My co-workers mentioned something about cheat days and weight loss during lunch today, but I’m not sure what they meant. What were they talking about?

Man sneaking cake in kitchen.

They likely were discussing a new study published this month that says taking a “cheat day” or short break from dieting may help some people lose weight.

In the study published Sept. 19 in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers said that avoiding continuous dieting may aid some people in losing weight and in keeping the weight off.

The study involved a group of 51 obese men who participated in a four-month diet that included restricting their calorie intake by one-third. Half of the participants stayed on the strict diet for the entire four-month period, while the other half maintained the strict diet for two weeks, then took a two-week break from the diet and ate the same amount of calories that they were burning. The latter group did the two weeks on, two weeks off approach to the diet the entire four-month study period.

The result?

The men who followed the two weeks on, two weeks off “cheat days” diet lost more weight than the group of men who maintained the strict diet, according to the study. The study also found that the men who where in the “cheat days” group maintained an average weight loss of 17 pounds more than the strict diet group some six months after the end of the diet.

The study authors attributed the weight loss to “adaptive thermogenesis,” a process which a person reduces their food intake during dieting and their resting metabolism decreases, making weight loss harder to achieve, the lead study researcher said in a statement.

“While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss,” the lead study author said.

In general, restrictive diets don’t work, said Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

“Very few people can maintain any type of restrictive diet over long periods of time,” he said. “In addition, on and off again dieting or yo-yo dieting can play havoc on one’s metabolism leading to weight gain. It would be interesting to know if the ‘cheating’ approach would be something that could be maintained beyond four months.”

In the meantime, for those who are trying to lose weight, most experts agree that eating more fruits, vegetables and lean protein; decreasing your sugar intake; drinking more water; and incorporating some form of exercise into your daily routine can aid in helping you shed a few pounds.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for OSU Extension.

App, Websites and Grocers offer Ways to Keep Abreast of Food Recalls

Turns out that the hot dogs I had planned to make for lunch yesterday were recalled but I had no idea. Why do foods get recalled, and how can I be better aware of recalls on foods I’ve purchased? 

Typically, food recalls are a voluntary response from a food supplier or manufacturer when their product has been mislabeled or hazardous, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Food mislabeling – such as listing the wrong ingredients, failing to declare allergens or offering misleading claims about the product – can pose a risk to consumers looking to avoid certain allergens (chemical hazards) or ingredients. Allergen mislabeling is the most common cause of food recalls in the U.S.

Depending on the nature of the food recall, consumers typically will be advised to throw out the affected product or return the item to the store of purchase for a refund.

Foods can also be recalled for containing foreign objects or physical hazards such as metal shavings or plastic pieces from equipment or packaging, the FDA says, or for contamination with microbial pathogens (biological hazards) such as E. coli, Salmonella or Listeria.

If consumers find they have a recalled product in their refrigerator or pantry, they should follow instructions from regulators or the producer regarding its disposition.

One way to keep abreast of food recalls is to sign up for notifications by FDA. You can visit their website at fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm to request notifications of food recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts. The site also lists historical data on those issues.

Another resource that alerts consumers to food recalls is the U.S Department of Agriculture Foodkeeper app. The app, which offers consumers information on how to store food safely and how long certain foods last, was updated this month by USDA to include food safety recall alerts.

Now, each time a user opens the Foodkeeper app, it will check the data feed for updates on food safety issues. You can also set the app to receive food recall alerts as they happen, once a day or weekly. The app, which also offers mobile accessibility, is available for Android and IOS devices. The information can also be accessed online at FoodSafety.gov.

Some grocery stores also offer a service in which they will notify their customers who have loyalty cards with the store, of food recalls. A receipt of previous purchases will be associated with the customer loyalty information so that individuals can receive a notice from an automated messaging service if a food purchase is later recalled.

One of the greatest barriers to a successful recall is food perishability. Depending on the product, consumers may have already eaten the food before learning of the recall. Rapid response systems like those described here help shorten the time between the announcement from the company and the consumer response.

Depending on the nature of the food recall, consumers typically will be advised to throw out the affected product or return the item to the store of purchase for a refund.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was edited by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Fall Offers More Than Just Pumpkins

I know that autumn is a great time to buy pumpkins, but I’m not so sure what other produce is in season in the fall. Any ideas?

Fall is a great time for apples, pears, other seasonal fruits and veggies.

Fall is a good time to start looking to buy pears, apples and hard squash, among many other seasonal fruits and vegetables. In fact, those are some of the items that many grocery stores are now starting to promote heavily at discounted prices in their grocery aisles, according to the Sept. 1 edition of the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While improved technology and agricultural innovations mean that consumers can access fresh fruits and vegetables year round, fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during a certain season. When ripe, produce is fresher and typically has its best taste. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are also typically cheaper to purchase because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

So how do you know which fruits and vegetables are in season?

One way to find seasonal foods near you is to use a new app and website developed by Grace Communications Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sustainable foods. The app compiles data from the USDA and the Natural Resources Defense Council on over 140 varieties of produce to show users what fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts are in season on a state-by-state basis.

Called the Seasonal Food Guide, the app and website allow users to check what produce is in season in half-month increments in each state. Other sources to check for what’s in season include the USDA Seasonal Produce GuideOhio Farm Bureau and Ohio Proud, among others.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce (among others) is in season in Ohio in fall:

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

So get out and enjoy some really tasty, healthy, fresh fruits and veggies. Your body — and especially your waistline — will thank you! Not only are fruits and veggies naturally low in calories, eating them may help reduce the risks of multiple diseases including high blood pressure, some cancers and heart disease, experts say.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension

Tips to Prevent Food Spoilage When the Power Goes Out

Storm preparedness has been on my mind lately. I’m wondering what I can do to be ready in the event of a power outage to prevent the foods in my refrigerator from spoiling?

Refrigerator thermometer indicates spoilage.

One of the biggest factors in deciding whether the foods in your household will spoil during a power outage is the duration of the power loss. Generally speaking, perishable foods that have been in temperatures above 40 degrees for two hours or more will need to be discarded to avoid the potential for food borne illnesses.

While you cannot control the duration of a power outage (unless you use a generator) there are some steps that you can take before the storm to prepare in the event that your power goes out. One way is to make sure that you have on hand a few days worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling, says the U.S. Department of Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Examples include shelf-stable foods, boxed or canned milk, water, and canned goods. Also, it is a good idea to have ready-to-use baby formula for infants on hand and foods for your pet available.

In addition, know where you can purchase dry ice or block ice, and make sure you have coolers on hand that you can use to temporarily keep refrigerator food cold if the power goes out for more than four hours. A 50-pound cake of dry ice should protect the food in a full, 20-cubic-foot freezer for three to four days, according to an Ohio State University Extension Ohioline fact sheet.

Be careful, however, when using dry ice to avoid the build up of gas. To prevent gas buildup, don’t use dry ice in a closed or unvented container. To relieve gas pressure in your refrigerator or freezer, open the door occasionally. And always wrap the dry ice in a towel or newspaper prior to use, being careful not to touch the dry ice with your bare hands, Ohioline advises.

Other tips from USDA and Ohioline to be prepared for a power outage before the storm include:

  • Keeping appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40 degrees or lower in the refrigerator, 0 degrees or lower in the freezer.
  • Place two or three ice cubes in a plastic freezer bag and seal the bag. Keep the bag in the freezer at all times. In an upright freezer, you can have a test bag on each shelf. If there is a power outage, you will know if the interior temperature was above 32 degrees if the cubes melt.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm that can be used to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Group foods together in the freezer to help the food stay cold longer.

Once the power goes out, Ohioline recommends that you keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. This is because a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed, and a full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours. A half-full freezer will hold its temperature for 24 hours if the door is kept closed.

Once your power is back on, it is important that you check your food to make sure it is safe to eat. Generally, you should throw away any perishable food that has been above 40 degrees for more than two hours. Remember, never taste food to determine its safety.

Additional information on food safety before, during and after a power outage can be found on the Ohioline website at ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5357.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu. 

Editor: This column was reviewed by Kate Shumaker, an Ohio State University Extension Educator and registered dietitian.