Safe Halloween Treats Without the Scary Tricks

Trick or treat is next week and this is the first year my little guy is old enough to go out candy gathering. What can I do to make sure he is safe, but also has a good time trick-or-treating?

In terms of food safety, parents can use a few quick checks to evaluate if treats contain allergens relevant to their child, if the product’s package integrity has been tampered with, or if a treat represents a choking hazard based on the child’s age.

The first thing you can do is make sure your kiddo understands that he is not to eat any candy or other treats that he bags during trick-or-treat until after you have had a chance to inspect those goodies at home.

One good way to inspect the candy is to take a close look at the candy under a bright light, paying close attention to whether it has been unwrapped and re-wrapped, if the paper is ripped or if the candy has a funny or unusual smell, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

You should also check to see if the candy had any discoloration, tiny pinholes or has any stains on the wrapping and whether or not the candy or treat is in its original packaging, FDA says.

To help your little one avoid the temptation of sneaking a piece of Halloween candy before they get home, it’s a good idea to make sure your child has already eaten dinner or some kind of snack before going trick-or-treating.

Other trick-or-treat tips from FDA:

  • For children with food allergies, you should always check the candy or treat label to ensure the allergen isn’t present.
  • Make sure you tell your kids not to eat anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. That includes homemade caramel or candy apples, popcorn balls and rice crispy treats.
  • Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys from the Halloween trick-or-treat bags.
  • Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

FDA also has some safety tips for those who plan to attend Halloween parties:

  • Unpasteurized juices – like raw apple cider – are at higher risk for containing foodborne pathogens. Look for the warning label to identify juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products made on site. If unsure, always ask if juice has been pasteurized or not. Normally, juice in boxes, bottles or cans from your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or shelf has been pasteurized.
  • Before bobbing for apples, you can help reduce bacteria levels on the surface by thoroughly rinsing the apples under cool running water and using a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

“You should also be sure to use potable water and a clean, food grade container for the game,” said Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University. “To reduce the risk of spreading foodborne illnesses even further, consider an alternative game other than bobbing for apples for your Halloween party.”

Other than that, have a great time trick-or-treating! And make sure you remind the kiddos to brush their teeth after eating all those great Halloween treats and remember not to eat too much at a time – they might end up with a scary tummy ache!

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.

Website Offers Nutritional Tips, Tactics for Food Savings

I have a limited budget to spend on food, but I want to make sure my family is eating healthy. What are some tips to help me incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my grocery haul while staying within my budget? 

When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, buy those that are in season. In-season produce typically not only has more flavor and is fresher, it usually costs less. Photo: Thinkstock.

Eating healthy and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t have to be expensive. Planning ahead for your grocery spending can allow you to make healthy food choices that won’t cause sticker shock to your family’s food budget.

One of the best ways to stick to a budget is to take inventory in your kitchen of the items that are needed for the week or the month and make a list of the foods you plan to purchase before you get to the grocery store. And once you are at the store, stick to your grocery list, bypassing the urge to buy any tempting items that you really don’t need.

That’s just one of the tips listed on the Celebrate Your Plate website offered by the Ohio State University’s SNAP-Ed program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by Ohio State University Extension, which is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

The website offers tips on shopping, cooking, gardening and for in the kitchen, all designed to help people budget for, plan and create healthy, good-tasting meals.

Some other tips the website offers on how fruits and vegetables can fit into your budget include:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time and make a grocery list, then stick to your list. You’ll save money by buying only what you need.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Shopping after eating will make it easier to pass on tempting snack foods. You’ll have more of your food budget for vegetables and fruits.
  • When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, buy those that are in season. In-season produce typically not only has more flavor and is fresher, it usually costs less.
  • Canned or frozen vegetables can offer costs savings. For canned items, choose fruit canned in 100 percent fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
  • Clip coupons from the local newspaper and online. Also, check weekly store ads for sales, coupons and specials that will cut food costs.
  • Some fresh vegetables and fruits don’t last long, so buying small amounts more often can help make sure you can eat the foods without throwing any away.
  • Choose store brands when possible. You’ll get the same or similar product for a cheaper price. If your grocery store has a membership card, sign up for even more savings.
  • Buy vegetables and fruits in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-washed, ready-to-eat and processed foods may be more convenient, but they often cost much more than fruits and vegetables that are purchased in their most basic forms.

Another way to save time and money while incorporating more fruits and veggies in your diet is to use leftover vegetables to make a casserole or soup. You can use your overripe fruit to make a smoothie or for baking. More cost-saving tips, recipes and information can be found at celebrateyourplate.org.

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 Ana Claudia Zubieta, director of Ohio SNAP-Ed in CFAES.

Apples – To Peel or Not to Peel?

My little boy loves apples, but he refuses to eat them unless they are skinned and cut into little pieces. Is he still getting the same nutrition as eating them with the peel?

Take heart – apples are not only delicious, they’re a healthy, nutritious, low calorie part of a balanced diet. So the fact that your son enjoys eating apples is wonderful.

However, if you could find a way to incorporate the apple skin into his apple slices, your son would get the additional nutritional benefits derived from eating the apple peel. That’s because the skin of the apple is where most of the fiber and other nutrients are found.

In fact, a medium unpeeled apple has nearly twice the fiber, 40 percent more vitamin A and 25 percent more potassium than a peeled apple, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database.

In addition, apple skins contain:

  • Ursolic acid, which may increase muscle strength and help burn calories, and in turn aid in weight loss, according to a study by the University of Iowa.
  • Quercetin, a compound that acts like an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory, according to a study from the University of Maryland Medical Center.
  • Triterpenoids, which are compounds that a study from Cornell University suggests, may inhibit some cancer cells.

To introduce apples with the skin on to your son, try offering him different varieties. While most people are familiar with Red Delicious, Gala, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples, there are over 7,500 types of apples to choose from. Over 50 varieties are grown in Ohio.

One popular Ohio-grown variety is the Melrose apple, which was bred at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the research arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. Known as the official state apple of Ohio, the Melrose apple tends to be large with good flavor and texture.

Offering very thin slices may also make the skin more appealing. Peeled or unpeeled, enjoy lots of apples! October is National Apple Month and a great time to benefit from fall’s bountiful harvests.

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 Carol Smathers, field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

Chow Line: Consuming Placenta After Birth Not Recommended for New Moms

I’ve heard that consuming your placenta after giving birth can help new mothers with postpartum depression and ease pain. Is that true?

According to a new study noting documented harms and unproven benefits, placenta consumption is discouraged.

The placenta is an organ that connects a developing fetus to the mother’s uterine wall. It transports oxygen and other nutrients for fetal growth and filters toxins harmful to the developing baby. It is dispelled from the woman’s body after birth.

The practice of eating the placenta – which is typically eaten raw, cooked, drank in smoothies, or dehydrated into a capsule form – after birth has grown in popularity among some mothers who say that it improves breast milk supply, reduces postpartum bleeding, and prevents postpartum depression, among other advantages.

However, in a study published Aug. 28 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers reviewed over 100 placenta consumption or placentophagy studies worldwide and found no evidence of it being beneficial to mothers.

Instead, the study’s authors advise, based on their research, that obstetricians discourage their patients from consuming placenta in any form, not only because there is no benefit, but also because it can potentially be harmful to both women and their babies.

A similar warning was issued in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to new moms about the potential dangers of taking pills made from placenta. The warning came after an infant developed a recurring case of group B Streptococcus sepsis after its mother consumed contaminated placenta capsules that had the same form of Streptococcus.

“Placenta ingestion has recently been promoted to postpartum women for its physical and psychological benefits, although scientific evidence to support this is lacking,” the CDC said in a written statement.

In addition, they said that there are no safety standards set for processing placenta for consumption, and that the “placenta encapsulation process does not per se eradicate infectious pathogens; thus, placenta capsule ingestion should be avoided.”

That means that if the placenta is not properly prepared, it can harbor dangerous bacteria and viruses including HIV, hepatitis and Zika, the study authors said.

The bottom line, according to the study’s authors, is “there is evidence that mothers who have eaten their placenta can spread serious bacterial infections to their baby and may develop infections themselves. Given documented harms and unproven benefits, placenta consumption is discouraged.”

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 Carolyn Gunther, state specialist in Community Nutrition for Ohio State University Extension.