the March 2016 issue of the journal BMJ Open, analyzed the added sugars in foods that more than 9,000 people reported eating in 2009-2010. They found that “ultra-processed” foods were responsible for 58 percent of the overall calories in the diet, and 90 percent of the calories from added sugars. The added sugar content in ultra-processed foods was five to eight times higher than in other foods.

You’re probably asking right now — just what is a highly processed or ultra-processed food? The question is an important one, because some people hopping on the natural food bandwagon reject all processed foods, including pasteurized milk, canned or frozen vegetables — even “baby” carrots. Most nutrition authorities discourage that type of extreme behavior.

Although there’s no hard and fast definition of highly or ultra-processed foods, the researchers in these two studies included foods that are highly modified and formulated far beyond the food item’s original condition. They include foods such as refined breads, cookies and other commercially prepared baked goods, sugar-sweetened beverages, salty snacks, ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat foods, breakfast cereal, ice cream, salad dressing, pasta sauce and ketchup.

To reduce your intake of these types of foods, be mindful when you’re at the grocery store. Instead of pasta sauce, get some low-sodium crushed or diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and add herbs and spices at home. Instead of frozen vegetable mixes with sauce, buy plain vegetables and stir-fry them with a bit of olive oil. Instead of frozen french fries or tater tots, buy real potatoes to dice up, sprinkle with garlic powder, and roast in a hot oven. Instead of seasoned rice or pasta mixes, choose plain brown rice or whole-grain pasta and spice it up at home. This way, you’re more in control of the fat, sugar and salt in your food.

Few of us would find it practical to completely do away with processed — or even ultra-processed — foods. But cutting back in ways that make sense for you could provide a big boost to your diet.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, Ohio State University Extension field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

How to tell if your tap water is clean, safe

chow_031116-476996002My kids drink a lot of water, but with all the news about lead in water supplies, I am concerned about its safety. Just how safe are city water supplies for children?

Generally speaking, water is still the best beverage available to quench thirst in children and adults alike. It’s cheap, calorie- and sugar-free, and provides the hydration your body needs. But you’re right — it is important to be certain it’s safe.

Lead can get into a home’s drinking water from metal water taps, interior water pipes, the pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street, or the water main. Federal law prohibited the use of lead in plumbing and fixtures after June 1986, so homes built before 1987 are more likely to have a problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead in tap water usually comes from corrosion of older fixtures or solder. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply.

If you’re concerned, the first place to start is with your water system’s annual Consumer Confidence Report. Water systems often mail the report to customers annually with the water bill, and larger systems also put it online. You can contact your utility to request the most recent version. The report provides basic information about your drinking water, including any contaminants that have been found during testing. This includes results of monitoring conducted in homes that could be vulnerable to increased levels of lead — older homes with lead pipes, for example. Check to see what your water system’s report says about lead. That might put your mind at ease.

Whether or not you are reassured, you may want to pay a private lab to test the water in your home. Authorities say this is the only way to be certain, because lead in water is odorless and colorless. Ohio State University Extension has a 2010 fact sheet at ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/AEX-315 that provides a list of Ohio labs that perform water testing. Request tests for lead, copper, pH, and a corrosion index test, and be sure to follow the lab’s guidelines for collecting samples. If lead is found, any water from the tap for consumption or cooking should first be flushed through the pipes for several minutes. The CDC provides guidance at www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm.

It’s important to note that while most filtered water pitchers improve water’s taste, they aren’t designed to remove lead. However, most water filters installed at the tap — as well as whole-house water filter systems — do remove lead. It’s always important to double-check.

You should know that children are much more vulnerable to the effects of ingesting lead. While the bodies of adults absorb just 10 to 15 percent of the lead they ingest, children’s bodies may absorb up to 50 percent. Absorption is greatest on an empty stomach. A healthy diet can help. Consuming plenty of milk and other calcium-rich foods, for example, forces any lead in the body to compete with calcium to attach to cell receptors, making lead less likely to be absorbed.

For more information on drinking water supplies, see the CDC’s Drinking Water FAQ at www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/drinking-water-faq.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Ohio State University Extension field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Nutrient-packed beans a hearty addition to diet

chow_030416-164065142We’re thinking of incorporating more beans in our meals, primarily to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating (and buying), but also because they’re supposed to be very good for you. But my husband, who has type 2 diabetes, is worried about adding more carbohydrates. Is this a bad idea?

Actually, beans are a great option for everyone, perhaps especially for people with diabetes.

A 2012 study in Nutrition Journal tested the effect that pinto beans, black beans and dark red kidney beans have on blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes when eaten with white rice, which is known to cause blood sugar spikes. The researchers tested participants’ blood sugar every 30 minutes for three hours after the participants ate either white rice alone or rice with one type of the beans. Even though the meals with beans contained more total carbohydrates, the participants’ blood sugar was highest at each interval after they ate the rice alone than when the rice was paired with beans.

If your husband is concerned, though, encourage him to keep a close eye on his blood sugar levels after eating a bean-based meal. If he notices significant differences and is on insulin, he should discuss any changes in dosage with a health professional.

That said, beans are a healthful option that deserve a place at the table for just about everyone. In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, beans are considered a unique food: They can be considered as either a meat substitute or a vegetable. They are high in both plant protein and fiber, as well as B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.

The fiber in beans can be significant. Adults should eat anywhere between 22 grams to 34 grams of fiber a day, depending on their caloric intake — most Americans don’t get nearly that amount. Neither do Americans consume enough beans and other legumes, eating only about half the recommended amounts of 1.5-3 cups a week for men and 1-2 cups for women. Adding a bean-based meal or two to your weekly menu could go a long way to helping you meet those recommendations.

If you use canned beans, consider buying those that are lower in sodium. Or, rinse the beans before using them — that alone will reduce the sodium quite a bit.

If you start with dry beans — an economical option — first rinse them in cold water, picking out any pebbles or stems. Cover the beans with three times their amount of water and either soak for six hours, or bring to a boil and soak for at least two hours. Soaking overnight or after boiling makes them less likely to give you gas. Then, drain the beans and cook them in fresh water according to package directions.

If you currently don’t eat a lot of beans, you may want to add them gradually to your diet. This will allow your body to get used to them and reduce the chance of gas and other gastrointestinal distress.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Community Nutrition Education.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Added sugar in yogurt can be hard to identify

chow_022616-78617919A friend recently read a book on healthful eating and is now telling me I should stop eating yogurt because it contains so much sugar. I normally have a 6-ounce container after dinner, and I admit I was surprised at the sugar content when I looked at the label. Should I cut back?  

First, take a second look at the label that surprised you so much. Currently, the Nutrition Facts label simply lists the amount of sugar in a product as a subset of its carbohydrates. This sugar can be naturally occurring, such as the sugars from the milk or fruit in the yogurt, or it can be sugars added during processing, such as sucrose, honey or high-fructose corn syrup. You can’t tell which is which from the Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition professionals have long differentiated between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Added sugars are often called “empty calories” because they aren’t accompanied by vitamins, minerals or other beneficial nutrients. For example, when you consume sugar from milk or yogurt (lactose), you get calcium, too. When you consume sugar from an orange (fructose, glucose and sucrose), you also get vitamin C plus a whole host of other nutrients. But added sugar doesn’t provide much more than added calories.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. If you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s 200 calories from added sugars, or 50 grams of added sugars a day. If you normally eat 1,600 calories a day, that’s means 40 grams of added sugars.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently proposing changes to the Nutrition Facts label so it would be easy for consumers to see how much of the sugar in a product is naturally occurring and how much is added. But in the meantime, figuring it out can take some detective work.

For yogurt, first look at the ingredients list for sugars. If they are listed in the first few ingredients, then the product could be high in added sugars. To get a ballpark estimate of how much of the sugar is “added sugar,” compare the Nutrition Facts label of a similar yogurt that is sugar-free. If your yogurt has 25 grams of sugar, and the plain or artificially sweetened comparable yogurt has 12 grams, you can assume there are about 13 grams of added sugar in your yogurt.

Is that too much? It’s hard to say. Those 13 grams could be perfectly reasonable depending on what else you eat over the course of a day. But if it’s just one of many foods with added sugars you commonly eat, it could put you over the top.

If it’s something you’re concerned about, you could try yogurt made with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. Or if that doesn’t appeal to you, what about plain yogurt topped with fresh berries or other fruit? Or, just trim back added sugars from other foods and keep enjoying your nightly treat.

It’s good be more aware of added sugars that you may not have known about, but it’s also important to look at the whole diet. You have options.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, food security specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

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