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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste (from a NIFS Dietitian)

GettyImages-639303956Every day Americans waste a lot of food. One statistic states that we throw away up to 40 percent of the food that is purchased! This is usually due to the fact that even though food costs are rising, no other nation spends less on the food supply. Since food is so abundant, especially with the warehouse options like Costco for grocery shopping, it makes it easier to not value the food and therefore toss more in the trash.

Tips for Reducing Wasted Food

Here are some simple and practical tips to help you contribute to reducing food waste in America.

  • Shop smart. This is the easiest and most practical one to follow. When you go grocery shopping, don’t buy too much food! This might mean going to the store more frequently or just buying less each time you go. Plan your meals and snacks and then make a list. When you get to the store, actually stick to the list.
  • Practice portion control. This one is tough! Following portion sizes is a challenge since we tend to over-serve ourselves; however, if you are eating the correct portions, then the food isn’t being wasted. A typical serving of a side dish, from potatoes to vegetables, is ½ cup and meat is 3 oz. Start measuring every so often to keep portions and calories in check and get the right nutrition.
  • Save and EAT leftovers. If you are sticking to proper portion sizes, chances are you will have leftovers of food. Use this opportunity to have lunch or dinner ready for the next day instead of eating out or struggling to come up with an idea of what to cook. If you did eat out and brought home a doggy bag (since restaurant portions can be very large), be sure to eat your leftovers within a day or two.
  • Use an app to help. Handpick is a useful app that allows you to put in what items you have on hand and it will generate a recipe for you to make. There are thousands of recipes to choose from, so chances are one will appeal to your taste buds.
  • Use expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines. These dates refer to food quality and not food safety. A food doesn’t automatically turn bad on the exact date that is printed. This is just a guideline. When eating a product after the date listed, use your senses. Go by your smell, sight, and taste.

Keep Track of How Much You Throw Away

Try to start implementing some or all of these tips so you can decrease your personal food waste. Each week take an inventory of how much you had to toss and try to make it less the next week. You will end up saving money and calories, and maybe moving closer to being a zero-waste home.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, Registered Dietitian and Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories apps food safety portion control grocery shopping food waste zero-waste saving money

Thanksgiving Food and Healthy Eating Myths Busted

We all know that a lot of holidays involve food: cookouts on the 4th of July, cookies for Santa at Christmas, and candy treats for Halloween. But one holiday completely revolves around food—when you think of it, you automatically think about food. Thanksgiving is all about the meal of turkey, sides, and desserts. Several food myths surround this holiday, however, and not all of them are true. Keep reading for myth busters to share at your table.

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  • Turkey makes you sleepy. Always have a nap after your Thanksgiving meal? Have you been blaming the turkey because you heard it was high in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin and then melatonin and causes you to sleep? The truth is that a lot of other foods on the dinner table have much higher levels of tryptophan, and the real reason for the nap is more likely because of the amount of carbs that you consumed (and possibly the number of glasses of wine you drank!).
  • Sweet potatoes are always better than white potatoes. It’s true that if you look at the nutritional components of a regular sweet potato compared to those of a white potato, hands down it wins for its higher levels of vitamin A and C and fiber. The typical sweet potato dish is loaded with sugar and fat, however, and not nearly as healthy as a plain baked white potato.
  • Dark meat is unhealthy. Yes, it is true that white meat is very lean and an excellent source of protein. Dark meat is not so terrible, though, that you should intentionally avoid putting it on your Thanksgiving plate. A serving of 4 oz of white meat is 158 calories vs. 183 for dark meat, and 0.5 gram of saturated fat vs. 1.6 grams of saturated fat. Dark meat is also higher in zinc and iron.
  • Canned pumpkin isn’t as healthy as fresh. I am sure you have heard multiple times how much healthier fresh fruits and vegetables are versus canned. This is typically due to processing them and then storing them in a high-sodium or high-sugar liquid. However, when it comes to canned pumpkin, that rule doesn’t apply. It’s more concentrated than a fresh pumpkin, which means more vitamin A and fiber. But be careful when grabbing a can of pumpkin and don’t accidentally grab pumpkin pie filling, which is loaded with sugar and salt.
  • Stuffing and dressing are the same thing. They are very similar, but not the same. Stuffing is typically stuffed inside the bird, whereas dressing is prepared in a casserole dish. A note about food safety: Be cautious when eating traditional stuffing that is cooked inside the bird. It adds mass to the turkey, which slows the cooking. This not only dries out the meat, but can create salmonella bacteria. Always be sure your turkey is cooked to 165 degrees.

Show up at the Thanksgiving holiday this year with these healthy eating myth busters to share with your family and friends (and also check out these additional Thanksgiving hacks). Then grab a plate, load it up with lots white and dark meat, and enjoy the once-a-year food fest!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating holidays sleep Thanksgiving carbs food safety fruits and vegetables turkey myth busters

Food Safety and Grilling: The Fun Way to Healthy Eating!

ThinkstockPhotos-475200404-1.jpgThe weather is warming up, the flowers are coming out, and daylight is around much longer at night. All of these things mean one thing: time to start grilling again! Having a barbecue or cookout is a wonderful way to do a majority of your cooking because it is a healthy preparation method and leaves little to no cleanup in the kitchen!

However, there can be some safety concerns when it comes to grilling, so read below to make sure you are informed.

Follow Proper Meat Temperatures

One of the most common reasons for food poisoning is not cooking your meat to the proper temperature. In fact, only 23% of Americans say they use a meat thermometer. This is the easiest and best way to make sure you are cooking your meat to the proper temperature. Here are the food safety temperature guidelines for different types of meat:

  • Chicken: 165 degrees
  • Pork: 145 degrees
  • Hamburgers: 160 degrees
  • Steak: 145 degrees
  • Bratwurst: 160 degrees
  • Fish: 145 degrees
  • Leftovers: 165 degrees

Use Condiments and Marinades Safely

Another thing to be cautious about is condiment safety. Always be sure to marinate meat in the refrigerator vs. sitting out on a counter or out by the grill. If you are reusing the sauce used on raw meats, bring it to a boil before using it on cooked meats; or throw it away to prevent cross-contamination. Condiments should not be left sitting out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees).

Don’t Reuse Cutting Boards and Platters

Something that might happen if you are in a hurry (or trying to cut down on dirty dishes) is to use the same cutting board or platter that had the raw meat on it for chopping veggies, or to put the cooked meat back on it. This can definitely be a recipe for disaster, so be sure to grab a different platter or cutting board, or clean the original one thoroughly with hot soapy water before using again.

Wash Hands and Utensils

Finally, don’t forget about those tools and your hands! This is where a lot of bacteria from the raw meat can reside. Thoroughly wash your grilling utensils once they have come in contact with the raw meat instead of just hanging them up on the side of the grill. Also, be sure to wash your hands and the grill handle that you touch with your hands after handling the raw meat.

Taking these small extra steps can guarantee a spring and summer filled with delicious (and safe) foods from the grill! And here are some tips for healthy eating at your next barbecue.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: healthy eating summer food safety grilling