Stay safe by signing up for food recall alerts

My wife was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and so we are both watching what we eat much more carefully. I was surprised to learn that she needs to be more careful about foodborne illness now. We think we do pretty good at following guidelines at home, but how can we find out about food recalls?

Good for you for being aware that you need to be, well, more aware.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 of us will suffer from foodborne illness every year, at-risk groups of people are more likely to get sick from contaminated food, and the illnesses can be much more severe. People with diabetes are 25 to 30 times more likely to get sick with listeriosis, for example, than a healthy adult.

Anyone with a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or even cancer, HIV/AIDS or lupus, is more at risk. Other at-risk individuals include pregnant women, adults who are over age 65, and children who are younger than 5.

And you’re right, if you’re relying on mass media or word of mouth, it can be hard to keep up with all the food recalls these days. In 2015, the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service issued 150 recall notices, and that agency covers just meat and animal products. There’s no single government agency to track all food recalls, but early this year, Food Safety Magazine (foodsafetymagazine.com) did a compilation itself, counting a total of 626 food recalls for 2015 from the FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration, the two agencies responsible for food safety in the U.S., as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

As in most years, many of the recalls in 2015 were related to food packages not being properly labeled for food allergens, such as milk and dairy, peanuts, eggs, wheat, and soy. While that could be a serious problem for the estimated 15 million Americans who suffer from food allergens, it wouldn’t be an issue for you if no one in your household has a problem with those ingredients.

Still, a number of major recalls were due to the presence of human pathogens. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to get notified by email whenever a recall is issued.

Just go to foodsafety.gov, and click on Recalls and Alerts. Choose “Get Automatic Alerts” and fill in your email address. That way you’ll be notified of any recalls that have been issued.

You also can view recent recalls on the website. For example, last month there was an expansion of an earlier recall of frozen fruits and vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods and marketed under dozens of brand names. The food items have been associated with a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections, which can be serious, and even fatal, for at-risk populations. Even if you sign up for email alerts today, you would miss that notice if you didn’t check the “See Recent Recalls” listing. When it comes to food safety, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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 Sanja Ilic, specialist in Food Safety with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

How to use the ‘5-20’ rule for healthy choices

I’ve never been a fan of Nutrition Facts labels, but a friend recently mentioned that she reads them all the time, using something called the “520 rule.” What is the 520 rule?

Ah, she was talking about what is known as the ”5-20 rule,” and it applies to the Daily Value percentages that are listed on the label.

Basically, it’s just a quick guideline to use when you look at those percentages to determine how a food might fit into your daily dietary goals.

Any nutrient listed as 5 percent or less of the Daily Value is considered low. Any listed as 20 percent or more of the Daily Value is considered high.

For nutrients you want to limit, such as saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, try to choose foods with low Daily Value percentages. Foods with 5 percent or less would be great choices, while it would be smart to limit foods with 20 percent or more.

For nutrients you want to get enough of, such as fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron, look for foods with 20 percent or more of the Daily Value. A food with 5 percent or less of the Daily Value for those nutrients simply isn’t a good source of them.

By now, you are probably wondering, “What the heck is a Daily Value?” Simply put, the Daily Value is a generic nutrient-intake standard based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. For key nutrients, the Nutrition Facts label provides percentages of the Daily Value that a serving of the food contributes toward the daily total.

In reality, daily nutrient recommendations depend on your age and gender. However, it’s not practical to have different food labels for each individual group, so Daily Values are used instead. Still, it could be important for you to know where your needs vary.

For example, the Daily Value for calcium is 1,000 milligrams, so a food with 300 milligrams of calcium in it would have a Daily Value percentage of 30 percent. But teenagers need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day, and women 51 and older and men 70 and older need 1,200 milligrams a day. So, even if you consume 100 percent of the Daily Value of calcium, you still might not be getting enough.

Sodium is similar. The Daily Value for sodium is 2,400 milligrams, but that might be too much for some people, especially those with hypertension.

Daily Value percentages aren’t listed for everything on the label. For example, you won’t see a percentage for trans fats, because, basically, there is no level of trans fat that’s recommended for consumption. You should keep it as close to zero as possible.

Also, a Daily Value percentage for protein is listed only when a food makes some type of claim for protein, such as a high-protein breakfast bar. In those cases, the percentage is based on a total Daily Value level of 50 grams of protein a day.

Once you start examining the Daily Values, you can find yourself getting lost in a bit of a rabbit hole. But you don’t need to know all the nitty-gritty to make them useful. Just use the percentages — and the 5-20 rule — to make comparisons between foods to help you make the best choices.

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, specialist in Food Security with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

An ear of corn A-OK as part of a balanced diet

We really enjoyed having corn on the cob on July Fourth. One of my children asked why we don’t have it more often. I explained that corn is a starchy vegetable and we shouldn’t eat too much of it. But it got me thinking, how much is reasonable?

Yes, corn is a starchy vegetable. But it’s perfectly fine to enjoy it as part of a balanced diet.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, anyone 9 years or older should aim to eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day. That equals 14 to 21 cups a week, and the guidelines recommend that 4 to 6 cups a week, or a bit more than one-quarter of all vegetables, be starchy. Besides corn, starchy vegetables include:

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green peas
  • Lima beans
  • Cassava
  • Plantains
  • Jicama
  • Parsnips
  • Water chestnuts

Most Americans get plenty of starchy vegetables because we eat so many white potatoes, which account for 80 percent of all starchy vegetable consumption, as well as 25 percent of all the vegetables we eat. That’s a lot of potatoes. While they’re a good source of potassium, and of fiber especially if you eat the skin, consider diversifying your diet and replacing some of those potatoes with other starchy vegetables. Including, of course, sweet corn.

Corn is a good source of folate, beta carotene and thiamin along with other vitamins and minerals, and has more fiber than potatoes. It also provides zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that may protect against age-related eye disease, such as macular degeneration.

One cup of corn has about 145 calories. (One medium-sized ear of corn has about two-thirds of a cup of corn.) But watch the butter and salt, which of course add significantly to the calories and sodium. Using spray butter (the kind in the pump-spray bottle) judiciously instead of spreading on butter or margarine can trim calories and still provide that familiar flavor.

Or, try something different and roast corn on the cob on the grill. Just husk as usual, and then brush the corn with olive oil and place directly on a hot grill. Turn the cobs periodically and cook until the kernels are slightly charred. Instead of using salt, try pepper, garlic, or other herbs and spices for flavor.

As you’re enjoying the traditional summer favorite, take a look at the other vegetables you commonly eat and make sure you’re getting plenty of variety, including dark green, red and orange vegetables as well as beans, such as pinto or kidney beans. The Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a wide variety of produce to get a broad array of nutrients. For more about vegetables, see choosemyplate.gov/vegetables.

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 Carolyn Gunther, specialist in Community Nutrition Education with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Working in garden yields multiple benefits

This year, I greatly enlarged my vegetable garden. I enjoy it, but it’s a lot more work than I realized. People tell me that gardening provides a lot of health benefits. Like what?

The health benefits associated with gardening are well documented.

First, growing your own fruits and vegetables increases the chance that you’ll eat the amount of produce recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2-3 cups of vegetables and 1.5-2 cups of fruit each day. People who garden at home or at community gardens sometimes even report that they base their weekly menus around the produce they are able to harvest. There’s a large body of research that indicates adopting a largely plant-based diet, which encourages consumption of plant foods in their whole form (especially vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds and small amounts of nuts), is associated with less risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

To get the most out of your garden, plant a wide variety of produce. Cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, onions, spinach, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, peas, radishes and turnips thrive in the spring and provide an early start to the season. Many can also be planted again after the peak of the summer heat has passed and soil temperatures cool down again. Throughout the summer months, enjoy tending tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, okra, kale, Swiss chard and eggplant.

If you plant a wide variety of vegetables, you’ll eat a wide variety, too, and that’s important for making sure you are consuming a broad range of nutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals.

Gardening may also help you become more physically active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 2.5 hours of moderately intense activity a week (that’s about 30 minutes a day, five days a week) to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer and to strengthen bones and muscles. General gardening is considered a moderately intense activity.

In addition, several studies show gardening improves physical functioning in older adults. And a 2009 Kansas State University study indicated that gardening can help seniors’ hands keep strong and nimble.

Finally, despite the work — and possible worry that a visiting rabbit might nibble away your harvest — gardening can ease stress. A 2010 Dutch study in the Journal of Health Psychology compared self-reports of mood as well as levels of stress hormones between those who spent a half-hour reading indoors or gardening outdoors after participating in a stressful activity. The gardeners were significantly better off than the readers. This study reinforces research dating back to the 1980s that shows being around nature has restorative benefits, including lowering blood pressure and boosting immune function.

So, rest assured you are harvesting more than food for your dinner plate. You’re reaping multiple benefits that will pay off for years to come.

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 Colleen Spees, assistant professor of medical dietetics in The Ohio State University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Pack kids’ snacks with nutrients, variety

I know my kids eat too many cookies and chips. What are some healthier snack options for kids?

Thirty years ago, children ate, on average, one snack a day. Today, they average three snacks a day, and some experts point to that increase as being at least partly responsible for the rise in childhood obesity rates over the years. Cutting back on snacking could be a good idea for both children and adults alike.

But eliminating children’s snacking altogether can be an impossible task for parents. Your idea to emphasize healthful snacks is a good one. And it could have huge nutritional payoffs.

As you think about what might be satisfactory replacements (in your children’s eyes) for chips and baked goods, you might consider providing options — sort of a combo plate. That’s a recommendation from a study published in 2013 that examined children’s snacking.

The study involved 201 children in third through sixth grades. The kids were brought into the study’s setting in small groups and watched about 45 minutes of television while being encouraged to snack as much as they wished.

Some groups were given potato chips and cheese curls. Others got raw vegetables and a variety of cheeses. Still others were given just vegetables or just cheese. Cheese and vegetables were chosen in part because they are nutrient-dense — important sources of calcium, protein, vitamins and fiber. Plenty of food was available. The children were asked how full they felt when they arrived, in the middle of the study period, and at the end.

The children who were given chips ate nearly 300 calories worth of snacks before they said they felt full, and consumed more than 600 calories during the 45-minute study period. Children given only vegetables ate the fewest calories, about 50, and children given only cheese ate an average of 200 calories. But those given the combination of cheese and vegetables ate an average of about 175 calories, and said they felt full at about 50 calories. In addition, those children ate just as many vegetables as the children who were provided only vegetables. The researchers concluded that providing an assortment of nutrient-dense snack foods such as cheese and vegetables not only offer many more nutrients than chips, but help children feel full on many fewer calories. Depending on their age, children require only 1,000-2,000 calories per day, so it’s important to make sure their snacks are not too high in calories and are packed with nutrients. To find the recommended calorie level for your child, see go.osu.edu/kidcals.

For other healthy snack ideas, see “MyPlate Snack Tips for Parents” online at go.osu.edu/snacktips. They include:

  • Have a variety of fruit on hand, including fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruit.
  • Include whole grains as snacks, including popcorn, whole-wheat bread and whole-oat cereals that are low in added sugar.
  • Provide high-protein items for snacking, including low-sodium deli meats, unsalted nuts or hard-boiled eggs.

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, Youth Nutrition and Wellness specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
For a PDF of this column, please click here.

When camping, keep food safety in mind

We are planning to go camping for a long weekend this summer and I want to be sure we’re smart about the food we bring and prepare. What should we keep in mind regarding food safety? 

Food safety rules don’t change just because you’re experiencing the great outdoors. You want to make sure that you keep perishable foods cold enough, separate foods to prevent cross-contamination, keep your hands clean as you’re preparing food, and cook foods thoroughly.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service provides detailed guidelines for Food Safety While Hiking, Camping and Boating online at go.osu.edu/outdoorfdsafe. Recommendations include:

  • Bring nonperishable foods: canned tuna, ham, chicken or beef; dried meat or jerky; dry pasta and powdered sauce; and dried fruit and nuts.
  • Pack all perishables in a cooler. Always use plenty of ice. If you are using ice cubes, make sure the melted water is contained to prevent cross-contamination from raw foods. Large ice blocks and ice gel packs stay cold longer than ice cubes. Pack the cooler full — that way the cooler will keep cold longer. Keep the cooler in the shade, or cover it with a beach towel or blanket to help further insulate it. The cooler’s ability to keep things cold enough drops significantly in direct sunlight. Do not open it very often. Use a separate cooler for beverages, which you can open more often without putting perishable foods at risk.
  • If you’re taking burgers, hot dogs, or any raw meat or fish, pack them in a separate cooler to keep the raw juices from cross-contaminating food and drinks that won’t be cooked. Consider freezing them before leaving on your trip, and pack them with large ice packs. Bacteria multiply quickly in temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, called the “danger zone.” They can reach dangerous levels within two hours, or within one hour at 90 degrees or above. And don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll be safe if you cook the food thoroughly enough: When in the danger zone, microorganisms can produce toxins that remain in the food even after heat kills the bacteria. So, keep raw meat cold.
  • Bring a meat thermometer. When you cook meat outdoors, you don’t have as much control over the heat source. Meat that is charred on the outside can remain uncooked on the inside. Never rely on color to tell whether a burger is done. A burger can be undercooked even if it is brown in the middle. Cook all poultry products, chicken or turkey burgers, hot dogs and sausages to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, measured with a thermometer at the thickest part of the meat; cook ground beef to 160 degrees F; and cook steaks, chops and seafood to at least 145 degrees F.
  • Keep your hands clean. Clean and sanitize utensils and other cookware before and after handling food. Never use a plate that held raw meat for any other food, including cooked meat. Bring plenty of disposable wipes, biodegradable soap and fresh water to clean with.

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 Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Eat fruit, but know how it affects blood sugar

Fruit Harvest Selection in BowlsI know I should be eating more fresh fruit, but I have type 2 diabetes. Last weekend I enjoyed a few slices of watermelon, and I was surprised when I tested my blood sugar and saw that it spiked over 200. Should I forget about eating more fresh fruit?

No! Fresh fruit should be included in every diet, even if you have diabetes. Aim for 1.5-2 cups a day.

Fresh fruit contains all sorts of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. As you probably experienced with the watermelon, fruit can also satisfy your sweet tooth while providing huge nutritional benefits that cake and candy simply don’t offer.

But you should be aware that, as with any carbohydrate-containing foods, portion size matters to your blood sugar. And, different fruits have different levels of carbohydrates and fiber, both of which affect your blood sugar, or blood glucose. You likely already know that unmanaged high blood glucose can cause serious, even life-threatening consequences, including blindness, kidney disease, heart and vascular disease, and neuropathy (a disease of the nervous system).

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes keep their blood glucose level to less than 180 milligrams per deciliter of blood two hours after eating. For people without diabetes, the normal level is less than 140 mg/dl. You and your doctor may have set your after-meals target lower, but whatever the case, it’s good to recognize what might spike your blood sugar so you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Fruits lower in carbohydrate and higher in fiber will likely have less of an effect on your blood sugar. Below is the calorie, carbohydrate and fiber content for specific portion sizes of some common fruits. Find information about other fruits in the National Nutrition Database, available under “What’s In Food” atnutrition.gov.

  • Raspberries, 1 cup (4.3 ounces): 65 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber.
  • Peach, medium (5.3 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 60 calories, 14 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber.
  • Strawberries, 1 cup halves (5.4 ounces): 50 calories, 12 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber.
  • Orange, 1 cup sections (6.5 ounces): 85 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 4.5 grams fiber.
  • Blueberries, 1 cup (5.2 ounces): 85 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber.
  • Apple, extra small (3.5 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 55 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber.
  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup diced (5.5 ounces): 55 calories, 13 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Banana, extra large (5.4 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 135 calories, 35 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber.
  • Honeydew, 1 cup diced (6 ounces): 60 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Grapes, 1 cup (5.3 ounces): 105 calories, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Watermelon, 1 cup diced (5.4 ounces): 45 calories, 11.5 grams carbohydrate, 0.5 grams fiber.

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 Dan Remley, specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

 

8 great ways to eat more veggies every day

photo: iStock

photo: iStock

I know I should be eating more vegetables, but I need inspiration. What are some easy ways to fit more vegetables into my diet?

You’ve already conquered the first hurdle: Making the decision to actually eat more vegetables. Now you need to get into the habit. Knowing how good they are for you should be just the motivation you need.

Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants in a nice little package with relatively few calories or other pitfalls. Eating enough of them as part of an overall healthful diet can help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer.

Make sure you get a wide range of vegetables, such as dark green leafy greens and broccoli; red and orange vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots and winter squash; legumes, including beans, edamame and chickpeas; starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, corn, plantains and green peas; and other kinds such as green beans, onions, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends working in all of these types of vegetables over the course of a week.

Unfortunately, most people don’t eat the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. In fact, only 9 percent of us eat that amount, according to a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, here are some ideas for boosting your veggie intake:

  • Start your day right by lightly sauteing sliced cherry tomatoes and a large handful of spinach and adding them to scrambled eggs. Next time, try finely chopped broccoli and red peppers.
  • Boost the bulk and the nutrients in canned soup by adding canned or frozen vegetables.
  • Making pasta? Saute some chopped onion, peppers, mushrooms, chopped spinach and summer squash. Stir them into the sauce along with some diced tomatoes.
  • Like to dip? Use baby carrots to dip into hummus. It’s great as a snack or as part of lunch.
  • Create a wrap with a whole-grain tortilla filled with romaine lettuce, red cabbage, shredded carrots, pepper strips, cucumber and julienned zucchini. Spread the tortilla with smashed avocado and add a little salsa.
  • Rinse off some asparagus, pat dry, coat with some olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Broil the spears or place directly on the grill.
  • Make it a habit to eat a salad at lunch or dinner each day. It could be as simple as leafy greens dribbled with some oil and balsamic. Or, add as many fresh vegetables as you like. You can make it a meal by loading on some chickpeas, edamame or other source of protein.
  • Make a quick side dish by draining and rinsing a can of red or black beans and heating them with a little salsa. Another option: Drain a can of whole green beans and add some Italian-seasoned chopped tomatoes.

For more ideas, see the Fruits and Veggies: More Matters website at fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. Choose “Meal Planning,” and prepare to be inspired.

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. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

In 2018, food labels will give more information

Original versus New Label - Side-by-Side ComparisonI heard something on the news about the Nutrition Facts labels changing. What are the details?

The new Nutrition Facts information won’t be on food labels for awhile, but you may like what you see when they do appear.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the updated design on May 20. Large manufacturers have until July 26, 2018, to start using the new label. Smaller companies will get an extra year. This is the first update to the Nutrition Facts label in 20 years.

One of the most sought-after changes will be the inclusion of “Added Sugars” on the label. Currently, the label just includes “sugars” as a category under carbohydrates, but it’s impossible to tell how much of that is naturally occurring, from fruit- or milk-based ingredients, for example, and how much is added during processing.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of our daily calorie intake. So, if you eat about 2,000 calories a day, you should consume no more than 200 calories, or 50 grams, of added sugars a day. The new labels will list the amount of added sugars in both grams and as a percent of a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. This will not only help consumers interested in limiting their added sugar intake, it could encourage manufacturers to reduce the amount of added sugars they use in their products.

Other changes in the new label include:

  • Larger and bolder typeface for both calories and serving sizes. These two pieces of information are among the most important to help people make healthy food choices, but they don’t get much prominence on the current label.
  • Some foods will have “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information. These will be required on products that have multiple servings but could reasonably be consumed all in one sitting, such as a pint of ice cream or a 3-ounce bag of chips. The first column will provide nutrition information if you just consume one serving — 1 ounce of those chips in the 3-ounce bag, for example. The second column will provide the same information if you eat the entire package.
  • Labels will include information on vitamin D and potassium content. Some people are not getting enough of these nutrients, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Labels will no longer be required to list vitamins A and C, because deficiencies in those vitamins are now rare. Calcium and iron will continue to be listed. A bonus: Instead of listing just a percentage, or the “percent Daily Value,” these nutrients will also have the actual amount listed in grams. Daily Values are helpful indicators of how much a food provides towards the daily recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, but it also can be helpful for consumers to see what that equates to in actual grams.

For more details on the new Nutrition Facts labels, go to www.fda.gov.

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 Irene Hatsu, Food Security specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Smoothies can boost fruit, calcium intake

photo: Hemera

photo: Hemera

My teenage daughter has a sudden affinity for smoothies. She is making them all the time. Is this something I should encourage?

Smoothies can be a great way for anyone to consume more produce, and even additional calcium if milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified juice is part of the mix.

And most teens need more fruits, vegetables and calcium in their diets. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that less than 1 percent of boys and less than 4 percent of girls aged 14 to 18 years ate the recommended amount of produce. (For girls 14-18, the recommended amount is 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Boys that age need an extra half-cup of each.)

Both boys and girls from 14 to 18 years need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day — about the amount in 4.5 cups of milk. A national nutrition survey in 2005-2006 found that 42 percent of teen boys and only 10 percent of teen girls consumed enough calcium every day.

So, in a word, yes! If your daughter’s smoothies help her consume enough produce and calcium day to day, by all means encourage her on her smoothie craze. But it’s important to make sure they’re healthy beverages, not sugar-laden frozen slushies or milkshakes in disguise.

When prepared healthfully, smoothies can provide a big boost in nutrition. According to a study published in Health Education and Behavior in 2015, when smoothies were introduced as an option at school breakfasts at a middle school and high school in Utah, students eating a full cup of fruit during breakfast increased from 4.3 percent to a whopping 45.1 percent.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management in 2015, showed that 68 percent of high school students who chose yogurt as a breakfast option didn’t choose milk, suggesting that yogurt products — including many smoothies — may offer an appealing calcium-rich alternative for non-milk drinkers.

The smoothies made for the Utah school study included milk or juice, vanilla yogurt, and fruit — usually bananas, strawberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges, but sometimes cherries and pears — and even spinach for green smoothies. No extra sugar, frozen yogurt or ice cream was added — a good guideline for keeping the nutritional profile of a smoothie high. Adding ice will provide a nice chill and help lower the calorie count. Using frozen fruit — even frozen bananas — helps keep a smoothie thick with or without ice cubes.

For healthy recipe ideas, try the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website atfruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. Click on “Recipes” and choose “Beverages and Smoothies.” You will find 16 pages of recipes for everything from an Orange Banana Frosty to a Watermelon Strawberry Shake (no ice cream included).

In addition, consider introducing your daughter to choosemyplate.gov/teens. This website encourages teens to adopt healthy food and activity habits to last a lifetime.

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 Carol Smathers, Youth Nutrition and Wellness specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.