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.