’Tis the season to stay healthy

451431143One of my friends is inspiring me to stay healthy over the holidays. She is making extra efforts to drink a lot of water and to walk more between now and New Year’s. What are some other healthy holiday ideas?

What a great way to celebrate the holidays — giving the gift of healthy living to yourself.

One of the keys to making it work is attitude. Don’t act like Scrooge when you decide not to have that second Christmas cookie. Instead, smile as you realize that you can enjoy the holidays without eating and drinking so much that you become bloated.

Your friend’s tactics are motivating in part because they’re simple. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose MyPlate offers other healthy holiday ideas that don’t require a massive effort, including:

  • When planning appetizers and snacks, choose crackers that are whole grain. Offer hummus, which is high in protein and a good source of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Serve whole-grain bread rolls instead of those made with white flour.
  • Water is always a great choice to quench your thirst, and you can dress it up for holiday parties. Get some carbonated water and serve with slices of lemon or lime, or flavor with a splash of fruit juice. Enjoy a cup or two before you fill the wine glass.
  • Consider fruit for dessert. Instead of pie, try baked apples with cinnamon and just a sprinkle of sugar, or serve fresh berries with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and a spoonful of granola on top.
  • For holiday cookies and other baked goods, try using apple sauce or pureed bananas in place of butter or margarine to reduce fat and calories. Just use a one-to-one replacement.
  • If you have a recipe that calls for heavy cream, try evaporated skim milk instead. It won’t be as rich, and it doesn’t whip or thicken like cream does, but it can be a great substitute in many recipes.
  • Prepare two (or more?) vegetables for holiday dinners, and be sure to fill half your plate with them.
  • When serving meats, trim away fat before cooking, or be sure to do so on your plate before eating. And go easy on the gravy and sauces: A little goes a long way.

You might not think all of these ideas will fit with your holiday plans. But choose a few. And remember, even if you include healthier ingredients in your cookies, it is best to load up on fruits and vegetables and limit desserts. Small steps can have a big impact and help set you in the right direction for the new year.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s 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 week’s column will be the last for 2014. Look for Chow Line again on Jan. 9.

This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

When it comes to food, play it safe

147010343Over the weekend, we did some holiday shopping and stopped at the grocery store. We were out for longer than I anticipated, and we left food in the car for about three hours before we got home. Is that food OK to eat? It was chilly, but I’m not sure how cold it was outside.  

It’s good that you’re asking. Too many people don’t take foodborne illness seriously. It’s hard to say why.

It could be because an illness doesn’t always occur when you don’t follow food safety guidelines. Let’s face it: If you became ill every single time after eating meat that’s not been cooked to the proper temperature, you would learn your lesson pretty quickly. If it rarely happens, you may never even associate your illness with those rare hamburgers you ate.

Another reason could be due to the fact that common symptoms of foodborne illness — nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea — mimic those of the flu or some other bug. There are more than 250 different types of foodborne illness out there. People may naively believe they have never experienced any of them, when, in fact, they have.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, get sick from foodborne illness. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Foodborne illness is a serious problem. Fortunately, it’s often preventable by taking a few precautions.

Those precautions include time and temperature control: Don’t let perishable food remain in the “danger zone” of 40 degrees to 140 degrees F for longer than two hours. That’s the temperature at which any foodborne pathogens that may be in the food can multiply rapidly and grow enough to cause illness.

In your case, the food you bought and kept in your car might have been kept cold enough for those three hours. But it might not have. You’d be hard-pressed to find a food-safety expert who would advise you to take a chance and eat that food — or worse, serve it to your holiday guests. Sadly, “when in doubt, throw it out” would apply here. The smart thing to do is to discard the questionable food and head back to the grocery store.

Foodsafety.gov, a federal website with valuable food safety information, offers more holiday food shopping guidance at bit.ly/holifoodshop. Check it out, and stay safe for the holidays.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s 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: Next week’s column will be the last for 2014. Look for a fresh look for Chow Line beginning Jan. 9.

This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Start early to teach healthy eating

459647761As the parent of a preschooler, I wonder how much I should focus on the importance of eating healthy foods. I don’t want to go overboard, but isn’t it important to establish this concept early in life?  

Helping children establish a healthy, balanced diet — one that will last a lifetime — does indeed require a balanced approach. When it comes to eating, you don’t want to be too restrictive or, on the other end of the spectrum, too indulgent with your child. At the same time, it is beneficial to establish some basic rules and expectations with your child — and the sooner, the better.

A recent study indicates that doing so with children as young as 2 years old can lead to benefits down the road.

The study, reported at a conference in Boston in November, was conducted by pediatrics researchers at the University of Buffalo. Using data on nearly 9,000 children, the scientists looked at the ability of 2-year-old children to display self-control — that is, their parents reported fewer instances of irritability, fussiness and whimpering and a stronger ability to wait for something — as well as whether their parents set any rules regarding what the children ate. Then the researchers looked at data two years later regarding the now-4-year-old children’s consumption of soft drinks, fruit juice, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fast food, salty snacks and sweets.

The researchers found that children who displayed the ability to self-regulate their behaviors at 2 years old ate more healthfully at 4 years old as long as their parents had also established rules around healthy eating. When parents didn’t set boundaries about which types of food their children could or could not eat, the researchers found little difference in the children’s diets.

Other things you can do that will help lead your child to adopt a healthy diet are to make sure healthy foods are readily available at home, and to be a role model by eating a healthy diet yourself. Along with setting rules and expectations about eating the right foods, these are the three key parenting practices that help kids establish healthy diets.

For more ideas on helping children up to 5 years old eat a healthy diet, Ohio State University Extension offers a 26-page ebook, “Smart Eating for Young Children.” It’s available to download as a PDF for $4.99 atgo.osu.edu/smarteat.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s 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, Community Nutrition Education specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.